Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dispatch from Cambodia, 4 // Familiar Faces

I've been able to catch up with a few friends from Los Angeles while in Phnom Penh:

Ryan, who spent two years working with youth here and is now back in California:
At Chuck Norris Dim Sum (12/12/2012)
Sean, who took a whirlwind trip through Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on his way to Hong Kong:
At The Terrace (28/12/2012)
 David, who was visiting from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
At smoothie stall on St. 13 (29/12/2012)
The excursion to see David and his ladyfriend was the first one in which I spend any time roaming around Phnom Penh at night without being escorted by family. We took a tuk-tuk from their guesthouse to the riverfront, wandered around for a bit, then put together a dinner of various dishes from street stalls. The meal we made was the kind you'd have on an ordinary night at home-- an omelette with a green called s'ahm, grilled salted fish jerky, string bean stir-fry, chicken ginger stir-fry, and pickles.

It was my first real streetfood meal, and probably the cheapest I've had since getting here. I have little reason to seek streetfood when I'm having wonderful home-cooked meals, and my family was pretty cautious about what we ate for fear of illness. The verdict for me? A negligible bit of IBS in the night, and a slight rash on my right arm the next morning, both of which might just be a coincidence. 

David asked me whether I've explored and "just gotten lost" since I arrived in Phnom Penh, and I talked a bit about how I feel much less independent in Cambodia. I'm not used to being fearful, and articulating the fact that I am is helping me consider breaking out of my comfort zone a little more (though I'll still be appropriately cautious). 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dispatch from Cambodia, 3

Mom & Dad on a boat on Tonlé Sap
Over the last month, I’ve spent more time with my parents and with my family than I have in the last few years combined. Eight years have passed since I moved out, which was soon after we returned from our first trip to Cambodia. The last time I went on a family vacation was probably 2005. There always school or work to use as an excuse to cover up my painful inability to reconcile my Khmer and American identities... and my preference to remain at a distance rather than confront our difficulties and find middle ground. 

In writing this, I realized a pattern in my search for middle ground: I do it by myself. Hm. 

I spend copious amounts of time agonizing about what the middle ground looks like and how to fit myself into it-- instead of sharing the process with the people I’m trying to find the middle ground with (though I often share it with the internet). 

Now that I see that, I have to muster the courage to change my behavior accordingly. We'll see how that goes. 

On Wednesday, my parents returned to California. I waved goodbye to them through the glass at the airport along with the sisters, cousins, and other relatives they left behind. It was a strange feeling, being there with those who were staying, riding home with them as things returned to normalcy. 

That's what I want out of this stay in Cambodia: not an adventure, but to have a glimpse of what "normal" feels like here. And to create my own version in the brief time I have. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dispatch from Cambodia, 2 // How to Eat a Duck Embryo, Khmer-Style

Last week we went to stay at my aunt's "farm house" in Setbho to spend a day outside the dust, smog, and noise of Phnom Penh. Wherever we are, a family gathering always means rather continuous eating. It's been overwhelming. It's hard to get hungry when I'm often sweating just sitting around. The lucky part is that most meals consist of fish and rice, which means I still feel relatively healthy. 

After the main part of lunch was over, and after everyone recovered a bit from the food coma, pbong tdia kohn time was announced. Also known as balut. This isn't a typical occurrence in the US, where we've become much more faint of heart, and I would usually shake my head and scamper off, but I decided to go for it this time. My 8-year-old cousin was rumored to be able to eat six or seven, which added to my motivation. 

I'd always seen pbong tdia kohn eaten in the shell, but this time I saw some relatives cracking it into a bowl. Since I managed to open the egg at the wrong end (meaning the larger end, which leaves space to tuck in seasonings), I had to go this route:
It's not cute, I know. And to be honest, I only ate the yolk, which makes me feel like a cheater. I gave it another try, opening it at the correct end this time, which allowed me to use an egg cup (aka a tiny tea cup).
I was used to seeing the salt, pepper, and lime juice as seasonings for the egg, but not herbs. Herbs truly make everything better. I'm not sure whether what we used was a variant of Thai basil, or some other herb, but it was fragrant, slightly sweet, and quite a nice compliment.

