Saturday, December 28, 2013

Going on an Adventure

I leave tomorrow on a few month long adventure. Not sure how accessible internet will be so I decided to publish all the post I have been working on, despite most of them not having the photos or videos added in yet. Sorry for the lower quality of post.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Queen City Mayor's Cup, Buffalo Yacht Club

While I grew up sailing on Lake Erie, it has been a long time since I did any racing. This did not keep me from jumping on the opportunity to join the crew a boat racing in the Queen City Mayor's Cup. This is one of the Buffalo Yacht Clubs international races. Starting in Buffalo, NY and ending at Point Abino, ON.

The race is a two day regatta. Saturday boats race from Buffalo to Point Abino, and Sunday they race back. Saturday's race was plagued by light winds and only one of the fleets had boats finish within the 4 hour time limit. Sunday had slightly better winds. and our boat was able to take first in our fleet.


Castle Dome 2, Second attempt second failure to summit.

A year later, and Castle Dome still undefeated. I set off on my second attempt at a summit of Castle Dome sure I could make it. Unfortunately once again it was not to be. I set of after breakfast, and had an easy drive to the wash. Once I arrived I was surprised to find that I was the only one there, the weather was perfect for hiking, clear and 60s.

I set off up the wash as we did last year. We followed the big stone arrow up the second wash to the right and directly at the mountains peak. The was was hard to walk in so we shifted slightly to the right following scattered rock pillars. There is really no trail after you leave the big wash, you just have to pick what you find to be the easiest way.

Once we reached the rock face near the peak is where things went wrong. After exploring the immediate  area it seemed like the trail looped counter clockwise around the peak, which appears to be sloped on your right as opposed to vertical rock faces on your left. This is wrong. The "trail" traces the face to the left, clockwise, through the saddle of the pillar and then up to the summit.

We made our way difficultly to the right. What appeared to be the slope turned out to be much steeper than expected and did not make for easy climbing. We continued counterclockwise as until we reached a cliff and a ridge line. At this point we realized there was no easy way up on this side of the peak, but it was 3pm and to late to hike all the way around to the other side. From there we made our way back a bit to a spot that looked climbable. The loose nature of the desert rock made for some pretty scary climbing but we were encouraged that we were going the right way because we were still seeing rock piles. As it turns out we were just not the only ones to go the wrong way. After climbing to what I believe was about 200 vertical feet short of the summit we decided we had to turn back.

On the way back we searched for a better route down, but since we were so off "trail", nothing looked good. Most of the seemingly promising ways down quickly ended in cliffs we were unwilling to down climb. Defeated we worked our way back down into the wash that we struggled up, making our slow way. We hit the main wash right at the arrow we turned at and headed back for the car. By the time we sat in the car the sun was set. We had made it just in time.

I am not sure whether or not I will attempt the summit a 3rd time. Now it seems there are no more wrong turns to make, but I am not sure if it is worth is.


Mountain Bike Noble Canyon, CA

An internet search, almost two years ago, of Mountain Biking near San Diego identified Noble Canyon as the best trail in the area. Since then it had ranked high on my to do list. Unfortunately for almost two years I was unable to find anyone to join me, and I was unwilling to attempt it alone.

I spent some time this summer properly introducing Jeff to mountain biking and by August he was ready to attempt Noble Canyon with me, or so we thought. Noble Canyon is a fun tough trail, and neither of us would have a clean run of the 10+ miles down. I manage a nice flip that left a knot on my elbow seen in the below video.

We each found ourselves catapulted off our bikes more than once, and my chain broke twice. The first time it broke I was able to recover both halves of the master link, but the second time I wasn't so lucky. This resulted in me riding and walking almost 5 miles with no chain.

Noble Canyon truly deserves it's title as the best trail. It offers a little bit of everything. For me the best parts are the flowy parts through the trees along the creek. They are fast smooth and have just enough switchbacks to keep you on your toes. The rock gardens are tough without a full suspension DH bike, but most of them can be rode if you take your time.

I managed to make it back to Noble Canyon. This time we had a bigger group and due to a late start were racing the sunset. The trail is much more fun when you have a chain the whole way. The mile or so of slight uphill moves a whole lot faster.


October, HMCS Yukon SCUBA

I finally made it underwater in San Diego! I joined Power SCUBA on the Marissa dive boat for three tanks of diving goodness starting with the HMCS Yukon followed by Lazy Daze and Seven Fathoms.

The conditions were near perfect for diving, aside form the cold. 50 feet of visibility and almost no current. The cold was the main thing keeping me out of the water for so long, since most of my dives have been tropical. I don't yet own any 7mm cold water gear. Other than my gloves being too small, the wetsuit i rented did a pretty good job of keeping the cold at bay, but I definitely felt it.

At Lazy Daze, I found a dive knife as a explored the bottom. Then during our safety stop, a huge Mola Mola swam past and my partner was lucky enough to capture the video below.

My luck continued at 7 Fathoms and while my dive partners searched for lobster, I spotted a GoPro on the sea floor.

Captured this video with a head mounted GoPro, moving from stern to bow and back again.

