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Found 151 results

  1. Trip: Dhaulagiri - Life and Death on the 7th tallest peak in the world - Normal Route Trip Date: 05/20/2018 Trip Report: Intro This write up is my personal experience of our attempt to climb the 7th tallest peak in the world, Dhaulagiri. I brought my iPad along on the trip with the intent to write down details daily or as often as I could when returning to base camp in order to remember the most amount of information about our experience on the mountain. This is a long read with lots of pictures and dozens of videos that took me months to put together. I hope whoever reads this vicariously experiences the reality of being there on the mountain with us from the safety of your home. Before this trip would end I would have a near death experience (day 45), deal with the death of a teammate, and experience cold, delays, and struggles on a level I've never experienced before. Around 23,000ft on Dhaulagiri getting close to camp 3 with Annapurna looming large in the distance. The Fundraiser I have and always will consider mountaineering a selfish endeavor. You spend lots of time training, preparing, missing important events with friends and family just so YOU can to get ready for an expedition to prove something to YOURSELF. I never really liked this part about mountaineering. When I go on an expedition to a major mountain, I like to make it more than just about "you and the climb." My friend, Alan Arnette the oldest American to summit K2 and who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Alzheimer's research, has been a big inspiration to me. To me, if you can reach the summit of a big peak or at least try while raising money to help those in need, your endeavor is much more meaningful. Through my friends Lynn McGregor and Elliot Couch, I became aware of the Himalayan Cataract Project that has done amazing work on providing life changing eye care. I was intrigued by this idea, and knew I wanted to connect with this group immediately. For $25 an eye, you can literally help someone go from being totally blind to sighted with a simple cataract surgery. The link to this project can be found HERE. As of this writing, we have raised over $8080 for the Himalayan Cataract project on this trip alone providing life changing eye care to over 160 people! The Mountain Dhaulagiri, also known as "White Mountain”, is the the 7th tallest peak In the world rising 26,795ft (8167 meters) above sea level. It is known as one of the hardest and more dangerous of the only fourteen 8000 meter peaks in the world with incredibly steep rising flanks exposed to extreme weather and treacherous terrain. I would never recommend this as an intro 8000 meter peak. I only considered it as my second 8000 meter peak after Gasherbrum 2 because of the incredibly experienced and strong teammates I would have on this trip. The Team The beginning of our trip started off with 5 climbers and three trekkers. The climbers were Nicholas Rice (USA), Badia Bonilla Luna (Mexico), Mauricio Ahunada (Mexico), Christopher Manning (Canada) and Ryan Kushner (USA). Jeremy and Simon, friends of Nick's from Los Angeles, and Nick's mom Wendy Knowles were along for the trek to base camp. We would meet Lina Quesada (Spain), our team leader, in base camp. With Lina’s, Nick’s, Badia's and Mauricio’s climbs combined, they have over 26 summits of 8000 meter peaks. Badia is the ONLY WOMAN in all of the Americas with eight 8000 meter peak summits on her climbing resume. We would meet and join forces with other climbers eventually in base camp. Among them were big time climbers like Alex Gavan (Romania), Simone LaTerra (Italy), and Pawel Michalski (Poland), all of which have 4 or more 8000 meter peak summits on their resume. Every one of the other climbers, except for Chris and I, had summited at least four 8000 meter peaks in preparation for Dhaulagiri. For me, this felt like being a park and rec basketball player and then being asked to play with the Golden State Warriors. Days 1 and 2 travel from Denver to Kathmandu April 6th Traveling from Denver to Kathmandu went pretty smoothly. The 34 hour travel time to get there was long but went off without a hitch. My flights took me from Denver to New York to Doha to Kathmandu. I arrived at the same time as the Etihad flight with Nick, Jeremy, Simon and Wendy - thankfully with all our bags. We made a quick transition to Hotel Samara in Kathmandu where Chris had already arrived and where we would meet Damber Parujli, the head of Prestige Logistics, as well. Sunrise from the top of our hotel in Kathmandu. Photo by Christopher Manning. Day 3 packing and Re packing April 8th Pokhara is the town where all attempts for Dhaualgiri would start. It is only a 35 minute flight from Kathmandu, which sounded great to me after previously being on and off airplanes for almost 2 days. As it turns out, we were only allowed 90 lbs of gear to be brought to Dhaulagiri base camp by vehicle porters. We would attempt to come in from the town of Marpha hiking 6210 meter Thapa Peak on the way into Dhaulagiri Base Camp. To do this, we could only bring about 45 lbs of gear on the tiny airplane that would fly us to Pokhara. As usual, I brought too much food for the whole trip. I packed and repacked in Kathmandu as I did my best to get rid of food and certain clothing items that I wouldn't need until the end of the trip. I recommend doing this anyway, because it is really nice to have clean clothes and good food to look forward to at the end of an expedition when you get back into a big city. When we finally finished packing, Chris and I strolled the local streets of Kathmandu looking for the best deal we could get on fuel for our stoves for the mountain. Small mountaineering stores are everywhere, so if you forgot an important piece of gear it's pretty easy to get it in Kathmandu. Just be careful you don't get ripped off by poor knock offs of quality gear. Day 4 flight to Pokhara and Drive to Beni April 9th That morning we met our trekking guide, Sai, who was going to accompany us to Dhaulagrii base camp. Badia, Mauricio, Nick, Simon, Wendy, Chris, Jeremy and I arrived early for our flight at 11AM only to find it was delayed an additional 20 minutes. That might not sound like much, but domestic flights in Nepal are a little different in that they don't give you a time when the flight is delayed, instead they give you a time when the next update about your delayed flight will be. This had us concerned as we waited in the very chaotic domestic terminal for our 11:25 AM update when suddenly at 11:20, with no announcement at all, we began boarding our 35 minute flight on Buddha Air to Pokhara. After a short ground delay, we were off. I was really excited to sit on the right side of the plane knowing that the Himalayan giants such as Makalu, Everest and Lhotse, should be just off to our right and, as we flew closer to Pokahara, we also might be able to see Manaslu, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri as well. Unfortunately, as we approached our high altitude of 20,000 ft, there was nothing off to our right but a giant wall of clouds. After a bumpy landing and a quick change of vehicles, we jumped into a modified 4x4 jeep/van type vehicle and grabbed a quick lunch. The chaos of Kathmandu was quickly a forgotten memory as Pokhara, elevation 2,700ft, was a much more picturesque town with rolling green hills, beautiful lakes, and a lot less traffic and pollution. The restaurant where we ate was decent but what really caught our attention were the beautiful views. The restaurant was located on a lake with hang gliders enjoying themselves above the lake and young kids playing volley ball in the grass near the shoreline. The clouds above and around the lake still hid the giant peaks we came so far to see. After lunch, we left for the five hour drive to the town of Beni. As soon as we left the city limits of Pokhara, the ride became very bumpy as the road quality quickly deteriorated. We arrived in Beni late that night without issues. Our hotel situation was a little strange as nothing was set up by our logistic provider. We then had to go to three different hotels to see if there was enough room for our group. We eventually found a hostel late at night where we grabbed a quick night of sleep before having to get up early to start the long drive to Marpha. Day 5 drive to Marpha/problems start April 10th I was excited to finish our last long day of driving and begin our hike the following day. Our ride was supposed to meet us in Beni. Our trekking leader Sai said the van we had yesterday couldn't pick us up at the hotel, so we had to walk "just a couple blocks down the street." This seemed strange to me as we began walking before the sunrise, and the couple of blocks ended up being a 45 minute walk to the next town where we, along with our new porter friends, had no idea what was going on. Sai disappeared, and the porters began to start walking with all our gear. I followed the group of porters not knowing where they were going. None of the porters spoke any English, and, after 15 minutes walking further and further away from the rest of the group, I told the porters to stop. I had no idea where my group was, where Sai was, where I was, and where the porters were planning to take all our gear. About 20 minutes later, my group showed up. We still had no idea where Sai went. Luckily, Sai found us but did not seem very confident in being able to secure us a ride. After another 30 minutes of confusion, our ride finally showed up. The comfy small 4x4 jeep/van we had for our group the day before was swapped out for an old bus loaded with porters sitting all over each other as we rocked and rolled our way for the next 8 hours to Marpha, which is located at 8900ft. We were lower than Breckenridge, but I was finally happy to not be de-acclimating like I had been the last several days at elevations lower than Denver. Once there, we found a very simple hotel in Marpha. I was really impressed how far away from major civilization we were yet still had decent rooms, good food, beer, as well as intermittent wifi. Day 6 First Day of trekking Marpha to Yak Karak. .. .or so we thought/disaster day 1 April 11 We started off today with a huge smile ready to start our trek to Thapa peak and then to Dhaualgiri base camp. Our plan was to trek from Marpha to Yak Kharka (13,400ft) the first day, rest there on day 2, hike to Thapa Pass (17,000ft) the third day, hike to Thapa Peak Base camp (16,700ft) the fourth day, climb Thapa Peak the fifth day, descend back to That Peak base camp, and then hike to Dhaualgiri base camp the next day. Chris wasn't feeling well. Considering we had 2 days of rest/acclimation planned in Yak Kharka at 13,600ft after just one day of hiking, he decided to rest another day at the hotel and try to catch up with us the following day. We had porters bring our heavy gear. I went light carrying my first lite tent, a mattress pad, one down layer, a soft shell, 2 liters of water and snacks. Sai, Wendy, Badia and Mauricio got an early start. Jeremy, Nick, Simon, our trekking cook, and I followed later. The day started off all smiles as the trail rose steeply, and we began to see views of the start of the Annapurna range. Our group began to spread out as I caught up to Badia and Mauricio. Nick stayed behind with Jeremy, Simon, Wendy, Sai and a couple of porters. Badia, Mauricio, our cook for the trek, and I got to Yak Kharka first. The sunny and warm weather we started out in began to get cool and cloudy. Unfortunately, the tents and most of our warmer gear was behind us with the porters. I had my black diamond first lite tent, sleeping pad, and some warmer layers, so I set up camp at Yak Kharka and got comfortable inside my tent. Soon after, it began to lightly snow but started getting heavier and heavier. I was fine inside my small tent but began to worry about Badia, Mauricio, and the cook sitting out in the cold and even more so about Jeremy, Simon, Wendy and Nick. After an hour of waiting with no sign of anyone else coming, I told Badia and Mauricio to crawl inside my tent if they got too cold and that I was going to walk down to try and find the rest of the group. The snow got heavier as I walked down and found the others. They were soaked in a heavy set snow. I got soaked also but saw two of the six porters behind them. It turns out our trekking guide Sai had no idea where he was going and was hoping the cook or the porters knew the way. I had only descended 700ft below camp before I met up with them, so I told them how close they were and that I'd help them find it, but we needed tents and our warm clothes. I gave the rest of the group basic directions on where to go and walked down to the two porters behind them. I told them people are really cold at Yak Kharka and asked if I could grab tents and carry them up so we all have some shelter. The problem was these guys only had cooking gear and they told me the porters with tents and all our warm gear were hours behind. Had I not asked these porters where our tents were, everyone would have kept walking to Yak Kharka waiting for tents out in that cold with no warm gear or protection. My tent could only fit 2 maybe 3 max. I radioed Nick who was getting closer to Yak Kharka and told him the problem. We decided that everyone had to go down to a safe spot to wait for our porters with our tents and warm weather gear. A temporary cook tent was set up by the two porters at 12000ft, but I had to run back up to Yak Kharka to inform Badia, Mauricio, and our cook what was happening, since they didn't have a radio. When I reached Badia and Mauricio, they were borderline hypodermic. We found our way down to Nick and the tent which was a temporary shelter from the cold. Simon and I were now soaked to the bone and began to shiver. The cook tent was keeping us warm for the moment but with sunlight fading, the temperatures dropping, and no porters with our warm gear in sight, we knew we were in trouble. Nick and I made the team decision to make everyone descend back to Marpha. We had no other choice. It was now dark, cold, and snowy as we all began to go back downhill beyond frustrated at the situation. I also feared that if the porters stole our gear, I would be in trouble without some of my essential gear for Dhaulagiri. One of the cooks and I led the way down in a hurry to get warm and moving again. We also stopped at every goat house and little rock shelter we could find along the descent route hoping our gear had been stashed somewhere. After descending for about 30 minutes, I finally started to warm up. About 15 minutes after that, the cook and I were checking one of the goat houses when my eyes popped out of my head. In a little goat house around 11,3000ft, there was everyone's gear, food, tents, cooking equipment, and everything else we needed. I radioed to the rest of the group, and we all felt a huge sigh of relief. The problem was we had way too much stuff to bring down ourselves. With a lot of the group still cold, most decided to go down back to a hotel in Marpha. Nick, Jeremy, and I decided to pitch our tents on top of the goat house to watch our gear. Our trekking guide Sai said he would be back in the morning and most likely have porters to continue our trip the following day. Day 7 Goat house back to Marpha problems get worse. Disaster day 2 April 12 After a rough previous day we woke up to good views from the rooftop of the goat house. The goat house where we found our gear and camped on top of. The views from the top of the goat house toward the Annapurna range. Nick, Jeremy and myself were met by Sai again that morning. He told us to leave our stuff here and that the porter problem would be fixed. He would send someone up to watch our gear and stay with it for the day so we could regroup and come back up the following day. Nick, Jeremy and I descended back to Marpha to plan and rest for going back up the following day. With our gear already half way up, it would help the porters significantly to get it the short rest of the distance to Yak Kharka. At lunch, we met up with the rest of the group and started to going over our plans to go back up the next day. Hope returned as we realized we really only lost two days at most. Unfortunately, that afternoon our Sai received bad news and said the porters will not be going back up to Yak Kharka. Now all of our gear, which we could have gotten down that day, is still half way up to Yak Kharka. We now could not continue in this direction at all because we could not get new porters to Marpha. (Apparently, porters in this area are really hard to find on short notice. Most of them are on Everest working for bigger paychecks.) The route we had been planning to do while acclimating on the way and paying another $500 for the permit to climb Thapa peak for acclimation was no longer an option. We would now have to back track all the way to Beni, drive 2 more hours to Darbang trek for the normal route to Dhaulagiri base camp, and could lose anywhere from 4 to 7 days. This could very easily cost us a chance to summit as Nick, Chris, Baida, Mauricio and I fell further and further behind in our acclimation plan. Day 8 Drive from Marpha to Muktinath April 13 We needed new porters, and our logistics company was not being helpful at all. This was the same season as their big-paying Everest clients, so we were more of an afterthought. Back in Kathmandu our logistics leader, Damber Parajuli, could not give us a set date on when porters could arrive in Darbang to start the trek to Dhaulagiri by the normal route. He "hoped" they would arrive tomorrow. Hope was not what we were looking for and dropping down to a lower elevation to wait in Beni or Darbang below 4,000 would have us lose what little acclimation we had gained so far. We were frustrated enough already, and Nick told him in very stern terms to have the porters in Darbang in 4 days. We didn't have a lot of faith in the logistics leader by this time so we were giving him extra time to fix the problem. We decided to make the best of the situation. The drive to Beni and Darbang was one long rough day, but it was still only a day to get there so this gave us a little time. We decided to drive in the opposite direction of the original Dhaulagiri trek until we knew for sure we were going to have porters. After looking at the map of the area, we saw the town of Muktinath at 12,000ft on the map and realized you could hike from there up to Thorong La Pass at 17,770ft for acclimation that was part of the Annapurna circuit. We drove up to the little town of Muktinath at 12,000 to help with our acclimation as well as hike to Thorong La Pass at 17,000+ feet the following day. A local on a roof greets us in Muktinath. Photo by Christopher Manning. After dinner at a local restaurant we all went to bed and prepared for the first acclimation climb of our trip the following day. Day 9 Muktinath to Thongorla PassApril 14 We finally awoke to a good view and our fist site of Dhaulagiri shown in the video below. By the way my pronunciation of Muktinath in the video below is not accurate. After a quick breakfast we started walking out of the town of Muktinath to Thorong La Pass. This pass is actually part of the Annapurna circuit so it was a popular hiking route for trekkers. That morning there were hundreds of tourists as we left town and we were stopped by dozens of people who wanted to take pictures with us. Most of these people were from India. Apparently Muktinath is considered holy to both Hindu and Buddhism religions. The founder of Tibetan Buddhism spent significant time meditating there at some point. Regardless, we happily obliged to take pictures with the other tourists and continued on our way. After the troubles we had had the previous days, it was great to see so many smiling faces and a few of the locals. A few of the locals. Dhaulagiri is background left. Around 13,000ft the views of Dhaulagiri were out of this world. I am pretty sure we were near the spot where the main photo for Dhaulagiri on the Wikipedia page was taken. Dhaulagiri from our hike a little above Muktinath. My photo not the Wikipedia one. We slowly worked our way higher and higher as each of us slowed down more with the higher altitude. There were numerous trekkers coming down from Thorong La Pass. Most asked us if we were going to the top of the pass, and they seemed to think we were crazy for coming all the way from Muktinath. The views of Dhaulagiri disappeared, but near the top of the pass, the views were pretty nice of Thorong La Peak and a few of its surrounding neighbors. Badia, Mauricio, Nick, Jeremy, and I all reached the top at 17,770 ft. Jeremy absolutely crushed his previous altitude record of 14,120ft on Mt. Shasta. Wendy and Simon also broke their previous altitude record reaching above 15,000ft. Wendy had hiked all her life and had never been higher than 14,411ft on Mt. Rainier. The smile on her face as she cracked 15,000ft was priceless. Simon Weaver captures these 4 short but incredible time lapse clips below from around 15,000ft. Everyone was happy with how the day went and we descended at our own pace back to Muktinath to have dinner once again at the same restaurant and prep for the long drive from Muktinath to Darbang the following day. We got word from Damber that porters were said to be finally ready in Darbang on the 16th of April. Day 10 Drive to Darbang April 15 Based on our itinerary, I was scheduled to celebrate my 36th birthday at Thapa Peak base camp but instead spent it bouncing all over the place in an old jeep/bus on a 4x4 road for 12 hours traveling from (12,000 ft) in Muktinath back down to (3,500 ft) in Darbang. The silver lining to this day was that we finally could start our trek the following day. In addition, I got a quick glimpse of Annapurna on one of the stops during the drive. After arriving at our hostel in Darbang, I was thrilled to shower with a bucket of warm water. We met a trekker from Australia named Sam Martin in Darbang. He was thrilled to meet some other English speakers. He had recently finished graduate school and decided to take on a great adventure by hiking through the entire country of Nepal. We chatted and shared stories of our experiences so far. Chris brought me some birthday beers which were very much appreciated. I finally felt that things were starting to go right. Day 11 Start Trek from Darbang to Khamla April 16 Unfortunately due to all our problems, this would be the last night Jeremy would accompany the rest of us. He had work deadlines back in LA and would not have time to complete the base camp trek anymore. We took our first and last group photo of everyone on the trip so far. Group shot left to right, Jeremy, Nick, Wendy, Badia (front) Simon, myself, Chris and Mauricio Maybe one of the reasons I like big mountain climbing is because I do a lot better in the cold than I do in the heat. I am not sure if that’s from my college days in the "great mountaineering state of North Dakota" dealing with winters there, but I have never been a fan of the heat. Nepal's weather pattern seems to be super hot and humid during the day, rain with afternoon thunderstorms, then cool and clearing in the late evening and overnight. We tried to leave early to beat some of the heat. However, within minutes we were pouring sweat as the temperature and humidity skyrocketed. I think Nick measured the temperature at 91 degrees by 9am. We did our best to drink as much water as we could but it seemed impossible to stay hydrated. You could see some monster peaks off in the distance. I don't know what they were called nor was I able to get a good shot of the peaks off in the distance, but Christopher Manning sure did. Some big Peaks off in the distance at the start of the trek. Photo by Christopher Manning We stopped at a teahouse on the way and were greeted by some photogenic locals one of which we may have bribed with candy for a photo. Photo by Christopher Manning A little later the afternoon clouds and light rain were actually a welcome sight to at least slightly cool us off. We arrived in the small hillside village of Khmla at an altitude of only 4600ft, which was really more like just a few tea houses than a town. After a big dinner of eggs, soup, and French fries we all called it a night. Tea House photo taken with my crappy cell phone camera. Day 12 Trek Day 2 Khamla to Bagan April 17 We woke up to soaked tents because of the constant humidity. After drying off as much as we could, the heat this day was relentless again. Even as we slightly gained altitude, Nick's thermometer read 93 degrees with humidity once again off the charts. The mugginess of the lower altitude continued and seemed to block most of the good views. We really couldn't see any big peaks. We walked through a canyon that had some interesting terrain as the walking paths to and from the local villages are literally carved out of the side of the mountain as seen in the video below. We arrived at a tea house in Bagan elevation 6000ft as the rain and even some hail came down for hours. Photo of Bagan. Our Tea house is in middle far left of this picture. That evening some local women were walking around doing their daily chores with a couple of their kids. They had the big baskets on their heads. To our surprise, one of them was full of clothes and a baby inside the basket on top of the clothes. Chris tried to snap a photo of the baby lying in the rucksack, and the locals noticed him doing this. They began to laugh . . . hysterically. I am not sure what was said, but they posed for pictures the whole time unable to control their laughter. It was a simple and short time where no words were spoken but lots of laughter which overshadowed any language barrier. It was a simple but beautiful moment. Chris showing the locals his photos he took. Day 13 Trek Day 3 Bagan to Doban April 18 We woke up to tents once again soaked by the humidity over night. The heat again was relentless . . . Notice a pattern? Today we felt like we were in a jungle, but the scenery began to improve as we began to see more and more waterfalls. One of the local women was working in her little hut off the trail and began to make us tea during one of our breaks. Photo of a woman preparing food for her family who stopped to make us tea. After the quick little stop we slowly climbed up to the town of Doban at 8000ft where we once again just beat the rain. We had a quick dinner and called it a night. Day 14 Trek Day 4 Doban to Italian Base Camp April 19 We awoke to another incredibly damp morning once again, but this morning was finally cooler. It was the first time I wore full pants rather than shorts for about an hour into our trek until the temperatures warmed up. As we began to gain more and more altitude, the scenery changed from jungle to forest with big mossy trees that reminded me a lot of Muir Woods in California. As we got higher the trees became less dense, and we began to see the giant monstrous peaks surround us. We arrived at Italian Base Camp at approximately 11,800 feet where the views improved significantly. It felt like we were finally getting near the mountain we came so far to try and climb. Left to right Myself, Chris and Nick "the gringos" at Italian Base Camp. Day 15 Finally reach Base Camp! April 20th It was a long trek from Italian Base Camp to Dhaulagiri Base Camp. We left the last of the green scenery of plants and trees that we would see again for some time. As we followed a stream, we took a hard left and we were now on a glacier that reminded me a lot of the Baltoro Glacier in Pakistan. The large mountains began to reveal themselves as we could begin to see one of the flanks of Dhaulagiri and other mountains nearby. To look up in the video below and see how much further we had to go from 13,700ft was really intimidating. After about 5 hours, I recorded my initial arrival in base camp below with a view of the start of the route. Shortly after I arrived, I met the Base Camp logistics manager and greeted him with a friendly "hello" in an excited voice happy to be there. I was greeted instead with, "Where is the other cook? Did you bring a bus boy?" I didn't know the answers to either question. One of the porters did cook, but I had no idea if he was the expedition cook they were looking for. Nick, Badia and Maricio all arrived shortly after and were greeted with pretty much the same welcome. We went into the base camp dining tent not sure what to do next. The weather was fine and we wanted to set up our base camp tents, but we weren't getting much of a response from the base camp manager. Wendy and Simon showed up a few hours later as the snow now began to fall. Although tired, Wendy had this huge smile on her face now that she arrived at base camp at 15,100ft beating her old altitude record by 100ft set only a few days ago. She had once again broken her altitude record this time just by reaching base camp. After about 3 hours of waiting, we finally asked for the umpteenth time about our base camp tents to which the base camp manager Aziz grabbed two of his assistants and began to help us put up our tents. Not quite the reception we were hoping after such a rough start to the trip. Badia, Mauricio, Nick, and I all looked at each other at the same time and began to reminisce how much we all missed the incredible logistics lead by Manzoor Ahmad of Karakorum Tours in Pakistan. Manzoor had been our logistics provider for all of us previously in Pakistan on multiple different expeditions and was absolutely incredible with logistics, food, and base camp comforts. If you ever go to Pakistan for trekking or for an expedition we all highly recommend using his service when you are there. Regardless, the situation we were currently in is not how any of us wanted to start off our Dhaulagiri expedition especially after all the problems so far. After a small dinner we went to bed and called it a night. We were looking forward to two days rest after five days of trekking and to turn our focus away from our problems getting there and focussing our attention towards working our way up the mountain. Day 16 Rest Day at Base Camp April 21 The first day we spent organizing all of our gear. I had three duffel bags worth of half clothes and half food to organize. My tent was set up the previous evening when the light was fading. As I woke up in the morning, I found that my tent had at least five holes the size of golf balls to bigger in various parts of both doors as well as two broken zippers. I was really only protected by wind from the vestibule which still worked. With two broken main doors, temps inside the tent at night were similar to sleeping outside. Wendy and Simon were tired from the trek so they decided to rest a day at base camp before heading down. Wendy still had the permanent smile on her face having reached base camp of the 7th tallest peak in the world with her son. You could tell she was really enjoying herself. We met the small group of three the European English speaking team of Alex Gavan from Romania, Pawel Michalski from Poland, and Simone La Terra from Italy. All incredibly nice and humble guys who did their best to make us feel welcome and were happy to have more English speakers in base camp. I had met Alex before on Gasherbrum 2 in 2016 and knew him as a strong climber who was very talkative with a huge laugh. It was great to see him as we shared stories, struggles and laughs of our 2016 G2 expedition. Simone kindly offered Nick and I some incredible Italian sausage and cheese. Mauracio, Badia, Nick and Christopher and I sat around and chatted over our plans for the next few days. As temps dropped in the dining tent, we all crawled into our own personal tents around 9pm and called it an evening. Day 17 Rest Ray at Base Camp April 22nd Wendy and Simon along with a porter began their long trek out. We all said our goodbyes and wished them well. I know Nick was incredibly proud of his mom and friend for making the trek to base camp. The Dhaulagiri trek is arguably one of the hardest treks to any of the 8000 meter peaks, so having them make it was awesome. Our sub climber team of five was part of a larger group of 15 climbers from countries around the world. There was our group of 5, the 3 European English speaking team, and 7 others all from Chili and Spain who were climbing together. Most of the Spanish and Chilean climbers were either up on the mountain doing their first rotation to a lower camp or climbing Thapa Peak for acclimation when we reached base camp. We met a few of the Spaniards that night as they came down, and we pumped them for information about the route . . Or should I say Nick, who is fluent in Spanish asked them information about the route. The largest team on the mountain was the Seven Summits group right next to us in base camp with about 30 climbers. Their most famous client by far is Carlos Soria who at 79 years old is trying to become the oldest person to finish all fourteen 8000 meter peaks, having only Shishmapangma and Dhaulagiri left to complete the list. As successful as he has been in the past on big peaks, this was his 8th attempt at trying to summit Dhaulagiri. Their base camp accommodations and food made all of us jealous. We began packing that evening discussing what to bring and all excited to finally step foot on Dhaulagiri the following day. We packed and repacked trying to keep our pack weight under 40lbs. After all was said and done, both Nick’s and my pack weighed 46 lbs while Christopher's was about 38. I wasn't able to thank Simone for the gift of Italian sausage and cheese the day before so I did this afternoon. He kindly replied "you are welcome my friend I have plenty come by anytime." . . . . . . . . A quick conversation I would play over and over in my mind later. He left to go up the mountain the following day for a rotation to camp 3. Day 18 Base camp to camp 1 April 23rd We awoke early excited to take our first steps on Dhaulagiri. From base camp it was a 22 minute walk across the glacier to the start of the route which gets serious instantly. You gain very steep altitude right away. You begin climbing up a steep slope of snow, rock and ice averaging between 70 and 80 degrees with even some low class five moves mixed in. Luckily, there were fixed ropes which we were happy to use for safety purposes. Climbing this kind of terrain at altitude with a 46 lb pack was a tough and demoralizing way to start. I would later nickname this first section "The Demoralizer." I thought to myself "wow this mountain gets seriously tough right out of the gate." Me climbing up the "Demoralizer" photo by Nicholas Rice Almost to the top of "The Demoralizer" you can see how steep it is again looking down behind me. The steep climb gives way to a traverse on the left side of the the Dhaulagiri Eiger. Photo by Christopher Manning as we hug the far right side of the icefall. You gain altitude a little slower before entering crossing a very crevassed area before a somewhat flat Plateau. We will get back to this area later . . . . . . After going through this crevassed area the route flattens out. Photo of the flat section that would change drastically later in the trip and almost end my life twice. . . . Photo by Christopher Manning At the end of the flat plateau where this picture was taken the route once again gets steep as you ascend fixed ropes and climb over a few crevasses. Photo above showing the end of the flat plateau before it gets steep again. Camp 1 is roughly at the lower portion of the saddle in the photo above right where the shade and sun meet. As we got higher, we negotiated a few more crevasses some of them were not very wide but deep enough to see my condo back home in Colorado. The temperatures began to rise as the sun reflected off the glacier and snow creating a giant solar oven that made our climb hotter and hotter as the heat began to zap our energy. After about 6 hours, I arrived at camp 1 at 18,600ft and started digging out platforms for our tents. Nick arrived shortly after followed by Badia and Mauricio. Chris was having stomach issues and really struggled on the heat of the glacier. He