Friday, October 14, 2011

Mirabelle's second camping trip - 10.12-13.11

In a stroke of luck, Jennifer and I were both not working. So we took Mirabelle on another camping trip. This time, like the previous out to the warmer, sunnier side of the mountains.

We drove out Wednesday morning and did pretty good timing the drive with Mirabelle's nap schedule. We opted to check out the Aplets and Cotlets (Liberty Orchards) store in Cashmere as our first stop on the warm side. It wasn't really that interesting. And after a few samples, we continued east to the Mission Ridge ski area for a short hike. Unfortunately, this was not well timed with naps, and Mirabelle was a bit over tired when we placed her into the new back pack for the hike. She whined most of the twenty minutes or so we went uphill, and then we took her out for a snack and to see if she would calm down.

No luck with the calming, and we headed back down the hill where she fell asleep moments before returning to the car. Since it was chilly, we just headed back to Leavenworth after a stop at a market on Highway 2.

After playing in town a bit, we headed to Eight Mile Campground for the night. Where we ate dinner, and then had a good night's sleep before being waken up by the camp host. We drove into town and hiked the Nordic trails at the ski area before leaving to come back home. One stop up at Stevens Pass for Mirabelle to stretch her legs, and we were in the final leg of our journey.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three Days in Squamish - 08.06-08.11

Sabrina and I teamed up for three days in Squamish. We had big plans. There was talk on the drive up about Diedre, Calculus Crack, Snake and St. Vitus. We even discussed The Ultimate Everything. Could these all be done in two and half days? We were about to find out.

Day 1:
In the car we eventually decided to hit Shannon Falls on the first day. We figured trying to get on busy apron climbs on a Saturday late in the morning was not going to benefit us in our time use equation and opted for Shannon Falls. After a quick stop to set up camp (the last tent site!) we got rolling south to Shannon Falls.

Our objective there was the new route Skywalker. A mellow 5.8 multi pitch route that would be good for us to do as our intro to the weekend. We hiked quickly up to the base to get in the queue. There was a second leaving the ground, and a party of two ahead of us. We geared up while we waited. Three parties of two arrived shortly afterward. This is a very popular climb.

Finally it was our turn, and I waited for the party ahead of us to get to the belay before I started out. The first moves were a touch tricky with a seeping corner where I wanted to place a foot. Eventually I succumbed to putting a foot in the wet corner to make the crux move of the pitch and continue up. There was then a move leaving the crack to traverse the slab to where the crack continues and up I went to a tree belay. (The party ahead of us was currently occupying both bolted anchors. ) I brought Sabrina up in time for her to head up the next pitch behind their second.

The next pitch was a 5.8 corner that was a little compressed, but offered great climbing and good pro opportunities. I found it a little rough on my right foot as I continuously wedged it into the corner/crack. But it was a nice pitch. I got the next pitch which followed some cracks up to a heady move right before the next belay. Gear was good until that point, but sort of disappeared in the last ten feet or so. I made the moves and brought Sabrina up.

The next pitch(4) is where the route gets its name. It is the Skywalker Traverse. One of the bolts at the belay actually says "May the Force be with You." It is a really easy, somewhat exposed traverse. It is slabby and can be done with counter pressure with hands in the crack at the base of the wall above it, but I walked it for the most part with my hand on the wall.

The final pitch was a short easy bolted slab that I ran up and brought Sabrina to the top. This route was an excellent warm up for us, and a pretty nice route for the grade.

We walked off and headed to the Klahanie Crack area. There was of course a line for that route as well and we waited for a couple to get off of Dirty Dickie before we attempted to climb it. Sabrina led it and I followed, finding the wide section near the top to be the crux. We rapped, and then Klahanie Crack was available. Sabrina racked up for it, and headed off on the sharp end. She was placing a lot of gear due to it being late in the day and her energy level. This caused concern about having enough gear to finish the pitch. Her feet were sore from jamming the crack and she hung a few times to cool them off. Once at the top she brought me up and we rapped. With our feet worn out, we did not even bother with Cardu Crack. Maybe next time. A cool soak of our feet in Shannon Creek did the trick before we returned to our camp site.

Day 2:
We had big ambitions of climbing a new route, the North Face variation of Squamish Buttress, aka Squamish Buttface. Our approach climb was to be Snake on the apron. Definitely not the fastest way up to the South Gully, but one we thought capable of doing. The alarm went off at 5am and we both felt a little tired from the previous day to wake up at that point. So we slept in until about 6am. It was at least a few more hours before we were able to leave the campground and walk to the base of the route.

Even though the first pitch is 5th class, it appears the guide book either wants you to scramble the pitch, or simply does not count it in the pitch total. We roped up for it and ended up climbing two short pitches to reach the ledge where Snake starts. Since I led the approach pitches, Sabrina took the lead on the first pitch, which starts the right facing corner climbing. Before she left, we discussed if she would do the unprotected 5.7 traverse or head up to the tree leaving me to the traverse. She told me she might, but would probably end up at the tree. Which is where she ended the pitch and brought me up to. I led out for the 5.7 traverse, and was not happy with the lack of protection. I was able to sling a horn, but botching the moves on the traverse would have led to a decent pendulum. I balked numerous times attempting the traverse high until I somehow noticed a really good foot hold low and down climbed a few moves to make the traverse from there. Once on the low path, I made quick work of the traverse and was at the bolts on the other side, bringing Sabrina in.

The next pitch was lightly protected 5.9 traverse, so I got that one too. It started out on easy ledges and ramps to a good sized ledge with a not so good sized bush. There are two variations that follow: one that continues left on a unprotected slabby traverse of a dyke, or another that heads up a slab with a 2" corner moving left once you gain some ledges. Both options were 5.9. I placed a cam at my feet and went left. There was a large hand pocket about two thirds of the way, but I couldn't reach it and came back. I looked up. It appeared promising. There was a small pocket in the corner where I got at least three lobes of a blue alien. I was going up. By placing the cam I negated the first hand hold on that section but made do with what I got until I got the second hand hold and kept it until I could reach the ledges above. On safer ground, I slung a horn and headed to the belay tree. I brought Sabrina up as she thanked me for leading the sketchy slab.

Sabrina got the next pitch and headed up the long right facing corner. There was a steeper section early on, but the crux came close to the next bolted anchor. I quickly followed as Daryl and Luke from the previous day were now on our tails. I offered them to pass at the next belay, but Daryl was only about a quarter up the pitch when I arrived at Sabrina's location. So I quickly headed out thinking we could stay ahead of them. This was proving true as I dispatched the first half of the pitch quickly. There were few pro opportunities, which kept me moving quickly. The lay backing of the corner was a touch strenuous, and moving kept it more manageable. Then I came up on the crux. There were some thin moves up a flake before gaining a ledge at the base of a large wall. A traverse back right overcomes the wall, but not without going through the crux first.

I got to the ledge and slung some roots. Moving further, I removed the sling and placed it on the tree in the middle of the traverse. For some reason I had my feet really high and they were getting tired. I placed a cam in a pocket a few feet from the tree. I tried to move right, but couldn't figure out the moves. My feet were getting tired. I hung. My foot slipped while hanging. There was a patch of slick damp rock from a seep and my foot must have got in it. I dried it a bit. I attempted again. No luck, I was hanging again. But this time I dropped my feet. All I have to do is climb it like a slab, and not rely on my hands so much I thought. I tried again. But it still couldn't make the move. Then I finally shortened the draw on the cam and was able to make the move and zip around the corner to the next belay. I brought Sabrina up and she quickly moved on to the final 5.7 pitch and then we scrambled up to Broadway for a lunch.

During our lunch break we discussed our slowness and tiredness. We also discussed which route we should take to reach Squamish Buttress. There were four people lined up at Memorial Crack and we had moved slow to this point. It was later in the day than we wanted, and I offered a suggestion to Sabrina that we head down and perhaps try another route on the apron and shoot for Squamish Buttress the following day. On the way down we were once again fairly slow and chatted a bit with other Seattle climbers on the trail. We then chatted a bit with Luke and Daryl before heading down. It was now 4:30pm and I recommended to Sabrina we call it a day.

