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Exploration-an Excerpt of Climbing, Canyoneering and Arch Hunting Exploration-an Excerpt of Climbing, Canyoneering and Arch Hunting  by Scott

This is a brief synopsis of our April 1-3 trip to SE Utah in order to explore some new routes as well as revisit some other old (for me at least) and challenging routes in an amazing region. The primary motivation behind the trip was to explore to and find a large natural arch that I had seen several years earlier while exploring some remote rock domes I reached from climbing out of Stair Canyon. The routes here are intricate in what seems to be at first glance an extremely inaccessible area tucked in a sea of slickrock, canyons and rock towers. Last January, my brother and I had done the last of the crucial routefinding to get to the route into Marinus Canyon, but what would we find when we got there? Would the route through the canyon require any difficult climbing? Would the big drop I knew that existed in the canyon be too much for us? Or would the route be easy and fast with few technical obstacles? Did the big arch really exist and if not, what exactly was the feature that could be seen from afar? Would the route be worth it or would it be a long hike through an ordinary canyon with just a few technical obstacles?

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Dicks Peak
in Spring Dicks Peak in Spring  by pdtompkins

My wife Vandi and I were in love with early spring trips to the Desolation Wilderness area just West of South Lake Tahoe. With the ski season coming to a close, but rock climbing season not yet started, these trips were a way to have some adventure, polish up our mountaineering and winter camping skills, and to see some amazing snow-covered scenery. On March 24, 2007, we set out to do some snow camping near Dicks Peak, then make bag the summit of Dicks Peak the following day, then return home for the work week. We set out from the Bay Area on Friday evening, and made it to Emerald Bay and the trailhead quite late. Temperatures were pretty cold, but not unbearable - perhaps in the low 30s or high 20s F. We quickly set up a tent near our car, and intended to make an early morning start into the backcountry.

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Near Fatal
Avalanche on the Grand Mesa Thunderbird Couloir Near Fatal Avalanche on the Grand Mesa Thunderbird Couloir  by seth@LOKI

The author Seth Anderson climbs the Grand Mesa Thunderbird Couloir. He and Ann Driggers made the first known descent on skis March 17, 2010. Unfortunately, most of Anderson's trip down the steep mountain was face first sans skis wrapped in an avalanche.It might be the only chance for decades to ski the Grand Mesa Thunderbird. The legend and existence of the Thunderbird Couloir was my life-long passion which no one else seemed to share.

I've looked up at the natural formation with wonder before I knew its name. I longed to view, hike, and perhaps even ski it up close.

The Grand Mesa is not a mountaineer's typical query, but the North Turret has merit — if not for rugged shape and local proximity, then for the Ute's legend of the terrifying Thunderbird story played out in hieroglyphic form on its steep slopes. The local Utes believed the light-colored shale appeared as a wing-spread Thunderbird grabbing a long skinny serpent-like chute rarely visible from below. When a coming storm's light shows the Thunderbird grab the Serpent, it rains in the valley. I have witnessed this just once in 1992.

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Mt. Whitney by MR (Winter
3/13/2010)+Video Mt. Whitney by MR (Winter 3/13/2010)+Video  by Vitaliy M.

Back in December 2009 I found out about SP, and started going out to different mountains to gain experience. That is about when I realized I REALLY want to climb Mt. Whitney ’s “Mountaineer’s Route” at some point in my life, I did not think it was going to happen so soon, and in addition to everything during winter.

I started thinking about different options for a trip to Whitney in January 2010, and after a successful summit of mt. Tallac on our way home I decided to find out if any of my peak-bagging friends (Max and Bryan) would want to try it (even though I had huge doubts we will actually attempt). They were a bit skeptical about it since mt. Whitney (highest peak in lower 48!) by MR is not mt. Tallac, Shasta or any other peak we did before. After couple of days of talking about it we decided to plan it, and even if we fail to summit we were determined to go out there and do our best. In early stages of planning we thought about attempting it in early April, but Bryan had a brilliant idea-- since we are planning to go in winter conditions why not just make our attempt during winter. It only counts as a winter summit if you do it before March 21st, so we planned our trip for March 12-14th since “WINTER ASCENT of Mt. Whitney ” sounds waaaaayyy cooler that “ascent of Mt. Whitney under winter conditions.” There were others who wanted to go with us, making a total of 8 people in our group (about 2-3 weeks before the trip).

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Mountaineer
- really? The Matterhorn - of course? Mountaineer - really? The Matterhorn - of course?  by hansw

A Thursday morning in a backstreet of Zermatt can be very interesting. Especially if you find a Matterhorn museum. It was an awfully quiet place this day in August 1997. Not a soul could be seen except for the old man selling the tickets. One room was dedicated to the famous first ascent of the Matterhorn. Or rather the famous first descent illustrated by a piece of the rope that broke. Four men lost their lives during the first descent in 1865. But how many people have been killed since then on the Matterhorn? I asked the question to the old man who sold the tickets. From his reaction it was obvious that he did not like my question. I tried to look serious and asked again. Without saying anything he disappeared into another room and returned after a while with a booklet containing a dozen pages. "See for yourself" he said and handed me the papers.

I sat down close to the rope that broke in 1865 and started to read. On page after page the names of the victims were neatly lined up, together with the dates and the cause of their deaths if known. The long list ended with the year 1991 and I added the number of names on each page and found the total number to be 315 persons. There were people from many countries; Germans, Americans, Japanese, etc. and I even discovered a Swede. Furthermore, there was a note saying that 24 persons never have been found despite comprehensive search operations. Reading this was not fun, but still exciting somehow.