Alas, once again, I failed to bring myself to try eating the little partially-formed chick inside the egg. I told this to a relative, and she gave me these tips for next time:
  1. Make the hole just barely big enough.
  2. Break up the egg inside with the handle of the spoon after adding the seasonings.
  3. DON'T LOOK AT IT when eating.
The last tip is my favorite. I think the duck embryo feast was a just-this-once kind of thing, which is fine by me. I'll tuck these tips away for next time. And hope that the eggs are even younger so I won't have to think about feathers.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dispatch from Cambodia, 1

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
From Soriya Mall
I'm sitting in my uncle's pleasantly air-conditioned and WiFi'd house in Phnom Penh. I'll be here until tomorrow, when I return to my aunt's house across town, which I affectionately call the Mosquito Farm. I haven't been as itchy since I've been out of the 90-degree heat. According to my aunt-in-law, Phnom Penh is unusually warm right now-- she's usually able to wear long-sleeved shirts at this time of year. Since I'll be here until late February, I'm hoping to experience some of that weather before I leave. 

So far I've traveled with my family to Battambang, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Pailin, Bokor National Park, Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot. There's been a lot of time sitting in a van, crossing the country on roads of varying quality. 

I have a strong attachment to Cambodia, but this trip has made me even more aware that I'm a Khmer American. Being able to speak passable Khmer and slowly learning the alphabet don't change the fact that I feel... different. At this point, it's probably smart to just accept that difference rather than keep worrying over it or fighting it or trying to fit somewhere. 

In college, I wrote a poem calling myself a "second-generation mess." I'm starting to let go of it, and of the insecurity that made me call myself that, but I still have a strong feeling of being adrift, belonging nowhere. Then again, that's also the intention I set for myself, because I want to be everywhere. Emotionally, it's not as easy as it used to be, or maybe just not as easy as I once thought it would be. But I'm here, being.

One day at Angkor Wat really wasn't enough. Hope to head back for a longer stay.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful to be Hopping on a Plane

Santa Ana, CA

In six hours, I'll be on my way to Cambodia. My parents invited me to join them on their trip, and I couldn't refuse. It's been eight years since my first visit. Currently, the plan is to stay for three months. I'll be traveling with my parents for the first month, then I'll be on my own for months two and three. I haven't decided exactly what I'll be doing yet. Maybe I'll hole up on my uncle's farm far from internet and electricity. Maybe I'll take a trip to a climbers camp in Laos. I'm hoping to visit Vietnam and see Applesauce. Definitely want to meet the Tiny Toones youth and staff my friend Ryan has been working with in Phnom Penh. Hopefully I'll do all of these. I'll also still be on the job prowl. Who knows what could happen?
For reading, writing, and sharing.
I'm bringing a few copies of my chapbooks with me for potential sharing. I look forward to reading Yumi's long-form zine about her trip to Europe last year (follow her tumblr, she's lovely) on the plane as I get ready for my own trip. Traveling is good for an artistic reset, which really feels needed for me right now. I'm halfway through Cadillac Desert and properly fired up about water development in the west; hopefully I'll finish the book long before the trip is over. Techniques of the Selling Writer was a gift that has some great insight into fiction writing, and I'll use it to give myself a sort of DIY Grad School experience while I'm away. I'm bringing the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget just in case I decide to do more traveling and don't have the easy access to the web that has kept me from perusing the book deeply until now. 

And two notebooks. The dark blue one on the right is my thick everything-notebook, which replaced the one I lost in DC earlier this year. It's heavier, but I'm hoping that means it will also be harder to lose.  I found the green notebook in my old room at my parents house, and decided to use it as a diary of what I do each day, so that at least I'll have a log of things I do. Hopefully the everything-notebook will fill up with heartier bits of writing. The last time I took a notebook to Cambodia, I stopped writing in it very much after the first week or two, and regret that I didn't try harder to at least record things. I'm going to try harder this time.

