May 25, 2011

Leavenworth Classic

Last weekend Ava held the annual spring campout for the UW Climbing Club.  She enticed me to tag along by proposing that we climb Outer Space on the Snow Creek Wall on Saturday (followed by cragging with the big group on Sunday).  After the 1.5 hour approach, we geared up and were just about ready to begin the first pitch when it started to drizzle.  We proceeded to spend the next hour in the presence of goats trying to reach a mutual decision on if we should climb or not.  Meanwhile, the overcast skies stopped drizzling but remained menacing.  We finally decided to go for it.

Snow Creek Wall in the rain: Outer Space begins near the lower right of this photo and finishes in the top center.

Goat intently watching the party in front of us
We got off to a bad start as I somehow managed to turn Pitch 1 (easy 5th class) into a 5.10+ wanderfest.  Pitch 2 (easy 5th class traverse) went much more smoothly, and then the business end of the climb began.  Pitch 3 (the traverse pitch, and my favorite pitch of the climb) involved interesting and sustained 5.8 - 5.9 moves in an exposed and well-protected environment.  Pitch 4 (the dihedral pitch) takes you left from the top of Pitch 3 over to the bottom of the famous 300' hand crack.  This was an enjoyable pitch in its own right, yet overshadowed by what lie ahead.  A tricky start to Pitch 5 (the money pitch) finds you at the beginning of a splitter hand crack on an 80 degree face littered with chicken heads.  Simply enjoyable climbing in a sporadic and light drizzle.

Ava working her way up the money pitch
Pitch 6 (the final pitch) again starts with some tricky moves.  It's supposedly 5.9, but I found this to be the most difficult part of the climb and I'm not ashamed to admit that I pulled on a piece of gear to get through an obnoxiously thin section 15 feet up from the belay.  After that it was a crack and chicken head romp for 65 meters to the top.  As I was belaying Ava up the final pitch, the drizzle returned and intensified.  As she reached the top, the drizzle turned to rain.  Perfect timing?  I'd say it could have been worse, but the fact that we now had to descend the 4th class descent route in the rain was less than desirable.  The following video summarizes the difficulties of our descent.

We eventually made it down safely and had a fantastic day rock climbing in the rain.  We did some cragging at Playground Point the following day before heading back to the cluster of traffic known as Seattle.

May 23, 2011

Mountains and Skiers and Bears (oh my)

Last week we had spring for a couple days and Ava and I managed to capitalize on it.  (Side Note: the forecast for this Wednesday calls for another foot of snow in the mountains). We took Thursday off and left Wednesday night to go camp as far up as we could drive on the Cascade River Road.  On the drive up, we saw a black bear wandering across the road, the first I'd ever seen in Washington.

The next day we got up early in attempt to climb and ski Sahale Peak.  We encountered numerous obstacles on our way up the road to where you can normally park this time of year.  The first obstacle was the second bear of the trip.  Then there was ample avalanche carnage.

Road covered in avy debris from a heinous avy cycle this winter
It took us far longer to walk up the last three miles of road than we expected, then we were yet again bogged down in avalanche chunder as we ascended to Cascade Pass.

Cascade Pass
We managed to gain about 4,000 of the 6,000 ambitious feet we hoped to gain to reach Sahale's summit.  We had fantastic weather and views and a great ski down!

J-Burg and the beautiful North Cascades

Sahale Peak
As we were retracing our route back down the road, over and under the multitude of trees, we saw yet another bear!  Apparently they're just out of hibernation and, hence, very active right now.

Bear #3

May 16, 2011


Last weekend Molly, Phil, Ava, and I went down to Portland to visit our dad and try our luck at fishing for spring Chinook salmon.  Between the ages of about 8 and 15 I did this a lot, but it had now been years since I had been fishing with my dad and I decided this was too long.

Molly, Ava, and I went out on Saturday with a medium early start (fishing by about 6:45).  We met up with Dad's fishing buddy, Jared, so we had five of us in two boats.  Ten minutes after getting our lines in the water, we had doubles on.  Ava and I each reeled one in.  Half way through the process, the reel separated from the rod that Ava was using, which happened to be Jared's.  The end result was that Jared took over after the kerfuffle and we got the fish.  We didn't see any more action for a couple hours, until we hooked another fish, which Molly reeled in.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a native salmon so we couldn't eat it and had to let it go.  After a few more hours we hooked another one, and it was Ava's turn to reel it in.  After a minute of reeling, it spit the hook so we didn't get to eat that one either.

Ava wasn't planning to go out the next day, so I really wanted her to have a chance to reel in and land a salmon.  As the day was coming to an end, we hooked one last fish.  We experienced no equipment malfunctions and Ava landed the biggest fish of the day.

Saturday's Loot
The following day, after a salmon dinner and a night spent in Portland at a Joe Pug show, we traded Ava for Phil and went out to get some more.  The weather was positively nasty, with cool temperatures joining forces with a stiff breeze and steady rain for the entire morning.  We fished from 7am to 11am and didn't get a bite.  At this point, Phil (who didn't bring any rain pants and was wearing jeans) and Molly rationalized that the misery was not being matched with reward, so we dropped them off at shore.  Dad and I were determined to get something to show for our efforts, so we decided to keep at it for another hour.  By noon, we still hadn't gotten a bite.  We began packing things up and getting ready to pull the anchor, with the last part of this process being to reel our lines in.  As Dad worked his way to the front of the boat to deal with the anchor rope, my rod bent down in that unmistakable, "fish on" kind of way.  I lifted it out of the rod holder with a gentle tug to set the hook.  At this point, Dad was facing into the rain (coming down at about a 45 degree angle) and working his way to the the bow of the boat, so he didn't even see what was going on 2.5 feet away.  Using an artfully combined tone of casualness and surprise, I said, "I got one!", at which point Dad turned around to see me fighting what turned out to be the biggest fish we landed that weekend.

Sunday's hard-earned catch