Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mount Buckner - North Face - 07.24-26.10

I was supposed to do Mount Stuart with Rod this weekend, but after finding there was a fair amount of snow on the route, he decided to postpone the trip as he wanted to do the West Ridge in one day. We threw around some ideas and came up with the North Face of Mount Buckner. Recent reports stated it was in, and neither of us had been to the mountain before, so it would be an adventure.

We took the long drive in traffic up to Marblemount on Friday evening. We missed an open ranger station by about 30 minutes and decided to bivy in town. We parked under the bridge that marks the start of Cascade River Road and set the alarm to get to the station before they opened.

We awoke and headed to the ranger station. We were third in line (although another party of two cut in front of us in the building.) We got a permit for Sahale Glacier camp and were on our way. Neither Rod nor I were feeling like we wanted to do the carryover, so we devised a plan to camp at the Sahale Glacier and do a lighter pack climb on Sunday eventually returning to camp and hiking out. This plan worked well with our desire not to have full packs on the climb, but would create a long summit day with potentially difficult route finding on the return.

We took a leisurely hike up to the pass and had a rest. Then we left most of the tourists and started our way up Sahale Arm. The trail is gradual, which was a welcome relief. We took our time and crossed some snow patches on the way to the upper arm. We showed our permit to the ranger at a brief stop and continued to just below camp. We rested a good bit before pushing the final 200' to the camps. We located a slab with a built up wind wall on a rock outcropping and decided to camp there. Rod was fairly tired and rested on his pad, while I sat on the rock for a while. I then scouted a bit of our return route. I found Rod still resting, and told him I would go filter water while he set up the tent. Upon my return, we lazed around for a while more before cooking up dinner and reading route descriptions. We wanted an early start on Sunday, but since we were tired, opted for a 4:25am wake up.

Unfortunately, we were not awakened by the alarm and got up late. By the time we were done eating and gearing up it was 6:15am. The snow was firm and we opted not to rope up for the ascent of the Sahale Glacier. We covered 500' of vertical in the first half hour, and were now in a moat taking off our crampons to skirt Sahale Peak around the right side. A few difficult moves on the rock, and then more easy ground got us to the Boston/Sahale Col where we put the crampons back on for the walk to Boston Peak. This was uneventful except for the 75' or so of walking on a cornice before getting back onto the safer snow pack.

We took the snow as high as we could go on Boston and then took our crampons off to climb the peak. The route beta we had said to climb to within 200' of the summit and then trend right around the peak to the Boston Glacier. Shortly after heading up, we found a downward trending ramp on the right side and took that. The rock was loose, but the the ramp was almost second class with a little third class thrown in here and there. We kicked a few rocks off, but nothing serious. We also did not witness any rockfall that was not caused by us. After too long on this traverse we reached the Boston Glacier and stepped out on it opting not to rope up until we hit a flatter section a hundred feet or so below us. There we took our first break. We noticed that there may have been an alternative bypass of Boston up higher. We had been traveling for about three hours at that point and were looking forward to the next portions of the climb.

We roped up for a crossing of the glacier and Rod headed out. I didn't like a way he was going, and lead us back around a crevasse and most of the way across the glacier until I was not headed in an ideal course and had him take over again. There were some footprints on the glacier which we loosely followed at times, but we did attempt to take a more direct path than the footprints.

In an hour, we were at the base of the climb. We took a brief break and Rod led out past the first cracks toward the left. We had only three pickets and decided to keep at least two in between us through the first section where we were passing a lot of cracks, and the snow was still fairly firm. As we swung leads and simul climbed, we started leaving just one piece in while feeling more comfortable about our situation.

I set a belay above the large bergschrund at a crack below a rock band. Rod surpassed a few cracks before bringing me up. There was a large runnel about six feet deep with near vertical walls running down the face. I couldn't manage to down climb into it and did a down climb of nearly forty feet to find an easier way in and then out the other side. This was to avoid climbing the rock above us which we had no protection for. After getting back above Rod on the other side of the runnel, I brought him up. He led out crossing the runnel above and then onto the rock. I quickly went through the easy rock band (2nd/3rd class) and was on the final slope to the summit. We swung leads and simul soloed with the rope to the summit block. The upper slopes had been seeing sun for a while and were much softer as we were able to kick our way up the slope with ease. We had burned a lot of time dodging the cracks and the runnel down low and arrived at the summit around 3:30pm. Rod was fairly tired and rested on the summit while I put my gear away and snapped pictures. We ate what we had and after about an hour of time on the summit we descended.

