Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Utah into Idaho!

After a great time in Maple Canyon, Zach and I pushed north towards Salt Lake City. We spent time in American Fork Canyon at a free campsite we found about 15 miles up the canyon. Our neighbor was this cute dear and a bunch of adorable ground squirrel babies who lived in holes nearby. From our campsite, we could set out on hikes all around us. We even did a trail run! Climbing in American Fork was fun, but we only spent one day climbing and the rest exploring. One night, we were invited to a campfire hosted by Paul. He was very fun and interesting to talk to. He is retired from teaching in the school system, but still seeks to promote learning and education in others as well as himself! Between the two of us, we polished off a bag of marshmellows and spent the evening swapping stories. Paul is currently writing his memoir and I wish him luck in doing so! 
Our deer friend who loved Zach's pickle juice he dumped in the fire pit.
 Logan Canyon was our next stop and we got a few great days of climbing in. The area was nice and the camping was free, so we hung out for a few days before moving on to City of Rocks in Idaho. The City was super fun! Zach and I improved our multipitch climbing skills by simulclimbing up two multipitch routes in one day. It was great how fast and comfortable we got at climbing on the slab. (Simulclimbing involves both people being connected together by the rope, but climbing at the same time. You are each other's anchor, but it is generally better to only simulclimb on terrain you are confident you won't fall.) We really enjoyed climbing together! We also lead some harder single pitch climbs and another multipich climb up Steinfeld's Dome. All in all, it was a great stop and we really enjoyed the little town of Almo. We saw lots of deer and jackrabbits while we were there.
Zach using the Visitor Center's wi-fi in the shade. City or Rocks is in the background.

