September 4, 2014 La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Gear

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor

The only thing wrong with La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor is that it’s not a mid. For ultra-class hikers and runners, this is an outstanding all-day shoe. The Ultra Raptor is reasonably light (I’m measuring my US 10.0 pair at one pound, ten ounces, post-use), eminently stable, and confidence-inspiring in that most critical of metrics—extended use (more...)...

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September 1, 2014 Sawtooth Peak Video

Sawtooth Peak

Trevor and I paid a visit to Mineral King yesterday, and as we hiked past mile after mile of richly colored rock, I have to say I kept feeling potent impulses to grab a pick axe and start digging. This was my first-ever trip up the famous Mineral King road. It absolutely exceeded its reputation—I (more...)...

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August 27, 2014 Black Diamond Speed 22 Gear

Black Diamond Speed 22

The Speed is back—sort of. In its original, 2005 edition, Black Diamond’s Speed backpack was a masterpiece of light-is-right design. The original, 30-liter Speed backpack gave us a floating lid, side compression straps, a stiff single-stay frame, and not much else. For fast travel with heavy loads, the pack was and is just about perfect. (more...)...

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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
August 19, 2014 University Peak Hiking

University Peak

Okay, I thought this one was supposed to be easy. When it comes to accurately sizing up a route’s difficulties, I’m beginning to fear either I’m a hopeless optimist or else I’ve gone soft because lately everything seems like a thumping (more...)...

Posted in Hiking, Video | 2 Comments
August 15, 2014 Sony A7S Gear

Sony A7S

Here is what I remember most about film: not the waiting, to get your slides back, but the anticipation. Film added something to every shot, a twist of scene or color or light, a dash of magic that took the mundane and made it art. Digital is not like that. We’ve gained in many ways (more...)...

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August 10, 2014 Waucoba Summit Panorama Video

Waucoba Summit Panorama

I returned this weekend to Death Valley National Park to take care of some unfinished business, and let me say now, if you like to be alone, have I got a mountain for you! Sheesh what a cruel bastard of a climb this was: no trail, thorns, cactus, brush, and no view aside from great (more...)...

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August 5, 2014 Salomon X Ultra Mid Gear

Salomon X Ultra Mid

Salomon is well known for cutting-edge trail runners, but can they make a Mid? Yes—and it’s a good one. The X Ultra Mid GTX is rugged, stable, and very light. I admit I absolutely obsess over hiking shoes—and in particular, the mid category. Many of us prefer hiking in the lightest shoe possible, but still (more...)...

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July 27, 2014 Inyo Mts: Squaw Peak Hiking

Inyo Mts: Squaw Peak

At first, I thought it was simply a case of guidebook error. Later—hours later—when I was beset by flies, and covered in scratches and pine sap, when my legs were doing the sewing-machine shake, when I saw the fresh cat tracks, when I knew I was going to run out of water—in Death Valley, of (more...)...

Posted in Hiking | 6 Comments
July 24, 2014 Mountain Hardwear Optic Gear

Mountain Hardwear Optic

Let’s call Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 3.5 a car-camping tent with backpacking aspirations. The Optic isn’t light, but it is abundantly livable. You get 45 square feet of floor space and a 48-inch interior height. Combined with the Optic’s innovative marquee feature—a 180° view—all that space makes for a very comfortable interior, downright roomy for two (more...)...

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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.