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The American Climbing Road Trip

Morning winter camp outside the Buttermilks in California's Eastern Sierra

Last spring I made the conscious decision to not let the bike rule my year. Meaning, I did not want to focus on racing a road bike and all the time required to train – I wanted to let my year flow, do whatever sounded good at the time, travel to different places, do a little of everything, and especially to get back to what I used to be most passionate about. Climbing.

Dan Patitucci on Supercrack, Indian Creek, Utah

From 1989 to about 1996 I did little else. It was time spent doing anything but working. Little did I know it was an investment in my future as an athlete, part of the outdoor industry and finally as a professional mountain sport photographer. Time well spent. Later, I mellowed out on the climbing schedule to study photography and figure out exactly what it was I was going to do. Hooking up with Janine established a vision, we committed to being outdoor photographers and once again I was both climbing and shooting climbing.

As our business grew we evolved towards other subjects. But lately, the bug is back, I am ready to climb, or more accurately I am ready to go on a climbing trip. There are few things like it, especially in the States if one knows where to go and how to live; car camping in the Eastern Sierra sage, sleeping beneath the stars on a clear Sierra night, waking up with a wall of granite as your objective. Bliss.

Moonlit camp at Iceberg Lake beneath Mt. Whitney

Ahead of us are six weeks cruising the US; our old playground of the Eastern High Sierra, Indian Creek, Yosemite and finishing up at Smith Rock. What makes this trip extra special is the fact that we are doing it all with Italian friends – the first being Alberto De Giuli, who has never been on US soil. To see my own nation through his eyes will be interesting, he has been entertained by me in his home country, now I get to revisit what is so familiar but once again experience the newness of it all.

First up for Alberto: Acclimating to the art of being a dirtbag American climber. It is nearly impossible to be a true dirtbag in Europe. I have tried to tap into my roots but truly, it seems hopeless as I get more and more civilized with each road trip. Just the other night we bivvied in our car at the Tre Cime before climbing, but having eaten lunch that day at a three star hotel followed by dinner at a Michelin Two Star, Brunello buzz and all, this hardly qualified as “dirtbagging” it. As we settled into our car for the night we watched some nearby Germans cooking on their camp stove, Janine posed the question, “I wonder what they’re having for dinner?” At this we roared, but soon we realized that we truly do miss some of the simpler things.

In the coming weeks we hope to share some of what we are up to, check back here for stories, reports and of course loads of photos.

Some things have really changed: Not much film cannister labeling these days

Other things haven't changed at all: Cannot wait to drink Peet's in the Sierra backcountry

Thankfully, the days of living on the road in an '84 VW are long over

Good memories from an epic: Bedside first aid kit & climbing gear

Off we go... YeeHAW

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Comments 13

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Julie, Ya, before Vietnam and Cambodia there is this trip. And yep – took your advice, the Asia section of our bags is mighty minimal. Your turn to write something for DolomiteSport…! 🙂

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      Author
  1. Remember the trip to City of Rocks? A mouse moved into my pickup and refused to leave. The mouse and I drove home together. I seatbelted him in and we squeaked Jimmy Buffett songs all the way home. I left the doors open at home and he changed states. Good times. I head to Belize next week. When you going to be in Sac?

    1. Post
      Author

      Joel,
      Not only do I remember that, I just told a friend about it after we drove around while being swarmed by ants. He has ants, you had the mouse. We’ll be in Sac only Tuesday morning, then driving to Bishop right away. In Switzerland now but headed out tomorrow morning.
      Belize?

  2. I volunteer to run a Smithsonian ocean research station on a small island off Belize. I’ll be there 5 weeks. Will be able to Facebook it this year. Shame to miss you. What are the Bishop plans?

    1. Post
      Author

      That’s right, I remember that from previous years. sounds very cool.
      Bishop – just pass through, grab gear, and head into the mountains with Janine and a friend, Alberto. Whitney, Russell, Temple, maybe a Hulk route and hopefully get into Matthes – fun, easy stuff. Then off to Indian Creek to get scared.

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