a. You can pay $10 to take a boat to the south end of Redfish Lake, or you can hike 5 miles along the lake with a heavy pack. Your choice.
b. Our choice.
c. Then hike 2 miles along an easy trail.
d. Then cross Redfish Lake Creek. This is the spot where there is usually a log crossing, which is usually constructed by early summer each season. The log crossing had not yet been built when Jessica and Geoff and I crossed the creek, so we had to look upstream for a safer place to cross since the water was running pretty strongly with the early season snowmelt.
d2. By the time I left the Perch a week later, the log crossing had been constructed at the usual climbers' trail crossing. This photo was taken on my way out a week later.
e. But without the log crossing, Jessica and Geoff and I 'schwacked up the creek perhaps 1/6 mile further where we came upon an alternative creek crossing. On the way back out I took this photo, since there is a climbers trail that turned off the main trail here which would have avoided the 'schwacking along the creekside.
f. Geoff on the log crossing about 1/6 mile upstream from the "usual" log crossing location.
g. We then followed a climbers' trail up to Saddleback Lakes. The last part was a bit tricky due to early season snow obscuring the trail, and we did some rock-snow moat stemming.
g2. By the time I left the Perch a week later, you could easily walk below the snow.
h. Camp at Saddleback Lakes. There's plenty of nice camping next to the lakes.
i. Tent with a view.
j. Jessica and Geoff relaxing on a granite slab near the first of the Saddleback Lakes.
k. Reflection of the Perch in the lake.
l. A view of camp looking the other way, with the second Saddleback Lake in the background. The Decker Peak area is behind in the distance.
m. After losing a couple of ounces of cheese, we soon discovered that it's a good idea to hang food at the lakes. The chipmunks and squirrels have figured out that climbers bring better food than their standard forest floor fare.
n. Simply hanging the food is not enough though, since the rodents can climb 5.14. A thin cord works best.
o. I discovered I got a cell signal (Verizon) from the head of the Saddleback Lake area.
p. I had to take a photo of our friendly campsite neighbors Chris and Amy are playing a game of chess using stones and sticks.
q. Star trails around Polaris with moonlight on Elephant's Perch (20 min exposure).
r. Another photo of star trails around Polaris (35 minute exposure).
s. As I was setting up a rock stand for my tripod for some night photography, I had an encounter with a ~40 pound biting rock that took a gouge out of my foot. We washed it up and put some tape on it, but it made climbing a bit painful!
a. It took us only 20 minutes to get from camp to the base of the Perch. This photo is taken looking up from the base of the Mountaineer's Route.
b. Geoff has a knack of finding booty gear. Here he found a #2 cam and nut just lying at the base of the route.
c. I found that a piece of Jessica's sleeping pad taped to my foot made climbing possible (thanks Jessica!).
d. Morning light on the mountains across the valley. Note the mosquito flying by. There were a fair number of mosquitos on the first few pitches (even though there had been very few bugs at the lake).
e. Mosquitos made us climb faster.
f. Some old bolts at the top of Pitch 2.
g. This is the "tree" shown on the topo for Pitch 3.
h. Pitch 3 (which I am climbing as I took this photo, led by Geoff) and Pitch 4 (traversing left around the orange corner above, led by me) were my favorite pitches of the route.
i. Jessica climbing up Pitch 3 from the belay. We climbed on the same rope as far apart as we could depending on how long the pitch was (most of the pitches were short enough that both followers rarely climbed at the same time, so the one-rope system worked well for this route).
j. Geoff and the "large blank diamond" at the top of Pitch 4.
k. Jessica climbing and Geoff at the upper belay of Pitch 7. Jessica is at the 5.9 crux section of the route.
l. An old hex head stuck in the crack.
m. A stuck cam. There was a fair amount of stuck gear on Pitch 7, which had the most challenging climbing on the route.
n. Geoff managed to clean another nut, carabiner, and sling on Pitch 7.
o. After Pitch 7, the topo says 3rd class to the top. We encountered a pitch of low 5th not indicated on the topo, and then above that we found the third class and scrambled for a bit to get to the summit.
p. Geoff enjoying lunch on the summit. Notice the wisp of smoke in the distance, which developed just as we were sitting on the summit.
q. We relaxed on the summit for an hour.
r. Looking down at Saddleback Lakes.
