Tag Archives: snow

Dreaming of a White Canyon


In December of 2014, I rode up to San Antonio Falls off of Mt. Baldy with two friends for a quick morning canyon run. We were surprised by large quantities of snow along the road, the trail, and throughout the canyon. A dream was born that day. A canyon covered in snow could make for a great short video. I did capture some footage on a GoPro that day (shots can be seen in this compilation video), but my hope was to put together a proper shoot. I returned to the area multiple times in the Winter of 2015 hoping for similar conditions. I was welcomed only by paltry or non-existent snow patches. The Winter of 2016 arrived and the disheartening pattern seemed to be continuing into the new year. Then, multiple days of rain hit Los Angeles.

The canyoneering community went crazy as everyone rushed into the wet canyons of the area as they would only be truly wet for a short period of time. The Saturday weather in the Baldy area looked promising. A last minute group was put together and we arrived to find snow levels exceeding my hopes and expectations. Steven manned a quadcopter while Alden, Scott, and I hiked the shortcut approach losing a few Yaktrax along the way (Alden’s crampons fared much better). The canyon was gorgeous and almost entirely blanketed in snow. Shrubs and yucca struggled to peek above the powder, icicles  decorated the granite walls, and anchors were buried underneath inches of snow. The stream often disappeared beneath miniature snow bridges, as did the waterfalls. After a few hours we were through the canyon and had acquired a fair amount of GH4 footage alongside quadcopter footage. A second run was desired, but less accommodating weather was on the way. Hopefully El Niño continues its work and we can return in February to shoot more video in such stellar conditions.

Several screengrabs below.

3 Month Delay

Fabio and Me

It’s been a while. This year has turned into a busy one. Much of my time is, unfortunately, spent sitting at a computer, but I do manage to get out a fair amount.

That is indeed Fabio in the photo above. I do meet celebrities every once in awhile, but I try to avoid being that annoying guy who begs for photos and autographs. There are, of course, exceptions. When I discovered that the man who shirtlessly adorned every romance novel in the 80s and 90s, the man who recorded amazing work-out videos and romance cassettes, the man who appeared in hilarious bit parts on many B-rate TV series, the man who hocked butter that wasn’t butter, the man who defeated a goose with his nose on a roller coaster would be at my local Whole Foods Market—I knew fate had smiled upon me. I also knew that my dearest pal, Bryan Nelson, would never forgive me if I passed up this serendipitous opportunity. And so, Erika and I traveled to the Glendale Whole Foods just so I could meet Fabio (and apparently buy his whey protein powder). Who says dreams don’t come true?

Besides being shackled to a computer and admiring Fabio, I’ve also been keeping to a relatively frequent climbing schedule. I attended the Red Rock Rendezvous in Nevada again this year. It’s an annual climbing festival filled with clinics, events, and vendors giving away lots of great stuff (Mammut gave me a free $90 headlamp!). Despite having our tent destroyed by high winds again, we had a great time. My highlight this year was my multi-pitch clinic where I got to go trad climbing for the first time. If you aren’t familiar with the term, trad is traditional climbing, what some consider “real climbing.” It’s the type of climbing where a group starts at the base of a rock and places protection as they climb up bringing the rope up with them. As they make their way up the rock pitch-by-pitch, the follower removes (or cleans) the protection. I took on the role of follower. Leading a trad climb is the dangerous part and requires experience and practice. The guide was our leader. We climbed four pitches on a 5.8 (moderate) route. Besides Erika and I, a few of our friends came to the Rendezvous this year also. Maybe we’ll get even more folks there in 2013.

One of the nice things about attending the Red Rock Rendezvous are the cool people you meet. I met a guy named Mark who has been climbing nearly as long as I’ve been breathing. He offered to start taking me trad climbing. I’ve been trying to move into trad, but it’s difficult since I’m the most experienced climber amongst my friends. The multi-pitch clinic at Red Rock and Mark’s offer were two great opportunities that graced me on the same day. Two weeks ago, Mark made good on his offer and we headed over to Idyllwild and climbed a six pitch route on Tahquitz Rock. It was a low-grade easy route, but snow had fallen earlier that week. The base was covered in snow and four of the six pitches also had a bit of snow on them. That made the ascent a little tricky, but dealing with the snow was a valuable piece of  additional climbing experience. Mark and I are heading back tomorrow.

I’ve also been doing as much canyoneering as I can squeeze in. I’ve run Rubio Canyon multiple times in the last few months and Karl and I ran Little Santa Anita last weekend. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a permit to do Mystery Canyon in Zion this summer.

In closing, a huge thing that happened in the last few months was the completion of “The Many Maladies of Marty Mitchell.” This is a short kids’ show I shot in my living room three years ago. It was finally finished and premiered in March. We held a Butcher Bird Studios Screening at the Goethe Institute on March 16th. We showed several of the projects we’ve worked on together and with others. We closed the night with the premiere of “Marty Mitchell.” It felt really good to finally be able to show it to people, especially those who helped make it happen.

hanging out

Ouray Ice Climbing

Icy Start

Ouray Ice Climbing

And so the year the world ends begins. What better way to celebrate than by jabbing sharp metal into icicles and ascending them? The Extreme Things Adventure Club has visited the Ouray Ice Climbing Festival a few times in the past, but I have never gone. It is a bit pricier than other excursions partly because it involves transport to and lodging in Colorado. This time Erika and I decided the cost was justified.

