2018 Recap

One of my goals for this year is to write more about our trips and adventures. I’ve been thinking I could write a guide book with all the material that I have, but in order to do that I would have to get better at documenting and organizing it. To get started I’m going to do a quick overview of the trips we did last year.

I thought 2018 was a slow year compared to the previous ones, but now that I sit down and look at everything we have done, I think it’s probably about average. I went on a total of 36 trips, totaling 63 days and 16 nights outdoors. The kids joined me on 24 of those trips (for 41 days and 10 nights). Initially I was thinking I could write a summary about each one, but that would be a very long post! Instead I’m just going to highlight the ones that I enjoyed the most.

None of the trips were particularly challenging. The year was punctuated by several injuries and I’ve been feeling out of shape and more tired than usual. I don’t know if this is a sign of me getting old, or just that I need to slow down and give myself more time to recover. The kids are also growing up, it’s getting easier to take them along, and they both enjoy hiking and climbing, so I’ve been exploring with them more instead of going on personal trips.

Round Top Winter Ascent

Nacho and I try to do two major ascents every year, one in Winter and another in Summer. Last year we tried to climb Round Top, but we didn’t make it. The wind on the ridge was so strong that we could barely stand up and we had to turn around. This time however, the weather was perfect and we made it all the way to the summit. While last year we camped by Winnemucca Lake and tried to summit in the morning, this time we drove up before dawn, arrived at sunrise, and climbed it in a day. Car to car, it took us around 8 hours, a pretty long day for an 11-year-old!

Mt Hood – Spring Road Trip

One of the most exciting events of the year was our Spring break trip. I had committed to climb Mt Hood with MAA and had to drive up there anyway, so I made a family vacation out of it and went with Cristina and the kids. We spent a few days driving north, stopping by the Redwood National Parks, Crater Lake, Smith Rock; camping and hiking along the way, until we arrived to Portland. We rested there a couple of days and then Cristina flew back with the kids, while I stayed behind and tried my luck on an early season ascent of Mt Hood.

The plan was to camp at Illumination Saddle the first day and then attempt to reach the summit on the next. We had a promising start, but as we ascended the weather worsened, and a whiteout set over the mountain. We did not only have strong winds and zero visibility, but the mist was getting everyone wet. Most of us were not ready for such humid conditions and we had to setup an emergency camp next to the Palmer lift.

I had a terrible night. My wet clothes were soaking my down bag. I could not get my body to warm up, let alone catch any sleep. Morale was low and everyone expected to get back down the next morning. However, when I got out of the tent at 3 AM the sky was clear and the wind was gone! Excited I woke everyone up, headed up with 6 other climbers, and made it to the summit.

Enchanted Pools of Desolation Wilderness

This was the kids’ favorite trip of 2018 and is certainly one of our greatest discoveries. The Enchanted Pools are a series of swimming holes, shallow pools, cascades, and water slides along the drainage of Twin Lakes in Desolation Wilderness. To get there you have to hike out of trail and occasionally wade, swim, and scramble. You also have to time it right: Too early and the water will be freezing and the currents too strong. Too late and the creek will be dry and you will only find pools of stagnant water. On July 1st of 2018 conditions were perfect. I’d like to write more about this some day, but for now I’ll just tease you with a couple of pictures.

Wedding at The Yuba

I’m lucky to have a wife that tolerates (and sometimes enjoys) my adventures. We got married in 2017, but this summer we invited our family and friends to celebrate with us doing what we both enjoy the most: playing outdoors and soaking in water.

It was amazing to have so many of our family and friends join us and to share with them some of the places we love. I don’t really like how weddings are celebrated in the US and we wanted to do something more intimate and personal, and a little more adventurous. I’m really happy with how things turned out!

We rented a large vacation house near Nevada City, camped around the property, went on excursions to Lake Tahoe, the Yuba and its surroundings, and had a lovely ceremony by the river. We didn’t hire any wedding or catering service, but instead did everything on our own, it was a team effort. Our only regret is not hiring a photographer to capture it in more detail.

Echo Peaks – End of the Summer

I was lucky to get backpacking permits in Tuolumne Meadows for the last weekend before the school starts, I had to reserve these 6 months in advance! The year before Nacho and I had a blast climbing Unicorn Peak and we had set our eyes on Echo Peak, a taller peak on the same ridge composed of multiple class 4 summits. Our goal was to climb as many of them as we could. To save weight I didn’t carry a rope, but seeing him solo that terrain was a bit unnerving. He didn’t think it was big deal (and it probably wasn’t), but I was freaking out a little.

Joshua Tree – Fall Road Trip

We have been going to Joshua Tree every Fall for the last few years, but this trip was special for two reasons. First, Maia is becoming a confident climber and I was excited to have her practice her new skills outdoors. Second, I rented a pretty cool camper van and we got to experience the “van” life for a few days.

Days are short in the Fall and I try to spend them outdoors, which means that I do most of the driving during the night. The hardest part of these trips is getting to our destination, cooking dinner and setting up camp in the cold dark with the kids half asleep. In this respect the van made things a lot easier. The bed was super comfortable; we still had to sleep in our sleeping bags, but the luxurious memory foam mattress made a big difference. On the other side, I feel like it disconnects you from the place and detracts from some of the adventure. While in the past the kids would get out and start scrambling and exploring as soon as the sun came out, in the van it was much harder to get things moving in the morning, and I have no stories to share about waking up in the middle of a sand storm to anchor the tent to avoid flying away. All in all, I think it was a positive experience, and I’m already dreaming about the day I get to afford to have my own van.

The trip itself was great. On the way there we spent a day at Pinnacles National Park, hiked the High Peaks trail, explored the Bear Gulch cave system, and were lucky to see some condors from really close. In Joshua Tree we revisited some of our favorite locations and explored some new climbing areas, and on the way back we stopped by some of the Redwood Groves in Sequoia National park and hiked to the fire lookout on top of The Needles.

What’s next?

I’ve decided I’m going to stop leading trips for MAA. I’m enormously grateful for the opportunities the club has given me, the friendships I’ve made, and everything I’ve learned from them. However, organizing and leading trips is stressful, distracting, and time consuming. While I’m not going to stop climbing, I’m going to focus on doing that with my friends and my family.

I think Maia is ready for her first winter ascent, I’m planning to take her to Castle Peak in a few weeks. Nacho should be able to climb Pyramid Peak this Winter, and maybe Tenaya this Summer. For Spring break I’d like to do a family trip to the Grand Canyon. As for me I also need goals to keep training and stay motivated. I’d like to get back to the Tetons, climb Mt Moran, Teewinot, and revisit the Grand through a different route. It would also be great to do some backpacking over there with the kids and take them to Yellowstone. Closer to home in California I have such a large ‘to do’ list that it would require another post!


  1. Thanks for sharing your adventures! It’s great to see programmers getting out and enjoying nature.

    I had a great experience climbing Cathedral Peak with my father years ago. We went up the south approach, which is the right side in your camp photo. California certainly has some real gems. Stay safe out there!

    1. Yeah, the SE Buttress of Cathedral is one of my favorite climbs, I would love to do it with my kids some day, but it will be a while before they can belay me. The descent route would be a much easier alternative and either way the views from the top are amazing!

  2. Hola Bala, soy Merche del cole. Me encanta leer y ver todo lo que haces y las fotos que pones en Facebook. Eres admirable, un saludo

  3. Nice post! I like to hear about the other activities of programmers besides their technical projects. It’s a huge part of my life and it makes me a bit sad that so many of my colleagues seem to do nothing but program… there’s so much else to do out there.

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