Day 3:
We awoke tired again, but we were motivated and got out of the tent quicker and started our day. We left the campground at least an hour earlier than the previous day and hoped to do Diedre as our apron route. Upon arriving at Diedre, there was one party climbing and another waiting. We opted to take Banana Peel to the top as it also would deposit us at the base of Boomstick Crack. Sabrina led up to the crack and started the traverse. When the rope ran out, I simul climbed until I reached her at the base of the first real pitch. She led again which gave me the crux pitch of the route. I almost passed the bolt on the way to a .10b bolt before Sabrina caught me and directed me in the right path. I went through the crux moves, and brought Sabrina up. We danced up the rest of the pitches and took a snack break on Broadway before tackling Boomstick Crack.

Sabrina balked at the opening crux moves, but I wouldn't succumb to her pleas of leading it. She got the moves and made quick work of the rest of the pitch. I climbed up to her and dispatched the remaining bit before untying in the woods. We kept our rock shoes on and scrambled up to the base of Squamish Buttress. We stopped for a bit in the forest to have lunch and then arrived at the base.

I took the first lead. But we allowed a quicker team to go first before I left the ground. That was pretty much the last we saw of them. The opening moves of the first pitch are easy gaining a roof, but then there are some thin moves to a bolt, and then even thinner moves above the bolt, the crux of the pitch. I took a bit to unlock the moves and then I was on my way. I combined the first two pitches and it got progressively easier as I went. However the protection opportunities were pretty scarce most of the way. I arrived at a tree belay and Sabrina soon joined me. She ran up around the corner to the next bit, and I followed. I set a belay and she led the next two pitches as one. These pitches were awkward bits with a few pro opportunities to protect them.

Once arriving at the belay, I poked around the corner to find the start of the North Face Variation. I found it, and Sabrina joined me. It was steeper than I imagined, but was completely doable by our party. I wanted to lead this 5.9 pitch as I wasn't too excited about the other one. But I often get spooked by steep climbing and had to work myself up to it. I took the rack and led off. A few pieces up and I was pumping and down climbed back to the base. I looked at the moves again and gave it another go. An adjustment of my top piece and my mindset, and I was higher and placing another piece. A few moves later I placed another piece and then it was up to a bolt. From the ground it looked as though the climbing got easier at the bolts, by this was untrue. A few moves leftward the climbing eased a bit and I gained the ledge. The remaining portion of the pitch was awesomely exposed climbing up steps on the ledge. It was amazing how quickly the gully floor dropped away after the short steep section. I belayed Sabrina up enjoying Ravens flying below me and the tops of trees down in the South Gully.

Since she was leading the next 5.9 pitch, I led the short bit to the tree and brought her over. I laughed when I saw the gaping maw that was the next pitch. She joined me and was startled by the look of it. She expressed her concern about leading it. I told her I would if she wanted me to. She did. We reflaked the rope and I headed off. This was supposedly the last 5th class pitch before reaching the top, but it was a considerable looking obstacle between us and the easier ground. I placed a nut and made the mantle move into the bottom of the scoop. I got a small suspect cam in between flakes near my feet and then entered the hole to place a blue alien in the back. I made a few moves and then placed a cam higher. I climbed back down as I was getting pumped and not unlocking the problem. I went up again with a better strategy and got higher, placing yet another cam in the deep back. I found a pocket in the back for a finger and I used holds on the arete with my right hand and foot. But trying to chimney the moves was proving difficult for me at best.

Was I in too deep? Were my long legs not suitable for the size of the crack? I felt I had to succeed as to not spend the night on the ledge. I moved up and was able to place the #1 cam listed on the topo. I was now in reach of the flake on the wall and grabbed it with my left hand. Now I had to turn my hip toward the wall. What to do with my right hand? I grabbed the draw, adjusted my feet and then grabbed the top of the flake and pulled myself up into an awkward stance on the next ledge. From there I placed a cam before continuing to a tree belay. Sabrina had no issues climbing the pitch and joined me on the ledge where we tried to figure out where the scramble ledges were supposed to go. Nothing looked like ropeless terrain to us, so Sabrina led out on the pitches at least attached to the mountain. Zig-zaging up the ledges she couldn't place any pro and stopped at tree. I came up and for some reason left without the rack on a perfectly protectable ramp that led to 2nd/3rd class terrain.

Once Sabrina joined me we put away the rope. A short 3rd class scramble got us to some easy slabs where we stopped to enjoy the view and have some snacks. Now the task was to find the tourist trail down. We poked around on slabs a bit before attaining the trail. Sabrina led us onto an exposed trail that went down a needly ramp. I didn't want to go and told her I thought the best way to go down was to go up. I liked a short gully heading up and went back to climb it. She reluctantly followed. Near the top of the gully was some third class moves with some rebar in the rock via ferrata style. After topping out of the gully we were on the summit area and I proceeded to the top while Sabrina scouted the descent.

It was nice to finally be on the summit and in direct sun for the first time all day. We chatted a bit with a "reporter" who said she was interviewing Sonnie Trotter about the route. Then it was off down the trail. The trail down was enjoyable. Plenty of stairs, a few ladders and chains and some nice trees. The most beautiful thing about it is that it deposited us right at camp, and our car so we could drink fluids and start making dinner.

This was a great trip. We didn't accomplish as much as we were hoping, but what we did accomplish was great fun. I was glad to be out on what may be my only multi day trip of the year.

The rest of the pics are here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three O' Clock Rock - 08.24.11

Rod and I headed out to Darrington to climb on what was one of the hottest days of the year so far. Not always a good idea for slab climbing, but it usually means Darrington will be dry.

The drive up was pleasant, and soon we were gearing up in the cool valley floor for a hike to the rock. This was Rod's first time at Three O' Clock Rock, and we were debating the routes to try and get on. I really wanted a second crack at Revolver after trying to climb it wet back in September. But I was also interested in climbing Big Tree One again to get some gear placement "practice" in since I hadn't been on rock in over a month. The harder rating of Revolver had Rod suggesting we start on Big Tree One. This made sense, as it is on the South Buttress, and would be sunnier in the afternoon. And Revolver was on the North Buttress and perhaps wouldn't be as hot during the hottest time of day.

We got to the base and geared up for Big Tree. Rod led it and took a while completing the pitch. I had to run off into the woods before following. I joined him at the top of pitch one. We swapped the rack and I headed off on pitch two. Perhaps it is coming off the couch after a month of not climbing, but I didn't remember this pitch to be as run out. I got to the top and brought Rod over and he prepared for the next lead.

Rod headed up the third (and best) pitch of the route. I had told him where I thought the crux was and he made good time heading up to it. At the crux he balked. He tried a higher gear placement and then even added a second cam. He down climbed a few steps and yo-yo'd a bit. He inspected holds and tried different options. After a long while, he confessed to me he did not have the moves in him. I lowered him down to the anchor and I switched to the sharp end to tackle the moves. The crux of the route in my opinion is a move where the lie backing ends and you have a few friction moves before picking up the lie backing again. I'm not sure it is the technical crux of the route, but it is the mental crux as you leave hand holds and counter pressure for some straight smearing.

I climbed up the crux on top rope and then rearranged the gear Rod had placed so I could have more gear above the crux. I tried the moves and was attempting to remember how I did it last time, but I was not being successful. I couldn't commit to my right foot. I down climbed a few times to a ledge to rest my feet. Was I no longer capable of doing the moves? I had tried low, I had tried midway. What if I tried high? I started back up and instead of forcing my moves rightward I just followed the natural rhythm of the rock and found myself going up a bit more before rightward moves commenced. It felt good. The small tree that I had previously slung appeared bigger, but not as lively. I slung it again and headed off to finish the pitch.

Rod joined me and commented that he still didn't like the moves, even on top rope. I presented him with an option to lead the final pitch as I wanted to move onto other things. He didn't feel the need to, so we started rapping the route.

Once back at the packs we huddled in the shade and ate lunch. With my need to be back in Seattle by 5pm, it was too late to start a 6+ pitch route like Revolver. We had to come up with other options. I suggested Dirt Circus, a route I had not previously done. The first pitch was bolted 5.9 and the second was a bolted 5.9+. I offered the easier first pitch to Rod and we hiked over to the base.

There must be a good reason for this route to be called dirt circus. The first 10' of stone were filthy. We joked about how we should have power washed it before climbing in the morning and that it would have been ready to go by the afternoon. Rod tied in and made several attempts to place a cam so he could continue. After a period of time he said it wasn't going to happen and I offered another route for us to climb.

