Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wish List - 2009 Objectives

In late 2007 I already had a small list of climbing accomplishments that I was looking for in 2008. A few of them were not met, but others that I didn't think to put on the list were. This year, I'm hoping to make a list and stick closer to it, but be open to other options.

Some objectives from 2008 that I am interested in keeping on the list for 2009:
West Ridge of Prusik Peak
West Ridge of Thomson
NE Ridge of Triumph

Some familiar objectives for 2009 with a twist:
Ski ascent of Sahale (You and me Sammy!)
Ski approach for the Tooth (Sammy?)
Ski approach for Ingalls
Ski Mt. St. Helens
Ski Mt. Adams
Winter ascent of Mt. Rainier (Julie)

Some new objectives for the year:
NE Buttress of Goode (A mid season addition to last year's list.)
Curious Cube at Static Point
Tatoosh traverse (including Unicorn Peak)
SW Rib of South Early Winter Spire
Concord Tower North Face or Cave (or both)
The Mole North Face
Torment > Forbidden Traverse

Some revisiting:
Outerspace (leading) @ Snow Creek Wall

I don't expect to accomplish all these outings, but I will try to fit them in where I can. One of my objectives for the year is to be more flexible with scheduling. I found that in 2008 I often scheduled a climb and either the weather or time frame was not ideal. This caused some climbs that could have resulted in summits not reach the summit. My hope is to have multiple locations planned and several backups for the conditions the weather throws at me. Hopefully my future work schedule will cooperate.

This list isn't so much a long term list, but a development list. I am anticipating the goals escalating year after year.

At this time I am also going to be looking out for partners for some of these climbs. Let me know if you are interested, and I'll let you know if I have a partner already, and if you want to come along.

Kendall Knob - 12.31.08

Dan and I headed out to the Kendall Knob/clear cut area for some quick backcountry turns this morning. It turns out we didn't stay long.

What I have been learning is you need speed to easily execute turns in deep powder. I managed to do that last week at Hyak. However, trees were added to the equation today, and this made it more difficult to want to go fast. It is all a learning curve. On a positive note, I did not hit any trees. I did crash hard when catching a ski on buried alder.

Dan and I found the snow to be deep. Skinning was tiring. It snowed and the wind blew the whole time we were out. Dan had difficulty extricating himself a few times. I had difficulty with the one crash. A little more snow coverage would have made things somewhat easier.

We dug a snow pit at our high point to investigate the snow pack. Mostly soft snow for the top 30". We did a tap test and were able to have a 4" top slide with wrist taps on a fairly low angle slope. (~25° heavily treed) Often we heard the Alpental ski patrol bombing the slopes. (It was sort of scary.)

We made one run through the trees, and called it quits. By the time we left, I90 Eastbound was closed.

Dan breaking trail through trees

The view before conditions deteriorated.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A night in the Desert - 12.28.08

Jennifer wanted to get out while she was on break from College. She was interested in a snow shoe, but avalanche danger was high in the mountains, and quite frankly, I didn't really feel like going for a snow shoe.

We decided to spend two days in the central Washington desert instead. We were going to see some geological history (Dry Falls) and some Native American history (Lenore Lake Caves.) The goal was to drive out Sunday. We would set up camp at a state park, and then hike. The following day we would take down camp, go for a hike and come home.

Things started out good with a snowy drive up to Snoqualmie Pass. After the pass, the skies cleared, and it was sunny and cold. We found Sun Lakes State Park with no problems and soon became the only people intending to camp there. (And really, the only people using the park.) Sadly, I brought the wrong poles for the tent, and this meant setting the fly up as a tarp, but that did not deter us. We settled on a camp site and decided to set the tarp up later and go for a hike around Umatilla Rock.

Almost immediately our hike became interesting. Near our campsite we witnessed a hawk take one of the quails. We then started down the road to our destination. Snow coverage was about 8-16" depending on drifting etc. The trail is mostly road, and some sections even seem like they were recently plowed. It would have been nice snow for XC skiing. After a bit we arrived at an intersection with a sign and map indication trails. We opted to circle Umatilla Rock counterclockwise, and proceeded to take an off trail course in that direction. We saw and followed many coyote tracks, and even saw a den, but we never did see a coyote. Later, near the far (north) end of Umatilla Rock, we witnessed a good sized rock fall off Umatilla Rock. The scenery was beautiful, and we had the coulee all to ourselves. Once on the west side of Umatilla Rock, we regained the road, and hiked back to camp during sunset.

We set up the fly between two trees before preparing dinner. After dinner and an evening walk, we went to bed. (around 7:30pm) I fell asleep quite easily, but Jennifer could never get warm, and at 11pm woke me up to let me know she was going to sleep in the car. I stuck it out outside, and awoke at 7am to snow falling on my face. I went to wake Jennifer in the car, and we noticed that the Nalgene in the car was icy. Apparently, Jennifer couldn't keep the inside of the car warm enough to keep water from freezing. The NWS had predicted a low of 22°, which didn't seem that cold to me.

After we sorted ourselves out, we headed to Lake Lenore Caves. These are caves left by the Great Missoula Flood, which Native Americans have used for millennia. It was a short hike with some interesting caves. We entered most of them and looked for petroglyphs, but did not see any. Unfortunately, vandals have put graffiti in most of the caves. It snowed the whole time we were out on Monday, and we had a long drive back to I90 on snow covered secondary roads. Fortunately, not all 200 miles of driving was done under snowy conditions.

Dry Falls pics are here.
Cave pics are here.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I'm going to have to change the title of this blog if I keep posting like this. (No trip report, just rambling.)

I realized that I don't love skiing. Not yet at least. I got into skiing as a more efficient (is it?) method of snow travel than snowshoeing. So far most of my ski experience was not about travel, but about learning to ski. Two trips of note that were traveling trips were Camp Muir and Source Lake. (thanks Sammy) My trips so far this winter have been about gaining practice and are still learning experiences for me. Similar to going out to rock climb at a crag. I have only recently started enjoying trips to the crags, even though I still consider them practice for alpine climbs. At this time, trips to Silver Basin and Hyak are snow crags, practice for when I attempt something more difficult or more remote.

It isn't that I don't enjoy skiing. In fact I sometimes really enjoy it. (Like my November trip to Heliotrope Ridge.) Often, I find myself attempting not to get hurt, or trying not to fall down. I guess that is part of the learning curve. However, when I forget about falling and keep my thoughts to skiing, it becomes quite enjoyable. Like my second run at Hyak on Saturday. I still fell, but I was able to enjoy the run more.

I went out for a XC ski yesterday and today around the neighborhood. Initially it was the same. The more I think about falling, the harder the skiing becomes and the less I enjoy it. Once I stop thinking negative, the skiing comes more naturally and I enjoy it more. Although with the conditions in the neighborhood, it is somewhat difficult to enjoy. (Breakable crust, rutted compact snow.)

I guess like climbing, the more you do it, the less you think about the negative aspects, and more you enjoy it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hyak - 12.20.08

What a difference a week makes. Although not in temperatures. (Telemetry shows the temp at Hyak today never exceeded 8°F during the time we were there.)

