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Posts posted by astrov

  1. Trip: Mount Rainier - The Never-Disappointing Cleaver


    Date: 5/23/2014


    Trip Report:

    Major Major arrived outside my apartment in downtown Portland after work on Thursday night, his near-homicidal rage from the frustrating drive dissipating futilely into the humid, still- warm evening:


    "You need to move to the East side!" he declaimed, double-parking his Toyota truck amidst the usual clamor of vagrants, sirens, and dogs to which I've not become accustomed in the last three years of urban living.


    His eyes widened when I emerged onto the street with three fully-packed backpacks, containing respectively my climbing gear, group gear, and overnight gear for our planned Paradise parking lot bivy. I stripped off my shirt in the heat and loaded the packs into his truck along with skis and boots and we sped off to I-5, where we were immediately stopped in nightly commuting traffic to the 'Couv.


    "How can people commute like this?" posed the Major, "is it because the houses in Vancouver cost 20 cents?" I mumbled in agreement and stared grimly ahead, gritting my teeth and thinking of lost loves. I had attempted to taper my exercise routines during the week preceding the climb, and hadn't been sleeping well. To top it off, the McDonald's next to my apartment had decided to repave its lot during the middle of the night the previous evening. Of all nights.


    The Major's misery only complemented my own, and on that freeway we felt trapped, like we might live out our lives stuck on the hot asphalt in his compact truck. The anticipation leading up to this climb had exhausted us. We had combined tapering with constantly checking the weather forecast and re-assessing our readiness for the route ahead, weighing our strengths against the unknowns of exposure, avalanches, and crevasses, and wondering if we didn't come up short.


    Although we had initially planned to climb Kautz Glacier, I bowed out given the low pressure system threatening high winds, liquid precipitation, and lowish temperatures on Friday. The thought of a bivy at Camp Hazard in a storm while wet, cold, and exhausted was not an appealing one, so I suggested the

    Disappointment Cleaver route as an alternative. We could take less gear, take shelter in the Hut, and be less exposed to the onslaught on the SE side of the mountain. The Major and I make a good partnership; I prevent him from doing anything too extreme and he inspires me to go out in more challenging conditions than I'd ordinarily bother with.


    The traffic lifted after Vancouver, of course, and we watched the sunset on the drive down the Columbia river valley.




    We arrived at Paradise in near-dark, finding the gate to the access road open. We positioned our truck in the lower (overnight) lot, facing the back of the bed towards the mountain. There was another car in the lot, apparently unoccupied, but as the top of the peak faded into silhouette through fairweather clouds, all we could hear was the occasional chirping bird as we drifted off to sleep in our sleeping bags. A cool mountain breeze flowed gently through the back of the truck. I had never experienced any peace in MNRP before that calm night, and it was quite welcome after our hellish flight from civilization. Some inebriated-sounding Jamaicans were responsible for the night's only disturbance.


    After a friendly wake-up from a climbing ranger, we drove to the upper lot and obtained our climbing passes from the self-same ranger, now behind the desk.


    In preparing to climb, I put my gear outside of the truck under cloudy skies and ducked into the bathroom to put on long underwear and my new hardshell pants. Although I'm glad I

    put on the raingear, it actually started raining when I was inside, and my AT boots were soaked when I returned. One skier who left the lot to skin uphill while we were getting ready came back to his truck and sat inside during the rain, running the engine. We warmed up for a bit too and then headed out into the gloom.




    We lifted our heavy packs and trudged up out of Paradise. Water beaded up on the left side of my jacket, driven by a strong but not fierce wind. We switch-backed on skis up the steepish face leading up Pan Dome past a guided group post-holing up through the soft snow. Once on top of the Dome, we continued up resolutely through the mist. A guided client whose luggage tags were still visible on her pack was having a tough time just above the Dome. Her guide had to get her jacket out of her pack for her and put it on her. We passed them and encountered a short section of rock, the rain now fairly lashing at our sides. I went to put my skis back on and noticed that I had lost my single snow picket. "I'll go look for it", I told Major Major, bounding down through the snow.


