Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hiking Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley, AZ

Caution: hiking Camelback Mountain during the summer is not a joke. You absolutely need an abundance of water despite how short this hike it, both for you and your dog. Do not underestimate this hike during the summer.

Trail Description

Length: 2.6 miles round trip
Trailhead Elevation:  -- ft.
End Elevation: -- ft.
Elevation Change: 1253 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Medium
Trail Type: Out and Back

The Hike

Camelback is one of the most iconic hikes of Phoenix. Located in the city of Paradise Valley, Camelback's popularity seems to stem from its centralized location in the valley, its balance between difficulty and time required to complete the hike, and of course, the view.

All throughout the week, the trail can be seen teeming with hikers of all shapes and sizes.

There are two ways to approach the hike: the Cholla Trail and the Echo Canyon Trail. Which one is tougher seems to depend on who you ask. For this particular post, I will be talking about the Cholla Trail.

During the summer, the best time to go hiking is either in the early morning (6-8am at trailhead) or in the evening (after 5pm). Even then, you have to be careful. I cannot stress this enough with this hike. People often underestimate how difficult Camelback is due to its trail length. It's not the length you need to be wary about, it's the extreme heat, the lack of shade, and crowds that make this a difficult hike. Be diligent in your preparation.

In the winter however, any time is fine for this hike.

To get to the Cholla Trail trailhead, you need to park on North Invergordon/N. 64th Rd (they are the same road, depending on which direction you are coming from).

Park anywhere between East Jackrabbit Rd and Camelback Rd. Pay attention to the signs.

Once you've parked, walk towards East Cholla Lane and turn in. After a 5 minute walk or so, you'll be at the trailhead. It should be next to a golf course hole.

Over the years, the city has done an amazing job of making the hike safer for all its visitors. Not only are the trails more clearly marked, but an abundance of warning signs have been posted to better educate hikers.

Dogs used to be allowed on trail, but too many irresponsible owners ruined it for everyone. Who would have thought that dogs needed a lot of water too when it's hot?

The trail itself is very straightforward and practically the entire hike is at an incline. Losing the trail should not be an issue at all. Even in absence of all the hikers, you would have to try hard to get lost. The beginning of the trail brings you right alongside one of the golf course holes and affords a nice view over some neighborhoods.

Quickly however, the majority of your view then becomes the path ahead of you pointed up.

Along the way up, there are a few, flat, resting spots you can stop at. There is very little shade at any of these "rest" spots. In the winter, this isn't an issue, but during the summer it can be.

Take these rest stops as an opportunity to look around, enjoy the view, and remind yourself why you're suffering. It may be refreshing!

At some point in the hike, there will be some scrambling involved. This takes place in the final 20% of the hike. I don't feel like it's overtly difficult, but it may test some people and what they're comfortable with. At this stage of the hike, it is not uncommon to see a line of hikers being held up by one or two hikers scared of climbing down or experiencing some difficultly pulling themselves up.

Once you've hit the part with the scrambling, you probably have only an additional 10-15 minutes more of hiking until the top.

There at the top: enjoy the view, have some lunch, take some selfies, and start planning who to bring the next time you attempt the hike.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Climbing at South Mountain, AZ

A few weekends past, Liz took me and Brandon to South Mountain for some bouldering. To get there, park at Pima Canyon trailhead, Maricopa Trail, Phoenix, AZ. There is a developed lot with bathrooms and picnic area. Be mindful of the time as the park gate closes between  certain hours (typically near sunset).

To get to Pima Canyon Trailhead, park at the following address:

From the parking lot, get on the National Trail. Walk along the National Trail for a mile or so until you pass the old stone Ramada. At this point, walk off the path and follow the dried river bed for another half mile towards Pima Canyon (the coordinates where you should start looking for the dried river bed: 33.360756, -112.004855). It might be best to go with someone who has been there to find the river bed path. But here's a snapshot of where I got off from the Ramada.

A good indicator that you're on the right path are the old petroglyphs on the boulder right at the entrance of where you migrate down.

Eventually, you should come to a welcome wall as seen by the picture below.

There, we only had time to climb on two problems. The two problems were Hookers Are Fun (V2-V3) and The Tongue (V2).

The Tongue is a great problem to warm up on and the trick to starting the problem involves two parts. The first part is the tiny foot underneath the over hang as you start. The other part is where you position your right foot, also during the start, as you pull yourself up and begin the problem. If you're falling instantly, but have good strength in your hands, your right foot is smearing too far right. Experiment with different right foot placements as you attempt the sit-start.