Julie and I headed to Hyak for a skin/ski trip. Snoqualmie has not yet opened Hyak or Alpental, due to "lack of snow." While it was adequate for skiing, it was probably not suitable for commercial skiing. A few more feet should hide the remaining conifer tops and all the alder. We decided on this location due to the 'short' drive, and moderate to high avalanche danger. Also, there was a "deadly" storm scheduled to hit later in the day, and we wanted to be home before that.

There were quite a few people out with the same idea. But, not as many as I saw last week at the Silver Basin. There was about a dozen or so "backcountry" skiers there. Probably a half dozen Nordic skiers and a few snowshoers. (Or is that slowshoers?)

The idea was to skin under the Keechelus Chair and then figure out what made sense for the descent. Under the chair was somewhat skied out, but it was the obvious line. There was a nice skin track on the way up, and we had no issues arriving at the top. At least that is what I thought. Julie lagged behind a bit, but I believed it to be because this was her first skin since the spring. When she arrived at the top, she explained that her back was bothering her and she was unsure about how the descent would affect it.

After some mulling about, we decided to descend under the chair. (The way we came up.) Julie was interested in attempting some powder as she did not have great success last season with deep powder. I too was interested, as my ski day last Sunday was less than ideal. We took our time on the way down with a couple of stops for Julie to reattach her ski. Near the bottom, we took the cat track as it didn't have as many alder branches sticking through it. (It didn't have any actually.) It was an alright run.

It was now 10:45am. Due to her back, Julie did not feel up to another run. I negotiated with her that I would head up and be back to the car by noon. To my surprise, I was able to skin all the way to the top and have a nice run back down in time to leave the parking lot at 11:55am. The second run was really nice for me. I was able to link turns and build some speed. I crashed once and arrived back at the car with snow pouring out of my clothes. I skied well.

(Photo by Julie Labrecque)
My photos are here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Silver Basin - 12.14.08

With a cold snap in effect, and recent heavy snowfall, Dan, Chris and I headed to Crystal Mountain to access some backcountry snow.

We left Seattle around 6am with a temp around 28°. The web told us that it was currently 1° in the Crystal Mountain parking lot. We hoped the temp would rise. The drive out was long due to snowy roads from Seattle all the way to the ski area. It was still in single digits as we left the parking lot to go ski. Ski patrol told us there were a few sloughs on Saturday, but avy danger was low. They also told us that there was zero chance of precip (which directly conflicted with the 50% change the NWS forecast.) It ended up snowing a bit while we were out, and the temp was still only 8° when we returned to the car.

The skin in is fairly easy and uneventful. We skinned under the Quicksilver chair at the ski area, then you go through the woods and over the lake to the Basin. (Not grandmother's house.) The upper basin looked really steep from below, but after skiing it, I would say it was a mild black diamond run.

We made a decision on our first runs not to skin to the top and ski the main/middle portion of the bowl. We instead traversed out to skier's left and had a run down there. Turning in the deep powder was difficult for me. And I really had to stay pointed downhill if I wanted to keep moving as the snow was slow. My first run was uneventful and made me feel good that I didn't fall, but no so great, as I wasn't having an easy time with the conditions.

Dan and Chris agreed that the first run was a bit short and wanted to reach the top of the ridge for the second run. I agreed, although I knew it would be just more distance I may be struggling to ski down. Skinning up to the top seemed more tiring, even though it was not that much further. Perhaps it was all the time we spent outside in single digit (negative?) temps? On the way to the top, there were 11 people ahead of us. (The Silver Basin probably saw 30+ skiers/boarder on Sunday.) We thought there might be competition for lines and crowding. However, in the last 50' of vertical to the ridge, there were 30mph sustained winds. No longer was the condition light powder, but wind blown and crusty. Dan reached the ridge first and tried to hide in the trees from the wind. I arrived and started my transition. When Chris arrived Dan took off to make room for him. I waited until Chris was mostly transitioned and I headed down. The first few turns on the windblown were predictable and decent. Below that the slope transitioned back into deep powder where I fell a few times. I met up with the guys and we decided that going back to the car was a good idea. (It also appeared that most of the others who came out to the basin felt that way as the crowds disappeared after our second run. We then skied out and back to the car.

Unfortunately for me, this was a reminder of how difficult it is for me to ski backcountry powder. I am definitely getting better at it, but it is not easy for me. I feel that next time I need to be a bit more aggressive and I will ski better.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Year End - Best of 2008 - Recap

OK, so it is not December 31. But the way things have been going lately, I doubt something else cool is going to happen in the mountains for me. So here it is.

Back in October, Ian asked Lori and I what our favorite climb of the year was. Lori and I had the discussion earlier and both felt it was Lost Charms. This is partially due to the independence that we each felt doing the climb as well as my performance on the day and my general attitude about the climb. Ian said if we separated the emotions involved what would we say. I've been thinking about this, and I am not sure it is possible to separate emotions from the climb, at least not for me.

Lost Charms was an interesting choice for me as a leading candidate for best of year, because Julie and I had a somewhat difficult approach and were about to head back to the car to head to Index or Leavenworth. Perhaps that is an element that made it great, overcoming that obstacle. However, I also feel that the climbing was fairly sustained, and it was my first time at Static Point and climbing that grade slab. I climbed flawlessly that day and did not have a concern for the time. Another aspect that may have made a huge mental (and obviously physical) difference was actually having lunch on time. The weather was great, and that always contributes to positive energy as well.

Sure there are other contenders. I would be remiss if I did not mention the 4-star routes of Outer Space, Dreamer, and Givler's Crack. All have various reasons perhaps for not being at the top of the list. Outer Space was mostly following for me, Dreamer we didn't finish, and Givler's was too short. As an additional element for losing the top spot, both Outer Space and Dreamer were a bit rushed feeling. Outer Space due to the late start and waiting behind other parties. Dreamer due to our fouled approach and the grade IV nature of the climb and the shortening October days. With little doubt, the fifth pitch of Outer Space was probably the greatest pitch I climbed all year. In 2009 I plan to revisit both of those routes, and will most likely have a different opinion.

Other "honorable mentions" could go to skiing the Muir Snowfield, Garibaldi Peak, The SW Face of The Tooth. For the Camp Muir ski, it would be considering I had only learned to ski 6 months prior. I felt that to be a major accomplishment. I doubt I will ever travel to Camp Muir on foot again. Garibaldi Peak for really trying something a little difficult in an absolutely beautiful area. Going to Garibaldi Provincial Park was great, and really amazing. I will definitely be heading back. The SW Face of The Tooth was great because it was doing a new route on a familiar peak. The climbing was fun, and the weather was great.

Here's to hoping for an equally tough list to chose from next year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mt. Hood - 11.29.08

Sometimes the weather does not cooperate.

This is my first non-trip report. Julie, Dan and I had planned to ski/board Mount Hood. For Julie and I it would be more of a ski learning experience. I'm pretty sure Dan would have no problems with the sliding part. The goal was to skin to the Hogsback, foot it up to the summit and ski down to the parking lot. Forecasts for Hood for Saturday started out fantastic. (0% chance of precip, "Sunny") By the time we were about to leave for Hood, the forecast had taken a bit of a turn, but not enough to discourage going. (It had been changed to partly cloudy with no precip.)

