Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back to the Tieton

Melanie McMahon on Lava Sundae, 5.10a, Dream Wall
The mountains keep pulling at my gut, but the lowland rock climbing has been really good over the last few weeks.  With questionable weather threatening many of the usual climbing destinations from Idaho to BC, a bunch of us "settled" on some of our old stomping grounds in the Tieton Valley.  We found perfect weather, sublime light and a big 'ole party complete with a posse from Portland and a bunch of tree climbing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Return to Trout Creek!

Trout Creek
Back in the fall, sitting at my office desk in Portland, I suddenly started to get emails and messages about a potential closure of Trout Creek, one of the best crags in the Pacific Northwest.  BLM was threatening to close down this incredible gem to protect golden eagle nests in the area, and local climbers were looking for a little help interfacing with the land managers.  I had climbed at Trout a hand full of times and was more than happy to devote a little desk time to the cause if it would help.  Everyone wanted to protect the habitat and give the eagles a chance to nest, but BLM hadn't yet given climbers the opportunity to be a part of the solution.  The issue kind of languished for several weeks and then all of a sudden in January we found out the BLM was implementing an emergency closure without any advance public process.   

Working with the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund and the Mazamas, we pulled together a couple of letters, an action alert, and a quick meeting with the Prineville Office of BLM, which helped to get the agency working in cooperation with a dedicated group of local climbers, including Eric Sorenson, Jeff Wenger and Wally Fox.  Those guys did a great job taking the lead and developing a strong working relationship with the field staff, and BLM, to its credit, did a great job of involving them in decisions affecting Trout Creek.  After these initial discussions, BLM chose to implement a voluntary closure, and everyone started working on a voluntary monitoring program for the crag.  A few weeks after the closure went into effect, lo and behold a pair of goldens took up residence in the nest on the Main Wall, which validated all the efforts made by both the agency and the climbing community.  BLM staff in the Prineville office deserve a lot of credit for partnering with an important user group, and climbers followed through on their commitment to protect raptor habitat. 

For the next several months, the locals kept an eye on the nest, but by the middle of May it looked as if the birds had moved on without hatching a chick.  Working together, BLM and the local climbers checked the nest, confirmed that the eagles had left, and then decided to lift the closure.  All of a sudden, Trout Creek was open for business!   

This past weekend, a few days after the closure was lifted, I snuck in a day of fantastic climbing on the splitter cracks overlooking the Deschutes River in the Oregon High Desert.  I felt lucky just to have one day of climbing at this beautiful setting, but it's literally in my backyard - what a treat!  All the guys that put in time to steward Trout Creek deserve a huge thanks, because so many people find a little piece of what they're searching for in that moment of uncertainty above their last piece of pro.  We all deserve that chance, and places like Trout Creek and the people who take care of it make it all possible.  Pass it on!

A Trout Creek local

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spring Cragging in the Tieton Valley

Spring in the Tieton
Spring has settled over the Tieton River valley, and the climbing conditions are excellent!  Last weekend, Kristin and I spent two more beautiful days camped along the river by night, climbing by day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 4 - Tiger's Nest to the Paro Tsetschu

At the Paro Tsetschu
For more than a year, we planned our trip with Mom around the five day Druk Path trek, during which we spent three days above 13,000 feet in the foothills of the Himalayas.  After successfully finishing the walk and descending back into the relatively thick air of the Thimphu valley, we hardly had time to enjoy our sense of gratitude and satisfaction and reflect on the experience, because our trip had not yet come to an end.  Over the next two days, our itinerary would take us to the Tiger's Nest monastery, a famous holy site that draws people from around the world, as well as one of the annual festivals - the Paro Tesetschu - which often provides the main focus for many tourists who visit Bhutan.  In between, the ladies still managed to squeeze in a bit more shopping, and we stopped in to visit more of the beautiful religious sites in the Paro and Thimphu valleys.  We could sense the end of our journey approaching, but, as with the whole trip, our surroundings helped us to stay focused on the present.   

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 3 - Dochu La to the Druk Path Trek

The Views of the Himalayas from the Druk Path Trek
After visiting the beautiful farm land and religious sites of the Punakha valley, we anxiously piled back into our trusty mini-van for the drive back towards Thimphu and Paro en route to the start of the Druk Path trek.  For many months we had read about this five-day trekking route, which traverses a high ridge line between the two main valleys of Western Bhutan.  We were excited to leave the roads behind and travel on foot, but first we would have to  negotiate Dochu La one final time.