Next, Hookers are Fun. Hookers are Fun is an especially fun V2-V3 problem. The start is a straightforward shimmy but becomes difficult upon reaching the pocket. The trick to this transition is to, as you're hanging upside down, first bump your left hand up onto the crimp. Once you establish that hold, make the right hand transition. Most people won't get the larger pocket first, they'll grab some smaller hold first. If you do, I would suggest making a quick bump to get that better pocket, it'll help with conserving your energy. After you get that move, the rest is easy and simply a matter of whether you still have any energy left.

There are two variations of how you can finish this boulder.

An overly attached, concerned, puppy wondering what her mom is doing hugging a rock.

After completing this problem, we moved on towards the amphitheater.

There, we checked out some more problems in the area. However, most of them were beyond our climbing level and the ones we did want to climb, we were unable to find. Eventually, we called it a day because the sun was setting and we hiked back towards the lot.

From the amphitheater, you can either backtrack completely, or scramble up a bit and find the latter part of the National Trail. The view scrambling up is quite nice.


Why I Climb

I enjoy climbing for many reasons. And although I believe some of those reasons are subconscious, I'll try to the best of my ability to speak on the things that I can think of.

To sum it up, I love climbing because it speaks to my love for the outdoors, competition, and community.

Ever since I was young, it was a tradition of sorts for my family to go hiking on the weekends. At the time, I hated it. I hated waking up early for anything that wasn't cartoons and I especially didn't like spending my weekends hiking. Whether it was a cultural thing or simply something my parents enjoyed, it wasn't until years later that I organically took to being outdoors.

Climbing reinforces that love for the outdoors. Aside from the gym and metro locations, climbing typically takes place in the desert, forests, beaches, or mountains. Whether its sport leading, trad-climbing, top-roping, or bouldering, they all can take you off the beaten path to areas seldom explored. The journey to the start of the climb can vary. A climb can be as easy as parking and walking for 5-10 minutes, or it can involve scrambling, hiking, and even some "creative" exploring for an hour or more. It's this latter element of adventure that I enjoy.

Then there's the sense of competition. To a small degree its about competing with your friends to see who can accomplish a difficult route first. But to a larger degree, its about the competition between yourself and the wall. It's an intimate antagonism that takes place both on a physical and mental level. There will be times where you know you can physically accomplish a hold, but mentally, you feel the stakes are too high. In the end, you have only yourself to blame when you fall, and its this stark honesty that's invaluable for self-improvement.

Finally, there's the community aspect of it all. I like meeting new people, but I love meeting people with similar interests. Regardless of whether I'm a victim of an echo chamber or not, the climbing community truly is an amazing resource for outdoor enthusiasts. It's a community that not only revolves around exploring the wilderness but also about being physically active, considerate of the environment around you, and opening yourself to new experiences. It spans not only ethnic boundaries, but also across many age groups. Subsequently, its a very diverse community of experiences and cultures.

So fingers crossed for many more years of adventures and fingers crossed for new friends I've yet to meet.

My Climbing Roots

These days, it would be an understatement to say that I like climbing.

No, I don't like climbing; I absolutely love it. Most of my free time is consumed by climbing and my thoughts throughout the day often return to projects in the gym I've yet to send.

It's a funny development because years ago, my friends tried numerous times to get me into the sport and each time I left unimpressed.

I remember my first time was during college at the University of California, San Diego at a small indoor rock wall hidden in a corner of the campus. This was back in 2007-2009 (I can't be exactly sure). I went up, I went down, my hands were sore, I was bored. I didn't go back.

Flash forward to my return to the Bay Are from Phoenix, AZ in 2013. My friends guest-passed me in to the local climbing gym, Planet Granite, in Sunnyvale. Once again, I went up, I went down, my hands were sore, I didn't go back.

At that point, it seemed I was done with climbing. I'd given it a shot and it didn't stick.

Then came 2015.

In 2015, my coworkers at Genentech invited me on a trip to Bishop, CA for some rock climbing. It wasn't the climbing that attracted me, it was the combination of getting to know my friends better and camping that sold me on the idea.

For those of you who don't know, Bishop is considered a mecca for bouldering. There are other types of climbs there as well, but Bishop is typically referenced as an incredible place to go for bouldering. For one reason, the catalog of problems available there is amazing. For another, the size of area is large enough to accommodate many, many groups.

So there I was at the Happys, waiting on a rock as my friends got ready (putting on shoes, putting on tape), when I noticed an attitude shift. Not from them, but from myself. Something was different. The moment I touched the rock, I knew something was different. There was now a curiosity in me that didn't exist before. Curiosity in the holds and curiosity in the techniques required to send a problem. From that day forward, I was smitten by the sport, and the speed at which I embraced the sport was embarrassing.

The week after I returned from Bishop, within a day or two, I immediately signed on with a climbing gym, bought a harness, chalk bag, and shoes. Before I knew it, my routine became 2 hours at the gym, bouldering 3-4 times a week.

Since then, I've never looked back.

I started climbing in 2015, and I was 27.
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