Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hyalite December 2018

First ice/mixed climbing trips of the season usually feel rough and shaky, at least to me, so we decided to spend out first day in Hyalite mainly drytooling, in order to get the feel of the whole process again. And I say process because at times mixed climbing feels like aid climbing, or at least a little less natural than rock climbing. Scary medieval axes in your arms, connected to the harness with leashes, screws, draws, cams, spikes on your feet. Good luck not stepping on your rope and not wrapping the leashes all around the tools on the crux. A good time to smile and remind myself that grace is work in progress. We finished the day by both leading the Matrix and planned an outing to attempt the SUPERFAT Matriarch on day two. 
When we got to the base of the Matriarch, we found a team of 4 climbing it with one guide. 21 Stitches (M8 WI6) however was in as well, so we decided to try that. There was a party ahead of us and I tried to gather all the beta on the crux, as the leader was trying to get through it. Watching him fall 5-7 times and break a nice looking blob of ice at the lip was not encouraging, but guys that just got off the route made it sound more attainable. Aivaras led the direct start to the route (at m6 wi5?) and I led the 2nd pitch with the dreaded M8 overhang. To my surprise I onsighted both, but just barely. After pulling the strenuous crux (you are basically doing one armed pull ups through the overhang, as you have no feet to edge on) my bicepts started to cramp and I nearly ate shit on easy ice. That would be a painful bummer. I continued to rock climb left on big blobs and clipped a few bolts before making a transition to a hanging dagger. The position was truely wild. Dagger grew larger and offered a few stemmy rest stances. After getting to the top I witnessed a beautiful sunset as I was belaying Aivaras. Even though we hiked out in the dark and I had to pay a 50$ late fee because I demoed some ice tools and brought them back late, it was still very worth it in my mind and I was pretty psyched we got on a world class climb that we have not even planned to get on.
The third day begun with a romp to try the Killer Pillar, which was climbed by another party in front of us and led by Aivaras after. It was pouring with water and in order to suffer a little less, I even asked him to remove the screws that he placed as I lowered him. It was a cold and wet day, which we ended by climbing the mixed route to the right. It was very nice, with a few smears of ice but damn difficult for m7, not that m7 is supposed to be easy. :)
We did two more days of mixed cragging, which was mostly about working out and getting really really pumped. On one of those, we did something like 8 laps on a great route that used to be rated as an m7+ but has been upgraded to m9 in the new guide. For two of those laps I wore a 25lb backpack and was able to complete the climb clean. The following day was frigid cold, my body felt worked, I climbed like shit and decided that two top rope laps was more than enough. Highlight of the day was watching a few guys climb the Nutcracker across the canyon. That route, along with the Winter Dance, are on my WANT TO CLIMB list. I hope one day, the dream will come true. :) A fun and productive trip overall! 

Killer Pillar
The Gnar

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chasing the Yosemite Moonbows

This trip report does not relate to climbing in any way, yet is about a rare event that happens in a place many rock climbers find special. For those, who have not heard of the Moonbows in Yosemite, I highly advise to google it and come check it out for yourself in 2019! Not doing myself a favor by advertising the event and possibly making it more crowded, but hell, I have gotten shit for advertising walls with climbing potential. I am of belief there will be enough space for a few more people and it could be very excited to witness something a little less rare than the Horsetail Firefalls, yet as worthy and as spectacular.

It was a random stormy April day and I was deep in the rabbit hole of internet when I came across something that I became curious about. It was a photo of Lower Yosemite Falls with a colorful rainbow spanning in the foreground, above the booming waterfall were stars - it was a night shot! How could a rainbow be out at night? After some more investigation, turned out several other Yosemite waterfalls have been photographed in a similar fashion, but several things have to line up for these shots to be possible:
1) The waterfall has to be out in full force (duh) and create enough mist to reflect the light of the moon.
2) The weather has to be clear to allow the moonshine to reach the waterfall.
3) The moon has to be full or nearly full in order to light up the waterfall with enough force.
4) It has to hit it at a particular angle to create the rainbow and can only happen during certain months of the year and during certain hours on different days.   


Well, when is the next window to view the event, I thought, and found a well written schedule -


It was fully raining in Visalia and there would be no chance in hell of seeing it today and the forecast for tomorrow did not look promising. I googled the event some more and found out about different angles that could work for the shot, as well as the settings some of the other photographers use for it.

The weather did not improve much in Yosemite, as the webcam showed dark cloudy sky, yet NOAA allowed for glimmer of hope with "partially cloudy" prediction for the evening. I was not sure what to do, as the drive to Yosemite would be three hours one way and I had to work the next morning. The moonbow is a night event, so I would be arriving home very late in the night and getting only a few hours of sleep. For some odd reason, I decided to take slim chance and go for it. 

After a long drive, I noticed the sky was cloudy, yet there were a few patches of blue. When I went to set up, I was one of the few people there an hour prior and set my tripod in an amazing spot below and infront of a bridge, however a few minutes later one of the photographers present told me I would be ruining the shot for the 50 or so people that will show up later. I didn't even think there would be anyone else there because of the forecast, but set up in a spot more accommodating for the crowds. The dude was right. In less than an hour it was hard to find a spot to stand! The Moon was covered with clouds for most of the night and the conditions weren't perfect due to a passing storm. However, many photographers that came out were rewarded with short windows of moonshine that allowed a few decent snaps. The Moonbow itself did not come out as strong as it could have with better conditions, but I am hoping to be there the following year. Not only to photograph the Lower Yosemite Falls from different angles, during **hopefully** a better weather window, yet the Upper Yosemite Falls from different aspects. There are so many ways to be creative photographing the moonbows, that one could come out for 50+ showings and still think of new creative ways to compose a future shot.

My photos were shot with a Sony A6000, a mirrorless camera. Now that I upgraded to a Nikin D750, I am hoping for better conditions and a better capture of this phenomenal beauty in the future. If you google this event, you can see many other ways and photos edited by professionals that are much more stunning. I personally was very happy with my first attempt and staying the duration of the evening, even though I got only 3 hours before waking up for work. #coffee_official #sleep_when_youre_dead

Hope some of you will come out and see it for yourself!

My favorite composition, shot from behind the bridge. Favorite, because it is original and shows the event as a whole, including the rainbow, the waterfall and all the people on the bridge. The exposure was good too, with the water getting enough light to show beautiful colors. The stars came out as pinpoint features. One thing that is good about the clouds, is that they prevent the sky from being boring. Now to get the sky with some clouds on the North side of the valley, with enough space to show off the stars, but totally clear on the South side in order to get stronger moonshine...mmmhmmmm some day! :)

A few other angles that came out OK.

I do want to improve my astrophotography. These two were taken in early November and the milky way is not as strong as it is during summer months. Yet I love all the lights from the climbers on El Cap and the fall colors illuminated by the passing car. More practice and a better camera/lens combination will hopefully help too. This was a stitch of three photos taken with Sony A6000, Rokinon 12mm f2.0 lens set for 15 second exposure, f2.8 at 6400iso

Some other photos from this fall

"Tongue in your butt, like it or not!"
"Did he take a photo of...." Do you see those two blushing? I do!
Fall colors

Yosemite Tunnel view before sunrise. This spot is more photogenic during sunsets.

Moving water