    "I. am. cold." he replied, stoically. "there's water running down my legs." He had worn a very light windpant that wasn't waterproof, and was suffering. Nonetheless, our plans were scuttled without snow protection, so down I went. I encountered the same guided client with luggage tags, only now a guide was re-tying her boots and another was also running down through the maelstrom to help her. I asked if I could be of any help, and if they had seen my picket. No on both counts.


    I returned to the Major and we proceeded up hill. The rain never turned to snow, but it did turn to freezing rain and a thick fog. After about 4 hours of skinning we reached Muir and the public shelter.




    I got the last space, next to the stairs and the front door, so I had to do a hobbit-crawl to get to my bag. View inside shelter:




    We brewed decaffeinated tea for 5 hours and drank water mixed with bullion cubes. We emerged from the shelter to a beautiful sunset as the storm blew itself out.






    The climbing ranger arrived with a promising weather forecast for the next day's summit attempt and a general disapproval about the lack of females in the cabin.


    Not needing to set alarms, we woke to the general commotion of the hut breaking camp. the night was still and cool, and the sky clear. The promised meteor shower had not arrived. Major Major and I roped up and started across the first glacier at 3 am. We sweated as we passed a group of four at Cathedral Gap. Little Tahoma loomed quietly on the skyline, its severe profile jutting up into the night. As we turned onto the Ingraham Glacier, a cold (katabatic?) wind blew down on us and I put on my balaclava. Headlights twinkled in lines high up on the Disappointment Cleaver. Stepping off the glacier, we clipped into the fixed lines low on the Cleaver. As it is covered in snow, it is surprisingly steep along its lower flanks for what is supposedly the dog route up the mountain. The sun began to rise as we mounted the Cleaver. Unfortunately given the Major's grueling pace, I only have a picture from the top of the Cleaver:




    It was a sublime sunrise, which is not fully captured in the photo.


    We strolled out on to the upper Emmons Glacier in stronger winds. The snowbridges are mostly trust-worthy looking and we did not set up any boot-axe belays or the like for the crevasse crossings. Around 14'K feet I stopped to relieve myself and the Major reported he was bitterly cold. His whole body was shivering. We stepped out

    onto the crater rim into the wind and I gave Major my down jacket and dashed for the summit while Major sheltered in place, having been to the summit several

    other times. I arrived at 9:30, having the place to myself.




    I staggered across the crater back to the climbing route and my gear, grateful that Major Major was alive and hadn't descended with my jacket.


    We staggered down the Cleaver, Major hell-bent on getting warm.




    We were passed by a group of skiers on the way down, one of whom had lost a ski to a crevasse. We were pretty concerned by the slush on the lower Cleaver and


    wished that we'd started earlier or gone faster so as to be down earlier. By now the sun was beating down on us, and the soft, watery snow balled up on our crampons. We warmed up and I stripped down to my light wool t-shirt. Camp Muir was thronged

    when we returned. We napped briefly and then skied down to the car.




    We drove back to Portland that same night and I spent the next day drinking, resting, and nursing my significant blisters and sunburn.


    Overall, given our various difficulties we were glad we were able to notch a fun summit on the DC route and look forward to climbing Kautz later in the season!




    The snowbridges look good and the route has an appealing early-season snowiness to it. I just wish we'd started earlier in the morning and hadn't lost my picket.


    Gear Notes:

    bring warm-enough clothes.

    firmly attach picket.

    Sunscreen / Sunhat.

    Eat critical girlfriend-made bacon shrimp fettuccine alfredo.

    My wind-stopper fleece gloves became soaked on day 1 and never dried out.


    Approach Notes:

    Columbia River Crossing

  2. What is y'alls' experience with cell phone GPS navigation in the backcountry?


    I have an android phone (Verizon network, Droid Razr Maxx) and would like to navigate on Rainier with it (as a back-up, of course, to maps, compass, and altimeter).