Nine of us boarded an Allegiant Air jet Thursday morning, January 5th. I had never heard of them and they are cheap so I was a bit skeptical. They do charge for everything: beverages, snacks, seat assignments, etc. But, it was fine. I don’t have many expectations or requirements for air travel, especially for a flight under two hours. If they service areas you intend to travel, it is worth looking into their prices. We landed in Grand Junction, CO in the early afternoon and headed for a large cabin in Ridgway—right next door to Ouray (pronounced yoo-ray). The cabin was quite large: three bedrooms, two stories and a huge basement being converted into more living space. The incomplete nature of the basement made it seem rather creepy and a certain member of the group refused to enter it alone.

We had two days and a night to visit the area. This gave us enough time to visit the festival, partake of the night life, soak in an underground hot spring (known as the Vaporcave), visit Telluride and its ski resort, and meet Telluride’s local rasta. Oh, and drive through the mountains at night in a snow storm.

Thankfully, there were enough spaces available at the Ice Festival that all of us were able to try ice climbing. A few of us enrolled in a six hour seminar and had a full day of ice climbing instruction. I would later recognize one of our instructors while flipping through one of my climbing magazines—Jack Tackle. Apparently he is a bad-ass mountaineer and alpine climber. I thank him for belaying me on my first ever ice climb. Ice climbing is similar to rock climbing, yet drastically different. It uses many of the same principles, but it is entirely dependent on your abilities to wield its gear: crampons and ice tools (think pointy boots and pick axes). Although I hadn’t climbed before, I ended up in the intermediate class. This worked out well because we spent more time climbing than talking. I was able to climb six times and finished each 50-60 foot route. On my last two climbs, I did begin to feel some exhaustion in my arms. I tried a variation up a thin section of ice on my very last climb that was psychologically and physically taxing, but rewarding. I am certainly interested in climbing more ice.

Ouray is a tiny mountain town with an inviting atmosphere. We spent a fair amount of time in O’Briens Pub, but my favorite place was Mouse’s Chocolates. Their chocolates are fantastic and locally made. During the festival, Mouse’s was selling large chunks of chocolate decorated like ice climbers.

Overall, not a bad way to start a new year.

Roll Into 12

The beginning of a new year always means an inundation of “best of” lists and montages reflecting on the year before. Shortly we’ll all be so sick of both we’ll be vomiting iridescent rainbows of turkey and electromagnetic radiation. Never one to miss an opportunity to contribute to mass public puking, I too have put together a GoPro retrospective of last year. Watch it above.

Goddamn Right

Here is a compilation of some of the stuff I managed to capture during my first year as a GoPro owner. It’s too bad I didn’t take it more places. There were so many times I forgot it and wished I’d had it with me.

Return to Tahoe

My first experiences with skiing and with respectable snow were in Lake Tahoe. It is also the place where I had first seen whitewater, though not where I would first navigate it. It had been a few years since I’d visited and Erika had never been. We drove up the Saturday morning of MLK weekend. Camp Richardson’s Historic Hotel in South Lake Tahoe is where we stayed. Erika found a great package deal: $260 for the weekend including breakfasts, a voucher for dinner, and two lift tickets at Sierra (we traded these for beginner’s packages – gear, lessons, and a limited lift ticket).

There was no shortage of snow. It was deep, it blanketed everything. We had Saturday afternoon, all of Sunday, and Monday morning to make the best of it. We spent Sunday at Sierra learning to ski and repeatedly taking the bunny slope. I am always surprised just how quickly you can shoot down a bunny slope if you aren’t careful. Sierra was nice, but it can’t compete with Heavenly where I first tried skiing a few years back. Both make Mountain High look like a slushy skate park. As the day passed, snow began to fall harder. It took us a while to find Erika’s snow-covered Yaris in the parking lot. The ice scraper we’d picked up on a whim the night before came in very handy. We ended the night with a nice meal at an Irish Pub and a soak in the snow-coated hot tub. As steam rose from the tub, it cooled, then fell back on us as water.

Monday morning, we rented snowshoes and hiked down a trail into a wooded area. We knew a storm was on its way and would be a good idea to leave before it hit in full. It began snowing lightly as we headed back to the sport rental shop. We climbed into the car and I drove us towards the mountains. I tried to, that is. The storm was close enough that chains or snow tires were required in the mountains and checkpoints were set up. The traffic leaving Tahoe was barely moving. As we slowly traveled down the main highway towards the checkpoint, the storm grew closer. I had never driven in snow and never used chains. I had read the directions that came with our pair the day before. The time had come to apply that limited knowledge. Putting chains on a vehicle is not difficult if you know what you are doing. Crouched in slush—reaching behind tires on a low-clearance passenger vehicle as snow falls and cars slide past—while learning to attach tire chains is not so easy. It took me a few tries to discover what works and what doesn’t. I was covered in snow, my toes were wet and freezing, and my fingers cold because my gloves were too bulky for precise chain manipulation. The chains were on, it was cold, Erika’s interior was wet with melting snow, and I hoped I’d done it properly. They were about to be tested and there would be little chance to adjust them once we hit the mountain.