From our beta and my scouting of the descent route, it was steep and might take some time. I foolishly estimated one and half hours back to camp from there. We started the descent with good plunge stepping but the slope started to roll over and got steeper. There was an firm/icy layer down about 4" in the snow which made for insecure plunge stepping. I gave a brief try at glissading only to pick up too much speed in ten feet. Rod wanted to traverse while I wanted to head straight down. We eventually opted to traverse hoping the slope angle might ease a bit in that direction. It didn't really and at some point I caved in to down climbing face in. This was faster than the plunge stepping and soon we arrived at a rock band where we were able to relax a bit and fill our water bottles from a tiny stream. We did one final face in climb of snow down the chute by the rock and then did a long fast glissade on more gentle terrain. Since we both had to arrest to stop on lower angle glissading, we opted to plunge step down further to negotiate a rock band and then head back up a bit.

We were shooting for a snow covered part of the Davenport Glacier moraine. Once over that there was a snow band through the slabs below the glacier that would get us to the exit gully across Horseshoe Basin. We were finally on easier terrain and we started to move more quickly again. The sun was now behind the mountains and we welcomed the relief of not being in direct sunlight for the first time since the base of the route. We arrived at the exit gully where I opted to take out a second tool. We made our descent without crampons, and opted not to put them back on to go up this final gully. There were footsteps in it, but it was quite firm and I was glad to have two tools while Rod made do with just one.

We took another short break at the top of the gully to assess our next task. We had to ascend the buttress for a few hundred feet before we could get back on snow to lead us to camp. It was 8pm and we had some technical ground to cover before we could safely slog up the snow to camp. This ground proved more technical than we anticipated or wanted. The 3rd/4th class rock was loose and scary. We found one point where there were some slings around a detached flake that were perhaps used as a hand line to cross a gully. Rod and I didn't like the look of it, and saw some blocky terrain to our left and gave that a go. In was probably fifth class and we had no way to protect it. In the process of climbing it Rod knocked a few rocks on me, but they mostly went over my head or hit my backpack. My stress level was maxed. We just climbed as quickly as we could through that section and finally reached somewhat easier ground. The rest of the buttress relaxed to 2nd or 3rd class and then we were back on snow where we climbed for thirty minutes toward the setting sun and camp. The moon was rising behind us.

Rod and I had a running dialogue all day about when we return to camp. Most of it consisted of us packing up and hiking out. But we never anticipated coming back this late. We were both spent and when we arrived at the tent, Rod asked "Are you still thinking of hiking out?" I responded with some type of comment of needing to lie down. We were mostly out of food and water, so we just got in the tent and went to sleep.

We hiked out the next morning with no issues. Although we found out that the NPS is quick to act on a passed due hiker. We met a ranger in the lot who was checking to see if we returned yet as Rod stated our return time as Sunday night. Monday morning they had checked our climbing registration and called Rod's parents. Of course, the ranger in the lot did not tell us, nor did they tell us at the station that they had started proceedings. We found out when we got phone reception just outside of Burlington and I had a message concerned about our party. Rod made some frantic calls to set the situation straight. We decided there that we would both buffer our climbing registrations in the future to avoid this situation.

Overall, the route was enjoyable. It took us surprisingly long to climb considering the feet/hour compared to my Liberty Ridge climb last week. If I was inclined to climb it again, I would perhaps carry over eliminating the need to climb the chossy buttress back onto Sahale Arm. It would be much easier to hike out the Horseshoe Basin trail back. I also think that it would have been somehow safer to ski the descent than to plunge step. Not only that, but it would have been faster and less energy consuming.

My pics are here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mount Rainier - Liberty Ridge - 07.14-16.10

Scott Heinz is in an intermission between work and school and asked if I was interested in Liberty Ridge. It was "in" and the weather was looking good. We decided to give it a go based on the current conditions. This was a pretty exciting prospect, as it was in the book "Fifty Classic Climbs in North America." We also knew that neither of us had been training to do Mount Rainier and this would be the toughest route yet we would do on the mountain.

