• My Vegetable Soup

    Winter. Salads are cold and unappealing. Here’s my recipe for a simple vegetable soup.


    Mise en Place these aromatics:

    • 1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper
    • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
    • 2 cloves garlic, cleaned and minced
    • 1/2 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped
    • 2 lbs onions, cleaned and chopped
    • 1/2 lb carrots, cleaned and sliced
    • 4-5 bay leaves. I tie them up in cheesecloth to make them easy to retrieve.
    • 1 Tbsp. salt (vary to your taste)

    In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot:

    • start medium heat
    • add the EVOO
    • add the crushed red pepper and garlic. Swirl the oil and wait for the heat to release the chili oils and activate the garlic. Don’t overdo it – overcooked garlic becomes bitter fast.
    • Add the carrots, onions and celery in that order.
    • Saute, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Take your time here, as you’re looking to caramelize the onions and carrots – this gives the soup much of its flavor. This can take me up to 30 minutes.

    While the aromatics are cooking, clean and chop the greens. A favorite mix:

    • 1/2 lb white cabbage
    • 2 lbs bok choy. If you don’t have bok choy, use more white cabbage.
    • 2 lbs mixed collard greens / kale / whatever dark green veg struck your fancy at the store or Farmer’s Market

    The cabbage and / or bok choy add some sweetness and a nice tooth feel.

    When the aromatics are nicely caramelized, add the bay leaves, the cabbage and the greens. Add tap water to within about 2 inches of the top of the uncooked greens. Cover and simmer, stirring every 10 minutes or so until the cabbage and greens are tender.

    You’re done. We eat the soup as is, or add:

    • chickpeas
    • quinoa
    • meatballs
    • grilled chicken thighs, chopped
    • more herbs and spices – sage, thyme, fresh ground black pepper, anything yummy. The base soup mostly tastes of vegetables and can be redirected to any flavor profile.

    Warm and filling. We put the whole soup pot in the fridge (after cooling) and dip soup anytime.

    P.S. – don’t eat the bay leaf bag…


  • Yosemite NP – Tioga Pass Area

    Charlie the yellow bellied  marmot on Mount Dana.
    Charlie the yellow bellied marmot on Mount Dana.

    One of our favorite places to explore. Top destinations in the Tioga Pass area:

    • Mono Pass
    • Mount Gibbs
    • Mount Dana
    • Gaylor Peak
    • Gaylor Lakes
    • Dana Village
    • Tioga Peak
    • Gardisky Lake
    • Mount Conness
    • Saddlebag Lake
    • North Peak
    • Twenty Lakes Basin

    Nice NPS / Yosemite Conservancy video on old mining works in the area.

    Highly recommended guidebooks:

    tiogatrampsNarrowly focused around Tioga Pass.

    easternsierracanyonssonoratopinecreekMuch broader coverage.

    Sonora Pass to Pine Creek Canyon…sonoratopinecreekmap



  • Exploring Death Valley

    Lilac Sunbonnets


    Death Valley – lowest, driest and hottest area in North America. Death Valley National Park – 3 million acres of wilderness. Huge.

    Driest and hottest – on the average. It also snows, rains, has big winds. Check the current weather.

    DV Personal Favorites

    • Salt Creek Desert Pupfish
    • The Grotto
    • Darwin Falls
    • Panamint Dunes
    • Ubehebe Peak
    • Flowers and wildlife…

    If you want to explore beyond the well-known tourist areas, I recommend these excellent guidebooks.














    A virtual adventure awaits in this next book – Badwater to Stovepipe Wells to Saline Valley, over the Inyo to Owens Valley and finally on to Mt. Whitney…



    If you want to go where (almost) no one else goes – and have the skills, equipment and fortitude – try your hand at canyoneering. You can Google Death Valley Canyoneering, or here’s the most extensive list of DV canyons I’ve ever seen.

    Fair warning – DV canyoneering is not a casual undertaking. Long approaches, elaborate route finding, loose rock, sketchy anchors (deadman, knot blocks, retrievables…), car spots. If you’re not already an expert, go with someone that is.

    Having done exactly one DV canyoneering outing, I obviously can’t speak for all canyons, but I suspect you’ll be confronted by the dead man anchor in most canyons.

    Knowledge is power – here’s a video – starring the incomparable Tom Jones – on setting up a dead  man.

    Check out Canyoneering USA if you need gear or how-to’s or inspiration…

    I carry webbing, quick links and possibly some old climbing gear to back up anything I don’t like. Some dead man setups I’ve seen look bomber. Some were literally a pile of rocks on the edge of a cliff – I really like to back those up.

