Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I summited Rainier yesterday.

I got a lot of "how was it?" yesterday too.
The short answer: it was hard, but fun.

The long answer:
Dan and Nat and I left Wednesday morning from Portland. We had a big breakfast of pancakes and eggs and other goodies and then jumped in the car for the 2 hour something minute drive to Paradise in Rainier National Park. We checked in with the rangers and confirmed our itinerary and shouldered our packs for the march up to Camp Muir.
Our packs weighed far too much for our climb. We had 4 days of food and not a lot of lightweight gear. My pack weighed in at a (literally) staggering 60 lbs. Nat's weighed a little less and Dan's weighed a little more. The extra weight forced us to move slowly up the hill to Camp Muir and wiped us out by the time we got there. Camp Muir sits about 5 miles away from and 5000 feet above Paradise. So we climbed roughly the equivalent of the South Side route on Mt Hood just to get to our campsite. I dropped my pack at the top and got very shaky and very weak. Hydration and food became the first order of business.
Dan made it to the top a few minutes later, after watching an avalanche crash down the Nisqually glacier to climber's left. Just minutes before Dan and I had seen another avalanche crash down the same glacier. My first ever avalanche!
Once Dan joined us, we got to work pitching camp. Nat flattened out a platform for me and him. Dan set up his tent. We melted some snow and boiled some water and ate some dehydrated foods. Then we chatted about the climbing plan. Originally in the car we had planned to climb Wednesday night-Thursday morning. Our packs tired us out more than expected. The warmth of the afternoon left us a little dehydrated. And our longer than expected approach to Muir (we had figured 5 hours to get there and we used 6 and a half hours) only left us 2 or 3 hours at most for a nap before a Wednesday night assault. Since the weather forecast showed increasingly nice weather and since we had several days provisions, we decided to get a full night of sleep and spend the next day resting and preparing for the climb up the Disappointment Cleaver route.

Now, as I have a birthday party to attend (Happy Birthday Warren!!!!), I will continue the tale later. And post pictures when I get them from Nat and Dan.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pics from Dragontail delayed again

Turns out that Nat and I took about 250 pictures of Dragontail and the surroundings. I need to winnow that down just a bit before posting them. Patience will be rewarded by some of the coolest mountains in the northwest....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back in the lowlands

I'm slow in posting this. I got back from Dragontail Peak on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I got the pic from Nat today. I'll be posting the pictures and the climb later today or sometime tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free lunch

Free pizza for lunch at work. Kind blows my caloric intake for the day, what with the venti chai latte from Starbucks (evil empire) that I had this morning. The extra calories should help with my (hopeful) ascent of Dragontail on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

From Surlyblog:
The 666th post on the 6th day of the 6th month. That's cooler than a smelly vagrant telling you you'd make a good drifter.

They link to an Iron Maiden video even. Awesome.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Video Gluttony

Devon and I rented our entire allotment of videos for the next 6 months this weekend. Admittedly the selection skewed heavily towards my predelictions (sorry Dev!) Here's the rundown:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Good performances by some great actors. Well developed story. Depressing as hell.

The Golden Compass - Good special effects. Beautiful visual realization of another world. Fairly sophisticated treatment of a fantasy novel. Cliched ending that messes with the ending of that book.

Sweeney Todd - Gorgeous set pieces and costuming. The fact that it's a musical didn't detract from the beauty of the cinema. Story is depressing as hell.

Mad Money - Ted Dansen, Queen Latifa and Diane Keaton in a comedy crime caper. Watched the first 20 minutes so far. Depressing as hell (for a different reason).

Madagascar - Dev helped promote this movie. It entertained my niece Reyna for 90 minutes during Jenna and Zack's visit. We're watching it tonight. Cute movie.

Looks like depressing wins the weekend.

Recreation on Angel's Rest

Dev gathered some of the Recreate Fitness crew for a hike up Angel's Rest today. Moderate hike at a good strong 2.5 mile per hour pace. We made it to the top in an hour. Enjoyed some long-desired clear blue sky sunlight. Then we trucked down the trail and drove over to the Edgelfield in Troutdale where we tucked into some much desired and well deserved victuals.
Thanks to Lynn, Tiffany, Christina, Mark and Nathan for coming out and hiking with us. We had a great time.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Climbing Unicorn and Boundary Peaks

Nat and I on the ridge between Unicorn and Boundary Peaks. Stevens
Peak is in the background.

The rest of my pictures for the climb are here.

Dan and Nat and I left Portland about 8 pm on Friday. We clambered into Nat's Subaru and jetted up I-5 into Washington State and toward Rainier National Park. Once in the Park we had a couple of navigational SNAFUs. We finally landed in the Ohanapecosh campground for some slumber. Saturday we arose not so early (7 am) and made not-so-quick work of breakfasting and striking camp.So much for an early start. We did get into the car and to the trailhead before 8:30 am. We loaded up and got on the trail at just about a quarter to 9 am. We followed a passel of boot prints in the snow going in the direction of our objective for the day; Unicorn Peak.