Now, off I go for a full day in transition. Making good on my blog name.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day, Economics, and Climbing

I was curious to find many pieces referring to the military in the current issue of Climbing Magazine-- and then realized that Sunday is Veterans Day. Climbing has a great article called "Invisible Wounds" by Chris Kassar which covers a Colorado-based organization called Veteran Expeditions, or VetEx. (Unfortunately the article is not yet available online.) It states: "At least one million military personnel will return home in the next five years," and "at least one in five of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet only 35 percent will seek treatment." VetEx takes veterans on expeditions during which they get to practice some of the survival skills and feel a similar camaraderie to what they had in the military, and they're adamant that "the whole goal has really always been that therapy is a byproduct."

VetEx states on their FAQ page that they:
Don't have a set therapy agenda other than the outdoors. VetEx gets veterans outside into physically challenging, team settings. VetEx is not a wilderness therapy organization. We recognize that in the veteran community, many veterans bristle at the thought of needing healing or needing some alternative activity to begin to sort through the complex feelings of their actions and experiences when they were in uniform. The truth is, and the statistics and our own personal experiences and relationships back it up, veterans are an at risk population, and whether or not you want healing or not, you’ll get a lot out of our trips, simply by spending time with other veterans and challenging yourselves.
Their perspective on healing:
We won’t tell you what you want or what will happen on the trip, that’s your decision to figure out what you want and to create your own experience. What we’ve found, however, is that many of our participants have said that they felt the trip was a ‘healing experience’. This means something different for every participant, which is why we do not have an agenda, other than getting you outside and challenging you in a team setting with other veterans. We hope when you get home, you’ll make whatever positive steps in life make sense for you, and to the best of our ability, we’ll help you take those steps.
Will a second-term Obama Presidency see the United States engaging in fewer military efforts? Unfortunately, that seems unlikely; it seems that warfare is written into the DNA of this country. I think a part of changing that, a part of our evolution as a country, is to change our ideas about growth as a measurement of prosperity. The urge to grow is what sends us around the globe looking for resources to tap in order to feed our behemoth of an economy.
This economy is crazy and poisonous. I am an economist, and I have been fighting against the economy that is taught the way it is being taught and being practiced. I have been fighting it for almost 40 years of my life, because it’s an absurd economy that has nothing to do with real life. - Manfred Max Neef on Democracy Now
The interview I linked to is fantastic. The question is, how? What do we do to change the system we're in, when we can't see any other way? I don't have an answer for that. I have a feeling similar to what my friend Justin Woo describes in this recent post:
Our generation has no workable blueprint for struggle. The oft-imitated, never-replicated 1960s has proven to be an unworkable model – The Iraq War proceeded unabated, and Obama has left many thousands of private contractors in Iraq. The Afghanistan War continues to claim lives, despite rosy predictions to the contrary. ...  
But hey, maybe the lack of blueprint is a strength. You can’t tell us we’re doing it wrong. You can’t tell us that this doesn’t fit pre-existing models – through trial and error, we’ve found that they don’t work. Maybe the key is keeping our moral and intellectual compasses active and engaged. Maybe we just need to keep listening, and trying new things, until we find something that works. And hopefully, we’ll do it before it’s too late.
His post really resonated with me because I've been spending the last few months trying hard to find a way to build a sustainable, peaceful, humane life, and feeling like I keep coming up against a wall of "this is the way the world is." And I keep thinking "but so many people are unhappy, why don't we change it?" I'm still looking for the answer to that. Along the way, I'm climbing as much as I can.

This weekend, I'll be going Joshua Tree National Park for the first time as a climber. I'm attending an event called #JTreeTweetup, co-founded by RockGrrl, whom I met at Malibu Creek State Park earlier this year. I'll meet a bunch of people for the first time, and shortly thereafter we'll trust each other with our lives.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reflections on CA Props 30, 34, 37

Today was not as emotional as the day after the 2008 election. After the presidential race (phew) and the historic victories for LGBT and Asian American communities across the nation, I was also watching closely for the results on California propositions 30, 34, and 37.