arrived about two hours later and was happy to crawl into the tent to eat and rehydrate with some water we had ready for him. We could tell we were not as acclimated as we had hoped to be, as we all had headaches that afternoon and evening. Luckily after a few ibuprofen, we all slept pretty well that evening. We packed and prepared to go up to and touch camp 2 before coming down. I was really excited because tomorrow I knew I would finally get a really good view of Annapurna. Day 19 camp 1 to camp 2 and back/Injury April 24th Temperatures on big peaks swing widely. When I arrived at Camp 1 the day before, I was wearing just a base layer. That evening temperatures plummeted and I woke up to temperatures in the single digits inside my tent. Chris wasn't feeling well and decided to descend to base camp. Despite some headaches from the night before, Nick and I woke up feeling strong for our move to Camp 2. I was ready first and slowly started making my way upward in the freezing cold. After 20 minutes, the sun hit me and the temperature soared to where I was wearing just a base layer again. After about two hours I crested a rise and there it was . . . the world’s most dangerous and intimidating 8000 meter peak looking beautiful across the valley. A Sherpa was taking a rest break and I asked him to grab a quick photo. Photo of me taken by Sherpa from the Seven Summits Team at 20,000ft with Annapurna in the background. I began to work my way up further until I reached roughly 20,367ft more or less the height of Denali, the highest peak in North America. I took a quick video that takes a few seconds to adjust but really captured some of the beautiful views of the area. Soon I began to really feel the altitude and my lack of acclimation as I struggled the last 1000ft up to Camp 2. Clouds that were lower in the valley began to push and rise into Dhaulagiri. We could tell some weather was coming in. I quickly touched camp 2 where I spent less than 3 minutes taking a quick video before heading down because of some impending weather. Camp 2 is on a very steep narrow slope at the top of a serac at 21,300ft. The video below really puts in perspective. You need to be every careful where you put your tent because this area is prone to avalanches. You could see the weather behind us getting ready to unleash an afternoon snowstorm. Nick reached Camp 2 shortly after I did followed again by Badia and Mauricio. The weather looked almost apocalyptic as clouds ran into Dhaulagiri and pushed themselves up into the sky while not bringing any type of weather in our direction for the moment. Apocalyptic looking cloud I quickly headed down. As I got near camp 1, the spooky clouds decided to turn on us bringing a little bit of snow. Then it turned into almost a total whiteout as I was about half way down to Camp 1. Luckily, I was able to see a faint outline of the route. I tracked the route on my phone with Strava which I followed partially back to camp 1 during brief periods of total white out. Nick was also tracking the route, so I knew he'd be okay. However, I became worried back at camp when he hadn't arrived for over two hours. He eventually reached camp after having taken a partial crevasse fall where he was able to catch himself but twisted his left leg badly in the process. What took him 45 minutes to climb up took him almost 3 hours to descend as he used his trekking poles as crutches to help himself get back to camp. I could tell by the look on his face he was in a lot of pain. Badia and Mauricio arrived a little later having trouble finding their way down in the white out as well. I boiled some hot water for Nick and gave Badia and Mauricio some of my hot tea. We all called it an early night as the snow continued to fall. Day 20 Descend to Base Camp April 25th We woke up to over a foot of new snow that morning. After climbing high the day before and sleeping lower, we slept great that night getting close to 10 hours of sleep. All of us slept well except for Nick who apparently slept through the night with incredible pain. He was afraid to move his leg, and we knew we were going to have to help get him down. He was in good spirits as Badia and Mauricio helped encourage, pushed and pulled him down down to Base Camp as I plowed trail, dug up ropes and was the leader of the game called "find the crevasse under fresh snow." Chris had gone down the day before and what took him 2 hours to descend took the four of us 6 hours. We were all in no hurry because, thanks to Chris Tomer's forecast of impending bad weather, we knew we were going to have at least four days of going nowhere in base camp. Nick was in great spirits despite the accident. Who smiles while going down one of the most dangerous peaks in the world with a busted leg . . . . Nicholas Rice does We were greeted by the Spanish climbers as we arrived back in Base Camp where everyone was worried about Nick’s injury. Alex Gavan came over and chatted with us and gave his condolences to Nick for his injury. Nick seemed optimistic that things weren't broken. He knew how to work through injury and actually climbed 23,406ft Pik Lenin with a broken bone in his foot. With bad weather coming for the next several days, we knew Nick would get a little bit of rest from his injury. We were shocked to hear other climbers were still high on the mountain with heavy snow and high winds over the next few days. Day 21 Rest Day in Base Camp/assess Nick's injury April 26th Luckily one of the Spanish climbers, Nicko, was a doctor who assessed Nicks injury as a severe knee sprain with some possible small ligament tear and would need about 4 days of rest. As bad as this sounded, Nicks injury for now meant his trip was not over and this rest period would fit perfectly with our rest schedule in base camp. Our team was now huge. A mix of 15 plus climbers from around the world were on our team. Each and every other climber now on our team had a minimum of three 8000 meter peak summits on their resume . . . . Everyone except Chris and I. Chris had his one successful summit of Manaslu, and I had my one successful summit of Gasherbum 2. With the English speaking European team in their own smaller dining tent and the rest of the Spanish and Chilean climbers now in our larger tent, we were now one loud Spanish-speaking group of 12. The Sub Spanish/Chilean team was made up of five. Eva Zarzuela(Spain)and Jonatan Villa(Spain) were co leaders of this sub group along with climbers Juan Prieto (Chile), Jean Heekeren (Chile) and Nicko Reyes (Chile) who was their expedition doctor. Nicko was great to have around as he was able to diagnose Nicks leg as either a really bad sprain or a partial tear of some ligaments. An injury like that would send most people home, but Nick was tough. He knew, although maybe not as strong, he could continue the expedition. His plethora of medicine and medical advice was greatly appreciated. At dinner, Chris and I struggled to make out what little Spanish we could understand. The jokes and laughter amongst everyone else made us feel left out, as for the first time in a long time I was not able to join in and have fun conversations in a group with others. The famous Spanish Climber, Carols Soria from the Seven Summits Team, knew Badia and Mauricio from previous expeditions, and he drew a crowd when he came by our dining tent. Although we didn't speak long after being introduced and were both limited with each other's first language, he seemed kind and willing to chat and share some information with our group. Since we were very confident with our weather forecasts from Chris Tomer, we would share this information with them and other members from their team throughout the expedition. I can't say enough good things about Badio and Mauricio. They could sense Chris and I were becoming uncomfortable because of the language barrier and did their best to include us in conversation since they were fluent in both languages. Badia and Mauricio are an amazing couple who have summited eight 8000 meter peaks together over the last 18 years. As I mention previously, Badia is the ONLY WOMAN in all of the Americas with eight 8000 meter peak summits on her climbing resume. Even though I was much less experienced than them, they gave me confidence and great advice for this incredibly daunting mountain. Day 22 Rest day at base camp/important phone call April 27th Not a lot happened on this day except two important things. I was finally able to do laundry which I desperately needed to do, and Nick, thankful for our help the other day helping him get down to base camp, let me use his Sat phone with only limited minutes for the whole trip. Being gone on this trip seemed to me to be so much harder than my last 8000 meter peak for several reason. I was still feeling a little down and a little more like one of the outcasts in the group, mostly because of my lack of Spanish, but making a phone call home to my girlfriend Jenn really helped. It was great to hear her voice, talk about her move into her new house, and hear how our two dogs were doing. Everything about talking to her and being reminded of home and the people who care about you really made my day. Day 23rd Rest day at Base Camp April 28th Chris had decided he had enough of waiting and was feeling better. Hearing that English speaking European group was going up, Chris decided to join them. Alex and Pawel's partner, Simone, had gone up the day before, and Chris was anxious to try to catch up with him. Chris knew he was a little behind so a few extra days up high in good weather sounded good to him. With Chris going up early, Badia, Mauricio, Nick and I discussed our plan to go up on the 30th as there was a stretch of good weather in the forecast. Our plan was to climb to camp 1 spend a night, climb to camp 2 spend a night, climb to camp 3 and come down to camp 2 to spend another night, then come all the way down to base camp from camp 2 that following morning before the next round of bad weather comes. That afternoon I saw one of the largest avalanches I have ever seen. To put in perspective of how big it was, I only saw half of it and it was still the largest avalanche I've ever seen. A fog layer around 17000ft obscured the view of anything higher. We heard the noise and all ran out of the dining tent after hearing it. A split second after Chris said that it was too hazy to see it, a monster avalanche plummeted below the cloud layer with a roar I had never heard before. It was maybe a quarter mile wide and half a mile from us. The ground shook as it hit the glacier and moved our way losing steam over the flat glacier but still pushing a huge wave of snow into the air. It slowed, and the wave of air and snow it pushed forward hit us later after about 5 minutes dropping the temperature instantly about 20 degrees and bringing with it a light dusting of snow over camp. It was incredibly humbling to say the least. Unfortunately, we did not get a good video of this one. Day 24 Death on the Mountain April 29th Chris was feeling better and eager to get back up high. He left real early this morning with Alex and Pawel while the rest of the Spanish team struggled to get ready. Nick and I were awake early due to the noise as they excitedly packed to head up the mountain when we got the news. Our base camp manager Aziz came up to Nick's tent around 6 AM, and I couldn't hear exactly what was said but I knew it was not good. . . . . . Simone our Italian friend was missing and that's all he knew at the time. We walked up to the big Seven Summits team to get more information since they were the ones who originally told our base camp manager. Simone was high on the mountain during the bad weather period which we chose to wait out. We found out Simone did not quite make it to Camp 3 around 7000 meters (23000ft) where he pitched a tent on the very narrow and exposed ridge along part of the route. Another Polish climber Walde from the Seven Summits Team tried to pitch a camp in the real Camp 3 a couple hundred feet higher but was unable to find a good spot because of the increasingly bad weather. He descended and asked Simone if he could share with him to which Simone agreed. Just after this quick conversation, Simone had climbed inside his tent alone, which was not anchored down yet, for less than a minute when a big gust of wind came caught his tent like a sail and blew him right off the mountain. Walde watched in horror as he screamed "NO NO NO NO" while trying to grasp for the tent sliding away only to watch it be blown off the ridge falling thousands of feet. After this, Walde would descend to camp 2. Because of the weather that evening, the search for Simone by helicopter would have to continue the following day. Simone LaTerra from Italy, a part of our team, had died. Dealing with death is something I've never come across on a mountain. Two climbers died back in 2014 when I was on Aconcagua but I never new, met, or saw them. I didn't know Simone well but in the few moments I shared with him, he seemed kind and genuine extending kindness to someone he hardly knew who was still very new, a noob you might say, to 8000 meter peak climbing. Nick had known him since 2007 making this a lot more personal for him. Sadly, this wasn't the first time Nick had to deal with a mountain tragedy, especially being involved in the K2 2008 disaster, so he was unfortunately more accustomed to it. Climbers from all over base camp discussed back and forth what to do, send a helicopter to search for his body, can a helicopter come with the typical afternoon bad weather, who tells his family, when does someone tell his family and so on. Everyone around me talked in Spanish or Nepalese and discussed what to do. I sat there in stunned silence all morning for the first time somewhat relieved that I didn't speak the languages being heard around me. Simone is survived by his wife and two parents back home in Italy. Rest in Peace Simone La Terra After a discussion at dinner due to what we had found out this day and the continued unexpected snow that afternoon, Badia, Mauricio, Nick and I decided to wait another day or two before continuing up the mountain. It didn't feel right to go up the following day. Day 25 A Day of Respect/body recovery April 30th We woke up early to a buzz of helicopter activity as the search was in full swing to find Simone's body before the weather turned. They found his sleeping bag first which was retrieved by his friend and climbing partner, Alex Gavan from Romania. They had hoped to find him inside the sleeping bag but it was empty. A short time later the body was found but in a very dangerous place at 5900 meters (19,350ft). This meant he had fallen over 3,600ft (1,100 meters) from where he was originally blown off the mountain. Alex, who was up with Pawel and Chris near camp one when they found out the terrible news, had flown back to base camp in the helicopter to help with gear and to figure out a plan to try to recover Simone's body. Alex was talking to Simone's wife, a phone call I never hope I have to make, who asked him one more time to try to retrieve the body. Alex was unsure it could be done because I could hear him say over the satellite phone "it's in such a dangerous place I was freaking out." Alex bravely flew back again to try one more time to retrieve Simone's body. A short time later he recovered the body as the helicopter brought it back to base camp bloody, frozen, twisted and crushed. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and could only hope his death was quick and painless. The helicopter went back and picked up Alex, who once back in base camp jumped off the helicopter for the last time. With the help of some local porters and sherpa from the Seven Summits team, Simone was loaded into a helicopter and flown away. Seeing the body back at base camp after it had fallen 3,600ft was absolutely awful. But that didn't haunt me as much as the call Alex had to make to Simone's wife to let her know. Seeing that conversation as it happened still bothers me to think about to this day. As the helicopter took off for Kathmandu Alex crumpled in a heap with the full weight of what had happened finally hitting him. Nick put his arm around him and all I could do was put my hand on his shoulder for comfort as Alex let it all out. Alex and Simone's climbing partner Pawel who had come down from camp 1 walked up to him as they both sat by each other's side for some time. Pawel and Alex having an emotion reunion Shortly after the helicopter took off with Simone heading back for Kathmandu for cremation so he could be returned to his wife in Italy. We passed most of the rest of the day in silence waiting as snow started to fall heavier and heavier that afternoon. By dinner time we knew that once again we would not be going back up the following day. Day 26th Another rest day May 1st Our suspicions about not going up on this day were confirmed when shortly after breakfast monster avalanches began coming down from several locations on nearby peaks. After much discussion at breakfast and comparing multiple weather forecasts saying there would be very little snow that evening, we now were officially planning to go up the following day. The forecast wasn't ideal with the following day predicting heavy snow in the evening two days from now and then clearing. Our plan was to get up to camp two before it hit trying to spend a night or two there as we wait out the one day of bad weather, maybe touch camp 3, and come all the way down before another storm hits. We were already packed from the day before so now we just had to wait for this day to end, hope we didn't get our everyday afternoon snowfall, and then head back up early the following morning. For Pawel and Alex it was their last night in base camp and they chose to invite only Nick and I to their last dinner on the mountain. After the death of Simone, they chose to go home. I can't blame them for not wanting to be there anymore. I can't say the thought didn't cross my mind either. Day 27 move to Camp 1 May 2nd I was happy to get out of base camp. I wanted to get away from all that had happened there the last few days and keep moving. My pack to camp one was once again 46 lbs. Though we moved to camp one an hour earlier than our previous attempt, ”The Demoralizer" was no easier, and we still spent the last two hours suffering in the heat. I took a little video in the flat section to give an idea of how immense the area is. My pace instantly slowed to less then half once the heat hit me around 17,000ft. I struggled the last 1600 ft up to camp stopping approximately every 100 steps but still beat my first trip up to camp one by 45 minutes. Was the acclimation working? Either way, it was nice to be back high, and we were excited to get up early and head to camp 2 the following day. The photo above shows the giant upper portion of Dhaulagiri as Mauricio began to get ready for the night. As soon as that sun dropped behind the mountain, temperatures plummeted. Day 28 trapped in camp 1 May 3rd We knew it was going to snow later on in the day. However, we were expecting it to come after noon, so we were hoping to get up early enough and hit camp 2 before the heavier snow began. We got up at 5am with expectations of hitting the trail up to camp 2 by 6am. As we were getting ready, it began to snow a little. By 5:30 am, it was snowing harder . . .and harder and we all soon knew without speaking that we weren't going anywhere today. Since I thought this would be a quick trip where we would be moving each day, I didn't bring my nook or iPod for entertainment. I spent the rest of the day staring at the tent walls listening to the snow hit the tent. I only left the tent to go outside and shovel the snow off my tent as it accumulated deeper and deeper. We probably got around a foot of new snow with the high winds driving the snow. We knew that there was no way that we could to move to camp 2 the next day. Also with the snow deeper higher on the mountain, we knew that when the sun hit the mountain the next day, there would be a high risk of huge avalanches, so our only option was to descend to base camp early the next morning to avoid these avalanches. Day 29 Descend to base camp May 4th We all were out of the tent and moving around 6am. I led the way plowing a trail in the new snow which was difficult even on descent. I was digging up fixed ropes where I thought I remembered them and being extra cautious avoiding the areas I knew where crevasses were located but were now hidden with the newly fallen snow. Mauricio descending "The Demoralizer" We all made it down to base camp around 9am with no issues. The highlight of the rest of the day was that we all took bucket showers and had ice cold Coca Cola upon our return to base camp. I never drink regular soda but on expeditions it's fantastic. When we returned, the Spanish/Chilean group had moved into Alex, Pavel, and Simone's old dining tent. Other than Eva and Niko from this group, the rest of them really began to distance themselves from us. Day 30 Rest day in Base camp/realization May 5th The highlight of today was doing lots of laundry in the melting glacier water. I was down to my last clean pair of . . . .well everything so it was nice to get that done. During the day, we came to the realization of a few limitations. The biggest was that we are getting tight on time for a summit attempt with the approaching monsoon. We had only been to 21,300ft on this trip that was 9 days ago. We still needed to touch at least 7000 meters then come back down and rest 2 or 3 days at base camp before a summit attempt which would take an additional 4 or 5 days. There are usually two summit weather windows in the Himalayas of Nepal in the Spring season. Historically on Dhaulagiri, you get a window around May 9th to 12th and again around the 17th to 20th. Of course those days aren't set in stone and can sometimes vary but, statistically on Dhaulagiri, those seem to be the days when most people summit due to good weather. Since we were so far behind in acclimatization, we were now hoping to use this first summit window to at least touch camp 3 for acclimatization, then come down and pray we would be rested and ready for the second summit window, which would be our one and only chance at the summit before we would have to catch our flights home. Day 31 Trek to French Pass May 6th With insanely high winds high on the mountain, several of us decided to trek to French Pass at 17,700ft which would have been on our trek had we come in the original way we planned from the small town of Marpha. Nick was having issues with his leg from the descent a few days ago so he decided to stay in camp and rest more. The trek terrain reminded me a little bit of Mt. Bross or Mt. Columbia in Colorado with loose shale and sometimes scree a lot of the way to the top of the pass. The significant difference, of course, were the "slightly" better views of Dhaulagiri and the surrounding peaks. Smiling with Dhaulagiri in the background. The memorial dedicated to the climbers who lost their life on this peak was on this way to French Pass as well. We somehow missed it on the way up, but Chris and I stopped on our way back to pay our respects. It was similar to the Gilkey memorial on K2 but a lot smaller with a lot fewer names. I knew that sadly at some point Simone's name would be the newest addition to this memorial. Back at base camp that evening, we experienced 50 mph wind gusts off and on for about 3 hours. We could only imagine how high winds were on the upper parts of the mountain. Day 32 rest Day at Base Camp/good news May 7th The weather had been kicking our butts and humbling us over and over again on this trip. (Dhaulagiri and the other 8000 meter Giants in Nepal/Tibet are literally so tall they reach into the jet stream making it impossible to summit with jet stream winds raking the top of the peaks reaching well over 100 miles per hour and often bringing lots of snow to the peaks as well.) The winds were literally so strong on the summit that, even in base camp at times, we could hear the summit winds sounding like a freight train as winds howled over the tops of the peaks. We received our weather forecast from Chris Tomer this morning and FINALLY got some good news. He was forecasting over the next few days that the jet stream would be moving north away from the Himalayans which would finally give us time to go up the mountain. Unfortunately, we would still have to wait 3 or 4 more days and this would only be an acclimation trip since we had not been high enough to attempt the summit yet. We would need one more weather window right after this. Time was running out. Day 33 base camp Planning/strategizing/storm inside my tent May 8th Talk around base camp was spreading. It looked like there could be a weather window from The 11th to 15th. We sensed this could be our only chance to try for the summit. We hatched a plan on how to potentially try to go for it with only being as high as 21,3000ft so far over 2 weeks ago. With good weather forecasted, we mapped out the following plan: May 11 to camp 1 May 12 to camp 2 May 13 stay in camp 2 May 14 to camp 3 May 15 try to summit Sounds like a legit plan right? But having only been as high as camp 2, this seemed next to impossible for for me. I do well at altitude normally but I take longer to acclimate than others maybe because I am a lot heavier than most high altitude climbers. Other climbers from the Seven Summits group with similar problems were now going to use oxygen to summit. A friendly climber named Endigo from the Seven Summits Team came by our tent most nights to discuss weather. When he brought up what we thought of the idea of using oxygen to be stronger, Nick, Chris, Badia, Mauricio and I all agreed that we would rather not summit and go home than use it. That evening after dinner a storm came in base camp. It lasted over 6 hours with snow and 50 to 60 mph wind gusts. With my interior tent doors broken, wind drove snow underneath the tent vestibule and began to coat the inside of my tent and me with snow. I had to use the mesh part of the tent door (used to keep bugs out) to keep the snow out as best as I could. It helped but was a very uncomfortable night.The fact that we paid for a logistics company that did not provide or fix the tent problems the entire time we were there was extremely disappointing. This peak was really testing us and we had hardly climbed any of it. Day 34 Base camp May 9th We woke up to clear and calm skies. Snow had been blown everywhere and covered 1/3 of the inside of my tent. I awoke to drops of water falling on me as the frozen snow coating the inside my tent began melting once the early morning sun hit my tent. Our encouraging forecast for the 11th to 15th window now had a hiccup. Sunday the 13th, right in the middle of our potential summit push, now had snow in the forecast. Though we openly shared our ideas with the Spanish/Chilean group as well as our weather forecasts which they continued to ask for daily, they refused to discuss strategy with us. Day 35 Forecasting/still in base camp May 10 Everyone was waiting to see when the weather would improve. New forecasts kept pushing back our start day. Our chance of an acclimation rotation to 7000 meters, an absolute must for a chance to summit before the season ends, was now no longer a possibility. Our only chance was a quick light summit push which would be very dangerous considering we had not been above 18,600ft for over a week and over 21,300 in two weeks. The feeling of defeat I had held off until now slowly started to sink in. I knew that we would try with our one weather window to summit but I considered our chances of summiting less than 10%. I was resigned to the idea that I would probably have to turn around near camp 3 not being acclimated enough to go much higher. We were willing to see how high we could go but were not willing to risk our lives or loss of toes and fingers to reach the top. It snowed another couple of inches that evening. Day 36 Waiting and Discussing/still in base camp. May 11th Walde from Poland, part of the Seven Summits team who was right next to Simone when he fell, came by this morning to discuss plans and weather. Even though we arrived really late to base camp due to logistical problems, we had not missed anything so far. Not a single person on the mountain had summited yet this year or gotten higher than camp 3. Everyone was getting anxious with the last days of the climbing seasons fast approaching. The climbing season would end around the 22nd after which the Monsoon Season would approach and completely shut down the mountain with constant snow and rain until late summer. Day 37 Back to French Pass/Plan in place May 12th With avalanche conditions still a worry and our team going crazy in base camp, we decided to hike once again up to French Pass. Eva broke free from the Spanish/Chilean group and joined our group to get some exercise and again try to get as high as we could. Eva was having issues with the leadership in her group and was considering ditching the Spanish/Chilean to join us whenever the summit push came around. This time Nick joined us - Eva,Chris, Badia, Mauricio, and me. The trek was even more beautiful than last time. The high winds which we encountered early in the morning disappeared about an hour into the trek. The clouds that had blocked Dhaulagiri and the surrounding peaks earlier disappeared and gave way to incredible views. Watching, waiting, and trying to learn what the mountain is going to tell us near French Pass at 17,700ft The trek down was uneventful and we made it back to base camp for lunch. We looked at the weather forecast, discussed when we had to planned to go home, and hatched a plan. We would attempt the summit without having been above 18,600ft for over to weeks. Our plan at this time was follows. Rest and Pack May 13 Move to Camp 1 May 14th Move to Camp 2 May 15th Rest day in Camp 2 May 16th Move to Camp 3 May 17th Attempt to summit May 18th Descend to camp 1 or base Camp May 19th Extra Day for descent May 20th This plan was our last chance and would not change. Before we left for the summit push, we needed to schedule a day for porters to return. We decided on May 21st which we could not change once scheduled. Our time had run out and we were left with our one and only chance to summit. Day 38 Pack/rest May 13th I can't really explain the nerves before a summit attempt on an 8000 meter peak. Over a year of planning and preparation and almost 40 days away from home came down to this last try. We would only get one shot. So many questions ran through my head as we packed and repacked. I was throwing out any additional weight that was not needed and sending messages to family and friends to let them know it was almost time. Day 39 To camp 1 May 14th Badia, Mauricio and I were up early and anxious to move to camp 1. Nick and Chris followed behind an hour or so later. We were nervous when we started because it was very lightly snowing when we got up. We debated calling it and waiting another day, but time was not on our side. Luckily the weather began to clear on the way up and we made it back up to camp 1 without issues . . . . at least until the evening. Day 40 stuck in camp 1 May 15th Our plan today was to move up to Camp 2 but once again it began to snow that morning as we were getting ready for our move. We decided to wait another hour or two to see if the snow died down but it kept coming. Within 2 hours, there was almost 10 inches of new snow on the mountain. We knew we were not going anywhere that day. Most of the other climbers from the Seven Summits team, knowing the season was drawing to a close, came up early that morning and were astonished to see how much snow was on the upper portion of the mountain. Back at camp 1 after we dig out the tents. Luckily later in the afternoon the clouds cleared and revealed Dhaulagiri. We would move on to camp 2 the following day as one large team working together. Day 41 move to camp 2 May 16 I would like to say this day was easy but having only been as high as camp 2 on the whole expedition; it was not. We were all carrying heavy loads and made it to camp 2 at our own pace where we set up camp for the night. Nick took this incredible shot from camp 2 over a sea of clouds and began to pack to go to camp 3, the highest we had been on the whole trip, the following day. Killer shot from camp 2 by Nick Rice. Im in the lower left corner in blue about to set up my tent. Day 42 move to camp 3 May 17 We got a much later start than I would have hoped. To be honest, we were ready first but timid to begin this section that we had not been on yet that was so incredibly steep. About an hour out of camp, I took a quick video around 22,000ft with camp 2 sadly not too far away in the background. As windy as that last video was the higher we went the worse the winds got. About half the climbers were now on supplemental oxygen. Several climbers on Oxygen Going without oxygen You can really see the steepness of the route in the above photo. I took this "selfie" during a brief break in the winds which unfortunately would keep getting stronger as seen in the photo below. Nick took this great shot looking up towards camp 3 around 23,000ft that really gives you an idea of how bad the winds were. Nick took the above photo and this incredible video below that really captured how intense the winds were. Right around this point he would turn around due to intense pain in his leg having climbed to 7000 meters. We would later find out that he had broken his tibia in the crevasse fall earlier in the trip. I’m not sure what the Guinness Book of World Records holds for highest altitude climbed with a broken leg, but Nicholas Rice may have that record. This was quite the push but the views were incredible and rewarding. Around 7000 meters or 23,000ft this time Chris and I stopped to take a little break on a small little flat section on the ridge where Chris captured this incredible photo. Incredible photo - but at a creepy spot. Our friend Walde (in yellow) caught up to us and as soon as he could catch his breath said, "This is exactly where Simone fell." It was really spooky being in a place where one of our teammates had fallen to their death. Chris and I looked each other with that blank stare and after a few moments continued on. At the time, we were getting tired so we tried to push that thought out of our heads and continue moving up to camp 3. Chris and I continued to move well and arrived to camp 3 around 2pm. It was later than we had planned but at least we were feeling decent under the circumstances. The problem was now we had to dig a tent platform in almost bullet proof snow at 23,762ft. Dhaulagiri did not let up as it took us two hours to dig a tent platform on the steepest spot I had ever camped. We anchored our tent especially well knowing what the winds could do to tents this high on the mountain. The thought about attempting to summit the following day was now impossible. We were too tired. Chris was smart enough to get into our tent first. When I got into the tent after him, I realized I was on the side closest to the steep drop. As I lay down, I could feel my left shoulder slightly leaning over the abyss. Tent views from 23,760ft. You can see how steep the slope is here. It was a rough day and our bodies needed to get any rest possible if we were going to have a successful attempt on the summit. Later that night, we were blasted by a snow storm with very strong winds until well after 2am as seen in the video below. Every breath we took froze instantly to the tent walls. Soon after the tent shook violently in the wind knocking the new moisture off the tent walls on to us creating our own indoor snow shower. I’ve been super happy with the Black Diamond first lite tent, but this time I was really worried the winds were going to rip it apart. Day 43 wait in camp 3 May 18 The previous day really took its toll on some others. Badia and Mauricio were having some minor frostbite issues on their toes and decided their trip was over. They began their descent later that morning. At this point Carlos Soria and every member of the