December 09, 2009

Ice on Snoqualmie Pass

The first half of Alpental 1

I've been feeling the desire to take advantage of the recent cold snap for several days now, and I finally found a partner to go exploring with. Deverton and I drove up to Snoqualmie Pass to locate the Alpental Ice that we'd read about.

After arriving at the parking area, Deverton realized he forgot his boots. Luckily, I had my house with me which contained my telemark boots. These fit Dev well enough and he managed the day with them just fine.

Nearing the top of the first pitch

We found the ice about 5 minutes from the parking area and it was in (albeit a bit funky with soft areas, thin areas, brittle areas, hollow areas, etc.). We ended up climbing Alpental 1, which was a long 2-pitch ice climb. Aside for an interesting belay stance right below the crux, the climb was super fun and went very smoothly. The sound of running water below the ice was a new experience for me after climbing in Colorado.

We also scouted potential future climbs in the same area. I've decided there's a lot of ice in Washington when it gets cold.

Alpental 3 (saved for another day)

Alpental 4 (saved for perhaps the same day as Alpental 3)

December 02, 2009

Thanksgiving Roadtrip

Ava and I drove down to Berkeley for Thanksgiving with her family, with plans to stop and ski in Tahoe on the way down and back. Unfortunately, Tahoe didn't have much snow, so we stopped in Bend to visit Ogie. We made a couple quick laps on Tumalo before the 8-hour drive to the Bay.

The weather was great, and the snow in the back bowl was surprisingly powdery considering the escalating temperatures and time since the last snowfall.

We made it to Berkeley without incident and had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We failed to ski on the return trip as conditions were too poor to provide the necessary motivation. After an unusually great start to the ski season in the northwest, we seem to be in a lull. Hopefully the Beavers beating the Ducks tomorrow will put the universe back in balance and keep the snow stacking up in the mountains!

November 14, 2009

Elk Huntin'

After 15 years of applying for a branch antlered bull elk tag in Oregon's Wenaha unit, Dad finally drew the opportunity to hunt in this unique and rugged region. I had drawn the tag 14 years ago while in high school, but failed to take advantage of it as I regrettably prioritized football and school ahead of this tremendous opportunity. At any rate, we both viewed this tag as extra special because it would allow us to, at least partially, redeem my prior botched opportunity. Due to the fact that I wasn't required to be in a cubicle, I was able to accompany Dad for the entirety of the hunt.

Nephew Jake and cousin Dan joined the team to provide a combination of local knowledge and general hunting expertise. The hunting efforts actually started before the 11-day-long hunting season, with a combination of Jake, Dan, and Dad spending several days in the area scouting for large bull elk over the previous three weeks. The scouting efforts paid off with multiple large bulls spotted and their general locations known.

We saw several bulls during the first four days of hunting, but the giant ones (370+ for those elk hunters out there) remained elusive. On the fifth day, Dad and Dan spotted a real nice bull that they guessed would score about 330. They only managed to catch glimpses of the bull before it went back into hiding in the trees. They looked and waited for the bull to show itself again for about 6 hours, at which point it got dark and they had to hike back out of the canyon they had chased the bull into. During all this time, Jake and I were glassing adjacent canyons for additional bulls, hoping to find "the big one".

That night, we decided that our time to kill a bull was running out, so we should combine our efforts in attempt to shoot the biggest bull we had seen, which was the one Dad and Dan waited on that day. The next day we awoke at the typical 4:30 am and promptly headed to the canyon where the bull was last seen the previous day. Jake and I stood post at two locations at the top of the canyon to look for the bull from above. Dad and Dan hiked quietly down into the canyon in effort to be within shooting range when (and if) the bull showed himself again.