Prop 30 - Increase Education Tax - Passed

I'm excited at the margin with which this passed. The tides are turning, however slowly, toward more equitable taxation, and increased willingness to pour money into our education system. Now, the question of whether our education system is even effective is a whole other issue. When are we going to start reducing standardized testing (and the millions of dollars that go to the College Board, Princeton Review, and Kaplan), and spend more of that money on teachers, providing students with enrichment beyond the classroom (and, I daresay, beyond computers), and better food in schools? 

Prop 34 - Repeal Death Penalty - Failed

When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote an impassioned essay about why I believed in capital punishment. My arguments were based mainly, I recognize now, on wanting vengeance. My feelings on how I would want to punish someone who badly hurt someone close to me haven't changed, but my perspective on whether the state ought to be allowed to do so has. I no longer believe in capital punishment. I don't even believe in our current prison system. Evidence shows a significant probability that innocent people are put to death. There's also the matter of the hypocrisy in criminalizing murder and then using murder as a punishment. I look forward to the day when California joins so many developed nations in abolishing capital punishment. 

Prop 37 - Label Genetically Modified Food - Failed

Big agriculture and companies like Monsanto have so much power that It didn't surprise me that this proposition didn't pass. I would have to see it pass, if only for the spectacle of stickers declaring genetic modification that would (likely) be slapped on to nearly everything in grocery stores. Since humans began practicing agriculture, we've employed genetic engineering; the difference (and problem) today is that the modifications are often made to increase productivity and transportability rather than for nutrition. Beyond getting the companies to employ these practices to stop, we have to begin to find other ways of feeding ourselves.

So there have been victories and setbacks, and the exhilaration of election night will fade, but it's not going to be one election or one ballot that will create the world we want. It happens every day, bit by bit, and it's happening constantly. It has to.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tomorrow is Election Day

I mailed in my ballot on Saturday. This election has come so quickly. Hopefully Tuesday's results will lead us to four more years of Obama, and in California: GMO labeling on our food, more money for education, and no more death penalty

One voter guide I used to help me in my decision-making:

I'm sure we must, we can, and we will eventually change our two-party system, but I voted for Obama because I don't think that it can happen in this country from the top down. Is it possible to convince enough people to elect a Green Party or Independent President before there's a significant presence in the rest of our government?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Passing Through Chinese Camp

As I drove along S.R. 120 toward Owens River Gorge the first time, signs that said "Chinese Camp" caught my eye, but I didn't have time to stop. On the way back, I pulled in for a few minutes to poke around and snap a few pictures. I didn't see many people around, and after reading the Wikipedia article, I understood why: the 2010 Census put the population at 126. 

It's hard to believe that nearly 5,000 people lived in this place during the gold rush. 

The sign states that "the first Chinese Tong War in state fought near here between Sam Yap and Yan Woo tongs." More history can be found on Wikipedia (of course).

The formation of tongs:
After settling in San Francisco and other California cities, Chinese workers faced hostility from their American peers who felt threatened by the Chinese who worked for lower wages. As labor unions and angered workers became more aggressive, many Chinese felt pressure to leave and go east, where they heard life would be less dangerous.[4] As a result many Chinese immigrants moved to cities such as New York and Boston where today there are large enough populations to build communities known as "Chinatowns".[5] Many Chinese soon organized voluntary associations for support and protection.

The Tong War of 1856 Tensions between the Tuolumne County Sam Yap Company and the Calaveras County Yan Wo Company, both headquartered near Chinese Camp erupted in violence. In the Columbia Gazette of October 1856 a comment directed toward the Yan Wo by the Sam Yap stated “There are a great many now existing in the world who ought to be exterminated.” An estimated 2500 men fought in the battle that followed. Most were armed in traditional fashion, carrying long pikes, butcher’s knives, and tridents. The Sam Yap Company had purchased 150 muskets and bayonets in San Francisco in preparation for the confrontation and after a hundred rounds or so The Yan Wo clan were forced to retreat. Surprisingly there were only 4 fatalities were recorded.
According to the Census, most of the 126 people in Chinese Camp identify as White, with a tiny percentage identified as "Other Races." I wonder how long it took for the population to dwindle so far. Probably didn't take too long after the gold ran out. 