Seven Summits team except Walde threw in the towel and descended as well. Lina was having trouble so we helped her dig a tent platform so she could set up her tent, rest, and hydrate for the day. At 23,762ft, this took quite a while. The anticipation was building for a summit attempt, but we were all exhausted. Everyone was keeping an eye on each other to make sure that no one had any high altitude issues other than normal headaches and fatigue. This would be the highest I had ever camped and we would spend close to 40 hours at or above this altitude. We would leave at 10:30 pm this evening for our summit push. Our intended plan was to go all night until we hopefully reached the summit. Day 44 summit attempt May 19 We were now down to 8 climbers out of 60 or so. We were a mixed group with Chris, myself, Lina, Eva, some Koreans, and Walde. The initial climb out of camp 3 was incredibly steep. I felt strong; I felt good. I had slowly passed the others and made quick work up this section where I hit 24,100ft and crested a rise . . . . and was immediately blasted with wind. I was officially alone high on the mountain in wind chills that were now approaching minus 40. I took a quick video where you can see the snow blasting me in my headlamp. My optimism faded and a small sense of fear took over. I waited for a few of the others. After a quick regroup, we pushed on feeling better that the remaining 8 of us were now moving up to the summit together. It was just after midnight and we made slow progress slowly up the mountain. We trudged through the snow as the clock ticked past 1am, then 2am, then 3am, and the winds persisted as we got colder and colder. I had every heavy duty layer on that I had yet was still cold. At 25,032ft, according to my GPS, the fixed ropes disappeared. It looked as if an avalanche or rock slide had swept the area in front of us clean. We were now nearing the dangerous upper portion of the mountain, and the winds were beginning to knock us around even more. Our remaining group descended only slightly around a corner to be partially protected from the winds and discuss what to do next. For me, right then and there, I knew my trip was over. This trip had had so many things go wrong from the beginning, and we were now pushing past my risk for safety tolerance. Without being properly acclimated at 25,032ft, I could tell I wasn't feeling as strong as I did on Gasherbrum 2 during my summit push. While everyone thought about what to do and how to move forward the only thought in my head was "well we can probably summit maybe getting frostbite on the way, . . . but if we do I KNOW we will never get down safely in this kind of wind." I was able to capture that moment in video where I knew it was over. Chris was feeling the same way. We had a quick discussion and that was it, the two of us began our descent. The remaining 6 climbers would climb a few hundred more feet before turning back as well. Their descent would be a lot more difficult than ours with some suffering minor frostbite injuries on the way down. Chris and I slowly made our way down. It was still brutally cold and Chris kept blinking his eyes to keep them from freezing. I do remember the feeling of disappointment leaving me. Instead of being incredibly disappointed, I felt a bigger sense of relief. What does that mean? Did I make the right call? All these thoughts popped through my head as we slowly worked our way down getting pushed around in the winds the whole time. As the sun rose, we were greeted with one of the most incredible views I have ever seen. I dropped just below the lip where I was hit with the heavy winds earlier that morning. My phone app said 24,100ft and as I was now mostly blocked from the winds, I looked up to a view that made my jaw drop. I took out my camera and recorded my favorite video of the trip: sunrise video high above the clouds with Annapurna looming large. If you listen closely you can hear how hard I was breathing just standing there taking this video. Chris and I got back down to camp 3 and decided to take a quick nap before descending further to camp 2. We decided we need to get down the mountain quickly and would go down to camp 2 later in the afternoon. After a 2 hour nap, we packed up and began descending. The feeling of relief left as the thought of regret slipped into my mind. We were descending and temperatures got warmer and more comfortable. Did I make the right decision? After a slow staggering decent down the very steep route, we made it to camp two and set up our tents for the night. We could see a large portion of the route back down to base camp. The flat section that we had not seen in a few days from above looked totally different. What had been all snow and easily walked through now looked like it had melted out significantly. There were little rivers and mini lakes now running through our descent route. We would deal with that the following day. Our friend Walde caught up with us in camp 2 that evening having turned around only shortly after us. The three of us planned to descend together the next day. The group that had pushed on did not get much further and did not return to camp 3 until very late that evening.. Not a single person would summit Dhaulagiri this season . . meanwhile Mt. Everest saw a record breaking 700+ summits this season with an 11 day window of great weather. Day 45 near death experience on descent to base camp May 20 Our plan was to be moving by 6am down the mountain before the heat of the day hit. We knew we would make good time down even with all our gear. I remember being ready to go by 6, but Chris and Walde were still getting ready. Seven o'clock passed, and I began to get antsy. We were finally on the move by 8am, 2 hours later than I had hoped. By the time we got down to camp 1, it was about 10am and was so warm I remember wearing just a base layer. As we left the mountain, our packs were overloaded with all our gear and accumulated trash. I even had to duct tape, clip, and tie items to the outside of the pack. Walde, Chris, and I began our descent from Camp 1 to base camp which initially went smoothly until we hit the flat section. I remember seeing running water going through the glacier and seeing large puddles and thought to my self "Oh Sh!t”. Walde made the comment, "Be very careful. The Polish climber who made the first winter ascent of an 8000 meter peak died here on Dhaulagri." I tried to brush off the comment as he pulled out a rope big enough for just him and Chris to tie into. I would essentially try and stay as close to them as possible as we tried to travel through this section as quickly as possible. In previous videos or pictures, you can see this area has two very steep rising flanks one of which is Dhaulagiri the other a neighboring peak. I was now wearing just a long sleeve base layer as the temperatures rose. We were now around 16,500ft, and a mist had formed above us around 18,000ft. We could hear small avalanches coming down the flanks of both Dhaulagiri and the neighboring peaks far enough to not cause any concern but close enough to keep us on our toes . . .. then it happened. The crack happened from above on the Dhaulagiri side. I couldn't see it at first but with a thundering sound you know exactly what it was. It was terrifying knowing what was coming and not being able to see it through the mist. After a moment it came crashing down in a way I can't explain. Like watching a skyscraper plummet out of the sky at you. I remember looking at Walde when he screamed “RUN!" at the very top of his lungs. With 50 to 60lb packs, crampons, and all our gear, we sprinted as fast as we could down the mountain trying to outrun this thing as it headed towards us summersaulting ice blocks from suitcase size to the the size of buildings. I looked back several times to make sure we were gaining distance as we slowly pulled away from this avalanche. I looked back repeatedly as we all ran for our lives. I thought we had reached a safe distance from it when I wanted to look back just one last time and to make sure we were far enough away and we were . . .but when I looked forward, as I was slowing my jog to a walk, my left foot stepped on a little crack. Well, that was not a little crack but a snow bridge over a crevasse that opened up under my weight, and I went in completely unroped only feet from the start of the fixed lines again. I remember falling thinking there is no way this is happening. I thought I was going to fall across most of it but I didn’t. I began to fall in catching my self with my right arm up on the top of the crevasse lip as I went in neck deep before stopping. I had stopped my fall but couldn't hold on as my crampons scrapped ineffectively against the bullet proof icy walls of the crevasse that was hundreds of feet deep. I was going to die. I did my best not to look down and tried to think as quickly as possible what to do. I took a big calm breath and then slipped another inch down into the crevasse. Just when I thought I was done for, Walde grabbed my arm in a death grip. But being 200 lbs with 50+lbs on my back, I began to pull him into the crevasse slowly with me. I knew there was no way he could hold on forever. I would let go and fall before ever taking someone else down with me. The scariest moments after he had my hand were when I knew he couldn't hold on and I slowly slipped just slightly deeper and deeper into the crevasse. All of a sudden I stopped slipping. I wasn't able to climb up but I wasn't going any deeper. I didn't know it at the time but Chris was grabbing the top of my pack from behind on the other side of the crevasse. I took a deep breath and looked around when something caught my eye. The only thing that saved my life at this point was the fact that Walde and Chris had temporally slowed my fall into the bottomless crevasse. I looked around quickly and saw a little ice bulge back to the right behind my right knee. Nothing big but it was it just enough for my crampons to fight for purchase on the icy wall. I lifted my right leg awkwardly and dug into it with my crampons as hard as I could. In some some awkward way, it was just enough that I was able to twist and shimmy as Walde and Chris pulled with all their strength. I slid right over the top of the crevasse on to solid ground. I was completely and utterly in shock, and all my strength was gone. I had used EVERYTHING I HAD to get out. Yet, without my teammates it would not have been enough. I was still in shock but we were still in the crevassed section and you could hear cracks in the ice underneath us due to the heat. We were now nearing the Dhaulagiri Eiger which began to toss blocks of ice down at us in the rising temperatures. I’ll never forget Chris looking at me saying "this mountain is trying to kill us." We had no choice. We began to walk as fast as we could even lightly jogging as we approached the top of "The Demoralizer" before our last rapel off the mountain. I remember clipping in to the fixed lines as ice blocks began to come down to our left and our right. This mountain wanted to keep us here permanently I thought. We were almost off the last rappel on "The Demoralizer" when I saw a suitcase size piece of ice come right at Chris, who was above me, and myself, it bounced on a rock 20 feet above Chris and split in two pieces falling to both his and my left and right. Chris caught up to me as we got off the rappel and ran to the flat part of the lower glacier now mostly safe. Walde was a minute or two behind us. I sat there now finally safe off the mountain known as Dhaulagiri and tried to contemplate what all had happened in the last hour or so. The mountain threw everything at us and somehow we made it. I had no words for Walde and Chris and grabbed them both into a hug as tight as I could and said "Thank you." Walde left, Chris in the middle, and a still very in shock me . . . with the two men who saved my life Back at base camp I went into the dining tent unable to eat or drink. Our trip was over, I had somehow survived the mountain that tried to kill me twice in 5 minutes and several other near misses during the last final 1000ft of descent. Had I died on descent, Walde would have been face to face with two people dying on this expedition. Day 46 pack in base camp May 21st To say I was ready to go home was an understatement. Seeing my friends, family, and Jenn all sounded like heaven to me. We packed and repacked as we prepared for the mules and porters to meet us the following day for our trek out. I took this shot of teammate Eva that really struck me. Holy Glacial Melt! When Eva arrived about 35 days earlier that area was mostly flat. That meant that in just over a month almost 4 feet of thousands of year old solid glacier ice had melted around the tent. The tent provided shade so directly underneath didn't melt, but everything around it did. Remember it snowed almost every day we were there and this is at 15,100ft. For those who don't think glaciers are melting at an alarming rate you might need to go see for yourself. Day 47 start trek home May 22nd Once again logistics didn't go as planned. Our porters and mules that were supposed to be there at 7am showed up at 11am, but hey we were happy to be moving and on our way home. All the dangers were behind us right? Remember the canyon we hiked in shortly after Italian Base camp to Base camp earlier in the expedition when waterfalls ice were frozen holding rocks into place? . . . well now they were not frozen. With the heat of the day and late in the season, we began dodging mud slides and huge rocks as they hurtled down from hundreds of feet above us. I took the video below of myself and Eva, with a near miss as we outran a small mud slide. As I looked up toward the rocks and "stones" coming down, I tried to continue filming but noticed a Mini Cooper size rock coming at us. I shut off the camera immediately and got ready to run as the Mini Cooper size rock hit another stationary one and exploded into hundreds of pieces. We needed to keep moving! After another intense 2 hours, we arrived late to Italian Base camp. My nerves were fried, and I climbed into my tent for the night drinking some water and snacking on some Lara Bars not interested in socializing or a bigger meal. Day 48 Trek day 2 back to Italian Base Camp May 23rd As we awoke I ran into Walde again. This would be the last time I would see him since I was trekking out with Chris, Badia, and Mauricio. Walde was taking a helicopter back to Kathmandu from here. I once again extended my gratitude to the man who saved me from certain death in the crevasse. Myself left with Waldemar Kowalewski from Poland. Thank you Walde Day 49 Trek from Italian Base Camp to Doban May 24th I was ready to be home and wanted to get out of the adverse conditions. As you leave Italian Base camp, the dangers subside and you really only have to worry about spraining an ankle or the heat of the day. As you descend further, plants begin to become greener, the humidity returns, the smell of plants and animals comes rushing back to you. It’s this really euphoric experience where you feel like you are returning to the land of the living. An Elder and a young child. Day 48 Trek Day 3 Doban to Khama May 25th This would be along endless day in the heat. Despite that it was great to start walking through more villages and seeing some of the Nepali people again. Badia with a cute little local Chris took this great shot of Badia with a little local girl. After being in a grim environment for so long, it was exhilarating to walk back into these little towns and see people again and see kids playing on their way to school. The appreciation for every little thing in life you took for granted came rushing back. After what had happened on the peak, I was just now so grateful to be alive and on my way home to see my girlfriend, friends, and family back in the states. Day 49/50 Doban to Darbang, then an all night drive to Kathmandu May 26th/27th After a short hike from Doban, we quickly reached where the dirt road ended. There was a bus waiting to take us from there to Darbang. We sat there and reflected knowing the trek and climb part of the trip was over. Our bus took us all the way back to Beni where we were to catch our long all night 12 hour drive back to Kathmandu. More logistical problems plagued us as the bus supposed to pick us up at Beni did not come from Pokhara as we were promised. We then found another older bus that was willing to do the long drive from Beni back to Kathmandu. After 12 hours of driving through the afternoon and evening, we finally arrived at 4 am back at our original hotel in Kathmandu where we would get our first real shower in over a month. Day 51 Last full day in Kathmandu May 28th I spent my last day in Nepal reflecting on what had happened. Damber Parajuli tried to make this day nice and acted like he had done an excellent job providing our logistics, but he knew that none of us were pleased. I spent the afternoon getting a lunch with my now even closer friends, Chris, Nick, Badia, and Mauricio. We had all been through so much together. I was with super experienced people - strong, smart, and not one of us or anyone for that matter would summit Dhaulagiri this season. Mauricio and Badia seemed to be the most at peace with it when they taught me a really good lesson. Mauricio said that, other than the logistics, he was happy with the expedition. He had enjoyed time with his teammates; he had enjoyed meeting new friends and experiencing a mountain he had never been on before. Even though he didn't summit, to him it was still a good trip. I took a lot away from his positivity. Day 52/53 Fly from Kathmandu to Doha to Chicago back to Denver Day 29th/30th The long time traveling home went off without a hitch. After the summit of Gasherbrum 2 in Pakistan, I came home with a huge smile and the long travel home was easy. This time it was a tough coming back with my first big defeat on a major expedition. However, as I walked out of the terminal and saw my girlfriend there smiling with tears in her eyes and my dog Sophie and her dog Molli losing their minds when they saw me for the first time in 53 days, I knew everything would be okay. I put the thoughts of a rough expedition out of my head and relished in the fact that I was now happy at home with people and pets that care about me. For anyone interested in more photos I have made my Facebook album for more Dhaulagiri photos public. Follow Up This experience really challenged me in every way. Experiencing the death of a teammate or being close to your own was something I always had the " it would never happen to me" mentality. However, the mountains are wild, uncontrollable, beautifully spectacular objects that have withstood the test of time and will be here long after we are gone. We need to treat all of them, even the "easy" ones with great respect. Would I go back to Dhaulagiri ever again? Absolutely! I don't like to leave things unfinished. I know so many things are out of my control such as the weather and avalanches. I would definitely consider going back with a good team and if the finances are in place. After taking some time off from the mountains and being back in Colorado for several months, the passion for the mountains has returned. Taking a break is sometimes good allowing you to refocus on what in life really matters to you. For now, Dhaulagiri will be on a long term hold. I would go back, but there are other experiences on other big peaks in the Himalayas that I am considering. I am looking forward to new adventures, beautifful scenery, and people I have not yet met along the way. I won't ever get tired of climbing while doing things for a good cause. Because of those who have donated to the Himalayan Cataract Project, thanks to this expedition alone, over 160 people have now had partial or fully restored vision. A child with their sight resorted seeing for the first time in years. Final Thoughts For those who think big expeditions to taller peaks over 14,000feet are out of their reach, I climbed my first 14er Mt. Bierstadt 9 years ago at the age of 27 where it took me 8 hours to summit . . . . .in August and I hardly made it. In time, with good mentors, training, and motivation you can do anything you put your mind to. Thanks for reading! Ryan Kushner @ryan.Kushner Gear Worn on Summit Day: Feet - Scarpa Phantom 8000 meter boots - New Version - Black Diamond Cyborg Crampons - Heavy weight wool socks Legs - Mountain Equipment Lightline down pants - REI Middleweight long underwear Upper Body - Merino Wool Base Layer - First Ascent Tech Hoodie - First Ascent Down Shirt - Outdoor Research down hoodie - First Ascent Guide Jacket - First Ascent Peak XV Down Parka Head - Four Seasons hat - Beanie - Julbo Glacier Glasses - Buff Hands - OR PL 400 liner gloves - Hestra Heli Gloves - North Face Himalayan Mittens. Other - Black Diamond Carbon Cork Trekking Poles - North Face Raven Pro Ice Axe with insulated handle. Gear Notes: 8000 meter peak gear Approach Notes: 5 day trek averaging 4300 vertical gain per day.
  2. Trip: Pakistan - K6 Central Trip Date: 10/09/2020 Trip Report: Dear CC friends, Sorry we haven't been on here much, but we've been working a lot on our blog. It's more of a diary for us since we don't care about hits or ad content. We really don't want to just post a link to our blog TR and leave it at that. We want to see CC thrive and grow! So we've copied our latest TR from Pakistan below. If you are interested in other TR's from our 2020 year of traveling and climbing, like our ascent of all Six of the Great Alps North Faces and Cerro Torre in Patagonia, check out our blog or Vimeo page. https://alpinevagabonds.com https://vimeo.com/user37304873 Stats Location: Masherbrum Range, Karakoram Mountains, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan K6 West, 7,140m, 3rd ascent, October 8, 2020 K6 Central, 7,155m, 1st ascent, October 9, 2020 Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Trip Report K6 Central Summit Selfie (7,155m) We climbed K6 West (third ascent 7,140m) and K6 Central (first ascent 7,155m) this October. We summited West on Oct 8th and Central on Oct 9th. We had been planning to climb K6 from the Nangmah valley side for over two years. When COVID struck, we held on to the hope of going but delayed our trip from the original June-August until late September-October when the country announced they were allowing tourists to enter with a valid COVID test. A week before we departed, Colin Haley decided to join our trip to climb various objectives solo. Colin has been a hero to us, and was a major inspiration for us to start Alpine Climbing over six years ago. In fact, we modeled our Sabbatical Year on a typical year in Colin’s life (Patagonia – Chamonix – Pakistan). It was a real treat for us to have him join us at Base Camp, and he provided us with a wealth of knowledge and advice in this new game (for us) of high altitude Alpinism. Jeff on K6 Central’s summit This was a difficult year for climbers, world-wide, due to COVID. Nearly all serious expeditions canceled their plans, so when we continued with our planned Karakoram expedition to K6, we were quite alone in the whole range. Certainly no one expected us to make a first ascent of K6 Central, a 7,000m peak, in late season. K6 has three major summits along its summit ridge: West (7,140m), Central (7,155m), and Main (7,281m). K6 Main was first climbed by an Austrian Expedition in 1970 led by Eduard Koblmueller. Before the expedition, we were lucky enough to get in contact with one of the original expedition members of the young Austrian team, Fred Pressl, who graciously shared pictures and stories from his 1970 expedition. In 2013, Ian Welsted and Raphael Slawinski became the first ascensionists of K6 West via a highly technical route from the North (Charakusa) side (for which they won a Piolet d’Or). Then in 2015, Graham Zimmerman and Scott Bennett became the second ascensionists of K6 West from the South (Nangmah) side. But an impending storm forced them to retreat without continuing the traverse to K6 Central, and it remained unclimbed. Priti with K6 West on the left, Main in the middle and Central on the right The first hurdle to overcome was getting to Pakistan. We kept in contact with Ali Saltoro, our expedition tour operator, who kept us informed on the COVID status there. We delayed our trip a month and a half, but when he told us that tourism had opened up in Pakistan, we dusted off our Visas from December 2019, bought plane tickets and got the fresh COVID tests required for entry. We had heard of no expeditions traveling this season, and we didn’t know what to expect. We arrived in Islamabad on August 23rd, Ali met us at the airport, and hours later we flew to Skardu, without even leaving the airport. We arrived smoothly and safely at basecamp in the Nangmah valley on Aug 26th, with zero hassle. Advanced Base Camp, with the South Face of K6 behind Once we got to basecamp, we started acclimatizing on nearby Kapura Peak and had a full view of K6’s SW Ridge and West Face from what’s called Alam’s Col (a route first climbed by Portugese Daniela Teixeira and Paulo Roxo in 2013). From this vantage point, we could see that there were several options for climbing the West Face. After acclimatizing on Kapura Peak (no summit attempt) located on the West Nangmah Glacier, we moved over to the East Nangmah Glacier and made an Advanced Base Camp. We continued acclimatizing, exploring two of the three alternative lines that would bypass nearly all of the technical mixed climbing found by Graham and Steve. We climbed up to 6200m and slept above 5700m for 5 nights, before determining that Graham and Scott’s descent line would be the ideal line of ascent as well. Bivy high on K6, with the East and West Nangmah Glaciers below We descended back to Base Camp (4,400m), upon learning that Colin had fallen ill. Colin ended his trip and returned to France, but we made plans for a summit attempt when we received a promising weather forecast. We were well acclimatized, and poised for attack, despite the dropping temperatures and rapidly shortening days. Paragliding near base camp, Shingu Charpa behind On October 2nd, we headed back up to ABC at 5,150m. From there, the route starts on a major ramp on the southwest flank of the peak, following up to 60 degrees ice/snow to the SW ridge for about 600m to the southwest ridge. We then traversed for 300m across the West Face, across the bergschrund, then straight up the icy 900m West Face. When Graham and Scott descended by this line in 2015, they made 19 Abolokov’s to get below the bergschrund. The 900m ascent of the West Face was a strenuous, calf-burning, 12hr day to reach 6,600m on the southwest ridge. The West Face consisted primarily of a few inches of névé over solid, very hard ice (~70deg for 900m), which we simul-climbed. The West Face of K6 The upper slopes consisted of deep snow, and we wallowed the last 400m to the summit ridge at 7,000m. Our weather forecaster warned us that we would encounter the jet stream above 6,500m with sustained winds of at least 45km/hr and a morning low of -21C; he was correct. This late season ascent meant climbing in cold, clear, windy weather, and especially short days and cold, long nights. We climbed new terrain along the traverse from K6 West to K6 Central. The West Face of K6 Central was up to 80 deg ice/snow including a bergschrund and a tenuous cornice to overcome. Final slopes to K6 Central The North side of the sharp, rocky summit ridge of K6 Central precipitously dropped dead vertically into the Charakusa Valley. When we finally reached the highest point of the fan-shaped crest of K6 Central’s summit, we sat on the knife-edge ridge with one leg over the Lachit Valley and one leg over the Charakusa Valley. Strangely, climbing an unclimbed peak did not feel any different from climbing any other peak. However the clear weather gave us great views of the enormous 7,000 and 8,000 meter peaks that spread out around us in a vast panorama in all directions, and we felt exuberant and humbled. But our elation was short-lived because we had a long way to descend. Priti’s foot dangling from the summit of K6 Central, over the Charakusa glacier We owe many thanks to Steve Swenson, Graham Zimmerman, and Ian Welsted for their helpful beta, to Colin Haley for his great advice and wonderful company, to the rest of our base camp crew, Ishaq our basecamp manager, Azhar our cook, Captain Zohaib our liaison officer, and of course Ali Saltoro, our expedition tour operator. We couldn’t have done it without them! Our basecamp crew: Jeff, Priti, Colin, Azhar, Ali, Captain Zohaib, Ishaq Gear Notes: 6 Ice Screws, 6 Alpine Draws, 60m Beal Opera, 60m tag line, two tools each, dual points. Gear brought but not used (bummer!): 5 cams, extra Alpine Draws, small rack of nuts Approach Notes: Approach via East Nangmah Glacier
  3. Trip: Eiger North Face - 1938 Heckmair Route Trip Date: 03/18/2020 Trip Report: First off: I'd be remiss not to mention the extenuating circumstances we're all in right now. Priti and I have been at home in Chamonix since March 19 now, and we'd encourage everyone to do so as well. This climb occurred prior to the French, Swiss, and US lockdowns. We returned home to quarantine with the rest of France just after this trip. I hope this trip report will entertain and inform you so you can start your own Eiger Training Plan and trip planning! Don't FOMO, we're not doing anything right now either! Your friends, J&P “Anyone who returns from the Eigerwand cannot but realize that he has done something more than a virtuoso climb: he has lived through a human experience to which he had committed not only all his skill, intelligence and strength, but his very existence.” -Lionel Terray, Conquistadors of the Useless “Yes, we had made and excursion into another world and we had come back, but we had brought the joy of life and of humanity back with us. In the rush and whirl of everyday things, we so often live alongside one another without making any mutual contact. We had learned on the North Fae of the Eiger that men are good, and the earth on which we were born is good.” -Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider The 1938 Heckmair Route. Photo Credit: @eiger_daily (Instagram)...the best overlay we found. Posted here with permission. Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Luckily (or not), our ascent of the 5,000ft Eiger North Face (or ‘Eigerwand’ or ‘Eiger Nordwand’) in mid-March 2020 may have been on the quietest days in the face’s history of climbing since its first attempt in 1934. No summertime cow bells ringing in the rugged hillsides of Alpiglen above the town of Grindelwald, no cars and honks were noticed, no sounds of ski lift machinery, no joyous skiers on the hillsides of the Jungfrau ski resort which sits at the foot of the Eiger, few trains were in operation (and solely for construction workers). Not even any sounds came from the sky as we climbed in perfect, bluebird weather for three days. Frankly, I could’ve used more cow bell. Among the reasons I climb, isolation is not one of them. I appreciate the sights and sounds of civilization from a climb which provides significant psychological aid. We did, however, see several helicopters fly by delivering goods and construction materials to the future site of a new lift within the resort, along with several Swiss Air Force F-18’s practicing formations through the beautiful Berner Oberland valley. Jon Krakauer wrote in Eiger Dreams: “I didn’t want to climb the Eiger, I wanted to have climbed the Eiger.” This is a sentiment I think most climbers can understand at some level. For years this quote has haunted me. There are many climbs to which I could solidly attribute this feeling. I knew, however, that whenever I would finally step out onto the snowy slopes of the Eiger, I didn’t want to have this feeling. The Eiger is just too dangerous; too big; too bold. I always knew that if I felt this way, I would simply turn around. I wanted to be in it, and enjoy my time wrestling with the alligator. Luckily, both Priti and I were itching to attack, having fun the whole way. Left to right: Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau We arrived in Grindelwald, Switzerland from Chamonix the day before our intended climb and took an overpriced 1hr train ride to Kleine Scheidegg, the central hub of the Jungfrau Ski Resort. Kleine Scheidegg is crowned by the historic and elaborate alpine resort, established in 1840: Hotel Bellevue des Alpes (where ‘The Eiger Sanction’ and ‘Nordwand’ were filmed). Many of the more well-sponsored Eiger climbers throughout history have stayed here. But not all. You would have thought that the Third Reich could have at least put up Karl Mehringer and Max Sedlmeyer up for a few nights! Many climbers discreetly bivy near the foot of the Eiger within the ski resort, or on the floor of the restaurant at the Eigergletscher complex (the uppermost hub of the Jungfrau ski resort). However, we were expressly denied permission to sleep on the restaurant floor. Furthermore, we also found the Women’s and Handicapped restrooms permanently locked. All of the construction workers are male, and the proprietor must have caught on to the unexpected guests of the Women’s restroom from recent Eiger Conquistadors. If a climber wants to step up their bivouac accommodations slightly above a bathroom stall or a restaurant floor, they can stay at the Eigergletscher Guesthouse (hostel). However, with the ongoing construction of a brand-new, state-of-the-art gondola which will link Grindelwald directly to Eigergletscher by the end of 2020, the guesthouse is exclusively housing construction workers until the end of the project. There is another hostel at Kleine Scheidegg (Hotel Bahnhof), but it had already been closed for a few weeks due to Coronavirus precautions. Staying at Eigergletscher or Kleine Scheidegg is ideal so that you can start your first day of climbing as early as you like (however, many climbers do start their first day from the 7:00AM train in Grindelwald). During summer months, climbers might also base camp in pastures beneath the face, as Mehringer and Sedlmeyer did for their attempt in 1936, however the train is so expensive that base camping in Grindelwald is now the norm while waiting for weather and conditions. The thing about the Eiger is that even if the forecast looks splitter, you never know when the semi-mythical and unexpected ‘foehn’ will show up. These are southerly winds that blow on the north side of the Alps in winter. The foehn (literally meaning ‘hair dryer’) frequently surprises climbers bringing sudden bursts of warm air and stormy weather. The Jungfrau ski resort is unusual in that its primary artery is a 128 year old railway: the “Jungfraubahn”, highest railway in Europe. A climb of the Eiger usually begins with an expensive 1hr train ride from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg, then a change of trains for another 10min ride up to Eigergletscher. Exiting the Eigergletscher deposits one out onto the lower slopes of the North Face. The train, however, does continue on, burrowing up through the depths of the Eiger and on to a high saddle (the “Jungfraujoch”) between two of the Alps’ most impressive 4000m peaks: Jungfrau and Mönch. From Kleine Scheidegg, one gets an incredible vantage point for the skyline of these three behemoths: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Modern folklore has it that the Monk (Mönch) guards the Virgin (Jungfrau) from the Ogre (Eiger). The actual German word for Ogre is “Oger”, and the true etymology of the word ‘Eiger’ stems from a curious and long-forgotten amalgam of middle high German, Swiss vernacular, and Latin for something like “high peak”. There is a multi-use, groomed run which connects Kleine Scheidegg up to Eigergletscher. Trying to save some money, we skinned up this run instead of buying a train ticket to reach Eigergletscher (only 30-45min of easy skinning). Then, we skied down an amazing groomed run for 6 miles and 4500ft of descent from Eigergletscher all the way down to our hostel next to the