    Adventure time!

    Rock Climbing in the Area

    I’m not aware (and I’ve looked hard) of a lot of high quality climbing in DV itself.

    That said, The Grotto from the bottom up has lots of fairly short up and down climbing problems to solve. Face climbs, polished pouroffs, bouldering, even a climb next to a big chockstone where you can practice your crack technique. Carrying climbing shoes might improve your day. A harness and a cordelette (and even an etrier) might improve results for less experienced  party members.

    Guidebooks for some nearby spots:


    Closest crag mentioned in the Southern California Rock Climbing guidebook – Great Falls Basin is west of a turnoff ~5 miles north of Trona. Granite sport climbing.


    Or for much more extensive climbing roughly the same distance away – Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.

    And, if you’re coming or going from the east, Red Rock Canyon NCA is roughly the same distance away and there are more than a few climbs there…

  • 20140729 Trip Report – Banner Peak

    20120910070902 rs
    Morning Light at Thousand Island Lake. Banner Peak in the clouds.


    20120909124227 cs


    Couple years ago on an outing  in the Sierra Nevada I “discovered” this spot near Island Pass. Banner Peak and Mount Ritter are visible from so many places we’ve been, but I had just never recognized them or their significance.

    The idea of seeing  the view from the top of Banner Peak was compelling. This July, we made it a reality. Great trip – Carol, me, Ken and Sean – despite some challenges from rainy weather.

    Trail Head SelfieRush Creek to Thousand Island Lake pictures. Ken and Sean enjoyed the hike  in from the Rush Creek Trailhead so much that they returned to the trail head by a different route.




    20140729061602Thousand Island Lake to Banner Peak pictures. Peak day was pretty rough – lots of talus-hopping, route finding on 3rd class rock, glacier crossing (Carol’s favorite part!), watching for lightning-bearing-death-clouds and so forth. Happened across a great quote that applies – “Remember, it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun!” – Barry Blanchard

    Beta on climbing Banner Peak, “arguably the most picturesque peak in the Sierra Nevada” per Summit Post.



    BannerPano1 psPanoramic view from Banner Peak. Click through, select “full screen”, pan and zoom, check out the snapshots of landmarks…




    We did a warm-up hike to North Peak before heading in to Thousand Island Lake

    P1070410-001 North Peak hike pictures. Beta on climbing North Peak.




    Carol Standing V1 pscrop


    Panoramic view from North Peak. Click through, select “full screen”, pan and zoom, check out the snapshots of landmarks…



  • Our latest backpacking equipment

    Me – late 50’s, bad knees, disinclination to suffer – all good reasons to work the “lightweight but comfortable” compromise to it’s utmost. I’m always searching for that sweet spot – the lightest reasonable pack weight with the most reasonable comfort. We tried out my latest iteration on a 2-night trip to Gable Lakes and Mount Tom in the Sierra Nevada, and I have to say it was one of the best backcountry camping experiences I’ve had yet.

    I present this list as a reference point for you – budget, inclination, better research, personal preference – all may push you in a different direction. No worries, but if you find something better, I’d love to hear about it!

    I’ll start with the Big Four (usually the Big Three, but in most places I go in the Sierra, a bear canister is a necessity) – pack + tent + sleeping system + bear canister.

    1. Pack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I wound up adding a couple panels from a Thermarest Z-Lite to pad the back; doubled as a nice warm-on-my-butt camp chair. Also so light it works great as a peak pack – thus removing even more weight. Winning!
    2. Tent – Marmot Pulsar 2. It was on sale and bigger+ lighter than our 2-person REI tent.
    3. Sleeping system – Z-Packs 20 degree twin; Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm. The Xtherm is amazingly warm. Crinkly when you move. Not the greatest for sleeping naked, a problem which I’ve solved with silk long johns – light, warm and slinky!
    4. Bear canister – Wildideas Bearikade Weekender. Love it and it’s the perfect height to sit on.

    Hiking Poles. Black Diamond Ultra Z Pole. Fast setup, fast breakdown, ultra light. Not sold on hiking poles – here’s a nice list of why’s – and some reviews.

    Water – we carry a an MSR Sweetwater filter and six Platypus 1-liter bags. Six may sound excessive, but I do not want my alpine start on peak day to begin with a trip to get water. Leave the Camelback or any other drinking hose system at home. Fussy + I guarantee you’ll drag the hose tip in the dirt + extra weight for absolutely no benefit.