It felt kind of spooky there. Tiny homes. The only people I saw were a couple of men drinking in the bar & convenience store along the main road.
A few trees and a lot of yellow grasses. Didn't seem too hospitable to me. Rocky earth. Not much water.
Beautiful skies on the way home.
I wonder whether Los Angeles might be like this one day. Quiet. Empty. I have no idea what living in a place like this would be like. That's probably why I'm so curious about it. I went from suburb to city. Maybe it's only natural that I'm wondering about the country.

The election is in 6 days. I need to do more homework.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

DIY Ink Bottle Oil Lamp

Last spring, I discovered the joy of DIY oil lamps. Here's how I turn an India ink bottle into an oil lamp. 
The materials:
  • India ink bottle
  • 2-inch strip of aluminum foil
  • cotton strip (I used the hem from an old A-Shirt)
  • sharp knife
  • oil (not pictured)
I've taken a shining to writing with orange ink lately. I didn't bother to clean the bottle out fully, mostly because I didn't want to expend the water doing it (I've become increasingly conscious about water use). I'm not sure whether there are any health concerns with burning India ink, but I'm not too worried.

1. I cut the pipette away, trying to make it as short as possible. 

If I'd had a sharper knife and the motivation, I would have tried to shave away more of the pipette above the cap line. The shorter it is, the less it will push your wick back down into the bottle.
2. I crumple the aluminum foil around the end of the cotton strip, creating a stopper so that the wick will stay upright.
3. Tuck the wick into the bottle.
4. Check to make sure the stopper works properly before getting things all oily.
5. Fill the bottle most of the way with oil of your choice. 

I'm told olive oil has the least oily scent, but I'd use whatever oil is either plentiful, cheap, or about to go rancid. You could even use bacon grease, if you're into that sort of thing (I am). 
6. Tuck stopper and wick in place.
7. The lamp is ready! Light it up! 

Before lighting, I screwed the cap back on and turned the bottle upside down for a few seconds to allow the wick to absorb more oil. 
The cap can also be a snuffer, but because it's plastic, the bottle should be allowed to cool after the flame is put out so that the cap doesn't melt and become less leak-proof.
And there you have it. A 5-10 minute, very practical DIY project. Light, no batteries required. And it fits in your pocket. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

From Car-Free to Car-Dweller

Four years ago, I celebrated becoming car-free in Los Angeles. Now, I'm writing from the Bay Area various places and am very, very attached to my car. When I was living in Downtown LA and spending most of my time there, it was easy to ditch the car and use public transit and bicycles. I still use public transit and my bicycle, when I can. But I've found that I really like camping out of my car on BLM land. And it's lovely being able to wake up to scenes like this after pulling over to sleep among eighteen-wheelers:
Vista Point, Highway 101, Santa Barbara.
I've driven between Los Angeles, Bishop, and the Bay Area many times over the last few months. It's hard for me to think about how much gas I've consumed in such a short period of time. Hundreds of gallons, I'm sure, though I get good mileage and drive conservatively. My current lifestyle includes a lot of driving, which I once tried so hard to get away from, and now, I don't really see myself getting away from it any time soon. It's harder to interact with the outdoors, be car-free, and still be very mobile. But it's possible.

If I were planning to live in one place for a long time, and commute to only a few specific places on a regular basis, it would be easier to imagine working out a way to avoid using a car for outdoors excursions. The truth is that right now, I'm not so willing to try that hard. I'm still hauling around quite a few belongings, I like being able to tuck into my home like a turtle, and I like the feeling of independence I get hurtling down highways between cities, where it can seem so desolate.
Sagebrush Campsite, Owens River Gorge, Eastern Sierra.