train station in Grindelwald. All day, the ski resort was bustling and vibrant, and no one at the resort or the train station expected any disruption of service any time soon due to Coronavirus precautions. With the Eigergletscher Guesthouse closed due to construction, Hotel Bahnhof closed due to health precautions, and the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes open but too ritzy, we planned to discreetly bivouac near Eigergletscher. Upon arrival back at Grindelwald, however, we got word that the entire resort (lifts) and the trains would discontinue operation that evening for the indefinite future due to Switzerland’s precautions against Coronavirus. A final and devastating setback. Hotel Bellevue des Alpes with (left to right) Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau behind We had originally come to Grindelwald due to a large high pressure system which was bringing a week of unusually phenomenal weather to the otherwise grim mountain. We’d planned to at least visit in order to understand the approach, logistics and start to observe the conditions on the mountain. The lack of train meant an extra 6 miles and 4500ft gain of approach to the mountain…a mere “sit-start”. We were not yet about to give up and call it quits. Back home, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc lifts were still running under normal operations and both France and Switzerland were not under lockdown, so there was no urgency to leave; no compelling ethical reason to begin self-quarantine. As luck would find it, we found a companion for our laborious day of skinning our heavy load up to Kleine Scheidegg. Another BOEALPS veteran happened to be in Grindelwald at the same time: Fabien Mandrillon. He is revered within the club for his years instructing classes and for being Head Instructor of the Basic Rock Class (as we had also been). He had emigrated to Zurich before we joined the club, and we had hoped to meet him at some point on our Sabbatical. Having pleasant company under these unfortunate circumstances was certainly a delightful way to start our adventure. Surprisingly, we saw only a few other backcountry skiers on the hike up from Grindelwald. The resort had even groomed the track from Grindelwald that morning expecting the closures would not to keep people off the slopes. It was a beautiful day after a light dusting of fresh snow the day prior. If this situation were in Washington, the trail would have been packed with backcountry skiers! Priti and Fabien enjoying a lovely day of skinning Eiger North Face, West Ridge, and West Flank (descent route) Once we were back up at Kleine Scheidegg, under full expectation of sneak-bivouacking within the resort, we were delighted to find one set of accommodations still open (under extenuating circumstances). The grand Hotel Bellevue des Alpes had remained open a few extra days because of a few VIP guests which they were unwilling to expel. Thus, we took a sizable chunk from our Sabbatical budget to fork over to one night of luxury before we took on the Eigerwand. The evening was reminiscent of one of my favorite films, Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. The entire establishment glistened with immaculate, Old World luxury. Only the remaining handful of guests were being served the magnificent 4-course meal (indeed, one of the greatest in my life) within the halls of the elaborate dining rooms. At dinner, the guests were seated segregated by an optimal number of empty tables so as to assuage our newfound distaste for social interactions. Under strict orders of “No sports attire during dinner”, we sheepishly dined wearing our Eigerwand armor and our complimentary, fuzzy bathroom slippers while the other guests wore formal wear of suits, ties, dresses, and formal shoes. As we found out later, the few guests remaining were elderly patrons going back decades, one of whom had lost her husband of 47 years the week prior, escaping to a memory of their life together. Feeling the rush to appreciate our accommodations with the clear acknowledgement of our pre-dawn start, we spent a few minutes alone in each of the exquisite rooms of the establishment, excitedly recollecting the various scenes filmed there for The Eiger Sanction: the billiards room, the parlor, the bar, the lobby, even the concierge desk. The tolerant bartender with an immaculately groomed beard and pencil-long mustache, served us some truly delightful concoctions ginger ale, tonic water, and citrus: no summit, no party. We wryly noted that whenever we expressed our intent on climbing the Eigerwand, nobody would bat an eye. Naturally expecting some expression of praise (“vanity is one of the prime movers of the world”), we were taken aback at the utter apathy to which the world judged our sepulchral pursuit. We were not special! “Eiger-birds” (hopeful climbers) were a dime a dozen, and we were to receive no accolades before or after our adventure. From our bedroom that evening, we watched winter’s shy sun set early on the North Face of the Eiger, and the nocturnal eyeball of the “Stollenloch” wake up to illuminate the lower slopes. At the turn of the 20th Century, enterprising Swiss railway Engineers blasted an impressive tunnel through the heart of the Eiger, from which two windows were poked through Eiger’s North Face about a third of the way up. One upstream (the “Eigerwand Station”) on the looker’s left side of the face, and one downstream (the “Stollenloch”) on the right side. The Stollenloch (“Door 38”) is a small, purely utilitarian window which was used to jettison debris from the early railroad construction over a century ago and was never a tourist observation window. Some climbers have approached by walking up the railroad tracks and exiting the Stollenloch to bypass the lower snow slopes of the face. Approaching via the Stollenloch is generally considered taboo, while nearly all climbers take the train up to Eigergletscher (and down as well). We have to start somewhere, and it’s not Bern! Still, it’s worth noting that Kurz and Hinterstoisser biked from Berchtesgaden, Germany, nearly 400miles away…perhaps the true sit-start for the Eigerwand! When there is enough snow, climbers stash skis up high for a victory ski lap back down to Grindelwald to top off the climb. Train entering the depths of the Eiger tunnel The Heckmair route goes very near the Stollenloch which has given this window quite a reputation through the climbing history of the face. The other gallery (the Eigerwand Station) is not near any other popular climbing route and is on the far left side of the face. The Eigerwand Station is an engineering feat, clearly visible from the valley floor, consisting of a series of several large balconies (later converted to glass windows) that mar this limestone sculpture. Since the Jungfraujoch extension opened in 1912, tourists have been able to lean over the vertiginous parapets to marvel at the face’s dizzying slopes. The balconies were even outfitted with paper bags in the event that a tourist experienced any physiological discomforts! The Eigerwand Station was a 5 minute train stop solely for tourist observation from 1912 until 2016, when newer, faster railway vehicles were incorporated, and this renowned observation point was put out of service. Interestingly, since the Eigerwand Station’s closure, “much of the publicity material fails to acknowledge that this viewpoint station ever existed” (Wikipedia). Quizzically, the iconic and celebrated Eigerwand station was axed in order to add one more train and reduce travel time to Jungfraujoch. The smaller, unassuming window, the Stollenloch, on the other hand, still plays just as an important role as it ever has. In 1936, after his other partners perished on the face, Tony Kurz froze to death in front of the Stollenloch while rappelling in free space, unable to pass a knot in the rope, just out of reach from rescue workers (recounted in the German film ‘Nordwand’). Clint Eastwood was rescued through this window in The Eiger Sanction. A window which has always served as a trap door for climbers to miraculously transport themselves from the unforgiving alpine face to the civilized world. The window from which many climbers escaped storms including Mugs Stump, who in 1981 after finding this shelter and bounding down the tunnel towards Eigergletscher was only to realize the true horror of trying to plaster his body within the 1-foot clearance of the rocky walls while the immutably time-conscious Swiss train rolled past him (Source: Krakauer’s “Eiger Dreams”). I made sure to have a copy of the train’s timetable in case we had to Gooney our way down this escape-chute/death-trap! While climbing this route, we were most impressed at the abilities of the early climbers 80 years prior being able to climb on such difficult terrain with such rudimentary equipment: Karl Mehringer, Max Sedlmeyer, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Toni Kurz, Ludwig Vörg, Anderl Heckmair, Louis Lachenal, and Lionel Terray. These climbers were total badasses. Their efforts boggle the mind. Many of the cruxes on this route are no-shit overhangs on brittle rock, downsloping ledges, and poor protection (if any at all). With a pre-dawn start from our comfortable beds at the foot of the Eiger, we stepped out into a frozen darkness. We walked the extra 45min from Kleine Scheidegg up to Eigergletscher on a deserted ski run, passing by several early-morning construction workers who were less-than-enthusiastic about our presence as we tip-toed through the construction site onto the lower snow slopes of the Eigerwand. A recent blog post by an Italian team had us hopeful that their steps in the snow would pave the way. But alas, we found no steps and instead had to make our path and kick our own steps (later deeming that the blogpost was not clearly dated and was actually from earlier in January). Since much of the route is snow travel, the existence (or not) of another party’s snow steps can drastically alter your timeline in terms of both physical exertion and time spent routefinding. It is important to intimately know the features on the face, the names of the pitches, the condition of the cruxes. The route was so meticulously memorized as we quizzed each other on the drive up, that it felt as though we were executing a victory lap of versed, choreographed sequences of movements through Nintendo’s Mario Bros (with a princess waiting on top). First, traverse across easy snow slopes towards the First Pillar, zig-zagging across snowed-over limestone ledges up to the Shattered Pillar, and finally the ‘Difficult Crack’, the crux-y start of the actual climbing. Memorize This! Sadly, we never even saw the Stollenloch. The route passes nearby, but not directly over the Stollenloch, and is very much out-of-the-way. A party behind us on the same day purposefully started late so that they could spend their first night inside the Stollenloch (requiring a good amount digging). The Difficult Crack is still truly difficult (and also hard to find)! The Difficult Crack is the start of the technical part of the climb. If there is low snow coverage, you’ll have an extra pitch much lower down, before The Difficult Crack (just above the bergschrund and next to ‘the plaque’) which is a straight up rock corner. However, we were able to easily bypass this pitch with an easy snow ramp. Many parties don’t even find The Difficult Crack and instead pick their way up much harder variations to get up to the Hinterstoisser Traverse. It’s especially important to know what the Difficult Crack looks like (keep pictures on your phone) and how to get there (a traverse about 10-15m long heading right and slightly downhill). After that, the rest of the routefinding on the Heckmair is relatively trivial. The Hinterstoisser Traverse is infamous for its very difficult climbing with snow/ice over blank slabs situated under the impressive overhang of the massive blank face of the Rote Fluh. The Rote Fluh is one of two major obstacles on the face (the other is the Gelbewand), and they are both seriously impressive overhanging faces. Shown above: start of Hinterstoisser (low angle snow) which then turns into steep slab with fixed ropes (no picture) A permanent rope is affixed to the Hinterstoisser Traverse due to its incredible difficulty (everybody pulls on them!) but also as an homage to the 1936 tragedy when the entire team perished while trying to retreat down the face but were unable to reverse the traverse (likely due to fresh verglas plastered to the slabs). Our feeble notion of “free-ing” the Heckmair route quickly evaporated in our minds almost at the very first move of technical climbing. This route is longer and more difficult than we could have imagined, but we were prepared for every obstacle. The mixed climbing is seemingly never-ending and the overhanging steepness of the cruxes were shocking for a route completed 80 years ago. After the Hinterstoisser Traverse, more fixed lines lead up through a short chimney (‘Swallow’s Nest’) to the First Icefield, which had good névé and offered good step-kicking. A narrow gully connects the First and Second Icefields with the only pure ice climbing pitch on the route: the Ice Hose. If you’re unlucky, the pitch is bone-dry and makes for extremely difficult rock climbing (a variation on its left). Lachenal and Terray opted for the rock variation on the second ascent of the route in 1947, deeming that the WI3 Ice Hose would take too long to chop steps! Nowadays, with modern ice climbing technique, climbers are truly blessed if they find it was we did: in WI3 conditions, heavily featured, and easily accepting “stubby” ice screws. The start of the ice hose is just visible in the middle (sorry I didn't get a better pic) The Second Icefield is a long, snowy traverse on low-angled ground to get to mixed corners (Bügeleisen, or ‘Flatiron’ buttress) and finally to the wall’s first and only decent bivouac: the ‘Death Bivouac’ (aka ‘Karl-Max Bivouac’ where Mehringer and Sedlmeyer froze to death in 1935). It was dark by the time we got to the mixed corners of the ‘Flatiron’ and the climbing was terribly difficult with long runouts and poor protection at about M5. The corners were bare of snow and ice. While leading the pitch, I recalled a story from Barry Blanchard in The Calling of his and Kevin Doyle’s ascent of the Grand Central Couloir on Mount Kitchener where Doyle took off his mitts and licked his fingers so that they would stick to the rock and help his purchase. I took off my beefy climbing gloves in the cold darkness and found the extra stickiness of my bare fingers also provided excellent aid on the downsloping ledges! I could withstand the pain for a few minutes (it was probably 15F outside) if it helped prevent me from falling from my precarious perch. We finally made it to the Death Bivouac and we had been moving much slower than anticipated all day with only 12hrs of sunlight. Knowing that it was improbable that we would make the summit the next day, we planned to have a short day and bivouac again at the route’s only other decent bivouac: the ‘Traverse of the Gods’. Here at the Death Bivouac, we had to dig out a platform under a narrow overhang. Surprisingly, our ledge was just wide enough to sleep side-by-side… a welcome and unexpected luxury. We had each brought a thin, lightweight sleeping bag and a short, inflatable ‘summer’ sleeping pad. While brewing up dinner, I was horrified to discover that my sleeping pad had a hole which prevented it from staying inflated. I therefore had to sleep three nights in sub-freezing temperatures on narrow ledges with only ropes and backpacks under my ass! Every morning was difficult. We woke with the sunlight and made coffee with very little urgency. The entire climb felt rather like a holiday with a very leisurely itinerary and perfect weather. Ashamedly, we spent more time on the face than the first ascent in 1938 and the second ascent in 1947. The face doesn’t receive sun until late in the evening where you are lucky to get 30-60min of direct sunlight on your face. After the Death Bivouac, a short traverse across the Third Icefield leads to ‘The Ramp’, several pitches of easy mixed ground which funnels up to the ‘Waterfall Chimney’ (possibly the crux of the entire route). The Ramp (much like the Hinterstoisser) crawls timidly under another massive overhanging face, the Gelbewand. The ‘Waterfall Chimney’ is a genuine overhanging chimney of few holds which gushes with water in the summertime. Luckily, being in winter there was no water (good) but also no ice (bad). Usually when climbed in colder parts of the night, the spring/summer thaw freezes and makes the pitch much more palatable. Above here, the route splits into another chimney on the right (not advised) and a tenuous traverse above a head-spinning overhang on the left. The chimney above looked so well protected with fixed ropes and pitons everywhere, but every topo told us to go left around the corner instead. This leftward traverse spits the climber above a dizzying overhang, balancing on delicate, unprotectable limestone discs. A fall would mean a giant pendulum into space, dangling thousands of feet above the concave of the face below. Luckily, a multitude of pitons after a long runout help surmount a final bulge to a short, stout icefield cirque. Above: the Waterfall Chimney, overall crux of the route (in our opinion). Other contenders: Difficult Crack, Crystal Crack, Exit Chimney Above this icefield is a steep wall which you traverse on the ‘Brittle Ledges’. In Conquistadors of the Useless, Lionel Terray describes the Brittle Ledges as “tottering, piled up crockery”, which is as best a description as I can surmount. Luckily those piled up crockery are surprisingly solid, making for very interesting traversing on impossibly protruding discs. One final crux to reach our next bivouac: the Brittle Crack. From a hanging belay, you surmount a sizable bulge via perfect hand/fist cracks. This may have been the most fun pitch of the route, gleefully taking off my gloves and jamming my way up solid cracks in sub-freezing temps. Above: Traverse of the Gods bivouac Here, one finds a final bivouac at the beginning of the ‘Traverse of the Gods’, so named because it miraculously provided passage to the final major feature (the White Spider) for the first ascensionists. This accommodation was much narrower than the Death Bivouac and we were forced to sleep narrowly in a line, head-to-toe (with feet dangling off the sides). A typical timeline is to do the route in 2 days with one bivouac here at the ‘Traverse of the Gods’, making for a VERY big first day from Eigergletscher. The ‘Traverse of the Gods’ takes easy mixed ground rightward to the lower-left appendage of the ‘The White Spider’, a large snow/icefield high on the face. The White Spider is an obvious concave weakness in the wall spotted from the valley floor which was more black-and-blue this time of year than “white”. In winter, the snow/hail sloughs off immediately and the upper part of the face does not get above freezing during the day. Therefore, the White Spider was hard ice for us (instead of easy névé of the late spring and summer). This made for strenuous front-pointing on bullet-hard ice to the final left-trending ramp (the ‘Exit Cracks’) which led to the summit slopes. Above: Start of the Traverse of the Gods. Just before the next belayer in the background, the traverse goes up slightly, then back down. Above: Further along the Traverse of the Gods (the lower end of the White Spider just visible) Above: The White Spider, with Exit Cracks (ramp) above Moderate mixed terrain up this ramp ends at a final crux, the 15 meter long ‘Quartz (or Crystal) Crack’ (due to the splotches of Quartz on the limestone face). Sometimes there can be ice in this off-width overhang, but we found it dry. Steve House calls this pitch “Enjoyable when dry”. Priti led this pitch brilliantly, employing virtually every tool in the kit. Another mixed corner leads to a short traverse/rappel on a fixed line to the left-most couloir: the ‘Exit Chimney’. Above: Quartz Crack (technical crux, but short) It was my turn to lead on what looked like an exceptionally fun pitch of easy 5.6 terrain in a wide, hamstring-stretching chimney, of which all three walls resembled a washboard of downward-sloping holds. The crux here is not so much its difficulty as is its headiness. If you’re lucky, there is ice in this chimney (for climbing on and not for placing ice screws in!), but we found it dry as is expected in winter. The limestone is so compact in this chimney that protection does not exist for about 20ft. Your first piton is visible from the bottom of the pitch and you eye it up ravenously as you climb higher. Wide stemming and outward bare-handed palming are more valuable than pure dry tool technique. Here, mono points find value in the corners of the shallow chimney as you try not to look down. A fall would mean cheese-grating on this washboard slab onto a narrow snowy ledge over an overhang into space. The final moves to the first piece of protection were some of the headiest of my life as I made a dynamic (admittedly ungraceful) throw with my ice tool to the weathered cord hanging from a doubtful piton. After this point, another 100m of much lower-angled couloir climbing takes you to the ‘Summit Snowfields’. Above: Exit Chimney (psychological crux) This pain-in-the-ass route never ends! Above: 200m low-angle mixed just before summit snow/icefield You still have 200m of easy, mixed terrain followed by another 200m of bullet-hard low-angle ice to finally reach where the summit ridgeline meets the Mittellegi Ridge. We knew the summit was flat enough for a bivy site, but we found a luxuriously wide flat spot earlier, at this juncture with the Mittellegi Ridge. Here, this comfortable bivouac overlooked the Bernese Oberland down to the North and the Ischmeer Glacier (‘Ice Sea’) down to the South, with a brilliant sunset and sunrise. Above: Our final bivouac, just where the Mittellegi Ridge meets the summit ridgeline. The next morning was a casual stroll on an easy, snowy ridgeline to the summit as we enjoyed finally being showered in sunlight. Earlier, at the ‘Traverse of the Gods’ a French team of two and a Swiss team of two passed us as we made coffee. We were glad to have people pass us so they would blaze a descent trail down the West Flank of the Eiger. In summer, the descent can be an annoying affair with rappels and down climbing. But in winter, it’s easy snow all the way down to Eigergletscher, and we were glad to have tracks going down the slopes. Above: looking down at Grindelwald and the Berner Oberland Above: Looking down the Eiger's West Flanks (Eigergletscher and Kleine Scheidegg are visible below) Above: View from Eigergletscher up the Eiger's West Flanks. Check out (Instagram) @eiger_daily post (Feb 5, 2020) for a good overlay and description of the descent. We picked up our cached skis at Kleine Scheidegg and enjoyed the victory ski lap down to Grindelwald on yet another perfectly sunny day in a deserted ski resort. As soon as we got back to Grindelwald, we got an automated text from the French government (sent to all French phone numbers) that France was now in lockdown. The next morning, we high-tailed it back to Chamonix to commence 4 weeks of mandatory lockdown. Selected History of the Eigerwand: 1935 - Karl Mehringer and Max Sedlmeyer established a line to the First Icefield (much further left on the face from the Heckmair route) and established the path to the ‘Death Bivouac’ where they perished. Their line to the First Icefield is not often climbed and has much more sustained difficulty and objective hazard. 1936 - Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser established a new line to the First Icefield which then met up with the Mehringer-Sedlmeyer route up to the ‘Death Bivouac’ before retreating in a storm. This new line went up through ‘The Difficult Crack’ and across the ‘Hinterstoisser Traverse’. Hinterstoisser masterfully crossed this difficult slab with a series of strenuous tension traverses. Nowadays, most climbers just pull on the fixed lines across the Hinterstoisser Traverse, although with enough snow and skill, the Traverse can be free’d. Kurz, Hinterstoisser, and two other climbers (Willy Angerer and Edi Rainer) perished on retreat during a storm, as recounted dramatically in the German movie Nordwand. 1938 - Anderl Heckmair, Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek and Ludwig Vorg complete the first ascent via the Kurz/Hinterstoisser variation (reference Harrer’s book The White Spider). 1947 - Second Ascent by Lionel Terray and Louis Lachenal (reference Terray’s book Conquistadors of the Useless). 1957 - Two Italians (Claudio Corti and Stefano Longhi) and two Germans (Franz Meyer and Gunther Nothdurft) epic on the Heckmair Route in bad weather (scathingly recounted in Conquistadors and White Spider). Only Corti survived. Corti sat for four days on a narrow ledge near the top of the face at the base of the Exit Chimney before a 52-person rescue operation unfolded, finally rescuing him with the use a summit-mounted winch and steel cable. Topo maps still point out this “Corti Bivouac”, however the term “bivouac” is more tongue-in-cheek since this tiny protrusion would no place to spend a night. 1961 - First winter ascent, Walter Almberger, Toni Hiebeler, Toni Kinshofer, and Anderl Mannhardt. 1963 - First solo ascent, Michel Darbellay, in 18hrs. 1964 - Daisy Voog first female ascent. 1971 - First helicopter rescue from the face. Today, the company ‘Air-Glaciers’ regularly plucks climbers off the face with reliable mastery. 1987 - Christophe Profit free-solo’s an enchainment of the North Faces of the Eiger, Matterhorn, and Grandes Jorasses (the “Alps Trilogy”) in a single push (with paraglider and helicopter transport) in under 42 hours. Many say this event marked the beginning of the era of the “fast and light” style in mountaineering. 1991 - Jeff Lowe put up the Metanoia route straight up the middle of the face (solo and in winter) with unparalleled, visionary madness. 2007 - Roger Schaeli (“Mister Eiger”, with 52 ascents of the Nordwand at the time of this writing) belayed by Christoph Hainz establish the route “Magic Mushroom” (so named for the iconic mushroom-shaped pillar on the West Ridge on which the route tops out), rated 7c+ (5.13a) 2008 - Dean Potter free-BASE’s a Nordwand route called Deep Blue Sea (5.12+) then jumps from the top. 2015 - Sasha DiGiulian first female to free “Magic Mushroom”, along with Carlo Traversi 2015 - Ueli Steck solos the Heckmair Route in 2 hours 22 minutes 50 seconds 2016 - After 25 years, Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia route sees a second ascend by phenoms Thomas Huber, Roger Schaeli, and Stephan Siegrist. Beta side-note: Bring a pocket full of Swiss Franc coins! There are large lockers at the Kleine Scheidegg train station to store ski boots (5 Swiss francs), ski lockers (2 Swiss francs per pair of skis), and a high-powered viewing telescope at the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes to look at conditions on the face (1 Swiss franc). Special Thanks to @eiger_daily for your incredible hospitality, support, and beta; you are truly fostering a wonderful community in the Berner Oberland. Resources: Aside from browsing blog posts and Google Images for route overlays, Eigertopo.com is the best route description we found. This little pamphlet provides pitch-by-pitch descriptions as well as informative overlays. This little book is literally all you need!! Also check out @eiger_daily (Instagram) for recent pictures of the face and also scroll through the post for the best overlay and gear beta. More important beta from Steve House: https://www.uphillathlete.com/climb-eiger-north-face/ Uphill Athlete Training Plan: https://www.uphillathlete.com/eiger-north-face-training-plan/ The Italian topo here is VERY descriptive and shockingly accurate. Take belay locations with a grain of salt. Link or simul as many pitches as you can: https://www.camptocamp.org/routes/189333/en/eiger-n-face-heckmair-route Gear Notes: Single rack #.3-1 (5 cams), nuts, 1 piton (didn't use), 5 ice screws (2 stubby's), 2 technical ice tools each, monopoint crampons, light (summer) sleeping bags, puffy pants, big-ass belay parkas, short 3/4 length (summer) inflatable sleeping pad, 60m 8.7mm rope, 6 quickdraws, 4 single-length alpine draws, 4 double-length alpine draws, cordalette, 3 micro traxions for the team (for simul climbing) Approach Notes: Normal approach from Eigergletscher
  4. With some time on my hands with the quarantine and all, I decided to compile some research. Here's a list of "forgotten" Cascade alpine testpieces (ice focused) or FACTs. Feel free to add some others I left out! Who's gonna be the first to tick the entire list? I apologize for all the weird formatting. I just copied this post from my blog https://climberkyle.com/2020/03/22/forgotten-cascade-alpine-ice-routes/. I90 I90 climbs offer the best access and easiest conditions to predict. There are undoubtedly many more climbs to be discovered in this area with easy access, generally good rock, and surprisingly rugged little mountains. Mt. Kent, North Face (multiple variations): the greatest north face in the Snoqualmie region with many long 1000 ft lines. Bonus: you can see conditions from I90 near exit 42 while driving west! This has been super high on my list to explore. Snoqualmie Mt, North Face (multiple variations): an abundance of mixed ice lines like the classic New York Gully and the lesser known Pineapple Express and Blue Moon. Abiel Peak, North Face (multiple variations): the “Ben Nevis” of the PNW has many shorter alpine ice and mixed lines. Bryant Peak, Hot Tubbs: Maybe this route hasn’t been around long enough since Jacob and I published it, but it reportedly hasn’t seen much action, so I think it’ll be forgotten soon enough… Summit Chief Mountain, North Face: Colin Haley said this line had “more ice climbing than any other Cascade ice climb” he had ever done at the time. Big compliment. The North Face is much like Dragontail, just fatter. Peak 3964, False Idol: An incredible 10 pitch ice route off the Middle Fork Snoqualmie that needs very cold temps to form. I believe this is just scratching the surface of the ice potential in the Middle Fork. US2 US2 offers some hotspots like the Stuart Range, with its steep granite peaks, and a sprinkling of other incredible routes in the Lake Wenatchee area. Weather is generally colder and drier on the east side, which is good for ice. Chiwawa Mountain, Intravenous: Cutting edge Colin Haley mixed route deep in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Buck Mountain, Buckshot: Another bold line in a wilderness setting. One of the great underrated north faces in Washington. Mt. Index, North Face: Steepest peak in Washington, visible from the highway. Always an involved matter for a sub-6000 ft peak. Another huge route is Murphy's Law. Dragontail Peak, NE Couloir: This route feels much more full on than Triple Couloirs next door, and seems to be difficult to get in proper (fall) conditions. Colchuck Peak, NE Buttress Couloir: Often overlooked with Triple Couloirs and the North Buttress Couloir next door. Ends with a cornice-tunnel! Argonaut Peak, NE Couloir: Also a rock/snow route in early summer, this can be a fantastic mixed/ice route in late fall. Mt. Stuart, Ice Cliff Glacier: a technically easy but deceptively committing and full-on climb in a wild setting. Argonaut Peak, Chad Kellog Memorial Route: Challenging new age mixed route in the heart of the Stuart Range. Mt. Stuart, Lara Kellog Memorial Route: Climbs the incredible NE Face of Stuart above the Ice Cliff Glacier. Looks directly across to the Chad Kellog Memorial Route. Mt. Stuart, Stuart Glacier Couloir: A classic route where the crux is arguable climbing the west ridge in mixed winter conditions. Nason Ridge, Alpine Dropout: A fantastic looking ice route that sits just above Lake Wenatchee. Mountain Loop Close to Seattle but tragically overlooked, the peaks of the Mountain Loop are as rugged as anywhere in the North Cascades but with surprisingly decent winter access. The myriad of big climbs in this little region speaks volume to the incredible terrain. Big Four Mt, North Face (multiple variations): multiple routes, including the famous Spindrift Couloir. This is a mighty north face, and routes often take multiple days. Hall Peak, North Face: little brother to Big Four supposedly has some ice routes. Three Fingers, NE Face: This is a big route on a surprisingly big mountain. I believe there’s much more potential on the east side of Three Fingers. Whitechuck Mt, E Face Couloir: A very aesthetic couloir ice/mixed route. Access can be challenging unless it is a very low snow year. Whitehorse Mt, E Couloir: This steep route splits the Squire Creek Headwall for a fantastic line. I think it might even be visible from Darrington?! Sperry Peak, E Face Gully: Another beautiful, long, moderate ice/mixed route that likely varies in technicality from fall to spring. Sloan Peak, Full Moon Fever: This route climbs the weakness on the NW Face of Sloan. Having been at the base, I can say there is HUGE potential all over the place near the route. Sloan Peak, Superalpine: I certainly hope this climb isn’t forgotten, as Porter and I believe it is truly the best moderate alpine ice route we have climbed in the Cascades (better than Cosley Houston or the NW Couloir of Eldorado), but I know how things go around here… Lake 22 Headwall: who would think that one of the greatest alpine walls in the Cascades was just a short hour drive and hike from Seattle? There are so many unclimbed 2000 ft lines up this face, and you can get conditions updates by searching Instagram! Highway 20 Highway 20 undoubtedly has many huge ice lines, but difficult winter access has limited exploration. During lower snow years, the Cascade River Road could be a great area for exploration and development. Eldorado Peak, NW Ice Couloir: This route was sort of “remembered” in Fall 2019 when probably 20 parties climbed it (me included), but it’s a fantastic easier route, so I’ll leave it here. Colonial Peak, North Face (multiple routes): The mega line Watusi Rodeo offers 4000 ft of front point terrain and is “easily” accessible all winter. First Date is another attractive route. Pyramid Peak, NE Face (multiple routes): Home to some challenging mixed/ice routes on a wonderfully aesthetic peak. Graybeard, North Face: Everyone seems to report this deceptively big route deepened their sense of mortality. Davis Peak, No Milkshakes: the north face of Davis Peak is supposedly the steepest vertical mile drop in Washington. Silver Star, West Face Couloir: Originally planned as a ski descent, it actually turned out to be a huge ice climb! Visible from the highway, but you probably need a sled to get up there. Cutthroat Peak, Cauthorn Wilson: Gaining popularity lately, can be climbed right before the highway closes or after it opens. Early Winters Couloir: This one is sort of a classic and can be climbed in both fall and spring. Highway 542 The areas around Baker and Shuksan are generally well explored, but still offer great adventure. The Black Buttes are one of the centerpieces for hard alpine ice climbing. Lincoln Peak, Wilkes-Booth: A huge, challenging route on one of the hardest peaks in Washington. Assassin Spire, NW Face: Considered by many to be the toughest summit in Washington, this was also the first peak where the first ascent was made in winter. Colfax Peak, Ford’s Theater: The “forgotten” next door neighbor of the ultra classic Cosley Houston. Mt. Rainier / Tatoosh This area is dominated by the mountain, but I’m guessing the Tattosh have good stuff and certainly easy access. Rainier, Mowich Face: A long moderate route on the “quiet” (NW) side of the big hunk-a-hunk. Rainier, Ptarmigan Ridge: A steeper, more sustained route than its next door neighbor, the world-renowned Liberty Ridge. Mt. Hood I don’t know much about Hood, but I’m sure there are some great routes that are infrequently climbed, so I’ll take suggestions here!