The plan was to do the climb in three days with camps at Curtis Ridge and Thumb Rock. We would carry over the summit and descend the Emmons Glacier to return to the car on the third day. We left Seattle casually at 7am our first day and were registering with the ranger a few hours later. We drove out to the White River campground and geared up for our hike in.

Day 1:
The hike in was pleasant on a few miles of washed out trail before regaining the unwashed portion. Just before the Glacier Basin Camp, there was some patchy snow, and virtually all campsites in the camp had snow where you would pitch a tent. We headed out into the basin and took a final rest before getting onto the snow for the trudge up to St. Elmo's Pass. When we went to put our packs back on we noticed plenty of insects running around and some were on our gear. When we got onto the snow, they were everywhere. After a while they dissipated. We then hiked up to St. Elmo's where we took another break before roping up to cross the Winthrop Glacier. We scouted views of the glacier for the best travel option and thought crossing high would work best, but we opted to follow the boot tracks a bit lower. At some point the tracks disappeared, and there was a set of fresher tracks that we followed which brought us much lower to avoid the crevasses which resulted in us having to head uphill to regain the track onto Curtis Ridge. After crossing, it looks like the high route would have worked just fine with a little bit of dropping down on the glacier before heading up to the ridge.

We remained roped up for a bit on Curtis Ridge before deciding that the rope was hindering our progress. Our route finding and late day snow conditions were hindering our progress as well. We complained about our heavy three day packs and wondered how people make it to camp in five hours. We eventually made our way to the western side of the ridge and located a camp at around 7200'. After setting up camp, I hiked around to see if there were better camps, but it appears we got the biggest and best. We had our dinner and lounged around as we had arrived at camp early enough to have such a luxury. Our plan was to wake up in the morning and take the hike up to Thumb Rock for our next camp, hoping to arrive around noon.

Day 2:
We awoke pleasantly around 7am and ate breakfast and broke camp. In short time we were getting on the Carbon Glacier across a marginal crevasse. Navigation across the Carbon Glacier was a bit more straightforward than on the Winthrop. Although it seemed like there were more longitudinal crevasses on the glacier. I did poke a leg through a snow bridge to my knee at one point as well in an area that did not look suspicious. Then we had to navigate through a small icefall to gain the upper glacier. Scott led across it and belayed me up as he feared the small bridge might collapse and pull him off. It was still morning, but the snow was getting soft in the warm temperatures.

After the belay I led off toward the next crux of gaining the ridge. From farther away it appeared there would be a bergschrund to cross. As I headed up around a corner, I heard Scott yelp. I brought him in to the relative safety of the area I was in and he explained why. He had punctured his ankle with a crampon point while post holing in the soft snow. He fixed it up while we made the decision whether or not to continue. While debating a solo skier passed by and told us the snow did not freeze overnight, and he decided to head down rather than risk going higher than Thumb Rock. We made a decision to continue and made our way through the remaining crevasses to gain the ridge around 9200'.

We chose to gain the ridge low because there appeared to be a bigger bergschrund issue gaining it higher. Not to mention exposing ourselves to more rockfall and icefall from above. However, this path we opted for had its own issues. After our initial trivial crossing of a moat on a snow bridge, we ascended a steep snow slope to arrive on loose volcanic rock. Scott, above me, sent a few softball sized pieces whizzing down past me. I reached him and we removed the rope and started a rising traverse on the snow passing through several more loose wet rock bands before reaching the final slope under Thumb Rock. The snow was soft and we plugged away at the 35° or steeper slope before eventually attaining the col between Thumb Rock and the next higher unnamed gendarme.

We looked at our bivy options and noticed that all the dug out platforms had rockfall on them. And bowling ball sized at that. Scott looked at me and was unhappy. He told me he would rather be anywhere else tonight than sleeping between two crumbly gendarmes. I told him there was no way I was going down and across the belayed snow bridge in the height of the day's heat. We decided at a minimum to stay until 6pm. (It was one or two at the time.) At first, we melted snow for water. Once we had our fill, we began work on improving the platform we liked the best by making the uphill wall higher, and the catching trench deeper above the wall. This was going well until the shovel broke. We managed to finish our engineering project wielding a handleless shovel and an ice ax, but it took most of the afternoon.