s. 4 bars and 3G here!
t. While we were on the summit, the wisp of smoke shown a few photos earlier got larger. It turned out this was the beginning of the Hell Roaring Fire which grew to 130 acres over the course of the afternoon and thwarted our plans to climb Finger of Fate later in the trip (since the Hell Roaring Trailhead was closed to hikers/climbers).
u. Jessica and Geoff on the summit ridge as we began the descent. Steep walls!
v. Black and white version of the previous photo.
w. Geoff glissading on the descent.
x. The result of glissading with a rack on.
y. I was curious to check out the fire, so I scrambled to the far end of the ridge (perhaps half a mile away) while Jessica and Geoff enjoyed a nap in the trees. When I arrived at the end of the ridge, this is what the fire looked like.
z. It grew in size as I watched it.
a2. It always amazes me how such big trees can grow in the rocks.
b2. Another big tree growing in the rocks. There are lots of these in the Sawtooths.
c2. I regrouped with Jessica and Geoff and we descended to camp. The descent from the Perch involves a scramble down a gully and a single rappel at the end. From summit to camp is less than an hour.
d2. Looking down the rappel at the end of the gully.
e2. We had some sparklers to celebrate the 4th of July.
f2. Jessica and Geoff and our sparkler fireworks show.
g2. If you squint and try really hard, you can see that I've spelled out "Happy 4th!" with the sparklers.
a. Looking up the Direct Beckey route. Lots of steep climbing ahead. Geoff is 10 feet into Pitch 1 and Jessica is belaying.
b. The 5.11 crux of the Direct Beckey route is on Pitch 1, at the roof. But it is protectable by small gear. The real mental crux is just after, which involves an unprotected step out left. Geoff tried for awhile, and then backed off; Jessica gave it a shot and pulled through (nice job!). Here Jessica has just past this crux move.
c. Looking down while climbing the second pitch.
d. Jessica leading off Pitch 3 of the Direct Beckey route.
e. Geoff climbing on Pitch 3 of the Direct Beckey route. Note he is trailing a rope. We had a 60m 9.3mm and a 60m 8.0mm rope on this climb. The 8.0mm rope was mostly just for the potential of bailing rather than climbing, since most pitches were short enough that the two followers could both climb on the 9.3mm rope and never be climbing at the same time. It would have been faster to have the leader trail both ropes and have the followers climb staggered a the same time, but without a twin setup we decided this was too much rope weight for the leader.
f. Geoff leading off Pitch 4 of the Direct Beckey route. This pitch involves climbing past some large wedged blocks. He did not feel comfortable climbing past the large blocks, so he downclimbed and we climbed up the last pitch of the Original Beckey route instead.
g. The precarious-looking blocks of Pitch 4 of the Direct Beckey route. They are probably quite solid since hundreds of climbers have climbed past them, but you never know....
h. Geoff leading off the last pitch of the Original Beckey route to bypass Pitch 4 of the Direct Beckey route.
i. One of the pitons on the last pitch of the Original Beckey route. This pitch is 5.11 so the pitons were helpful for a few moves of A1 to expedite our pace.
j. An old bolt at the top of Pitch 5. Perhaps set by Beckey himself.
k. Jessica at the belay at the top of Pitch 5.
l. Geoff starting off Pitch 6. Going right around the block above is 5.10- while going left around the block is 5.10+. We went right.
m. Jessica leading off Pitch 7. Going left in the parallel cracks is 5.10- while going directly up is 5.10+. We went left.
n. Looking up Pitch 8, which is where the angle of the route finally starts to lessen. We wasted some valuable time trying to figure out where to go here, but we finally figured out that going straight up and then left to the base of the dihedrals in the upper left of the photo was the way to go. You can see The Beckey Tree a pitch above the dihedrals. This pitch is mostly 5.8ish, just a bit difficult to read the best line.
o. By the time we started climbing the dihedrals on Pitch 9 (the lowest is the easiest), it was getting dark. (We had known by the top of Pitch 4 that we would likely be climbing into the dark if we continued, and we had decided we would rather bivy than bail).
p. A bolt on Pitch 9 just below the Beckey Tree. There are two of these old bolts that serve as your only protection on a 5.10ish slab. Probably 50 years old if set by Beckey himself.
