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route choices

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as i sit here and plan my next adenture, i was wondering how does everybody else go about selecting a route to climb, river to kayak, trail to run? for local climbing i obviously peruse becky's books, then maybe cross reference nelson's books, then whitelaw's books, eminger's books and so on. then look at topos and what not.

what, if any thing makes a person choose their desired route. i know in winter it goes alot by conditions, as that dictates what is relitivly safe. so it seems that people flock to the goods.

i now personally use creativity as my guide, that it gives me more of an adventure experience. the fear of the unknown.

just wondering, you know.

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Good topic for a thread! Here is my two cents worth. Early on I climbed mountains that I had seen and wondered what the view would be like from the top. Mt Baker, the Twin Sisters and Mt Rainier were my first 'projects'.

Then I started climbing the classic routes, the ones everyone said you must do like Liberty Ridge or North Ridge or Stuart. Jim Nelson's guide became my grand wish list.

These days I often choose routes that I have seen while out and about, visually appealing routes that look like they might offer good climbing. I must have developed a good eye for it, because Jim Nelson included a number of those routes in his new guide book. (If I had known Watusi Rodeo hadn't had a second ascent I would have tried a bit harder on my attempt in 1995)

I also get ideas from other sources; Peter Croft's solo traverses in the Sierras inspired me to attempt a solo traverse of the Stuart Range (aborted due to lack of water-3 liters wasn't enough =(


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Novelty is the spice of mountaineering. I like to find new experiences in the mountains. That doesn't necessarily mean new routes. Sometimes it means finding new ways to experience peaks I already know.

Since I plan to climb in the Cascades for a long time, I like to parcel out my experiences. For example, I might go into a peak I've never climbed before and do the standard route, then come back later to do more interesting routes. Or, I might come back on skis, or plan a bivi on the summit, or do it in a day, or in winter, or whatever. I also like repeating good climbs with different friends. On one favorite climb, I first swapped leads with my older brother, then came back with my younger brother and followed him up it, then came back with my wife. Perhaps in a few years I'll go back with my son.

With this approach I get many good trips out of one area and I enjoy learning it well. It is also the best way to spot new routes, of course.

Another fun approach is to put a little ingenuity into a trip. For example, on a ski circumnavigation of Mt Rainier we closed the circle by stashing rollerblades at the Fryingpan Creek trail and skating back to our car at White River campground. Using bicycles to approach climbs or ski trips is also fun.

--Lowell Skoog

p.s. By the way Dan, are you aware of Croft's solo one-day traverse of the Stuart Range a few years back. A good story. I believe he climbed full north ridge of Stuart, traversed the range to the Enchantment plateau, then finished with the west ridge of Prusik. As I remember it, he had planned to do the south face of Prusik, but was feeling a little ragged by that time.


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I do indeed remember reading about that. I did it a much easier way, starting up the West Ridge of Stuart.

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I suppose I'm not as extreme in plaining, but I tend to base my plans on the feel of the alpine region I would like to visit. I'm a huge fan of views from the top of high places (that is what got me into climbing in the first place), I love being humbled be feeling really small on top of a huge mountain.

So, when I'm planning a trip, I go for big views on top (I personally love the Olympics with views of cascades/hood canal/straight/olympics/rainier the whole thing!), and the general alpine scenery on the approach.

I also am amazed how certain areas here in the cascades/olympics are so different/provide different challenges depending on the season. Some climbs merit being experienced during all seasons because each time it is a whole new feel.

For example, last year I did Warrior Peak just North of Constance in early June. The approach via Marmot Pass was filled with Rhoedendorens if full bloom and it made the approach/hike out quite enjoyable. I returned to camp/scramble later in the summer, and the pass was covered with wild flowers. It is amazing to see the alpine environs in all different seasons. Obviously actual routes change with the seasons, but to me, experiencing the different regions here in the NW throughout the seasons is a big factor into my trip planning. I guess an adventure for me involves more than just the route itself, it is packing the most scenery/climb into a few days as possible.

Sometimes you've got to take your time on an approach and enjoy the bliss of the high alpine meadows/passes.

-flower boy


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It’s a scientific process determined by the following factors:

1) Each year I start with a broad list of routes that I’m interested in. For example: I try to climb one of the top 25 (non volcanic) peaks each year, one peak that I can see from my front room window, one rockaneering route, one alpine ice route, one ridge route.

2) Then when I finally get that precious weekend of free time, I pick a route from the list that the conditions are most favorable for based on seasonal conditions, weather that weekend, the amount of daylight, and beta gleened from friends.

3) I make sure the Mountaineer’s haven’t scheduled a climb there and if it is a route in Nelson and Potterfield I usually wait for a weekday (especially if the approach is easy or if it one of the mega classics).

4) This last part is the trickiest. After I decide what I want to do, I call up one of my partner’s and present the idea to him. He tells me what he wants to do instead. We argue about it over email for 2 days and I usually wear down and do whatever he wants. Its even more fun when there are 3 of us.

Luckily there are hundreds of routes I haven’t done yet, so picking is them is easy. Finding the time off to climb them, when it isn’t raining that’s a lot harder.


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