Rod got the lead on Under the Bored Walk. A route I suggest to anyone who is climbing at Darrington for the first time. I had him lead it to the top in one pitch. I followed, experimenting with my approach shoes. This was quite scary at first, but as the difficulty eased and I got used to the feeling of chicken heads under my feet, it was not too bad. Afterward, Rod said the route was a good one to bring people new to rock climbing as it was fun and easy.

I love Three O' Clock Rock for the ease of approach and so many good climbs in a range that I can climb. It was great being out on the rock. I feel I needed this to prep me for Squamish in two weeks. We'll see how things go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mirabelle's first camping trip - 07.19-20.11

Jennifer and I had been plotting this trip for a while, but weather and work kept getting in the way. This time I had a span of four days off and a better weather window to work from. The goal was to head to the dryer east side of the Cascades, and spend a night in the van. OK, not tent camping, but a start. We considered tent camping, but since we'd be in the van anyway, why bring a tent?

First thing we learned was that Mirabelle needs breaks from the two hour car trip. She slept a bit on the way over, but perhaps awoke from pressure in her ears as we cleared Steven's Pass. We made a few stops on the way over to comfort her and opted to stop in Leavenworth to walk around and give her a nap.

We did touristy things for a bit and then hung out by the Wenatchee River where she got her feet wet and played in the sand. We had dinner in town before setting out to our destination of Glacier View Campground in Wenatchee National Forest.

The Glacier View Campground is a great car camping destination if you are going to be kayaking on Lake Wenatchee. However, it is not well suited to our purpose of just parking the van and camping in it. Most sites have a walk in, so many do not have good platforms to park and camp. We did a lap before opting on site 18 where we got ready for the night.

Camping went well and we all slept in the pop top through the night. I had pillow issues which left me with a stiff neck/back the next day, but Mirabelle appeared refreshed when we awoke the next morning. We intended to hike up to Hidden Lake, but typical of mid summer in the Cascades, the mosquitoes were biting. Since we didn't wish to bundle her up too much, and we wouldn't dream of putting deet on Mirabelle, we turned back and figured we could find a less biting option near Leavenworth.

Mirabelle fell asleep in the car ride and we drove up Icicle Creek hoping for a place to hike. When she awoke we tried to hike up the Snow Creek Trail a bit, but that proved too sunny, even with her hat and sunglasses. We once again went back into town to Riverfront Park. We hiked a bit there before stopping at the same locale on the river to have her play in the sand and eddy.

Overall I think this trip went well. We'll perhaps try our first tent outing this summer as well. We may also return to Leavenworth in the autumn when the sun is not so strong but it is drier than the west side. When we got home MIrabelle was a little flush and we thought she had gotten a sun burn. It dissipated, and we were relieved that we were not bad parents.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Silver Peak - NW RIdge - 07.07.11

1800'+ elevation gain
~5 miles RT
Left car: 7:15 am
Summit: 9:05 am
Back at car: 10:45 pm
3.5 hours car to car

Without any willing weekday partners I was able to get away for a climb of Silver Peak in Snoqualmie Pass. There weren't recent trip reports, but Silver usually holds snow pretty well. So I went to find out if I could ski it.

When I arrived near the meadows, I was startled by the lack of visible snow. Since I was feeling like this might be a hike with my skis, I left the skins in the car and headed out in my approach shoes. I parked the car by the PCT and headed toward the woods where the brush looks less thick. The first two creek crossings were tricky with numerous blow downs. Once reaching the third which was even more tricky, I opted not to cross, but to head upstream. Within 500' vertical of the car I was on continuous snow on the other side of the creek and picking my way upward. I switched over to ski boots here for better purchase/platform while kicking steps.

I started following some downhill ski tracks, but they cliffed me out and I had to traverse and down climb a bit to get back on track. A few veggie belays later and I was in the lower bowl heading toward the ridge. The sun was out and I was trying to stay in the shade as I made my way to the ridge. Up on the ridge I stashed my skis and continued on snow for about 50'. I then put my approach shoes back on for the trail walk/scramble to the summit. The view were great with undercast skies.

Once on the summit, the wind picked up and clouds rolled in from the west. The snow was in decent shape, and I didn't want to get rained on, so I hustled it back to my skis where I got ready to descend.

Dropping in was fun and I made my way back toward the bowl I had come up. There were a few hesitations where I had to make sure the line went before continuing. Then picking my way through some of the terrain that I veggie belayed up through. I took my skis off for a bit while traversing through some terrain that was low on snow and then donned them again at the top of my final steep slope.

A few turns down, I lost an edge bouncing over sun cups. I was sort of complacent about it and fell into the slope thinking I would just stop. I didn't. After 30' of sliding and getting beat up I opted to arrest the slide with my Whippet. The runout was clean but I was picking up speed. The fall was not forceful, as I only lost one ski a few feet before stopping. I collected my stuff and continued down.

Now I was on flatter terrain and I was attempting to not have to cross the creek again. So I kept it on skier's right of me and followed some faint ski track out as far as I could before the inevitable bushwhack took place. I struggled through budding blueberry bushes for what seemed like a long time before once again arriving at the PCT and finishing the hike out.

This was a fun trip and I am glad I finally made the summit. I am also glad about skiing in July. Next time I will not be so complacent when it comes to falling and arrest as soon as I am laying down. Mostly I have a few abrasions. (The bushwhack drew more blood.)

My pics are here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Index - 06.16.11

Adam and I had planned early in the week to head out to Index on Thursday. Initial weather reports were favorable for climbing, but not ideal. The forecast when we left Seattle in the morning was perhaps even less ideal, but still favored climbing with a predicted partly cloudy/partly sunny day.

Pulling into the parking lot there were low clouds and not much sign of the sun. We walked the thirty seconds to the lower town wall to see much of it wet, including potential starts to routes we were intending to do. I walked around for other objectives while Adam took a party separation. Godzilla was dripping and Princely Ambitions was plenty wet. I met Adam back at the base of Aries crack where I told him we might as well climb since we were already there. We geared up at the base of Aries crack hoping to continue onto Taurus after we gained the first ledge. Or at least we would see if things looked dry enough to continue.

I led off, finding the rock not thoroughly wet, but damp enough to cause a loss of friction. Upon reaching the crux I could not get enough traction on my left foot smear to make a move and slipped a few times. After repeated attempts with my arms tiring I gave up on finding enough friction to move upward. I lowered and we committed to setting up a top rope on the pitch by climbing the gully to the right.

I took the first shot on top rope and was now stymied by my inability to get a good fist jam higher up. After a few attempts I let Adam have a go at it. I told him his smaller hands might be the ticket as the crack was a bit too small for me to get a fist in, and it might be just right for him. Adam climbed on top rope and was surprised I made it as far as I did on lead. Then he worked the crux for a while before finally pulling the moves to gain the ledge. I came up and once again had to work on trying to make a jam work before I finally found the only thing that would work for me. A solid forearm jam/cam with my right arm gave me the needed hold to move up and complete the moves to the ledge. And some people think it is a good thing to be a tall, big handed climber?

Heading into the Aries crux

Once on the ledge I told Adam I'd like to have a go at the rest of Taurus. After getting a short distance up on the following crack, my foot slipped. I repositioned and tried again. I was able to make the next move, but the following moves had less positive options for feet and the crack looked a bit thinner and harder to protect, so I came down pulling my pieces and waiting for dryer conditions.

I told Adam I'd head up Great Northern Slab to reach the rap station. The climbing on GNS was fun and when Adam reached me I told him I'd like to lead the next pitch as well. After some slightly damp moves pulling around the roof, I was on the ledge at the base of the next crack. Somehow I did not see the easy way up and attempted to go up and gain the crack after a few moves by coming in from the left. This involved an awkward move where I was mantling from a horizontal crack while side pulling with my right hand. I couldn't manage the move and told Adam that "I am probably going to fall here." After a few tries I realized I could down climb a few moves and take the proper beginning to the crack and continue easily. That little episode left me a bit frazzled, and that remained with me the rest of the pitch. Although I did feel I climbed it fairly well. I brought Adam up and we rapped.

