Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alpental - Resort ski - 02.26.09

So, my 50th post shouldn't be about resort skiing. And it should at least have some pictures. Since I've been told trip reports without pictures are like peanut butter without chocolate, I have been trying to include them in each report. However, I did not bring a camera today.

Thanks to generous people, (You know who you are.) or perhaps my own generosity, I was presented earlier this week with two passes to Snoqualmie Summit. When I woke up to two inches of snow on the ground in Seattle this Thursday morning, I knew I had to go up to Alpental.

I arrived shortly after opening and started getting fresh tracks from Chair 1 in the morning. After a few warm up runs, I started riding Chair 2. The snow in the Edelweiss Bowl was knee deep powder. Super enjoyable for most of the runs. Since there was a bit of wind, and it continued to snow during my stay, even runs after Noon still seemed untracked. There were areas of low coverage all over the mountain. On the upper mountain, it was particularly icy after the powder got skied off. After about four hours and 10000'+ of vertical skied, my thighs were burning. I decided to call it quits and head home. It was hard to leave as I was having lots of fun, so I took one last ride up Chair 1. You know it is time to stop skiing when you are losing the strength to turn and stop. It just gets dangerous. The last run down sealed it, and I headed home.

Overall, it was a great day to be out.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Leavenworth - 02.22.09

I took some people out to Mounties' Dome for some gear placement practice and some mock leads.

The weather cooperated with only some flurries in the morning and no other precip. It was cold, but not frighteningly so. We started the morning with gear placement on the ground. We progressed to anchor building, and then to mock leads. Josh and Matt P. left to climb some ice while everyone else got in one mock lead each.

It was fun to be out and on real rock. I didn't get any leading in, and only followed routes to check gear placement. But, it was somewhat difficult with wet/snowy boots on the cold rock. The first few times I went up, I wore gloves, but the sun came out for my last time up, and I took them and my poofy coat off for my final climb. Overall, everyone did well, and everyone had a good time. It was a nice day to be out.

We left the crag around 3pm.

View up the Icicle

Adam starting out on a mock lead.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lane Peak - The Zipper - 02.21.09

Things came together to finally make an attempt at the Zipper this weekend. Josh, and the Matts were on board for this "classic" climb. We decided to leave Seattle at 5:30am and anticipated a 6-7pm arrival back in Seattle if all went well.

We got to the Narada Falls parking lot around 8:30am after a stop for snacks and breakfast items along the way. After toilet trips (porta johns, as the comfort station is not open in the winter) and chatting with others in the parking lot we were finally under way at 9am under bright blue skies. We opted to attempt the route without floatation for the approach as the snow pack has been hard. We also figured with all the recent trip reports, that there was a beaten path to the climb.

We were fairly correct. Floatation was not needed on the road in or even after we left the road for the woods. We crossed the creek and meadow and still no need for floatation. We agreed in the meadow that we would harness up at the bottom of the couloir so we wouldn't be caught having to harness up in a situation where we felt we needed protection. We left the meadow and headed up the slopes to the couloir. For parts of this section, snowshoes may have been handy. Of course, other parts of the slope were bullet proof.

We reached the bottom of the couloir, and put on helmets and harnesses. We exchanged pleasantries with a soloist who we let go ahead of us. Then we also decided to put on crampons as this seemed like something we did not want to have to put on in a sketchy situation. We started up the couloir in steps made by previous ascent parties. The snow was variable, but mostly very firm. Crampons were not necessary due to the steps, but somewhat nice to have on. About two-thirds of the way up was a particularly icy section with no steps in it. At this time we all decided to take out a second tool. (Or first tool for those whose primary tool was an axe.)

This section went by quickly. And shortly we could see the top of the gully. We took lots of pictures, and eventually topped out of The Zipper. We relaxed a bit at the top before heading under the south of the summit to reach the summit gully climb. When we arrived under the summit, the soloist was downclimbing the section from the summit. We waited, exchanged pleasantries again, and started up.

This final step felt steeper than The Zipper, and had pretty solid snow despite being in the sun. (Or perhaps because of being in the sun on previous days.) It also had a thin section where rock holds were used, and perhaps some dry tooling. We all soloed to just below the summit, and then took turns one at a time on the small and rocky summit. We descended back down to a tree with rap slings, and made the decision to do a double rope rap from the tree. Once we were all down, we took most of the climbing gear off, and headed off the mountain. It was now Noon.