When we arrived in the parking lot for Timberline Lodge, it was 37° and raining. I assumed it would pass as it was supposed to rain/snow a bit Friday. However, as we woke up late on summit day, it was still 37° and cold rain was still falling. Dan and I packed up the tent and we all jumped in the car to leave.

This was an interesting attempt and it shows that weather forecasting is not an exact science. Best I can tell, the system that was supposed to pass through Friday, came late and was not done passing through when we left Saturday morning. The rain was definitely melting snow at the 6000' level, and may have been falling as heavy wet snow higher up. But, visibility was very low, and we would have had to mostly hike up to snow from the parking lot. Not ideal. When is the snow pack going to be good?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heliotrope Ridge - 11.23.08

Dan and I decided to earn our turns at Heliotrope Ridge on Sunday. Trip Reports all week were coming back in decent favor of the Heliotrope Ridge area. Since the area received new snow since the trip reports, we figured it would be in great condition.

We arrived in the brisk 32° parking lot around 8:30am. The only issue we could complain about was the lack of coverage. There is not enough snow in the woods to skin. (Although it appears some people tried.) This involved hiking in my randonee boots and Dan in his board boots. Once above tree line, the snow coverage was not too great, but we started skinning anyway. Winds were high and we even considered turning around. I lobbied to see what was over the rise. After all, the seven people in front of us did not turn around. When we got up to the upper slopes, we were reminded why we came. Two skiers were making first tracks from a high point on the ridge as we followed the skin track up.

We got the the top, and went to the high point on the ridge. Then it time for turns. Dan went first off of two steeper lips and stopped to take pics of me skiing down. Off the second lip, I fell. Although mostly just laid down into the slope. Got up and made some nice turns to Dan's location. The snow was soft and my skis penetrated it by 3-5". We took turns riding down to take photos of each other. Once about halfway down the slope, we returned to the skin track to have lunch. It was about 12:30pm.

After lunch we skinned back up to a high point further east on the ridge and decided to take a line down a mostly untracked convex hill. We reached the top, and once again hiked to the summit of a small pinnacle before removing skins and riding down. This run was top notch and super fun. We skied to the bottom of the main hill and decided to make an attempt at riding out as far as possible.

Things went fairly well on the way out, but I hit a thin patch and after hearing three "clicks" I decided to stop. The snow got fat again immediately after I removed my skies, but the boot hiking I did afforded me the opportunity to stumble onto a gathering of ptarmigans in full Winter plumage. I finally reached Dan, and we hiked out. We arrived at the car at 3:30pm after leaving it at 9am in the morning.

Overall, the weather was great (except for the 30mph gusts at times.) Dan and I and the two dozen others up there were all in great spirits and you couldn't stop hearing people saying things like "you cannot ruin this day." It was a fantastic way to break into the ski season.

Dan's pics are here.

My pics are here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dry Tooling - 11.02.08

Went on a dry tooling field trip with the club on Sunday. We went to a small crag specifically used for dry tooling practice near the road side in Issaquah. There are 4-5 top roped variations on the wall ranging from 5.5 to 5.9. It was interesting climbing 5th class rock with crampons on. We started the day with just crampons and using hands instead of ice tools. After a brief hail shower, we started up the routes with tools which made me concentrate even more on my footwork. While sometimes the tools felt really great in their placements, other times they felt like they would pop if you moved up on them. I plan to go back and get some more practice in as it was enjoyable, and interesting. Due to the anticipated precip, I did not even bring a camera.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Leavenworth - 10.28.08

After last week's trip to Leavenworth, Lori decided there shouldn't be anything keeping us from a return trip to give Classic Crack another shot. So we decided to go out and warm up on a few other cracks before attempting to tackle Classic Crack.

One thing I can say is, the Leavenworth climbing season is coming to an end. When we left the car around 10am, it was still around 40° out. As soon as the sun goes behind the ridge or clouds, it tends to get real chilly as well.

We started out on a crack we had dubbed "Puppy Crack" a few weeks earlier. This because we thought it was Dogleg Crack, but it is shorter (and easier.) After "Puppy Crack" we set up a top rope on Dogleg Crack. From a technical rating standpoint, it turns out Dogleg Crack, 5.8+ is not a particularly good warm up for Classic Crack, also at 5.8+. (We didn't realize it had the "+" until we were already trying to climb it.)

After a few attempts each, we both successfully climbed it without hanging or falling. The key for me was unlocking the right foot moves on the thin face while on the lower portion of the crack. After that, the crack climbs straight up for a bit, (easiest part of the climb) and then to the dogleg. After we were both confident about Dogleg Crack, we moved on to Classic Crack.

It was getting late, and neither of us felt comfortable about going unbelayed to the the anchor at the top, so we belayed it, and both rapped off, while I set a directional. Lori gave it the first shot, and was able to climb it to the top with a few hangs and hollers. I started climbing and did not get too far off the ground when I once again had difficulty unlocking delicate foot moves. After some hanging, Lori had to lower me as she was in an uncomfortable situation at the belay up top. I told her to clean the anchor and rap off as it was getting late, and I was getting chilly.

Overall, I have noticed for me that it is still the footwork that takes priority when crack climbing. Unlocking the moves on the lower portion of Dogleg Crack made all the difference on that route. Due to the right leaning nature of the lower crack, your right foot needs to be on the face through that section. Mostly Lori and I figured that you used the right foot stances just to bump up the left foot in the crack, and that the left foot was used for moving up the crack. A similar issue occurred for me on Classic Crack. The previous week I had got farther up the climb. However, I believe I muscled (pull up) my way through the delicate foot work, which tired me out. This time, I was having difficulty unlocking a move I had no difficulty getting past last time, but was attempting to climb it in better style. So I think when crack climbing gets hard for me, I will not blame the jams, but look to the feet.

My pics are here.

Lori's pics are here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sperry/Vesper - 10.25.08

Due to the mixed nature of an alpine rock climb this time of year, Julie and I decided on a scramble. The goal was the Sperry/Vesper combo. Only as I sat down to write this did I realize we did not summit Sperry, and were really not on Sperry at any point. More on this confusion later.

The hike was mostly uneventful early. Autumn colors were beautiful, as clouds broke and built. We had some off trail time below Headlee Pass on the talus, but this was corrected with no significant loss of time. There was a fair amount of snow below Headlee Pass, with more than 12" on the ground from the 4300' elevation up. We were somewhat surprised by this since there hadn't been much precip this week, and we saw no new snow near the Tooth at levels to 5000'+. Anyway, the snow up to Headlee Pass was of a decent quantity to not hinder our ascent.

After Headlee Pass, we traversed over to "Vesper Lake." This is where going got slow. The talus/boulder fields that lie in the basin had similar snow coverage. Which in a boulder field meant enough to hide problems, but not enough to protect you from them. One had to be careful not to twist an ankle. On an related note, the lake at approximately 5000' was frozen over.