    Clothing. My rules – ultralight, does the job, fast drying (no cotton!). My list for a midseason trip:

    • 1 pair SmartWool socks. Warm, fast drying and I’ve worn them for over a week at a time…
    • Boots – Treksta Mid GTX. What you put on your feet is highly personal; all I’ll say is the lightest footwear that meets the need is the best. I’ve climbed many California Fourteeners in cross trainers. Also, unless you’re planning on donning front-pointing crampons, heavy mountaineering boots are just going to make you miserable. Also, heavy boots make your feet sweat, leading to blisters and other miseries…
    • Pants – Arcteryx Palisade pant. I live in these every day I have pants on.
    • Shirt – SmartWool t-shirt and Arcteryx Skyline shirt.
    • Warmth – Patagonia Gnarwall Beanie, SmartWool neck gaiter, gloves, Marmot windshirt, Marmot PreCip rain jacket (large enough to fit over all warm clothes), Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody.

    Kitchen. No mess, no cleanup.

    • JetBoil Sol Ti and small canister of gas
    • Long handled titanium spoon
    • Home made cooking pouch – for rehydrating home dehydrated meals.

    Food. In the past, this has been a big problem for me. This last trip was the most successful food trip I’ve ever had, primarily thanks to home dehydrated food and the commercial eggs.

    • Home dehydrated soups, stews and casseroles.
    • Ova Easy powdered whole eggs. Forget any other powdered eggs.
    • Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, Kind bars, Clif bars, peanut butter tubs, Clif Shot Blox, Snickers bars, Organic Blue Corn chips, beet chips – portable, ready-to-eat calories…
    • Fresh sandwiches, fruits and veggies for inbound day.

    Personal Items.

    • Small toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, TP
    • Mentholatum. Excellent solution for high altitude stuffies.
    • Lightweight headlamp (Petzl e+LITE). Usually no extra batteries; I swap them out before going in and then use the partially discharged rejects in my key fobs.
    • One garbage bag – so many purposes.
    • “Ten Essentials” bag w/ skeeter headnet, fire making, small bottle of sunscreen, etc…
    • Camera / extra battery. As if you didn’t know that…
    Light makes Right!
    Light makes Right!

  • Bacon Onion Chipotle Frittata


    So delicious. The onions are the star of the show here, so don’t skimp.

    Mise en Place

    • 2 strips uncured bacon
    • 2 medium onions (fist sized)
    • 1 Tbsp ground organic chipotle powder. Smoky heat.
    • 12 organic eggs
    • Organic whole milk
    • 2 organic tomatoes, hopefully home grown
    • salt
    • 10 inch fry pan with lid and oven proof handle
    • kitchen towel
    • patience


    This is going to take a while as we want to fully develop the flavors of all the ingredients – and not overcook the bottom of the frittata.

    • Over low-medium heat, dust the bacon in the fry pan with chipotle (reserve most of the spice for later) and cook until crispy. If the bacon fat smokes, the heat is too high. I find 6 minutes on each side works.
    • While the bacon is cooking, coarsely chop the onions. I aim for 16-20 oz chopped onion.
    • When the bacon is done, remove the strips and set aside. Put the onions in the pan in all that lovely bacon fat, dust with the rest of the chipotle and cover. Cook until the onions are clear; better yet, get some carmelization. I go 7 minutes, then stir well, then 7 minutes more.
    • While the onions are cooking, crack the dozen eggs into a medium bowl, add a splash of whole milk and whisk. Wash and slice the tomatoes.
    • When the onions are done cooking, use kitchen shears to cut the bacon strips into small pieces and add to the pan. Stir in the egg mixture until all the ingredients are well distributed.
    • Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the bottom is partially set. I find this to take another 7 minutes or so. Watch for egg bubbles; I pop them with a table knife.
    • Turn off the burner.
    • Set the top oven rack so that it’s 4 inches or so from the broiler, set the broiler on high, cover the egg mixture with the sliced tomatoes, add a little salt and place under the broiler. Cook until browned on top.
    • When the smoke alarms go off because you forgot to turn the range hood fan on, run back and forth with the kitchen towel (remember the kitchen towel?) waving at the smoke alarms to get them to shut up.
    • Watch out for tripping over your panicked cat, unhinged at the spectacle of waving towels and screaming alarms.
    • Once the frittata has browned, remove from the broiler (turn off the broiler) and set aside for a few minutes.
    • Slice and serve.

    “Frittata” translates roughly into “egg cake” – so there are endless possible variations. One really tasty addition here would be to cut the kernels off a fresh cob of sweet corn and add them with the chopped bacon and egg mixture.

