Summery Summary, Part 1

SMG guide Jed Porter expounds on his diverse guiding experiences from Summer 2012 to date. Enjoy!

How do you measure Summer?  Someone once decided that the longest day of the year marks the start of summer.  Summer partiers count July 4 as their kickoff.  Sierra climbers watch the snow-line retreat and mix in a little consideration to the monsoonal thunderstorm forecast and come up with their own definition entirely.  By the latter algorithm, we’ve already had a couple months of summer up here.  This particular Sierra Mountain Guide has been out and about, covering dry ground and making the most of a relatively quiet (until just recently…) electrical weather forecast.  This first big round of rain and lightning is the perfect turning point at which to do a little catch-up and reflection.  Let us begin this recollection just after Memorial Day.

The last day of May, Howie, Neil and I went out on a huge day to scout a more efficient and safe way to negotiate a big new SMG endeavor.  Howie did some more scouting more recently. Stay tuned…

On the first of June Thomas G. and I did the big and neo-classic SE Face of Mt. Emerson.

High on Emerson.

SMG all-stars Chad B and John W and I knocked out a traverse of Mt. Russell-in-A-Day (MiRAD?  Well, am I?) Check out about a gazillion of Chad’s pictures.

Jon A and I traversed the Palisades and documented it here and here:

Palisades Traverse from Jon Arlien on Vimeo.

Most of us Sierra Mountain Guides got together in mid-June to “train”.  Mainly we heckled each other, hassled Howie’s 1 year old, Cosmo, and roasted in the sun. We did some good rescue skills and procedures review and had some great technical discussions. We are all better guides for it.

On two separate trips, Brian S. and Sean M. joined me for some customized rock instruction.  These guys each took forward leaps in their climbing abilities and confidence.  To their credit, each of these dudes came in with a fair to considerable prior experience.  Soliciting professional oversight and conjuring the humility to receive that mentorship has done each of them a great service.

Jeff B. came down from Alberta, CA to climb on our solid rock and sunny skies.  His first impression of climbing here, distilled when I suggested we meet at a relatively relaxing 8am, was casual yet athletic.  In the end, I think he left with the same impression.  Good rock, good weather, huge relief!

Jeff near the top of the North Ridge of Independence Peak.  “Well, in Canada…”

North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak.  “… we may have helis and huts and such.  But the Sierra kicks ass, eh?”

Well-representing his home-country, Jeff can hang with the best of our rock jocks all while talking wistfully of skiing the Caribou Traverse, the Haute Route (“A few trips over there”) and what seemed like about 8 “annual” mountain trips.   Over our three days together, Jeff managed to give a virtual tour of interior Canada’s (and beyond) incredible mountain landscape, humbly painting a picture of a balanced mountain-filled life:   
“Yeah, I try and do a big tenting ski traverse each year.”  
“Well, my buddies and I go to the Asulkan Cabin every year”.  
“Yeah, my kids love this stuff.  Usually it’s a ski trip, but last year we went kayaking in Baja for a couple weeks”.  
“This convention each year in San Diego gives me a chance to tour the Southwest on my own.  Last year it was Snow Creek on San Jacinto.”  
“One of our crew usually wins the Fairy Meadows Hut lottery.  This year we have two weeks there”.  
How the heck does this guy do it?  Inspiring!
You want inspiring?  Tess F. came out from, of all places, Ohio to celebrate her high school graduation with four days in the Whitney zone.  If Jeff can reflect on a long and impassioned mountain life (with much more to come), Tess can look forward to the same.  She’s got that “spark” and the focus to pull off big things with aplomb.  Tess has been climbing for a little over a year.  She took an accelerated version of the modern climber’s progression:  Climbing gym, outdoor course, job at the gym, lead outdoors, multi-pitch course, lead multi-pitch (Her outdoor experience is from well-known Seneca Rocks in West Virginia), and then here to the Sierra for an alpine introduction.  


We approached, fished, bouldered, sent the East Buttress of Whitney and the Fishhook Arete (with a descent of the East Ridge), all in 4 days.  We had some cold and wind and tons of high-altitude time.  Tess pulled it all off without a struggle.  From the moment we left Whitney Portal, every step up was a new altitude record for her.  Just awesome!


Granite, water, desert, sliver of snow.  East Buttress, Mt. Whitney.

Granite, water, desert, sliver of snow.  East Ridge, Mt. Russell

Next up, without any pictures unfortunately, was an attempt at ticking off the classic Evolution Loop Trek.  Kim and Sean came out for a vacation.  When it turned out that the full loop, given their intense travel schedule and a death in the family and the altitude, would be a bit much, we quickly and smoothly adapted.  We did some camping, some day-hikes, some fishing, and some rock-climbing.  Now that’s a vacation!

Speaking of vacation, and summer, the SMG kids programs (Scramblers and the new Senders) present an opportunity for young visitors and residents of the Eastern Sierra to participate in that summer vacation “rite of passage”.   Summer camp has it’s own distinct feel.  You remember that, right?  While a summer camp might offer some specialty skill or fit some genre (music, camping, wilderness, “sleep-away”, etc.  Our offering is rock climbing, duh!), to me the distinct summer camp feel is the sense of playful relaxation that is unparalleled anywhere else.  Fortunately, this carefree feeling is accessible to participants and staff alike.  Sure, we all work hard, whether it’s staff setting up ropes at 6am and keeping “the-head-on-a-swivel” ’til 4 or “campers” trying yet another hard climb.  But we also play hard, conjuring that essential sense of buoyant whimsy.
Barbara (with the bucket) and Jed (behind the camera) “working” hard.  What feels like summer more than clingy wet clothes after a hot dusty day?
Finally, bringing us to this arbitrarily chosen summer “mid-point”, I just finished a 6-day custom itinerary with John B.  (what is it with Jo[h]ns and Seans this summer?)  
Our week together shook out like this:
Day 1:  Hike to 3rd Lake
Day 2: Venusian Blind Arete on Temple Crag.  “The biggest rock climb I have ever done!”
Day 3:  Move camp up toward Glacier
Day 4: Swiss Arete, Mount Sill.  “My best day in the mountains ever!”
Day 5: Exit, with a swim in 4th Lake.  “The best beer I have ever had”  ;-)
Day 6:  Crystal Crag.

Classic view of a classic pitch on a classic route in classic conditions.  With the classic reaction:  “Damn, that was big!”  Venusian, Temple, Sierra, CA, USA.

Whew, eh?

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