August 22, 2014 Sierra Class 3 Climbing

Sierra Class 3

Insofar as I can tell, the Yosemite Decimal System, which is by far the most widely-used climbing route grading system in the United States, works extremely well provided you stay within the bounds of the Class 5 designation (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 5 Comments
July 21, 2011 Climbing

Half Dome w/Daughter

No, they didn’t go up the cables, they went up the Regular Northwest Face. First thought: this can’t possibly be real. Second thought: hey, if she can do that, maybe I can too. Third thought (after reading full trip): uh, no, I can’t do that. Final thought: can we all get together and agree to (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 2 Comments
July 13, 2010 Climbing

Slings ‘n Physics

If climbing’s your bag you might want to check out this sling drop-test video by DMM, in which they conduct a head-to-head comparison of Dynema and nylon slings in Factor 1 and 2 falls. The test is intended to replicate a scenario in which a climber, at a belay station, clips directly to an anchor (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 1 Comment
November 6, 2009 Climbing

This is Your Brain on Altitude

The New Yorker recently ran a disturbing article on brain injuries in football. Just about the same time, Outside magazine wrote about an alarming study of the effects of moderately-high altitude on climbers’ brains. It has been known for some time that Everest climbers often show symptoms such as memory loss and poor coordination when (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 9 Comments
August 27, 2009 Mt. Whitney Climbing

Mt. Whitney’s East Face

When I close my eyes I see granite. Gray-white blocks angle sharply beneath my feet, plunging downward past my rubber-tipped toes. I press my back against a wall of rock as if I could somehow dissolve myself into the mountain. Everything feels like it’s moving—the rock, the ground, the air—all conspiring together, pushing me toward (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 5 Comments
August 7, 2009 Off to Whitney... Climbing

Off to Whitney…

Off to Whitney to try to redo a climb that got canceled last June when a surprise snowstorm blew in over the Sierra. This time looks like a go. I’ll be carrying a record number of cameras for the trip, including two HD video cams (three if you count my new D5000), so I hope (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 2 Comments
April 29, 2009 Climbing

Whitney Fatality

A female climber was killed Saturday night or early Sunday morning while descending the Mountaineer’s Route with a group of several others on Mount Whitney. At this time there seems to be an almost total lack of confirmed information about the incident. Sketchy reports from persons in the area were briefly available on the Whitney (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 5 Comments
October 16, 2008 Falling Headfirst Down an Ice Cliff Climbing

Falling Headfirst Down an Ice Cliff

Blame it on Chamonix—exposure to the big mountains of the French Alps made a big impression on me. I bought a Charlet-Moser axe and crampons, intending to incorporate the tools in my backcountry skiing when I got home. That axe and crampons stayed in the closet until our local ski area, the Arizona Snow Bowl, (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 4 Comments
July 7, 2008 North Palisade: the U-Notch Couloir Climbing

North Palisade: the U-Notch Couloir

What an absolutely amazing adventure this was! North Palisade offers the gamut of high alpine mountaineering challenges, from glacier travel to ice climbing to technical rock, making it not only one of the most challenging Sierra fourteeners, but also one of the most rewarding. I had wanted to climb this route for some time, but (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 5 Comments
June 30, 2007 Mount Whitney — the Mountaineer’s Route Climbing

Mount Whitney — the Mountaineer’s Route

If you are considering climbing the Mountaineer’s Route, I heartily recommend it. The route is spectacular. Be aware, however, that hiking conditions are currently unusually favorable on the mountain. Under more normal circumstances (more...)...

Posted in Climbing | 11 Comments

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About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.