After not noticing any significant rockfall while digging, we felt a little more safe. It appeared that the warm temps and soft snow were on our side as none of the rock falling off the higher gendarme made it a significant distance in the soft snow. We were going to stay until midnight to test the snow to see if it firmed up enough to make the summit push. We ate dinner and bedded down around 7pm.

Neither of us were sleeping as the wind picked up and the sun started setting. Oh, and we both didn't want to fall asleep and be killed by rockfall in our slumber. We tried to rest placing our arms around our heads to protect from rocks. Around 8pm a couple arrived after making the push from the trail head in one day. We chatted with them a bit, before attempting to sleep again. I think I eventually slept after it got dark, but Scott did not. I awoke about 10-15 minutes before our midnight alarm and I was very cold. I tried to get back to sleep without reaching out of the sleeping bag to get more layers when the alarm went off.

We got dressed quickly and tested the snow. It seemed quite firm, but Scott's ankle that he had punctured was acting up. We sat in the tent eating wearing all our clothes. I gave Scott some ibuprofen. We made a choice to go for it and started breaking camp. It was probably close to 2am by the time we finally headed off in the darkness.

We opted to leave with two "tools" out and do running belays up from camp. This may not have been wholly necessary, but we felt safer doing it. There were a few icy spots where I was able to place screws down low, so it was reassuring to have the rope on and not be soloing. The angle wasn't so steep that soloing wasn't out of the equation though.

We had hoped to do 500' of vertical in an hour, but due to lack of sleep and heavy bags, we were averaging 300-400'. The sun started casting a glow on the mountain before 4am and broke the horizon a bit before 5:30am with spectacular color. This is where I really enjoyed the route. The views were amazing as well as our location. The upper ridge is aesthetic and should be done in daylight. The climbing was easy and the ice step was getting closer to view. We continued upward following a boot pack laid by others before us. We stopped a bit to watch a huge icefall from the Liberty Cap Glacier go sliding down to the Carbon Glacier. We marched upward.

The wind was picking up. Above 13000' where the slope angle eases off, is where the wind really made itself known. We anticipated an easy trudge across a lower angle slope before reaching the ice step. With the wind (predicted to be in the 40's) the trek became just an effort to stand up. It was around 9:30 am and we set a belay so Scott could lead out on the step. He led up and over and brought me up. I had put on my poofy jacket to belay, but could not take it off to continue climbing. It was a shame. Prior to the wind I felt I had properly dressed for the climb. The climbing was not too difficult, but the wind, lack of sleep and heavy packs made the WI2 feel much more difficult than it really was.

I led out on a short pitch of ice traverse and brought Scott in. We hoped to simul climb to the Liberty Cap summit from there, but he stopped on the next slope and set a belay. There was a short pitch of ice that had to be climbed to reach the ridge to the top. I lead through the rest of the ice and decided to set a belay just below the ridge to avoid the worsening wind. (By now what was exposed of my face was getting pelted with spin drift.) This was increased by the couple catching and passing us creating more loose snow to blow around. I brought Scott up and he headed to the ridge. He attempted to yell something to me, but I could not hear. I could barely look in his direction due to the wind. He was maybe thirty feet away. I waved at him to continue and he disappeared over the ridge.

The rope went tight and I followed it. I reached his location where he asked me if it was fine if we did not summit. I told him I'd do anything to get out of the wind. (I had half crawled to his location just to not get blown over.) We walked parallel to the ridge missing the Liberty Cap summit by maybe twenty five feet. Around the corner, the wind stopped. We sat and relaxed and had lunch (it was now Noon.) Scott was sure it was 4pm. This was our first real break since leaving camp, and our first attempt to eat or drink since the wind started four or more hours earlier. A few clouds blew around the summit and I suggested we leave immediately as not to get caught in a lenticular white out like I did last year.

We hiked down to the top of the Emmons Glacier and followed a boot path to descend. The going was much easier as we were heading downhill and out of the wind. There were no scary snowbridges and soon we were on an open slope plunge stepping down. This became tedious and we stopped to remove our crampons for some roped glissading. We made it to Camp Sherman around 2:30pm and stopped for a break and to change into shorts. We hustled as best we could out the InterGlacier before reaching the trail and hiking out.

One the way out we ran into folks telling us to head back up the trail. There was a beautiful black bear heading up it. After some confusion and tense moments, the bear left the trail and we made a hasty pass of it down the trail. The rest of the hike out was uneventful.