We followed the boot prints (and our maps and GPS units) to a gully. Up the gully we went to a little col (I think I used that word right). Then we turned left and spied the group ahead of us; about 8 or 10 climbers sat at the top of the next gully. They looked like they were resting and prepping their gear for the final part of the climb. Dan and Nat and I all looked at each other a little sourly. It seemed like we would have to wait for a while to climb once we reached the summit block. We trucked up the gully to reach a saddle. We followed the snow ridge to the left and up. We crossed the snow bridge and then rain started to fall.
Now the forecast for the day had said 40% chance of precipitation and thunderstorms after 11 am. Eleven AM hadn't arrived just yet, but the rain felt like it needed to be early. Off to the south and west, the clouds looked ominous. Solid and dark. They had that peculiar not quite clouds, not quite mist look that you see when rain clouds that are actually raining are coming your way. North of west, the clouds swirled and had a lighter color where they met the air over Rainier.
We stopped again to don our rain shells. Dan and I grumbled about maybe we ought to think about turning around. The sky looked bad. The clouds seemed foreboding. Nat had none of it. "We're not turning around," he said tersely. So one we marched up to the ridge. We passed through a small rock and tree section and then gained the summit ridge. The large group ahead of us had stopped and were talking. One of the guys had everybody move so we could go by without impediment. We exchanged greetings and found out that they had made the call to turn around. Bummer for them. I understand the choice; unsettled wet weather and a large group climbing the technical summit block could make for a bad summit situation. Their decision came as good news to us. We could slide on past them and climb the summit pinnacle without a long wait for their group to finish their ascent.
We made it to the base of the pinnacle and watched a climber second up the "Roof" route on the summit block.The rain came and went several times in the next hour. It pelted us hardest just after Nat and I finished racking up and during the climb. Nat led the "Classic" route in good time. The wet and cold rock didn't really slow him down. He had changed into rock shoes; the damp rock may have made the advantage more psychological than physical. I followed next, tied into the middle of the rope. I climbed in my boots and the rock seemed fine. Slick for sure, but not glass-like. My hands felt so cold by the time I topped out that I could hardly squirm into my gloves. I traded spots with Nat and belayed Dan to the top. He came up a little slower than me as he was cleaning the route. We celebrated, took pictures and then rappelled off the very gnarled but seemingly very solid tree on the top.

On the ground again, the rain left us. We put away the rope and the gear, stripped off harnesses and packed away the technical gear. We looked around and watched the weather. Ate some lunch and then got moving again. Crossing back along the ridge we continued past the rock outcropping where we joined the summit ridge. We started towards Boundary Peak which is almost a sub-peak of Unicorn. The ridge had some gigantic cornices. The snow had some incipient cracks. Though the snow seemed super consolidated, we couldn't be sure if the cornices were totally safe. So we hugged the right side and moved through rocky outcroppings with trees as much as we could. Dan and I seemed doubtful about the prospect for forward progress again. The ridge looked burly from a distance. This highlights my biggest failing as an aspiring mountaineer; I want to prejudge the route before I'm close enough to really really see it. Once again, Nat wouldn't hear our objections so early. "Let's check it out. The notch is the only thing we can't see from here. We can retreat from the notch without hazard if it's impassable."

Fair enough. This is the attitude I really need to reprogram into my brain. "Go check it out!" instead of "Woah! That looks too burly!" So we followed Nat down the ridge. We came across a 10 foot drop in the snow. To our left was the potential cornice that we had no vantage to see. To our right, a 15 foot 4th class rock step. Nat clambered right on down it and continued on to the notch to check out the navigation. I waited for Dan to catch up. Then I down climbed with trepidation. The down went without incident. I landed in the moat around the rocks gently and climbed out to the right of our line. Dan followed without much effort (at 6' 7" his reach proved a real asset for climbing the rocks). We caught up with Nat. We went through some more trees and then came to a shoulder like snow slope. We kicked some steps around the corner and found flatter ground, alternating rock and scrub with patches of snow that led right up to the base of Boundary. Another 3rd or 4th class scramble saw us on the summit in the sun.
We stayed just long enough for some pictures. We'd had nice weather for moist of the traverse; the rain clouds had cleared out and after several minutes or so had given way to sunlight. The weather looked like it wanted to turn again. Puffy clouds were filling the valley below us. We got down from the summit and rejiggered our packs for the traverse back. Shortly we hit the descent route to the top of the snow gully and the way down. We found some ski tracks from a party we had spotted earlier, while on top of Unicorn. The group had skinned or booted to the top of the gully and then skied out. The action made me wish, for a minute, that I had brought my snowboard.

If I had brought the stick, then I wouldn't have been able to glissade. And the snow was perfect for glissading. Three fairly long runs down the slope took us all the way back to Snow Lake. The last run looked steep but felt perfect. The run out curved
to the left at the bottom and continued on for what seemed like forever. I went last; the 500-600 foot descent felt so fun. We stripped off our soaking rain pants (the temperature had risen again) and began the march to the trailhead.
I felt like I had a breakthrough climb. Nat and Dan and I all climbed without someone "senior" to guide us on the route. We tackled a technical rock pitch, bad weather and a real more-than-a-hike ridge navigation. We had mixed terrain and real route finding. And we had someone step up to the leadership role (thanks Nat!) to see us through some moments of doubt. The climb pushed me past my comfort zone just enough to expand it.