Now for the Sperry explanation:
Being somewhat lackadaisical about the trip, neither Julie or I packed a map. (The USGS map clearly labels Sperry Peak.) All we had to go on was the description and map in the "75 Scrambles in Washington" book. The map should have been enough, but for some reason we saw the unnamed hump on the ridge as Sperry. (I'll take the blame for this.) We started around the right side of the lake as the book told us, and thought that it would take forever, as the going was really slow with the moderately snow covered boulders and slabs. It is probably for the better we did not attempt both, as our 9 hour day would have been at least 2 hours longer.

Since we had already decided that the hump on the ridge was Sperry, it was an easy decision to go straight toward it from the south end of the lake. We picked a line up the slope and made our way to the summit. (The lack of tracks in the snow could have tipped us off, but did not.) We made our way to within 20' of the summit as there were some exposed moves on snow covered rock that we were not interested in. It was now about noon, and we sat down to eat lunch.

After lunch we headed to Vesper. We retraced our steps to the saddle between the hump and Vesper and proceeded up. After the initial snow slope, going got slow again as we had to post-hole our way between rocks and delicately cross snow covered slabs. About an hour later we were on the summit of Vesper. We dallied for a bit and started to head back down. The same slowness ensued although somewhat aided by our ability to retrace our steps. At some point we left our steps and found someone else's steps and followed them down to the crossing at Vesper Creek.

The hike out was uneventful, save for some late starting hikers trying to make it to the lake. What's up with late starts and unprepared hiking in the snow?

My pics are located here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leavenworth 10.21.08

Ian, Lori and I headed up the Icicle to get some late season cragging in. Ian was interested in leading Classic Crack and we were all going to top-rope it. Slightly cold but decent weather was in store, and on a Tuesday in October, we could pretty much guess there wouldn't be a line at Classic Crack.

We climbed most of the routes on the 8-mile rock. Lori and I were disappointed with our attempts at the old school 5.8 Classic Crack, after we cruised the 5.7 Givler's Crack a few weeks earlier. We were expecting our performances to be better. My morning performance was really weak as I couldn't even manage a clean ascent of the 5.7 Mickey Mantle. I felt somewhat redeemed when I was able to climb Twin Cracks (5.8) fairly easily as our last attempt at 8-mile rock. Ian lost a #1 C4 Camalot deep into Classic Crack. A NOLS group showed up and they said they would attempt to retrieve it. (They were unsuccessful.)

We then hiked up to Be-Bop Rock where Ian and Lori both led Bit of Heaven, a slabby 10a. I gave it a go on top-rope, then led the uninspiring 5.6 Junior's Cookin'. At that point, the sun went behind the ridge, and it was time to head home.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of finally trying to climb Classic Crack. I was hoping for a better performance, and I'm not going to let that get me down.

Ian and Be-Bop Rock.

Autumn in the Icicle.

Hiking out.

Lori's pics are here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Tooth - South Face - 10.18.08

With the days shortening and the temps dropping, Julie and I were thinking of at least one more alpine summit this season. The original plan of the East Ridge of Ingall's Peak seemed a bit snowy and cold, so we opted for the South Face of The Tooth. It is only an hour drive, and we had both done the route, and we could see how much snow there was higher up. Plus the partly/mostly sunny forecast and south facing nature, meant relatively warm temps.

So we headed out Saturday morning at a leisurely pace to The Tooth. We were the second car in the parking lot that wasn't related to some type of Alpental Ski Patrol meeting. We left the parking lot in clouds and heavy dampness. The closer we got to The Tooth, the better the skies appeared. When we got to Pineapple Pass, it was quite cold, but at least the rock was dry.

Julie started up the first pitch with gloves on while I belayed with my poofy and gloves. I followed the first pitch with the gloves on and the poofy, and took them both off before starting off the lead on the second pitch. (We were now in the sun.) The next two pitches went off without a hitch, and then we were sitting on top of The Tooth by ourselves.

Four rappels later, and we were greeted by a soloist at Pineapple Pass who was looking to get a decent time for a car to car trip. The hike out was under clearer skies, and beautiful fall colors. Even though it was mid October, the weather was nice enough that we would have expected to see more people climbing. We're glad we didn't as it made for a really pleasant experience, and an 8 hour car to car climb.

My pics are located here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Green Giant Buttress - Dreamer - 10.11.08

Finally, our schedules and weather cooperated to let Steve and I climb together. Since it was early October, and the snow level was around 5000' most of the week, we decided alpine options would be a little cold and snowy (for rock climbing.) We made the decision Thursday night to make an attempt at Dreamer (5.9) on Green Giant Buttress.

Temps were hovering around freezing as we made the drive out to Darrington Saturday morning. The drive in is pretty straight forward. Although with a standard sedan, you may wish to stop earlier than Steve and I. (We bottomed the car on rocks a few times.) A high clearance 4WD could get even further than we did. Our driving progress stopped at a slight pullout on the left of the road just before a ditch.

We started hiking the road and after a 1/4 mile came to the point all vehicles would have to stop. Brush got thicker, but it was never that much of a bushwhack. Beta for the approach was accurate, and after some point in time we were near old mining debris and crossing the "braided stream." This is where is got slightly tricky. We approached the base of the "three tiered waterfall" as described in the approach. There was a very faint trail through serious vegetation right at the base of the falls. It did not look easily passable. So Steve and I hiked up a slippery slab at the first tier of the waterfall and found a more suitable looking path. We did a not so fun bushwhack up this path for about 10 minutes until it became a dead end. We hiked back down and found the correct bushwhack start from the falls. Which was at the base of the slab we climbed. It is currently marked by a log going up from the water into the bushes.

Once we found the correct drainage, things started going more smoothly. A bit of bushwhacking and we were back to homo erectus. Now on semi-wet slabs scrambling up the drainage. Near the top of the drainage we had a choice, go right up something that looked like the side of a moraine (Rock loosely embedded in dirt.) or go up a "path" to the left. We wrongly chose path. If we had looked at the beta, we would have correctly gone right and taken less time and danger to reach the base of the route, but instead this is what followed:

Photo by Steve Machuga.

We scrambled 3rd and 4th class slabs for a bit. (And possibly some 5th class moves.) We even got out the rope at one point. Then the rock eased a bit, and we were finally near the base, where another party had left a pack. We geared up and from what I can tell, scrambled some 4th or 5th class up to the base. (Actually we got the rope out again for the final bit to the base.) At this point it was close to five hours since we left the car.

I led out on the first pitch, and according to Nelson's topo, combined it with the second pitch. From where we started, we were just shy of a full rope length, so there was about 15' of simul-climbing that Steve and I had to do to reach the anchor. Because I am blind, I totally missed the three bolt anchor and slung a bush and brought Steve up.