Although arduous, this was a great trip. While I am not sure what would have made this route a "50 Classics" it was a very nice route for the upper portion. The conditions on the lower portion were miserable. Technically the route was easy. I do not feel there was a slope above 40° except for the ice step. It was also made easier for us by previous parties as we mostly followed footsteps to the top. It is unlikely a route I'd want to repeat soon, but given time, I would probably reconsider it. It was well suited to my using the Black Diamond Venom ice axes as most of the climbing was using piolet canne. While we minimized dangerous rock and ice fall with the route we took, the lower ridge still seemed a bit sketchy. It was very interesting to be out on a side of the mountain that most people do not venture to. Watching the Willis Wall slough off rock and snow repeatedly was powerful and wild. The views were fantastic. It was nice having some solitude that you do not see on the dog routes on Mount Rainier. The winds at the summit were just awful. (Once again proving that wind is my least favorite weather.) Telemetry from the mountain displayed winds of 40mph at 10000', so it wouldn't surprise me if the wind was blowing more than 60mph. It was hard to walk without having one ice ax touching the snow at all times.

In other news, I continued the ginkgo experiment and took ginkgo capsules during the climb (about 1000mg/day.) This really seemed to work to combat AMS as I never experienced a headache or dizziness. I did feel fatigued and lethargic, but I did not eat or drink much on summit day, so it is hard to blame solely on altitude. I will continue to use the ginkgo on trips where I will be going above 8000' for longer periods of time.

My pics are here.
Scott's pics here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Three O' Clock Rock - Silent Running - 07.11.10

I offered to go out with Sabrina for her 40th birthday to Darrington. We chose Three O' Clock Rock as it had the shortest approach and felt Silent Running was a good route for the day. Sabrina invited her friend Jayshree to come along who had never been to any of the Darrington crags.

We left Seattle around 6am and made a final stop in the Darrington gas station before driving up the forest road to the trail head where two cars were parked. A casual gearing up and we made the walk up to Three O' Clock Rock to find no other parties there. We were now in the sunlight, and it was quite hot. We discussed who would lead what pitches, and Sabrina set about leading the first pitch.

At the top of the pitch we retied so Sabrina was in the middle and I headed off on the next pitch. It started out smoothly but was a bit cruxy near the end of pitch with some more difficult moves. It ended on a comfortable ledge where I sat to belay them up. Jayshree took the next lead which was a pitch I really enjoyed. One of the guide books calls it "the...pitch defines the character of D-Town slab dancing at its best." The lower two thirds of the pitch is all friction with palms and smears before reaching some small flakes before the belay. It was wonderfully fun and I cruised up it on top rope. A completely different experience form last year where I felt it was slippery.

Sabrina led out on the next pitch which is the pitch I got off route on last year. I told her to trust the line and the hidden fixed pin would reveal itself. She was hesitant to enter the run out, but did and found the pin and continued through the easier run out to the final corner and the anchor. She brought us up. It was fun to climb this pitch correctly as there was a large easy section of chicken heads midway through the pitch that was fun climbing. Clouds rolled in around this time and cooled things off a bit.

Upon arriving at the belay, I quickly racked up and headed out on the next pitch. This pitch was fairly nondescript and easier than I remembered it from last year. I cruised up it feeling it was much easier than the 5.8 rating it holds. There was some run out near the top, but on easier ground. I brought the women up and Jayshree got the next lead which I previously felt was the star pitch of the route. She led the pitch confidently and brought Sabrina and I up. The bolts on this pitch were closer spaced than I remembered them, but probably due to the fact that I was leading it last year. The belay stance was not large and I got moving quickly to lead the final(bonus) pitch.

This time on lead, I found it easier to surmount the overlaps/roofs that are the prominent features of the lower part of the pitch. I kept telling myself that the crux was at the last bolt on the slab where Steve had to take last year. I knew it was important to save my feet on the way there, so I could work it quickly and get through it. After the overlaps, I took rests on prominent ledges before tackling a small corner and heading out onto the crux slab. (The "Weekend Rock" guide book claims the final corner to be the crux, but I do not think so.) The slab is fairly steep there and lacks the undulations of previous pitches. I moved up and clipped the one bolt. A few moves higher and I was able to reach out right to the final bolt and clipped it. Then I moved up and found myself lacking a direction to continue. As I tried to figure out what to do, I fell. It was somewhat unexpected. I felt like a time bomb ticking right before the fall. I also have a vague recollection of about to yell something to the belay, which caused me to yell "falling" a little late. The fall was uneventful, as I just ran down the slab backward. I hung briefly to rest my feet and then got back on the horse. This time I took a line farther to the right and closer to the final bolt which seemed to have the friction I needed to gain the big flake and breathe a sign of relief. I tried desperately to place a nut, and got a halfway decent placement before moving up the final fun corner where I placed two more pieces as I wasn't confident about the nut or felt 100% about the cams either. After that I was at the tiny quartz dike ledge that was the final belay.