  5. Via dei Ragni: Grade VI, 95deg snow/rime/ice, M4, 1000m Scribe/Photos/Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Google Street View: Cerro Torre Summit 360 Panorama We’ve had a picture of Cerro Torre on our desktops, phone wallpapers, and posters above our bed for the past 5 years. It was the reason we took up ice climbing in the first place. In February 2016, we made our first attempt on this route, hoping to at least get a glimpse of the scale of the mountain and understand what it took to climb it. The weather was too hot by then for the climb, and after three days, our high point was below the hard technical climbing. Previous trip report: The road to El Chaltén The Fitz Roy Massif These past two months were our fourth (and longest) climbing trip to the Chaltén Massif, and sixth year of watching the Patagonian weather patterns. We wanted to return to attempt Cerro Torre again, but the next two seasons were not possible because of bad weather. Last year, at the beginning of February, we saw a fantastic weather window, and the stars aligned. We flew down to Patagonia in a 9-day magical whirlwind of constant movement, and summited Fitz Roy via the Franco-Argentina route. While on the summit of Fitz Roy, looking down at the surreal summits of the Torre, we were determined more than ever to come back the following season. Day 1. We arrived in El Chaltén on New Years Eve, the last day of a 4-day weather window (brecha)…we missed it! Since then, January was filled with short stints (8-12hrs) of good weather in the mountains, and the arrival of a 6-day mega window in early February sent an electric buzz throughout town. We were a couple of bats out of hell with our 40lbs packs each as we set towards Laguna Torre. The plan was to pass through the Niponino base camp in the Torre Valley and bivouac at the higher Noruegos (Norwegian) bivouac, which would put us closer to Col Standhardt (the next day’s objective)…the passageway to the West Face of Cerro Torre where the Via dei Ragni route begins. Our bivy site at Noruegos Day 2. From the Noruegos bivy site high on the slopes of the Torre Valley, we traversed near the base of the Torres, under the celebrated SE Ridge (perhaps the greatest climb in the world) and also the 1959 Maestri line to the triangular snowfield where so much history and controversy took place. From the East, all of the Torres stand impossibly steep and impassable. To get to the Ragni route on the West side, we would climb up and over the Col Standhardt where an implausible car-sized chockstone sits interminably between the col’s steep walls. From the col, one gets the first glimpse of the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap (Hielo Continental), a massive expanse of ice 200mi long. On a rare, clear day such as this day, we could see green Chilean fjords across the Ice Cap between large, snowy volcanos. A Lighthouse Several rappels deposited us down to the Circo de los Altares (Cirque of the Alters), an impressive crescent of white-capped peaks and toothed spires. From there we headed up another glacial ramp on Cerro Torre’s West Face to a high camp, 150m below the Col de la Esperanza (Col of Hope), first reached by Walter Bonatti in 1958 who hoped that this col would one day blaze a path to the summit. It wasn’t until 1974 that a team of Italians from the Ragni di Lecco (thus the name “Via dei Ragni”) completed Bonatti’s vision. Circo de los Altares Steep snow climbing and easy mixed terrain led us towards the camp at Col de la Esperanza, the camp we hadn’t reached on our last attempt. As we hiked past our previous high point, our hearts soared. This time around, the climbing felt much easier with 4 more years of climbing experience under our belts. Day 3. This day was a rest day of sorts. To set ourselves up for success on summit day, we were moving to the highest camp a few hundred meters up: El Elmo (“Helmet”), a prominent plateau below the steep, technical climbing. Those who were faster and stronger than us had gone straight to the highest camp the day before and were now going to do the hard work of battle-axing the bullet-hard blue ice and cleaning the cotton candy mushrooms of the summit. As we came over the Col of Hope, we entered an otherworldly expanse of mangled rime towers and precarious exposure. These deformed blobs of ice towers with icicle branches and feathery leaves seem like something only God or Dr. Seuss could conjure. It’s something so beautiful and terrifying at the same time. We were face to face, looking up at thisbeastly Tower. A spectacular nightmare. Day 4. Summit Day! We were pretty antsy to get going on the summit push. Falling snow greeted us when our alarms went off at 2:00AM as the mountain was enveloped in a cloud. All over camp, alarms went off and were snoozed as the precipitation discouraged movement. When the stars finally came out again, we were the first to muster our strength and get to work. Walking up to the base of El Elmo in the darkness, the first overhanging rime ice mushroom of the route, we gave a sigh “ah, breakfast!” The last 10m didn’t actually have any good protection (besides maybe a horizontal picket), and it was a sequence of cutting the feet loose, campus’ing from questionable tools, and shoving knees into the soft rime to make upward progress. Once at the top of El Elmo, a crowd had formed at the base, chomping at the bit. All of camp was finally up. The snooze button had proved an epic failure of our collective, strategically staggered alarms. We all watched in awe and gave whooping shouts from this low perch as our friend, Fabi Buhl, paraglided from the summit in the wee hours of the morning, slowly swirling in front of the spectacular sunrise over Lago Viedma. He was the first ever to fly off the summit of Cerro Torre having climbed the mountain first (and not dropped off via helicopter). After El Elmo, the mixed pitches zig-zag through a maze of rock and ice up to the base of The Headwall. Two pitches of blue, overhanging, bullet-hard ice. The final pitches mount three tiers of giant rime mushrooms facing the Ice Cap. This high ridge gets pummeled by the wet, freezing storms that race around the Southern Ocean to create these crazy rime formations. The first and second rime mushrooms had formed spectacular, natural blue-ice tunnels created by vortices of wind spiraling up the ridge, clearing a path through the thick outer layer of soft rime ice. Climbing into this vertical subway tunnel for 60 meters felt like entering a portal into another world. It eventually funneled up to an elevator shaft and spat us out of a squeeze tube. For the second and third mushrooms, we attached Petzl prototype “wings” to our ice tools to make purchase in the soft, overhanging, cotton-candy rime. These wings are horizontal plates that bolt onto the picks of our ice tools like Dilophosaurus gills. The Final (Summit) Mushroom was a beast. The previous day, it had taken the other parties many hours to clear a natural half-pipe, then dig a tunnel through the steepest part for many hours. Their line then exited their manufactured tunnel out onto the overhanging summit lip. Walking up to the steepest point on Cerro Torre on a perfectly still, clear day was absolutely surreal, basking in the bright orange-red glow of the sunset. The 200 miles of the Continental Ice Cap stretched before us and the Pacific Ocean now clearly visible. Behind, on the other side of the Torre Valley, small, wispy clouds hovered over the summit of Fitz Roy. We were lucky to get perfect lighting to fly our drone around for 30 minutes alone before we headed back down to our tents at El Elmo for the night. Days 5 and 6. To get back to town, you can reverse your way up Col Standhardt (M7 shenanigans), or take one of two trekking passes along the Ice Cap. We had experience taking the Northern pass (Paso Marconi) which was now in really bad shape. We opted for the Southern pass (Paso del Viento) to try something new, and hopefully be able to turn our brains off for a few days (sadly, this was not the case). The Hielo Continental spans 50mi across and crawls 200mi north to south across Southern Patagonia. It looked so beautiful and serene from our climb. Now, face to face with this beastly crocodile, it was the stuff of horrors. Canyons after canyons of impassable crevasses, we zig-zagged our way in no logical direction under a bright, unhelpful, full moon. From the air, our tracks must have looked like the random scribbling of a toddler on a massive, blank white floor. A sun dog greeting us after our descent. Finally reaching the pass and seeing people again after such a mental test of sanity was nothing short of jubilant. A popular trek is to take the pass South to Lago Viedma: the Huemul Circuit. We were now on a delightful trekking path and could now…finally… turn our brains off and just put one foot in front of the other for a mere 14 miles back to ice cream and showers and safety. Thanks: We had good confidence in the forecast and the length of the window, but it’s still important to have daily weather updates to anticipate the inconsistencies between each day. We’re so grateful for our weathermen who sent us updates to the inReach and gave us both confidence and peace of mind each day that we spun ourselves further from civilization: Dan Berdel, Devin Monas, and Rolando Garibotti. We’d also like to thank Dave Burdick (Alpine Dave!) for his support, inspiration and beta on the route. Also thanks to the American Alpine Club Live Your Dream Grant for supporting this trip. Recommended Reading: The Tower, Kelly Cordes Patagonia Vertical, Rolando Garibotti Enduring Patagonia, Greg Crouch Gear Notes: 13 ice screws (including 3 stubbies) 1 Picket (to place horizontally in vertical rime!) small set of nuts (Wildcountry Superlight) small rack of cams (Black Diamond Ultralight cams .4-1, Metolius Mastercam 1-3) 2 Petzl Nomic Ice Tools + Petzl prototype wings (rented from Viento Oeste gear shop in town) Petzl V-link Umbilicals 2 stuff sacks (gear management in pack, and also to leave for snow anchors) The North Face Phantom 50 backpack 4 double-length Petzl Pur'anneau runners with 2 Camp 22 biners each 2 double-length Petzl Pur'anneau runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each 7 single-length Petzl Pur'anneau runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each (can’t have too many runners) Patagonia R2 Jacket Patagonia Micro Puff jacket Patagonia Macro Puff jacket Patagonia Kniferidge hardshell jacket (didn't use)...also, it's now the "Ascensionist Jacket". Mainly wore the Micro Puff for outer layer Patagonia Nano Air Pants Patagonia Softshell pants (bibs) Patagonia base layer (top+bottom) Platypus 2L soft bottle Garmin inReach Mini (love this little guy!) Petzl Dart Crampons 2x Mammut Twighlight Twin Rope (7.5mm) Petzl Sirocco helmets Petzl Sitta harness (for him) and Arc’teryx harness (for her) Metolius Feather Nut Tool (each) Mammut Smart belay device (not the Alpine Smart) 3 lockers for group: Grivel Tau K12L, Grivel Lambda HMS, Grivel Plume 2 medium fuel canisters Jetboil Sol stove Safety ‘biner (each) – Edelrid 19g caribeener, Petzl Micro Traxion, short Sterling Hollowblock, Trango Piranha knife Bivy setup – Full Length Thermarest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad, Exped Air Pillow UL, Feathered Friends Spoonbill sleeping bag MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent (amazing!) La Sportiva TX4 Approach shoes La Sportiva G2SM boots Petzl Reactik headlamps (each) + 3 extra AAA batteries + Petzl e+LITE headlamp Other things: 1 long spoon to share, chapstick to share, small Joshua Tree sun stick to share, Frog's Tung phone leash, lighter, whistle, duct tape, Thermarest repair patches, Voke tabs, Nuun, pain killers, 1L Platypus soft water bottle (for her) and 750mL HydraPak Stash (for him), warm headband, glove liners, 1 pair thick long socks (each), sunglasses, ear plugs, WRFA emergency form, small pencil, cotton handkerchief, wad of toilet paper, ID, Credit Card 1 Swix alpine pole (with snow basket) Arcteryx ball cap Adidas Sunglasses (with nose sun guard), no longer available iPhone 11 Pro (with route beta downloaded) GoPro HERO 5 Session (with helmet mount) DJI Mavic Mini Drone (remote and drone stored in USPS Tyvek bag) Dinner: 2 AlpineAire meals, 3 Near East Couscous boxes repackaged with small olive oil packets in ziplock bags, salt Day food was mostly bulky, yummy snacks: vegan jerky, dried mango, nuts, Cheese-Its, sesame sticks, Gu, nut butter, etc Approach Notes: Approached via Col Standhardt. Also possible to approach via Paso Marconi (currently in difficult/sketchy conditions) or Paso del Viento (long). We came back via Paso del Viento, but it's also possible to climb back over Col Standhardt (M7 shenanigans with old fixed ropes here and there).
  6. Trip: Bear Mountain - North Buttress: Beckey Route Trip Date: 07/15/2018 Trip Report: Bear Mountain: Two new dads trying to keep a 10 year dream alive For me, mountains can become obsessions, sometimes to the point of irrationality. In my life, no mountain, or route has been more indicative of this than the North Buttress of Bear. I stumbled upon Bear in 2007 in my early days of climbing WA by devouring each page of the Beckey guides like they were some gripping novel. Trip reports from this site only further set the dream of someday ascending this monster objective. Being nothing but a budding sport climber at the time, this peak seemed out of my grasp. As the years went on, I honed my mountain skills. I learned to trad lead, sent my first few alpine rock routes, got on my first glaciers, and began developing the mind for the rigors of schwacking in the cascades. By 2011, I began thinking this dream could possibly become a reality for me. I even found a climbing partner, Andrew, who shared my dream. Each year we'd talk about making our dream a reality but each Summer would come and go without an attempt. For 5 years in a row we'd try to make plans only to see them fall through. Timing, schedules, obligations, weather, forest fires, and work all conspired against us. Fast forward to 2016, and each of us became fathers of our first children. Yet another reason to push Bear farther from our grasps. During the first year of fatherhood I discovered, although not surprised, that being a father does not easily co-exist with committing alpine objectives. My fit physique, lead head, and drive for summits began to recede like the glaciers surrounding the peaks I had grown to love so much. Over trail runs, occasional crag days, and family outings, Andrew and I still spoke of our mutual dream contrasted with our diminished abilities. One thing was clear from these conversations: the dream, and our stoke was still alive for our beloved Bear. Spring of 2018 came around. It had been a dismal Winter of training. Trips to the crags confirmed, family obligations and our lack of training over the Fall and Winter had left both of us less than prepared to crush in the coming Summer, but we began to discuss plans for Bear as we did every year. We settled on the dates of July 13-15 and began attempting to play catch up with our training. As the dates drew closer, one thing became certain, neither of us felt strong. But the week of July 4th came and still nothing looked to foil our set plans. So early July 13th we made the early morning drive to the end of the Chilliwack road along Chilliwack Lake in British Columbia. The bushwhack across the border and out to bear camp lived up to its dreaded hype. Six hours of magical, rarely touched old-growth forest contrasted with the torturous efforts required to navigate and move through said forest left us bewildered and uncertain. This uncertainty as well as the contrast of beauty and torture would be a reoccurring theme over these 3 days. From bear camp to the bivy on the western shoulder of bear is 4000 vertical feet up. A quarter of the way up, late afternoon, and we were beat. I am on liter 5 of water, schwacking in my underwear due to the heat and effort. Both of us are bonking and cursing ourselves for thinking we could pull this objective off. We were not fit. We had not trained enough. Doubt began to dominate our thoughts. It has already been 8 hours of this shit and we still had 3,000 feet of trail-less hell ahead of us. Who were we kidding? There was no way we were going to make it to camp before dark. We sat, uncomfortably, on a steep slope, in the middle of nowhere and began talking of retreat. "Squamish isn't too far away, is it?" "I guess we could always just crag at Mt. Erie on our way back to Seattle." Inside, a voice screams at my exhausted brain, "MT. ERIE!!!!???? Are you fucking serious!!?? I am never coming back into this valley again. It is now or never for Bear. The dream either lives or dies on this shitty, viewless, insignificant slope." My senses kicked back in. Remember, anything too big to fathom all at once needs to be broken into digestible chunks. The decision to push on grew from this and we decided to at least try to make it to the lake for the night and we would make the next decision from there. Two hours later, after 1,000 feet of extremely steep blueberry bush pulling, we broke out into the alpine and our spirits began to soar like a vulture in a thermal updraft. It’s amazing how something as simple as alpine views can change the mindset and determination of a climber. I began to feel rejuvenated. Maybe we could make the bivy site before dark. A heather-strewn meadow on a gentle shoulder gave us the first real physical break of the day. Panoramic views of remote North Cascade summits rose all around us. A mother Ptarmigan and her brood of chicks sprinted out of the bushes, snapping me from my alpine daze. Discussions of a potential closer bivy site gave us a closer goal. Running on fumes, past the lower bivy spot, and we still have light. Must, keep, moving. At last, 12 hours after leaving our car, we collapsed at the col. We had made it. I promptly gave the double middle finger to the valley below, clearly showing the shit-show we just wallowed through. We promised ourselves we would not make a decision about what to do about the next day until after we ate. Dinner went quick. As we crawled into our bags, we listened to the cacophony of a thousand tiny flying vampires trying desperately to find a way through our netting and into our skin. Twilight lit the sky with a rainbow of color. We both agreed that since we had overcome the uncertainty and brutality of what many, including us, consider the hardest approach in the Cascades, we felt obligated to throw ourselves at the North face the next morning even as our bodies screamed in opposition. We awoke with the sunrise. I shook the heaviness of last nights sleep from my head and felt somewhat shocked that yesterday wasn't some dream/nightmare. I was here. We were about to start our summit day. A day we have both been dreaming of for at least 10 years. With each sip of coffee, my stoke began to rise. We strapped on our crampons and make a quick and pleasant descent onto the north side of the mountain. We turned a corner to catch our first glimpse of Bear's north buttress. Ominous, glorious, stunning, perfection on ice. Words cannot really describe the feelings I had, but these are close. Upon seeing both the direct north buttress and the north buttress couloir, we checked in. The direct looked safer as the couloir looked broken up near the top, but our energy levels and dismal cumulative rock pitches for the year had us thinking that the extra rock pitches might not be reasonable. We settled on following the couloir and Beckey's footsteps. In hindsight, this might this might have been a bad idea, but I am pretty sure I would have said the same thing if we had taken the other option. Either way we felt the collective weight of our dreams, the debilitating approach that we vowed never to do again, and the sheer power of what we were trying to accomplish. I felt as if every step upwards tightened the grip of the vice we were in. Committed, for better or worse, to move upwards. We switched back and forth from approach shoes to crampons a few times and quickly found ourselves in irreversible territory. There is terror and clarity in realizing the only way out of a predicament is forward. We broke out the rope to lead our first pitch out of the couloir. A shit show of snow, poor pro behind detached blocks, and slopey ledges littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes. My rope skirted across a ledge and sent a microwave down towards Andrew. Our years of work together in the mountains gave us the foresight to expect such events and was glad Andrew had set himself out of harm’s way before I led. We had reached the 4th class ledge system that would get us up to the North buttress proper. Kitty litter, slopey ledges, and the exposure below made for careful, calculated movements while simuling, often without adequate gear between us. Trust in each other became paramount and again I found myself thinking that I was thankful to be climbing with such a trusted partner. At last, we reached the first real quality pitch of the route. Beckey's glorious left facing 5.8 corner. Andrew led and we both laughed at the idea of "5.8" at the top. It felt like index 5.9+ but would be an instant classic if situated at the lower town wall. We were finally finding some type 1 fun. I linked the next two pitches of fun and deposited us at the base of the infamous 10a offwidth. DE8DD876-06ED-4585-BEE2-4CF80B5ED29B.MOV It was at this point that we began to feel the efforts of the pat 36 hours. Dehydrated, low on energy, and stoke, Andrew reluctantly agreed to lead the next pitch and quickly made the decision to take the 5.8 bypass pitch. We ended up breaking this pitch into two because the lower portion of the offwidth took most of our small cams and the upper 5.8 portion looked to take nothing bigger than a .75 BD. Crap. We swapped leads under the only stance Andrew could find conveniently under a car sized detached block. I was tasked with leading over it and him without touching it. Yikes. I led to a nice ledge and brought up my partner. Both of us feeling both physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, we began to flounder. Neither felt the desire to lead the next pitch. Bonking hard, I finally took the sharp end. Staying on the crest I mantled to the base of a steep featured, but unprotect-able face. I began to lose my cool. 15 feet above a ledge and my last piece and seeing committing climbing and no cracks above me, I retreated. Reversing the mantle had me nearly hyperventilating but I, somehow, safely made my way back to the anchor. We discussed our predicament, spied a horn with rap slings 30 feet down to our right and consulted our beta. We both thought that this was the Beckey rappel that would take us to a 4th class gully exit but our position would not allow us to confirm it. Below us, the gullies looked vertical, smooth, and crack-free. Committing to the rappel felt serious. Andrew rappelled at a diagonal across ribs, at times placing gear as directionals to reach the farthest gully. Upon reaching the first gully, Andrew looked up. There is no way that is 4th class. Second gully. Sweet baby jesus! It goes! Relief washed over us like a warm caribbean breeze. I rappelled down and we quickly began to lead. We both just wanted to be done with this endeavor. How quickly a dream becomes dread. My mind screamed, "Get me the fuck off this mountain!" After two rope stretching pitches and some mid fifth climbing (another sandbag) the Sun hit our darkened spirits and the tomb I'd climbed myself out of was no more. A few hundred feet of 3rd class was all that separated us from the summit. Elated, exhausted, and emotional, we hugged. I looked over the edge, down the north face and wept. Tears of joy, relief, and sadness fell hundreds of feet down the alpine face of my dreams. I always pictured myself feeling triumphant at this moment, but instead all I felt was relief and the intense desire to hug my wife and two year old son. We had done it. We had fought through constant moments of fear and uncertainty to obtain our dreams, but I felt far from dreamy. As we began the descent, I turned around and gave one last look at the summit of my dreams and gave it the double middle finger. I was done. I could close this chapter of my climbing pursuits. Fatherhood has changed my drive, my dreams, and my abilities. I am unsure if I will ever climb anything like this again, but much like any overwhelming obstacle, I will take it one decision at a time. Who knows how I will feel about such commitment and risk taking in the future. We hit a mellow snow slope and just like any decision we made that day, we assessed the terrain and made the best choice for moving forward. The joy in the glissade took me by surprise and I burst out into a giggle fit. Type 1 fun!!!! What a wild ride of emotions. We reached our bivy a half an hour before sunset. We smiled and laughed as we recapped the day. Feeling thankful and shocked to have pulled the ascent off, we crawled into our bags, passed a joint back and forth and fell into philosophical ramblings about life and reality. What a life we live. The next morning we made the long march back down to bear camp and through what felt like endless old growth shenanigans pushed by the thought of a dip in Chilliwack lake and the beer stashed there. Upon reaching the lake we found the beer gone, hoards of people on what I thought would be a secluded beach, and leash-less dogs aggressively charging us while the owner continued to flirt with some bikini-clad girl. WTF. I thought that was the shit-cream on top of a long and miserable day, but oh no. Upon reaching the trailhead I saw my car in the distance but somehow it did not look like my car. The back window was missing! Someone had broken into my car! Son-of-a-bitch! As we got closer, the horrific reality set in. My car had not only been broken into, it had been set on fire. The tires, the windows, the interior. Everything that could have burned did. My car was a hunk of metal and nothing more! I was in disbelief. How was this possible!?? How are we going to get out of here? Is this a nightmare? Am I still in the mountain sleeping in my bag and this is some horrid hallucination fueled by the joint and exhaustion? Nope. This was reality. Whoever did this also nearly set the entire forest on fire based on the completely burnt cedar behind my car. Jesus Fucking Christ! We could have been trapped in that valley if they had succeeded in doing so! As my mind swirled with the gravity of our situation, the last car in the parking lot approached us and gave us a ride into town dropping us off at the Chilliwack police. After reporting what had happened, expecting surprise, they just smiled and said, "Yep, this has been happened a lot this Summer and there was little they could do about it. They gave us our police report number and directed us to a local bar and motel. I called the border to confirm they would let me back into the states without my passport (burnt in the car) and made arrangements for a friend to come pick us up. ”the urban mountaineer” This trip will live in my mind till the day I die and will hopefully entertain many. Journeys like this are great reminders for what is important in your life and just how lucky I am to be apart of this amazing planet. Get after what fuels your soul people! Gear Notes: 60 m rope Double rack tops to fist. Single 4 and a set of stoppers. Lots of alpine slings Approach Notes: Follow the tape till you can’t then turn on your zen and be one with the forest.
  7. Trip: North Cascades - Southern Pickets - Southern Pickets Enchainment (Traverse) – Second Ascent Trip Date: 08/17/2018 Trip Report: Climbers/Scribe/Photos: Jeff and Priti Wright Priti and I completed the Second Ascent of the full Southern Pickets Enchainment (Traverse) between 8/12/2018 and 8/17/2018 via the first ascensionists’ agenda (VI 5.10+, ca. 3 miles). Thirteen peaks in four days staying on technical terrain enchaining every peak in the Southern Picket Range from East to West. The Chopping Block was our 14thpeak on the last day à la Bunker-Haley-Wallace. We were lucky to have splitter weather the whole time except for our approach day which was non-stop drizzling and kept us from jumping on the rock right away. We had previously attempted this climb during the July 4thweek earlier this summer but were stormed off at the base of Mount Terror. View of the entire Southern Pickets from Mount Triumph. Photo Credit: James Blackmon (1) Little Mac Spire, (2) East McMillan Spire, (3) West McMillan Spire, (4) Tower 1 summit of the East Towers aka "Don Tower", (5) Tower 5 summit of East Towers, (6) Inspiration Peak, (7) Pyramid Peak, (8) Mount Degenhardt, (9) Mount Terror, (10) The Rake aka "The Blob", (11) The Blip, (12) East Twin Needle, (13) West Twin Needle, (14) Dusseldorfspitz, (15) Himmelhorn, (16) Ottohorn, (17) Frenzelspitz, and (18) The Chopping Block The Chopping Block is on the left. History: FA: In 2003, this visionary line of 13 summits (Little Mac Spire to Frenzelspitz) was first completed by Mark Bunker, Colin Haley, and Wayne Wallace in an incredibly speedy 4 days car-to-car. http://c498469.r69.cf2.rackcdn.com/2004/34_wallace_pickets_aaj2004.pdf https://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/topic/15094-walking-the-fence/ 2011: Dan Hilden, Jens Holsten, and Sol Wertkin completed 12 of the Southern Pickets summits (Little Mac Spire to Ottohorn), but were halted by an impassable moat under the South Face of the final bookend peak, Frenzelspitz (a lesson we borrowed to not take the snow approach). https://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog/article/chad-kellogg-jens-holsten-tackle-complete-picket-range-enchainment http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15s/wfeature-never-ending-holsten-kellogg https://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/topic/82900-tr-picket-range-complete-enchainment-attempt-922011/?tab=comments#comment-1029444 2013: Jens Holsten and Chad Kellogg traversed 11 of the Southern Pickets summits (Little Mac Spire to Himmelhorn), and carried on to the Northern Pickets to do a mind-blowing Southern and Northern Pickets traverse. Even though Jens humbly calls their climb an “attempt” since they left out three minor summits, their ascent was easily one of the greatest alpine achievements in the lower 48. https://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/topic/92032-they-made-it/?tab=comments#comment-1101276 http://jensholsten.blogspot.com/2013/07/desperate-country-seven-day-enchainment.html https://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog/article/chad-kellogg-jens-holsten-tackle-complete-picket-range-enchainment Legend In the topos below, note the following color codes -Blue circle: belays that we chose to take (all are optional, obviously) -Yellow arrows: Bail options, or ways to enter/exit shorter segments of the Enchainment -Green tent: bivy sites (note the comments) -Red lines: Ascent -White circles: Rappels -White lines: Descent Day 1 With our packs each weighing in at 28lbs, we hiked in to Terror Creek Basin via Goodell Creek through wet bushes and a light drizzle and bivied at the Terror Creek Basin High Camp. Day 2 As we roped up at the base of the start (Little Mac Spire) on Day 2, Priti glumly pulled two left-footed red Moccasym rock shoes out of her pack, but decided to keep going like the hardcore badass that she is! We climbed from Little Mac Spire (5.8) through East McMillan Spire (5.6), West McMillan Spire (5.8), the East Towers (5.8) summiting Don Tower and Tower 5, and finishing the day with Inspiration Peak (5.9). We had to climb up 1/3 of Pyramid to find a small snow patch for water and dinner. On our last trip in early July there was a lot of snow at the cols, so it was easy to find water. There was a lot less snow in the cols in August, making finding water along the traverse very tricky, to say the least. We filled our dromedary up every time we found snow. The smoke made the views hazy, but we could tell how far away the later peaks were, and how far we had to go. The base of Little Mac Spire The start of the technical climbing (5.7) on the face of Little Mac Spire The upper ridge of East McMillan Spire View looking West in July View looking West in August Upper face of West McMillan Spire Starting up Tower 1 Priti is belaying below Pitch 2 (5.8 with a hand/fist overhang) Inspiration Peak Summit is the impressive overhang on the left Day 3 On Tuesday (day 2 of climbing, day 3 of the trip), we started out on Pyramid (5.8), and traversed over Degenhardt (3rd class). We chose a steep face crack for the first pitch on Terror to start. This may be the 5.8 start Jens and Chad did. Starting further out left might go at 5.6. After finding the piton rappel off Terror, we downclimbed about half of the Rake-Terror col before starting up a loose gulley on The Rake (skier’s right). The climbing didn’t feel too hard, and we must have avoided the 5.9 R climbing described by previous parties. However we didn’t make it to the nice bivy at the summit, instead hunkering down on a slopey grassy ledge for the night. Snafflehounds poked me in the face and jumped on my feet to start the night out. The meteor shower sparkled above us. In the morning, Jeff found his helmet strap had been gnawed through, his crack gloves stolen and the nut butter munched. Nothing a little duct tape won’t fix! Starting up the technical climbing on Pyramid Peak Inside the crux chimney Day 4 On Wednesday (day 3 of climbing, day 4 of the trip), we only climbed for a few hours doing lots of fun ridge climbing on the Rake (5.8) which took us to the best bivy spot of the trip: on top of the West Rake Summit. It was so nice, we decided to relax the rest of the day and camel up for the next day. The choosy 4th class gully which exits the Terror-Rake col (about halfway down) on climber's right The entire Rake ridgeline is pictured here. Priti is on the initial ridgeline, heading to the Rake's deep, major notch (right of center). Stay high on this initial ridge to get to a 5.6 traverse about even with the notch to get over to the notch. Starting the traverse too soon may result in 5.9R climbing. The vertical ridgeline just left of the major notch is the technical crux. The technical crux of The Rake. This is the second pitch after getting to the major notch which takes you to the The Rake's ridge proper. 5.8+ ledges with small gear. Starting out on the Rake's ridge proper. Looking back at the Rake (Eastward) from the summit Guns out! Amazing bivy site! Don't stop at the col (aka "Ice Station Dark Star"), but continue to this bivy after a short pitch. Day 5 Thursday morning we woke up stoked for the Twin Needles and Himmelgeisterhorn. The Blip between the Rake and the Needles was a quick jaunt (5.6). In the descent gulley, Priti kicked a small rock down, which tipped a precarious car-door sized boulder over and core-shot our rope. She literally had two left feet! We just climbed the rest of the way with 40m of rope out. East Twin Needle (5.10a) had some of the best climbing on the trip, following an aesthetic line up the knife edge ridge, that looks like a gothic tower. There was a TCU that the previous party stuck behind a flake, and was reminded of the giant footsteps we were following. The last couple moves were extremely dirty though. The left variation of the crux is much easier than sticking right. West Twin Needle was chill 3rd Class. Then came Himmelgeisterhorn (5.10), the “Horn of the Sky Spirit”. The climbing was fantastic: engaging, with great position, and unique au chevaling! We climbed over Düsseldorfspitz, on the way to the summit of Himmelhorn. We rappelled down the North Face of Himmelhorn with our 60m rope which worked out perfectly. Ottohorn took about an hour to summit and get back down to the Himmel-Otto col. The 3rdclass route that Bunker-Haley-Wallace took is gone due to some fresh rock fall. Instead of taking the 2 pitch 5.7 variation that Hilden-Holsten-Wertkin took, we attacked the fresh rock scar directly which was splitter 5.6 hand cracks for maybe 15 m to the ridge and summit. In the fading light, we then headed over to Frenzelspitz (the final peak of the Enchainment) from the Himmel-Otto col, traversing along rock on the north side of Ottohorn. The ledge/gulley traverse had the most heinous, scary, exposed choss. Luckily the climbing on Frenzel was pretty great 5.7ish. We made four fresh rappel anchors, starting with a runner on the summit block, two double-nut anchors, and another slung horn. 5.8 ridge (vertical blocks) The fantastic climbing on the technical crux of East Twin Needle. Priti leading out onto the technical crux (and I mean technical!) - face climbing on crimps with small gear Looking up and over Dusseldorfspitz. Priti is belaying between Dusseldorfspitz (foreground) and Himmelhorn (background). The crazy outcropping (Dusseldorfspitz) just East of the summit of Himmelhorn Looking back down from the Himmelhorn summit at the belay. Left to right: Dusseldorfspitz (the small spire along the ridgeline, just below the summit), Himmelgeisterhorn ("Horn of the Sky Spirit", also a small suberb of the German city of Dusseldorf), Ottohorn, and Frenzelspitz...three names taken from the label of a mustard bottle brought along by Joan and Joe Firey (kindred spirits and personal heroes of ours) during their first ascent of these peaks in 1961. Ed Cooper, also on the trip, was "aghast" at the names chosen! The magnificent Northern Pickets Frenzelspitz, a perfect pyramid Day 6 The last day we climbed the Chopping Block via the NW Route (4thClass) and hiked out via “Stump Hollow” to Terror Creek. Mega thanks to Wayne, @solwertkin, and @jensholsten for their great beta, inspiration, and support. Priti and I have been dreaming of this climb for years now since reading Alpinist 47 magazine’s expansive article on the Picket Range and being inspired by Jens Holsten and Chad Kellogg’s 2013 Pickets Traverse (of both the Southern and Northern Pickets, 10 miles) after we had just taken the @boealps Basic Climbing Class. The next level of alpinism in the Southern Pickets may be to complete the entire enchainment in a day! This seems like an entirely reasonable feat (especially for a soloist) given enough familiarity and speed. Bivy Beta: Primo bivies (East to West) base of West McMillan Spire descent (snow through the summer, nice bivy walls) base of Mount Terror, cross over ridge to North side - late season snow available on top of the Rake sub-peak (1 pitch past the “Ice Station Dark Star”) – lots of snow just a short scramble distance away along the Rake descent. Himmel-Otto col (if no snow on the col, make one rappel toward Crescent basin to find snow) Terrible bivies (East to West) base of East McMillan Spire descent (sloping ledges, snow early season) slabby ledge about 1/4 the way up the Inspiration West Ridge (exposed) Pyramid-Inspiration col (no snow late season) grassy ledges down and climbers left when you first gain the ridge proper at the start of the Rake “Ice Station Dark Star” (as coined by Hilden-Holsten-Wertkin) which is the col after just rappelling from The Rake summit (snow early season, but rappel north late season to find snow down a heinous choss gully)…if no snow just at the col, then recommend continuing on to the Rake descent to find tons of easily accessible snow in late season Himmelhorn summit (no snow) Gear Notes: small set of nuts and some brassies doubles BD UL Camalots .4-2 single BD UL Camalot 3 (for Inspiration East Face) singles BD C3 000-1 (extra green 0) single BD Camalot X4 Offset 0.1/0.2 single BD Camalot X4 0.3 singles Metolius Mastercam 0-3 4 double-length runners with 2 Camp 22 biners each 3 double-length runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each 9 single-length runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each (can’t have too many runners) 30L Patagonia Ascensionist pack (for him) and 30L Black Diamond Speed pack (for her) Patagonia Micro Puff jacket (each) Patagonia Alpine Houdini jacket (each) Patgaonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket (for him) 2L MSR DromLite (essential!) Garmin inReach Mini (love this little guy!) Beal Escaper (for emergency bails) Petzl Leopard FL crampons (each) Petzl Sirocco helmets Petzl Sitta harness (for him) and Arc’teryx harness (for her) Metolius Feather Nut Tool (each) Camp Corsa Nanotech 50cm (each) chalk bag, each (didn’t use) tape gloves (for her) and OR Splitter gloves (for him) x2: Mammut Smart belay device (not the Alpine Smart) + Grivel Sigma Wire D carabiner 3 lockers for group: Grivel Tau K12L, Grivel Lambda HMS, Grivel Plume 60m 8.5mm Beal Opera rope 15m 5mm cord (did not use ever) 1 medium fuel canister 1 small fuel canister (did not use) Jetboil Sol stove Safety ‘biner (each) – Edelrid 19g caribeener, Petzl Micro Traxion, short Sterling Hollowblock, Trango Piranha knife Bivy setup (each) – Short Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad, Exped Air Pillow UL, Feathered Friends Vireo UL sleeping bag 8.5ft^2 tarp by Hyperlite Mountain Gear TC Pros (for him) and Moccassyms (for her) La Sportiva TX2 (for her) and TX4 (for him) approach shoes Petzl Reactik headlamps (each) + 3 extra AAA batteries + Petzl e+LITE headlamp Other things: 1 long spoon to share, chapstick to share, small Joshua Tree sun stick to share, Kenu iPhone tether, lighter, whistle, duct tape, Thermarest repair patches, Voke tabs, Nuun, pain killers, 1L Platypus soft water bottle (for her) and 750mL HydraPak Stash (for him), warm headband, glove liners, 1 pair thick long socks (each), sunglasses, ear plugs, WRFA emergency form, small pencil Dinner: 2 AlpineAire meals, 3 Near East Couscous boxes repackaged with small olive oil packets in ziplock bags, salt Day food was mostly bulky, yummy snacks: vegan jerky, dried mango, nuts, Cheese-Its, sesame sticks, Gu, nut butter, etc Approach Notes: Excellent Approach trail Goodell Creek to Terror Basin. The descent from Crescent Basin is tricky The luxurious tree marker where one descends from the ridge below "Stump Hollow" towards Terror Creek Log crossing Terror Creek on descent