My view into the canyon from my glassing location

Almost immediately, Jake spotted a glimpse of a large, blond colored body, indicative of a large bull. The body disappeared before he could further identify the bull. A few minutes later, the fog sitting lower in the valley rose to obscure the area where Jake saw the bull. He radioed Dad and Dan to tell them what he had seen and where he had seen it, at which point they moved through the fog to a position where they would hopefully have a shot at the bull once the fog disappeared. Over 4 hours later, just after 11:00 on 11/11, the fog layer dropped back down just far enough to reveal the last seen location of the bull. A minute later, Dan spotted the bull 285 yards away, bedded down under a tree.

After confirming this was the large bull seen the previous day, Dad adjusted his position to get a clear shot at the bull through the numerous trees. With a great rest for his rifle, Dad shot at the bedded down bull. After shooting, the startled bull jumped up and stood broadside. Dan was watching intently this whole time and determined the bullet hit a small branch and was deflected away from the bull. He calmly told Dad to go ahead and shoot again, and within seconds of his first shot, shot a second time. The bull then walked off into the trees and was out of sight. With the great rest and reasonable distance, Dad couldn't believe he missed the bull twice, but the bull trotted off as if it was unharmed. Fifteen minutes later, Dad and Dan reached the location where the bull was bedded down. Looking for blood, they found none. Disheartened, they walked in the direction the bull had sauntered off in. After walking about three yards, they spotted the bull 30 yards away, dead and lying in the brush. The second shot went through both front shoulders and the vital heart/lung region between them.

Dad and me with the bull, unofficially named the "GrizBull" in honor of the late Steve "Grizzly" Adams

The 6x7 bull ended up being pretty old by elk standards at about 10 or 11 years. In terms of the antlers, this means that each point is a little shorter and little thicker than they were when the bull was at its biggest (around 6 or 7 years old). The seventh point on the bull is a short (about 2-inch) point sticking out of its skull, separate from its two main antlers and precisely mimicking a devil's horn.

The four of us packed one load out that night, including the antlers and about 90 pounds of meat. We returned the following day to pack out the rest of the meat, which totaled about 200 additional pounds. All of this needed to be carried about 1000 vertical feet out of the steep canyon.

Dad carrying out the antlers

I haven't been hunting since I was about 15 years old. Since that time, my opinions, thoughts, and feelings about life and how hunting fits into it have changed immensely. This experience helped further shape my perception of hunting. Before this hunt, I felt strongly that anyone willing to eat meat should also be willing to kill for it. This experience only helped to reinforce that opinion while making it stronger by being so intimately involved with taking the life of such a magnificent creature. Sharing this experience with family and close friends made it all the more amazing.

These days, animal death is all but completely removed from most people's lives. We eat meat without acknowledging the origin of it or the steps necessary to turn something like a cow into the steak that you order at a restaurant. Being part of the killing, processing, and eating of this bull was a powerful experience indeed. It's easy to see why many past cultures revered and honored the animals responsible for their subsistence after the first hand experience provided by this hunt. I'm now tempted to get back into hunting as I'm not willing to turn vegetarian - we'll see how that goes.

November 02, 2009


Ava and I just got back from a long and great weekend in the Lake Tahoe vicinity. We flew into Oakland on Wednesday night, spent a day with her parents (who were awesome!) in Berkeley, and drove to Truckee on Friday morning.

We spent the rest of the day climbing at Donner Pass on a couple of wonderful granite crack routes (Insidious Crack and Jellyroll Arch), both two pitches long. We didn't have a camera, so the pictures here are all courtesy of Mountain Project.

Jellyroll Arch (Insidious Crack is just to the right of the start of this climb)

The following day we drive to Lover's Leap, which turns out to be an incredible 400 foot almost perfectly vertical wall of granite with frequent horizontal dikes. We first tried to climb Corrugated Corner, which had several parties lined up waiting at the bottom. Next, we tried to get on Haystack and encountered the same issue. Option C was to climb East Crack, which ended up being quite a dandy climb indeed. The first two pitches were long and consisted of sustained 5.7/5.8 climbing with an occasional small roof. The final pitch (5.4) began where multiple routes converged and was a complete cluster with about 4 separate climbing parties waiting for a single crack. If it wasn't for this final pitch, this would have been one of my favorite routes ever!