  • Tahoe Area Rock Climbs – a Tick List

    0 TahoeAreaMap108922762_large_adb423

    Guidebooks / Links (GBL):

    1. Supertopo “South Lake Tahoe Climbing” 5 star system
    2. Camp 4 Press “Locals Guide to Rock Climbs of North Tahoe”
    3. Falcon “Rock Climbing Lake Tahoe” 3 star system
    4. mountainproject.com 4 star system
    5. supertopo.com 5 star system
    6. rocknroad.org
    7. thecrag.com

    Big Ass PDF file of Tahoe Area Moderates: TahoeAreaMaster v2

    Selected Climbs (locations generally trending from SW to NE in the area):

    • Sugarloaf / East Face / Scheister, 5.7 trad **** / GBL 1 p34
    • Phantom Spires / Upper Spire / Ginger Bread, 5.7 trad **** / GBL 1 p56
    • Phantom Spires / Middle Spire / Over Easy, 5.7 trad **** / GBL 1 p62 (Thanks, Mat!)
    • Lover’s Leap / Main  Wall / Corrugation Corner, 5.7 trad ***** / GBL 1 p104 Possible to link from Surrealistic Pillar. (Thanks, RR Peter)
    • Echo Lakes / Flagpole Peak / The Ramp, 5.8 trad*** / GBL 3 p140
    • Pie Shop / Left / Crepes Corner, 5.7 trad / GBL 3 p123
    • Eagle Creek Canyon / Eagle Lake Buttress / East Ridge Route, 5.7 trad *** / GBL 3 p84
    • Truckee River Canyon / Big Chief / South Wall / Smoke Signal, 5.10c sport *** / GBL 4 – and many more sport climbs
    • Donner Pass Road / School Rock / Kindergarden Crack Right, 5.7 trad / GBL 2 also GBL 7 +Many moderate trad climbs. (Thanks, RR Peter)
    • Donner Pass Road / Black Wall / One Hand Clapping, 5.9+ trad *** / GBL 4
    • Donner Pass Road / Grouse Slabs / Jellyroll Arch 5.8 trad *** / GBL 4
    • Spooner Crag / Maxwell’s Hammer 5.8+ trad ** / GBL 4
    • Woodfords Canyon / The Fortress / Sun Wall Area / The Perfect Lieback 5.8 trad **** / GBL 4 There’s also a PDF at supertopo.com
    • The Emeralds / The Benches / Negativity Slabs / Little Buddy, 5.10a sport *** / GBL 4 – and many more sport climbs
    • Bowman Valley / Rediscovery Dome / Thin Air, 5.8 trad ** / GBL 4

    I’ve not ticked bouldering as boulder problems are too easy to find.




  • 60 for 60 – Celebrating a Milestone

    click pic for a list of guidebooks


    So I plan to turn 60 this year and feel the need to do something special to celebrate. How about –

    60 new trad / sport / bouldering leads in 60 areas.

    60 new climbs means a new bouldering route, a new sport lead or a new trad lead – no top roped climbs will count . The definition of 60 areas I’m working on, but I definitely plan to expand my usual range.

    I’d really like to hear everyone’s recommendations for classic climbs in your area – it’ll make it more than a tick list if we’re working your local favorites – and better yet if you climb with us. Thanks!

    20131230111402I’m giving myself until the end of the year since my climbing partner has been somewhat out of sorts since 12/29/2013 due to recovering from a rotational elbow dislocation. We’re coming up on 6 months since and she seems to back near full strength – yay!

    Trip Planning

    • Tahoe Area
    • NW California (Bigfoot Country)
    • Oregon / Washington / SW Canada
    • Wyoming / Colorado
    • Utah / Idaho

    Click me to see pictures of the climbs so far

    Keeping Score / Trad Routes

    1. 05/28 Benton, CA / Benton Crags / Locals Only / Get Lost, Trad 5.7 single pitch. Seemed easy; 70m rope is just barely enough!
    2. 06/20 Sonora Pass / Chipmunk Flat / Eastbound Wall / Cornflakes and Classics, Trad 5.7 single pitch. Face to crack to chimney – nice variety. First ever trad lead fall. Beautiful, high quality granite and no crowds!
    3. 06/21 Mammoth Lakes / Horseshoe Slabs / Rodeo Rider, Trad 5.6 single pitch. I don’t recommend it, few opportunities for gear placements and the first one is really sketchy.
    4. 06/26 SF Bay Area / Castle Rock SP / Waterfall Cliff / Leading to Death, Mixed Trad, 5.9. First ever 5.9 trad lead. Watch out for poison oak!

