Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hyak Skiing - 11.29.10

Went up to Snoqualmie Pass with Steve to see what looked like we wanted to ski it. After wallowing around in waist deep snow the previous day I thought skiing would be a better option than chasing ice. We drove around scouting slopes for a bit before settling on Hyak with its easy access, and well covered slopes. Of course, it had been pretty well skied out during the weekend, and probably by dawn patrollers from earlier in the day.

My backside run (photo by Steve Machuga)

We skinned up a well worn track and passed a few guys on the way up. At the top we opted to ski a little to skier's right of the main slope between some trees where there weren't as many tracks. Steve tested a rollover for avalanche danger and then we were off rejoining the main slope about half way down. There were two other skiers coming down and they informed us the backside was less tracked out, so after our first run we opted to head down the back side.

Steve on the backside

There was lots of snow cat activity at Hyak as workers are busy getting the two new lifts ready to open this season. We arrived at the top and had a much nicer run down the less traveled backside in the newly cut run down to the base of the back side chair. We skinned back up the cat track to the top and had a final run down a steeper section further skier's right on the front side before heading back to town.


It was nice to be out skiing, but the skiing was not of great quality. The snow was skied frequently to the point where some sections developed moguls. The back side run was much nicer though. Like I said, I can't complain I was out, but the quality of skiing lacked.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Alpental Ice - 11.28.10

So the quest for ice begins. (Earlier this year due to La Nina.) Adam and I were thinking of getting out earlier in the week to check conditions at Alpental. Early reports were not positive, so we delayed. I was hoping to head to Leavenworth this weekend, but that plan fell through, and so a quest for ice at Alpental was planned. I was going with Rod, while Adam, Zach, Steen and Kristy were also coming separately from us.

Rod and I were one of the first cars in the lot and we geared up in what felt like weather that was too warm. We commented that we might be "taking the tools for a hike" as Washington State ice climbers will often say. We donned snowshoes, and hiked into Alpental Falls where we hiked up to the falls.

Hiking up to the falls

Alpental I looked in from the base. There was a bit of a boot track to it, so perhaps it was climbed in previous days. I didn't like the drum like nature of the right side as it seemed not to be bonded to the rock underneath. Right in front of me was a snow gully like feature which I told Rod I'd give a try at. So we geared up and I started climbing. When I got to the first step, I didn't feel comfortable with the thin ice, and down climbed off the route collecting my screw on the way. We decided to head up valley to see if anything else was in to climb.

Around this time our friends showed up and went past us before we regained the trail. Zach and Adam headed back to the car to get their snowshoes for the off trail travel. We joined the women near the base of Alpental IV. Rod and I inspected the possibility of climbing Alpental IV while the other group set up some top ropes in the woods. We eventually joined them as neither of us wanted to lead any of the falls. Way too much running water.

So we all got to top rope three short lines in the woods. A fairly thick line on the right, a mixed (mostly rock) line in the middle, and a mixed (mostly ice/snow) line on the left. After we all tired out and started to get cold we took the top ropes down.

Kristy on the fatter ice

This outing went about how I would have expected it to go. I was happy to use my (new to me) tools and go leashless for the first time. Surprisingly, I did not over grip. But I was very concerned about dropping them as I have yet to build my umbilical. The freedom of going leashless was wonderful, and I was surprised that it did not take much for me. Perhaps because I haven't climbed ice in a while, I forgot about relying on the leashes. I look forward to more leashless climbing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crystal Backcountry - 11.21.10

Steve invited me to join him, Sebe and Toph for some skiing. The decision was made to head to the Crystal backcountry and so I tagged along. There were flurries, and a temp of 33° when Steve cam to pick me up in Seattle. We met Toph somewhere south on Renton, and continued in his car. I don't have a great idea of where we skied, but best I can tell we skinned up under the Gold Hills chair and made a few runs in the Pickhandle Basin.

The chair we skinned under was not yet open, due to lack of coverage. No rocks, but plenty of shrubs visible. It didn't impair our skinning and soon we were at the top of the chair ducking into the woods. This is where it got slow. The trees were narrow and we spent plenty of time avoiding downed trees and forcing through narrow gaps between other trees. If there were a few more feet of coverage, we would have had it easier, but these were the cards we were dealt. At one point we even booted a bit due to a steep section with many trees. After that, the forest opened up a bit and we started skinning again until booting the last thirty feet or so to the ridge. We then skinned on the ridge, which was not that great and we should have booted. We got to a nice area out of the wind to drop in and transitioned over.

The snow was deep! Deepest snow we had experienced yet on the day was our first run down. Deep powder, and no rocks. A really fun run. Wasn't too steep, probably a blue run. I had a little difficulty starting out as I was third in line and wanted to go farther right to get into cleaner snow. The snow was slow, and the traverse almost stopped me before I rounded a small tree and turned downslope.