Some random dude on East Crack at Lover's Leap (courtesy of Mountain Project)

After this we drove to Incline Village and met up with Louis, Jasmine, and a bunch of their friends from Santa Cruz for some Halloween shenanigans. Games were played and wine was drank into the wee hours of the morning. Thanks a bunch to the Frauers as well as Don and Pam for a great time!

On Sunday we all went back to Donner Summit and climbed on some more granite (Composure, Rapid Transit, and Molar Concentration on the Snowshed Wall). It was super fun hanging out with Lou and Jas again and climbing in a new area!

General Climbing Impressions/Opinions:
  • The rock around Lake Tahoe is pretty damn awesome!
  • Lover's Leap is the most spectacular area we found in this vicinity with many 3 and 4 pitch moderate climbs.
  • The guide book for the area, Rock Climbing Lake Tahoe by Mike Carville, is almost worthless. With a few exceptions, all it provides is the route name and grade. For trivial details such as route length, route quality, protection beta, and descent beta, I suggest researching these routes online.
Sunday evening we drove back to Berkeley before flying to Seattle early Monday morning. I can't wait to climb more in the Sierra!

October 26, 2009

Course #3 - Smith Rock

I just returned from instructing my third NOLS course, which happened to be a 2.5-week climbing camp at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon! Better yet, I got to work with Dane! Along with a third instructor, Todd, we had a great time tromping around the area where we both learned to climb but hadn't been back to in several years (about 6 for me). The 10 students we had were at various experience levels prior to the course, and it was fun to watch all of them improve as the course progressed.

Annie climbing Lion's Jaw

Jesse on the final pitch of Round River Direct

Kris on a 5.9 near Asterisk Pass

The last time I was at Smith, I had not yet begun trad climbing. Now that I do, the place seems even bigger than it did before, with way more routes than I can shake a stick at. I got to climb many of the routes I remembered from the past as well as several new ones. I can't wait to go back for a personal trip and climb a bunch of new routes without having to worry about catering to students! And yes, I still love my new job/lifestyle.

October 04, 2009

Kone Route - Three O'Clock Rock - Darrington

I'd heard about a climbing area in Washington called Exit 38 and always wondered where it was (i.e., which freeway it was off of, assuming it was very near an "Exit 38"). Turns out it's about 9 miles off of Highway 530, which doesn't even have exits. However, the trailhead to our climb was nearly exactly 38 miles from I-5, so that's my guess as to why it is named so.
At any rate, Ava and I selected a route out of the guidebook and went today to climb a 5-pitch 5.9 named the Kone Route on Three O'Clock Rock. I found the story of how this route was named quite interesting, so I will paraphrase it here. At the time this route was first put up, a young climber was planning a solo attempt of a new route on the notoriously dangerous Willis Wall on Mt. Rainier. His friends suggested he wear a Kone shaped helmet reminiscent of the then popular SNL Kone Heads to protect against the wall's ever-present rock fall, deflecting the rocks that were sure to strike him from above. Convinced the young climber would meet his demise on Mt. Rainier's Willis Wall later that year, his friends named this new route after him as sort of a pre-memorial. Said young climber never attempted the aforementioned Willis Wall climb.

I digress. We had a spectacular climb on wonderful rock, most of which was friction climbing with the occasional small jug. We were frequently forced to pretend we were Spiderman and simply stick to the rock as holds became nonexistent.

Ava on the second pitch

Spiderwoman styling the crux traverse move on the 4th pitch

The crux of the climb came on the descent. Following the guidebook recommendation and the only real option, we rappelled the route. The difficulty lie in the fact that the rappel stations were spaced about 32 meters apart. Our climbing rope, typical in length, was 60 meters long. When doubled over for rappelling, one can abseil up to 30 meters. Some creative shenanigans allowed us to safely get back to solid ground. I recommend using a 70-meter rope on this climb.

