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Natalie Afonina

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About Natalie Afonina

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    www.natexploring.com
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  1. [TR] Mt Baker - North Ridge 07/18/2020

    Trip: Mt Baker - North Ridge Trip Date: 07/18/2020 Trip Report: From a week ago. TR with nice formatting lives here (still figuring out how to get copy-paste to play nice without reuploading all the photos): https://www.natexploring.com/tripreports/north-ridge-baker-tr Longest approach for a single pitch of ice I’ve done in a while Bare Bones Route: WI3- Ice, Snow, Alpine, 3000 ft, Grade III* Ascent via North Ridge. Ski down the Coleman-Deming Length: Two days with an overnight at Black Buttes to catch that alpenglow and sleep Dates: July 18-19, 2020 Climbing Gear Here’s my regular PSA that just because someone on the internet used a certain rack (or lack thereof) does not mean it’s the right rack for you. Grivel G20 Plus Crampons monopoints (cause I’m too lazy to switch em out) 2x Carbon Tech Machine 5x screws ranging from 13-17cm (with 1 token stubby) 5 draws; 2x double-lengths Beal Joker 9.1mm 60m dry-treated rope 1 picket (not used, classic) The Details We took a leisurely time approaching from Heliotrope trailhead and heading up to Black Buttes Camp. It was my first time on Baker since I did a mountaineering course when I was 15 (shout-out to Lakeside School for putting on the best outdoor trips). So instead of a typical c2c, I wanted some extra time to get acquainted with the mountain, routes, crevasse fields, and savor the sunset alpenglow of course. Small humans, big packs We made high camp with plenty of time to spare to do a few crevasse rescue refreshers, drink tea, eat ramen and relax. We brought two tents and a bivy bag for the 3 of us (guess who had the bivy bag and was envious of the other two…). Views were incredible and weather window was ideal. We had no wind, sun and just slightly below temps overnight to firm the snow up. We went to bed around 9pm with a planned 3am wake-up. I like my sleep and if there’s no reason for a super early alpine start, I’d rather let my body rest and reconstruct itself. Layers upon layers. Classic PNW Bivy bag life I lost my blow-up sleeping pad somewhere, so for this bivy I used a foam z-rest, a Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine 30F sleeping bag and my down belay puffy. Stayed warm all night and even slept through a couple of the groups making noise at midnight and 1am for the Coleman-Deming ascent. 3am came. We boiled water. Downed some oatmeal and suited up for glacier travel to the tune of Rise Up (highly recommend for a morning pick-me-up) A note about route-finding: I don’t recommend camping where we did. It’s ideal for the CD route, but not for the North Ridge. We ended up descending about 900', crossing some very large crevasses to gain the route-proper. Would’ve been faster to camp lower down. Blurry alpenglow morning shots as we descended and then navigated onto the route (how I usually feel at 4am). Some pretty large crevasses to get over across the main drag Hitting the morning sun rays after some tricky crevasse meandering. Soon we were on the approach to the crux of the route (the part I was most excited for): the ice headwall. Kinda Games of Thrones-looking. We caught up to 4 other parties at this point that presumably got less sleep and were more ambitious in their alpine-starting. The easiest way up is on the left through a lower-angle section of ice, and is where the other parties were clustered in a bit of a climber traffic-jam. Not wanting to get cold and also because I was excited to get a real pitch of ice in, I took a line up to the right (to stay out of the way of the other climbers and not hit anyone with delaminating dinnerplates). It had an overhanging ice bulge that was fun to climb with skis on the back. Got my hips as far in as possible to keep my skis and pack from pulling me off. Went up and over the overhang without a hitch and the climbing was stellar. Gotta love glacier ice. Worth the thousands of feet of elevation gain and crevasse slogging. Note to self: when climbing an overhang with skis on your back, figure out a way to do a diagonal carry, because the tips kept hitting the ice anytime I so much as thought about looking down to find good feet. Live and learn. From here it was cruiser ice. I soloed another 2 pitches of low-angle ice and set anchors to keep my partners safe. Pro was meh up here, and I cursed at the picket and ended up using my tools and an ice screw for anchors where I could find solid enough ice. It’s not like this is a bad anchor, but it’s not like this