For now, the best course I see is in staying in places for longer stretches of time than the weeklong trips I've been taking. Where those places might be, and how far I'll have to drive to get there, are all up in the air. A few days ago I plotted out a dozen different climbing areas to visit around the western US. I've met quite a few people traveling around for a month or more (or indefinitely) for climbing. That doesn't feel like long enough, not at all. I want to take more time than that. And I want to make it sustainable for that time, both financially and environmentally, as much as possible. It's hard to imagine how that is going to work. But I'm trying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Climbing at Owens River Gorge - Days 5 & 6

I lied. I'm not sitting at the Looney Bean. I'm at Black Sheep Espresso Bar, sipping on the cup-of-the-day, charging my phone. While I haven't had as much luck with finding sport climbing partners as I'd like, there's plenty of bouldering here, so it's highly unlikely that I won't be able to climb something on any given day. Fantastic.

5-6 October 2012

The last two days were all about climbing, climbing, climbing.

On the 5th day, I finally found my sweet spot with arranging my gear for the approach. Carrying the water bottles on the inside of the bag instead of in the side pockets centered the weight better, and instead of cramming the rope into the pack, I slung the rope bag strap over my shoulder and cradled it something like a baby. This made the approach easier. The approach was even better on the last day of climbing, when I decided to start tossing the rope a few feet ahead of me as a I scrambled down the gully. Hooray for durable rope bags!
At the bottom of the Central Gorge approach.
As my focus on climbing increased, I took fewer and fewer photos. I regret not taking more photos of Antoine, Ramsel, and Trevor on their climbs-- I was always either climbing myself, belaying, or eating.  Or watching, slackjawed, as they climbed very hard things. Trevor and Antoine both made an effort to take photos during my milestone climbs, which, as the beginner-est of the group, I had a couple of. I didn't think of it, but it's so nice to be able to look back at those moments now. I owe them.

Here I am on Orange Peel (5.10c), the hardest grade I've tried to redpoint so far. 
Love those high first bolts.
I fell on my first attempt, and Antoine said, "You must give it a second go." So I did. Success! I climbed it without falling.
Trevor told me to pose. "No Posing" rule broken.
I was elated. Other things were climbed that day, but it's all a blur now. Fun was had. Beer was drunk. We also had friends pull up late that night and join us at camp. 

On Day 6, I kept in mind the "Last Day, Best Day" motto, and after climbing the beautiful Dr. Evil (5.10a) and tricky Tall Dollar (5.10b), I set my sights on trying something beyond my ability and experience: The O.R.G. asm (5.11a) Because it was the last day, so why not?

I think I fell sometime near this moment.
Picked myself up and moved through the hard part.
I fell once on the first attempt. Only once! I couldn't believe it when I got back down to the ground. The thought was already planted in my head without Antoine saying a thing: I'd give it a second go. I ate some chocolate, drank some water, stretched my fingers, massaged my arms, and returned for another attempt. 

And it happened. I climbed it without falling, though I got nervous near the top, because I kept thinking about how upsetting it would be to fall at that point. And I made it. 

It was only one route, and I know that there are "easier" routes that will be difficult for me, but I feel different. Like I get it now, what it means to surpass what you think your limits are. What can happen if you try to. I'm thinking more now about what I think is possible for myself, not just in climbing. 
End-of-trip fingertips, clean & bruised.

They were dirty before they became my camp shoes.
The next morning, I took in my last sunrise, stopped for an hour or so in Bishop, and headed back west. Head full of ponderings on what's possible. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rest Day, Owens River Gorge - Day Four

4 October 2012

It was time to give our tendons, muscles, and skin a chance to recover after two and half days of climbing. Also, we had to go into town to get water and a few supplies (beer). 
Another beautiful morning.
While camping in the pinyons, with mountains and trees all around, it feels beautifully remote. But drive about thirty minutes south, and creature comforts are all available in town, including a more-than-decent cup of coffee, and gambling (or so I hear).
Looney Bean Coffee, on Main St.
After a lazy morning at the coffee shop and a run to the grocery store, we stopped at The Pit campground to pump some water. Not quite as tasty as the Hetch Hetchy water you get from the tap in San Francisco, but cool and refreshing just the same.
I'd been eyeing big, portable water storage containers at REI for a while, but I think I'll stick with re-using gallon jugs because they're much easier to handle, though not as durable. Once their water containment life is done, though, they can become sub-irrigated planters! Now I just need to think some more on how I'll rig a portable garden on/in my little car. Any car-gardening out there?