September 26, 2009

Ingalls Peak, North Peak

On Wednesday night, Ava and I drove just over Snowqualmie Pass to camp at a trailhead near Ingalls Peak. The following day we got up early, and began the longer-than-anticipated approach to the East Ridge of Ingalls Peak, North Peak (not sure why it's not called North Ingalls Peak). After a scrambly approach we got to the gully that lead to the ridge proper. Ascending the gully involved one long pitch of moderate 5th class climbing on variable rock of often questionable quality. The following pitch was easier and on much better rock - one of the highlights of the climb.

Ava after reaching the summit ridge

After a couple more pitches of exposed 4th to easy 5th class climbing, we arrived at the summit step. This step was a short (15-20 foot) sufficiently awkward leaning 5.7 crack on good rock, which we both found quite enjoyable.

Our route ascended the large gully between the two peaks in this picture, then up the ridge to the left. For the descent, we rappelled the left skyline

The summit was beautiful with views of nearby Mt. Stuart as well as Mt. Adams and Rainier to the south and Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker to the north.

We had originally hoped to rappel the South Ridge, reascend the 5.4 route on that same ridge, and then descend back to the car. However, due to the length of the approach, we didn't have time for this second ascent. After 5 rappels on the south ridge, we hiked back to the car to complete a solid 11 hour day.

Rappelling the South Ridge

Summary: There were two short pitches of great climbing on our ascent route, which made the climb worth doing. Most of the rest of the route was covered in loose rock. Rappelling down the South Ridge made it apparent that this route would have involved much more continuous good climbing at the 5.Fun level.

September 20, 2009

Canoeing / Mountaineering

I just got back from working the mountain section of a NOLS Semester in the PNW (Pacific Northwest). The 10 students had just finished hiking for 10 days when I drove myself and 6 canoes up through British Colombia to the north end of Ross Lake. Here I replaced one of the two instructors for the remaining part of the section, which included 4 days of canoeing on Ross Lake followed by 10 days of mountaineering on Mt. Baker.

Needless to say, I had yet another terrific NOLS experience! The paddled about 24 miles through the North Cascades, which seemed like a vacation compared to the hiking section the students had just finished and the mountaineering section they were about to begin. On the final day of paddling, we portaged around Ross Dam and finished the final couple of miles on Diablo Lake. Coincidentally, we met and handed our canoes over to another NOLS group who was planning to paddle the same route in the opposite direction, and Dane happened to be one of the instructors for that course!

View from a side hike up Desolation Peak while canoeing, Ross Lake is down in the bottom of the valley

I'd never been on Mt. Baker before, so I was pretty excited myself to see another of Washington's 5 volcanoes. For the most part, we had great weather. We began the section with a solid day of gaining ~3,000 feet with heavy packs to set up a high camp on the south side of the mountain. The next couple days were spent teaching students the numerous skills they would need to make an attempt at the summit, which we attempted the following day.

Students carrying heavy packs up to our base camp

Due to the lateness of the season, warm summer, and below average snow year, the glaciers on Mt. Baker were in particularly poor condition. Even so, our summit day got 11 of us to within about 400 feet of the summit. Here we encountered steep, loose rock, which would normally be covered with snow and ice. The lateness of the day prevented us from being able to properly manage the upper section, so we turned around and took a slight detour to look into the crater on top of the mountain.

Parallel parking to regroup and snack on the way up

Rope teams heading up the glacier towards the summit

Students on the crater rim of Mt. Baker, psyched on their Snickers Bars

Despite not summiting, the students had a great time and we inspired many of them to continue pursuing mountaineering as a recreational activity.

For the remaining time on the mountain, we took the students ice climbing in crevasses and toured counter-clockwise around the mountain over a few other glaciers in order to eventually get picked up at a different trialhead.

