June 18, 2012

What do you get when a narwhal mates with a horse?

With a suspect weather forecast, Ava and I opted to attempt to execute our plans of climbing Unicorn (yes, that's the answer to the title question) Peak in the Tatoosh Range, due south of Mt. Rainier.  We almost didn't bring our skis but ended up being really glad that we did as there was snow all the way to the parking area.

Most of the way up, the mountain was obscured by clouds.  The few moments of clarity we had barely lasted long enough to get a camera out, but I managed to be quick enough on the draw once or twice.

Unicorn Peak during a blessing of visibility
Shortly after that picture was taken the clouds came back in, engulfing not only the mountain this time, but us as well.  We managed to skin most of the way to the top, until the increasing slope and decreasing visibility (down to about 20 feet at times) inspired us to put our skis on our packs and our ice axes in our hands.

The top of the mountain, as seen in the first picture, is a rock pinnacle and the obvious namesake of the peak.  We opted for the 5.6 finish directly to the top from the south, which was great fun but depressingly short.   

Ava nearing the top of the horn
We encountered a moderately obnoxious group of Mazamas at the summit; obnoxious largely due to the fact that there were so many of them.  Luckily, they were all rapelling off the summit at the same time we were getting there, so we had plenty of uninterrupted time for rediculous summit shots.

Captain Lickey and Blue Steel
The summit of Unicorn is arguably home to the best views of Mt. Rainier.  Cursing the clouds didn't help, but at one point while on the summit, it did appear that there were rocks in the sky in the direction of the big mountain.  With a little bit of clearing down lower, the descent was pretty damn rad.

June 02, 2012

Snake Boatin'

A bunch of friends and I extended Memorial Day weekend to Tuesday and spent three days rafting the beautiful and mellow Hell's Canyon section of the Snake River.  The vegetation in the canyon was greener than I've ever seen it.  When we were rained on for much of our first day on the water, I figured out why.

The Crew (minus Steph)
Characters on this trip included Jake, Steph, Sara, Ken, Megan, Evan, Craig, Melinda, Sheri, Andrew, and me.  We made our way pretty leisurely down the river in one paddle boat, two gear boats, and two kayaks.  With flows around 14,000 cfs, the river was noticeably lower than last year when it was closer to 20,000 cfs.  In comparison, these lower flows seemed to make the two biggest rapids (Wild Sheep and Granite) a little mellower but compensated by creating a few interesting rapids further down river that I didn't remember.  One of these rapids further down river was the culprit of our only carnage of the trip, where the paddle boat tipped all the passengers out except for Steph, the paddle captain.  With everyone else downriver, the swimmers were quickly picked up and I don't think we lost anything except for maybe a pair of sunglasses.

Loading the Gearboats at the Put-In
Perhaps my favorite picture of the trip
Mr. Bacon Squared
The Greenness of Hell's Canyon in late May
This was the first raft trip I'd ever organized, and I had a great time doing it!  Thanks to help from Jake and Steph, we were able to gather all the gear we needed and we didn't seem to forget anything too major, or minor for that matter.  Much thanks to Steph's dad, as most of the gear we borrowed was his.  And yes, like all the other recent raft trips I've been on, I now want my own boat a little more than before.