Steve started out on the next pitch, which looked too run-out for my taste. (Once again, we couldn't see bolts correctly and this pitch was somewhat off-route.) This pitch is supposed to go right and then up, but the bolts we could see were directly up and then far right. It wasn't until it was too late to turn around that we saw the bolt directly right of the belay, and the line of bolts leading up below the bolt we "aimed" for. Steve felt "our" variation was in the 5.10a land. This wouldn't surprise me, as the first bolt he clipped was on the Urban Bypass, which I believe goes at 10a. He made a scary run-out traverse over dirty rock to reach the next bolt. (No pics, as I was watching him closely.) I followed up behind, taking what may have been a slightly easier path.

We got to the next pitch where I led off on somewhat run-out knobby slab. The climbing was enjoyable and got the heart beating a bit. Steve led up the next pitch which had some awkward moves up what was called a 5.7 corner. The pitch was fun and ending in the most comfortable belay stance since the top of the first pitch. Steve led out on the next pitch which is the one Dreamer is known for. It starts in a shallow corner with easier climbing. It then goes to the top of a pillar, where a bolt is clipped. Then traverses right with no protection up to the bottom of a large flake. Then a 5.9 traverse back left and over the flake to enter "The Blue Crack." An awkward, 5.9 flake/crack that brings you up to the next hanging belay. Steve led it in fine style. I got cold at the belay as the sun went behind the ridge. I was getting tired and I think the cold I was getting all week finally was getting the upper hand. I followed behind, but felt really tired. (I also hadn't eaten a lunch yet.) I took a fall midway through the 5.9 traverse. Regained my composure, but had to struggle the rest of the way up the pitch. At the top, I asked Steve what time it was, and he said 4:30pm. I told him we had two hours of daylight, and it was in our best interest to descend.

This turned out to be a wise decision, as we had minor difficulties rapping with daylight. (One rap left Steve 15' shy of the anchor, and I had to lower him.) I had to make an intermediate stop to make sure I would reach the next anchor. On the last two raps, the other party reached us, and we shared their ropes for the final raps. I was a little slow packing up, and we lost them going into the bushwhack. We turned on our headlamps and headed downhill. Steve and I then proceeded to march around (through?) vine maples for what seemed an eternity before we regained the gully where we should have left it in the morning. The rest of the scramble/swhack/hike out was uneventful, but all by headlamp.

Overall, the climbing on Dreamer is a step up from what I am used to doing. I think my difficulties with the 5.9 pitch were more due to fatigue than my climbing ability, but I will most likely have to wait until next year to tackle that climb again.

Pics are located here.
(I included Steve's pics as well.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leavenworth - Gilver's Dome - 10.05.08

With a somewhat grim weather forecast for the weekend, Saturday was a write off. But Sunday looked promising on the east side of the Cascades. Lori and I made plans Saturday to head up Sunday morning. Rain occurred most of the drive over including areas NE of Steven's Pass where the snow level was reaching down below 4000'. We were not optimistic. Upon arriving in Leavenworth with the clouds breaking up, spirits heightened.

The goal for the day was the 4-star classic: Givler's Crack. It is a two pitch climb with a 5.8 crux right off the ground and a long second pitch with a really awesome 5.7 hand crack. Lori led off the first pitch in great style and was soon at the belay. After some decision making on which crack she should take to get there. (There is an alcove after the crux, with two cracks leading up to the belay ledge. Lori took the left crack.) The second pitch starts at the base of a hand crack that goes straight up the face. I cannot say anything else about the crack other than the climbing was awesome! After about 20m, the angle eases and then eases again before reaching a boulder for the belay. I brought Lori up and we hung out a bit before walking down to our packs.

With the time being around 1pm, we hunted around for our next objective. We found it in Rare Earth (5.10a), a steep bolted slab. I felt unsure of climbing it, and let Lori have the lead. She progressed slowly up the slab with some minor detours that were perhaps easier ground. After a fall around the fifth bolt, she cruised up the second unrelenting half of the climb. I followed the pitch but had to take twice as it felt my feet were going to burst into flame. Because of my height, the first three bolts went easily, but the second half of the climb really did not have breaks. It was a relief to finally arrive at the anchor.

We hiked back down to the packs and proceeded to climb Freewheelin' (5.7). A short crack with a slab finish a little to the left of Rare Earth. I found the start awkward and bypassed it somewhat with a flake to the left. I lie backed the flake until I had a decent opportunity to gain the crack. After having climbed Givler's Crack, this climb was disappointing. The crack was flaring and did not take jams well. It ended quickly and then picked up as a very thin crack to the right that wouldn't even accept my fingers. A brief stint in the second crack led to a slab with a bolt which didn't seem necessary after climbing Rare Earth. I brought Lori up, and we proceeded to our next destination.

Our final goal of the day was to climb Dogleg Crack(5.8) at Alphabet Rock. We had some difficulty getting down from Freewheelin' and spend a while hiking over to Alphabet Rock. Interestingly, we found a crack we though was the Dogleg, but was too short and did not have an anchor at/near the top. We then realized we were too far right and found the correct route and proceeded to set up a top rope. I was too tired at the end of the day and gave up without really having completed a move. Lori attempted the route and had difficulty with the lower crack and then proceeded to climb the route Hind Quarters (10a) and switching back to Dogleg Crack near the top. We tore down the top rope, and headed back to Seattle.

A great day was had. The weather was good if a little variable. Givler's Crack is easily one of the best routes I have climbed. Although Givler's is popular, we had the route to ourselves and only saw another party coming up as we were leaving the base. Since it is a 4-star route, it spoiled us for the rest of the day. Especially Freewheelin' as it was not nearly as good as Givler's Crack. I'd recommend if you were taking the 45-60 minute walk up to Givler's, that you may wish to stop at Freewheelin' first. Unless you are trying to beat the crowds. Although if there is a line for the route, Freewheelin' would be a nice diversion during the wait.

My pictures are here.

Lori's pics are here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slippery Slab Tower - NE Face - 09.27.08

With the alpine season winding down, Adam and I decided on a mellow climb of Slippery Slab Tower. It is a spire on a ridge near Steven's Pass. We took the "alternate" approach coming from the PCT. This was an excellent approach, and reportedly 800' less elevation gain than the standard approach. (I suspect that the 'alternate' approach is used more frequently after the road is free of snow.)

After some pleasant hiking where we saw multiple hawks, marmots and even a bear eating blueberries. We even found some blueberries to eat along the way. They were small, most likely due to this year's short summer. After a few hours hike, we were on the climber's trail from Trap Pass to the Tower. The climber's trail was nice although somewhat exposed at times. But these exposed bits seemed to avoidable by taking an inland path.

We arrived at the base of the tower, and easily found the 3rd class gully approach. We scrambled up it to the base of the route. We sorted gear and packed a summit pack for the climb to the top. The printed beta suggests two pitches to the top, but online reports all have it as one full 60m pitch. I started up the corner with thin holds for feet when wearing boots. After a distance I reached a rappel tree, decided to clip it and head for the summit. A short 4th class step above the tree, and the route become 2nd/3rd class with some exposure. I set up an anchor just below the summit and belayed Adam up. Communication was difficult, which may be the reason it is broken into two pitches. We read and signed the summit register, hung out, snapped pictures and ate lunch. Slippery Slab is not very high, but is in an interesting location with great views in all directions. About an hour later we came up with a plan to attempt another summit on the ridge and started down.