    I'm assuming I won't have network access so will need the stand-alone GPS feature to show my position on a map that has already been downloaded onto my phone.


    Can the built-in Google Map do this?


    I've also seen an app called "Backcountry Navigator TOPO GPS"; it's $9.99, which is affordable, but does anyone have experience with this product? We are going up early season (Kautz) and I'm not ruling out the possibility of a white-out. Thanks!

  3. the problem is the thick fog of marketing gibberish that obscures everything in the ski industry. It seems like every product is touted as "race" or "extreme!" or "all mountain!" even if in reality it's intended for a beginner who is just getting their feet wet in the sport. As a result, you can't really discern what you need.


    [end rant]


    So - couple questions


    1A.) What is your downhill skiing ability?

    1.B) Is comfort more important than weight to you?

    2.) Is cost an object for you?

    3.) Will you be able to hide this purchase from your wife / girlfriend / aging parents?



  4. ARBrandon - No block of dates in mind - I just need a little lead time (say, 3 weeks) and I can probably request and be granted the time off if my department is adequately staffed up. We have a big project this summer that will be determining our schedules, so I will know more once that begins in earnest. but for now it's safe to say I'm flexible. Early is probably better. (Better for bugs, too, in the Olympics!)


    .chad - I could do three summits - but truthfully I haven't researched what additional logistics this option presents - could you let me know?


    thanks for interest.

  5. I am interested in climbing Mt. Olympus this spring / summer.


    I grew up hiking all around the Olympics but have never climbed the big O. This climb's remoteness, unique ecology, and scenic value all entice me. I can't get my regular climbing partners interested in it.


    I am capable of safe glacier travel and leading the short bit of technical rock climbing on the summit block. I have climbed all of our Volcanoes except Baker, Shuksan, and Glacier Peak (is that a volcano?).


    Although I don't want this to be an international peace expedition in terms of gear load, I don't care if we go minimalist or not as I'd prefer a relaxed pace to savor my time in the incomparable Hoh valley. That said we should be able to cover the 18 mile approach in a long day.


    let me know if any interest ... I'm thinking of making this at least a 4 day weekend as I'll be coming from Portland.

  6. FS or Trade: Outdoor Research Alibi Men's Softshell Jacket, Medium


    Hey gang. I bought this jacket via the site a couple months ago. I really, really like it for ski mountaineering jaunts, jogging, and biking. It's too small for me though. The sleeves on this medium are a little too short for me and it's a little tight in the shoulders / pits. (I'm a lanky 6'1".) I would sell for $75+shipping or trade for a larger softshell of comparable quality. (I would love to trade for a "large" in this same jacket.) Prefer local (Portland) trade but can ship if necessary.


    I was drawn to this jacket's unique features, such as lighter fabric on the back (the assumption being you're wearing a pack and need more breathability back there), poncho zips on both sides allowing for great venting, and a stowable liner hood that fits easily under a bike helmet. the poncho zips are a lot easier to use with gloves on than pit zips. That said, I was caught out in a shower the other day and surprised how water resistant it is. It's the right compromise between wind and waterproofness and breathability.


    It has some other nice touches, such as:


    interior fitted sleeve to block the wind. (Does not have thumbloops)

    an inner zippered "security" pocket with an iPod / headphone cable port

    adjustable hem

    adjustable hood with bill

    two napoleon-style pockets sitting high above the harness




    overall I've been impressed with OR's attention to detail as well as customer service. They just replaced the main zipper on this jacket - the prior one lost a few teeth as I zipped it up. Anyways, it's a neat looking jacket and I've received compliments on it. I admire OR for willing to do something a little more thoughtful, too. It's not just some swatch of fabric with a zipper thrown on and dubbed "softshell". PM or respond to post. Thanks!




    liner hood stows in its own pocket when not in use


    one of poncho side zips is visible in the picture above


    Outer cuff rolled back to show inner liner cuff