snice is very good either. It held and was solid when my partners weighted the rope, I’m just used to my pure blue waterfall ice. Bringing my partners up the last two technical pitches. I was envious of Randy’s diagonal carry which would’ve made the ice climbing easier. Some more crevasse and snow slope navigation was required from the technical crux to reach the summit. Definitely a no-fall zone One of my dreams is to climb in Antarctica. This frozen tidal wave of pure power is what I anticipate that landscape to look like: minimalism at its best. Mountaineering is a lot of walking. We reached the summit uneventfully, snacked, lounged, summit selfied and FINALLY took those skis off our backs. A note about my skiing. I’m a climber who skis, not the other way around. The skiing was by far the crux of the day for me. I get tense, anxious and feel like I can’t control all the variables. But this is why you bring partners with complementary skillsets. Randy and Tyler were patient and coached me down the Roman Headwall and navigated us safely back to camp through the crevasse fields. “Can I take the bunny slope guys?” Some crazy seracs and yearly layers in the glacier pack that you can see top right. Back at camp. Quick break, pack up, ski to where the snow ends, throw the skis back on the packs and run down the trail to some beers and water. Why does the pack always feel and look bigger on the way down? It’s a mystery of the universe. Hiking back out through wildflower meadows. No mosquitoes this time around! Was that one pitch of ice worth it? Hell yeah it was. Was it worth carrying skis up and over? Yes. So much faster to get down that way. Good people, good climbing, good weather. This smile says it all Gear Notes: Grivel G20 Plus Crampons monopoints (cause I’m too lazy to switch em out) 2x Carbon Tech Machine 5x screws ranging from 13-17cm (with 1 token stubby) 5 draws; 2x double-lengths Beal Joker 9.1mm 60m dry-treated rope 1 picket (not used, classic Approach Notes: Don't do what we did and camp at high camp for the CD, cause you'll have to descend ~900' to gain the route proper across a crevassed section
  2. Trip: Mt. Rainier - Kautz Route Trip Date: 07/25/2020 Trip Report: Bare Bones Cross-posting this from where I keep my trip reports, so if format is wonky below it's cause I'm lazy to reupload photos/format: https://www.natexploring.com/tripreports/kautz-route-mt-rainier Route: AI2-3 Grade II-III; Ice, Alpine, 9000 ft* Ascent via the Kautz Route. Carry over and descent via the DC. *According to Mountain Project/Summit Post Length: Two days with an overnight at Camp Hazard at 11,200’ Dates: July 24-25th, 2020 Climbing Gear: Here’s my regular PSA that just because someone on the internet used a certain rack (or lack thereof) does not mean it’s the right rack for you. Air Tech Light Crampons (yes, they’re aluminum and light. Aluminum is known for bouncing off hard ice, so either be very comfortable reusing axe pick holes for feet or bring something steel) Grivel Ghost Evo Axe with trigger (great to have one of these for the approach since it’s also aluminum & therefore light/a good plunge-stepping and self-arresting tool, but I was glad I brought the tech machine as a second ‘real’ tool) Carbon Tech Machine 4x screws ranging from 13-17cm 5 draws; 2x double-lengths 60m Beal Opera 8.5mm dry-treated rope 1 picket (not used, but I’m told real Cascades climbers always bring one 🤷‍♀️) The Details Deb and I left the parking lot around 9:30am ish. Who doesn’t like to start up a route in a complete ping-pong ball whiteout? The first 4500’ vertical feet looked like this. It felt like we were climbing a never-ending snow slope with surprise crevasses that would sneak up on us (not hard since we could barely see 10 feet in front of us). Being able to read a topo map was essential for navigation and we got to the base of The Fan no issues. There are two main approaches, we crossed the Nisqually Glacier on a flat traverse at 6,300 feet to the base of a large gully called The Fan. It wasn’t really ‘in’ per say, and there was a lot of rockfall everywhere, so we moved fast and up this gully to reach the bench at 7,400’. I think other parties have been taking the Wilson Glacier approach because I saw no bootpack at all the whole way (only some goat tracks), even in very narrow snow constrictions. Eventually we broke out of the cloud soup to blue skies and a view of Rainier. No more ping-ponging through clouds. That’s cause to celebrate We slogged pretty uneventfully up to our camp at 11,200’ and were very lucky to have running water up there, meaning that I was carrying a lot of extra fuel. Better safe than sorry. We left the parking lot ~9:30 am-ish and were up at camp before 5pm. For the whiteout navigation