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TR - Courtright Reservoir 15-Aug-2013 At 2:17:03 PM pmonks
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.

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