Since we were on the south side of the peak the snow was soft, and made for good plunge stepping. Matt Jilson and Josh did some glissading. The walk off was pretty straight forward save for a section where you reach the trees just above the meadow we crossed earlier. We didn't follow beta from the Internet stating to take the far left down, and did some sketchy down climbing through trees to reach easier ground. We got back on the trail and headed up through the woods back to the car. We reached the car just before two o'clock.

When we arrived back at the car, I just couldn't stop saying, "I cannot believe it was that short." Conditions were really ideal for a quick climb of the Zipper. And using the USGS topo map, the summit is only about 2 miles from the car. I think if conditions were harder/icier without steps, it might have only added an hour to our climb. The angle of the gully was never scary steep, and even if it was icy, I may have been inclined to solo it the whole way up with two tools. The gully Julie, Steve, and I went up on McClellan, was steeper (and icier) near the top and we soloed it to the rock with a single axe. There was talk of going back up Lane via "Lover's Lane" or "The Fly" after we got back down. But we were more concerned about getting back to Seattle in proper time. Overall, we had a grand time, and this is a route I may try again. (Although now I'm inclined to try one of the other north face routes.) I can understand why it is a classic, because of the setting, and relatively easy nature of the route. The north couloir on McClellan is definitely a more difficult route, and not as nice a setting.

My pics are here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gold Lake Drainage Ice - 02.15.09

This is the ice Steve and I found two weeks ago. We were actually searching for this ice. However, when we went to find it, we were a little off route and found the flow we climbed on Ground Hog's Day instead. Steve is unavailable for a bit, and I knew if we got any more snow the climb would be buried for the rest of the season. So I was hoping to get up it this weekend. Julie decided to join me, but had to bail out as her knee was acting up after the Guye Peak foray the previous day. I was fortunate in finding another person to follow me on this adventure with such short notice.

Peter Heinz agreed to make an attempt at the route with me. This was nice, as he owned some short ice screws, and could add to our rack's screamers as well.

We got to the trail head at 7am. We hiked in the road. This time I thought we would find the gully easier. We did, but with a little walking around in the woods first. We ascended the gully, and reached the base of the route in just under two hours from the car. We were able to easily bypass a rock step in the lower gully by entering the woods climber's right of the gully.

I took the first lead. This pitch was exactly how it I remembered it two weeks earlier. However, in a little better shape. A hole that was there two weeks ago looking into the running water behind the ice had a sheet of ice over it now. The sound of running water was not as bad either. I placed a screw in the first step and wallowed through the pool to start the second step. (Unclimbed by Steve and I from the previous visit.) The left side of the second step was hollow sounding, while the right seemed a bit breakable. I gingerly moved up this section, and set up a belay with two ice screws in good, not great, ice.

Peter followed up and immediately headed out on the lead of the second pitch. There was much dinner-plating as I was showered with snow and ice particles. I set the belay off to the side, so I didn't get hit with any of the big stuff. I followed Peter's line up the next bulge through some snow to the belay at some alders.

At this point, the gully split into left and right forks. The belay Peter set up was near the left fork, and there looked like a whole lot of snow wallowing to get to the right fork. So I headed up the left fork. I wallowed through waist deep powder to get to the highest quality ice of the day. (It also felt like the steepest.) I climbed up the patch of ice placing two screws. I had lots of difficulty removing my tools in this section. I'll have to take a look and see what may be causing it. After the ice step, was a deep snow gully that I wallowed up to a tree belay. I brought Peter up to the belay and told him to head out.

He went up the last ice step and set up the belay about a full rope length up. The step was short and not too steep, and then emptied into a lower angle (25°?) snow field/gully. If we continued a bit further we would have ended at a rock wall. We decided it was time to turn around and head down. It was about noon. It was also snowing harder than earlier.

We did a bit of down climbing (hiking really) to a tree where we rappelled over a short ice moss step. We then hiked down some more until arriving at a tree where we set up a double rope rappel that brought us back below the base of the climb.

We hiked out easily, and were back at the car around 4 pm. It was an adventure. I doubt this gets climbed at all due to the nature of the climb being a terrain trap. Mostly it needs dry cold periods to form and stay somewhat safe. The warmer weather we are expecting this week will probably put an end to the route for the season. But who knows? Maybe it won't.

My pics are here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Guye Peak - 02.14.09

Ken asked if I could help him out with his students and a winter scramble of Guye Peak. I accepted, but hoped to ski the route as I grow more and more weary of snow shoes. (Although part of it is growing weary of my 12"x30" giant, non-technical snow shoes.)