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Ghost Hunting Ghost Hunting  by AJones

“When’s your first free weekend we could plan a climbing trip into the Ghost”, I asked Greg this year at the beginning of January.

“Hmmmn, let me see – probably not until the end of March”, Greg replied.

Crap! We’d been trying to plan a trip into the Ghost for at least the last three years, but seemed to always have been foiled for one reason or another. In 2008, it was due to warm weather (at the end of March) – we climbed Polar Circus and Professor Falls instead. In 2009, it was due to my shoulder surgery (but we still managed to climb “Curtain Call”; a long time seemingly unattainable goal). Would we be shutout and shutdown in the Ghost again?

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Five Finger
Fun – Less is Sometimes Good Enough Five Finger Fun – Less is Sometimes Good Enough  by SoCalHiker

have not been out there lately bagging peaks as I had done in the past. There are many reasons for that, but let’s just say that more important things came up last year. Anyhow, I of course kept myself busy and in decent shape with running and bouldering mostly in the local Santa Monica Mountains. But I knew it’s just a matter of time until the urge to climb a mountain became too strong to ignore. Over the last few months I also re-awoke my kids’ interest in the outdoors and mountains again after some years of voluntary hibernation. After some planning and thinking, I decided to drive to the Five Fingers in the Southern Sierra Nevada and explore that area. I have seen these rocky outcroppings east of Owens Peak in the Indian Wells Canyon many times on my way up and down highway 14/395. And my interest to climb them grew stronger each time. Since my kids are very enthusiastic about the prospect of climbing some rocks and given that the approach to the Five Fingers is short, I considered it a good plan. I was certainly aware of the difficulty of climbing these rocks, with the easiest routes ranking in the class 3 category. Failure to reach the summit was something I knew could happen easily but I did not let that thought spoil my interest to go there. So, the original plan was trying to climb the highpoint of the Five Fingers via the class 3 chute on the north side. It sounded pretty reasonable to me. The kids were excited about it too. At the minimum I wanted to get a first-hand view of Morris Peak, Mount Jenkins, Owens Peak, Russell Peak, and Backus Peak around the Indian Wells Canyon. Also, I was hoping for a good wildflower sighting as well.

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TEMPLE CRAG, Moon Goddess
Arete, In Winter TEMPLE CRAG, Moon Goddess Arete, In Winter  by asmrz

Some 25 years ago, Miguel Carmona and I (Alois Smrz) attempted the Swiss Arete on Mt. Sill in winter. While skiing by Temple Crag, I had the foolish notion of mentioning the Moon Goddess Arete as yet another possibility for a winter climb. We dismissed the idea right there and it remained just another crazy thought which would never see the time of day. But about three years ago, Miguel brought up the climb again. The approach was reasonable, we knew the route from climbing it in the summer and if the conditions were absolutely perfect, we could attempt it. So for the last three years in the winter months, we have been eyeing the weather, packing and unpacking gear and failing to anticipate the perfect weather window. Every year this mad idea seemed further from coming to fruition. It was with some desperation, that we finally decided to just go for it last week.

Penelope May kindly helped us with our heavy carry to the Third Lake and from there Miguel and I started at 4 AM on March 19, 2010. We had two thin ropes, rock gear, helmets, winter boots and rock shoes, spare heavy gloves each, one pack, slings, harnesses, down jackets, Gore-Tex tops and bottoms, short ice tool and crampons each. Miguel secured some 20 Power Bar Gels for energy and we had one quart of water between us.

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A
non-winter ascent of Mount Yale A non-winter ascent of Mount Yale  by metal4lyf

In my (basically unjustifiable) drive to make as many calendar winter ascents as possible, I planned earlier in the week to reach the summit of Mount Yale by 11:32 am on Saturday--that inexorable moment signaling the end of Winter. Little fluffy clouds would delicately grace the blue sky, snow would retreat with haste from the hills and peaks like so many lemmings over a cliff, lush grass and flowers would sprout up everywhere uncontrollably. Oh dear!

It's a well-known fact that climbing mountains after the sun, geocentrically speaking, crosses above the equatorial plane is not nearly as hard as before. The gravitation is different, you know. And so I watched the weather forecasts with growing despair. By Thursday the outlook had deteriorated hopelessly; Friday and Saturday, high winds and heavy snowfall in the vicinity of Mount Yale. Then my partner cancelled. After considering the fundamental silliness of my motivation and the optimistic forecast for Sunday, I decided to go on Sunday instead. In time I will come to grips with my meager accomplishments this Winter.

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Bandelier
National NM, Guadalupe NP and Carlsbad NP Photo Trip Report Bandelier National NM, Guadalupe NP and Carlsbad NP Photo Trip Report  by Scott

Today Shaylee, Kessler, Kimberly and I stopped at Bandelier National Monument on our way to Carlsbad Caverns. First we hiked the loop to the Ceremonial Cave/Alcove House in Frijoles Canyon. The cliffs of Frijoles Canyon are pock marked with many caves that were used by the ancestral pueblo Indians hundreds (to thousands) of years ago. The kids liked climbing into the caves, but their favorite part was climbing up the long wooden ladders to reach the caves.

In the afternoon we still had time, so we hiked to the waterfalls in lower Frijoles Canyon. It was a great hike and necessary since we had a long car drive ahead of us.

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