After three raps to the base, we started scrambling/hiking in a southerly direction to see if any other summits seemed feasible. After some distance we came to a fairly good sized boulder field that we did not feel like crossing. We decided to turn around rather than hike out by headlamp later.

The hike out was uneventful, and we arrived back at the car 9.5 hours after we left it. Overall, I think Slippery Slab is a great beginner's climb. The hiking is all on well maintained trail save for a very short distance on a decent climber's trail. Adam and I both found Beckey's description of the first pitch (4th class) misleading. The moves are 5th class and made to feel harder with boots and the small features/cracks for feet. There is a gully just left of the route which may be what Beckey described. Because he also stated slings are all that is needed for protection. The corner which we climbed, I placed three cams and a nut. After that, I clipped the two rap stations. This is also a decent climb for late season or closing weather as bailing is easy, and the trail is not too strenuous.

My pictures are here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Static Point - Lost Charms -09.13.08

Julie and I headed out to Static Point on Saturday to do the only route there we could complete. The 5.9/5.7 A0 Lost Charms. It supposed to be six pitches of 5.7ish climbing with a 5.9 move which can be aided by grabbing an old Leeper buttonhead bolt. (Yipe!)

It was our first time to Static Point, and we found the approach a little vague. (In reality, the approach was pretty straightforward.) Approach beta differs for this crag, but most of it is pretty similar. However, recent work in the area means that you cannot drive the road to the boulders blocking further progress. Now the road ends earlier with high berms blocking progress. This involves more road walking and once you hit the boulders it is a mile in on the overgrown road. The turn off the road to reach Static Point is obvious, but there are a few rabbit trails that we sadly followed just as others had before us. The real trail seems further than it should, and was marked by a cairn, and a pipe 1/4 full of dirt. Other pipes were just decoys.

We eventually made it to the base of the climb which involves a small bit of 4th class scrambling on slabs to get to. Julie led out the first pitch which was supposed to be up and right, and we wound up at the Spencer's Spaceport anchor. I led up and left to get us back on route. The second belay had a bolted anchor at the bottom of the "Pillar". Since it was after noon and we were on a big ledge, we opted to eat lunch. Julie led out on the next pitch up and across the "Bridge Flake" which had a few exciting moves just before gaining the flake. (The topo actually listed that section as 5.8.) I led out on the next pitch which had a barely finger crack on it and set up a belay at the top. Julie got to lead the crux pitch up and over "The Great Flake" and set up a belay after. I followed up to her location and then back down a bit to a traverse left and then up to a set of bolts. There is supposed to be another pitch that takes you to the trees, but we opted not to go, as there were some guys rapping from Online off a dead tree up there. We weren't interested. We rapped Online with 3 double rope raps. (Actually, most of the bolts we rapped on were older hardware, and I was under the assumption that Online had been rebolted.) Perhaps we rapped some other route.

Overall the route was enjoyable on great rock. It was not as run-out as I was expecting. It takes decent gear, and I was happy we packed double of aliens from blue to yellow. (The finger crack pitch I would have liked a third blue alien, but made a nut work.) It is fairly easy for the leader to French the 5.9 move, but as the follower, I would have found it difficult to remove a biner/gear from the bolt after making the move. I also think that it is probably about two moves of each foot, and not just "one move" of 5.9. It is a short steep featureless section just below "The Great Flake." Once through the move, my heart was pumping and remained that way through the rest of the pitch. (I didn't find a large creaky flake very confidence inspiring.)

I didn't have a camera. (Jennifer has it in NJ.)

Following the Bridge Flake

More of Julie's pics here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Le Petit Cheval - 09.07.08

Looking through trip reports online, Julie and I decided to hit Washington Pass and attempt the Spontaneity Arete on Le Petit Cheval, a prominent feature on Kangaroo Ridge. (Sorry Sabrina.) Since it was later in the season, and I am growing weary of longer approaches, we figured the estimated 1-1.5 hour approach sounded good.

What the information on the web does not tell you is that much of the approach is technical. Second, third and fourth class terrain separate you from the route. Julie and I made quick time down to the river and across then out into the clearing. The trail ends at a 3rd class step, and this is where things begin to slow down. After the step there are numerous sandy ledges to hike, more 3rd and even 4th class steps to confront and two fixed lines! Once near the top we had minor difficulties finding the start of the route, and eventually, I led off for a rope length that may have been a touch too early. Julie led out on mostly 4th class terrain until we were on the ridge proper.

After a touch of scrambling around, we found the area that appeared to be the second half of the second pitch with some 5.7 corners. Julie led up and we were back on the ridge for some legitimate 5.7 crack climbing. Some unmemorable climbing led to the 5.7 corner that I led, followed by Julie leading a steep section out of a cove, and then my turn at the "fun headwall" pitch. It was the most fun climbing on the route (for me) and was an enjoyable lead. Julie led one more pitch and we scrambled (roped) to the summit where we hip belayed each other for the somewhat exposed summit moves.

We could not find a rap station or suitable rap anchor near the summit to rappel into the gully. So we down-climbed back to the last rap station and proceed to rap the route. This was tedious, and the rope was fighting with us to get stuck on every pull. It eventually did, and I had to belay Julie back up 30' to get it loose. We eventually found a rap station that would get us into the gully. This proved no better as the gully was sand on slabs and plenty of loose rock. We finally made it to our packs and started the down-climbing and rappelling that would get us back to non-technical terrain.

We arrived at the 'first' 3rd class step just before turning on our headlamps. We proceeded to find our way back to the trail and get off trail in the forest. Fortunately we just headed downhill to the creek, and found the correct crossing. I, deceived by headlamp and darkness, thought I was stepping onto a section of dry creek bed, only to plunge 1' deep into water. Thankfully the car only lay a short distance up a not so fun (in the dark) loose rock/boulder field away. This is a trip I will not soon repeat. I did not find the climbing worth the approach.

My pics are here.

Julie's pics are here.

Sahale Peak - 09.06.08

A group of seven of us made an attempt at Sahale Peak via the Quien Sabe Glacier. We decided to do a carry-over of the peak as I think that sort of thing is fun. As it turned out, the Boston Basin trail was worse than I remembered it and sealed the deal on the carry-over plan. Weather was forecast to be partly cloudy, but the skies remained dramatic throughout most of the day. The previous evening's weather was a bit wet and got us all thoroughly soaked coming up the near bushwhack of a trail up to Boston Basin.

After a few hours, we were across the slabs and roping up on the glacier. There was a fair amount of boot tracks so route finding was not an issue, especially since visibility fluctuated. We unroped at the top of the glacier and scrambled to within a few feet of the summit, setting up a prusik line for safety. Once we all arrived it was time to figure out a way off the other side. A guide book said rappel due south. So we got out a compass and threw the rope. On decent single 60M rappel and 20' of easy, unexposed 3rd class got us to snow.

A short walk across the Sahale Glacier got us to the trail that leads down to the Cascade Pass parking lot. Then it is just a long hike down to the parking area where we had left a car in the morning.