Video of me chasing a huge Mola Mola, captured by my dive partner.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Descanso Wall Hike

On the way home from San Diego, I decided it was well past time to take an exploratory hike of Descanso. It has been on my rock climbing RADAR for a while, but I wasn't sure exactly where it was or what the climbing looked like.

The turn around at the gate also serves as the parking lot.

I half intentionally passed the trail, in order to explore the area a bit more. Which was marked by an unusual large amount of dirt on the road.
"Cliff" at the base of the trail
The hardest part of the hike is the steep "cliff" between the road and the trail. Once I passed the Fire Fighter Memorial,

I wasn't sure which face was which. I took a quick break on the large boulder at the base of the wall.
Bolt on top of the boulder facing the main wall

After that I made my way east along the wall and saw a bunch of bolts along the way. At least four bolted routes, most of them look easy from the bottom. After exploring the bottom I scrambled up the rocks immediately behind where the memorial is to the top. There wasn't much up there until the east end of the face where there were 2 anchors and the easiest path down to the bottom. I look forward to head back here and do some climbing. Because of the easy access, hikeable top rope anchors and variety of difficulty, it should be a good place to take new climbers.
View from the top. Parking center left and I8 across the top


Castle Rock, Big Bear Lake, CA

The weather was threatening so rather than commit to a long adventure, I decided it was a perfect time to visit Castle Rocks. Castle Rocks is a popular hike in Big Bear Lake because it is short, hard and rewards hikers with a great view of the lake from the top. The rocks at the end of the hike offer some large faces to rock climb, but I did not bring my gear on this trip.

Thanks to the weather the trail was not very crowded. Road side parking can get sketchy if it is crowded. The trail starts steep but well maintained and easy unless the altitude gets you. You first meet the rocks from a boulder field at the bottom and see the 100 foot faces for rock climbing. As you make your way around the rock clock wise, you reach the shorter back side that offers a pretty easy scramble up to the top. At the top you have your reward of the lake view. There are also climbing anchors scattered across the top, offering a repel down or top rope for climbing.


Devil's Bridge, Sedona, AZ

Another of the Grand Canyon side trips was Sedona. Devil's Bridge was one of the outdoor activities in Sedona that came highly recommended, I took advantage of my vehicle's clearance and drove to the trailhead, rather than hike from the parking lot. Managed to only bounce my truck off the rocks once along the way.

The trail is a nice gradual mile long slope up to the bridge. The whole trail offers beautiful views of the valley, especially as you get heigher. Maybe because it was noon in July, but the bridge wasn't very crowded. After the obligatory photo op, we turned back as a thunderstorm began to threaten the valley.

North up the Valley
 Devil's Bridge from below
Devil's bridge from above


Lava River Cave, Flagstaff, AZ

Lava River Cave was an unplanned adventure as part of my Grand Canyon visit. I planned to spend the day heading up to Snow Bowl and taking the sky ride, but the weather would not cooperate. The thunderstorms prevented us from going up so we headed underground. I am aware that heading underground during rain can be a bad idea, but there was a ranger at the cave entrance and he never even suggested people not enter.

The below map is just from the parking lot to the cave's entrance. The parking lot was a crowded mess, despite being 3 miles off the paved road. I was lucky enough to arrive right as somebody was leaving and park next to the trail. The trail to the cave entrance is well marked and obvious (along the fire road). It wasn't until we arrived at the entrance that we realized how cold it would be in the cave. The average temp is around 40 fahrenheit, so we returned to the car to get long pants and sleeves.

After signing into the registry we made our way in. The first 50 yards was steep, loose and crowded. Once past that its about a mile of easy flat walking to the caves end. The ceiling height varies from about 4 feet up to about 30, but for the most part it is a comfortable 14 feet. At the end there is a pile of rocks and a hole in the lower right just big enough for an average sized person to crawl through. I wiggled my way in but all I saw was about 50 feet of crawling and graffiti, so I just backed out.

 Looking up at the entrance
Long exposure somewhere near the middle of the cave
The end


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Devil's Punch Bowl

I heard about this "Devil's Punch Bowl" over a year ago. I did some research and found that at the time there were access issues. The trail from Ramona was closed as a result of injuries and issues with people drinking. The trail from Julian was still open but was about twice as long. This spring they opened the trail from Ramona back up under the management of This management requires you to have a $5 permit to use the area immediately around the falls.

I got the permit and headed out to the parking lot. There was a Ranger standing at the gate of the parking lot, which was already full, to check permits. We parked along the road and geared up. We headed down the trail, which I did not find as hard and steep as advertised. We even had some time for a photo op. The only bad part of the trail was the complete lack of shade until you reach the bottom.

At the bottom you are awarded with the first shade and a view of the falls. There wasn't much water falling this day.

The water was plenty cold, and felt nice after the heat of the hike. There are signs that tell you not to climb the rocks, but people still made a splash. I was a pain, but we did manage to put up a slack line across the pool. It wasn't very long before it came off the rock. Only Jeff managed to stand on it. All I had to show for my attempts was a bruise on the leg.

In addition to the natural views there was no shortage of Souther California girls.