After re-upping on water, we decided to explore some of the other crags nearby. Ramsel was feeling the urge to do some crack climbing, which isn't as tough on the hands, and I was a more-than-willing second. We found ourselves at Pine Creek Canyon, where vertical dance company Project Bandaloop was occupying part of the crag with one of their classes. You must click the link and see for yourself. You must.

Since the classic Pratt's Crack (5.9) was occupied by Bandaloop, Ramsel set his sights on Sheila (5.10a). It was his first trad lead of the grade. I wish I hadn't forgotten my camera in the car. Since the climb required two ropes to rappel back down, I had to trail a rope behind me, attached to my harness. I also had to clip the trailing rope into some gear for directionals since Antoine planned on climbing up after me. That was a first for me; I really felt the weight of the rope during some of the tougher sections of the climb near the top. Thankfully I was able to make it up. We had some rope management fun at the top as I belayed Antoine up. Poor Ramsel had to sit up there through gusty winds the entire time, and flaked the rope over his shoulders for warmth. After Antoine powered through the climb, we all abseiled down, explored Pine Creek a bit, and returned to camp. A rest day well-spent, I say.

*The Eastern Sierra has so much climbing, it's over-whelming. I'm not even finished writing this trip report yet, and I'm already about to head back to the area. My next post will probably be written at The Looney Bean. Wish me luck finding climbing partners.

Climbing at Owens River Gorge - Day Three

3 October 2012

On the third morning, I finally began to hit my car-camping stride. I started back on writing each morning, though I reduced my output from three pages to one page. Must spend less time navel-gazing when there's breakfast to cook and gear to pack and walls to climb.
Dirty windows.
I didn't want to have to deal with cleaning my french press, so I planned to drink yerba mate instead of my usual coffee each day. I did, however, make an extra-large serving of coffee with condensed milk (cut with regular milk) for early Monday morning drive, which I nursed for a couple of mornings' worth of writing.

While I look with interest at wagons, vans, hatchbacks, and trucks with shells (I notice them a lot more nowadays), I'm pretty happy with my little car. I make it work.
Writing desk.
Headlamps are wonderful.
That day, we headed down to Central Gorge, which has a longer, somewhat sketchier approach than Upper Gorge, but it was definitely worth it. We added a few minutes to our approach because I worried that my car (converted back into a passenger vehicle) would not be able to make it through this hole-y zone on the way to the parking area:
Down might be okay. Up, not so much.
Obeyed all rules but the last.

Down the gully.
Well-kempt squat toilet.
Stinging nettle looks a little like mint.

Nettle likes being near water.
Owens River.
We started out at Great Wall of China, where I warmed up on Enter the Dragon (5.8), China Doll (5.8), and Child of Light (5.9). Antoine, who is a 5.12 climber, remarked that the 5.8 was too easy for me. I rejoined that I climb better when I warm up well, which is true-- but his comment added to the already-brewing feeling that I wouldn't make the most of the trip if I didn't challenge myself further. 

Antoine had put up Tsing Tao (5.10b). I hadn't planned on trying it, but for lack of a 5.10a nearby, I decided to just go for it. I surprised myself by flashing it. It was the hardest climb I'd tried to lead during the trip so far. Then, we made our shade-following migration to the Pub Wall.  There, I took my first lead-fall on Abitarot (5.10a). That was a good reminder that 1) ratings are more guidelines than rules, and 2) falling is okay. After splashing around in the water, I lead Abitafun (5.9) and finished by top-roping Hardly Wallbanger (5.10c). 

And, then, Antoine top-roped Abitafun barefoot and chalkless.
The next day would be a rest day.