West Coast Travels 5/3-5/15

This post is going to mainly be a photo dump in an attempt to catch up to more recent adventures.

After the Eklutna Traverse, Taryn and I spent a few days in Alaska waiting to see if any further weather windows would materialize. Unfortunately the warm temperatures continued and the spring shed was in full swing so we called it on Alaska and flew back to Seattle.

Back in PNW the weather was having the opposite problem. Cold, rainy weather dominated the long-term forecast and it appeared unlikely we would get a window for any big objectives for at least a week. Doing some soul-searching we realized that it felt like we were trying to force the skiing thing too much. The ratio of stressing about weather and logistics vs actually enjoying our time was far too skewed and it didn’t make sense to keep battling adverse conditions when there were plenty of other ways to have fun.

So we decided to bail on the PNW and do an old-fashioned roadtrip down the coast and see where that took us. The weather did look reasonable the following day on Mt. Hood so we packed up the van and drove down to Oregon to spend the night. The next morning we woke up early and had an amazing morning summitting and then skiing Mt. Hood.

View from the summit of Mt. Hood
Descending down the Hog’s Back

It was only 11:30am when we got down from Mt. Hood so we came up with the idea of driving to the coast that afternoon; an opportunity to stand on the highest point in Oregon and swim in the ocean the very same day. We picked a random route to the ocean and ended up driving along the Umpqua River and ended up on Umpqua Beach in time to watch the sunset.

Large swell rolling into Halfmoon Bay
Happy to not be stressing over weather forecasts

We spent the night at Tugman State Park and then continued down the coast.

After a few hours of driving we were feeling antsy for a little exercise. We also wanted to find somewhere free to camp for the night so we pulled up Gaia and scrolled around looking for some trailheads that looked like they might be off the beaten path. We somehow settled on a random trailhead along the Rogue River a ways in from the coast. The road getting up to the trailhead was much longer and rougher than we had imagined, but we were rewarded with a beautiful, remote area to ourselves.

The trail ended up being barely a trail, with downed trees everywhere, but it was special feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere. We stopped down by the river for a quick swim and had a funny run in with a jet boat taking tourists along the Rogue River.

Taryn exploring our beautiful campsite for the night

The next day we woke up and headed back to the coast. After a day or two to decompress we were starting to crave some more adventures so we decided to head towards Yosemite for some sunny-weather climbing. Before leaving the coast, however, I knew I wanted to see the redwoods since I had never seen them before. With patchy service I picked a run on a whim. It ended up being absolutely beautiful!

A perfect trail through a perfect forest
And a great turnaround point as well

After finishing the run we debated hanging around the Redwoods for another day but in the end decided to send it and drive late through the night to get to Yosemite where we had managed to snag a few night of campsites.

We warmed back up to climbing with a lap up Serenity and Sons. The start of the first pitch felt a bit scary after ~6 months of no climbing, but after that it was smooth sailing.

Taryn following the second pitch

The next day we decided to climb Snake Dike. We had to wait a bit at the base to get started, but overall the crowds weren’t as bad as we feared they might be. An amazing way to summit Half Dome, but also a bit more serious than we expected. Made me a bit nervous seeing a bunch of fairly new climbers with sloppy footwork smearing their way up 40 feet above their last bolt.

Taryn trudging up the final slabs to the summit

The next day we climbed Central Pillar of Frenzy which was absolutely amazing and definitely lives up to its classic status. After finishing we headed along the base to do some cragging around Pee Pee Pillar. While climbing there we heard a terrifying whizzing and a bunch of rockfall crashed into the woods 20 feet out from the wall where we were climbing. A bit shaken up, we cleaned our gear and decided to call it for the day.

Back in the meadow, happy to be alive

The next day we decided to take a break from climbing so we went for an amazing run up past Yosemite Falls and to the top of El Cap. It was really special to get to stand on top of El Cap with Taryn.

A beautiful view up valley

A real highlight of our time in Yosemite was really easing into van life. For most of the spring we had been rushing around trying to catch good conditions so it felt great to just get to hang in the evenings.

Cheap wine and a cozy van
Enjoying downtime down by the river

On the morning of the 13th we decided to head up to Middle Cathedral to climb the East Buttress. As we were driving through the valley Taryn checked her phone and received the shocking news that a friend has passed away. We did our best to process the news and decided to stick with our plan of climbing Middle Cathedral. We arrived at the base of the climb and saw a number of parties waiting in line to get on the climb. While we were waiting we heard someone above yell “ROCK”, and heard rockfall come crashing down through the forest. Luckily no one was hit but with that Taryn and I decided we weren’t really feeling the Valley anymore and decided to move to the east side of the Sierras. We hopped in the car and arrived at Alabama Hills right as it was getting dark.

The next morning we woke up early and climbed the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney, a super fun type-I fun day out in the mountains.

Beautiful colors on the morning approach
Taryn scrambling partway up the route
Roped up again somewhere along the route

The climb went smoothly and we were back at the car by 2pm. We spent a wonderful afternoon reading in a park in Lone Pine before heading back out to the desert to sleep.

Back at our beautiful camp spot
Our home for the last month

We woke up early again the next morning and climbed the North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak. This is an amazing route. The ridge itself is quite long, and while never technically difficult, requires a fair amount of route-finding and exposed scrambling. The approach is beautiful and the descent is significantly less heinous (or complicated) than some other online reports make it sound.

Approaching past some beautiful ancient trees
The North Ridge. The route starts in the notch about a 1/4 of the way up the ridge.
Gaining the notch
A view up the ridge with the distinctive massive fin of rock off to the side
Taryn walking along the summit plateau looking for the correct descent gully
Taryn making her way down the descent gully. Not as terrible as we had read.

We got back to the car around 2:30pm and discussed what to do next. While there were some other potential east-side objects we both felt satiated after the last two days of adventures. We were scheduled to depart to Europe in 8 days and still had a lot of bikepacking logistics to work out so we decided to call it on our spring van adventure and start the drive back to Salt Lake that evening.

Our home for our final night on the road

This post does not do justice to the magic that was almost two weeks of completely spontaneous road tripping. The previous spring adventures had been unbelievably rewarding, but I’m so glad we pivoted and got some time to really live in the moment. Traveling around to beautiful places with everything you could possibly need right at your fingertips is such a privilege and I feel so lucky to have gotten to experience it. The warm lights of the van contrasting the growing darkness outside, the sizzling sound of a delicious meal cooking merging gently with music playing from a speaker, laughing and reading and existing before crawling into a cozy bed to do it all over again the next day. Utter magic.





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