Best Labor Day Weekend Ever! Sport Climbing at Sonora Pass and Clark Canyon

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It's so hard to choose your favorite photos when you stumble across a place as cool as the one we came across at Sonora Pass. It was dreamy. I mean extremely dreamy.

Our trip expanded from 2 to 4 people on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and the four of us packed into the Subaru and headed out late on Friday night towards Sonara Pass area. I'm not exactly sure where we ended up camping that night, but it was some obscure road turn off past  Pinecrest campground area. We found a real cozy spot for some informal camping and no other people in sight.

Saturday morning we let the sun wake us up. We ate, and packed back into the Subaru to look for an area called The Grotto... which happened to be about an hour or so back in the direction we drove up from. It was the only place in the Sonora Pass guidebook that claimed to be cool enough to climb at during the summer, and we were stoked to check it out.

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Of course, there were some pretty gnarly terrrors on the hike in... but Ivan and Michael protected everyone with the gate machine gun. Obviously, I'm in good hands.

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The approach hike was fucking steep, and continued on and on through bouldery talus.

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And somewhere in the talus field lies hidden The Grotto.

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But, it took us a few minutes to figure out how to get to it.

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So while we let Michael figure it out....

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But then, once you find this place.... its extremely magical. We walked down into this area that was shielded from the sun and tall basalt columns rose tall from the right. It was the most epic thing, and we had it completely to ourselves.

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I mean, it far exceeded my expectations in beauty alone. I was not expecting to get lost in this place like we did. We spent most of our day here at the Grotto and we barely touched the basalt columns because none of us had trad gear.

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We spent a solid amount of time in awe of the place we picked to climb at and the fact that no one else was there before we actually started flaking out the rope and getting to the climbing. Ivan was learning to lead this weekend, and what a great spot to do your first lead.

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The Ort Wall was right across the way from the basalt columns and had the sport routes we were after to climb. Here is Jim below leading a route called Sidesaddle (5.9). This was also Ivans first lead, and I lead this one as well. It was a good warm up climb... and about the only warmup climb.

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Michael set up to lead a route called Color Coded Quickdraws (5.10b), which we all climbed afterwards. I can't remember anything in particular that stuck out about the climb, but everything we climbed that day was fun.

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We tried our best to get a group selfie with the basalt columns.

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And sometimes we like to do renditions of famous art pieces... (Michelangelo's Creation... maybe?)

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Dare I say we have an impeccable sense of fashion?

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Regardless of his choice in socks, the gods seem to favor this young one, Ivan. We concluded that he needs about 2,000 calories per ab per day in order to keep them in shape, and once he complained that his stomach hurt and we concluded that it was the growth of a new ab. It must be hard to meet these strenuous demands.

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My favorite route of the day was this route on Ort Wall called Ortman Complex (5.10c), which ironically had no stars in the Sonora book, but I really loved it. Sometimes there are just routes that really grab your attention, and this was it for me.

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There's a special bond I guess from a route that makes you bleed.

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Here Michael is on Ortman Complex on the crux section.

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We spent a lot of time on those three routes on Ort Wall... sometimes re-doing the same routes just because we enjoyed them so much or wanted to finish them in one push.

There was one sport route on the basalt columns. A.C. Devil Dog (5.10d).... it was one of those routes that again called to us. I mean, how could it not? Just looking at it was epic.

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Michael gave the lead a go...

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He did really awesome actually, but it was a really technically challenging route. None of us had really ever done anything like it. It was sort of a compression slab climb. We left a bail biner on the 4th bolt, and decided we'd have to come back another day.

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We had energy for another climb though, so we went back up some talus towards Welcome Wall.

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The Welcome Wall area had some pros and cons. Pros: there was all this really cool algae on the rocks... Cons: it appeared that the ground was covered in rat poop. Can you say Hanta Virus?

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For our last climb, we went up a route called Wing of Bat (5.10a).

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It was a really cool, longer sport route... made even longer by the fact that we had the song Bailando on a loop on Ivan's Ipad. Don't ask me why, but it seemed funny at the time.

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As the sun set, we packed out and hiked back down to the car... but before we got there, we ran into these beautiful creatures.

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We headed to the nearest town to grab some grub, and then to drive 4 hours towards Clark Canyon in the Mammoth Lakes Area. We find a pullout to camp at that was near the Clark Canyon area and slept.

Sunday morning, the sun rose and we set out for the Clark Canyon.

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You guys already know how much I like Clark Canyon.. I've written about it before. I like this  guy too, pringle face and all.

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We went to Area 13 first. Below, Alex is on a route called Too Many Princesses (5.7).

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We also set two other routes up nearby, Ugly, Fat, and Mean, Come to Mammoth, Be a Queen (5.7) and This Ain't no Weenie Roast (5.10b).

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The 5.10b was super awesome! I was happy to send it without falling on my first try. It was pockety, slabby, stemmy, and delicate all in one climb. I loved it.

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I also lead a route around the corner from these called Digit Delight (5.9). I had a moment of weakness though on this climb. I think right about where this photo was taken I spent a long time frozen with fear of pulling my next move. When I finally ponied up and executed the move I was fully capable of doing it was a fun route, but I got really frustrated with myself there for a while... being so scared to move.

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Before we ended the day, we went over to another area called The Alcove.

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We didn't have a lot of time to do alot here the rest of the day, but we decided we would start here on Monday.

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This guy. :)

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The guys had their eyes on a route called El Toro (5.11d). Michael, Ivan, and Alex were all able to piece their way through it. I made it up about half way before I had to quit.

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Spidey moves.

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That evening we found an even better campground closer to Clark Canyon and had a nice relaxing evening just talking and drinking beer and wine until passing out.

The following morning we headed back to the Alcove. I didn't really take any pictures because I left my camera in the car on accident... so a few of these are from Ivan.

We put up 4 routes here, I only completed 2 and attempted a third. Craters (5.10a) was probably my favorite of the climbs we did there. The boys also set up What's the Scoop (5.10c) which I was not able to complete, and Eightball (5.10b) which I ran out of time to do.  Michael and I also did a route called Pocket Pool (5.10b) in which I had a mini breakdown at. I got really frustrated at the beginning of the third day trying to keep up with the boys and finding that my strength on these climbs was lacking. All of these 5.10 climbs were very arm intensive and even if I had the skill to perform the moves I kept pumping out on the climbs and having to fall on the rope and rest before finishing. It was really frustrating at the time, but I know its good for me to get on these climbs anyways regardless of how hard they are for me the first time. It's the only way I will get better.

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I think I was worn from the weekend and my hands were in tatters... when we walked over to the Potato Patch area, I opted to be the photographer with Michael's camera. They only did a couple climbs in this area.

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We had to head out earlier that day so we could get back to Bakersfield with some time to unpack and sleep before work the next day.

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I honestly don't think this labor day weekend could've been any better. I got to spend 3 days in a row traveling with friends, climbing excellent routes, getting dog tired, and then having a beer or two before bed and waking up next to one of my best friends each morning with the fresh air and the sun as our alarm clocks.

This is the ultimate. Simple, adventurous, fulfilling living.

Cheers.