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Everything posted by Dannible

  1. I fell into a crevasse unroped on the Kahiltna this spring. When I went to AK in 2011 and 2012 I was unwilling to travel unroped except for while skiing downhill, but apparently a handful of years of nothing going wrong on little Cascadian glaciers upped my complacency level. The day I fell in one in April started with a short downhill ski that we did unroped, and at the bottom of the hill the glacier seemed so smooth and covered that I figured it would be fine to not tie in. The deep early season snowpack, sub freezing temps, the fact that we were only going a couple of miles, and general laziness factored in. We had our system dialed and roping up would have taken less than 5 minutes. We skied for an hour or so, and eventually got to a place where it looked like the glacier was starting to get more complicated. There was an obviously bridged crevasse running parallel to us to our left, and we could see more ahead. We were maybe a quarter mile from where I wanted to camp. I was tired of dragging my heavy-ass sled and just wanted to get there. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! I was actually frustrated that these fucking crevasses were trying to make me late to dinner. My girlfriend, Lyndsey, suggested roping up, and then I took two more steps and was suddenly falling. It must have only taken a second or two before I hit the bottom 30 feet down, but I had plenty of time to think things over as I fell. My first thought was that a hollow pocket in the snow was settling and I would only fall a foot or two, and then I realized that it was a crevasse but that the rope would stop me, and then I remembered that I wasn't roped up and knew that I was going to die because I had been dumb. The slo-mo memory locked in my brain is of my gloved hands out in front of me with snow falling next to them and everything gradually getting dark. Obviously I didn't die (or maybe I did in some dimension? Things got pretty weird in my brain for a few days there), but even though the crevasse pinched off after 30 feet things could have been different. Somehow I landed on my feet. Just last night I got lost in thinking about it (again), and I realized that if I had landed on my side, I might not have been able to get up if I was really lodged in there. A lot of crevasse victims die because they're wedged between the ice, and just get more stuck as the ice around them melts and they slip down slowly and die of hypothermia. Or more of the snow bridging the crack could have fallen and buried me or knocked me out as Lyndsey worked to get me a rope. Or the 80+ pound sled that was somehow wedged above me could have fallen on me and broken my neck. As it was, I landed on my feet, stood there confused for a minute all wedged in and barely able to move, placed the screw that was on my harness for just this occasion, and by the time I started to try to size things up Lyndsey was yelling down to see if I was alive. She had a solid anchor built in no time, and lowered a rope (we both had one). Very long story short, she hauled my sled out with a 3:1 as I struggled to get my pack, skis, poles, and self out with the other end of the rope. I didn't lose or break any gear, and my only injury was a nasty bruise on my arm. As soon as I realized that I was probably going to live (when I clipped my micro-traxion into the rope) I started to feel the shame of having made such a big mistake. At that moment part of me wanted to keep it a secret, but I also recognized that sharing the story might save a life someday. I plan on doing a full write-up on this whole thing when I have time. I will continue to ski on some Cascadian glaciers unroped, but will start taking the bigger ones more seriously. Roping up is not that hard or time consuming if you've got a system down, but people need to practice this stuff and actually carry what you need to save your buddy. Having a screw on my harness was huge, as was having gloves, a hat, and warm jacket within reach. It was eye opening to learn how physically hard it is to ascend a rope with a heavy pack while a little hypothermic and jammed in what is basically an icy squeeze chimney. Now, back to the original question: how do you decide when it's safe to travel on glaciers unroped. Generally I avoid crossing snow bridges or messing around with sketchy moats unroped. When I was younger my ambition and ego had me breaking that rule from time to time. Chances are that bridge won't break under your weight, but that's a pretty high stakes game to play. Spending a lot of time on a lot of Cascadian glaciers in all seasons has given me the experience to make a reasonable assessment of where crevasses might be lurking based on the terrain. Glaciers in the Cascades tend to be safest in the spring, when the seasonal snowpack is deep, and in the late summer (on the smaller glaciers anyway) when you can see and avoid the holes. The bridge I stepped through in Alaska was only about 6 inches thick, and from the surface I couldn't differentiate between it and the wind carved snow around it. But the continental snowpack of the central Alaska Range is different than our snowpack; our bridges tend to be thicker. If you do go alone, think about what you might need to save yourself. Crampons and tools are ideal, but not always realistic. Ice screws to aid out with? Some combination? Whatever floats your boat. I guess the moral of the story is that the older I get the less I think I know.