In the end, I decided against skiing. This is partly for solidarity with the students and showing a united front, but also, if I was to be the only one on skis, I had better be able to handle them better than anyone could handle their snow shoes. Since I'm not that good of a skier, it made sense not to come out with skis. Also, being the only one on skis defeats the advantage of skis. I couldn't be any faster, as I would have to wait for others.

While I do not regret the decision to bring snow shoes, I do believe I would have been OK with skis on. There would have been sections that I most definitely would have de-skied and bare booted. There would have been a few sections that were fun as well. There would have perhaps been a few sections that I would have lamented for being uphill on the way out too.

The climb went off without a hitch. We hiked up on well beaten snow trails most of the way. There was one section that had us a bit worried as it was steeper and icy in the morning on the way up. It turned out to be OK on the way down. Some warming during the day, and others who also tore it up with snow shoes seemed to have helped.

We set up hand lines for the two steps near the summit, and Julie acted as the human anchor for the hand line to the summit. We again set up the hand lines for the way down. Everything went according to Ken's plans. On the summit at noon, and back to the cars at 3pm.

We had variable weather all day, but mostly flurries with clouds coming in and out. Visibility wasn't great at the summit, but better than the last time I was on the summit of Guye Peak in the winter. We also saw a couple of climbers come up from the SW Rib route and traverse from the South Peak. Pretty wild stuff.

My pics are here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ski Patrol Race - 02.06.09

Eileen Kutscha had suggested doing the Mountaineer's Ski Patrol Race as a preliminary event to the weekend at Meany Lodge that Scott Heinz had planned. While I wasn't staying at the lodge, I was interested in the tour, so joined up. The Ski Patrol Race was done between the Snoqualmie and Meany lodges of the Mountaineer's Club in the 30's and 40's. It runs roughly from Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass.
For more information on the Ski Patrol Race, see Lowell Skoog's website:

The day started under cloudy skies, with rain occurring most of the way up to Snoqualmie Pass. Scott, Eric and I shuttled Eric's van and my car to the Sno Park at Crystal Springs. We got back to the five others waiting in the DOT lot around 5:30am. It took a bit for everyone to get geared up and we posed for a timed exposure to spell out "Patrol", but it only captured "Patr." We crossed the street and started skinning up the Mountaineer's Snoqualmie property around 6am.

Events started out smoothly as we skinned up the Mountaineer's property to the top traverse on the resort property and started south. We had a little navigation issue near the top of the Silver Fir chair, but we decided to go down the Outback slope and into the woods. Outback was icy and quite a few of us fell while trying to edge with skins on. We got into the woods and after some tree dodging we got on a groomed road that led us to "the Grand Junction." We took a navigation break, and headed out on the Mt. Catherine loop trail. Skinning was fairly easy on the groomed Nordic trails. We shortly arrived at a junction where we were to take "the Ripsaw" trail. This led us farther away from the resort.

We then arrived at Windy Pass. The next part was to circle under Silver Peak and this is where the long period of "off trail" travel started. We entered the woods around 4000' and crossed a creek. We then spent some time finding an appropriate elevation to traverse at. We knew near the saddle of Silver and Tinkham that we would need to be around 4300'. But we also knew we would fare well if we could stay on the PCT. However, finding the trail in the woods under all the snow was not easy. We were on the trail for good periods of time, but we cannot say we were on it the whole way under Silver Peak. The traversing was difficult. The uphill leg never seemed to get rest. Some sections in the trees were very icy with little edge penetration. Other areas had some fresh snow and felt more secure. Overall things went smoothly if not slowly over this course of the trip. We had some minor redirection and map consulting at points, and there was some sketchy gully crossings that slowed things down as well.

We had finally come under Tinkham Peak as well, and were at a ridge above Cottonwood Lake. This was our first chance to de-skin. We skied an open slope into trees at the bottom. This was the only time of the day where I locked the heels on my bindings. The snow was pretty enjoyable, but icy/lumpy in avalanche deposition areas. We skied down to Cottonwood Lake, where we ate lunch and put our skins back on. The time was around noon. We were behind on time, so we didn't stay long for lunch and started our skin over to Mirror Lake. We crossed Mirror Lake and then had to descend steep treed slopes down to Stirrup Creek. Going was slow, and there was some opportunities to ski (with skins on) when the slopes opened up a bit.

We arrived at Yakima Pass and then set about climbing the ridge up to the top of an unnamed peak to the south. This was very difficult going through new growth trees, up an incline, in untracked snow. It was a bushwhack on skis. Lots of branches to the face, caught skis, poles etc. Once at the top, we quickly found the "gravel pit" as listed on the USGS map. From there we poked around a bit to find Forest Road 5483. Once there, we de-skinned and had a long fast descent down to Stirrup Creek. The only event worthy of note during this period, was that the sun shined briefly.

