Trip reports

This section is my attempt at a trip report section. I am not really good at writing about this kind of thing so I'll do my best. I'll also try to write about my most notable (at least for me) ascents I did in the past with good friends of mine. Enjoy!

2024-02 ~~ Levitation 29 with Andre Ribeiro

2023-09 ~~ Third Pillar of Dana with Andre Ribeiro

This weekend was quite a big one. I projected to do the Third Pillar of Dana with Andrei Ribeiro (from SCMA) and perhaps Tenaya Peak as bonus, as a throwback to my failed attempt at doing Triple Crown with Nick. I previously climbed once with Andrei in Tahquitz, so not too much mileage with him, but that one time felt good. That one time, we did “The Blank”, a burly ~ 5.10, with some harder slab variation and it went well!

This climb is situated on the Dana plateau, is east/south-east oriented and is visible from the road when entering the Sierras through Tioga pass. I caught a cell phone picture of it through binoculars, it looked like the prow of a massive ship! I was a little bit intimidated, but the grade kept me from freaking out too much (I can climb 5.10b right??). Now, if I were the first one to climb this, seeing it from a distance, I would have reconsidered my life goals.
Reading about the climb I gathered that it’s 2 hours in and 2 hours out approach and it’s a bad idea to be caught in a thunderstorm on this climb given how baren the Dana plateau is. This was going to be an alpine start in order to get out of there as early as possible (didn’t happen).

I took Friday off and got to Tioga Lake around 7pm (~5h30 from LA). Camped out at the major pull out just north of Tioga Lake campground. Slept well from 9pm to 4am. Coming out of my car, I was greeted by a beautiful star ceiling and a very cold morning with frost everywhere. The summer is ending…
After a quick breakfast in the frosty dark morning, we headed out to the Tioga lake trailhead which is just south of Tioga lake, 2-3 min away by car, and started our way east towards the Dana Plateau. Ten minutes in the approach I realized I forgot the rope under my bed in the car so I sprinted to the car to go get it. This upset set us back 20min. We got passed by an Argentinian couple, thought to myself that we won’t be the first on it, which mildly bothered me, I don’t know why. I probably thought they would slow us down but it turned out they were the fastest on the wall. This 15mn run back and forth to the car had the merit to warm me up for the rest of the approach, so much so I decided to leave my gloves at the car.

The approach took us through beautiful meadows at sunrise. It had a gradual slope increase the first 1.75mi before reaching the Dana plateau. The plateau is really exposed to winds, which made it extremely cold in the morning. We were quite concerned as to how cold we were going to be on the climb. We reached the third pillar. It’s extremely prominent, looks almost like a mini El Cap’. This is a peculiar Verdonesque route: it is reached from the top. We leave stuff at the summit and go down a gully/ridge system on the north-east of the peak. The descent was about a quarter of a mile. I was fearing there would be ice or snow so I took microspikes and even an ice axe with me! But upon seeing the descent gully from the top, it seemed no ice/snow crossing was involved, so I left those bad boys at the summit. During the descent, the sun in the clear blue morning sky bathed us and the north face of the third pillar (where we were about to climb), bringing us back to life. The ridge system was also sheltered by the wind, which made the climbing absolutely golden!

Several other parties were attempting the third pillar. Upon getting to the bottom, a lot of people elected to cut the first pitch out and go directly to 2nd pitch. This involves traversing on gravel higher. In order to not clutter the Argentinian couple, we started below on the “10a variation”. This added an extra pitch (6 total) but ultimately ran into traffic jams higher…

Andrei started the climb and did his own 5.8 variation. Definitely not 5.10a. At first we decided to swap leads for the first 4 pitches. Andrei gave me the rest of the leads, which, honestly were the best! Vertical climbing on clean granite. A combination of cracks and laybacks. The final pitch was a sequence of “slabs” separated by horizontal cracks. The climb started at 9:30am and ended at 16:30am. It took much more time than anticipated but oh well, mission accomplished!

We barely made it to the car at sunset, the way down as usual seemed long but was not as tiring as the way up of course. Because the tension and anxiety of the ascension was gone, I was able to enjoy the sceneries much more, especially on the Dana plateau which is a magnificent flat place covered in shrubs and grass with a small creek running towards Mount Dana and boulders speckling the place. We got to the car around 7:30pm and went to eat at the Mobil gas station of Lee Vining. During dinner Andrei convinced me (by financing the whole thing) to spend the night in a Lodge at Lee Vining for a warm, comfortable, and clean night. So comfortable that the next day, I forgot my knitted gnome, Abernaque, now waiting for me over there.

The next day, we woke up at 6am, got out quick (forgot Abernaque) and headed towards Tenaya Lake trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows. The objective was to run up Tenaya Peak. I wanted to solo the whole thing as it maxes out at 5.5 max (there is a 5.8 variation though…). Andrei was not too keen to do this, so we compromised to solo as long as he felt comfortable doing so and then we would rope up and simul-climb to the top. The climb took 3 hours to complete.

Very complete weekend! I am happy because found a new reliable and friendly partner, cool to hang out with. Also, quite happy about my Sierra summer. Unfortunately, couldn’t materialize the Dark Star climb but ticked off Tenaya, Cathedral peak, Matthess Crest and Third Pillar of Dana. Although I did not complete all my objectives, at least I got a summer’s worth of climbing, unlike last summer and feel there was some progress. Joshua Tree season is coming up, hopefully I will get some good ticks in the 11 range, start getting aid experience and no injury gets in the way. Allez!

