Monday, November 6, 2017

The dust cloud - Timberline trail, Oregon

Timberline trail around Mt. Hood was beautiful in all respect. Fording rivers, beautiful lush green of the Mt. Hood National Forest, crossing across steep ravines, ethereal mist and fluctuating temperatures from searing highs to freezing lows.

One thing, however, that I did not expect and cherish on this trail was the dusty nature  of this trail. And it was not just a small stretch that was dusty, but rather almost 50 to 60 percent of the trail that left behind a cloud of dust as we plodded along. The sandy and dusty nature definitely was not the most enjoyable part, but it could not dent our enthusiasm or mar the serenity of the overall experience.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tan, dust and masala chai - Bollywood Theater, Portland

As an outdoorsy soul, I usually don't shoot or find share-worthy close up portraits. Even more so in an urban setting. However, this one is an exception.

It has a strong backcountry story associated after a 40 mile hike on the Timberline trail around the magnificent Mt. Hood, Oregon. The disheveled, dusty hair and the unkempt stubble definitely has a lot to say. But, in this moment it's all about enjoying  masala chai for him - the simmering hot cup of tea infused with flavors of aromatic indian spices, at Bollywood Theatre, Portland.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Highpoint on Timberline trail, Oregon

Day 4 and final day on Timberline trail, Mt. Hood, Oregon. We crossed the highpoint at around 7000+feet, gazing at the majestic massif of Mt. Hood on our right and the sweeping vistas on our left.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Eden Cove, Timberline Trail - Cold, damp and beautiful

It was cold, damp and beautiful. We shivered as we prepared the morning cup of tea, huddling and almost touching the hot pot on the very noisy primus stove. Anyone who owns a primus knows how noisy it can be, yet this time it was not able to break the serene silence of the place. The fog was pervasive and persistent, refusing to let the warmth of the rays pass through. We played for time. Yet, we wanted it to be forever. 

Eden Cove, Day 3 of the Timberline trail, Oregon.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Mithral Dihedral climb: Mt. Russell

Me and my partner climbed Mithral Dihedral, a 5.9+ or 5.10a 1000 feet long alpine route on Mt. Russell in the High Sierras, California. Mt. Russell has an elevation of 14,094 feet (4,296 m) and is the seventh-highest peak in the state.

For the trip report and story on how we epiced this climb, please read this post on Mowgli and Panda.

If you are in Lone Pine, do not miss a breakfast bite at Alabama Hills Cafe.

Our last good breakfast before heading out in the mountians.

Iceberg lake as seen from the Whitney-Russell col.
Start of the climb: Pitch one & two link up in a 200 feet long pitch



Still in the shade before starting on the dihedral proper

Dihedral proper: Sun and the hand jam corners



Beautiful views all round


Offwidth at the start of pitch 5

Last pitch before topping out the dihedral

Close up of the last layback section

Summit selfie



From L to R: Third needle, Day needle, Keeler needle and Mt. Whitney

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Milky way rising over Mt. Whitney & Mithril Dihedral climb on Mt. Russell

This is almost a repost from my blog post on Mowgli and Panda.

Two of the most memorable moments I experienced outdoors were separated by less than 24 hours. I had just climbed one of my proudest line yet - Mithril Dihedral - a 1000 feet 5.10a alpine route on Mt. Russell in the Californian High Sierras. Some people may call it 5.9/+ route. But, at almost 14000 feet it felt like .12a to me!



A short time lapse video of the milky way rising over Mt. Whitney and the needles. A series of 500+ images shot over four hours from the Iceberg lake (12,600+ feet) to compile this 10-second clip. 

The peaks seen in this clip are (L to R) - Third needle, Day needle, Keeler needle and on the far right, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney. 


Just 24 hours before I shot this time lapse, we (myself & Prajakta [PK]) were benighted on a small 4x4 feet ledge around 14000 feet high up on Mt. Russell. The night on the ledge was cold and miserably beautiful. The milky way overhead and the glittering stars reminded us of the unimaginable vastness and beauty of the universe. 

We eventually did summit the peak the following day and safely descended to the comfort of our tiny tent and sleeping bags the next day. However, the night on the ledge left and indelible impression of the milky way on us. Never before did we see our galaxy so clearly with our naked eyes. It was unreal.