After bottoming out at Stirrup Creek, we put our skins back on and had a 1000' of gain ahead of us. Fortunately, mostly on a forest road that was "groomed" by snowmobile traffic. (We did not see any on this segment. Probably a good idea to do the tour on a weekday if you don't want to see any.) After being out for 8+ hours, the uphill was tiring and slow. But it was a welcome change from the previous side hilling and bushwhacking. We accidentally missed our turn and had to back track about a quarter mile. Shortly after our turn, we were supposed to leave the road and head uphill. This required more travel in the trees and the sun was starting to set. This segment was getting difficult as we tried to navigate trees while it was getting darker. We got pretty close to Baldy Pass, and then found a road which we followed for a bit until it ended. At this point, it was headlamp time and we were putting on extra layers. There was some discussion on navigation. We all agreed where we were, but had difficulty agreeing on what to do next. The decision was made to try and regain the route. However, we had little hope of finding an untracked trail in the woods in the dark.

Eventually we came out to a clearing on the side of a large basin. More navigation discussion ensued. We saw a road in the bottom of the basin and decided that the compass bearing matched the direction we would head to the road. Some headlamp tree skiing, (and side stepping down hill,) got us to the road. We then headed in the general direction of Meany Lodge. We hit another road (54) and turned left. We were skinning on a slight downhill. At a point where four snowmobilers passed, we made the decision to de-skin again. We headed down Road 54 quickly. (I was snowplowing, but lacked the strength to keep from going fast.) At some point there was a right hand fork. We all stopped and it was determined that the group staying at Meany would take that fork. The other three of us would continue on Road 54 all the way to the Crystal Springs parking lot. It was around 7:30pm.

We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Except for the last half mile, Road 54 was all downhill. We made good time, and were back at the car by 8pm.

Overall, it was an enjoyable trip. We traveled around 20 miles and saw lots of terrain. At times there were too many people making navigation decisions. I believe people may have felt slighted by their choice not being selected. Navigation was definitely one of the elements that slowed us during the tour. With the low visibility, it was almost essential that we had a GPS. We used it for most of our navigation purposes. Other things that slowed us were all the tree traveling. If it was a heavier snow year, some of those trees would have been buried, making the travel easier. It was also difficult to stick to trails, as they were not obvious, and untracked. Snow conditions varied during the day from icy to 2-3" of fluffier snow. I think many people may have had blister woes. I was concerned about the locations of my previous blisters, and ended up buckling my boots really tight to negate blisters. It did the trick, but wore skin off on my lower shin.

I would be willing to do it again, but in better visibility. Also, probably on a lighter ski, like a waxless backcountry ski with a three pin binding.

My pictures are here.
Scott's pics are here.
Maps located here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ice Exploration - 02.02.09

Steve let me know on Sunday he was available to do something Monday. So we talked about finding ice.

We brought skis along, and our initial intent was to climb some ice in the Source Lake basin. Once we got on the road, Steve informed me he had seen some ice backcountry skiing the day before and wanted to go check it out.

We spied some ice from the road with binoculars. We then made a decision to go find it. So we parked at a trail head, and skied in. We did not take a bearing, and picked our way through some chutes and old logging roads. We spotted a bit of ice on our trek, but it did not look worthy enough to climb. We thought we could go further to find the ice we spotted from the road. We continued across some steep slopes before finding a nice gully full of ice. Possibly three pitches worth.

We set out trying to make a climb of it. Steve led off on the first pitch. The ice was fragile on the surface, and had water running beneath it. In some areas he had to tie off screws because the ice was too thin. He arrived at a cave and belayed me up. Even though conditions were not ideal, I found this ice much better, and more fun than the ice we climbed in Leavenworth in January. I couldn't wait to get out on the next lead.

However, after the first pitch, the upper pitches started getting some sun, and we were having some issues with some ice/snow cascading down the gully. For our safety, we decided to bail off as it was also late in the day. This involved some sketchy traversing through steep snow/ice off to our right. After that, it was a walk off. We hiked down the gully through some cliff bands before putting our skis on and skinning back out. (I think it was uphill in both directions.)

Overall, a fun and interesting day. We explored ice, and possibly got a first ascent. (There is no info in Washington Ice on the area, and I couldn't find anything online.) We are hoping to get back there to finish the other pitches before the next weather system moves in. Hopefully we will.

My pictures are here.