q. We hung out a bit at the Beckey Tree before deciding to just climb onwards into the dark. There were nice ledges at the tree we could have bivied on but we figured we could try climbing up and always rap back down or find another ledge if we ran into route-finding issues.
r. Jessica leading off Pitch 10 or 11 into the dark. Climbing in the dark is kind of fun.
s. We got within one pitch of the summit and were having difficulty finding where the route went, but we did find a nice ledge. It was a warm night and we actually got a few hours of decent sleep. The main discomfort was that we had run out of water and were quite thirsty (each of us had only 1 L with us for the day).
t. Geoff and Jessica on our bivy ledge, getting ready to find Pitch 12 and complete the route.
u. It turns out that Pitch 12 was in sight, just off to the right. It had looked improbable in the dark but now looked quite climbable. (And a couple of days later when climbing the Fine Line, I learned that there is a 3rd/4th traverse off to the left from our bivy ledge, which had looked equally improbable in the dark. Prior knowledge would have helped a lot.)
v. Geoff climbing the block that marks the base of the final pitch to the summit. I thought this was a fun finish to the route.
w. Jessica on top! What a great adventure!
x. We beelined to the water at the head of the descent gully.
y. Since our Finger of Fate plans had been thwarted by the Hell Roaring Fire that had started the previous day, Jessica and Geoff decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing at the lakes instead of hiking out as we had planned. I had friends who were hiking up to climb the Perch over the next few days, so I hiked out to resupply on food and hike back in. A boat arrived at the dock just as I arrived at Redfish Lake, so I was back at my car in just under 2 hours after leaving camp at Saddleback Lake!
z. A note on a van at the Redfish Lodge parking area. I couldn't figure out if this climber was looking for a partner or a pair of climbing shoes...
a. 24 hours after hiking out, on the evening of July 7, I was again crossing Redfish Lake and hiking back in. I was pretty excited for some more climbing on the Perch, and I made it from the dock to Scott and Mick's camp at Saddleback Lakes in 1 h 35 min!
b. We decided to climb Fine Line. Here Mick is starting up the first pitch and Scott is belaying. There is also a party on the third pitch of the Direct Beckey Route.
c. Mick on the first crux (10c) of the first pitch of Fine Line.
d. Note the triangular incut in the photo. The second crux (11a) of the first pitch is just right of the incut.
e. The topo shows a "hollow flake" at the triangular incut. Sometime between the topo and when we climbed the route, this flake must have fallen out.
f. Looking up while climbing the first pitch of Fine Line. I took a lot of photos of this pitch because it was so good! This pitch is also the first pitch of the Original Beckey route, and is one of the most classic pitches on the Perch.
g. There are a number of bolts on the first pitch. Definitely nice to have as what crack holds there are are needed for climbing.
h. Scott climbing the upper moves of the first pitch.
i. Mick leading off the second pitch of Fine Line. This pitch features beautiful finger crack climbing in a dihedral.
j. Looking up the third pitch from the belay.
k. An example of a cam used as passive protection. I noticed that the cracks on the Perch have a tendency to open up behind.
l. A 10-cam equalized anchor at the 4th belay. Guess we should have brought a few more slings (I think we had 8 along with some draws, but 10-12 slings would have been better as we often ran out on a pitch).
m. Mick at the top of the 5th pitch. From here the route traverses left to the Beckey Route.
n. The dihedrals of Pitch 7. This is Pitch 9 of the Beckey Route. The Beckey Tree is above.
o. There are two old bolts near the top of Pitch 7. Probably 50 years old. I wouldn't want to take a whipper on them!
p. Looking down on The Beckey Tree.
q. Climbing Pitch 8 just above the Beckey Tree. This is Pitch 10 of the Beckey Route. A few days previous, Jessica, Geoff, and I had climbed this area in the dark so it was nice to see what it looked like in the daylight.
r. At the top of Pitch 8, we could see the ledge where Jessica, Geoff, and I had bivied and the route we took in the morning when we could see where to go.
s. Unknown to us a few days earlier, it turns out that there is a 3rd/4th traverse to the left that brings you to the ridge. It had looked improbable a few nights before in the dark. We went this way and were quickly on the easy backside of the Perch.
t. We took a break at some water on the backside before continuing the descent to camp.
u. Scott enjoying the fresh water.
v. Now my nut tool smells like salmon.