North East face of 3rd pillar through binoculars from road

Third pillar from almost bottom of the approach ridge

On the way to the third pillar - Mt Dana from Dana plateau

Two thirds up the wall, more vert, cleaner climbing, more frills

Andre and I at the summit of the pillar around 4:30pm

2023-08 ~~ Double crown with Nicholas Sarai (failed attempt to Triple Crown) in Tuolumne

The triple crown is the act of climbing Tenaya Peak, Matthess Crest and Cathedral peak in a single push. Difficulty peaks at 5.6/5.7. Better to do most of it, if not all in solo fashion.

I have been wanting to get on each of these three easy peaks the past year. Life made it complicated for me to go out and climb but summer of 2023, I’ll be damned if I couldn’t get out and climb! Instead of doing all three peaks separately, the idea was to do all three in one push.

I knew Nick had wanted to do these peaks also and I really enjoy climbing/hiking with him, so we did it together. He is a busy postdoc at Stanford now, so I figured out all the logistics for this trip. Took a day off and left for Tuolumne on Friday, got to Tioga pass mid-afternoon, and went in search of a campsite. There are quite a lot of different campsites between the Lee Vining Mobil gas station at Tioga pass and the Tuolumne entrance, but they are all first come, first serve. Chances are that if you arrive on a Friday afternoon, it might be challenging to find something. I found a spot, or rather thought I did, at the Tioga Lake Campground (the best one in my opinion). It’s located on the west bank of Tioga lank, is surrounded by easily accessible meadows and surrounded by jagged peaks. It’s heavenly and the campground is very well maintained. I was feeling a little dizzy and out of breath. Probably just the altitude. This always reminds me how much of a coastal city boy I am. As soon as I hit 8000 feet, I start feeling it. Super ‘syched to be there, I love Tuolumne meadows, always reminds me why I love California. I mentioned I thought I found a campsite because someone was already there, but they were gone climbing, parking spots being empty and no gear anywhere, I thought it was available. I paid like a law-abiding citizen and was establishing camp when the Ranger came up to me and notified me that someone was occupying this campsite. He was nice and saw I didn’t mean to “steal” the campsite and we figured out a way to squeeze Nick and I’s car on the parking spots to car camp.

I prepared camp and did everything to reduce the number of things to do the next morning at 4am. Nick was caught up with Bay Area traffic and work, so he got in at night, around 9pm. When he arrived, we discussed logistics, gear etc. Although this kind of climbing is solo-able, we went with the option of solo + simulclimbing. This would significantly slow us down compared to full solo but safety first.

The next day, we started at dawn, before sunrise. We drove to Cathedral Lakes trailhead, had breakfast ;  Nick ate a horse’s amount of plain oatmeal. Not my style but will do, I guess? We headed out for our journey at 5:15am. We hiked south towards Matthess Crest. I wanted to knock that one out early because it’s long and don’t want to get stuck in a storm on it, especially this weekend where that hurricane was lurking near us. It was 5mi to get to the south end of Matthess Crest, which took us 2:50 hours. Already I could tell it was going to be long if we were to do all three in a row.
The climb started with a blooper: A party had just started and the first tower is basically a choose your own adventure kind of deal. I heard of a 5.8 variation on the left of the 5.6 route so jetted up this series of flared sketchy cracks, setting seldom pro, thinking it was “only” 5.8. At some point I realized it was sketchy, so I started putting more gear in and by the time I look down, 30 meters are between Nick and I and I am at what I thought was an abandoned anchor but was probably a bail station. I clipped in and attempted to find a way up to join with the beginning of the crest. It was not 5.8 anymore but a run out, chossy 5.9/5.10. It was windy and cold. After trying several different options and feeling like a cat stuck in a tree, I decided to retreat back to ground 0 and we went for the regular option. This stalled us probably 30 minutes. Following this mishap, we started to head up the right way at around 9:45am and simulclimbed the first tower until we reached the crest. From there, pure scrambling bliss, with a few very exposed but easy sections. We roped up for one short pitch after this and finished off the ridge at around 12:20pm.

We then headed for Cathedral peak, which is a straight walk 2mi away on fairly downhill granite slabs, not the worst. We started the climb at 2pm. This was also a very generous 5.7 and felt soloable. We actually got passed by a solo-train on the way to the top. The climb was really agreeable despite the wind picking up and the stormy clouds coming in. The full Triple Crown is compromised…. The top of Cathedral Peak was very crowded, as well as the way down. This peak is very popular. We topped out around 5pm and headed back down to the car. The end of the walk back was done under light rain that morphed into heavy rain and storm as soon as we hit the the car, around 7pm! We helped two gals that left their car at Tenaya lake (how is that possible). They invited us to have a bear at the trailhead and some snacks. A real little improvised “apero”.

We spent the evening preparing dinner and getting some rest before leaving the next day. Nick got a bonus run in in Tuolumne and caught a glimpse of a bear in the meadow! Got welcomed back to LA by the hurricane Hillary.

Arriving at campsite on Friday evening - setting off the next morning for Matthes Crest

Climbing the ~1mi long Matthes Crest: Simulclimbed and soloed

View from top of Cathedral Peak

Topping off Cathedral peak - waiting in traffic

2021-06 ~~ Mt Whitney with Matt

2021-07 ~~ Mt Russell with Cy