This course continued my excitement for NOLS, specifically getting into teaching mountaineering courses. For the most part, we had a great group of students who were motivated and susceptible to my contagious passion for the mountains.

Alexis (co-instructor) teaching a class with Mt. Shuksan in the background

August 29, 2009

Liberty Bell - The Beckey Route

I just got back from climbing the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell in the North Cascades. Back when this route was first climbed by the infamous Fred Beckey, he had to bushwack 17 miles just to get to the climb. Today, Highway 20 passes within 1.5 miles of the base of the climb, and a well maintained trail takes one almost all the way to the start of the climb.

Within a little over an hour after leaving the car, we were at the base of the climb. Dane and I climbed first, followed by Dave and Sidney (fellow friends and NOLS instructors). The climb was fairly short overall and easier than we had anticipated. Nonetheless, we had a fantastic time on this classic moderate climb on great rock, surrounded by the beautiful North Cascade mountains.

Liberty Bell from the Northwest

Dane and Me on the Summit

Not sure why, but we decided to pretend we were riding choppers on the summit

Maybe someday I'll be ready for the Liberty Crack route on the east side of Liberty Bell.

Liberty Bell, when viewed from the east, looks like a totally different mountain

August 28, 2009

North Cascades

I just finished a 10-day trip in the North Cascades with several fellow NOLS instructors. The purpose was to train current instructors in the ways of NOLS mountaineering customs in order check more instructors off to teach mountaineering courses in areas such as the North Cascades, Waddington Range, Patagonia, and India. Needless to say, since all NOLS instructors are great people, the company was fantastic! I learned a lot about how to manage students in an institutional setting in a terrain type that I'm fairly familiar traveling in on personal trips.

I was thoroughly impressed with the glaciers and vertical relief in North Cascades National Park. On the first day we ascended a steep 'trail' for 3,500 vertical feet to go from the forest to alpine environment. We stayed high in the alpine environment crossing glaciers and climbing peaks for the next 8 days, then descended the infamous Thunder Ridge to meet up with our ride back to civilization. The final mile of Thunder Ridge drops 3,000 vertical feet. I can't wait to do more exploring in this area! Here are some pics.

Dave crossing the creek in Boston Basin below our first camp

Emily navigating crevasses on the Quien Sabe glacier on the way up Sahale Peak

Looking down the Quien Sabe Glacier

Chris leading the summit pitch of Sahale Peak

The Quien Sabe Glacier and Sahale Peak (right side)

Crossing the Inspiration Glacier

Descending Eldorado Peak in a whiteout

The Inspiration Glacier with Forbidden Peak in the Background

August 12, 2009


Don Profesor el Segundo

I recently finished my first course as an instructor for NOLS. It was truly everything I had hoped it would be: from thoroughly enjoying myself to feeling like I had been a large part of a positive transformational experience for several students. After the course was over, I received a paycheck. It was then that I realized I had been working for the past 24 days.

The course was an Outdoor Educator Course in Montana's Beartooth Wilderness. For the most part, this simply means that the 12 students on the course were educators in some capacity and wanted to develop their skills in the outdoors in order to lead groups of their own students on backpacking trips. The students ranged in age from 18 to 52. We spent the first 17 days backpacking while teaching the students everything from how to use their stoves to the NOLS leadership curriculum. We finished the course with 4 days of rock climbing camp, which I found to be one of the highlights as my responsibilities increased for this portion of the trip.

We saw mountain goats, deer, river otters, hummingbirds, and weasels, all through the ever-present cloud of mosquitoes. My camera stopped working a few days into the trip, so my pictures are somewhat limited. I should be getting copies of everyone else's photos in the near future. I love my job!

Lizzie communicating with Don Profesor

Emily at Upper Sky Lake

Margaret, Kelly, Ava, and Sarah

July 14, 2009

I know what I'm doing!

