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TR - Courtright Reservoir

2:17:03 PM
Last weekend 4 families from a local parents-with-kids climbing club (the "Rock Rugratz") took a trip down to Courtright Reservoir, a lesser known alpine dome area sometimes described as "Tuolumne Meadows' little sister". It was my first trip down to this part of the Sierras, so I was pretty excited to see what the area had to offer.

The drive itself is pretty long - Google says it's right on 5hrs from San Francisco, but what with food and pee stops it took us closer to 6.5hrs, the last 2hrs of which is pretty slow, winding mountain roads (though 2 lane up until the last 10 miles or so and sealed the entire way).

A view of the reservoir and some of the domes from the top of Power Dome (click to embiggen)

We stayed at the "Trapper Springs" campground, which is sandwiched between Trapper Dome and Spring Dome (Spring Dome being the highest of the 4 stacked domes just left of centre and past the lake in the above photo, Trapper Dome being the more prominent dome immediately to the left of Spring Dome). The first of the climbs on Spring Dome was less than 50m from our campsites, and the furthest only 400m or so further around, which was ideal for a kids climbing trip. It turns out kids are a bit like midget sport climbers - they start moaning if they have to walk very far. Though to be fair, most kids won't start whining until at least the km mark, unlike sport climbers who have a vastly lower tolerance for locomotion.

On Saturday the parents set up topropes on a couple of climbs - a 15m blocky 5.2 (grade 4) crack system, a clean and sustained 40m 5.4 (grade 8) slab and a rope-stretching 60m 5.8 (grade 16) slab (take 2 ropes for this one!).

Steve getting freaked on the 5.2 (click to embiggen)


Steve feeling much better after the cameraman oriented the camera correctly (click to embiggen)

The kids (ages ranging from 3 to 9) all whizzed up the 5.2, the older kids all smeared up the 5.4, and the 9yo and a 6yo crushed the long 5.8. Very impressive! The 5.4 and the 5.8 were both great - sustained on incredible rock and with the solution pockets that Courtright is so famous for (tricams mandatory!).

With the smaller kids wilting and chaperoned off to the lake for a splash, the mother of the 9yo and I decided to take our kids up the 2nd pitch above the 5.4 to the top of the dome. We accomplished this by leading on two ropes, with the 3 kids and 2nd parent climbing together in a spaced group of seconds. This worked great, although the belay stance at the top of the 5.4 was a little on the cramped side for such a large group. It didn't seem to faze the kids much though:

Kids freaking out on the semi-hanging belay 40m off the deck (click to embiggen)

After the usual rope clusterf---, we headed up the 5.2 2nd pitch - an awesome pitch up a slabby ramp than up a line of steep juggy solution pockets / buckets. There was even a hole between two pockets at one point that could be slung - I've never seen that in granite before!

Rock Rugratz smearing their way up towards the juggy "staircase" (they took delight in naming parts of the climb) (click to embiggen)

A lovely romp up the steep, juggy staircase and we were on top, with awesome views of the reservoir and dam wall.

Summit Fever! (click to embiggen)

A 30 minute cruise down the dome (during which time blood sugar levels dropped to tantrumous levels - the kids weren't much better behaved either!) and we were back down at the campsite, ready for dinner and bed.

On Sunday we took a short hike up to the top of Power Dome, near the dam. Up on top someone has installed some striking rock sculptures using large angular blocks of plagioclase (there were fractured dykes of the stuff several feet wide, extending for hundreds of metres across the flat top of the dome).

Natural Power Vortexes on top of Power Dome (click to embiggen)

After lunch we headed back down, said our goodbyes and began the long slog back to the Bay Area.

Summary: excellent Tuolumne-esque climbing with way fewer crowds.

[edit] If you can't see the photos, try logging into Yahoo - the photos are hosted there and I guess they do some basic authentication before they can be accessed.

3:13:44 PM

7:57:13 PM
Thanks for the TR. It made me a bit nostalgic as I did my first lead climb at Courtright Reservoir. It was also the first time I used tri-cams and I was so glad to have them that I've carried at least a pinky on my harness ever since.

I'd also recommend courtright to those looking for something a bit more challenging. Although it's predominately slabby domes there's also some harder climbs on some of the faces.

8:24:15 PM
Looks like a great place. Thanks for posting the inspiring TR pmonks.

Just for interest sake...
Do you have a contingency plan if one of your multiple seconds finds it a bit hard and wants to opt out enroute?

3:34:31 AM
On 15/08/2013 IdratherbeclimbingM9 wrote:
>Do you have a contingency plan if one of your multiple seconds finds it
>a bit hard and wants to opt out enroute?

We had a mix of plans. The proactive part of the plan was that all 3 kids had already toproped the 5.4 first pitch with no issues, and the second pitch was 5.2, so we figured technically they'd be fine. The 9yo has done some longer & harder multi-pitch climbs before (e.g. Z-Tree in Tuolumne - a 5 pitch 5.7), so it was only my two (8yo & 6yo) who were in any doubt, and they've both been climbing since they were little so only exposure was an unknown.

The reactive part of the plan was that if we'd had trouble on the first pitch we would have lowered the troublesome kid(s) off - one of the other parents was still at the base collecting gear, and we asked them to stick around until we were all happily on the first belay. They would have untied the kid and taken care of them until we got down.

If we'd had trouble on the 2nd pitch we would have all bailed, lowering / climbing back to the first belay (which had a bolted rap anchor), then lowering / abseiling down the first pitch as well. With 2 X 60m ropes mobility on the cliff wasn't a concern, and any gear we left behind retreating off the top we could walk up and get later.

That said the kids clearly benefited from climbing in a gaggle and with a parent nearby. Earlier on in the day my 8yo had bailed off the long 5.8 and I think part of the reason was she ended up 30m out in the middle of a big blank steep slab with nobody anywhere nearby. Even though arguably she was more exposed on the 5.2 second pitch we did, she was never more than 8 feet from her sister and 30 feet from the 9yo and I, and that seemed to completely eliminate exposure as a factor.

The 3 girls were having a great time climbing as a gang - chatting about the holds and features, where to go next, etc. Sometimes I think inane chattering is a coping mechanism for kids (but of course it only works when they have someone to chatter at / with).

[edit] Oh and I probably wouldn't want to do 3 kids / 2 adults on anything harder or longer than this - a party of 5 is a logistical hassle no matter how old or experienced the members are. Double ropes would also have been nice - we climbed with 2 X 10.5mm ropes and the weight & rope drag for the leader was annoying.

8:57:18 AM
On 16/08/2013 pmonks wrote:
>[edit] Oh and I probably wouldn't want to do 3 kids / 2 adults on anything
>harder or longer than this - a party of 5 is a logistical hassle no matter
>how old or experienced the members are. Double ropes would also have been
>nice - we climbed with 2 X 10.5mm ropes and the weight & rope drag for
>the leader was annoying.

I can relate, ... and here is what happens when a party of 5 overtakes a party of 2 !!

(Noblesse Oblige, Gd 11 multipitch slab, Mt Buffalo; ... but my 'seconders' on that occasion were teenagers with their parents).
1:01:01 PM
On 16/08/2013 IdratherbeclimbingM9 wrote:
>I can relate, ... and here is what happens when a party of 5 overtakes a party
>of 2 !!

More traffic than it saw in the first 30 years!

There are 7 messages in this topic.


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