Where I've Been

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014-7-26 Sloan Peak

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So I plan on filling in the missing reports from the last few months when I can find the time, but I can't wait to post about this last climb . I joined the rest of the Tacoma Mountaineers group at the Sloan Peak climbing trailhead along Road 49 late Friday night and slept in the truck. We were on the trail by 5:10 am. The first few creek crossings were minor, but the last one proved a fair obstacle. The long tree across the creek was somewhat twisted and pretty slick, so we butt-scooted slowly across one-by-one. All was going well until the final person to cross slipped and rolled under the log. Somehow Raphi was able to hold on and with a little help from Tim righted himself atop the log and made it across dry!

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The trail was easy to follow despite thick brush covering much of it below 4000'. The summit ridge finally come into view and soon after we climbed above the clouds and took a rest on a narrow knob around 4200'. We continued along the well-worn bootpath and up the sharp NE ridge, crossing a few small snowfields along the way. Glacier Peak was closer than I have ever seen it, adding detail to the massive namesakes covering it's slopes.

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As we climbed I watched Mount Pugh and then White Chuck appear over the shoulder of Bedal Peak behind us. Before long Sloan Glacier appeared below the summit massif and the bootpath faded into rock and snow. Tim mentioned that there were far more open crevasses and exposed rock than when he had climbed Sloan earlier in the season last year. The ropes came out and we sectioned them off and tied in, checking each others set-ups before stretching out onto the glacier. We navigated around a few small crevasses and Tim set pickets in two spots with some significant exposure for a running belay.

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My serious roped glacier travel was great fun but ended all too soon as where the bootpath continues on the other side. We dropped our harnesses and winded up the path past some extreme exposure. The last 200 feet included some fun scrambling on mostly solid rock. We took our time in a few places to avoid knocking rocks down. The summit had just enough room for the seven of us to share snacks and pass around the register. Views from the top were stellar in all directions!

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We carefully descended to the glacier, and retraced our steps. After packing up ropes and harnesses we all enjoyed a few glissades before final 4 mile trek back to the cars. Just below the narrow knob, we passed a group of 4 on their way up, one of whom I would later learn was Bob Bolton. We reached the trailhead after just over 13 hours, then hightailed it into Granite Falls for some much deserved Mexican Food.

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13 miles round trip 5900' elevation gain

2014-5-10 Arrowhead Mountain

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I originally planned to climb Basalt Peak North of Lake Wenatchee, but was stopped by snow on the road several miles from the trailhead. Arrowhead Mountain was my backup, but the pull off for the more popular route from the north was a bit sketchy, so I went in search of an alternative. The Whitepine Trailhead looked promising but crossing the creek did not, luckily I stumbled upon a unmarked campsite on a spur just north with a gated bridge over the Creek.

Besides some minor bushwhacking, route-finding was fairly simple between the abandoned road and some game trails. Soon enough I was ascending the East ridge of Arrowhead with the summit in sight. Some wildflowers appeared just before I hit snow around 4000'. Snowshoes weren't necessary, but I prefer to carry them on my feet rather than in the pack.

The summit was clouded in for my entire stay. I did get a brief look at the ridge to Jim Hill. Somewhere on the descent I lost a map and compass in a map bag.

6.5 miles 3800' elevation gain

2014-5-3 Alpine Lookout (Nason Ridge)

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I am way behind on the blog so the description will be brief for this and the next few trip reports. Colin and I were hoping to hit Mount Howard and Mastiff but due to a less-than-ideal forecast and questionable snow conditions we played it safe and started from the east end of Nason Ridge. We decided that we could be content with reaching the lookout, and if time and conditions allowed we could continue on from there. Snow stopped the truck just before the trailhead. The trail was tough to make out but the route was obvious from the terrain and soon we were on the mostly open slopes of a big burn.

The summit of Round Mountain is devoid of views and very flat, needles to say we didn't hang around long. Along the ridge Colin noticed a man-sized hole in the snow with bare rock on the bottom, about 7 feet below the snow surface. We explored this mini "snow cave" on our descent. As we continued up, turbulent clouds slowly lifted from the surrounding peaks exposing Icicle Ridge and the Chiwaukum Mountains to the south.

Before long the lookout came into view across a saddle with quite a bit of exposed rock and some huge cornices. We found a few short sections of melted out trail along the ridge at and beyond the saddle. The door was locked, so we set up for a break on the porch out of the wind, and Maverick promptly began to nap. Before leaving we dropped down on the North side of the ridge to explore a little column of rock which a goat must call home. The sky around us remained mostly filled with turbulent clouds.

On the way out we jumped into the little snow cave, which Maverick wanted no part of. Then we broke off some big cornices, riding them a whole 10 feet down to the little runout below. As we began the final descent back into the large burn, The sun really started to come out, bringing with it double and triple rainbows.

~9 miles ~4000 ft elevation gain

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Last weekend was Field Trip #3 (Snow #1) with the Tacoma Mountaineers Basic Climbing Course. The class met at Longmire on Saturday morning and after a 3 hour delay due to the snow plows, our vehicle train was winding up the mountain road to Paradise. I had never been so close to Big Tahoma from the South but a dismal forecast kept my expectations low for any scenery we might experience. Being early spring, this first field trip in the snow is more often than not blessed with crappy weather, allowing for a better chance of sunshine on the next trip to Paradise (FT#5-Crevasse Rescue) in June.