  8. Trip: Tower Rock - FA - Rapunzel's Back in Rehab - C1 Date: 7/15/2015 Trip Report: The Beast - don't be fooled, them thare are full-grown trees Tower Rock, 2 hours from everywhere, appears oddly neglected - Brown Beckey's got the tiniest blurb of the single route up it done in 1982 (anyone know of a second ascent? i can't find anyone who's tried it) but no picture n' no topo - tim olson's oregon rock guide has some more detail than beckey, but still the vast monolith appears to have continued unloved tower's just south of randle, an unladen swallow's flight from the cispus river - the face is gigantic,something like 1200 feet tall - the rock is basaltic, according to beckey, but like nothing i've seen - like over-baked brownies, it's composed of a hodge-podge of components - incredibly solid and compact, it's cross-hatched in all directions, crackless, and crumbles into bricks and blocks of all conceivable sizes - the tower looms over it's talus field, fiercely steep, it's upper-wall reminiscent of the right side of el cap, incredibly bulging and over-hanging tower is composed of two giant faces seperated by a ledge/fault system that was the path taken by the first team to climb the face - currently, after 7 days of effort, our route climbs the lower wall - it'll be just as much work to finish the upper wall, if the rock quality holds as it currently exists yeah, there's a lot more to go, but as it stands, what's there is 600 feet tall and a great day-tripper's aid adventure already - i figure the worst that can come of telling folks about this now before it's complete is that some other sad fools can go do it for me trip the first: fuck, this happened so long off i wonder if my recollection's right at all - me n' bill n' ben in the late winter - a burr up their bespectacled asses about a mythical 10-pitch free route up a largely untouched tower - the plan to hike to the top then set a rap-line down the likely route - out of town on a friday night to the frightful fall of rain - ghetto camp before the gate in gales of damnable damp - the roar of frogs - the next morning the most sordid thang - endless hours uphill w/ drill n' bolts n' chains in the continuous cloud-fuck n' frenzied chilly breeze - near the summit gob-smacked to gain a blazed trail barely a mile from a seasonal road - the top a huge disappointment, it characterized by clouds and beaming rainbows and rock so rude they rarely accoladed the attribution - soon there after the weekend righteously concluded and me around for the sweet family on the sabbath trip the second: on the reconnaissance earlier, dejected at finding a kitty-litter summit, we'd paused after a tortuous overladen descent on the boulder field and pondered on future options - a man w/ an aid-climber's conscious could do a take on "infinite bliss" and find a bitching way up the crazy big blank face - it was sure to take a mort of mortal work, but bill n' geoff are true gentlemen all measured and solid for this kinda goofy shit - we banged up from p-town on a friday night and made camp up at the turn around on the forest road - stumble-fucking up the forest we arrived amazed and ready to ramble on - many mozzies n' deer flies this damned trip - pitch 1 went quickly between geoff and bill, the later bounding up free on low-angle stacked mossy talus to make an anchor atop tier 1 - me i got tier 2 - all bolts at first until i no longer feared the ledge, then lotza 2-hook moves in a row until reaching the top of the tier where i left a fixed hook to protect a low-angle romp to the second anchor - we retired to camp n' soggy fires n' fulsome screeching music - day 2 we jugged to the top of p2 and bill and geoff got up a ways before yielding to me, whereupon i drilled n' hooked to a high point we marked w/ red tat before descending and returning to our troubled and lonely little lives - i recollect getting a true n' glorious drunk on in the passenger seat n' slumbering back to vantucky geoff putting up the first pitch on the scrubby, compact low-angle first tier the artist as a young asshole ascending the second steeper tier geoff workign on pitch 3, the first steps onto the very steep lower wall trip the third: lovely ospreys n' robins round the lake - pete n' pam play camp hosts - camp weddings n' nightly fishing sheenaningans - muskrats n' pond-skimming swallows - bastard mozzies n' mean biting flies, mostly in obeisance for the first couple cold days, but growing in malevolence as the weather waxed towards wicked hot - the sweet ne face of Tower almost totally shade-soaked for the mid-morning riser - kids n' retirees n' rv's n' jumping trout n' tame dogs - the listless routines of an aimless life - awake w/ the sun - fresh shits n' dewy breakfasts - a short but grim uphill grind through steep forest w/ plentiful windfall, shirt soaked through by the time we hit the sunny talus field at the base but soon blessed w/ shade - warm juggy work to start and then to the serious business - fear frenzies despite being armed w/ all the wonderful war machines of modern man - a long time of terror n' toil - the day dispatched, we make a rapid descent, each time by a different winding way - beer n' stripping soaked clothes off at the mercifully close car - me auolde yosemite food bin rummaged through for a desperate dinner, usually of beer n' tobacco n' pringles n' whatever benevolent bill threw my way - an hour or so of bird-watching n' binge-reading on maggie thatcher's frigid teeming fucking bush - to sleep at the post-gloaming in a grand 6-man tent alone, racked out on a queen sized inflatable air mattress, wrapped in down and dozy drunkenness - the night passed moaning to sore muscles as i twist n' turn until the dawn drags me to my addled senses, then it all runs off the reel much as it reckoned the day before... first several days of murmurings n' mumblings w/ just me n' bill (me a damn baby in comparison to my venerable and august elder - that baby weighing in at a mean 250 bare-nekkid pounds and a coward to boot of course) - bill a bastion of genteel sincerity that must sadly have bitch-left this world many generations ago - me strangely silent of song for days - my mind scrambled and saddened by the robust requirements of 6-weeks of family-left sorrows gone off in the valley - eventually songs to lift my times and shape my senses - "mining for gold" by the cowboy junkies running on an eternal loop in my mind - long after-shocks of "burn down the mission" caused by geoff for sure after 3 days of toil we grow weary and call in the cavalry - the silverman boys gonna come down n' save us from our misery - we make a rest day out of walking the mountain side w/ them, then retiring to the big boulder to pound pbr's n' provide Adult Supervision - they lounge around camp afterwards, contemplating on crashing the redneck wedding well under-way - we smoke bales of weed n' cackle n' cough n' find high times are treasure enough in this wicked world - eventually all good things must get on the bus w/ gandhi though and they roll off into the night in the hms revenge, ready i hope to return for more the last day done-off as surely as a band-aid - after a fearful arduous jug up the wild steep fixed lines ole bill baits the question ("good news or bad?" - which would you take?) - - dedication to a last day of determined work - 5 hours of bolting and hooking on endless steep traversing ground until i was gut-wrenched at what it was likely to take me to get get back to bill - epic amounts of gear left as i rapped into the void and quickly grew dependent on bill to reel me back in - the retreat then fully declared we rapped n' ruminated n' laid our plans like parchment paper, all of it ultimately putting us on sweet terra-firma w/ a fuck-load of gear to get off - surprised by bill's pronouncement of this day, i had no proper pack to cram all the crap into eventually we ambled on down the way, me overloaded like a gypsy carnival-whore w/ rope-bags aplenty such that i swooned on multiple occasions as the straps cut into me wind-pipe and i passed yards off unyielding to gratuitous thoughts, my mind in a true and lovely gray place - the last night spent in part w/ militant california-paul, such as exemplar of that shakespearean clap-trap about sounding of fuck-all and negative fury, yet yielding nothing our objective from the relative sanity of the rv park n' its teeming trout pond white-boys jugging the first 2 tiers - at this angle the lower wall takes up most of the entire frame, but the upper wall's just as big n' steeper 700 feet of ropes n' route-making machine just starting the second pitch bags of bolts n' drills n' bullshit - starting to install pitch 4 geoff at the top of p4, kyle jugging up to the mid-pt anchor closing thoughts: happy to share the discovery w/ the nw brethren - leave yer self-righteous bolting morals at home w/ yer bitches - the place went unloved for a reason - the only cracks evident are where awful rock-fall is just a geologic fart-in-a-stiff-wind away - if intending to push the route higher (what's there is plenty for a day-tripper), please let me or bill or geoff know so one of us can come along - perhaps a dozen separate lines could be pushed to the top in the same style, each likely to take weeks n' 1000$ to put in place - recon trip to the top found almost no real rock up there - at some point all lines must turn to awful kitty litter, but maybe it'll go anyhow? topo as it currently stands - hope to see this fucker get taller in the fullness of insensible time Gear Notes: - up to 30+ draws if clipping all bolts - 2 bathooks (talons can work, but they risk blowing out the drilled holes) - ideally 2 70 meter ropes, but 2 60'S can work if careful - cheater stick not bad idea, as many of the bolts were installed by a fear-fucked orangutan at his max reach - lower off tat or quick-links/biners for follower at traversing parts - helmets essential - much potential for rockfall of all sizes, especially if hauling or jugging - base area very dangerous in strong winds or if below climbers on first 2 approach pitches - upper pitches largely protected from natural rockfall (be careful up there ) Approach Notes: Exit 68 off i5 - east on 12 to randle (about an hour) - right (south) turn at randle (follow signs for tower rock RV park) - quick left about a mile south of randle, then another turn right about 6 miles later - rt turn at tower rock RV park/cispus learning center signs - left onto logging road (75?76?) just a 100 yards before rt turn to tower rock forest service camp (or straight for another mile to the RV park) - forest road is closed at gate near main road during winter/early spring - about 1 1/2 mile up road (stay on main road at split a 1/2 mile up) there's a turn around (about .25 mile past a steep switchback) - from there you can continue in car but there's no turnaround - walk or drive 1/4 mile to road-end - at wierd stone-forest-altar begin hiking up steep forrested slope - about 45 minutes to base - occasional game and human trails, generally trending right and up - copious windfall in middle section of trail - steeper for last 1/3 of trail - idea is to skirt talus field on right and join base from tree at right edge of wall - 1st bolt is just 5 feet off ground near clump of trees about 50 feet above a huge lounge-like boulder that is a great/safe observation spot descent: currently rapping from top of p5 to top of p4 is extra-ordinarly hard - in the future ideally there'll be a rap line straight down through p5 - for now be prepared to leave a fixed line to get back to the top of p4 and for the first rapper to have to haul the second back over - descending from the top of p4 requires 2 70 meter ropes or a stop at the mid-pt anchor (no rings) - the rap overhangs but you just barely touch the wall at the mid-pt anchor - use terrain to help you rap in the right direction
  9. Trip: Slesse Northeast Buttress - 2nd Winter Ascent - Date: 4/6/2015 Trip Report: This is a full month late, likely a by product of my brain exploding after my Patagonia trip as well as this climb I am about to describe. It is now undeniable that I have some kind of addiction to climbing Slesse Mountain. I have climbed the mountain more than 10 times by at least five different routes both solo and with partners. I think the main reasons for this are that: 1: It is ridiculously easy to access from the East. 2: The East flank of the mountain is hands down the raddest face in the area. 3: I can be a creature of habit. I had always wanted to climb a big route on Slesse in the winter, and after learning to 'really' mixed climb in the Canadian Rockies it became even more of a priority. I spent most of my winter in Patagonia, managing to bang off some great climbs in the Torres, including a solo ascent of the beautiful Cerro Torre. As I made the journey back north to Canadia a bit of sleuthing had me convinced that Slesse must be in the 'condition of the century' for winter climbing. I tried to find a partner to attempt Navigator Wall, but with only one or two days of stable weather remaining it was too short of notice. Listening to an interview with Stevie Haston on the airplane, I heard him describe his free solo ascent of The Walker Spur in winter which got me psyched, so I began to formulate a new plan. I had climbed the Northeast Buttress of Slesse too many times in summer, including a speed ascent in one hour and fifteen minutes. But in winter the line would certainly provide a completely new challenge. The line had only seen one winter ascent, in 1986, which required several bivouacs as well as aid on the upper headwall. Because I knew the route intimately I was able to slowly convince myself that I may be able to free solo the route in winter, for the 2nd winter ascent and first free winter ascent. It seemed a bit of a lofty goal, so I brought along an 80 meter 6mm Esprit cord and some pins and wires to bail with 'just in case'. John Scurlock photo. Isn't it just irresistible?! My sister, who lives in Chilliwack dropped me off at the start of Nesakwatch Creek FSR and I briskly walked to the Memorial Plaque beneath the mountain where I spent the night. I awoke at 4am the following morning, and after spending nearly an hour huddled in my sleeping bag I mustered the psyche to get a move on. At 5am, I left the memorial and approached directly through the basin beneath the mountain. The snow conditions were generally quite good, and a short WI2 step soon brought me to the slightly threatened slopes beneath the toe of the Buttress. I veered left here, joining the standard summer approach through the pocket glacier cirque. The upper section of the cirque still held a surprising number of deep crevasses, likely caused by avalanche debris from the East Face forming deep craters on impact. I crossed over several bergschrunds on the right hand side of the cirque then climbed directly up to the bypass ramps leading to the Buttress crest. This section, normally a third class ledge walk in summer, was a surprisingly steep and exposed traverse on snow. As I neared the crest the angle and exposure kicked back and I quickly made my way upwards on good snow to the first 5.8 rock pitch. This pitch was surprisingly easy in the conditions I found it in, the air was just warm enough that I could climb barehanded, as long as I stopped every two minutes to re warm my numb fingers. The pitch only required a few minutes of careful climbing and soon I was back on steep snow and neve, now accustomed to the exposure. Dylan Johnson photo of the route, taken the day before my solo. Line shown in red. On the traverse into the Beckey Ramps I climbed slightly too high and had to make a very exposed down climb to reach the correct ramp on the north face. The ramps were coated with perfect ice and neve, making for fun, fast and easy climbing with a spectacular view down into the 'Heart of Darkness'. "This is rad", I said out loud. The ramps led me back onto the crest of the Buttress and the second 5.8 rock pitch, which looked to be slightly more mixed than the pitch lower down. I removed my gloves again, and was able to climb about half the pitch with my hands before transitioning to proper mixed climbing. Finding a thin crack for my right tool, I danced over leftwards with my feet on small patches of ice until I could reach a thin veneer in which to place my left tool. The pitch felt around M5 in difficulty, and above the climbing slowly eased off until I reached to huge bivy ledge at mid height. At the bivy ledge I took a break to eat some snacks and assess conditions on the upper headwall. The steepest pitch appeared to be fairly free of ice, but above, where the angle relented slightly, the rock was decorated by a patchwork of thin white ice. It looked interesting to say the least. The snowslope leading to the headwall was relatively boring and does not need much description, nor does the WI3 runnel I took to bypass the first 5.8 pitch on the headwall. The 'rotten pillar' pitch was straightforward enough and soon I was on the crux, stemming in crampons around detached flakes in a corner. On top of one of these flakes I paused to remove my crampons and warm my hands before embarking on a slightly insecure bit of climbing on downwards sloping holds. I traversed back right to a small roof which I passed on juggy finger locks, and now at the apex of the small overhang I was able to peer upwards to the iced up slabs I had observed from below. It was clear I was going to need my crampons again. I placed a large nut and clipped myself to it for security, then gingerly stepped into my crampons one foot at a time. I mentally rehearsed my next sequence as it appeared from my airy stance, then removed the nut securing me to the wall and committed. I switched my feet on a good hold and stepped up and right onto the slab. With my frontpoints set in small divots I balanced upwards, holding a small edge with my left hand for balance. I uclipped the ice tool from my right side and reached upwards for a small bit of ice pasted to the wall. Now at the edge of my comfort zone, I gently tapped the tool twice against the ice until the first two teeth sunk in. I tested the tool carefully, then took care not to make any sudden movements while I slowly searched out higher edges for my feet. The edges I found sloped slightly downwards but my frontpoints found purchase enough to balance higher still. I carefully pulled out my left tool and placed it in thin but good ice above bringing me to a comfortable stance on a ledge. The crux now behind me, I allowed the mental RPM to decrease steadily until I was ready to continue. Jim Nelson photo from their 1986 ascent. This shows the crux pitch with the same patches of thin ice that I encountered. As I climbed excellent mixed terrain above I could really admire my wildly exposed position on this beatiful mountain. The whole buttress stretched out below me, black stone stained white with snow and ice. My tools found purchase on the well featured rock and the climbing gradually eased off pitch by pitch until I crested the final summit ridge and found myself standing in the sun. Eating a bar with the summit register in hand, I wrote, "Northeast Buttress - 2nd winter ascent. March 9 2015. Very exciting". The crux pitch was likely delicate M6, perhaps M5+, but someone will have to do a second free winter ascent to verify. The west side of the mountain was surprisingly warm compared to the shady, iced up North face, but the ledges and gullies were still covered in snow and neve making for a quick and pleasant descent. Descending the scree slopes on the Crossover Pass descent was nicely facilitated by the well settled snow and I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the route I had just climbed. After stumbling down the steep wooded trail below, I arrived at my bivouac site and ate a candy bar before packing up my equipment. Walking the road back towards civilization I pondered my options. I had no ride back and considered walking the fity kilometers to my sister's house through the night. I thought back to the ascent I had just made, it's often surreal when a long time dream, like climbing Slesse in winter, glides into the present, then into the past. I knew that my mind needed a break, I needed to relax and digest the adventures of the past months. As I thought these things, an animal control vehicle pulled up to offer me a ride. The driver was a likeable guy named Mark and we chatted, mostly about travelling, until he pulled up to a bus stop in Chilliwack and bode me farewell. A bus arrived a moment later and soon I was just a block from my sister's home. Her husband Robert saw me walking down the street through the window and came to greet me at the door. They welcomed me in happily, and at 6:30pm we all sat down to a delicious supper. Parting shot, taken from a plane that flew around the mountain the day of my solo. If you zoom in on a high res version my track is visible bottom center. Gear Notes: Lightweight bail kit! Approach Notes: Super chill relative to radness of climb.
  10. A Google search led me to this site today, and this is my first post here. No one on this site knows me and with what I am about to post I understand why there will be people who are skeptical of this story... I am going to be deliberately vague at this time because I need to figure out the best way to present my geologic discovery to the world. Here is a summary of the discovery and an explanation of why I am not revealing the details until approximately November of this year: In the summer, I manage helicopters (Helitack) for the U.S. Forest Service on wildfire assignments. I spend weeks on end flying in helicopters all across the U.S.A. During the summer of 2010, I was managing a helicopter on a wildfire here in Oregon (I live here and I am a native Oregonian). During that assignment we had a mission to pick up two government resource advisors at a location in a wilderness area, and fly them to the fire line. Because of dense smoke we had to fly miles off course and circle back to the site where we were going to pick up the two resource advisors. During that detour, we fly low through some drainages to avoid smoke that was higher. Deep in the wilderness area, but not close to any trails, I spotted an amazing and significant geologic feature. I marked the coordinates on my Garmin GPS. The view from the helicopter was fleeting. The winds were squirrelly and we had a mission to complete so we were not able to hover and take an extensive look. The first thing that many people will think is that there are no significant undiscovered places in Oregon. People have told me that "every square inch of Oregon has been explored." Some examples: It is logical to believe that there are no undiscovered waterfalls in Oregon that are higher than Multnomah Falls? Or limestone caves that are larger than Oregon Caves? Those are just examples - I did not discover a record breaking waterfall or a limestone cave. However, the stunning site that I discovered is not only rare in the northwest; it is also more spectacular than the other similar known geologic features in Oregon. After the 2010 wildfire season wound down; in September, 2010, a friend and I attempted to backpack to the site that I discovered from the air. After a grueling seven hour hike (no trails), we set up a base camp approximately 1.5 miles from the geologic site. The next day (carrying basic survival and photography gear in our day packs) we attempted to reach the site but at only 0.34 miles from our goal we were stopped by an obstacle that we did not anticipate. This obstacle required technical rock climbing equipment to get past. My friend and I are explorers and backpackers, but we are not climbers. So the 2010 "expedition" was a failure. And a huge disappointment to me. In the four years since, you could say that I have been obsessed with reaching and photographing that site. Work and other commitments kept me from organizing a second attempt until last week. This time, two rock climbers (with climbing gear) came with me. We set up a base camp at the same place where I camped in 2010. The next day (Saturday, July 12) we successfully reached the site. It took four hours from the base camp to cover the 1.5 mile distance to the site. We spent about one hour exploring and photographing the site, and then another four hours to make it back to our base camp just before dark. We spent a second night at the base camp and hiked out yesterday (July 13). From the ground, the site was everything and more that I had hoped it would be. Awesome and stunning are good descriptors. I believe this site will become famous. Hard core backpackers and climbers will want to go there. Why am I posting this here and not disclosing the details? OK, I am not saying this compares to Hillary's summit of Mt. Everest, nor Admundsen reaching the South Pole. But for the Pacific northwest, especially Oregon, this is an amazing discovery! I am organizing my photographs and planning to write a full account of the expedition. When I have it all organized, I will disclose everything; maps, photos, GPS coordinates, routes, etc. Which brings me back to the reason for posting this. What would be the best way to present this to the public? An article in Outside or Backpacker magazine? Or is there a good regional magazine? Or the OPB TV program "Oregon Field Guide"? Maybe I could even get National Geographic interested in covering the story... Presenting it in a public setting, similar to a slide show, is another way that I would consider. However I do not belong to any club such as the Mazamas. I hope I have stirred interest with this mysterious post, and that someone will have some contacts or suggestions on ways to share this amazing find with the world.
  11. Trip: Dragontail - Boving-Christensen Date: 7/14/2014 Trip Report: Faced with 100-degree temps yesterday, a trio of heat-stroked locals went up to Dragontail to try the Boving-Christensen. We had heard all kinds of horror stories, and I asked Matt if he felt that a bolt or two was worth placing at the belays. He said the belays were fine, so the hammer, pins, and 1/4"ers stayed home. The route is really fun and feels like something out of Darrington. We were all impressed that Paul and Matt (ages 20? and 17) put up the route in 1977 with only a set of hexes and stoppers, freeclimbing most of the line! We forgot the iPhone with the topo down at the lake, so it was mostly just following whatever looked good. This actually may have worked out to our advantage. Jens was leading P1 and couldn't figure out what to do after about 30m of fun, well-protected low angle crack climbing. There were a couple foot holds out left leading toward a spot where we had noted a piton and some tat. But the holds seemed bad. He mentioned repeatedly that the feet were slippery and there were no hands. Eventually he went back and forth, up and down, and just decided to go up the same crack. He had to garden a bit of moss on the fly, but made it happen and found a good red alien where there had only been sod. He belayed up and left, and was talking all day about the slippery feet and no hand holds. We assumed we were on route, and that the piton out left was not the correct way. The following 4 pitches flowed well, with generally good protection and a few delicate but slabbby face traverses. All three of us felt that 5.10c was (and is) the correct grade for the roof on P3. The funniest part of the day came as we were having dinner back in town and pulled up Matt Christensen's notes on the climb where he writes: The move we avoided was described using nearly identical language by Jens (who didn't try it after all) and by the FA team. I don't know about the idea of dynamic moves being categorically ungradeable, but our hats are off to Paul Boving who did the dynamic handless slab dyno launch in 1977! If this route were done a couple times a season, the moss/grass on P1 would clean up nicely and there would be more pro and holds, but it's totally fine as-is, and there's now a direct slab-jump-avoidance option. Atop the clean wall, there is a broken chossy sidewalk which you can walk/scramble rightwards on, leading WAY right, around onto 4th class ledges, which lead back up and past 1-2 pitches of 5.4-5.7 moves to the summit crest. This topout was fast and easy. There is a hummingbird nest tucked into a wide spot in the crack high on P1 - take care. Following P1 Gear Notes: Bring a good nut tool for the leader Doubles of cams from tiny to #1, single #2, #3, and bring a #4 if 5.10 is at your limit. We used some offset aliens and offset wires at a few belays. Approach Notes: Soft snow
  12. Trip: North Hozomeen Mtn - Zorro Face, IV 5.9 Date: 8/31/2013 Trip Report: “squamish?” Written at the end of a planning email for Hozomeen which addressed some nagging details, this would become our refrain throughout the trip. Labor Day offered a nice climbing window, and our list of objectives included just plain ol’ good times at Squamish, which typically promises immediate rock, clean rock, solid rock, protectable rock—all conspicuously (or suspected) absent at our objective. Most likely, many of you are aware of the opening passage in Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels: “Hozomeen, Hozomeen, most beautiful mountain I ever seen, like a tiger sometimes with stripes, sunwashed rills and shadow crags wriggling lines in the Bright Daylight, vertical furrows and bumps and Boo! crevasses, boom, sheer magnificent Prudential mountain, nobody’s even heard of it, and it’s only 8,000 feet high, but what a horror when I first saw that void the first night of my staying on Desolation Peak waking up from deep fogs of 20 hours to a starlit night suddenly loomed by Hozomeen with his two sharp points, right in my window black – the Void, every time I’d think of the Void I’d see Hozomeen and understand – Over 70 days I had to stare at it.” Later in the novel: “The void is not disturbed by any kind of ups or downs, my God look at Hozomeen, is he worried or tearful?... Why should I choose to be bitter or sweet, he does neither? – Why cant I be like Hozomeen and O Platitude O hoary old platitude of the bourgeois mind ‘take life as it comes’…” “take life as it comes” indeed. This is a useful mantra when approaching the west face. We had suspected an approach from the N down a gully would grant us access—Colin Haley’s blog post seemed to confirm this suspicion. However, this approach is nontrivial; the initial gully third-class down-climb, while loose, and dangerous, pales next to the shenanigans required to cross several precipitous ribs to our targeted launch point. A slip at any point spells an unpleasant end in the valley a couple thousand below. The approach took us a tedious and painstaking 4.5 hours (this after a first day of humping heavy loads 11+ miles to a camp just N of the peak.) Camp in that basin; S and N Hozomeen left to right, with the west (Zorro) face mostly out of view; some of its northern margin on the right skyline. Our approach continues down (out of view) from the furthest notch on right. Views during approach included the Picket range. Approach soloing; downclimbing skills or funeral bills. squamish? “take life as it comes”, also a useful mantra when trying to piece together leads up loose, sometimes friable and/or vegetated and/or wet, mostly welded shut (read: sparsely protected) metamorphosed basalt. The stuff is also called Hozomeen chert and was valued by the Salish for making knives and arrowheads. Hozomeen apparently is native Salish for "sharp, like a sharp knife." Looking up at much of our (foreshortened) route, which tends left to the central summit in this pic. Finally at the base, we decided to take it one pitch at a time, figuring we would try to retain the option to bail. squamish? Rock, paper, scissors, Rolf wins first lead this time. End of rope. I follow and gain an appreciation for the climbing challenges this Hozomeen chert will proffer; sparse pro and selective handholds will be the order of the day. I lead up a second long pitch to the only evidence of human visitation: a ¼ inch bolt and a bail ‘biner. Someone came, saw, and turned around; foreboding. (We did not see any other indication of passage higher than this.) After a couple pitches of metamorphosed basalt, we were talking about turning around too. But we could see trees on ledges above, and figured we could still bail in a relatively safe and reasonable manner. squamish? The land of milk and honey beckoned us. The third pitch required an exposed step-around with muddied feet; expletives drifted down to my belay. No pics. My pitch 4 went steeply up to a ledge, and traversed left; we were somehow making our way, and could still bail. Rolf’s face at the pitch 4 transition betrays some of our uncertainty. During his pitch 5 lead, some curses and words in the wind, “I wanna go home”. It was probably just the wind; he would’ve said simply, “squamish?” I’d like to forget pitch 6. I was forced up a steep 5.9 corner/arête with a paucity of gear. And what few pieces there were went into mungy and rotten fissures. Loose rock abounded, and without gear, there was no way to constrain the ropes from sending it down. Rolf didn’t get hit, but reported that he dutifully tied knots below his brake hand in case he was knocked out—so sensitive to my needs. I grunted up to a fat ledge, and Rolf managed to follow without getting shelled. Then Rolf drew one of the plum pitches, the seventh. 5.9+, climbs a nice corner (but with a section of unavoidable decking potential), then a tricky traverse to another corner, up and then traverse again to the only belay opportunity. Again, only so much gear and rope management was possible; missiles flew by my safe belay spot, but a few also threatened while climbing—somehow, no carnage. This wouldn’t happen in … Rolf up the p7 corner. Hand jams!?! Pitch 8 had a couple steep sections. Here Rolf discerns which holds to clean and/or trust. Pitches 9 and 10 stretched the ropes, continuing up the “corner” system we had identified as a weakness. More 5.9 (mostly easier) runouts. At the belay at top of pitch 10 I placed the only iron we used, a crappy pin to back up a solid piece and a marginal piece. For pitch 11, Rolf raced the sunset to a ledge. Uncharacteristically, this pitch didn’t stretch the rope; he thought we should take the bivouac bird in hand. I thought we were close to the summit and could possibly manage to climb to the top in the twilight-soon-to-be-night. He pointed out that idea was risky, and his logic prevailed. In retrospect it was definitely the right move. “take life as it comes”, also useful for shivering through the beautiful folly of an exposed bivy on a sloping ledge one nasty pitch from the summit. We’d brought some warm clothes but could have been warmer. All in all, the bivy wasn’t so bad, and definitely not as miserable as our unplanned bivy on Lemolo Mox across the way. Hozomeen wasn’t done with us. In the morning, I put together a long and winding pitch on some of the worst rock and pro conditions on the face—one strong cup of coffee, scary to the last drop. But it got us to the summit ridge! Unfortunately, the only spot to belay again made rope-disturbing rubble unavoidable. On the finishing moves, Rolf got clocked right in the helmet with a softball-sized rock, but was ok. Shudder. Top of our climb, just North of the summit, shortly after getting rocked. Glad to have done it. Another Scurlock masterpiece. Our route makes its way up to the left-facing corners directly below the summit. Our bivy occurred on the relatively large snow patch right below the summit. In the background is the Southwest Buttress, climbed many years ago by some hardcores. Kerouac again: “And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time.” But we won’t die on Hozomeen. Hopefully not in Squamish either. But I will climb again at the latter. Both Rolf and I have mildly obsessed over this face for years, and were gratified (gruntled, even) to execute our vision. I expected technical demands exceeding 5.9, but given the challenges of Hozomeen chert, was glad for the limit. Probably half the pitches had some 5.9 moves, depending on what you trust for holds. We stretched the rope for most of the 12 pitches of pure adventure. I am fortunate to have a teammate like the curmudgeon: rich in experience (old), strong (for his weight), solid (old), and somehow able to check my relentlessly positive delusions. Thanks hardcore. A couple summit shots: And more pics. BTW, we descended the North Face route, rested, ate and drank, packed up and marched to car. The mosquitoes for the last couple miles were some other $#!+. Gear Notes: Single set of nuts. Tricams up to hand size v useful. We took lots of small cams, but the doubles would actually be better in the mid-range. Approach Notes: Nontrivial. Day 1, due to tons of rain the day before, we elected to take the scenic Skyline trail instead of the steep bushwhack. Day 2, follow your nose and low sense of self-worth.
