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...)...

Posted in Gear | 0 Comments
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...)...

Posted in Video | 1 Comment
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...)...

Posted in Gear | 0 Comments
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 | 5 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...)...

Posted in Gear | 0 Comments
July 19, 2014 Mount Diablo Hiking

Mount Diablo

Rising a decidedly non-devilish 3,849 feet above sea level, Mount Diablo is not quite the highest summit in the Bay Area, but it is Contra Costa County’s highpoint, and, thanks to its remarkable prominence, Diablo offers not just fine views from San Francisco to the Sierra, but in fact one of the largest viewsheds in (more...)...

Posted in Hiking | 3 Comments
July 11, 2014 Where Hiking

Where’s Your Sierra?

I have a distinct mental image of “The Sierra”—and this isn’t it. My Sierra is heavy on Owens Valley and fourteeners, with lots of dry, dusty, austere granite brooding high above sun-baked desert. I’m generally aware of other, wetter parts, such as Yosemite, but like the beach some two miles from my house I tend (more...)...

Posted in Hiking | 2 Comments
July 1, 2014 Kearsarge Peak Panorama Video

Kearsarge Peak Panorama

Great views but beware the mining trail! Kearsarge is described in Jay Anderson’s Climbing California’s Mountains as “possibly the quickest-to-reach significant summit on the entire eastern side of the Sierra.” With that kind of billing, who could resist? In keeping with my loop-or-bust tradition, I decided to ascend from the west, via Lilly Pass, with (more...)...

Posted in Video | 4 Comments
June 24, 2014 Sony RX100-III Gear

Sony RX100-III

Is it possible the closer we get to perfection, the farther away it seems? The updates to Sony’s third-edition RX100 digital compact are practically a wish list of the impossible. How about a wider, brighter 24-70mm Zeiss lens, for starters? How about a bright, high-resolution pop-up electronic viewfinder? And how about Sony’s Bionz-X image processor (more...)...

Posted in Gear | 0 Comments

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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.