Monday, December 26, 2011

Adventure Travelers Install Christmas Tree on the Praying Monk

On the way down from our hike yesterday, I noticed a second Christmas tree at Camelback. This one was on top of the Monk.

Googling around, I found that a couple of TV stations typed out blurbs on the tree a few days ago, and then I found the Adventure Traveling blog post about the teens who'd hauled it up there and decorated it.

Though I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing, I enjoyed the story of the climb and installation. I've been planning lately to write about the Monk and a few weeks ago had come across the teens' blog, which had several fun tales about their first exploits on Camelback's most-classic route.

High-school students Thomas Rankine and Andrew Keating, both 17, are doing the blog.

The beautiful and ambitious dream of cycling to Patagonia, "climbing some mountains along the way," sparked their online effort. (At right, picture and caption ripped from their site.) Besides the challenge of avoiding the banditos, to make that South American trip a reality they'll have to show more organizational skills and less gear-mongering than in their Grand Canyon toproping adventure! (As a master of over-gearing, I'm qualified to say that. Once, as a friend and I looked at some TR routes in Red Rocks, a local sportclimber looked at our packs and remarked, "Are you guys preparing to climb Mount Everest?)

I sure appreciate this sort of teen spirit. Such a trip would be best done with outside support to either meet them or mail supplies as they go. But Goran Kropp, in his astonishing bike ride to Everest (which he nearly summitted) in 1996 proves that no dream is too big for a committed adventurer (or an adventurer who probably needs to be committed!) Thomas and Andrew have some great times ahead.

Whatever they do, I look forward to their future stories. I expect one of them to be how they took the tree and its decorations down.

Below, the late, legendary bike-and-climber, Goran Kropp (Internet shot)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Greetings From the Summit of Camelback

Our Christmas Eve hike. What a beautiful day. Perfect weather. Another summit for the kid.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Claud the Water Guy

This picture was found on a blog post written by photographer/"footballer" Jason Johnson.

Jason, a U of A grad who's from Seattle, runs into "Claud the Water Guy" and hikes to the summit with him. Claud juices up Johnson's short and entertaining description of the hike. Especially nice is his use of dialogue. He mentions how Claud tries to hand out water to "everyone he meets" has Claud saying, "It's a dangerous hill ... These city-slickers forget how hot it is. People die here... in the summer it will get to one-sixteen and they don't even bring water!"

Johnson surmises that all regular Camelback hikers have met Claud -- I certainly have, though I've never chatted with him for as long as Johnson did and didn't know his name was Claud. He hikes Echo Canyon a lot, that's for sure; he's in the top 10 of regulars I've noticed, probably because of his outfit. He's asked me several times if I needed water.

I suppose every mountain needs a self-appointed savior of foolish and unprepared hikers. Claud takes his job of Trail Police seriously.

About a year ago, I departed from Echo Canyon Trail to explore the base of some 40-50 foot cliffs above the saddle between hump and head. The gully turned bushy and I began scampering on a sidewall, having fun, when I heard a concerned voice far behind me shouting, "HEY! HEY! THAT'S NOT THE TRAIL!"

I tried to ignore him for a moment, hoping to climb out of his sight, but he kept it up: "TURN BACK! YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!"

I looked up at Claud, who was several hundred feet back and up at curve in the trail, wearing the same hat and having the same general appearance as in this picture, but appearing less than an inch high to me from that distance. "IT'S O-KAY!" I yelled back. "I'M NOT LOST!"

Then I turned around and resumed traversing. He yelled one more time before giving up. I found a great spot to free solo in the class-four range for about 20-30 feet before coming to a section that I didn't want to do without protection. The downclimb was just tricky enough to put a smile on my face.

I passed Claud on the way down.

"Nice rock-climbing there," he said graciously.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Camelback on the Web

At least three other sites focus exclusively on Camelback Mountain. They don't contain climbing info, but they're very enthusiastic about the hiking.

ClimbCamelback appears to be run by two guys -- Bobby Klingler and Jason Glashan -- who want people to hire them as a guide. I'm not sure why anyone would do that, but okay. They charge $110 to take one person up, with a sliding scale up to $200 for groups of 4-6. I'm not sure if this activity needs to be regulated by the city of Phoenix or not. I could see the city wanting to get involved if a company regularly ran large groups up there.

Klingler registered the site in August of 2007, earlier than I registered CamelbackPhoenix, (Feb of '08). I'm not sure, to be honest, if his site was up before mine -- it may have been. He's done more with his site and installed some bells and whistles -- map and weather links, for example. A big focus is the list of "times of the fastest hikers." I hope he does more with it. His photograph quality has room for improvement. is like Klingler's site, but contains a blog. It's not like my blog, which is a collection of stories along with some blog-like material. HikeCamelback's blog posts are quick hits, a couple of which have more personality than others. Those two are about "Lewi" (pictured above, in the pink helmet, from a shot ripped for the site) and friends. Lewi is someone the blogger went up with who kept a "blistering" 23-minute pace. Not bad at all. My best time is 26 minutes, by the way -- that was in the late '90s. Lewi intends to do it in 16 minutes and also beat Camelback Jack's amazing record of 25 ascents in 24 hours. For some reason, these guys are dressed like male strippers near the end of their act. I first came upon this site while doing a search for Web stories about Brian Z., a.k.a. Naked Man. Their short, November 7 post on Brian Z didn't contain much detail, but it did draw scathing criticism of Ewelina, the woman who saved Brian's life and posted the YouTube videos of him. The more recent post before that, a generic list of park regulations, was published October 1. That tells me these guys are on my sort of glacial time scale. Their site has a few qualities to respect, like the professional layout.

Recently I discovered "Trails to Camelback." This one seems to be the most similar to mine in spirit, but it only has three posts. Paige Gruner, who launched it, is a journalism student who just finished an internship at Channel 5. I love Paige's vision for this blog and hope she keeps adding to it:

"She wants to share her passion for hiking the beautiful mountain, the history behind Camelback, and her knowledge of the trails leading to the scenic view of Phoenix."

As far as climbing info, I recently found ClimbPhx. Internet sites about climbing in general (see my blogroll) tend to feature more outing reports, but I like the personal style of this one.

It's still in an early phase and lists more routes than it describes. For example, the author writes about routes like Spiderwalk (5.6) at the Supes as if they've climbed it, but don't give any sort of tale to go along with it. Could be they are working on it. When I and Webber climbed that one a few years ago, we found it quite the mini-epic. Especially the junkoid summit. I got off-route on the 2nd or 3rd pitch and had to lower off a twig about 25 feet. Amazingly, it didn't snap, I got back on track and we finished the climb.

I've been familiar with the Mountain Project site for years, and it often has the sort of stories I like to read -- such as the route description and all four comments on the Spiderwalk page. MP doesn't have a ton on Camelback, though. I prefer the kind of personalized story found on this site, LA Mountaineers, about a couple of Headwall climbs.

ClimbPhx, which appears to be the brainchild of a climber named Shiloh Dorsett, has a few outing reports from Camelback. I'm hoping to read more of his trips to the mountain. At left is a picture from the site's page on the Headwall.

Yelp, TripAdvisor and similar sites also contain reviews of Camelback, usually for the hiking, which sometimes contain some color. Major differences in opinion are to be expected, naturally.

I hesitate to disagree with any of them. Camelback is treacherous, and safe. It's difficult, and moderate. The climbing is rotten, and fantastic. The park is easily accessible, the parking situation is awful. The people are nice, and sometimes rude. It's a rockpile for residents of a soulless town who have nothing better to do, and it's a near-sacred mini-Mecca of outdoor recreation smack dab in the middle of paradise.