in the morning, and us taking it slow, it was a good pace. Drinking a 30cal packet of miso soup and standing on clouds with views of Mt. Adams Altitude and I don’t mix very well. Above 11k, my appetite disappears entirely. I had a packet of miso and 15cal of electrolytes mixed with hot water for dinner and that was all I could stomach for the evening. Not great if you’re planning to go up and over a giant mountain the next morning. You know what time is? 7:30pm, also known as alpine bedtime. Using my rope as a pillow and my stuffed puffy as a cuddle toy 7 hours later the alarm woke us up at 4am. Sleep did miracles for me. I woke up fresh, having actually slept (which never usually happens for me at altitude), and interested in some food. So I made the cup-o-noodle that was supposed to be half of my dinner the night before. After ramen (which would prove to be the only food I ate for pretty much the rest of the day not counting 1 clifshot blok and 6 dates), we packed up our tent, sleeping bags, pads, stove, fuel, and everything else. We were coming down the other side of Rainier via a different route, so no chance at leaving our gear behind to grab it later. At 5:30am we set off and rapped down the rock step. We didn’t really need headlamps at this point. I love non-super-alpine starts. The sleep definitely helped me feel fresh for the technical ice pitches. Soloing the bottom ice steps that aren’t really ice steps and more frozen giant waves. Super fun ‘ice scrambling’. Rainier’s shadow at dawn with St. Helens off to the left No pics of the actual ice climbing section above the lower half since I was focused on climbing with my aluminum crampons + 1 aluminum tool/tech machine combo and the 35lb pack on my back, and my partner was focused on not getting pelted with ice and was being a vigilant belayer. I linked together all the ice until it was walkable with no tools. I think it was about 90m of climbing since we simul-ed the first 30m. Placed 2 screws along the way and felt fine with that since the ice was super mellow (albeit a bit dinner-platey) Above the ice. Now a long 2000’ snow slog to get up and over. Crevasses that could swallow a semi-truck. These behemoths we had to traverse many hundreds of feet to find a snowbridge crossing Up and over and down the DC route, which is a popular ascent and was marked with wands and had a very nice bootpack (the first of our trip). We cruised down, excited to drop some altitude and have the increased hydrostatic pressure get more oxygen into our bloodstreams. Seracs on the DC descent route Back at the parking lot with enough food and fuel to have lasted us another 2 or 3 days on the mountain (no, really. I had two giant sandwiches, 8 bars, 1 cup-o-noodle and a full ziplock of granola left over). But altitude made everything unappealing until we got back to the car. We ran into Porter McMichael (a guide on Rainier for IMG ) on our way down at Muir and he suggested we catch up over pizza and burgers. YES. No better way to end two days in the mountains. We had great weather on day 2, hardly any wind and the crevasse navigation was relatively simple. It was definitely a long walk to get on some ice, but the camping views and being the only ones on-route were worth it. Did I mention that this was Deb’s FIRST CAMPING TRIP EVER?! Aren’t you glad you read till the bottom of this trip report to find out? Deb is a fantastic car2car partner and is wicked fast, competent and also excited about ice climbing. But this was literally her first time sleeping in a tent outside. Ever. Or carrying a heavy pack with more than a day’s worth of anything. I’m not joking. She was a total champ and only asked me once how to inflate/deflate a sleeping pad or stuff a sleeping bag. If you get the chance to climb with Deb, she’s great, although you’ll probably have better luck getting her on a day c2c trip than anything overnight. I don’t think this trip convinced her that overnighting is for her Gear Notes: Air Tech Light Crampons, Grivel Ghost Evo Axe with trigger, Carbon Tech Machine, 4x screws ranging from 13-17cm; 5 draws; 2x double-lengths; 60m Beal Opera 8.5mm dry-treated rope Approach Notes: The Fan
  3. I've benefited from others posting their TRs and Gear reviews for many years. I used to post TR's on supertopo way back when it was a) alive and b) I lived in California. I mostly ice climb in the winters and trad/alpine the rest of the time and just moved back to the Seattle area after being away for 10 years. Here's the new website that I'll be backfilling as I have time, but for starters I have my TR's from the last two weekends for N Ridge of Baker and Kautz Rainier typed up: https://www.natexploring.com/tripreports
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