  13. Trip: Isolation Traverse with alternative finish down to Thunder Creek to get back to our car. Date: 8/26/2013 Trip Report: Dates: July 10–15, 2013 Robert Crouse and I (Doug Walsh) took 6 days to complete the Isolation Traverse in North Cascades National Park, with an alternate finish so as to avoid a car shuttle. I dropped Robert off at Pyramid Creek Trailhead, and then drove the car to Thunder Creek Trailhead at Colonial Creek Campground. After hitching the 3.5 miles back to the Pyramid Lake Trailhead, we started up the trail around 1 pm, following the Isolation Traverse route for the next 3.5 days to get to a camp at the col between Dorado Needle and Tepeh Towers on the McAllister Glacier. From here, we hiked to Klawatti Col and then north around the Austera Towers and over Primus Peak down to Thunder Creek, which we followed back to our car at Thunder Creek Trailhead. We found the scenery on this route to be stunning, while the travel was 90% casual and pleasant. The remaining 10% of travel was not very pleasant or casual, but such is the price one pays for getting to see country such as this. Day 1: We hiked up the relatively pleasant Pyramid Lake Trail for 2.5 miles. Once at the lake, we followed a relatively well worn climbers path steeply up the ridge toward Pyramid Peak. After 3 hours of grunting up the steep and often overgrown “trail” beyond Pyramid Lake, we cleared treeline and found a nice spot on the ridge close to a snowmelt stream. Day 2: (8.5 hours) We broke camp around 8:30am and worked our way over to the glacial lake at the base of the Colonial Glacier. It was relatively easy going up the Colonial Glacier (no visible crevasses) to the col that separates this glacier from the Neve Glacier. From this col, the view of the Neve Glacier was surreal, as we witnessed a number of big crevasses visible during brief clearings in the mist. We took a nice break here, hoping for some clearing in the weather to facilitate easier routefinding on this crevassed glacier. Once we did get moving again, it was a relatively steep descent onto the Neve, where we roped up. Fortunately for us, the weather cleared as we proceeded, and routefinding was easy as we climbed southward towards the pass between The Horseman and Snowfield Peak. Robert on the Neve Glacier. Col separating Neva and Colonial Glacier visible above him. Once at this pass, we took another break and contemplated a side trip to summit Snowfield Peak. We were both feeling the weight of our still loaded packs, and decided to skip Snowfield. This was a good decision, as we promptly ran into some unexpected challenges after leaving the pass. Our goal was to gain the ridge running between Snowfield and Isolation Peak. We headed S–SE hoping to reach an obvious flat area on this ridge, but ran into a huge gash which was hidden from our view back at our break spot. This gash was deep and with near vertical walls, and thus stopped all forward progress. It appeared that our only option was to turn around and gain all the elevation we’d lost in an attempt to detour around this feature. Fortunately, as we were climbing back up, Robert spotted a gully leading SW onto gentle snow below that looked like it would go. We gave it a shot and found this path to work – only a short section of easy 3rd class scrambling at the bottom of the gully to gain the snowfields below. Solid line shows our path. Dashed line is standard route followed south of Horseman/Snowfield col. Once on the gentle section of ridge between Isolation and Snowfield, we headed down SE a few hundred feet to a nice bench with great views and running water for a camp. Camp at end of day 2 Day 3: (9 hours) This was a tough day. Not much distance traveled, but a lot of up and down, with much of it very steep. We started out on a gradual descending traverse to the beautiful tarn east of Isolation Peak. From this tarn, one can follow a snowfield (40–45 degree snow) up to a bench on SE shoulder of Isolation Peak. From this bench, we contoured west below cliffs until we reached the top of a steep grassy ramp that lead down SW into a drainage running SE off of Isolation Peak. We hugged cliffs to our right and above us as we descended down this ramp on very steep heather. I wouldn’t want to go down this way if this slope was wet. As it was, we slipped and landed on our butt every couple of minutes. Fortunately, this only lasted 45–60 minutes or so. This ramp led us into 100 yards of so of dense schwacking as we crossed the head of the drainage. Then we contoured (steep side¬-hilling) SW thru forest until we were able to gain the ridge running SW off of Isolation Peak. In retrospect, we thought it would have been better to avoid the steep ramp descent and simply climb Isolation from the bench on SE shoulder, and then descend directly to ridge (see dashed line below). After a short distance on this ridge, we contoured over to the snowfield south of Wilcox Lakes. From here, we climbed SE up to a col. From this col, we descended on very steep forested and then rocky terrain down to a large snowfield at the head of an arm of McAllister Creek. This was another VERY steep descent, from which we got great views east towards the double pour off of the McAllister Glacier. From the snowfield, take the obvious couloir that leads S–SE up to backbone ridge. We bypassed a section of very steep snow in this couloir about 2/3 of way up by climbing onto rocks on left side. We followed the rock to the top of the ridge on left side of couloir and ran this ridge to the top of the couloir where we camped. Day 4: (9 hours) The Devils and Mt. Baker from camp on morning of day 4 Routefinding on this day was easy. After leaving camp, we contoured SW over to a spur ridge running SW off of backbone ridge. As we turned this spur, the beauty of backbone ridge was laid out before us. We contoured SE across gentle slopes on SW side of Backbone Ridge into the head of the Marble Creek drainage, and then followed an easy snow gully (25-30 degrees max) up to the col between Dorado Needle and Tepah Towers for a camp (take the right most of two distinct notches at top of this snow-filled gully to get onto McAllister Glacier). This was a pretty mellow and pleasant day with easy routefinding and gentle terrain. We passed through a short section of beautiful old growth in the Marble Creek drainage as we turned NE up the snow gully towards our camp, and found the shade a welcome respite from all the snow and sun. Camp at edge of McAllister Glacier on day 4 The standard route for Isolation Traverse on Backbone Ridge goes up the Marble Glacier and climbs up 5th class loose rock to a rotten col from which you must do a long rappel onto 50–70 degree snow above gapping crevasses on the McAllister Glacier. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. Unless one is on skies and looking forward to skiing the McAllister Glacier (or the marble Glacier if you do the Isolation Traverse in opposite direction as we did), I see no reason to take this route over what we did. Our route was elegant, scenic, zero stress and quite pleasant. Day 5: (5 hours) This day’s agenda was to cross the Eldorado Icecap and climb Austera Peak. I had done the Eldorado Icecap Traverse in 2010, and climbed Klawatti, Eldorado, Dorado Needle and Primus, but missed Austera due to bad weather. I’ve been wanting to get back and climb Austera ever since to see what I had missed, so I figured what better way to approach Austera than the Isolation Traverse? Why climb a mountain in only 2 days when you can do it in 6 and see some new gorgeous country in the process? We left camp at around 8am and wandered over to Klawatti Col (flat area west of Klawatti Peak). Eldorado Peak from Klawatti Col We crossed over onto the Klawatti Glacier via a col that required maybe 15–20 feet of steep downclimbing (low 5th) on East side. We slung a boulder with a runner and rapped this to be safe. From here, we headed NE and then N to highest point of Klawatti Glacier at base of Austera Peak. We then dropped our glacier gear and scrambled north towards the summit towers. Once at the base of the twin towers, we worked right on a ledge on right most tower, wrapping around to NE side of the tower. From the end of the ledge, climb up steep class 3–4 to top of this tower. Descend into notch between towers on steep 4th class rock. From this notch, we walked up some remnant snow (not visible in photo below) until we were able to get onto rock on left tower at a good spot. From here, 20–25 feet of rock (class 4+, maybe a couple of 5.0 moves) put us on the summit. Eldorado Icecap from Austera Peak After some time gawking at the amazing view of the Eldorado Icecap and the McAllister Glacier’s twin pour off, we rapped off the summit and scrambled back to the rest of our gear at top of Klawatti Glacier. From here, we descended the Klawatti Glacier, heading east along edge of Austera Towers, until we reached a nice snow free ledge overlooking Klawatti Lake at around 1pm. We decided to take a break here, and eventually decided to make this camp. There aren’t many opportunities to spend time enjoying a place like this, and we had two days of food left, so there was no need to push on to the glacial lake at base of Borealis Glacier as we had originally planned for the day. Day 6: (11.5 hours) After a bit of a lazy morning, we left camp at 9am and headed up the North Klawatti Glacier towards Primus Peak. A mere two hours after leaving camp, we were on the summit. Robert summiting Primus Peak Klawatti Lake from Primus Peak After some time taking in more crazy amazing views (especially loved the gaping maw of the Thunder Creek draninage some 7,000 vertical below us to the north), we headed down the east ridge of Primus (class 2 if you stay to the south of a prominent rocky outcrop on this ridge just below the summit) to Lucky Pass. From Lucky Pass, we traversed NW across the Borealis Glacier until we could find and easy way down into the glacial lake basin below the cliffs. We walked past this glacial tarn on the east side, crossed an outlet stream not shown on the topo, and then worked our way north on a prominent moraine to the top of the forested ridge that leads N–NE down to McAllister Camp on the Thunder Creek Trail. After a lunch break, we began the descent down this ridge around 2pm. The descent began gently, on a well-defined climber’s trail. Soon however, we entered forest with brushy undergrowth and the trail became much more difficult to follow. At one point, we got off the ridge crest and into dense brush on the west side of the ridge. Once we realized our error, we had to schwack up steep slopes to regain the ridge proper. From that point on, we were much more careful to stay right on the ridge crest, although this was not always well-defined enough to be obvious. As we reached point 4835, the ridge steepened considerably. At 4,200 ft, the ridge steepened even more, and we were both glad we were going down instead of up. There were a number of very steep sections to navigate, some of which required we turn around and face the slope using tree limbs and roots as handholds as we downclimbed slowly. At one point, I found myself going down a very steep climber’s trail full of gravel and dirt. I looked down below me and realized that if I slipped here (a very real possibility), I would likely slide/tumble down a couple of hundred feet and over a minor cliff band. A bit unnerved, I noticed what looked like a trail contouring off to the left. We took this “trail” as it contoured beneath a small cliff band, and thankfully it led to easier ground. After what seemed like an eternity to our feet and thighs, we finally reached the bottom of this ridge and the Thunder Creek Trail around 6:30 pm. As the bugs were biting fiercely, and our car was only 6 miles by trail away, we went on autopilot and cranked out the remaining trail to our car. Nothing like 6 days of off trail travel in the North Cascades to make one appreciate the ease of mechanized travel. ) But oh what a glorious trip this was! Gear Notes: – one 60 meter rope (30 meters would have been sufficient) – helmet – standard glacier travel gear – ice axe and crampons.
  14. Trip: Slesse Twice in a Day - Date: 7/15/2013 Trip Report: It's been a long time since I posted a report here. But I think some of you may enjoy this read. Here's a link to the report on my blog. Slesse Trip Report Cheer, Marc-Andre Gear Notes: Rock shoes, one tool, strap on pons for my tennies. Approach Notes: Watch out for bears.
  15. Announcing the winners of the 2013 CascadeClimbers Almost Annual Photo Contest presented by American Alpine Institute. First, thanks to our wonderful sponsors who stepped up in a major way this year to offer the most prize value we have ever had. Sponsors are American Alpine Institute, Rab, Seattle Bouldering Project, and Mountain Gear. Big thanks also to BackcountryGear in Eugene. Second, thank you to all the entrants. This year did not disappoint and we again had some remarkable submissions. Hopefully next year we can offer a better system for display and voting which gives these photos justice. Third, we will be announcing some random winners in the coming days we just need to do some nerdy database stuff to select some winners. The Winners by Category! Rab Alpine Category -- Rab Xenon Jacket goes to JasonG AAI Cragging Category -- $330 AAI Gift Cert goes to bramski AAI Scenic Category -- $330 AAI Gift Cert goes to wfinley Mountain Gear Skiing & Boarding Category -- Mountain Gear Backcountry Essentials Avy Package goes to Alasdair Seattle Bouldering Project Bouldering Category -- 6 month pass to Seattle Bouldering Project goes to Winter Rab Ice Category -- Rab Infinity Jacket goes to lukeh Humor Category -- $120 BackcountryGear.com + (2) 1 Month SBP passes goes to scottwesh Lastly the new AAI Video Category -- $330 AAI Gift Cert goes to lukeh big pimpin sandbagger Winners. Drop me a PM to claim your prizes.
  16. Trip: Blade Runner FA + info on 18 new routes at Shangri La, X38 ONE PAGE PRINTABLE TOPO ADDED BELOW. Date: 10/12/2012 Trip Report: Blade Runner First Ascent (Shangri La new route info follows). We like to think that our best days are ahead of us. As climbers, we believe that if we train harder, learn new techniques, and buy the right gear we’ll break through to a new level. This works for a while, but the tides of time are against us. At some point we must pass our high water mark. Most of us won’t recognize this milestone until months or years later, but sometimes you know when it happens. Mine was 8am on October 12th, 2012. For 15 years I’d been on a 5.9 to 5.10 plateau. There were always excuses. Grad school, post-doc, start-up, kids, remodel. Years of weekend warrior climbing rolled past. The tide finally turned in 2006 when I took a job across the street from the UW climbing gym. I started bouldering regularly and met new partners. Two of them, Alex and Scott, opened up my eyes to the world of new route development. Together, we put up a handful of 5.9 and 5.10 lines in the Deception area of Exit 38. That summer I climbed my first 5.11 in 15 years. 5.11 is barely a warm-up for strong climbers, but for me this was a breakthrough. For almost two decades, 5.11 had been a psychological barrier, an impenetrable ceiling through which I thought I would never pass again. This made me wonder what my potential really was. At 38, I knew I didn’t have long to find out, so I set a goal to climb my first 5.12 before I turned 40. It was a long shot, but if I tried I might bump up to a new level and be able to climb routes that had long been out of reach. There were obstacles. I was working full time, managing our home remodel, and riding the night train of two small kids with a third on the way, but I did climb. First ascents on the Shangri La cliff at Exit 38 marked a slow but steady rise in my abilities. 2007 Guillotine, 5.10. A gear-protected corner with a sharp flake in the middle. History Book, 5.10. A gear-protected crack with an ancient piton. Small Arms Fire, 5.10. A sustained route with small holds on a steep slab. 2008 Metamorphosis, 5.10+. A two-pitch line on a 300 foot face with a mix of bolts and gear. Crouching Tiger, 5.10+. A route with sloping features and rock as rough as #100 sandpaper. Forty came and went without a 5.12 redpoint, but I did climb some great 5.11s around the Northwest. The following year, I found three spectacular lines at Shangri La at my limit. To climb them, I had to learn a new process: find solutions for each crux, rehearse the moves, draw a detailed map, visualize the sequences, work to link sections, and then go for the redpoint. This type of mind/body training is not new. Tony Yaniro was one of the first US climbers to build a training wall that simulated the specific movements he needed for his project. Top climbers of the day scoffed at his approach, calling it cheating, but our bodies are remarkable machines that adapt to the challenges we present to them. If you want to get good at pull-ups you train by doing pull-ups. If you want to get good at certain climbing moves you train by doing those moves. In 1979, Yaniro’s training paid off when he established The Grand Illusion, then the hardest route in North America. On the mental side, repetition of movements creates muscle memories that allow our bodies to perform complex motor functions. Once these muscle programs, or motor engrams, are mastered they can be played back with minimal conscious input. Watch a toddler try to eat with a spoon for the first time and you’ll appreciate how complex this task really is and how much focus is required to learn new tasks. What enables us to eat our cereal without spilling while walking down stairs and talking on the phone? We’ve mastered each of these tasks through repetition. Interestingly, we can also train for complex movements through visualization, or virtual rehearsal, where we imagine ourselves performing the task. Thus, training your mind actually trains your body, and vice versa. Achieving mastery of complex motor functions allows us to focus on higher levels of control, such as managing fear, optimizing arousal levels, relaxing unnecessary muscles, and staying focused in stressful situations. Even strength can be traced back to mental training, when we consider that strength training is driven by motivation, discipline, planning, and self-assessment. Free your mind and your body will follow. I started using these tools and was able to do three 5.11 first ascents: 2009 Free Radical, 5.11-. A striking line on an exposed arête. Hidden Dragon, 5.11. Four different cruxes spread over a hundred feet. Hypertension, 5.11+. A hard opening and then several more cruxes. But I still hadn’t climbed 5.12. The few I'd tried felt impossibly hard. It didn’t help that I was spreading my energies across different sub-disciplines: bouldering indoors, setting routes in the climbing gym, climbing routes outdoors, developing new bolted routes, and climbing in the mountains a few times per year. Time was flying past. If I was going to cross the 5.12 threshold I needed to focus on that goal. In early 2010, I found my first target: Rainy Day Women at Little Si. It suited my style, with three bouldery sections separated by good rests. I found solutions that worked for me, drew a detailed map, rehearsed, and tailored my training to the three cruxes. On March 14th everything came together. The final crux, which had felt desperate on previous attempts, went smoothly and I made the redpoint. I was elated, but RDW is known to be soft for the grade, so I looked for my next target. I’d heard Lay of the Land was good, so we gave it a try. As before, I made a plan, drew my map, visualized the sequence, and trained for the crux. I planned to skip a bolt near the end that was difficult to clip and created rope drag. The second trip out I made it to the anchor but missed a key foothold and fell trying to clip the chains. I added that foothold to my mental map and sent the route on our next trip. The satisfaction of climbing a route is usually immediate and fleeting, but this was deeper and grew over time. One route might be a fluke, but not two. I’d started across the elusive 5.12 threshold. Two months later, I bolted a spectacular line at Shangri La that I knew would be in the 5.12 range: Skullduggery. It was continuously overhanging, sustained, and technical. New routes are particularly enticing for me because they represent unsolved puzzles on unexplored terrain. Maybe a few will become classics that people will climb for decades to come. Skullduggery had all the right ingredients, but I couldn’t link the moves. Psychology shows that motivation is highest when the chance of success is around 40% to 60%. Above 80%, we assume we’ll succeed and don’t bother preparing. Below 20%, we probably don’t think it’s worth the time and effort to try hard. But it’s not that simple. Creativity, visualization, rehearsal, and route-specific training can dramatically increase the odds of success on a route. Finding a solution to the crux that matches your skills and strength might increase the overall odds of success from 2% to 20%. Rehearsing sequences makes you more efficient and gives you more energy for the final cruxes, perhaps increasing the overall success rate from 20% to 60%. But you have to choose the right objectives. Skullduggery was a perfect goal for me in 2010 because it represented a possible first ascent just beyond my limit. I drew a map that detailed 68 hand and foot movements, rehearsed the moves, and trained for specific movements. Being strong enough to do the moves doesn’t guarantee success. The proper mental state is also essential. I needed to be calm but psyched to give 100%, energized but relaxed, and, perhaps most importantly, focused on the process and not on the outcome. Zen. On a cool summer morning in July of 2010, after two weeks of rehearsing and training on a fixed line, I went up with Jens to go for the first ascent of Skullduggery. Fortunately, that morning I was in the zone, that rare space where mind and body perform seamlessly as one. It was almost as if I was a detached observer watching a carefully choreographed gymnastics routine. I sent the route first go. Oddly, it was both anti-climactic and deeply satisfying. Skullduggery was the hardest route I’d ever climbed and is definitely harder than the four other 5.12a routes I climbed in 2010. As far as I know it hasn’t been repeated. Fifty feet left of Skullduggery is a clean overhanging face whose crux involves improbable moves on a protruding blade of rock. This feature inspired the route’s name: Blade Runner. The day I climbed Skullduggery, Jens and I tried Blade Runner. We could do the opening moves but were completely shut down by the crux. There were features, but we couldn’t work out how to use them. My brain wrestled with this puzzle on and off over two years. I would envision a solution, get excited, and go try it. Each time, I was shut down and went home thinking I would never climb the route. But I kept turning the puzzle over and over in my mind. In the summer of 2012, I made a close inspection of all of the features on the route and started working in earnest to find a solution. Idea #1: Grab two sloping holds and do a huge dynamic leap to an undercling and sloper that must be caught simultaneously. Fail. The slopers aren’t as positive as they look, the footholds are crappy, and the catch holds are too far away. Idea #2: Lie back up the left side of the blade. Fail. This is very strenuous, and the blade ends well below the next set of holds. Idea #3: Knee bar up the cleft left of the blade. Fail. The wall where you place your feet slopes away so this is challenging, and the knee bars end where the blade ends, well below the next set of holds. I wasn’t making any progress. Truth be told, there were times I was tempted to chip a hold. A tiny foot chip on the blade, or an incut in the arch, might allow me to get past the crux. I have a chisel and hammer. No one would know. But I would. And I would be bringing the route down to my level instead of meeting the challenge presented by nature. So I refrained, as I always have, even if it meant I would never climb the route. Instead, I started to break the problem down into smaller puzzles. Idea #4 and Solution Part 1: I figured out I needed to lie back on a vertical sidepull above the blade to reach the next set of holds. Getting to the vertical sidepull became the new crux. I tried to get my left foot up onto a high hold to set up the lie back. Fail. I can’t get my foot that high without falling because the handholds aren’t in the right positions. Idea #5 and Solution Part 2: I figured out I could get a heel/toe cam on the flat wall of the blade and use this in opposition with the sloping rail to move up to the vertical sidepull in a compression sequence. The new crux became the transition between the compression sequence and the vertical sidepull. Fail. If you compress too hard you fly off when you try to bump your hand up to the vertical sidepull. But this can be fixed. Idea #6 and Solution Part 3: I needed to work out how to move into and through the compression moves, maintaining high body tension, without pushing myself off when I made the bump to the vertical sidepull over my head. Small adjustments to foot, hand, and body positions, as well as force angles and force magnitudes, were going to be critical. After many hours on the rock I found an optimal combination and could just barely make the compression to sidepull transition. I’d solved the hardest part of the crux but still needed to move over to the next holds out left. Idea #7 and Solution Part 4: Maintain tension and pinch the blade between my feet to push out left to a crimp. This feels strange, but it works. The opening moves needed to be more efficient so I would have enough energy for the crux and the hard moves beyond it. The section after the crux would provide unexpected challenges and an amazing sequence as well, and, of course, I would need to link it all together, but I was zeroing in on my solution. I wrote a map that detailed 75 precise hand and foot movements from start to finish. After each work session I updated this choreography. Now I needed to link the sequences together, figure out where and how to clip the bolts, and train my mind and body to perform the route. To prepare for Blade Runner’s crux, I trained to compress two sloping sidepulls while maintaining high core tension and balancing on my right tiptoe. From this position, I had to bump my right hand to the vertical sidepull over my head. What had once seemed impossible was beginning to loom on the horizon as something I might just pull off. But time was running out. It was October. We’d had the longest continuous run of good weather in a decade, but the winter rains were on the way. I trained for the specific movements I needed for the route, rehearsed and refined my solution for the crux, worked out the most efficient path for sequences before and after the crux, and started to put it all together. When mind and body are primed for peak performance there is a window of opportunity to break through to a new level. I had entered that window for Blade Runner, but it wouldn’t be open for long. On October 6th, I went out with Ed to try to climb the route. Unfortunately, I had a cold and was on pseudoephedrine. Attempt #1: I moved smoothly through the opening but fell at the crux due to lack of body tension. I rested, but the pseudofed wouldn’t allow my heart rate to return to baseline. Attempt #2: I got through the crux but fell on one of the last hard moves after burning too much energy clipping the last bolt. Attempt #3: I made it through the crux but fell below my previous high point. Attempt #4: I fell at the crux, too spent to maintain enough body tension to make the bump to the vertical sidepull. I needed a little more strength, a better foot sequence after the crux, and a better strategy for clipping or skipping the last bolt. We went home. I rested on Sunday, did movement-specific training on Monday, refined my foot sequence, and planned to skip the last bolt. I felt ready, but the Fates were about to intervene. The long-range forecast showed a wall of rain coming on Friday, October 12th that would shut us down for the season. Several partners said they could go out on Saturday the 13th, but that would probably be too late. My window was about to slam shut. I was 44 and had three growing kids, a growing list of minor injuries, and a job that was growing more fun and more demanding. There was no guarantee I’d be strong enough, healthy enough, or have enough time to climb Blade Runner in 2013, or perhaps ever. I made two back-up plans. The first was duct tape. Blade Runner is steep enough that only three of its holds get wet after a light rain. I dangled from the rope and fashioned duct tape tents and drain systems for these holds in case I had to make an attempt on Saturday in the drizzle. The second plan was to call Jens and ask if he would go on a Friday dawn patrol mission. Thankfully, he knew how much I wanted this and was willing to give it a shot despite a mediocre forecast that showed rain starting around 10am. We planned to leave my house at 6am. My wife would take the kids to school. Thursday evening I ate a hearty meal, got the kids to bed, packed the gear, took a hot bath to relax the body and mind, and went to bed early. Then my wife’s pager went off. A patient in Bellingham needed emergency surgery. If the patient came down Friday morning I’d need to take the kids to school and we wouldn’t get to the crag until at least 10. By then it would probably be raining. Kids and patients come before climbing, of course, but it felt like the Fates were taunting me. The patient came to Seattle at 11pm, and my wife did surgery until 1am, so I was free to go at 6am as planned, assuming there were no more emergency calls. There weren’t. I woke at 5:20am. It was pitch dark, but I saw water running down the window and heard rain gently pattering on the roof. Everything was wet. I looked at the forecast for North Bend. 70% chance of rain for 7am and 8am, 30% for the rest of the morning, then 60% for the rest of the day. The window had slammed shut. Should I text Jens and tell him to stay in bed? I’ve worked too hard to give up now, and he was probably already on the way over. Let’s just go take a look. Jens arrived at 6am and we drove East through the rain. There was no wind. The wall of rain was marching slowly and steadily East toward Blade Runner. Was the crag wet? Would the duct tape keep the holds dry? There was no way to know until we got there. Amazingly, we emerged from the leading edge of the advancing rain when we reached North Bend. I turned the windshield wipers off. The highway was dry. We got to the trailhead just before 7am. Everything was still dry. Either the sky was about to open up or the forecast I’d seen was wrong. We would soon find out. We hiked up to the Shangri-La cliff. Temps were cool. The rock was dry. All was calm. We didn’t know how much time we’d have before the wall of rain was upon us, but I needed a warm-up so we quickly climbed Crouching Tiger. Then it was time for Blade Runner. I knew I wouldn’t have enough strength for a lot of attempts, and the rain could start falling any minute, but I stayed calm. I was ready. I’d climbed the route many times in my head. It was time to climb it in real life. I tied into the rope, put my shoes on, climbed up to clip the first bolt, and then climbed back down again. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly in and out, in and out, to get my heart rate down. After a few minutes, I opened my eyes and cast off: crossover from the undercling into the first lieback, twist my left leg as I move into the second undercling (the opening flowed smoothly) clip the bolt at the crux, set my heel-toe cam on the blade, move smoothly into the compression sequence, tense the core, bump to the vertical sidepull (my mind was empty but focused) pinch my feet on the blade, press to reach the small crimp out left (I was now through the crux but had fallen past here before) keep weight on small footholds, skip the last bolt, deadpoint to a good hold (just a few more hard moves) reach left to the pinch, pop to the undercling (almost done now - breathe) cross through with the feet, balance on two slopers, lock a heel hook down, and move to the final sloping sidepull...Clip. Clip. It was done. The impossible dream had been realized. It was 8am on October 12th, 2012. I’d reached my high water mark. Jens tried the route, and then we removed the quick draws and pulled the rope. By the time we reached the car the rain had started. It wouldn’t stop for over a month, and the whole cliff would be soaked until spring. Blade Runner was one of the most rewarding experiences in my 22 years of climbing not because it was the hardest route I’ve ever climbed, but because it required a huge mental and physical investment that pushed me beyond my perceived limits. I’ll probably never climb a harder route. I’m OK with that. But twenty feet right of Blade Runner is an even steeper, more intimidating line that looks amazing. I’m sure it’s way too hard for me, but maybe I’ll just go take a look... ……………………. Shangri La Details on 18 new routes in the Shangri La area of X38 -Please pack out all trash. Obvious pathways away from the crag are on the lower approach so please don't soil them with human waste. Please leave carabiners on anchors for lowering a la Nason ridge. Enjoy! ………………………… Most of these routes get good sun exposure and dry fast. The start of History Book and one section of Guillotine are prone to seepage after a lot of rain, but most other routes dry quickly. Blade Runner and Skullduggery face South and are best climbed in the early morning or on a cloudy day. Metamorphosis faces East and can be hot on a summer morning. Route distribution*: 5.8 3 5.9 1 5.10 7 5.11 5 5.12 2 * - Ratings are subjective. Proposed ratings are suggestions based on how the routes might compare to similar routes at the Lower Town wall at Index. I will enter these on Mountain Project. Feel free to suggest your own ratings so we can arrive at a consensus. …………………………………….. Printable topo Approach notes: Orientation: The Far Side area of X38 has several East-facing crags in a line: Interstate Park, Eastern Block, Squishy Bell, and Headlight Point crags. Ellie's Sweet Kiss is a very popular route in the middle of Interstate Park. Shangri-La is on the Eastern and Southern faces of the large rock formation across the giant talus field East of these crags. A few Far Side maps: Driving map Roads and topo for X38 Far Side Crags map Far Side trails The trails map is not to scale. Winter Block is almost directly above Shangri La. Hiking directions: Go to the Far Side parking lot. Start up the trail that starts just N of the bridge over the SnoQ river. When the trail forks go left, then an immediate right/straight, cross a wet area on a tiny boardwalk, then go left. Gritscone is in front of you at this point. Follow the wide trail, avoiding turnoffs to the right. When the trail steepens turn left into the forest at a small saddle. Follow the trail up steeply to the where it flattens out. Turn right on one of the side trails and make your way to the line of cliffs that includes Interstate Park, Eastern Block, Squishy Bell, and Headlight Point. Shangri La is East of the obvious talus field East of these cliffs. There are two ways to approach Shangri-La from the talus field: 1 - Aim for an obvious dead snag on the buttress that is about the same level as Ellie's Sweet Kiss. To get there, follow a series of easy but exposed ledges that start below some brush on the E edge of the talus. Pass below a large pine and head to the dead snag. From the snag, scramble down about 25ft of 4th class to the East. This brings you to the base of the wall. The first obvious feature is History Book, a left-leaning dihedral. You may notice some chains at the top of the face near the dead snag. This is the anchor on Small Arms Fire, which is a rap in and climb out route. 2 - Follow the talus down to the bottom of the buttress, cross under the bottom of the buttress on a faint trail that passes a giant tree with a cable on it. When you get to a smaller talus field, go straight up hill. When the talus ends at the forest go straight up to the base of the Shangri-La crag with History Book and Guillotine and Skullduggery. You'll know you're in the right place when you see a giant corner with a huge flake about 40 feet up (Guillotine), and several bolted lines. To get to Metamorphosis and Magic Carpet Ride, go right at the top of the little talus field mentioned above. View of the talus and upper and lower approaches from the top of Ellie's Sweet Kiss. Looking back past Shangri-La with Ellie's Sweet Kiss in the background. Looking up at the 4th class scramble. It's easier than it looks. ……………………………………… The following routes are on a wall on the left side of the guillotine corner. From left to right: Science Friction = 5.10d bolted face with two friction cruxes. Left of History Book. 5 bolts. 15 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2012. History Book = 5.10a trad crack in a left-leaning dihedral. Follow the crack to chains at the top of the cliff. DO NOT trust the ancient rusty aid piton! A standard rack will suffice. 20 meters. FA (ground-up onsight) Roberts, August, 2007. Crouching Tiger = 5.10c bolted roof and face climbing. Start 10 feet left of History Book, head up and right to the first bolt, and then go straight up over a series of small roofs. 8 bolts. 20 meters. FA Roberts, October, 2008. Hidden Dragon = 5.11c (11+ if shorter than 5’9”) bolted face and roofs. Start 8 feet right of History Book. This route has four different cruxes, multiple roofs, and a clean upper dihedral. 12 bolts. 29 meters. FA Roberts, July, 2009. Hypertension = 5.11+/12- bolted face and roofs. A stick clip might be wise as the bouldery crux is off the ground. Requiring power, balance, and body tension, this route will test your versatility. 13 bolts. 28 meters. FA Roberts, September, 2009. Guillotine = 5.10b trad crack and flake in a giant corner. Enter the corner near the first bolt of Free Radical (a solid cam can be placed at the lip if you’re a purist). Climb up to and past the namesake flake on the right wall and follow the corner to its end. Then clip a fixed nut and make some airy moves up and right to the chains. A standard rack is fine. 22 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2007. Free Radical = 5.11a bolted route on the arête right of Guillotine. Outstanding moves in a great position. Shares an anchor with Guillotine. 9 bolts. 22 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2009. Hangman = 5.10a bolted face and roof with fun friction moves at the top. This starts at the Guillotine/Free Radical anchor and goes a full 30m to chains. You can link Free Radical and Hangman for a 52 meter pitch. You'll need about 23 quickdraws to get up and a 60m rope to get down. 13 bolts. 30 meters. FA Roberts, June, 2007. The following routes are on the overhanging face right of Guillotine: Bladerunner = 5.12c? (5.11 to V6 to 5.11) overhanging bolted face on pristine rock. Unrepeated. This route takes a striking line up the super-clean, overhanging face right of Free Radical. It has a devious crux that requires core strength and creativity. Easy to top rope after climbing Guillotine or Free Radical, but be sure to use the Bladerunner anchor as there is a sharp roof above that could damage the rope if you TR from the Guillotine/Free Radical anchor. Overhanging, South-facing exposure keeps this route dry most of the year. 4 bolts. 10 meters. FA Roberts, October, 2012. Skullduggery= 5.12b? Unrepeated. A bit of skullduggery (an act of trickery or deception) may be needed to get up this steep, technical, and sustained line Overhangs 17 feet in its 40 foot length. Starts fifty feet right of Free Radical. A worthy test piece. Use the hand line to ascend the slab. Belay/start at the bolt and fixed cam that anchor the hand line. 5 bolts. 13 meters. FA Roberts, July, 2010. Open Project = 5.12+ or harder route on an overhanging face right of Skullduggery. Bolted. The following routes are on walls around to the right from Shangri-La. To get there, descend a trail about 100 feet and then veer left into the next amphitheater. Three routes are ready for climbers: Meta Cliff: Metamorphosis = 5.10d adventurous two pitch line up the center of a 300ft face. If you stand at the giant tree, look up and left at a big face. Metamorphosis p1 (10+) climbs up the center of this. The first pitch starts at a small roof at the ground, gear goes in a small crack, two bolts lead past a bulge, gear protects moves up higher, and there is one final bolt before the belay just below a large ledge (5.10+). The second pitch starts up a flake and vertical crack, moves up and left and then back right past bolts and gear, follows three bolts up thin and exposed face climbing, passes a short crack before a ledge, and ends with a bouldery finish past a bolt (5.10+). You could continue up 4th class terrain to a bolted anchor at an airy perch atop the Shangri-La cliff. Rap with one or two 60m ropes. Ropedrag might be bad if you try to link the two pitches. Note: it is best to belay for the first pitch very low at a divot in the vegetation. Start climbing in tennis shoes and change to rock shoes at the small roof. Needs an approach trail. Gear from small cams to #2 camalot. 50 meters total. FA Roberts, May, 2008. Metaphysics = 5.11R? (5.10R to a well-protected V3 crux at the roof to a 5.10 upper section). Unrepeated. This trad line follows the start of Metamorphosis to the flake below the first bolt. Place cams in a diagonal crack on the face 6ft below this flake and then traverse straight right 6 feet. Follow holds straight up and over the obvious roof. There is good protection in cracks on the slanting roof section. Climb up to the second roof, place gear, and zag up and left to the anchor at the top of the first pitch of Metamorphosis. Microcams to a single #4 camalot for the last placement. FA Roberts, November, 2011. Magic Carpet Ride = 5.8ish trad crack up a series of corners. This is on the large slabby face about a hundred feet right of Metamorphosis. Head up to a large tree. Pass this and continue up to the higher of two left-traversing cracks. Follow a series of corner cracks/dihedrals to the top of the buttress. You’ll see the scrub line. Turn the last roof on the right and follow a mossy ramp to anchors up and left. This route is about 40 meters and will get better with more traffic. You can rappel with two ropes, just barely get down with a single 70 meter rope, or rap to the tree with a single 60 and rap again or down climb. Standard rack. 40 meters. FA Roberts, April, 2008. Unnamed = 5.9ish bolted line. This starts about fifty feet right of Magic Carpet Ride. Follow a scrub line up and right toward a small roof and a bolt. Follow a line of bolts up nice but slightly dirty climbing. Bolts are in a line but some zigzagging is needed to climb past the roof. It’s about 35m to the anchors so bring two ropes. Nice moves all the way to the end. 10 bolts? FA Krawarik, 2009. The following climb is on a face above the giant tree below the buttress with the dead snag. This can be approached by rapping in from chains at the top of the buttress next to the dead snag. Direct approach from the bottom may be developed. The following climb starts at the base of a large pine just uphill from the dead snag. Drive By = 5.8 bolted arête and face in a great position with excellent views. Clip one chain, skip the next chains. Put a long runner on a bolt 15 or so feet higher, and then aim for the slab/arête feature above you. There are several bolts on the slab leading to a final mantle. Rap the route. Be careful not to drop things on parties below. 25 meters. 8 bolts. FA Roberts, Krawarik, Anderson, May, 2007. Unnamed = 5.8 trad corner above Drive By that needs some gardening but is still fun. 27 meters? Standard rack. FA Krawarik, Locke, June, 2007. The following climb is on a face above the giant tree below the buttress with the dead snag. This can be approached by rapping in from chains at the top of the buttress next to the dead snag. Small Arms Fire = 5.10c bolted face with thin, balancy moves in a great position. Rap down to the starting anchor from chains near the dead snag. Lead out or do a top belay. 6 bolts. 20 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2007. The following route is quite close to Headlight Point, on the way to the lower approach to Shangri-La. Approach: Headlight Point is the first cliff you get to when coming from the Gunshow area. It is the Southern-most crag of easy (5.6ish) climbs on the trail. Right behind those climbs, is a tree and a dirt ramp that leads a few meters down into the forest. Follow the ramp a few feet. Skirt a bush, drop a few feet along a tiny talus field, and head across to the obvious cliff. A large flat rock at the base of a tree marks the start of Third Stone from the Sun. To continue to Shangri La, follow the small cliff to its end at the giant talus field. Cross that and head for the approach that goes below the bottom of the large buttress as described above. Third Stone from the Sun = 5.11c bolted overhanging face. Lots of action in a small package. 5 bolts. 11 meters. FA Roberts, June, 2011. Photos: History Book Crouching Tiger low Crouching Tiger middle Crouching Tiger high - McClellan Butte in the background. Hidden Dragon Red line is Hidden Dragon. Green is Hypertension. Both continue out of sight above. Guillotine Free Radical is the arete right of Guillotine, which Ian is climbing here. The Guillotine flake is visible on the left. Free Radical is the arete left center. Blade Runner is right center and ends at the visible chains. Duct tape engineering on Blade Runner Skullduggery Skullduggery Yellow is Metamorphosis. Red is Metaphysics. Metamorphosis is the yellow line. I'm approaching the top of Metaphysics. Both routes share a belay. Metaphysics Metaphysics Small Arms Fire Gopro shot from the top of Small Arms Fire. The dead snag is 10 feet behind me. Third Stone from the Sun Don't forget to hit the swimming hole! stay tuned for more... THANKS TO MANY GREAT PARTNERS AND HELPERS OVER THE YEARS: Alex, Scott, Jens, Matt, David, Ed, Michael, Mike, Blake, Leland, Frank, Scott, Ryland, and others. Gear Notes: See route descriptions above. Approach Notes: X38 Far Side trails. See details and links above.