Adam on GNS

In typical fashion, I try to go to Index when it is a little too wet for Index. Hopefully I'll be able to get out there and climb when it is dry and then I will not feel too sketched by wet rocks and slippery feet.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sliver Star - Silver Star Glacier - 06.03.11

5200'+ elevation gain
8 miles RT
Left car: 8:00 am
Summit: 3:00 pm
Back at car: 5:30 pm
9 hours car to car

Josh had a rare day off from work and we opted to get out together. After some thoughts on destination, we went with an attempt at Silver Star because of the possibly better weather farther east, and it having the least amount of mileage of the destinations we were considering.

We left Seattle around 4am and were walking around 8am. We initially poked around one creek to the west of Silver Star Creek before realizing that it was not it and heading to the correct creek. There is a well beaten trail from the highway heading into the woods and we marched up it. It was bare and wet in the beginning and then we started getting patches of snow. Continuous snow started around 500' above the car and then we were post holing through fallen trees. We separated a bit while Josh followed a boot path further from the creek. We rejoined around 4500' where we looked for a bridge to cross to the west side of the creek. Once on the other side we continued post holing for a bit before the terrain leveled out enough for us to put on skis.

Josh led us up the valley, but I was concerned about how level we were staying. I steered us higher, but that only got us mired in steeper terrain that was more difficult to navigate. After a few downhill turns in an avalanche chute we were back on easier to navigate level terrain. And more importantly, out of the woods and in sight of our objective.

Reaching the headwall of the first cirque we headed right (Burgdorfer's suggestion.) There were boot tracks from a party on foot as well as multiple glissade chutes. I was feeling tired and we switched back up to finally gain the bench above. We stopped for lunch by large tree and watched slides come off the surrounding rock. Then we continued.

I offered the trail breaking to Josh, but he said he was a touch slower than me and that we would be slower in general if he was leading and I was following. So I continued setting a track to the leftmost of the three passages up to the glacier. Once closer to the passages, we opted for the rightmost as it was traveled and did not look to have snow releasing off of slabs in it. This meant a traverse back right to get to it and then numerous switchbacks to get below the wine spires. Josh took over just below the spires and set a nice course up a steep section where we took a pause.

After the pause we had a descending traverse to the main glacier. We both discussed how our ascent route did not seem to be the best descent route and we would attempt to descend farther to the east. There was a fine crust of ice on the snow that would break off as we went up. It was a visible crust, but we could feel it and we didn't think it would affect skiing. I called it a "one molecule thick" crust. Higher on the glacier there was a some fresh snow (perhaps 2 inches worth) that was creamy and buttery. We were fairly excited to get to ski it.

I kept a check on the time and was realizing we would not summit until 3pm. But it was hard to put a turnaround in when it was all sunny. Of course this was leading to us overheating and both of us getting a pretty bad burn. I had stopped putting sun block on my forehead because it was hurting my eyes when I sweated. I felt out of shape and out of practice, forgetting to bring my Buff to protect me from the sun.

Josh led up the final headwall to the col where we rested a bit while donning our crampons. (We didn't think we'd need them, but we carried them all this way...) We headed up to the summit where Josh did the scrambling off width moves to attain the summit. I, in my aluminum crampons and fatigued state opted to keep my high point six feet lower. After some picture taking we descended back to our skis. Another rest, and we were getting ready for some turns.

The first pitch was a bit boney from wet slide activity, but the skiing was pretty good. We opted to head to skier's right and pop over a soft ridge to ski the other side and then come back to the main side to ski out. The skiing was better than expected. A little heavy and wet in places but fairly enjoyable. Lots of traversing on the other side of the ridge releasing wet slides as we went. Some fun skiing back to the basin and we had just descended 3000' in about forty minutes. We were excited with the skiing and our descent time as we were not too excited with how long it took us to ascend.

Once on the flats, we released our heels and kicked around for a bit even finding a place to lock our heels again and make turns. On the descent we kept to the east side of Silver Star Creek and found that to be fairly good terrain. After entering the woods at the bottom of an avalanche path, we found slow going with Josh and I trying not to fall into tree wells in tightly packed trees. I told him we only had 500' vertical of snow left and that skiing was no longer more efficient than booting. A few minutes later we transitioned back to boots and stomped our way back to bare trail and eventually the car.

This was a great trip. While I am not happy with my performance (or lack thereof) it was a great place to be. We had a good time aside from the sun burn and it was in a wonderful place. The skiing was actually pretty good and better than expected so we are not complaining. It was nice to get out with a fellow father on a rare day in the mountains.

My pics are here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mirabelle's First "Hike" - 05.26.11

So last Thursday we were running some errands in Shoreline and decided to stop by Shoreview Park as it was not raining and we needed something to do that was not our errands. Jennifer and I had stopped by there previously, but I think we were on bicycles and it was our turnaround point for a ride, complete with bathrooms. We only knew of the ball fields and were not fully aware of the wooded paths at the park. Heading there last Thursday, I presumed there must be some type of wooded trail system.

When we arrived last week we poked around a bit before discovering the map of the trails. We headed in for a walk. It turns out, for a city park, Shoreview/Boeing Creek Park has fairly rugged trails. Muddy eroded off camber trails provided us with some interesting footing as we headed down to the creek. Jennifer was fortunate enough to be wearing running shoes with some tread, while I was slip sliding around in my treadless Sanuks. There was a "wet" creek crossing that I had to help Jennifer navigate as she was toting around our precious cargo.

Some of the trees in the park were of good size too. (With signs telling you just how big they are.) Plenty of 200'+ Douglas Firs in the park with sizable trunks. We walked all the way down to Hidden Lake, and then back up to the dog run before eventually returning to the car. I recommend to anyone in the north end of Seattle to take a short trip up to Shoreview if they are looking to get away from their typical walks in Carkeek and Golden Gardens. Just be prepared to get your feet wet.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Leavenworth - Fish Wall - 04.30.11

I finally got the opportunity to go out for the first time since Mirabelle was born. There were multiple people coming, but in the end it was just Sabrina, Justin and myself.

On the way out we all decided on Fish Wall and the Duty Dome area as a place to be for the day. We were looking for moderate single pitch routes with the possibility of doing some multi pitch endeavours. When we arrived in the Icicle around 9am, we missed the pull out for Duty Dome and parked at Icicle Buttress and walked the short distance back down the road to the trail. It was still quite cold, although it was 50° out according to the car. In what seemed like no time, we were already at Fish Wall and figuring out what to climb.

We set our gear down by the far left route and looked around. I peeked at the book and announced that I would lead the far left route. (Sardine Routine) Justin and Sabrina poked around a bit and eventually Sabrina started belaying Justin up a bolted route, Crab Cakes 5.8+. The sun had not yet crept around the crag, and we were all quite chilly. Especially Justin who had to hold the cold rock while on lead. After his lead, Sabrina and I followed. I found the route to awkward, but I am not sure if that was the cold temps or because I was on rock for the first time in six months. The sun did finally start making an appearance when I topped out, although the last few cracks on the pitch were quite cold.

Justin, two clips up on Crab Cakes

We left the anchor up, so we could top rope the next route over, Virgin Sturgeon 5.8+. This route has two stars, and Justin wanted to get a feel for it on top rope before tackling it on lead. He was the first up and had some minor difficulties near the crux when climbing it. Sabrina went next and took a more direct line at the crux which appeared easier. I followed and found the route much nicer and more enjoyable than the previous. It was a route worth doing again. I guess that is the difference between one and two star routes. Justin and Sabrina then both led the route before Sabrina pulled the anchor.

Justin leading Virgin Sturgeon

I then geared up to lead Sardine Routine. A shorter route than the previous two with a combination of bolts and gear protecting it. It was enjoyable and had thin moves on the steepest section for the crux. Justin followed and Sabrina cleaned the anchor after her climb. We then started scouting the book for our next objective.

Yours truly starting up Sardine Routine (photo by Sabrina)

We opted to head to the right side slabs of Duty Dome. Justin was interested in climbing Kitty Corner 5.9+. We hiked up a few minutes to get to the route where we encountered another party gearing up for Straight Street, a three star route next to Kitty Corner, at only two stars. Justin geared up and I belayed him for the route. He warned me when he left the ground that he may need to take on a piece. This happened two or three times on his way up. The last piece he took on and then started to climb above it. He was a bit above it when I saw his feet scrambling for traction. I prepared to catch his fall and he started falling, yelling it as he finally broke from the rock. In what seemed immediate, he was on his back on the rock, with his head pointing toward the bottom of the slab. We asked if he was OK, and responded affirmatively. He stood up and collected himself while hanging for a bit.