  2. Cool! I heard a while back that there's an official trail in there now, and it sounds like that might actually be true? I can confirm that it was a bit of a 'schwack in 2007. All of this shit talking reminds me of the infamous cigarette butt discussed in the first ever TR to come out of the area in 2005:
  3. Good work, and good beta! I remember Jens and Sol and I talking about how this traverse will never get popular because of the choss and all, but I'm surprised it doesn't get done a little more often, seeing as how it's one of the more wild and crazy routes around.
  4. That is something I haven't thought much about in a while, honestly. The forest service, like much of the federal government, runs in such a convoluted way that it's hard to understand what's going on even when it's all around you. I get too focused on the job in front of me to look at the big picture these days. Most of the money that my crew runs on comes from state grants. The rest comes from the NW Forest Pass and other recreation fees, and allocated funds from the federal government. If it was up to me I'd say we should drop a few less bombs so that we could cut out a couple hundred more trails, but they never ask me. Maybe I'll try to think about it and get back to you.
  5. I spent the last four summer working on a USFS trail crew. Our district has about 750 miles of trail (including many that never get maintained), and 5-7 people working on the trail crew depending on the year. Making abandoned trails a little more passable has always been my favorite thing about the job, but that doesn't happen often. In the last couple of years we've struggled to maintain even the most popular trails due to employee turnover and budget issues. The list of unofficially abandoned trails gets longer every year even though there are more people out in the woods than ever.
  6. I did that route a few summers ago. It's a good Cascadian blue-collar adventure kind of thing. Some choss and vertical bush climbing, and some good rock. We intentionally got a late start and bivied on a ledge somewhere in the middle just for fun. I think the crux went at about 5.10; I don't really remember, but I think my girlfriend led it and she's pretty resistant to french freeing.
  7. Thanks guys! It's refreshing to be writing about things that I want to write about again.
  8. After four winters spent writing and shooting photos full time for Stevens Pass, I quit. What will I do with an extra 40-50 hours to burn every week? A lot, I hope. Mine isn't really a personal climbing page, but I do plan on sharing some some of the things that I've learned in the mountains, telling some stories, and posting a lot of photos. My most recent post is about keeping warm and dry, and includes a story about climbing a mixed route on Dragontail some years ago. I'm thinking the next one might delve into my dirtbagging past, and how I climbed Denali with almost no money to my name. https://www.danhilden.com/blog
  9. I've used some kind of Steripen for a handful of years. I got it for travelling in South America so that I wouldn't have to buy water. Pretty lightweight and fast to use. The only issue with mine is that you don't know when the battery is going to die, so when in doubt I carry spares. It takes some kind of lithium batteries, and two batteries gets you about 50 liters, if I remember right. I prefer it over filters for the most part.
  10. Truth. I've had giardia once, I think from contaminated campground water in BC, and have had various GI issues in South America. Imodium is a hell of a drug. I use a Steripen, iodine, or filter selectively in the Cascades, but usually don't bother. I've drank some pretty suspect stuff out of desperation. I get some stomach rumblings now and then in the summer, but I'd like to think that my body has gotten used to having to fight stuff off. I work on a USFS trail crew in the summer, and we use MSR gravity filters a lot of the time. Kind of heavy compared to other options, but it's the only thing that I haven't had fail or one reason or another, and is good for groups.