So, after my first day of briefing, I now know that the course I will be leading will be in the Beartooth Wilderness in Montana. This is about a 5 hour drive from Lander, WY, and is unique because NOLS runs about 2 courses a year there. In comparison, we have 46 courses out in the Wind River Range as I'm typing this - I have no idea how many a year go there. Anyway, I now have a general idea of the route we will take for the next 22 days and it looks totally wicked!

To add to my excitement, I got an email today notifying me that I've been accepted to participate in the North Cascades Mountaineering Seminar on August 17-27, which will make me eligible to instruct, you guessed it, mountaineering courses in the North Cascades! I think this will pretty much be the ideal course type for me to instruct, so I couldn't be more stoked about the opportunities that successful completion of this seminar will open up!

One more day in town, and I'm off to the Beartooths with 2 co-instructors and 12 students, who range in age from 18 to 50. We've got an unusual distribution of the sexes, with a total of 10 females and 5 males - should be interesting!

July 12, 2009

Sinks Canyon

Sinks Canyon climbs up and due west of Lander (comparable to Boulder Canyon in Boulder). I've been up there a few times now as there are many sport climbing routes to play on, but I never bothered to stop at the visitors center. Well, today I did.

As it turns out, the river running down the canyon literally "sinks" out of site into the limestone cliff bordering the river, hence the name of the canyon.

I've never seen such a queer river in all my wanderings. To add to it, the river re-emerges 1/4 mile downstream - on the other side of the road, it turns out. You would think that a river traveling at the velocity observable in the video wouldn't take long to travel a quarter mile, but die tracers indicate a 2 hour lag time from entry to exit. Subterranean explorations to understand this have been unsuccessful for obvious reasons. Weird.

The Curtain

After spending almost 2 days with Grandma, my vision was realized. My vision was to construct a curtain in the back of my 4-Runner to: 1) Block out light, 2) Create some privacy, and 3) Give the back of the 4-Runner a bit of a hippy vibe. I believe all 3 goals were accomplished. Thanks Grandma!

July 06, 2009

Mt. St. Helens

The day after the "Adams with Adams" trip, Will, Jake, and I met up with my Dad to climb Mt. St. Helens. We generally followed the standard Monitor Ridge route with some of us skinning up adjacent to the rocky ridge. Once again, Dad displayed his prowess as a 56-year-old stud by cruising up to the top.

Skinning up

Approaching the crater rim with Dad

At the top we were above the clouds and had some pretty sweet views of the surrounding volcanoes (Rainier, Adams, and Hood), not to mention into the crater of St. Helens. At one point while hanging out on the top, the ground started to shake in mild earthquake style. This made me quite nervous, but it soon stopped and the mountain was still there.

After a round of PBR's on the top and several photos, we started down. Will, Jake, and I carried skis and had a super fun ski down. Dad hiked back down the ridge, passing a couple hundred people on their way up.

Summit PBRs

One of the many fun, natural terrain features

Classic Cascade Corn Snow!

June 28, 2009

Adams with Adams

I've always wanted to climb a mountain with the same name as one of my climbing partners. Check that one off the list, as I successfully summitted Mt. Adams with Jake Adams. Jake, Will, and I skied the standard South Side route on Mt. Adams a few days after Dad and I climbed Mt. Hood. We only had to hike about a mile from the car before we could start skiing, and I was able to ski all the way to the summit and back! On the first day, we got a late start and set up camp at about 7,000 feet. The following day we skied up to the top and all the way back to the car. Much of the route is comprised of a steepness that pretty much maximizes the hold of a pair of climbing skins, which made for some fun and challenging skinning.

Will charging up to camp on the first day

Billy (We met Billy late in the first day. After setting up camp, we hiked up our route for about 1,500 feet to get some turns in, and Billy decided to join us.)

Marching up towards the false summit

Jake on the Summit at 12,281 feet (his highest summit to date!)

Chilling out about 10 feet below the summit (We got real fortunate with the weather, being above the clouds in an unsettled weather system.)

Mt. Rainier from the Summit

Jake Carving some Corn