I brought Sabrina up. She stumbled a few times in the area I fell and then pushed through the moves as my nut placement popped. She joined me at the small stance and belayed Jayshree up. While none of us thought the beginning overlaps were the cruxes, Jayshree felt fine with that slab and felt the crux was a touch lower near the previous corner.

We began our raps, and the parties below us on route were kind enough to either get off route, or wait for us to join them at larger stations. Rapping went fairly smoothly, and Sabrina and Jayshree even simul rapped the final pitch.

I really enjoy this route. This time, I enjoyed the third and final pitches the most. I really need to come back and lead the third pitch as it is the only difficult pitch I have not led on this route. We brought a rack with us, and used at least one piece on every pitch with the final pitch taking the most gear (3-5 pieces.) No need for a #4 on the pitch, and aliens were the real stars. I think I would not bring nuts in the future as they are too difficult to place in most spots on this route. It was also fun having three, as it gave us more relax time, and negated the need for carrying a second rope.

My pics are here.
Sabrina's pics here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Iron Goat Trail - 07.10.10

Hot weather and mixed signals caused me to be sans partner again. Originally I was pretty bummed, but really enjoyed my final choice of destination or, conveyance.

I looked through a mountain bike guide and decided to get some low impact exercise. I decided on the Iron Goat Trail as it is in the south side of the valley and should be fairly shady. It is a rail trail and used to be part of the Milwaukee Railroad. It is also part of the larger John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which stretches most of the way across the main portion of the state to Idaho. I was also excited to ride my bike through the Snoqualmie Tunnel. However, since this was a plan hatched before going to bed the night before, I had no idea the tunnel was closed.

The tunnel

I parked for the trail off Exit 38 of I-90, but could have taken the western terminus near Rattlesnake Lake. This is where I saw the sign in the parking lot stating the tunnel was closed. Mostly it meant I did not have to worry about a headlamp, and it was cutting about five miles round trip off my excursion.

Since it was unclear where to access the trail, I accidentally rode up the pedestrian foot trail before locating the rail trail and heading east. I immediately starting riding by the Exit 38 crags where people were climbing (and blocking the trail.) The route is deceptively flat/uphill. It has to do with the maximum angle a trail can climb, which isn't that steep. The trail looks flat, but I had to constantly grind my way uphill. A much different workout than a steep hill where you can alternate between standing and sitting. My speed was twice as fast, and cadence maybe five times faster. Sections with deeper gravel really took extra effort. I paused at the halfway uphill point to catch my breath a bit. It was also nice not to be sitting, as my mountain bike saddle is not meant for thirty miles of continuous sitting.

I rode along occasionally standing to give my backside a rest while passing hikers and other bikers. I also passed numerous trail heads that I have been to before while hiking or climbing. In a little over an hour, I reached the closed tunnel. A few pics were snapped, I snacked a bit, and then it was time to enjoy the downhill. There is a nice picnic area there that offers views of Snoqualmie Pass peaks.

The Tooth, Denny, Snoqualmie Peaks

While I did not have to continuously pedal for the downhill, it was not steep enough to coast the 14 miles. Of course, to make things more difficult there was a headwind in many locations on the return trip. More wooded areas blocked the wind, but on the trestles, it slowed me down a touch. I was back at the car over two hours after I left.

This was a good ride and fairly mellow if you discount the fact that it is uphill the whole way east. Hopefully the state will find the money to make the tunnels safe so one could ride to Idaho if they wanted. The fourteen mile section I was on had some ample camp sites, although I'd imagine I wouldn't need one until the other side of the pass.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ingall's Peak - East Ridge - 07.06.10

3400' elevation gain
8 miles RT
Left car: 7:20 am
Summit: 3:30 pm
Back at car: 8:20 pm
13 hours car to car

I set up a trip of Ingall's East Ridge for my students to get a nice outing at a good easy level. Unfortunately, only Jay could make it, but Vance and Lorin also came along.