This was my first time doing a carry-over of Sahale as well as being at Cascade Pass or Sahale Arm. I found this descent to be much preferred over the Quien Sabe descent as it has a very short technical portion and then is trail for nearly six miles. At the end of the day the trail length was a bit tedious, but still better than the rough trail that leads out of Boston Basin.

My pics are here.

Julie's pics are here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Snow Creek Wall - Outer Space - 08.30.08

After alpine plans fell through due to weather conditions Ian asked if I wanted to climb the Washington State classic Outer Space with him. I agreed. We left Seattle at 7am on Saturday and headed toward Leavenworth. We started hiking to the route from the Snow Creek parking lot around 9:30am. On our way up, we saw only one party on the route, but as we got closer, we noticed more parties arriving at the base. This should have been our indication to climb Orbit instead, but we stuck with the original plan.

Since the standard start was open and a party was just starting the remorse start, we opted for the standard start. Ian wanted to lead a 'warm-up' pitch before setting off on the crux 3rd pitch. He led the low 5.6 first pitch and then I led the 5.0 second pitch. We arrived at 2-tree ledge with two parties ahead of us and a third on the pitch. It was just after noon, so we sat down to have lunch. We chatted with Jen and BJ who I had met previously through Jennifer. After well over an hour, it was finally our turn. Ian led right up and past the crux to the next belay. I followed. The third pitch is the crux with some strenuous lie back moves at the start (5.6), and a strenuous 5.9 traverse with some exposure to finish. When I arrived at the next belay, Ian took off on the 4th pitch. This pitch did not offer too much protection, which made me glad to follow. It was face climbing on knobs up to a wonderful corner that got us on top of a pedestal. Now only a over 300' crack lay between us and the top.

There were some interesting moves from the pedestal to gain the crack and some monster holds. From that point it was feet on knobs and hands in crack. Delightful climbing. There were a few stretches over the last two pitches where the knobs ran out and you had to put your feet in the crack, or smear on the face. These sequences also seemed to be the steepest of the crack, but it may have just felt that way because they were more strenuous. Also, at the beginning of the 6th pitch, there was about 15' of 5.9 finger crack which was more difficult than the hand crack. Ian topped out of the crack (after two pitches) and I led out from there on low 5th/4th class terrain to a tree, greeted by goats. Then we had to hustle down the sandy nasty gully to get back to our packs before we were benighted.

Night came after we got our packs and scrambled toward the trail. The hike out was uneventful, and we were able to get food at South in Leavenworth.

Pictures are located here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vantage - The Feathers - 08.24.08

Joined Ken, Sabrina and others to lend a hand with an "intro to rock climbing" seminar. Against the advice I normally give of not going to the desert in the summer, we went out to Vantage. We climbed at the Feathers on the north side, so we were not in direct sun. Temps remained moderate and climbing was enjoyable. The novices seemed to have fun, and I as a leader had a good time and got to climb plenty. Learned how to self-belay with a GriGri as well. Finally climbed the Beckey Route (5.7) there as well. In the early afternoon we had enough climbing and drove down to the Columbia for a swim.

The Feathers.

High desert.

Columbia River boat ramp.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Guye Peak - West Face - 08.12.08

Took the day off to climb with Sammy, Jennifer and a few other people. The weather held for most of the day. (We got sprinkled on at the summit.) Route is not the most straightforward, but route finding is not super difficult either. From the street, it is boulder/talus hopping up to a gully where there are a few 3rd class steps to reach the rightward (south) trending ramp. We followed the broad ramp (with large trees) to it's southern end. This is where the 5th class climbing starts. There was a short enjoyable corner to climb then plenty of sandy ledges. We unroped briefly for a bit of a trail walk and start the second 5th class pitch. It starts with an interesting 5.4 flake/crack then deteriorates to rocks poorly set in dirt. The finish is an enjoyable chimney that ends in steep dirt. It was interesting, but not a great way to finish. Then it is a walk to the summit, a scramble to the middle summit, and a rap down the middle and gully up to the north summit. A climber's trail leads down from there. We got a late start, and had a long day, but a good day.

My pictures are here.

Argonaut - SE Ridge - August 9-10

Julie and I attempted the Southeast Ridge of Argonaut this past weekend. It is a route that only has a paragraph in the Beckey Guide. Reported good rock on a granite ridge with a difficulty of 5.6. With good knowledge of the route, and a strong party, this could be a day climb. With not much beta on the climb, we decided to make it a two-day trip. On Saturday, we hiked in and set up camp near Fourth Creek. We then went on a scouting hike to determine the approach to the climb. After hiking up a dry creek (which turned into a wet creek) we saw a ridge forming to our west. We left the creek bed and hiked up game trails to 5000'. We decided that this felt like the correct approach, and would take this path up the ridge on Sunday.

We awoke at 4:30 am Sunday and proceeded to take Saturday afternoon's path up the ridge. After about an hour, the hiking became more bushwacking and then scrambling. At some point we started roped climbing for a pitch only to realize at the top of the pitch that we appeared to be too far east. We rapped west of the ridge for some more scrambling to what appeared to be the correct ridge. Roped climbing started again, and after three pitches we could finally see the false summit (SE Spire) above us. Realizing that it was almost noon with at least 5 pitches of belayed climbing to the false summit, we made the decision to retreat.

I down climbed to a tree that started the first of five bailing rappels. The hike out below the rappels was loose rock and alpine meadows with what appeared to be dwarf (<1' tall) madrona trees. Some bushwacking through the woods got us back to the Ingall's Creek trail and then back to pack up camp and then on to the car.

It was an interesting experience, and I think there must be an easier approach to the ridge and the rock climbing is supposed to start higher up. I presume we gained the ridge too low and that was the issue.

My pictures are located here.

Julie's pics are here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ice Practice 08.02-03.08

Ian set up an Ice I and Ice II combined field trip for Sammy. I was the other instructor. Gabriel also joined us to learn. We had the Nisqually Glacier all to ourselves. Weather was cold and cloudy on Saturday, but cleared and warmed for Sunday. We had a fun time climbing some of the ice and teaching Sammy. The Ranger station at Paradise was reporting ~950" of snow for the Winter of '07-'08. There was plenty more snow on the glacier this August than last year around the same time. Ice was not as plentiful, but there was some to be found.

Pictures are located here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Tooth - SW Face 07.19.08

Julie and I decided on the Tooth as we didn't have the ability to bivy at the trail head on Friday, and wanted to be back in town on Saturday evening. The Southwest Face is moderately harder than the more common South Face route, and less crowded. The 'summer' approach is being used now, but there is still enough snow that the talus field is not an issue. We had little difficulty finding the route (Thanks Scott) but did have some route finding issues while on route. The route basically climbs a series of corners to then join the South Face. Judging from another party on the route with us, there are different options/variations that can be taken. (They did different variations on pitches 1 and 4.) Climbing was nice, although there was an uncomfortable squeeze chimney on the first pitch, and there were some areas where protection was scarce. We rapped the South Face after chatting with a party of four on the summit. Overall a great climb on a great day.

