Winding through the dense woods as a heavy fog shifted and settled in on us I was glad we had gotten some thorough directions for finding the trailhead. I had heard of Blanca Lake many times from countless friends and consistently witnessed the plethora of social media posts of its uniquely colored glacial water, amazing views and appeal as a high quality, must-do hike among Pacific Northwesterners. Despite a little inclement weather on a Labor Day trip with an adventure crew that even He Man and The Masters of The Universe couldn't hold a candle to, we were off through the foggy forest with the only things we really needed; some friends, some tents, ample beverages and an indefatigable attitude toward being wet.
While we may not have been able to see much on the trek in, we had beaten a fair share of the crowds with an early start and convened at the lake's edge to assess our next obstacle; the actual lake. With a solid flow into the gorge below and nowhere to cross we decided it best to just de-boot and fjord the frigid glacial waters to continue our expedition in search of a campsite.
Find one we did and bringing our own blue skies via big blue tarp, we were able to withstand a freak hailstorm, a dusting of snow and plenty of rain before enjoying some camp coffee and chocolate chip pancakes to boost morale, along with our blood sugar.
With the mist rising and falling along jagged peaks and lichen covered mountains, a maze through boulders strewn across a glaciated path began to take us on a small journey to waterfalls, rock scree and unbelievable views only made better and more ethereal with a heavy bank of fog pressing in and around us.
We didn't quite make it to the glacier, but its as good a reason as any, to go back.
Homies, flasks, meat sticks and mud. What more could you ask for?
thanks for looking
Sitting under the forest canopy I can think back and remember how deafening the rain was.
My arms were getting a little tired but only from shrugging my shoulders against the full, heavy droplets assaulting my new fishing hat, compliments of my sister for a christmas present. It was working wonderfully. I may have been thoroughly saturated from about my shoulders down but my head and neck were sure dry and with a solid 8 or 9 hours left of floating, all small victories might as well have been milestones.
With Chan trying to give me and Trav the rundown on our nymphing techniques (or lack of) we were searching for that beautiful color these BC trout seem to glow with. Elusive fish beautifully sized, easily spooked and sneakier than forest ninjas. We had made the three hour drive up to spend a couple days on the river and a night in the woods fending off Rainier-fed flatulence and mosquito militias out for blood. Both of which were horrendously, albeit hilariously exacerbated by believing it was a good idea to sleep in Chan's CRV and keep our dinner reservations in my Hyundai.
A few gulps of coffee and clif bars in the morning and we were underway, searching for good holes on the river, which were not easily ascertained with slightly flooded levels from heavy rain. But we were fishing. As one of the utmost relaxing and enjoyable past times as I have ever come to know, it sure beat sitting in front of my computer, and still does.
While we may have been in the middle of the only massive rainstorm the entire summer had seen, it was ill timed but much needed. A drought ending drink that turned our brownish looking west side back to its familiar deep emerald and reminded us of the pensive calm that would set in a few months. That cloud-rolling and oppressive but beautiful quiet that blankets the peaks that only peak-a-booed us for the short 48 hours we were there. But soon the clouds parted and our motivation rose along with a few nice trout, coaxed by the sun and subsequent hatches.
Just enough of a taste of that summer feeling keeps me sane during these long dark months, and like anything worth drinking, it always gets even just a little better with time. As I think of it now, even in the deepest part of January I can feel that calm energy wash over me, a subdued excitement if you will, matched only by the thought of, "Soon, very soon."
thanks for looking,
Bishop blogging round two.
After a frigid nights the morning were always welcome. Warming up and getting a good hot breakfast, discussing the days endeavors and witness plenty of shenanigans was the best way to start the days. Our first few climbs were in Buttermilks and exploring these new zones and to me, completely new places, is something I will never forget.
The Happy's, the Sads, The Buttermilks
We spent the first day exploring the Buttermilks, the area renowned for its highballs and views. Arriving with a book of trails and routes and a mountain in front of us, we started up the hill but didn't get far before the 'toast people' started appearing below us.
'Toast people,' are the namesake Rachel explains, of climbers hiking in between routes, carrying their large square crash-pads upright with straps across their backs, the only thing you can make out of their huge rectangular forms are usually two little stick-like legs comically protruding and propelling the large toast looking creature up or down the terrain. Toast people have a difficult time hearing anything behind them, with basically a soundproofing wall on their backs. This makes conversations between Toast People or among Toast People pretty funny. Toast people are also victimized often by each other, in part of a game of sneak-up-and-yank-you-down-from-behind based on their turtle-like vulnerability.
Toast people are also often accompanied by dogs, packs, jackets, chalk-bags and all manners of nalgenes and other accessories necessary for bouldering.
Anyways these toast people had some familiar voices and some familiar faces and our groups were finally officially united. Introductions were made as informally as possible, with conversations being first and names occurring somewhere in between cheering for members attempting routes and discussing the next destinations in the area.
The fading light only made that place more beautiful by the minute. The high rising jagged peaks of the Sierras cutting into the sky were dramatized but the sun's rays as it fell below the horizon behind them. The first star of the evening appearing in the space impossible to discern where the colors of dusk end and the night sky begins. Had the temperature not coincided with the rapidly diminishing light I'm sure we would have stayed out every night as late as we could.
With a strobe and a few willing climbers I had a blast capturing the feel of a low light boulder session; As droves of other climbers slowly made their way out of the cracks and crevices of all the boulders and walls in the terrain around us. They start their engines and the ambiance hangs in the air as their headlights bob up and down illuminating the dust clouds kicked up on the narrow primitive road.
Night comes and setting up dinner in the dark is made interesting by the 5 or 6 fearless kangaroo rats that accost us for crumbs falling from our makeshift pallet table.
Beers are shared and the Sierra Nevadas become an entire horizon size wall paper, lit by the brightest moon I have ever seen in my life, making the fire seem almost dim as I stand at a distance and shoot photos and watch and wonder if it all is really happening.
The next several days were spent rolling in the dirt, comparing onesies and/or footy pajama outfits, discussing the best areas of climbing for the day, hiking to said climbing areas and playing with Tikka, Will Moore's crag dog.
The best part of Bishop I personally experienced was the community vibe. I am in no way experienced in bouldering but was overwhelmed by the amount of support and stoke everyone expressed at just extending the friendships and connections to mountain life. So many sincerely talented and even more sincerely humble people I have never encountered and it left all of us not wanting to leave, and planning our next trip before we even broke camp.
Shooting photos of climbers and bouldering left me with a new normal for ways to interact with athletes, how it really feels to be a part of a trip, and how the measure of accomplishment lies in so many more ways than whether or not I make images worthy of publishing.
A good trip changes you and stays with you in ways that remind us why we are inspired, and why we want to make sure not to miss the next one.