w. Mick glissading down the snow on the descent off the summit ridge.
x. Scott and Mick cooling off after a nice long day of climbing.
a. The forecast called for 40% thundershowers. After a long previous day climbing the Fine Line, we took this as an excuse for a rest day. I spent awhile photographing the healthy squirrel population at Saddleback Lakes.
b. Another cute squirrel.
c. And another. They lure you in with their cuteness....
d-e. ...while behind your back another is feasting....
f. My new climbing shoes were rather stiff so to pass the time I dunked them in hot water and put them on for walking around camp.
g. We played a game of cribbage to distract ourselves from wondering where the predicted thunderstorms were.
h. Sticks are winning, I think.
i. We found a tick!
j. The sun came out so I tried out my solar charger I had gotten. These days where cell service can be found even in the mountains, solar chargers are quite useful. So far the charger seems to work great, and seems to gain a full iPhone charge out of a full day of sitting in the direct sun.
k. The gouge on my foot from a few days previous had ceased to be painful, but I made sure to keep it clean to avoid infection.
l. We discovered a ~25 foot cliff on the second Saddleback Lakes. Here Zach (a climber we met) is jumping off the cliff with the Perch in the background.
m. Here Mick is jumping off.
n. Here Brian (another climber we met) is jumping off.
o. Swimming in Saddleback Lakes below the Perch.
p. Mick swiped my camera at dinner and took some self-portraits.
r. Another. With the Perch in the background.
t. Scott making wraps for dinner.
u. I took the opportunity of making two trips into the Perch to bring some vegetables to add to my usual fare of mashed potatoes, cheese, and salmon. Yum!
v. Mick the mosquito-slayer. The bugs were a bit annoying, but not terrible.
w-b2. This squirrel swiped a couple of carrots.
c2. Evening light on the Decker Peak area to the south across Saddleback Lakes.
d2. Glowing tents at camp with the Perch in the background.
e2. Some headlight night photography fun.
a. A beautiful morning. Rested from the previous day and looking for something fun to cap off the trip, we decided to climb the tantalizing line of Sunrise Book. You can get to the base of Sunrise Book by slogging up the descent gully, but we though it would be more fun (and more climbing!) to climb the first half of Astro-Elephant and then traverse horizontally to the base of Sunrise Book.
b. To access the Astro Elephant Route, we climbed a pitch of 5.9ish rock just left of the chockstone in the descent chimney.
c. Looking up the first pitch of Astro Elephant, 5.10a handcrack. There is an awkward squeeze section that seems a little harder than 10a for a move or two.
d. We found a #3 cam in Pitch 1 of Astro Elephant and Scott managed to work it out as Mick was climbing Pitch 2 of Astro Elephant. A nice find!
e. Mick leading off Pitch 2 of Astro Elephant, which features some 10b stemming in a corner.
f. Scott climbing up Pitch 3/4 of Astro Elephant (we linked these two pitches). This is steep 5.8.
g. There's a great pocket for a 0.75 cam just below the large ledge.
h. We planned on climbing Sunrise Book instead of the second half of Astro Elephant. This involves a third class traverse along the ledge.
i. Looking up Sunrise Book.
j. Mick leading the first pitch of Sunrise Book, 5.9+ face climbing. On the Perch, 5.9+ seems to mean 5.10-something.
k. Mick leading the second pitch of Sunrise Book. This pitch features a short section of 5.12 or 5.10 A1 (yard on small yet bomber stopper placements).
l. Mick on the third pitch of Sunrise Book, a really fun 10a flaring handcrack.
m. There are at least three fixed stoppers at the belay at the top of the third pitch of Sunrise Book.
n. Mick at the top of the third pitch. The fourth pitch is short, a 5.10a lieback/crack.
o. The fifth pitch of Sunrise Book involves climbing into a bombay chimney. The exit move is pretty wild. There's really good gear placements in the chimney.
p. Another photo of Mick in the chimney.
q. Mick making his exit.
r. Mick and Scott on top. Scott had decided not to climb the route with us, so he met us on top.
s. A view of the Sunrise Book during the descent. It's an intriguing line.
t. Another view of the Sunrise Book.
u. Scott on the rappel at the base of the descent gully.
v. Scott and Mick enacting their usual post-climb-go-swimming ritual, capping off a great trip.