Justin nearing his high point of Kitty Corner (photo by Sabrina)

He started to climb again, but I promptly stopped him because I could not take the rope in. I told him I thought the rope was stuck, and sure enough it was. He opted to build and anchor and tie into it while Sabrina and I started a rescue. Once in his anchor, I took him off belay, and Sabrina tied the it off to a tree as an added precaution while I got ready to lead the adjacent route. Then Sabrina belayed me up Straight Street so that we could get Justin down. When I arrived at the height Justin was at we worked out a plan for me to continue to the top anchor on Kitty Corner and then have Sabrina follow me. Sabrina would clean Straight Street and then I would lower her to Justin so she could clean Kitty Corner. I continued to the top of Straight Street. Possibly due to the now lack of sun on the route and the heightened adrenaline, I did not find Straight Street too enjoyable. Also, I was expecting it to be more friction, but it was more of an edging on slabs route.

I got to the top and Sabrina followed. She stopped half way to deliver Justin his down jacket so he could stay warmer. Once at the top, I explained to her what we would do and I prepared to lower her. She cleaned the route and was soon on the ground. Justin pulled up the rope and tied into the end and then I prepared to lower him. Once he was on the ground, I set up a rappel and took out the remaining high cam that he fell on, and proceeded to extricate the rope. This took a few pulls outward and a couple of different stances. I was a bit nervous because I felt that when it popped from the crack that I would spiral out of control even though I had done a leg wrap and autoblock to backup my rappel. Once freed, I threw the rope down and continued to the ground where we all decided that we had had enough for the day.

I was really happy to be out, and I felt I climbed pretty well for my first time on real rock in months. Our mini rescue training was nice practice and it was fortunate that we had brought a second rope along. After dropping Justin off Sabrina and I discussed some other options that we did not pursue in the rescue. I told her since Justin was conscious and communicating, that I was going to do whatever made him feel most comfortable. And I think that worked out pretty well for all of us.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mount Si - Standard - 02.20.11

~3300' elevation gain
8+ miles RT
Left car: 1:15 pm
High Point: 3:40 pm
Back at car: 5:30 pm
4.25 hours car to car

I decided in the cold dry spell to make a quick run up Mount Si and see what the haystack looked like in winter with a coat of snow. Spent the morning in the gym, came home and ate lunch and then drove out.

I left the car making great time blasting through the first mile in under 20 minutes. I was looking at a sub ninety minute time to the haystack if I could keep it up. I continued with this pace until I came upon the frozen trail. At first, it seemed like packed frost or just frozen dirt, but as I went higher it became more snow and ice like reflecting where the sun hit it. Lots of nervous people coming down were sliding on their butts, grabbing trees, and using sticks for balance. I watched a guy take a spill and start cussing. I thought about donning crampons, but figured this was good practice (for what, I don't know.)

Compacted snow on icy trail

The left hand switchbacks deeper in the woods were worse and my pace had slowed to barely a walk. I leapfrogged with another guy who was in trail runners. He seemed to have better footing, or was just more confident than me. Nearing the end of the trail, the snow was softer and we both started moving well again. We stopped to let a group head down crawling and hugging trees. He looked at me and asked, "Trade you my legs for your heart and lungs?" I guess that's a compliment, but the pace I was going for a long time on the snow didn't require much cardio work for me at all. I could have used some shorter legs and a lower center of gravity.

Up out of the woods I left everyone else behind and headed to the haystack. Apparently I was the only one with this intention who was on the mountain at this time. I moved quickly on the snow that was less compacted over to the start of the scramble. Even with the slow going on the icy trail I arrived at the base in around one hour forty five minutes. I stopped to drop my poles and put on a helmet and a jacket as I was on the cool north side. Then I started up.

Base of the haystack

If I was going slow on the icy trail, I was hardly moving through the scramble. I made a decision to stay on the rock as much as I could. This was difficult, because not much of it was without snow or ice. With forty feet or more to the summit I made a move I didn't think I could duplicate heading down. I checked my watch, I'd have to turn around as to avoid hiking out in the dark. Things weren't going smoothly and so I pulled out my axe to add something to hold onto and picked my way down. I was glad to be back on flatter terrain. I stopped at the bench to have some snacks and call Jennifer before I started back down the trail.

Looking down from my high point

The trail was good going at first, and then in the woods a way I just didn't like how slow I was going in an effort not to fall. I stopped and put on the crampons. Wow! I blasted down the compacted snow effortlessly, passing more sliders and tree huggers. At some point the snow started looking fairly dirty and I opted to remove the crampons. About one switchback later and the continuous ice ended. There were a few more right hand turns in the woods that were slippery, including one where I skated for five feet with incident. After that it was just a matter of hoofing it back to the car.

This was a fun trip. I have never been up Si in the winter before. The trail conditions were abysmal with the compacted snow. I'm surprised people weren't being carted out of there. I am somewhat bummed about not making the top, but I am also happy I at least made an attempt of it. I think if I started up with crampons and my axe out I could have stayed on the snow/ice and made better time, as well as feeling more secure. But from the bottom the rock looked like a good option. The higher I went the more snow and ice covered the rock making it less of an option. At my high point I contemplated donning the crampons for a summit push, but realized I had burned up too much time to that point. A second tool may also have helped, but I didn't feel like lugging one up the mountain. Being alone was a contributing factor as well. I spent almost ninety minutes without seeing or hearing another person while near the haystack.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kendall Stump - 02.16.11

Josh had a rare day off mid week, so we decided to get out and ski a bit. His backcountry rig is new this season and he hasn't got out much on it. He wanted to get out and tour a bit, perhaps as a shakedown. If the skiing was good, so much the better. With the recent winds and a mostly moderate avalanche forecast we opted to stick to the treed slopes of Kendall Stump.

We parked the car just off the road on the pullout. Knowing there might be issues trying to get it out of the unplowed area. Then we walked back to the turn in the road and started in. We didn't feel comfortable hiking past someone's house, and opted to head in the road a bit further before we did eventually turn into the woods and uphill. Which still resulting in walking past a house.

There was just the lightest dusting of new snow on top of very firm icy snow. The skinning was a bit slow and sketchy. We both had slips on the ice and we grew weary of being in the woods. We saw the light of the clear cut and opted to boot out to the clear cut the last hundred feet or so. Out in the clear cut the fresh snow was around two inches deep and the base did not appear to be as firm. We donned our skis and started skinning up the tightly treed opening.

When the guide books were written, this area was more recently cut. It is obvious from the pic in the Seabury Blair Jr. book that there were less trees in the cut and more open slopes than exist now. The trees here are tightly spaced and made navigating uphill almost as bad as the navigation downhill. As we went higher the trees became more sparse and we headed to more open spaces. We used some old logging roads for ease of travel and opted to head to the top of the ridge.

We took a brief break up top and looked at a line a recent skier took. We did not take the same line as the western aspect was more wind blown and had a bit of a crust on it. It was not the nice ankle deep powder we were experiencing around the corner. We transitioned, and I started down. We had a nice run back to the first road and went across it to continue down. We enjoyed the run so much we transitioned to do it again. Now with a good skin track in we made quick time to the top and were soon heading back down.

With the sun shining most of the day to that point it made the snow heavier, but the second run was still great fun. The lower we got in the run the less fun it became as the trees became closer spaced and the hard crust was not as well covered. We got separated a bit picking our way through the trees and then had to traverse skier's right in hopes of finding more open terrain. We were able to make some connected turns just before entering the forest and taking our skis off to hike the still frozen snow in the woods.

My pics are here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bryant Peak - 02.11.11

[200th post!]

Adam and I headed for a short climb of Bryant Peak on Friday. The cloudy weather and recent lack of snow should have combined to give us good conditions for this type of climb without it being a snow slog. More importantly avalanche conditions were low, which is helpful for climbing some steep snow slopes.

We arrived in the parking lot before 8am and were on our way shortly. We packed snowshoes with us just in case the snow got deeper higher up. The cat track was freshly groomed and firm and we made good time on it. Once we left the track for the luge run the footing became increasingly less firm. But we still did not require snowshoes. Just before Source Lake we headed up into the woods toward the hanging valley. Since we were no longer following a track, the snow was a bit deeper, but the steepness made bare booting easier than snow shoe travel. I stopped for a "bathroom break" while Adam kept going. I eventually caught him and took over the step kicking duties until we got into the hanging valley to take a break.