  17. Trip: Mt. Deception + peak 7638' - east face, ne chute + east face Date: 3/31-4/2/2013 Trip Report: I left Sunday afternoon with plans to explore Royal Basin, stocked with several days worth of food an gas, a guitar, and plenty of stoke. I got there as the day was fading, and eyed a potential line on the East face of Mt. Deception. Got started around dawn and was happy to find good consolidated spring conditions low down, the snow got deeper with elevation. I was tempted to ski linked turns off the summit, but sluff management was necessary. The crux came in a gully low on the face. I first tried to ski the way I had climbed, but found it too awkward and icy so I climbed back up a little and went skiers left over a ice bulge, it was steeper but sun kissed unlike the way I had climbed. I skied down to the floor of the basin and was so stoked I decided to climb and ski the NE chute. Conditions were a little crusty in spots but not bad, it is a beautiful line and was very fun to ski. That night was cold and windy and I didn't get much sleep. In the morning I half dozed in my sun warmed sleeping bag for a while enjoying the sounds of the wind through the trees. My plan was to slog out that day. On the way out I saw an alluring east face and decided to go for it. It was awesome, a little shorter and steeper than the east face route I skied on Deception. On my drive in, I came across a stranded couple walking down the road, they had listened to their radio too long roadside camping and killed their battery. I didn't have jumper cables but I obliged to letting them swap out my truck battery for a few minutes. IMG_0010 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr Mt. Deception east face by danhelmstadter, on Flickr IMG_0031 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr IMG_0046 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr crux, icy neve in the shade. IMG_0049 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr IMG_0039 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr East face of Needles peak 7638' on left IMG_0081 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr needles by danhelmstadter, on Flickr View south to Deception IMG_0097 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr IMG_0104 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 7638' from lower down IMG_0114 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr
  18. Trip: Big Four - north face Date: 3/25/2013 Trip Report: Eric and I left Sunday afternoon and bivied near the ice caves at the base of Big4. We got there just as the sun was leaving. I hadn't seen that part of the Mountain Loop before, and was in awe of the impressive face above. Ski conditions looked questionably thin in many places on the face, I think we both thought that our planned effort was likely going to result in us turning back from poor conditions, but we did have a light rack and thin rope to deal with minor shenanigans if need be. Early in the morning we started up through a tricky cliff band next to a resonant waterfall. The climbing involved some monkeying around on vegetation since there was a lot of rotten snow over rock. Once above, we traversed a broad sloping bench to gain the central rib. The rib held knee+ deep unconsolidated pow. The going was slow, and we alternated skins and booting. From the road, there looked to be a few potential options on the face. We climbed up with those options in mind, and let the conditions dictate our direction. We ended up making an unplanned climbers left traverse then up a right trending icy gully to easier ground that led to the summit. The skiing was great. We found some variable and ice in spots, but there was also a lot of powder. The rib especially held amazing quality snow and really fun featured terrain. We didn't want to exit the face via the waterfall cliff band we had climbed up, so we traversed left, but missed the snow exit and ended up making a short rap off a tree. our line on big four by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2367 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr bigfour by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2392 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2398 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2403 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2408 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr variable conditions in steep trees by danhelmstadter, on Flickr steep trees by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2426 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2419 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr bigfourtwo by danhelmstadter, on Flickr
  19. Trip: Three Fingers - east face couloir Date: 3/9/2013 Trip Report: On days when it's not raining, There's a great view of Three Fingers from eastbound 20 out of Anacortes. Sometime recently I made that drive on one of those days when the sky is fine art. Cool cloud formations and late afternoon sun hit the mountain just right, and got me thinking about going up there for a closer look. The approach went well, the bush'wackin wasn't very grim, and I made it to my bivy spot by a boulder near the foot of the slope below the east face with time left to kill. I started my ascent in the dark hours of the morning, and soon my decision to leave skins behind became a nagging regret. The snow went from supportable easy going, to variable knee deep, but with a few healthy curses I made it to the base of the couloir before the sun started really cooking the wall above. Conditions made for slow going up the couloir. To make it easier, I followed the edge of a runnel that hugged climbers right. I kept my head up as much as possible to watch for big sh*t, there was debris coming down everywhere. Most of it small, but I did get bashed a couple times. The couloir topped out on a high shoulder, and I continued up moderating slopes towards the middle summit. The snow was much different above the shoulder, about a foot of consolidated cold snow overlay an ice crust. The entire ridge line was corniced except for a little notch just right of the rimmed summit nub. I aimed for that notch. I was about about 20 feet below it when I felt and heard a sickening WUMPH. No slab cut out, but It was a clear indication of instability in those final feet below the ridge, and the consequences were high. I backed off a few steps and clicked on the skis. Ski conditions were good, the slight double fall line nature of the couloir naturally managed my sluff. Timing seemed about right since the sun had softened up the icy parts, and left the couloir just after I skied it, I suppose I could have got started a little earlier to help avoid the ice/rockfall on the climb. 100_2229 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr Stoked about my new crampons from Jim's shop. 100_2226 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr John Scurlock photo John Scurlock image by danhelmstadter, on Flickr climbing above shoulder shoulder by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2243 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2254 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr morning sunhit morninglight by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2228 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr
  20. Trip: Distal Phalanx - Busted Distal Bicep Couloir Date: 2/10/2013 Trip Report: I woke in the bed of my truck five minutes before my alarm went off bleary eyed to headlights from an approaching car around the bend of highway 20 near it's west side winter closure. At that hour of morning it could only be my friends Ryan and Eric who had already been up and driving for hours. It didn't take very long before we found ourselves scrambling in the dark up steep muddy embankments and unpredictably punching through the shallow rotten snow in the bush of Colonial Creek. We reached it's headwaters at the crack of dawn, welcoming open blue skies and deepish light snow. At one point on our upwards zigzagging, I caused a snow bridge spanning a large glide crack to loudly fail just by getting too close. From a col high on Colonial, we looked far across the Neve drainage to the beautiful couloir on Distal Phalanx that was our ski objective. By that time, it seemed doubtful we'd make it since the day was already getting old. We talked about our options, and changed our minds several times. The difficult conditions and amount of elevation gained had ate up a lot of time, and we knew we would be setting ourselves up for an epic by continuing towards Distal Phalanx. Still collectively undecided, Ryan said something about epic days being memorable, the logic seemed right, the beautiful an slightly scary view of the couloir on such a bluebird windless afternoon seemed to call us at that moment of indecision, and we dropped down to the valley towards the Distal Phalanx with smiles. We alternated trail breaking up the deep snow in the couloir, dodged a couple ice chunks, found some wind affected snow, and topped out to find the sun low and red on the horizon. I was last to drop in, and triggered a slab after just a few turns. Eric and Ryan were in safe zones on the side of the couloir as the lanch trucked past them. It got dark quickly and we skied the lower section with headlamps. Hours of skinning back up to the col under starlight followed. We got a bit turned around high on the Colonial/Neve/Paul Bunion's Stump massif, but found the way with not too much sweat, and skied mostly enjoyable powder down through a developing marine layer to Colonial Creek. We milked what we could of the deproach through the woods on skis, we had to pack the skis when it got too patchy and clustered with deadfall to ski. We still had a ways to go. The snow was rotten in spots so every 20 steps or so, one of us would unpredictably punch through, with unseen hazards below, and we were sidehilling next to the creek which was steep in places. Somewhere near our creek crossing Ryan took an unlucky digger from punching through the shitty rotten snow in a bad spot, and hurt his arm. His bicep looked weird and he couldn't bring his forearm up very far. Ryan is one tough dude, I could hardly tell he was injured as we made our way out, even though I knew he was in pain. Eric and Ryan drove back to Seattle that night. I just heard from Ryan that his Distal Bicep tendon is torn. In all we gained 11,000+ feet of elevation and took 22.5 hours car to car. It seems that there are several approach options, and in 20/20 hindsight, it is clear that we chose an approach that given the conditions we found, may have not have been ideal. I didn't take many pictures, and this one below is courtesy of Ryan. The Busted Distal Bicep Couloir is in the distance. Ryan Lurie Image by danhelmstadter, on Flickr climbing by danhelmstadter, on Flickr lateday topout by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2161 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr
  21. Trip: Shuksan - Circumnavigation + Summit Date: 1/21/2013 Trip Report: In our eternal quest to get a sunburn in every month of the year (turns out you can get burned in January in the North Cascades), Gord, Kit, Chad and myself made plans to spend a couple of days on Mt. Shuksan. Chad had driven all the way in from southern ID for a N. Cascades sampler, and the conditions lined up nicely to get him way up high in the range.On the way out of the lot on Sunday morning we ran into the one and only Daniel Helmstadter, newly back in ass-kicking action. He promptly dropped us like we were standing still (which we did frequently based on the silly overnight loads we carried), and we never saw him again. He had a First Descent on the south side of Shuksan to get to, but I'm somewhat certain he has teleportation abilities as well. That man can move! We, however, took our time getting to camp at the top of the Fisher Chimneys, but still arrived with time to watch a spectacular afternoon. We didn't even need to level a spot for the Megamid- fantastic! In the late afternoon we saw Jason4 and a group head down Winnie's slide The night was as long as expected, but not too cold. We were reluctant to leave our sleeping bags and camp in the morning, not rolling until around 0800. Up the Upper Curtis, through Hell's Highway, and up the Shulphide to the summit gully, we found ourselves booting up to the tippy top around noon. We ended up belaying a short bit from the gully to the summit ridge, mostly on the way down. Dan had kicked some great steps that made a lot of it easier. Unlike him though, we left our skis at the base. What a view! The summit of Shuksan never disappoints, but especially in winter. Wow. Chad was suitably impressed as the view was a bit different than the Tetons (his home range). We had the summit to ourselves, naturally, but couldn't stay too long due to the short days. We returned to our skis at the base of the summit pyramid and proceeded to circle the mountain's north side via the Crystal and Hanging Gls. A scenic way to complete the tour, and we were back at camp without too much delay. Packing up camp went quickly,and soon we were faced with the unpleasant ski down the VERY firm White Salmon with full packs. That was certainly a theme on the trip- great climbing conditions but generally poor ski conditions. Ski crampons were very useful. We battled the usual shenanigans in the valley bottom, getting back up to the parking lot around 1730. The gate wasn't locked, and we were soon in Kendall wishing Gord well on his way back across the border. Another North Cascades adventure complete! Pics: Skinning up the White Salmon Camp Chad admires the view north Gord exploring above camp Baker from camp Lower Curtis Icefall Dan, you are THE MAN. I think there are two of his First Descents visible, maybe more. Topping out on Hell's Highway Skinning up the Sulphide In the Summit gully Kit topping out on the summit ridge On the summit Looking east to Icy, the Pickets, and beyond Dropping onto the Crystal Gl. Pausing at the transition between the Hanging and Upper Curtis Gls. Skiing the Upper Curtis Gord hanging on near Winnie's Slide Gordo Fausto always leads the way for his North American clients. What a handsome man! Gear Notes: Ski crampons, whippet, boot crampons, axe, helmet, rando rope- all useful and used. Approach Notes: Park at the White Salmon Lodge. You can't miss it.
  22. Trip: Mt. Shuksan - South Couloir Date: 1/20/2013 Trip Report: I am so happy to be out and about pain free in the mountains again. I've been plagued by a nasty debilitating hip pain since summertime. I tried a bunch of different treatments for it, none seemed to work until I got a shot of cortisone in the bursa at the top of my femur bone a few days ago. Phew. A couple days before I got the shot, I was taking a lackadaisical drive up the Baker Lake road with my dog. I noticed a striking line on the South side of Shuksan. south couloir by danhelmstadter, on Flickr I formed a plan to go explore it - if my hip ever got healthy, which I was doubtful it would. The first part of the day felt like a familiar Shuksan experience, I got a bit of a late start (but was able to grab a coffee and use the facilities at the White Salmon Lodge), snow was good for travel, good weather etc... I was stoked to run into my friend Russell Cunningham on the White Salmon. The summit was beautiful, and the pyramid gully skied ok. summit by danhelmstadter, on Flickr I was a bit reluctant to start sking towrds the South Couloir for several reasons, and almost wanted to go check out the NW Couloir. But with the thought that I could always turn around (moon + good weather) I proceeded as planed. I dropped in and enjoyed great springlike snow with some variable in places as to be expected. The couloir is about 2000 vertical feet, and the whole South face about 5500'. Towards the bottom of the couloir the slope steepened then cliffed out. I made a steep downwards traversy scramble on mixed shallow rotten snow, ice, and chossy rock. Luckily the rock had enough solid positive holds. It was scary and felt a little dangerous at times. scramble by danhelmstadter, on Flickr 100_2150 by danhelmstadter, on Flickr A bit more steeps after the scramble, then wide open slopes with heavy snow. I stuck to skiers left through the trees for the remaining skiing, to avoid cliffs that lie everywhere else at the bottom. It was getting dark as I reached the valley at 2000' elevation on the Baker Lake side. I skinned many moonlit hours up to, and over the Shuksan Arm back to my truck at White Salmon. More Photos... roll at top of the south face roll by danhelmstadter, on Flickr Couloir entrance couloir entrance by danhelmstadter, on Flickr zoomer zoomer by danhelmstadter, on Flickr sundown set by danhelmstadter, on Flickr
  23. Trip: Incredible Hulk - Positive Vibrations Date: 9/3/2012 Trip Report: I concluded a really fun six week summer road trip with this stellar route. I’d done it before in 2009 but it is worth doing again and again. Jed and I met up in Reno, I was driving from the Tetons where my wife and I had just had a blast climbing the Exum Ridge and Irene's Arete. Jed flew in from Chicago. We got our permit early the next morning and we made the hike in to the base in two hours from Twin Lakes. Hulkamania: We had enough time that we really could have done the Red Dihedral that afternoon but I figured we’d want to be feeling pretty fresh for the PV. Jed started us off the next morning at first light, climbing awkward cracks with a distinct 10a crux passing a small roof. I fired us up the next pitch, a short 10c tips splitter and some easy but runout face climbing that gains two bolts on a nice belay ledge. First pitch: Jed continued up the 5.8 corner above, then across the delicate traverse which ends with a somewhat spicy, but short, sideways 5.11a sequence to gain a handjam, then a jughaul to the belay, another pair of bolts. Beginning of pitch 3. The crux traverse is just above the roofs. Pitch 4 is 5.10c and is a great stemming and bridging corner, with two distinct bulges. Gear is anywhere you want it. I passed a set of bolts and continued up a thin and tenuous finger crack in a corner with a hard stem and crack switch right at the end, a long 50 meter pitch. Jed following p4: Jed took us up a fantastic pitch towards the prow of the Hulk’s west face. Multiple cracks lead to a single crack which begins wide and tapers to thin hands, a rather awkward and strenuous section that felt a little harder than the 10a rating would suggest, but soon gives way to an extended section of splitter hands. Pitch 5: I now tackled the crux pitch which begins in a smooth corner with intricate stemming and some pretty dicey gear; suspect tiny cams (incl. #000 and #00 C3’s), a mishmash of rp’s, and the need for long slings due to having to protect mainly in the crack on the left wall. Just after I got the gear arranged and started going for it, my foot skated and I whipped onto an HB brass nut and blew the redpoint. After a unnerving runout to the roof where you can finally get some good gear, I continued past burly underclings with crispy feet into a steep, sustained, and incredible crack that passes a bulge on thin hands. A little unnerved from the fall, I dogged it a bit through here until I got my mojo back, and then continued on up in better style as the crack becomes a stellar finger jamming extravaganza on an open wall with incredible exposure. Due to rope drag (and being a bit worked) I made a belay at a small stance just below the 5.11 crux. Up to here the pitch rates 5.10d although I thought overall it is much harder (due to being physical and sustained) than the next section of technical 5.11a fingers. Jed coming up p6: I led us past the 11a thin fingers and face sequence passing a wildly exposed overhang with a ton of air beneath the feet! I pressed the pitch another 15 meters higher and belayed below the next set of splitters. Jed leaving the belay to start following the 11a section. Exposure and beautiful rock! The next pitch begins with steep, strenuous fingers and thin hands, giving way to another incredible hand crack. The angle lets off but then the pitch gets harder, with a difficult face move to the next crack right, then cranking hard up a sustained off fingers jam crack that never seems to let up. At the end, make an improbable step down and left to gain a great belay ledge. 5.10d. Jed in Splitterville: It just stays awesome. The next pitch can go to the very top if you have a 70 meter rope and a lot of endurance and don’t mind spacing your pro, a lot. I took it only 40 meters before I wimped out and belayed; I was low on hand sized gear and our rope was a 60m. The corner starts easily enough but becomes sustained 5.10b hand and fist jamming up a very steep corner and past a roof. A short distance above the roof I made a belay in the crack system at a blockier area, about 10-15’ right of a solitary bolt on the prow that makes no sense. Jed took us to the ridge from here, moving to the right and climbing another phenomenal finger, thin hands, then hands, hands, hands crack!!! Last pitch on the wall: From here, if you don’t plan to rappel Venturi Effect (70 meter rope mandatory) continue along the ridge- not entirely trivial. Apparently you can stay right on the crest and go through a chimney between flakes, but both times I’ve now stayed down and left. This is not entirely straightforward and is rather dirty and loose. After a couple ropelengths of “mostly” 4th and low 5th you join the Red Dihedral for the final 5.8 crack and the classic wormhole exit onto a bench just below the top. Jed coming on through: Jed on the summit, psyched: This route is at least as good as the Rostrum, maybe better because it is up in the mountains, and it’s longer. The rock is flawless, if the pictures don’t already demonstrate. Go do this thing. If it’s super windy at the base, consider another route- the upper part of the route is extremely exposed as it is right on or near the prow. The next day we got a more civilized start and ran up the Red Dihedral, the third time I had done this classic. Not quite as quality as the PV, but this is sort of like saying, for example, Seasoned in the Sun in Squamish isn’t as good as Exasperator. Do them both. Now. Gear Notes: Set of stoppers including rp’s, long slings. Double rack of cams from tiny stuff (#000 or grey tcu) to #3 BD camalot, with triples from 0.3 BD to #2. Nothing bigger than a #3 needed. Could avoid some of the triples perhaps, but most pitches are quite long so you either would have to break them up more, or run it out a fair bit. 70 meter rope could be useful especially if wanting to rap Venturi Effect. I’ve heard that rope hangup can be an considerable issue if choosing that course. Approach Notes: Climbers trail seems to get better by the year. Supertopo beta is out of date, there’s now a good log crossing and no wading in swamps is needed. Trail begins climbing the slope well to the looker’s left of the canyon entrance, then eventually traverses into the canyon. 2-3 hours from Twin Lakes. Bikes are NOT ALLOWED any longer on the initial part of the trail.
  24. Trip: Ptarmigan Traverse FKT - Date: 8/16/2012 Trip Report: Uli Steidl and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 12:17, a new FKT (fastest known time). It has been three years since I last enjoyed the Ptarmigan Traverse so it was time to come back to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the Cascades and refresh the prior FKT, which was set by Colin Abercrombie and me on July 28, 2009 (14:36) . This time I was joined by distance running legend Uli Steidl who has innumerable running victories and accolades to his name from road marathons to mountain running to ultras. Conditions were very similar to 2009 with nearly identical weather (hottest days of the summer). Prior to this run I figured somewhere in the 12 hour range was possible and we were able to hit that target finishing the traverse in 12:17. We started at the Cascade Pass trailhead at 4:49 am and finished at Downey Creek Bridge at 5:06 pm. Overall, the 2 hr, 19 min improvement from the 2009 time was due to a consistently faster effort throughout the traverse (see comparison below). I attribute this to more route experience and dialing in on nutrition and hydration, which helped keep energy levels high especially in the second half of the traverse. Bachlor Creek was as lovely (brushy) as ever although we avoided making any time consuming errors in the brush and the Downey Creek Trail felt as long as I had remembered. The 8.5 mile jog along the Suiattle River Road seemed especially needless because there were five forest service vehicles parked at the Downey Creek Bridge. In fact, the closed portion of the road is in better shape than the open part! It seemed like they were prepping the road, perhaps for opening? [video:youtube] Comparison: 2012 vs. 2009 vs. 2008 (difference 2012 to 2009) Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 0 Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 43 / 48 / 55 (- 5) Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:39 / 1:50 / 2:13 (- 11) Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:26 / 3:40 / 5:00 (- 14) Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:10 / 4:26 / 6:20 (- 16) White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 6:25 / 7:11 / 9:51 (- 46) Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 7:52 / 8:54 / 11:55 (- 1:02) Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 8:55 / 10:16 / 13:42 (- 1:21) Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 10:51 / 12:48 / 16:30 (- 1:57) Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 12:17 / 14:36 / 18:10 (- 2:19) Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 04:49 Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 43:10 / 43:10 / 05:32 Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:38:34 / 55:24 / 06:27 Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:25:37 / 1:47:02 / 08:14 Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:10:17 / 44:40 / 08:59 White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 6:24:54 / 2:14:36 / 11:14 Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 7:52:01 / 1:27:07 / 12:41 Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 8:54:49 / 1:02:47 / 13:44 Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 10:51:23 / 1:56:34 / 15:40 Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 12:17:15 / 1:25:51 / 17:06 Gear Notes: Axe and crampons Footwear: La Sportiva Nutrition: First Endurance EFS and Ultragen, energy bars Approach Notes: Typical Bachelor Creek brush
  25. Trip: Black Peak - NW face Date: 5/19/2012 Trip Report: In a collaborative effort, Eric Wehrly and I climbed and skied the NW face of Black Mountain. There are ski lines that when viewed from a deceptive perspective, or through some camera trickery appear to be truly steep when in fact they are only moderate in slope angle. The Northwest face of Black mountain is not one of those lines. Steep, sustained, exposed, are words that come to mind when contemplating a description. Snow conditions were scary in places, but good enough for a complete descent in proud style. Rocks and holes shallowly buried with sugar snow, slick ice crusts lurking under variably meager depths, these conditions added spice to both the climbing and skiing. Little in the way of progress came easy, the ground we gained was fought hard for in places, and entailed many white knuckled / no mistakes hours of fun. As I write this days later, I am still in a daze of emotions and memories that will be long to fade. We got some good pictures, this is my favorite one, Eric shreds the knar John Scurlock photo Black peak NW face (left), and Black peak western summit (right). This was our first view of the NW side of Black, we had to make a long steep downslopeing traverse on variable snow to get to the beginning of the NW face (far right). Eric Wehrly photo On the traverse, Eric Wehrly photo E$ climbing lower face Eric Climbing steep sugar over rock and ice high on the face. cruxin Looking down on our route from the summit. Eric Wehrly photo $ $ $ Eric Wehrly photo Eric Wehrly photo Eric Wehrly photo $ $ $ Eric Wehrly photo E-Money crossing a runnell mid-face E-Money Eric Wehrly photo Eric Wehrly photo Eric Wehrly photo Eric Wehrly photo Looking back on the traverse
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