I opted for a more leisurely start, and we met at the park and ride at 5am. We were at the trail head at 7am and walking by 7:20. In typical fashion for this area, it was really cold in the parking lot, and we had a lot of hiking to do before the sun would eventually shine on us. We reached Ingall's Pass in a little under two hours with the last bits before the pass being continuous snow. We had lost track of the trail and scrambled up the snow to the pass where we took a break. It was warm and the snow was already soft, but we got out our ice axes for the rest of the approach. Aside from a few navigational discussions we headed over to our gully and the start of the route.

We geared up on some flat rock below the start of the route and walked on rock to the base where we started to climb. The objective was to simul climb the first two pitches, but at the notch I was stopped by rope drag and brought Lorin up. He continued out on the next pitch and brought me up.

I led out on the "down climb pitch." It was easier than I remembered, and I tried to place enough gear so that Lorin would be protected. Once at the notch, I could not protect the moves back out and had to do them without the security of protection. Beyond that, I scrambled around to the next belay.

While I was belaying Lorin in, a guide and client combo also started the third pitch. The guide placed no protection during the pitch and crossed our rope. I kept thinking if his follower fell, he would take us out. Lorin and I kept close attention to where his rope was running, and we tried to stay ahead of them, but they managed to zip past us on the fourth pitch. (Fairly easy considering the guide was soloing.) I simul climbed with Lorin a bit on the fourth pitch before he brought me in, citing rope drag as the reason for him setting a belay.

I quickly led out on the next pitch, which was almost a full rope length when I reached the notch below the crux pitch. I set a belay and brought Lorin over. We watched the guide and his client go through the crux with the guide trying to explain to the client what a fist jam was. We re-flaked the rope as I wanted a crack at leading the crux. We didn't have a #4 cam, and the #3 wasn't very useful as protection. I actually got a #10 stopper in higher than the cam. After multiple attempts and not making progress the way I liked, I finally backed off. (We had time, as Jay and Vance were not even in sight.) Lorin and I switched ends of the rope and he gave it a go. While it was not pretty, and F-bombs were dropped, Lorin got through the crux and there was rejoicing. I followed mimicking Lorin's earlier moves, but I could not duplicate his left leg smear. (Not just foot mind you, but whole leg.) The moves were awkward and strenuous, but it probably is just 5.7 and I am not used to climbing off widths buried in corners. It would be much easier in rock shoes, but we were wearing boots. After some grunting I too was through the crux and heading to Lorin a little beyond that point. Before continuing, I mentioned to Vance what we had done, and tried to show him the easier way up that I had done the last time I had climbed the route.

With a quick change, I led out on the final bit to the summit and brought Lorin in. We ate, hung out and went to set up the first rappel before returning to the summit to heckle our friends. After over an hour, Vance finally came over the ridge. Apparently Jay tried first, but was misdirected by my earlier beta into trying something more difficult than what even Lorin and I had climbed. After down climbing and giving the sharp end to Vance, Vance saw the error in his related information and found the easy way up. They joined us on the summit as Lorin and I headed back to start the rapping.

We made one single rope rappel from the summit area and then two double rope rappels back to the snow. A quick clean up of gear, and we were able to plunge step and glissade back to the basin and traverse our way back to the pass. A final break at the pass and then a non eventful hike out where we were back at the car and never had to turn headlamps on.

This was a fun trip and one I was glad I revisited. I do not know if I would do the crux the same way again. It is much easier to climb the bypass and then forgo bringing a large cam. This route is really enjoyable and not technically difficult.

My pics are here.
(I'll try to post links to other's photos when I receive them.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cashmere Mountain - 06.30-07.01.10

Sammy was going to be in Leavenworth and had some free time after the conference he was attending there. He wanted to know if I wanted to do anything and I agreed. We decided on a scramble of Cashmere Peak as it would be easier to get permits for the area than the "regular" Enchantments permits. That, and neither of us had been anywhere near that peak ever.