I come from the South, the land of swamps, rain, and humidity. Hurricanes, floods, fog—I have a lot of experience driving in such conditions. I was not prepared for the adventure that awaited us on our 6 hour drive to Sacramento (a drive that took less than 2 hours on the way to Tahoe). The sky was white. Visibility varied by dozens of feet—it was like diving except instead of receding into darkness, details faded to white. Snow fell steadily. I crouched like a hunchback as I drove because we could rarely keep the upper portion of the windshield from fogging up. Snow banks flanked us on either side, ice and snow were caked to the streets. Occasionally we would pass a car stuck in a snow bank. We crept along at 20 mile per hour, an icicle grew from the passenger side mirror. The tire chains clanged and I feared they were loosening and would fall off. Brake lights peeking through the white were my guides around the curves of the mountain. It was nerve-wracking and exciting. 

The snowfall stopped, then started again, falling harder. A checkpoint was ahead. It was time to remove the chains. We were on a decline, the snow was falling harder, there was little shoulder. My chains had lasted! Taking them off would be easier than installing had been, right? Yes, it was easier to remove them… a little easier. We struggled with the locking chains on the inside of the wheel well. Snow falling, cars sliding past, ice becoming slush. Finally they were off! Yet, we still had a few miles to go downhill in snow on icy roads. Why in the hell was I required to take them off now? I drove on. Eventually, the snow was replaced by rain. Hours later we made it home. We had a great weekend and we experienced our first snowstorm. I wouldn’t trade any minute of it.

More Photos Here

2009 Catch-up Part 5 (of 5): Surprise Canyon

2010 starts tomorrow and I haven’t finished posting about 2009. The last few months have been a blur of activity and compositing so Live Journal updates have suffered. Fear not, my three readers, a flurry of updates has arrived!

After finishing the Zion Narrows, I knew I wanted to do another exciting backpacking trip over the Thanksgiving holidays. The tricky part would be finding a good hike that was passable in late fall, a bit strenuous, and not especially far from Los Angeles. I searched online and through a backpacking book and settled on Surprise Canyon. Surprise Canyon is in the middle of nowhere. If you find yourself nowhere, keep driving, you aren’t there yet. Technically, it is in Inyo County on the Western outer-rim of Death Valley National Park. It is in the desert, long past a town called Trona—a place we drove through twice, yet never saw a single person, only smoke pouring from the Salt Plant into the Sulphur-soaked air. Deep into the desert are the remains of a town called Ballarat. All that remains here is an abandoned jail-house and a somewhat functioning “general store” manned by the sole inhabitant of Ballarat. And lots of RVs and ATVs. Be careful in Surprise Canyon, help is hours away.

Surprise Canyon is aptly named. After driving deep into a dry, dusty desert and two miles up a tricky gravel path—leading into the mountains and ending at a burnt-down shack—you never expect to see a lush canyon full of running water. This is the beauty of Surprise Canyon—a hike up a flowing river that takes you to Panamint City, an abandoned mining town.

Panamint City doesn’t come easily. It must be earned. The hike up the canyon is short, only 5-6 miles, but it is a strenuous hike for all except the seasoned hiker. The first portion involves non-technical canyoneering as you climb beautiful waterfalls and verdant rocks. Shortly afterwards, the bushwhacking begins. This canyon is predominantly on BLM land meaning it doesn’t receive the attention a National Park does. The canyon is highly overgrown. Brush which allegedly was cleared a few years ago is now far above a human’s height. We traveled upstream and forced our way through the foliage as the slope increased. Once the bushwhacking portion ends, the climb begins. The slope increases greatly and the stream disappears. Panamint City rests 6300 feet above sea level. Much of the 4000 foot climb takes place over these last two miles. It is a tough climb if your legs are not trained or ready for it—especially when you are carrying 30-40 lbs. on your back. November is a month of limited light. Canyon walls are high. By 5:00 P.M., it was growing dark rapidly and we still had not seen the enormous smokestack marking the city. We set up camp and prepared for a cold night.

The Story Continues + Plenty More Pictures


Earlier this week, I returned from Lake Tahoe. This place is amazing. It is something you only see in photographs, but never in reality…except you do…if you…go to Lake Tahoe…then you…then you see it…in reality…not just photos. Seeing as it is Spring, we assumed there would no longer be snow, but were very wrong as we discovered upon arrival in our shorts.

This was my first real experience with actual snow, not just an inch that melts within a few hours. It is also the first time I ever skiied, which I enjoyed. 

Jennifer won a few hundred in the casino. I, on the other hand, racked up tickets in the arcade. I also managed to purchase two left foot snow boots.