My first run (Photo by Steve Machuga)

We gathered at the bottom and headed up again to a different location on the ridge and a sub bowl on the original run. We found a fun wide chute to run and transitioned back to downhill. Steve went first on a bold run of an arete which slid a bit after he made a few turns. I was third in line and enjoyed the run, but it was definitely a little more avalanche prone and a bit rocky in spots. At the bottom we skied through the tree for a bit until we came to a meadow.

My second run (Photo by Steve Machuga)

We all figured that the terrain would drop again in the woods on the other side of the meadow, so Toph was going to post hole across and then put his board back on while us skiers would shuffle with no skins. Unfortunately, on the other side of the meadow the relatively flat or rolling terrain continued and we all skinned up to make it out of the woods. More unfun tree skinning and we were finally back at the top of the lift ready to make one last run to the car. No issues on the final run and soon we were driving back to Seattle.

This was a fun outing even considering the poor skinning in the trees both up and down. I skied well, but not great. Not bad for almost five months of not skiing. I look forward to getting out again soon.

My pics are here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some Aid Practice - 11.10.10

Since we were blessed with another nice (not raining) November day in Seattle, Adam and I decided to hit the north wall of the Mountaineers Clubhouse for some light aid practice. It had been over a year since I had been in aiders, leading or following, so it was shaking off the rust.

I geared up and led a pitch with a short traverse to the chains at the top. I continuous ran into problems the whole pitch with my easy daisies, not having cut them loose and occasionally clipping through them. These issues stayed with me at the anchor as I had to lower down and right to get on rappel. It wasn't pretty. Once I sorted all my issues, I rapped and Adam followed.

Adam started with difficulty until he sorted the easy daisies and got his jugging setup right. Then he cruised to the top and re-aided the traverse to the chains. He enjoyed it, but we didn't have time for him to lead a pitch, so we packed up and called it a day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Leavenworth - Givler's Dome - 11.03.10

Adam and I discussed an outing, but I had to be back in town in time for my class. So cragging was an obvious choice. I wanted to do something that involved placing gear and not just clipping bolts, so I convinced Adam to head to Leavenworth. Being that it is November we didn't get an early start, as it is usually a little too cold in the mornings to make climbing not fun. When we arrived in the Icicle, the temp was around 36° and clouds/fog were keeping us from direct sunlight.

November morning in the Icicle

Our plan was to hike up to Givler's Dome to climb Givler's Crack. This extra 45 minutes of hiking would give us more time for the day to warm up. Within ten minutes or so we were above the fog and receiving the warmth of the sun. We got off route a few times on the way up and had to scramble a bit to get back on track, but eventually made it to the base.

Since Adam was not up to leading the route, I would lead both pitches. And for whatever reason, the first pitch scares me. Perhaps because I flailed on it the first time I climbed the route. I've climbed it twice since then with no problems though. I placed a nut high and started up. I found the hands difficult as I had placed the piece where it interfered where I wanted to put them. I down climbed to the ground and restarted. After a few moves, I placed a second piece which then interfered with further hands. But I was able to move past it and continue. I finished the pitch feeling like it was the worst I had ever climbed it.

I brought Adam up and he had to hang on the rope to remove my stuck #4 from down low. He then climbed the second half of the pitch not using much crack technique for his hands. He arrived at the belay stating the first section wasn't as hard as I made it look.

Adam on the first pitch

We exchanged gear, and I was off leading the next pitch. I don't recall how I previously climbed it, but this time I wanted to try and keep my feet in the crack as much as possible. This proved a bit uncomfortable, but I persevered. Instead of going all the way to the top, I set up an intermediate belay once the angle eased, so I could see Adam climb. Unfortunately, the best spot for a comfortable belay did not offer a good view of the pitch, and I only got pics of him on the last portion of the pitch.

Adam on the second pitch

When Adam arrived at the belay, he kept going to the top finishing with the easy section to the boulder. We quickly hiked down to our packs. We took a lunch break and basked in the sun before heading to another destination, Rare Earth.

Adam finishing the route

For the second time this year, the Rare Earth crag has eluded me. Adam and I hiked around trying to find it, but wasted all of our time. Even consulting the newer guide book was unhelpful as it shows the crag to be down and right of Mastodon Roof. Turns out it is really down and left of it. After almost two hours of scrambling, hiking and bushwhacking, we found it but not with enough time to complete it and get back to Seattle. So we made note of where it was at, and hiked out.

It was great to be out on such a beautiful November day. It was a bummer that we only climbed one route. And even though we pitched it out to three pitches, it really is only two. I think we'll have a better idea of how to find Rare Earth the next time as well. I think this trip satisfied my urge to get out and rock climb, and perhaps my next trip this year will be to climb snow or ice.