Shortly after noon our party of around 60 were breaking trail through deep, fresh powder. My thanks to all those students wise enough to bring snowshoes, you saved us a lot of post-holing! Snowflakes continued to fall with increasing size throughout the day. After quickly setting up camp we broke into teams and headed up to some modest slopes for practice and testing of our ice ax arrest techniques. Easily my favorite part of the trip, we built glissade chutes and practiced arrests from various fall positions. After testing we ran through the standing ice ax-carabiner belay and proper anchoring technique with a snow picket. Back at camp we prepped for simulated glacier travel in the morning before  being excused to our tents.


That night I had my first experience cooking with white gas. Colin's whisper-lite stove seemed a little finicky, but after losing fire once and experimenting with the pressure pump, I am sold on the added efficiency in cold temps and at high elevation. While I boiled water for dinner and hydration several inches of fresh snow accumulated on the base of our rain fly. This forced some maintenance to the tent site as we were expecting close to another foot over night. In addition to glacier travel, I learned a lot on this trip about proper snow camping techniques. There is a fine balance between the size of a vestibule trench, effective anchorage, space to move around the outside, and sufficient room for shedding snow to accumulate without burying the tent. The most important lesson here: be adaptable and resilient.


In the morning my group was geared up and harnessed in before 4 a.m., ready to begin "up the glacier" in two rope teams of 3.  We practiced belaying each other out of camp and up the glissade chutes using prusiks, then simulated falls for each other to test ice ax arrests of the rope team. Throughout the simulation I found rope management (not stepping on it with crampons, and pacing with the group) to be the most complicated part, requiring constant attention to detail. On the way down we went through passing a running picket belay and then un-roped to test our ability to construct various bombproof anchors in the snow including the "dead man" and bollard. It was around this time when we were treated with a short break in the clouds. Big Tahoma emerged from the white and sunshine warmed our skin for the first time in days. Our instructor Scott was kind enough to pause the course work for a few minutes while we all enjoyed the brief weather change.


Finally we built emergency snow shelters. I was a bit disappointed that we lacked the time and proper snow conditions to dig a snow cave, but our little trench with an emergency blanket for a roof sufficed for the grade. While we broke down camp Pinnacle Peak and a few other Tatoosh Peaks broke through clouds to the south. By the time we had broken camp and started back, it has stopped snowing and the sun was out to stay. Before leaving we gathered for a much more realistic demonstration of the Z-pulley technique for crevasse rescue (the first demonstration was at the Seattle facility on carpet), which I look forward to practicing myself with Colin and a few others after our next adventure in the snow.


This weekend was a blast! Many thanks to all of the instructors for volunteering their time and subjecting themselves to crappy weather. You make it all possible!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Third time is the charm on Lennox Mountain 3-23-2014

Lennox Mountain has been taunting me from afar since I first laid eyes on its rolling snowy slopes from somewhere within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I had hoped to continue on to Lennox after climbing Cleveland Mountain, and then from Canoe Peak but each time the summit seemed just out of reach. After conceding that this one would deserve the dedication of a full day, I began to look for the perfect snow conditions and weather forecast. With a Sunday that would live up to it's name and the lowest predicted avalanche danger in weeks I was confident that the third time would be the charm.

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Lennox Mountain is ideally climbed (from the south, at least) with enough snow to ease travel through the thick brush which covers the forest floor for the first 1000' or so above the road. I was a bit surprised to find snow on road 5730 about 3 miles from the end. Some jeep ruts helped to get me and my crappy tires another half mile, and I was off with Maverick in tow by 6:30 am. The jeep tracks stopped just past Spur Road 113 where snowshoes instantly became necessary. McClain Peak and Mount Phelps lit up in alpenglow behind us, and what could only be Lennox Mountain briefly appeared ahead, though it looked oddly tame from this angle.

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We left the road around 2600' in order to gain some elevation before crossing the next creek. While I thought at first we may have gone higher than required, we happened to cross just above the start of a deep, wide trench in the snow. I had hoped for a more consolidated snow pack but by 10 am the sun really began to bake the surface and each deep step brought with it a mound of slush caked onto my snowshoes. In a few steep sections I was forced to make painfully mellow switchbacks so that Maverick could get somewhere with his efforts.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bearhead Mountain (Attempt) 3-15-2014

This was my and Colin's first outing with the Mountaineers. When we saw a new summit listed as the destination for a conditioner we jumped at the opportunity to avoid a weekend trip to Mount Si. With no recent beta I set my expectations low as our convoy climbed as close to the trailhead as the snow would allow. We made it to about 3600' and after a quick weigh in we were breaking trail under rolling snow clouds. The overcast layer slowly rose through the day and provided several sun breaks, as well as a few brief flurries.

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Bearhead and Pitcher Mountains each came into view during the roadwalk. We reached the trailhead in just over an hour. Twin Lake was hardly noticeable under snow when we cruised past it. Beyond the lake snowshoeing was a pain on the steep traverse and the trail became faint. Beyond that the slopes grew steeper as we climbed higher, some of us even debated switching to crampons. Around 5500' we reached a clearing with a nice little bench just in time for a short break. Beyond Cayada Mountain Tolmie, Howard and Florence were capped in snow.

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