After our break we climbed a bit higher and cached our snowshoes and poles behind a snow mound for retrieval later. We each pulled out an axe and started to ascend toward the gully. The gully was fairly skied out and we found some snowboarder boot tracks up that we followed for bit before they disappeared into the gully. Then we forged through some deep snow before we gained the more narrow section which had been compacted by skiers and boarders. We were now at the col and it was windy. We took a brief stop mostly to put on soft shells and then we started up the ridge.

At the steeper section we decided to go around as Adam had only one axe and was concerned about needing a second on the short steep pitch. Going around didn't prove significantly easier as we got out on firm snow that some times required a few kicks for a positive hold. The runout was longer and bit more dangerous too. And it didn't appear to be much less steep. We continued around a rock outcropping and then I took the lead again to head back up to the ridge. The snow was firm and shallow in places. I aimed for a group of trees. Adam and I were eager to get to a point where we could stand comfortably again. The small clump of trees was the spot.

It was around Noon and we decided to have lunch and contemplate continuing to the summit. The wind was pretty strong and both of us were feeling like we had had enough steep snow considering we would have to down climb anything we went up. We viewed the next step and decided against it as we were finishing lunch. We packed up and left the puffies on for the down climb. I pulled out a second ax for balance. It was slow going and after getting back to easier ground we plunge stepped back to the col. Adam started down while I removed my puffy and I followed. The going in the gully was easy, although we opted to climb it mostly face in. Even when the snow got softer it was a bit messy to face out. We eventually did face out and stomp our way back to our poles and snow shoes.

The snowshoes and axes went back on our packs as a light snow started to fall. We headed toward the mouth of the valley and down to Source Lake. Somewhere around 4000' the snow changed over to rain and we had a soggy hike back to the car.

This was a fun trip, and nice to get out. With the precip starting to fall once we got back to our cache, I feel good about turning around before reaching the summit. But after feeling pretty good on the down climb, I feel like we would have had no issues continuing to the summit if we had decided to do so. I'll save the summit for another time. It was a good day.

My pics are here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mount Margaret - 02.09.11

It is almost embarrassing that I am typing this. I thought about not typing up a report for this trip, but I felt I should serve as an example to others.

So the intro is a little heavy. Reality is that nothing terrible happened on this trip. I set out for a ski of Mount Margaret solo. Due to avy conditions and time constraints, I figured this was a suitable trip for the day to achieve a summit and some turns. It was sort of a last minute trip and I briefly viewed the entry in the book the evening before. I had meant to take the book with me in the car to review it once more before heading out, but I forgot it. I didn't bring a map either, which would have solved my problems as well.

I left the car at 8am heading down the road on the snowmobile tracks. Within a few hundred feet an abandoned overgrown logging road heads uphill. (It still has a sign from the logging company and had a date like 1982 on it.) There was a faint skin track on this road, so I thought that is where I was supposed to go. After heading up for a bit I came to an intersection and went left, but once again this was because I was following a faint old skin track. After a while, the road ended in a bit of a clearing. I could see a ridge above me and the skin track headed out above the clearing. I paused, and then attempted to follow it. So far to this point the snow was mostly a breakable crust layer and this steeper section was no different. I got to a tree and took my skis off. I hiked up a bit and finally decided that this was not where I was supposed to be. I hiked back to the clearing.

I skied back to the intersection and took the other path. It ended quickly and soon I was traipsing through the woods at the end of the road. While the snow was better here, and the distance between the trees accommodating, I knew I wasn't going up Mount Margaret and turned around. I skied out back to near the car and started south with the snowmobile tracks. I had burned well over two hours wandering around on the incorrect roads.

I skinned fast to make up time. But skinning wasn't particularly easy as the snow was torn up from snowmobiles and had refrozen during the night. When possible I stayed off to the side of the road to have a better track. I briefly explored a track going into the woods near Rocky Run before continuing up the correct road. I was making good time, but at the expense of my foot. I felt a hot spot and stopped to put a bandage over it hoping to stop a blister formation. I got back up and started going again. I saw a faint track from Nordic skis and wondered how far the person was in front of me.

I arrived at what was the Mount Margaret trail parking lot. All of the sudden the snow was better (3" of fresh) and I thought I still had a chance to summit or at least get some turns. It was before noon and I finally felt like I was on track. The other skier was cleaning snow off his skis, and looking to head down. I just said "hi" and didn't ask for beta which may have helped. As I went past him, I noticed he had booted back to the spot where I saw him. Then I started to get the idea. There were numerous small creeks running through the road. Some required the removal of skis to get across. Others could be carefully navigated on snow bridges. The final wash out was probably the north fork of Wolfe Creek and where the other skier turned around. It was still around noon, and I had a turnaround time of 1pm so I got out my shovel and cut a step into the snow so I could get in the wash. It was about a 4' drop otherwise. I cut a step in the other side just in case, and then carried my skies across the creek. This burned a fair amount of time. Getting the boots wet caused difficulties with my binding as they were icing up with snow and cold water.

Shortly after this crossing the road ended. There was no clear way up, and I just headed into the woods. The trees were tight, and I was trying to navigate through the wider openings. I wandered around with a the vague idea of heading up and right, hoping to find more open forest. I got back to the creek. It wasn't any easier to cross where I was at, so I headed back to the road. I met my turnaround time. How quickly I had forgotten all the little creek crossings. While this section of road was fairly level, I felt I would be able to ski out and removed my skins after crossing the major crossing. Then I had to remove my skis for two or three more smaller crossings before I got back to the parking lot and the main road. The ski out from there was uneventful aside from wanting to put the skins back on for the flat section near the highway.

Overall it was great to be out on a nice day. Was this trip successful? Yes in that I got out and got to exploring. There will always be another time to make the summit. Now I have a greater realization on why one should carry a map and compass. To eliminate these silly mistakes. I have looked at the map of Mount Margaret this morning and realized I would have not made any errors had I had it with me. Of course, I perhaps could have just read the book more carefully before heading out and I may have reached the top, or at least an area with a good ski run. Next time perhaps?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Granite Mountain - 02.02.11

3700' elevation gain
6 miles RT
Left car: 9:15 am
Summit: 11:40 pm
Back at car: 1:45 pm
4.5 hours car to car

I wanted to take advantage of the high pressure system we had here and get out. Only I had no partners to climb with. So I opted for a ski of Granite Mountain on I90 to enjoy the sun and perhaps some Spring like skiing.

I took a fairly casual start, as I wanted to make sure the sun had time to warm the snow. I did fear that I could end up descending in crampons, but this was unfounded even though the temp in Seattle was 28° when I left. I didn't bring skins, as I knew the snow would be too hard, and most likely a little too steep for them. Booting on the trail was going smoothly and went even more smoothly a half hour in when I switched my boots to walk mode. Once the Granite Mountain trail divides from the Pratt Lake trail, booting was a little more difficult with a more steep, rocky, rooty way. I passed a couple of skiers who spent the night and had skied down that morning. They warned me of sloughs up high and hard pack down low.

Continuous snow started around 3000' and soon after I was in the bottom of the avalanche chute. I attempted to keep booting up the chute, but the snow was hard and there wasn't a distinct set of bootprints going up it. After a bit of jabbing my toes into the slope and realizing I was doing myself a disservice, I stopped to put crampons on. Although I was adding weight to my feet I started moving more quickly and using less energy. Near treeline, I headed left to gain the south ridge and avoid the chute and the dangers that come with it.

Once on the ridge I hopped over to the windward side and had excellent snow for crampons. I considered leaving the ridge to the west to gauge the snow there for a run, but opted not to and jumped over to the east side of the ridge near the top to look at my descent options and get a feel for the snow.

At the top I chatted with a snowshoer and had some snacks, snapped a few pictures and started to gear up for my descent. Some runs on the north side looked great, but I needed to be back in town, and without skins, the deeper looking snow on the north side would have been miserable. I considered walking a bit from the lookout, but opted to put the skis on right there and make my way down to the south face.

After some slower skiing in good snow I got to some rollovers that mark the top of the south face. A few turns in and the snow was sloughing. Nothing serious to me, but perhaps the top 3" of wet snow would release. A few turns in and I saw a couple in the chute, the woman holding tight to her unleashed dog. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but I got the impression the woman was a bit scared and wanted to get out of there. I don't blame her, who hikes up an avy chute on this mountain?