The unparalleled magnificence of the night sky untainted by our urban lights made me realize how small and insignificant was my proudest climb yet (barely a day old)  as compared to the vastness of our universe - a meaningless pursuit worthless beyond the radius of my own personal bubble.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Adventure tours: An oxymoron

This post is triggered by a promotional email I recently received titled 'Some XYZ Adventure Tours'. The term 'adventure tour' is an oxymoron. Rather, it is a marketing bullshit trying to capitalize on the mass needs of doing something 'cool' that is 'share-worthy' in social circles, digital or otherwise.

The feeling of adventure should be discovered, not planned. Adventure includes an element of chance occurrence, and we wish that our adventures turns out to be a positive one. However, there is a likelihood that it could also turnout to be a painstaking one. And it is precisely this uncertainty, this element of chance that makes it worthy of being called as an 'adventure'.

We strive hard to make our undertakings a successful one. And it is in this bid of ours that we indulge in the process of detailed planning. We heavily tilt the probability of our undertaking being serendipitous and not a painstaking epic with type II fun.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we should be unprepared and clueless about our undertakings. We should plan and be prepared so that we don't die out there. And to a lesser extent, we don't have to lose our gear and partners (at worst!) for those unplanned bails high on the route.

But today, with the detailed topos, accurate weather reports, trip logs and high resolution close up photos, I can plan my trip - heck, even the moves on individual pitches to such an extent that I can virtually visualize the alpine route - like I do at single pitch sport crags.

Is it a good thing? Bad thing? I don't know. I just don't feel the thrill of adventure at such a detailed level of planning. The joy of discovering things for oneself and making in-the-moment impromptu decisions as against pre-programmed ones definitely adds spice to the entire undertaking; and it is this spicy flavor that is sorely missed from an undertaking marred by the ultra-detailed level of planning. I have been guilty on more than a few occasions of indulging in such detailed planning to make it safe and successful. {Super Topos anyone? Do I really need a pitch by pitch description with details about the size of crack fist jam, lie backs and that hidden crimp behind the bulge? May be not, just the correct ridge and the line to be taken would have been enough.}

Now, the definition of success if an altogether different topic of debate and demands at the very least a separate blog post in itself, if not the whole book! It is  very much about the process vs product orientation. Anyway, don't we spend 99% of the time on planning, packing, approach and climbing and one or probably less than one percent on the summit?

Well, put yourself in the shoes of these tour operators (adventure companies?) and try preaching this to your prospective clients. Hell, yeah! All your clients and your potential revenue will go to another tour operator down the lane. The truth remains that your clients will want you to assure them of putting them on the summit and make every penny they spend worth it.

So these 'guiding services' are reduced to nothing more than a 'tour operator' who must employ all their logistical prowess, planning and manpower to ensure the 'success' of their clients, even at the cost of literally raping the mountains with fixed ropes, ladders and porters. As a tour operator, you will not leave the outcome to a chance occurrence. You will do everything possible to ensure that the summit bid turns out to be a successful one for your clients. I feel dissonance between the terms 'guide' and tour operator; a dissonance that is unwelcome in the sanctity of the wilderness.

These tour operators (a.k.a. guides) don't have much options either. Either they can do it (lug them up the mountains?) for their clients, or someone else will. Hence, I am not rambling to vilify these adventure tour operators, though at some level I feel they do their part to abet this soulless pursuit. However, with this post, I am throwing a larger tantrum at all the clientele who want to be guaranteed a successful outcome, come what may.

Having said that, I do understand that not everyone desires to have their asses whipped on their hard earned vacation after years of dreaming and planning. But, just realize that what you are doing out there is no adventure. It is a planned tour, a service guarantee that you buy in exchange for cash and someone else's expertise. They do the homework for you. Heck, not just the homework but also the fieldwork. Their expertise and planning attempts to remove all possible uncertainties that you may otherwise encounter along the way. And, the moment you remove this element of uncertainty to skew the probability away from the type II epic fun, then your outing no longer remains an adventure. It's a planned tour on vertical terrain.

Be glad. Go ahead and share that photo on social media. But remember, for God's sake think twice before abusing the word adventure in your next post riddled with a ridiculous number of hashtags. It was nothing more than a tour, far removed from adventure. The term adventure tour, truly is an oxymoron.