Big Bear, Mountain Biking

Finally made it up to Big Bear Lake, CA with my mountain bike. I didn't have much of a plan, other than ride some single track. Based on my camping trip back in November, I knew I wanted to ride "Plantation", but I had no idea where the other good trails were.

I did some riding in town but the trails I found were marked no bikes. After my warm up ride around town trying to find a trail, I headed to the Big Bear Discovery Center. I bought "Follette's Local Trail Map 3.0" map to learn where to find some new trails. 

When nothing jumped out at me, I decided why not start with Plantation. At the top of Plantation, I saw the end of "Skyline Trail", still under construction. I was feeling the altitude on the uphill, but it was a fun ride down.

After Plantation, I looked at the map again and spotted two trails starting at Aspen Glen Picnic Area on Mill Creek Road. I ended up riding up and down Red Ant Canyon. It was a bit steeper and more technical that Plantation and a good last ride for the weekend.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Summiting Picacho Peak, CA

Today I set out the the meetup group for the other big peak near Yuma. After not making it to the top of Castle Dome, I felt I needed to make it to the top of this one. Six of us set out, but only two made it, the group leader and me.

We got an early start and made the drive down Picacho road and turned off the Wash along the BLM trail.

At the point where you can no longer drive, we started the hike by continued by walking up the same wash. After you pass by Picacho, a trail heads up to the left. The trail continues to a scree slope up to a saddle.

The Guardian

View from the Saddle
At the saddle we took a slight turn to the right and began the scramble along the first ledges. We arrived at the first ladder, about 6 feet tall.

At the top of the ladder is the infamous crack which divided our group. It is only about 2 feet wide but it is very exposed and there is no good location to step off from. The spot where you jump from is slightly higher than the landing. When you lower yourself to get a better angle to jump from, you give up all footing except for one little pocket about an inch deep that you can place one heel in. This means all your upward and most of your forward momentum needs to be generated from that one poorly placed foot.  It took me a minute to build up the confidence to take the leap. The first time I made my way to the edge I needed to back away and collect myself. The video below shows me making the leap.
 The Leap and Landing
Not ready to leap

 After the leap it is easy scrambling to the second ladder. You snake back and forth long a series of ledges and the turns are marked by red arrows. The second ladder was taller. Once at the top, we borrowed it to help go from the false summit to the true summit.

 A boulder divides the summits, and using the ladder to get on top of it was the most exposed part of the hike. I did not get a picture of the previous ladder placement on the other side of the boulder, which was the truly exposed part. The ladder was on a slope that had a small divot that held one leg. The ladder was also only about 3 feet in from the ledge. The only redeeming part was there were some good hand holds, so you could commit a lot of your weight to the rock as your feet moved up the ladder. The ladder placement in the below photos looks a little precarious, but it was solid.
 Exposure? You should see the other side.

After we reached the true summit we signed the log and got some photos. The log was in a pipe that was cemented into the rock. There was some additional stuff cashed in the rocks that are directly behind me in the below photo.

Colorado River as seen from the peak


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Lele Kawa DVD is out!

Follow the movie on face book at  Screening should be announced soon.

The DVDs are shipping now. You can get your copy with any donation of $12 or more at


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Castle Dome, failed attempt

There aren't too many things around Yuma on my to do list that I haven't been able to do yet. Castle Dome is one of them. Castle Dome is the highest point in Yuma County. From Yuma it looks like it would be hard to summit due to its sheer sides facing Yuma.

The "back side" is less sheer, and can be hiked.

We decided to drive in the night before and camp at the base of the wash. Unfortunately shortly after we passed Castle Dome mine one of our four vehicles experienced not one, but two flats. Luckily one of the other vehicles was able to loan a spare, and we got two tires changed out in the dark.

Early the next morning we made breakfast and broke camp. By the time we broke camp, one older hiker had already started up the trail and another hiking group arrived.

We started off right behind that group. We were moving faster than they were and passed them up. This was our first mistake. The only one of our group who had done the hike stayed back at camp, leaving us with only vague directions.

We missed our turn up the wash, marked on the below map as missed turn. We headed up the next wash when the trail seemed to go cold. It was hard hiking up loose and steep rocks that lead to a ridge line that did not connect with Castle Dome.
Top of the ridge looking away from Castle Dome


Joshua Tree, Thanksgiving weekend

Joshua Tree has been on my hit list for a while. I bought a climbing book for J Tree even before I got back to the US. It is also a convenient "midway" point to camp between Yuma and San Diego.

Thanksgiving seemed like as good of a time as any to head out there. Cool fall weather in the desert. One of the reason for going was getting some last footage for Lele Kawa's Literally Living the Dream movie.

Unfortunately since I was the only rock climber in the group I didn't get to put the climbing book or gear to use. My hopes to use this trip to draw my friends into the world of rock climbing did not pan out. The best I was able to get was a little bit of scrambling and some easy bouldering, in addition to some hiking.

In addition to scrambling we did get to do some long boarding. There was even some long boarding at night that resulted in some good looking photos.

Our only attempt of the weekend at slack lining did not go so well. No makes.

We also stopped at Keys View to take in the valley.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the weekend were the nights spent around the camp fire.