After spying the couple I was more cautious so that I would not release sloughs near them. This followed with my intended path of heading skier's right to a section of snow scoured by a previous slide that I thought would offer the best turns. Cutting the slope did not release the sloughs, and only turning was releasing snow. After a few turns I would watch the snow slide down the chute to the deposition area near the bottom. It was slow going. At some point I finally got far enough right and cleared enough snow to have a good run for a bit through some small trees. I made mostly continuous turns to the deposition pile. I stopped a few times to check out the other skiers, now above me, to make sure they were going to slough anything off onto me.

Just below the debris pile I took my skins off and hopped across the chute on bare grass to gain snow on the other side of the chute. The other skiers followed me. A few hundred feet more of turns and it was time to boot. I hustled out the trail and was back at the car pretty quickly once I reached the clear trail.

Overall, it was good to get out and enjoy the weather. It was a nice day in the hills even if the skiing wasn't so great. I hadn't been up Granite in a few years, and it was nice to do it on skis and on a clear day with amazing views. It was a lot of work for ~2000' of skiing.

My pics are here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mount Hood - South Side - 01.22.11

5200'+ elevation gain
7 miles RT
Left car: 5:00 am
Summit: 1:00 pm
Back at car: 4:00 pm
11 hours car to car

With babies on the way Josh and I were trying to plan one last mountain attempt before we are relegated to in town duties. We were hoping for an overnight, but weather and conditions did not cooperate for that type of adventure. The weather looked better further south, so we opted for a climb of Mount Hood, with an overnight in the parking lot. With not much recent mountain activity more committing routes were nixed and we were just going up the standard south side route. (Also due to the fact that the snow wouldn't be too good for skiing and at least we would get ~2000' of groomed skiing in to mitigate the poor snow.

The ride down to Hood always takes longer than expected. This time we didn't encounter too much traffic, but we arrived in the Timberline parking lot around 11:30pm. It was windy and I was not encouraged. But a full moon and a view of the mountain was an encouraging sign. After a visit to lodge and signing in we went back to the car to consider sleeping arrangements. I balked first and opted to sleep in my bivy sack outside, while Josh and Matt slept in the front seats of the car. While I was fairly warm, the wind buffeted my bivy sack and made falling to sleep difficult. A few times during the night people made noise or trucks drove by that woke me up. Next thing I know Josh was waking me up at our 4am wake up time.

We ducked into the alcove at the day lodge to gear up away from the wind. This is when I realized I had made a few packing errors. I didn't bring the ideal ski socks, but I wasn't too concerned about that. But I was mildly concerned about not bringing a hard shell. When we were finally underway, I opted to skin in my puffy jacket for lack of a better wind blocking layer. The wind had not abated since going to sleep. It may have been even more intense as we started up. The snow was frozen solid, but the skinning went well aside from a few slips.

When we got to the Silcox Hut there were a few parties turning back. They were getting turned around by the wind. We took a pause in the lee of the hut to discuss our options. The snow was way too hard for us to ski back to the car at this point. At a minimum we could head up to 8500' and ski once the sun came out. I made the prediction that the wind was from the high pressure coming in and that it should mellow out later in the day, but who could be sure? We kept going uphill.

Above the hut the wind was worse. One bout carried plenty of ice pellets that felt like getting shot repeatedly by paint balls at close range. I told the guys if that event repeated twice more I was turning around. It didn't, but many strong gusts stopped us in our tracks. As the sun rose and we got higher, we adjusted to the wind more and the wind even started to wane. We took a brief stop at the top of the Palmer Chair before continuing.

Above the ski area the terrain was all rime. Without ski crampons the skinning was proving difficult. We shot for a ice out cropping that others were at so that we could stash our skis. We took another break there leaving our skis behind. We put our crampons on and started to boot up. This is where I realized that ski boots are not ideal for French crampon technique. There is just no ankle flex. Matt had it worst as he was in resort boots, due to his lack of owning AT boots. We made slower progress over the delicate and not so delicate rime petals. Due to our inability to easily walk with the ski boots on, we took indirect lines and made many switchbacks to reduce the angle and ease our ascent.

We arrived at the Hogsback a bit tired and I for one was not particularly motivated. We discussed the route with others there who were not going for the summit because they felt it unsafe. We talked with a group coming down from the summit. After a lunch break we opted to leave our packs at the Hogsback and head up with some essentials. We put on harnesses and carried the rope, just in case we needed it and we were on our way. Josh was motivated and jumped out ahead of Matt and I who were just plodding along. We took the old chute variation as most of the beta we got sounded like the Pearly Gates might be a little sketchy in the heat of the day. An hour later we stood on the summit. To our surprise, the summit was much less windy than most of the ascent. We stayed briefly to snap a few pictures, and then headed back to our packs.

Coming down the chute turned into a circus. A party who ascended Leuthold's Couloir was down climbing and skiing the chute. Another party of young boys was trying to climb the chute and this made it difficult to stay safe. At one point I noticed that one of the boys had only one crampon on. Despite the antics we made it back to our packs safely. Although I was dragging behind. I think due to food and hydration, but I can never be sure which one. We packed up and headed back to our skis. Heading down was quick and we reached our skis after coming down through all the rime covered slopes which had not softened up. Josh and I were ahead of Matt and we discussed carrying our skis back to the top of the lift, perhaps another 300' of vertical or so. Walking on the terrain was hard enough, skiing couldn't be any better. At least it wouldn't be fun. Matt, in his resort boots decided to ski it because he could not wait any longer to stop walking. It took him about the same amount of time to ski it, but he didn't fall and did a good job.

Once at the lift Josh and I prepped to ski and then the three of us were off. I took my time skiing as I was tired and made a few stops to rest. I took a wrong turn at the Silcox Hut onto the cat track which was difficult skiing. After a hard face plant, I started skiing the icy snow on the side of the cat track and then eventually I found the nicer "groomed" snow to arrive at the lodge later than Josh and Matt.

Overall this was a nice trip. We had a bluebird day (not in the forecast.) Other than the high winds for a good portion of the morning the weather was fine. We were a little tired, but that is the drawback of being a weekend warrior. It surprises me just how many novice climbers we encountered including the three young boys who had rented gear and didn't really appear to know what they were doing. (They carried helmets up to the Hogsback, but left them there to go for the summit.) It was a bummer the skiing wasn't good, but we sort of expected that, which is why the destination was Hood for the groomed slopes.

Every time I see pictures of the Mount Hood in winter I love the rime ice. I think it is truly beautiful. I am glad I finally got to see it first hand and marvel in view. It made it difficult for me to ascend to the summit as I was content at the Hogsback taking in the views of the summit rime. I always like coming to active mountains, and the smell of sulfur dioxide is more subdued in the winter when in the crater of Mount Hood.

My pics are here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heather Ridge Ski - 01.09.11

Dan and I tried to go out earlier in the week, but he realized he was going to return from Colorado too late to be able to head out the next day. We rescheduled for Sunday in the hopes of better snow to ski.

We read the reports and the telemetry and it wasn't too promising. Shallow powder on top of the rain crust was what we were seeing. Dan was skeptical. Stevens Pass ski area reported only two inches of snow on Saturday. But the telemetry was showing at least 6" when we talked, and that was for highway level (4000'.) I told him we should give it a go. So we planned to get to the parking lot at 8am to beat the resort opening at 9am.

It was 24°F and there were plenty of cars in the lot when we arrived, but most were for the resort. We passed a bunch of people putting on skins in the lot as we made our way to the trail. When we got there, there was a faint skin track from one person, and a couple of guys with a loose dog booting up the trail. I made quick time to pass them, and then tried to settle in to a slower pace. Dan told me he he wasn't sure he could keep pace with me, but I seriously tried to keep the pace sane. The going up the road was easy as it was packed down from yesterday's skiers. A few times the guy in front of us took short cuts, and a few times we followed. We caught him just before reaching Skyline Lake where we chatted with a couple who had spent the night up there. It took us 40 minutes to reach the lake. We heard the other skier mention he was headed to the other side of the lake to wake up his friend who spent the night.