  11. I think social media has a lot to do with the decline of forums like this. It's a lot easier to click on an app, post a single photo with a little blurb, and call it good. Methods of sharing information changes quickly these days. Who knows how it'll all happen in 10 years? I also think that this board sparked a kind of golden age of Cascade climbing, and that that spark has kind of naturally fizzled out as people have pointed their lives in different directions. From what I see in my community, the current fads in climbing have shifted a little towards hard rock climbing at the crags, ski mountaineering, and bouldering. And what was wildly impressive in those disciplines 10 years ago has become a little more common and therefore less worth talking about publicly. There are still a lot of alpine first ascents waiting to be done, but many of them are hard, dangerous, and will be in the cold, icy season. To be honest, after a lot of close calls, that kind of climbing is less appealing to me than it once was. I haven't posted in years, and only recently started checking in again every now and then since I've decided to prioritize mountains in my life again. I'll say that this forum definitely helped shape who I am. There's no question that I'd be living somewhere else, have different friends, and have an entirely different life trajectory if it weren't for the people I met, the things I learned, and the places I learned about from this site. As tends to happen, my jobs got in the way of my mountain adventures for the last few years. I took care of that though. Quit my winter job because I was finding myself behind a desk more and more, and am back to being a ski bum. Will I post more TRs? I don't know...
  12. That route is one of my favorites anywhere! I've climbed it as a mixed route in late April, and soloed it when it was 98% perfect neve in January. That was in 2011 I think, and I did climb that pitch behind the fin. It was the only insecure climbing on the route that day. It looked like a runnel from below but I found myself scraping rock underneath the snow and pulling on unseen edges with my tools as I tried to keep my weight distributed well enough to not have the snow I was standing on give way. The more common way is somewhere around your green arrow; a short pitch of 5.7 that I've also climbed in the summer.
  13. I've got too many cams and need to sell some so that I can afford to have too many skis. Buyer pays shipping, or you can pick them up in Leavenworth. I'll give them all a rinse and lube. The Black Diamond X4 .75 (green) is in very good shape. $50 The BD C4 .4 (grey) is in good shape, and according to the date stamp was made in 2008. $40. Metolius #2 TCU (Yellow) Decent shape, age unknown, reslung with a Yates sling but could probably use another re slinging in the next couple of years. $25 Metolius 4cam #1 (blue) Made in 2003, so it should be re slung soon, but it's in pretty good shape because I use the blue tcu more. $25 Rock Empire 4cu. It's about the same size as the .4 camalot, maybe a little bigger. It has an extendable sling! Decent/good shape, bought around 2005. $20
  14. The secret is waiting for decent weather. I didn't ski it but I did go to the top in normal double boots. We bailed on the first few tries because my face felt like it was going to get frostbite (the wind can be pretty cold), but on the day we made it to the top I didn't even zip up my puffy on the summit. I guess the take home lesson is that if you feel like your feet are too cold, wait for another day.
  15. A lot of people here end up working on weekends, which works out pretty well. The Stuart Range is a good place to escape the heat and the masses, or the North Cascades, but I'll admit that it can be hard to get motivated to make the 2 or 3 hour drive when we have mountains here. As far as housing, I don't know what to tell you. I guess you can come and camp out and ask around. Put up a note on the message board outside of Dan's Grocery: it's our local Craigslist. Maybe look in Peshastin or Dryden: a few miles from town, but quiet and cheaper apparently.
  16. Yeah, Pete is right. It would be better if you changed your name; it's getting hard to differentiate between all of the guys named Max. Leavenworth is great when it's not 100 degrees or Octoberfest, Christmas Lighting Festival, super smokey, or a summer weekend. It works well if you work in forestry (though those jobs are getting harder to find), healthcare, river guiding, the service industry, the ski industry, agriculture, or are rich. There are no other industries, unless you want to commute all the way to Wenatchee; a journey that I try to make only a few times per year. The rewards are a friendly community of outdoor minded people, nice mountains, good bouldering and sport climbing, ok trad, epic skiing, and all the Bavarian style mixed meat products that you could eat. I'm told places to rent are actually hard to come by much of the time (I've always been lucky enough to slide into empty rooms at friend's houses).