Pictures are here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Kangaroo Temple 07.05.08

Weather wasn't great, but we managed to summit in a long day. No real issues during the day other than some rain showers passing through. We stopped for the first shower, but climbed right through the following. The approach was a little difficult to follow through the talus fields, but it didn't seem to slow us down that much. We did don crampons for the snow up to Kangaroo Pass, but they did not seem necessary. (All these minor 'issues' seem to add up.) Slightly off route on the first pitch caused an intermediate belay. Then smooth route finding on the rest of the climb. The step around move was not as intimidating as I thought it would be, but it is never comfortable climbing without solid hand holds. We introduced an extra rap to get to the summit rap anchors, and found the descent route description to be somewhat off. ("Two double 50m raps to the packs.") The rap from the summit is a single 60m and the second rap is a double 60m back to the notch. Overall, a fun climb on decent rock, despite the rain.

Summit shot (photo by Julie Labrecque)

For more pics, click here.

Jessica's pics here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

7 Consecutive Months Skiing - June 22

Quite a feat considering I only learned/started to ski in December '07. Sammy and I did dawn patrol at Alpental then toured out to Source Lake. Weather was cool and rainy for the first few hours then stopped, but didn't really clear until we got back to the car. We mostly connected the downhill portion of Cascade Traverse to Sessel and then St. Bernard. There was dirt for about 30' at the top of the St. Bernard chair, and another 10' of dirt where the cat track turns to become the St. Bernard slope. Other than those two spots we connected turns on corn snow the whole way down. We then traversed out to Source Lake and returned. Home before 1pm and then working in the yard is sunny warm Seattle.

Sammy nearing the lake.

Avalanche destruction.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lundin Peak - W. Ridge - June 15

Julie and I headed up the Commonwealth Basin to climb the West Ridge of Lundin Peak. The route is supposed to be fairly easy climbing and a reasonable day trip. The approach was fairly straight forward, although there was a 'fresh' layer of snow above 5000' that made going a bit slow. Before long we were at the far western end of the West Ridge. We simul-climbed the first bit which I would say was 2nd class. After some route finding issues, it made more sense to belay the pitches which consumed time drastically. The climbing was generally not difficult, but not super enjoyable either. The rock was fractured blocks and pro placement was somewhat suspect. (Except trees.) Also the beta for the route states that is generally stays to the north side of the ridge, but there were at least 3 full pitches for us on the south side of the ridge. We also climbed a block/tower that was off route and perhaps low 5th class. We finally summited around 5pm, only to then question the rap anchors on the East Ridge. We couldn't find anything better, so went with the standard (which was a jumble of detached microwave sized blocks) rap anchor. There was wet slide activity on the southern approach slopes (triggered by skiers during the day.) So we set a few slides off before plunge stepping back to the car. Overall a nice learning experience and our first summit of the year.

Avy Destruction from the Winter.

On the West Ridge with South Face showing.

Lower West Ridge with ski cut on the south slopes.

On the lower West Ridge with Rainier on the horizon. (Photo Julie Labrecque)

Julie on the final pitch to the summit.

Me on the summit. (photo by Julie)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Icicle Buttress - May 31

Julie and I took yet another trip to Leavenworth to climb some rock. This time we got in the moderate 'classic' R&D. (Can't believe it was my first time up this route.) There was some slow individuals on the route when we arrived, so we bypassed them by taking the Cocaine Connection variation. Having never done the first pitch of R&D, I don't know how it compares, but the first pitch of Cocaine Connection had an interesting 'roof' move right off the start to gain the slab, then wandered the slab to a belay. The second pitch of CC was more slab to a bolt then 3rd to 4th class climbing to the base of R&D pitch 2.

After an enjoyable climb up R&D, we walked off and decided to try something different. I started to climb The Arch (5.8) but backed off as it was strenuous and I was a bit tired. We settled on Chicken Gully(5.4) which is a horrible route. The first pitch was mossy and dirty as if no one has climbed it. The second pitch was 3rd class ledges which we simul-climbed. The third pitch, which we also simul-climbed had a nice short step (the 5.4?) and on to 2nd and 3rd class ledges to a tree. Julie was done leading for the day, and I wasn't sure what the best way to keep going up was, so we rapped and down climbed Chicken Gully to end the day. Turns out that the Cave Route(5.4) was just around the corner from the tree at the top of the third pitch. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Garibaldi Peak - May 24-25

This past weekend Julie and I made an attempt at the NE face of Garibaldi Peak in British Columbia. One thing I realized is how much more difficult it is to climb in another country. Weather and avalanche information was a little harder to come by than the 4+ outlets I look at for Cascades weather. For Canada, distances and altitudes are in km and m which makes for in head conversions. We ran into issues on this climb due to the weather not being cold enough and we had some route finding issues. We turned back at a high point of 2050m on what I would call the East Ridge of Atwell Peak. (A sub-summit of Garibaldi.) We set off a good size cornice slide and walked around the glacier a bit before turning around and heading home. It was a tough decision to make not going for the summit, but probably the correct one.

Julie nearing our turn around point. Garibaldi summit is second from right.

Evidence of our cornice release.

Crevasses and ice falls on a glacier.

Beautiful British Columbia mountains.

For Julie's pictures click here: Julie's Pics

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Index Trip - May 17

Sorry, no pictures. I haven't exactly figured out the easiest way to take pictures while rock climbing. I'm usually doing something that involves people's well being and prefer not to multitask. So it was my first time at Index. Julie and I went to the lower town wall, and climbed The Great Northern Slab. (5.6) It is an enjoyable route, and wasn't too busy. Interesting anchors at the top of the first pitch. (The Railroad bolts) comprise of a set up old 1"+ iron rings that were used when the area was a quarry. The day was hot and we top-roped a 5.8 hand/fist crack later in the afternoon. Fortunately it was partially shaded.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Second Backcountry Ski - May 15

With warm temps (Seattle in the 70°s) predicted and avalanche danger on the rise, Sammy and I canceled our climb of the Tooth, and decided to do a ski tour up to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier. The route only has one avy prone area at Panorama Point, but we knew we could avoid any issues with that. Snow was in good condition on the way up, but softened up a little too much for our run down at 3pm. Overall it was a good learning experience for both of us and we had a good time. It took about 5 hours to skin up and about 2 to ski/walk down. (I did the walking for a bit.)

On the way to Pan Point in the morning.

Skin track up the snowfield.

Panorama from Camp Muir from Goat Rocks to St. Helens.

Sammy on ski down.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First Backcountry Ski

On Sunday, Dan and I headed down to Mount Rainier with the goal of skiing the Pinnacle/Castle saddle area. I took a look at the initial slope and didn't like the thought of coming down it. So we drove up to Paradise and started skinning up to the Muir Snowfield. The snow was pretty scoured above Panorama Point, so we stopped there to go downhill. The snow was thick sticky mush. We decided to not do laps and to hit the Copper Creek for some burgers and shakes. At least the weather was nice.

Dan taking a rest from skinning. Note all the tracks.

The Tatoosh and Adams.

Dan boarding in the crud.

Me, pretending to ski. (photo by Dan Engel)