View of City of Rocks from the Visitor's Center.
 The only thing we didn't like about Almo and City or Rocks were the flies! We could not get away from them and it was so annoying. We would roll up the windows and have only our little fan for air in the evenings. It was roasting, but at least the flies weren't swarming your face. We did get better with our fly hunting skills and made some headway in wiping out the population. However, the flies ultimately won and we headed out towards Elephant's Perch near Stanley, ID. 
We stopped at a gear store in Ketchum, ID to get info on the area. The shop sold copies of route information and the climbing expert gave us info on getting to the climbs, We forgot to ask more questions about getting off the top of the formation, but he made it seem very easy, so we weren't too worried about it...
The last boat left the dock at 7pm from Red Fish Resort, so we booked it to make it on time. Since we were hiking in so late, we needed to take all of our climbing and camping gear with us. This was my first time backpacking in and camping, so I was excited and a little nervous! We got everything ready fairly quickly and rushed to the boat dock with a few minutes to spare. Zach had to take the car to a long term parking lot 1/4 mile away. I carried both our loaded packs to the dock. I only got a few strange looks from the people at the resort. Zach ran all the way from the parking lot and we made it onto the last boat!
Zach sittin' pretty after we caught the boat across Red Fish Lake:)
It was a quick 10 min ride across the lake to the other side, saving us about 5 miles of extra hiking. We still had 3 miles to go after we got off the boat. It was a gorgeous hike and we managed to reach our campsite near a pristine alpine lake just as the sun set. The waterfalls, lakes and steep rock faces were such a gorgeous backdrop to our adventure! We set up our tent, made a quick dinner, and fell asleep in our tent. 
Starting our hike from the drop off point.
Sorry, I can't figure out how to flip this one! Zach with his full pack, hiking to Elephant's Perch.
To save space, I had left my sleeping back and figured I'd be fine sharing one with Zach. About an hour after I fell asleep, I realized, that was not my best idea... I was pretty chilly that night, but still managed to get some rest before we woke the next morning to do our climb. 
Mountaineer's Route is the easiest route up Elephant's Perch at 5.9 and 7 pitches. We decided to try that out first and see if we could take on a harder one the next day. Getting to the route was not to hard, and we were excited to get climbing. I lead every other pitch and started first. It was fun and easy climbing to the first belay. Every pitch had great climbing and fun moves on it! Zach and I both loved leading and following our way up the route. We did a lot of route finding ourselves because the information we had was limited. Instead of 7 pitches, we did it in 8, but that worked out great for us and we each got to lead 4 pitches! 
At the top, we expected a path or something to show us how to get down. Unfortunately, there was no such thing and a giant snowy hillside stood between us and the way we were told to get down. Neither of us were comfortable with the steepness of the snow and we agreed to try and make our way down a different way. This involved a lot of hiking and working our way down slabs, tree filled gullies, and lots of loose rock. It was always safe, just very tedious. It had taken us 40 mins to reach the base of the climb, 5 hours 50 mins to do the actual climb, and over 3 hours of hiking to get back to our tent. We were both tired and out of water when we got back to camp and neither of us felt ready for anything harder then what we had just climbed. So, we slept one more night in our beautiful campsite and then woke up and packed up.
The first boat arrived for pick ups at 9am on our side of the lake. We had already paid for our ride back so we did not want to miss that boat. A quick pack up and we were off, down the mountain. We worked our way as fast as we could down the trail. There is one big river crossing with a makeshift bridge out of fallen trees. I made it all the way across and was taking my last step when my foot slipped off into the chilly snow melt water. Luckily, it was warm that day and my squishy wet foot kept me cool for the rest of our hike/run back to the boat dock. We arrived 7 mins to 9:00 and made it on the boat back to our home! I was so excited to see our van/home!! I know we "rough it" compared to a lot of people, but sleeping in our van is so much more comfortable then the tent! It felt great to be back home and we soaked it up!
Our view from atop Park's Peak.
We took two days off and recovered from our backpacking adventure. Being in shape to backpack in and climb multipitch is something we both decided we want. We have now spent the past week picking out peaks and hikes that challenge us with both mileage and elevation gain so that we can improve our fitness for this sort of hiking/climbing. We did two 10,000ft+ peaks, Park's Peak and Imogean Peak, in two days and covered about 30 miles total. It was hard and I can't say that I loved doing it, but it was so rewarding to finish! I'm excited we were able to do that and can't wait to see what's next! 
We are planning to go back to Elephant's Perch in a week or so when we are in better shape and hopefully, we can climb one of the harder routes:) Until then, we have plans to go climb on "The Finger of Fate" and do a few more peak hikes. We are based out of Stanley, ID an absolutely love it here. They had a kite festival a few days ago that I really enjoyed and it is just a fun town full of adventure! If you need us for the next few weeks, just come find us in Stanley! You'll love it here!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cobbles, snow, and birthdays, OH MY!

 Zach and I headed from Jack's Canyon to Flagstaff where we found the best campsite! It was just out of town, down a descent road and it was FREE! We saw elk a few times and enjoyed the Flagstaff forest. We were near a dirt bike trail, but it wasn't very busy and everybody was friendly. A sport climbing crag called "The Pit" was just a few miles down the road. It was a pretty easy hike and had some really fun climbing! I was able to onsight a 5.11b! (I climbed it without knowing info about the route ahead of time) We got to go to Sonic and celebrate with a Brownie/cookie dough blaster:) Zach did awesome as well and we really enjoyed the climbing there.
Hiking out of "The Pit."

 We headed down to Sedona, AZ one day to climb a desert tower. It is a really beautiful area and with lovely clouds giving us a reprieve from the sun, we set out to find our desert tower to climb! Our first plan included a 30 minute hike to the climb, but when we got there, the parking was full. So, we found another tower close by. Our directions were from Mountain Project and included things like "when you cross a single track bike trail, make sure you are in the right wash." I learned this trip, a wash is an area in the desert that water flows through during monsoon season. There was no water, so it made for a great trail...for the first part of our trek. Unfortunatly, cacti, trees, rocks, and other obsticals barred our access to the climb. Either we were in the wrong wash, or it is just a really rough final push to the summit. The desert won this battle and we finally turned around. We really enjoyed the hike despite not getting to climb. The weather really was perfect and a lot of the plants were in bloom! It was just going to get hotter in Sedona, so we headed back to our campsite in Flagstaff.
Heading into beautiful Sedona, AZ.