    Keeping Score  / Sport Routes

    1. 04/11 Lone Pine, CA / Alabama Hills / Gunga Din / Alabama Dome / Southern Man, Sport, 5.9; straightforward. Anchors are over a lip which affects the rope pull.
    2. 06/21 Mammoth Lakes / Horseshoe Slabs / Horseman, Sport, 5.10a; great lead for me, heady crux at the first bolt and another crux up high. Highly recommended.

    Keeping Score / Bouldering Problems

    1. 03/10 Bishop, CA / Happy Boulders / Headbanger’s Cave / Beer Tumor Right V4; personal best, a great day.
    2. 05/23 Mammoth Lakes, CA / The Ravine / Various V0’s; recovering from sore elbow, good spot to warm up on varied climbs.
    3. 06/16 Marin County / Mickey’s Beach / The Beach Boulder / V0; beautiful sea shore. Low tide would be good. Our crash pad got a saltwater dunk.
    4. 06/19 Sonora Pass / Donnell Vista / Vista Corner / V0-R; perfect hands crack, kinda highball but you’re leaning in and can’t see the ground so it feels secure.
    5. 06/19 Sonora Pass / Switchback Boulders / Warm Up Wall / Climb 8 in SuperTopo / V1; slab with thin diagonal crack. Hard RH side pull then balancy reach with the LH. Later in the week, we returned and met Kerwin Klein at the Switchbacks. He pulled in talking about rehab for nerve damage and a beer belly, then proceeded to crush everything we were projecting…
    6. 06/23 Bear Valley / Hell’s Kitchen / Roadside Boulder / Northside Crack / V0-; “Perfect, short splitter”. My admiration for proficient crack climbers grows and grows.

  • Turkey / Chipotle Chili

    I’ve yet to try anything chipotle I didn’t love. I’ve bought chipotle powder by the pound and recently tried buying whole chipotles (now by the pound as well). My favorite source is myspicesage on the internet (good to know if you live in the boondocks).

    My process has two major steps –  1) cook the beans and whole chiles; roast the onions and fresh jalapenos then 2) assembly.

    Day One (or in the morning)

    Weigh out 1 lb pinto beans; wash and put in slow cooker. Add 8 whole chipotle peppers, 2–3 peeled garlic cloves and 3 or 4 other dried chiles of whatever variety you have lying around. Cover with water about 2x as deep as the solids, cook on high setting until the beans are tender –  usually takes about 6 hours for me. I start testing them about hour 5 and make sure there is enough water to cover everything.


    Set oven to 375 F. Halve and peel 2 large onions, leaving on the roots. I cut them into about 4 sections, still joined at the roots. Wash 4–6 fresh jalapenos. Put in a baking dish, roast for an hour. Your kitchen is going to acquire a beautiful odor.

    Day Two (or when the beans are ready)

    I use my wok, but any large pot with good heat distribution will do. Have at hand:

    • Ground cumin
    • 2 cups or so of riced roasted tomatoes
    • 3 pounds of ground turkey (probably any ground meat will work)
    • The roasted aromatics
    • The cooked pintos and chiles
    • Salt. Non-iodized if you’re planning on canning.

    Chop the roasted onions (time to get rid of the roots) and jalapenos (remove the stems. Don’t remove the seeds – too much flavor there). I like them rough chopped for a rustic look.

    Put the onions and jalapenos in your pot over medium heat. Break up the ground meat over the veg, cover and cook 15 mins or so. Open, stir, recover and cook until the turkey is cooked through.

    While this is happening, rice the roasted tomatoes. Pick the chiles and garlic out of the beans. Mush the garlic. Remove the stems from the chiles and tear them apart. Again, I like it rustic.

    Once the meat is cooked, pour the tomato / chile / garlic mix over the meat. Add a big palmful of ground cumin. Pour in the cooked pintos. Heat through, stir, let simmer for 15 mins or so. Salt to taste.

    Dig in. I’ve made this over and over and it always comes out around 26 calories per ounce.


    Paleo? Leave out the beans. You’ll need to braise and soften the chipotles somehow.

  • Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

    When it’s time for dessert…

    • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
    • 1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed
    • 1/2 cup sugar (or more wholesome Sucanat)
    • 2 large eggs and 1 yolk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 2 tablespoons bourbon or dark rum (optional)
    • 5 cups cubed day-old brioche (or other bread)
    • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted


    1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

    2. In a large bowl, stir together milk, sweet potato, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon/rum.

    3. In another bowl, toss bread with butter, then fold in sweet potato mix and gently stir to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, around 25 to 30 minutes. Alternately, use a springform pan, the dessert can then be unmolded for a more cake-like presentation that is a bit more elegant.

    4. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream (or clotted cream or mascarpone) sprinkled with extra cinnamon.