Dan and I crossed the lake and headed up the other side. We had a few navigational issues, but finally found ourselves on the saddle looking at chute to descend. The snow had been getting deeper as we got higher and we were now standing in a fair amount of powder on top of the crust from this weeks rain. There were no signs of instability and I let Dan take the first run as I thought there might be a cliff or something in the chute. There wasn't and soon we were navigating our way through the trees to a more level area in the valley. The run started as nice powder, but on stronger turns and lower down the crust was encountered. It would throw you off a bit but nothing significant.

At the top of the run we eyed the open upper slopes of Tye Peak. When we finished our first run we attempted to find a skin track from Saturday that lead over in that direction. We did, and soon we were making our own track up the side of the mountain. Dan took over as we gained the ridge and crossed through a section of hard wind packed snow to our top out point, a patch of trees. This run was great with nice powder for most of the run with a few spots where we hit crust lower down. It was 11:30am, and we decided to have lunch before taking another run down Tye Peak.

Now that we had our track in, the skin up went even quicker. We opted to stop a little lower as we wanted a run further to skier's right and going up to the top of our first run would put us too far left. We transitioned as a lone skier passed us thanking us for the skin track. Then we had another great powder run down to the meadow before transitioning to skinning again.

Unfortunately we couldn't find a good up track and put one in ourselves for a bit. (More of a rising traverse actually.) This didn't go smoothly until we finally got under the boulder field and near our first run tracks. Then we located a skin track and followed it back to the saddle. A skin on run down to the lake and a skin back across the lake brought us to our last transition. We made quick time down the luge run and cut out down the open slopes a bit before returning to the road to speed out. Plenty of moving obstacles coming up and down the trail to avoid. We made it back to the car before 2pm to head back to Seattle.

Dan said this was his best day out this season and was really happy I convinced him to go. The runs were great, and we had first runs off the backside of the ridge, allowing us first turns on Tye Peak as well. By the time we were headed out Heather Ridge was fairly tracked out, with a few good pockets remaining.

My pics are here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DIY Leashless Umbilicals

I sold off my old ice tools for newer ones. I got Petzl Quarks as I wanted a tool that had leashes but could go leashless and I found I enjoyed the swing better than other tools on the market that fit the bill. I had not climbed leashless, so I wanted to start on them with leashes. That idea didn't last as the first time I went out this season I kept the leashes in my pack. I found climbing without leashes to be such a release. Now ice climbing is more like rock climbing. I can shake out easily and placing screws is just as easy. Even yesterday while climbing it made some mixed type moves much easier to do where I used a branch as a hold on a climb. This is not easily doable with leashes if only for the mental concept of the tool being attached to you person.

So after my first true leashless experience back in November I knew I needed to make umbilicals for my tools in the event I do a multi pitch route with them. I started with the information on AAI's blog to make my own.

Their version calls for a swivel, which I don't feel I need. I am not doing anything fancy like switching and matching at this point to make that a needed part of the umbilical. Removing the swivel keeps weight and price down when making your own too, so that was also a concern of mine. Speaking of which, it was about five dollars for the 1/2" tubular webbing and 1/8" shock cord both in twelve foot lengths. Adding a swivel probably jacks the price up to $10. (Still much cheaper than a $45 one from Black Diamond.) I followed the instructions they had and used bailing wire to snake the shock cord through the webbing which made it easy.

However, the instructions that are provided incorporate the length of the swivel into the system. Upon completing mine I found it too short for the way I wished to use it. So I added a loop of webbing to extend it and hopefully use it to girth hitch to my harness. It turned out to be still a touch short, so I now clip my extension loop onto a biner on my harness. If you are planning on doing this yourself, test often. I think the only sure test before cutting is to try it on with a harness and take some swings. Make sure to take a few to the side as well. If you are tall like me and don't plan on adding the swivel, the full 12' would be a good starting point. Since I have Quarks, I made small loops of 4mm cord to clip climbing carabiners into to loops.

Having climbed on the umbilicals once, I can say most of the time I do not notice they are there. However, there were a few occasions where they hooked on screw heads or icicles. But I'd believe with practice that those events should diminish.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Alpental Falls - 01.04.11

Finally weather, schedule and partners cooperated for ice this season. We had been experiencing high pressure, and the temps did not rise above 20° at Alpental for nearly five days. Surely there had to be ice.

Adam and I had a casual start and arrived in the Alpental parking lot before nine. We donned snowshoes and headed up to the falls. Upon scoping out our options, we once again went to Alpental IV, or the farthest on the left in the clearing. Adam took his snowshoes off for the last bit before we geared up and found himself wallowing. I didn't fare too much better on snowshoes, but mostly because I didn't have a balancing tool out, like a trekking pole. Last winter this lower tier was never climbable. This time I was going to give it a go.

We geared up and I headed off on the lead. I was slow, concerned with the running water behind much of the ice. Surprisingly, the ice took screws well and I even tied off a tree branch at one point. Then I stalled for a while trying to figure out how to proceed. It seems some bit of ice had come off and now there was a window with a thin pane of ice to the running water. I needed to not be brutish around it and contemplated going left of it on a steeper bit, or going around right on lower angle terrain that had plenty of water behind it. After exploring both options, I finally decided on the left steeper bit. The climbing was a bit easier than I expected it to be once I committed to it. Due to the snowy top, I used my left hand to grab a few branches on the way over. Once over this short section the going was fairly easy on lower angle ice with water behind it. Then I got into snow and exited the falls to a tree to belay. I brought Adam up.

We eyed the remaining portion of the climb and decided that it did not look fat enough for us to continue. We scouted around in the woods for something to climb and saw a few items, but I really didn't feel like breaking the rope out again for 25' of ice. So we checked the next gully. That didn't pan out and we started to head back to our packs. On the way we passed the ice we climbed back in November. It was fatter still, and I gave it a go on lead. The climbing was alright, with a bit of a sketchy top out. After I brought Adam up we returned to the packs.

We ate lunch and chatted with another party who were packing up after having climbed Alpental III. They seemed to have a good time and we decided to get on it. The sun came out for a bit and one of the fellows leaving warned of high temps. But his buddy dismissed him saying he was from Alaska. Having checked the telemetry when I got home, the air temp never rose above 28°, but I'm sure it was a bit warmer in the sun. That gave me pause to leading it, but once I got on the lower section, the ice felt more secure than the first route of the day, and I kept going.

After the initial steeper section was a scary unprotectable slab with less than a 2" thick sheet of ice over the rock. I high dagger tip toed up the slab and stopped at a convenient tree to belay Adam up. When he arrived he asked me what I thought about the next section. I told him I'd have to be at the base to get a feel for it. Just because I see running water behind ice doesn't mean I automatically can't trust it. I like to tap and poke it a bit before I make a decision. Adam thought there was an easy bypass on the right of the main fall. He offered to lead up and we would top rope the ice. After going about a body length or more up and not finding any protection, Adam came back to the tree. We swapped leads, and I went to check out the ice.

While there was considerable water running behind the ice, it was thick and fairly solid (for Washington ice.) I poked at it a bit, and scouted a route. I wanted to stay where the ice was thicker, and where there were some ledge type features to ease my lead. I took a few swings and really liked how they stuck. I told Adam I was going for it. I sunk a 19cm screw and was on my way. A bit higher I placed another screw and was even able to get another in a little higher. Then I was struck with a decision. Climbing left of my position meant steeper ice with some good ledges, but more tricky protection. Climbing right meant thinner ice at a lower angle closer to the main flow of water under the ice. Since I seem to prefer less steep to steep, I opted to go right. At the last great stance I contemplated the terrain above me. Adam suggested sinking a screw. I didn't think one would go, but I pulled out a 13cm and sank it. I clipped it and cruised upward.

Adam said I climbed the last bit better than the earlier part. He found it funny as he thought that was the more difficult section. I guess I just focused for that section and felt good about the screw I placed. After Adam reached me he offered to lower me and for me to top rope the section again. He lowered me, and then I took the steeper line to the left which was also enjoyable. I cruised the whole portion a lot quicker and felt good to finally be on top rope.

Adam lowered me to the packs, and set about doing two rappels to get back to the ground. It was around 3:30 and the sun had gone behind the clouds making the air noticeably cooler. At the packs we packed up and took the ten minute hike back to the car.

This was a nice outing to get in before the temps warmed up the rest of the week. Hopefully some ice will remain. Otherwise it will be skiing for the rest of the winter.

My pics are here.