  17. I once set out to try to do that in a day. Long story short, I messed up the approach in the dark, and ended up going up Degenhardt instead. Pretty sure my knees don't have many days like that left in them.
  18. Probably mostly. It is for sure down low, and I'd bet that it's a little patchy on the open hillside part, then it will be snowy once it levels off. I was told today that the trail has very little coverage (though I'm sure it's skinable). I have a theory that the best/most accessible skiing around will be somewhere up high in those parts.
  19. No. Also, the Icicle looks like it's late March right now.
  20. I drove just a few miles up the canyon to look at the Carino/Rainbow area the other day. Carino has some mixed lines forming, and Rainbow should be looking better in a few days. Tumwater canyon has very little forming. Drury might be climbable but looks boney. Hubba is probably thin but climbable, I'd guess. Bring rock gear. We have the freeze, but didn't get enough snow and melt before it got cold.
  21. That route seems to get climbed a lot when word spreads that it's in, as in, people lined up on weekends. It comes in fairly early, but is scary loose if it's not good and frozen. It's also been mostly skied by Aaron Scott and the birdman.
  22. The rap bolts coming down from the west ridge notch on Forbidden were placed by a local guide (maybe he will chime in here, maybe not) last year if I remember right, and the story goes that there were rangers who heard him hammering them in from the ridge, and came back a few days later to chop them. Everyone involved are friends of mine, so I really don't want to be too judgmental, but that was pretty much the first thing I thought about when I heard about the recent accident. Supposedly the bolts were placed on a cleaner rap line (less loose rock laying around). I myself was hit by a rock while rappelling there six years ago (there is a trip report on this site), and things got pretty serious because we were on a chossy ledge and I was very nearly killed by a second rock that popped when I weighted our anchor as I tried to stop the bleeding. That whole area to the lookers left of the couloir is covered in random trash and rap stations, which could be really cleaned up by a few bolts. So what I'm getting at is that on a super popular route like that, where bolts are far safer and cleaner, what's the problem?
  23. I'd say that's one of the best routes I've done in the North Cascades in terms of rock quality and position. From the west ridge notch I think it was 2 60m raps to the snow, a traverse along the upper edge of the snow, and one 60m rap (pins in place) over the skiers right side of the shrund. I posted more detailed info on that with photos on my old TR here if people want beta.
  24. Hey Jens, I think some of those stats are in the Alpinist story unless they got cut at the last minute. When the sun was setting on the first night I said that we had gained 10,000 vert that day and still had however much to go (I don't have the magazine and don't remember the number we decided on, did that make it into the story?). I came up with those numbers on Google Earth by drawing a path over the approach, and then one over the ridge to Wiley Arm, and it saves the path on a list on the left side of the screen, where you can right click and see the elevation profile with all of the stats. I have the exact numbers on my computer if you want them, but don't have it with me now. Somewhere else in the story I wrote what the lengths of each section was. The walk out is not included in any of it. All of those numbers were fact checked, so they might be rounded but should be close. See you tomorrow!
  25. Something like this is the tool for the job: http://www.stihlusa.com/products/trimmers-and-brushcutters/brushcutters-and-clearing-saws/fs460cem/ There are a few different blade options; the 4 bladed X shaped one is the best for thick stuff. With one of these you can cut through about 2" in diameter alder without a problem. Just walk forward and swing it around, like a motorized machete, and sharpen it every couple of hours. Not as glamorous as a saw but your back will thank you. I'm sure they can be rented at bigger saw shops. A couple of guys with those and a guy with a saw could probably clear a lot of road in a day, depending on how bad it is. Hint: Music, beer, gloves, and eye protection are essential.
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