We met at the ranger station to pick up a permit Wednesday at 11:30am. We learned there that you can get a parking permit free with the pass. After eating lunch in town, we dropped Sammy's car at The Sleeping Lady and continued to the trail head. My car had a bit of an overheating issue when we parked, but we figured not to worry about it until our trip was done. Around this point Sammy realized that he had left the permit in his car. We decided that we would continue without it. If we would run into a ranger we could give him Sammy's name and explain the situation. We finished packing, and were on our way.

The trail up to Little Eight Mile Lake was easy and offered some views of the Enchantments. Before arriving at the lake, I realized I forgot to put the parking permit in the car window. We once again continued on hoping for no ticket. We took a brief break at the lake for Sammy to tape his feet before we headed up the steeper trail to Lake Caroline. At this point the trail left the forest and headed out into a burned area while it switched back up the hill. It was here too, that the rock changed from being granitic, to peridotite, like the Ingalls formation on the other side of the Stuart Range. We hiked through the burn area higher with increasing views of the Enchantements.

Arriving at a saddle, we hiked down to Lake Caroline and our first encounters with snow. It was patchy, but soft enough that we just hiked through, hoping not to get any in our boots. The guide book claimed views of Mount Stuart from Little Caroline Lake, so we continued on. We got views of our objective on the way over. A few hundred feet more of gain and we were at the outlet of Little Caroline Lake. We located a horse camp, but searched around for a suitable campsite for us. It was around this time that we realized there were no views of Mount Stuart, or anything but the terrain surrounding the lake. We settled on a location near the lake under a stand of trees and set up our camp.

Then we settled down to eat. This is when we came to the conclusion we had made yet another omission. At the car we debated about taking one or two fuel canisters for the stove, but apparently opted to take none because we did not pack either. There was a long moment of disbelief. Then we yardsaled our packs to "just make sure." We didn't have fuel and we resigned ourselves to eating freeze dried meals with cold water. It was after 6pm, and getting cooler and we missed the ability to heat water for warm drinks before retiring to the tent. Partially due to this we got into the tent early to stay warm. Although, it was surprisingly warm in the tent. We hung out in the tent until dark and then watched the stars a bit before finally going to sleep.

I awoke after sunrise and thought it might be raining. I looked out the tent and I thought I saw a snowflake. I laid around a while before eventually getting out of the tent. Sammy said he would follow shortly. When I got out of the tent, I walked about warming up. There were snow flurries in the air and I knew it was unlikely we would summit this day. After a while Sammy was up and we were eating breakfast. He told me to turn around and look at the lake. We were protected under the trees, but the lake had rain falling into it. We got ready to hike in the wet weather with a plan of "let's go this high, and if we are feeling good, let's go higher."

We hiked out of camp and shortly came to the upper meadows with views in all directions. The cloud deck was low (around 9000') and the top of Mount Stuart was obscured. As we proceeded upward, the clouds got lower and we experienced on and off precipitation in various forms; rain, snow, wintry mix. We reached the point where we could turn off the trail with a more direct route, but we decided that with the patchy snow and off trail terrain that it would actually be slower. So we continued to Windy Pass encountering almost continuous snow just below the ridge. We enjoyed the cloud obscured views to the west and north and then started walking the ridge.

There was mostly a path on the ridge and we headed toward Cashmere now very much obscured by clouds. It was windy on the ridge and we felt colder. After a period, we paused for snacks, and Sammy added a layer. We did one last scramble around a rock outcropping and decided to call it our high point. We knew we would not summit, and the terrain was starting to get more difficult. It had also started snowing again. The clouds were now down to 8000' obscuring all summits of the Stuart Range as well as a good portion of the top of Cashmere.

We decided rather than retrace our steps, we would explore the meadows a bit trying to find the direct route. We wandered around and got on a track, but there was nothing that was quite a path in the meadows that would have made travel easier. If I return, it is likely that I will again head to Windy Pass and follow the ridge.

We returned to camp under a light rain and packed up quickly. The hike out was wet and warmer as we descended. We got back to the car to discover I had not been ticketed and that both fuel canisters were in the trunk.

This was a great outing. Going to a place I had never been before with a chance to visually connect geography of places I have been. Sammy was great company as always and we had a great time despite the weather. It was my first backcountry overnight of the year, which was nice too. I'd like to go back and have another go at Cashmere, but I was very intrigued by the south gully which looked like an interesting snow climb if you hit it at the right time.

My pics are here.