Friday, September 23, 2011

Master of the Rocks

Lazy dreaming, originally uploaded by Jen Joynt.
This summer, for the first time, I did some rock climbing in the Sierra.  I got very excited when I read the warnings in the rock climbing guide books about voracious marmots, who would eat anything you left at the base of your climb including empty backpacks.  I had never seen a marmot, so I looked forward to the additional fun of wildlife viewing while climbing.

On our first weekend climbing, we dutifully carried all of our food on the climb and hung the extra backpack in a tree. We climbed all three days of a holiday weekend. But, alas, no marmots.  On our second weekend, I finally saw my first two marmots, lounging on some rocks, a little ways off our approach trail.  But still no marmots hanging around the dome looking to feast on any scraps we left behind while we climbed.

Fortunately, I had good luck finding marmots on a few occasions when I went out with my camera equipment and no climbing equipment.  I particularly enjoyed hanging out with the marmot featured in the top photo and the ones below.  The marmot definitely kept an eye on me, even when I was photographing other critters.
Hello there

Marmot on a rock

Eventually, the marmot set off to feed.  I captured a few photos of the eating, but I was scared off early by some ominous looking clouds.
Sorry, have to keep eating

My favorite marmot encounter of the summer did indeed come while rock climbing (so, alas, no photos).  My partner was leading the first pitch of Cathedral Peak, when a marmot waltzed right by me.  The marmot proceeded to scoot right up the pitch, following our rope, pausing a few times to sniff the rope.  The marmot made quick work of the ascent and stopped just underneath where my partner was placing a piece of protection.  Once the piece was in, I told him to peak over at the marmot, which could not have been more than 10 feet from him.  He did peak over at the marmot, who stood on his rear legs and stared right back.  A great moment.

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