My excited driver!
Zach with an agave plant on our misadventure in Sedona.
The desert was in bloom!
 After doing laundry and enjoying a little more time in Flagstaff, we hit the road for Utah, and hopefully, cooler temps. On our drive, we saw beautiful rock formations, a wonderful sunset, and Lake Powell. We found a free campsite along Hwy 89 and then carried on towards Joe's Valley to check out some boulders. On our way, we passed near enough to Bryce Canyon to get us to go check it out. With our parks pass, the entry is free, making it a fun (and cheap) way to break up the drive. It did start to rain on us part way through our tour, but it made the area green and beautiful. My favorite part was seeing a baby prong-horn antelope and its parents! He was a cute little thing darting all over.
Sunset in N. Arizona/S. Utah.

 Bryce Canyon National Park
Quick pic before the rain moves in!
The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
Rainy lunch prep:)
Joe's valley was lovely and we enjoyed the climbing, but we quickly decided we were too hot and wanted to check out Maple Canyon a little further north. The drive between the two places was amazing! We even came across the Mammoth Discovery site at over 9,000 feet! It is the highest elevation a mammoth has been discovered and he had died in a muddy area, so his remains were very well perserved. It was a beautiful area and cool thing to stumble across.

Our Joe's Valley campsite.
The Mammoth discovery site in Utah.
Beautiful alpine lake!

After a breathtaking drive through the mountains of Utah, we arrived in Freedom, UT and found Maple Canyon. The camping is mostly reserved online, but we were able to snag campsite #15 for the week. It was the perfect spot to base out of because it was at the start of the trail to most of the climbing we wanted to do! The rock is conglomerate and is basically river stones glued into sandstone.
We had a wonderful time getting back in shape on steep routes! By the end of the week, Zach was projecting "49" (5.12a) and I was working on "Zoaster Toaster" (5.11d)! All the local and out of town climbers we met were wonderful. Tom and Sarah were our neighbors and also traveling for the summer. We hope to meet back up with them in July or August!
Besides steep routes, Maple also has some multipitch sport climbs. We did a 5.9+ at the end of the canyon and enjoyed the spectacular views from the top! For Zach's birthday, we did a multipitch route at night with our headlamps! I only got freaked out by the dark a few times! The shadows we cast on the rocks looked a little freaky, but it was all worth it when we got to the top and got to see the night's sky.
Our other big adventure for Zach's birthday was to hike the North Peak of Mt. Nebo. I keep calling it Mt. Nepo, but maybe someday I'll get it right. It was an eight mile round trip hike from 9,000-11,000 ft in elevation. It seemed doable to us, but also a bit of a challenge! We took up our snow gear just in case the path was not clear just yet. I'm glad we did because about 50% of our trail was covered in snow! I'm pretty proud of us though, because we found our way through the snow, trees, and scree field to the top!! The views were epic and we had a blast doing it!
Zach on the trail!
Taking a quick break:)
Zach on top of the ridge we worked so hard to gain!!!
Summit selfie!
Back to the bottom! Happy Birthday, Zach!!
For a much deserved reward and birthday celebration, we made our way to Oriental Garden in Nephi, UT for a late lunch. It was delicious and we loved the AC:) Zach got lots of birthday love from everyone before we headed back into the canyon and out of service. It was just getting dark as we pulled back in, so the timing was perfect to finish out our day on the night climb!
The next morning we climbed a bit more in Maple canyon, but both of us were pretty exhausted. We decided to head into the town of Fountain Green for lunch at their downtown cafe. It was another fabulous burger and fries meal!
We are now taking the day off from climbing and catching up on laundry, blog posts and working on our videos for the trip! Here is the link to the latest one !!

Thursday, June 4, 2015