Saturday, July 4, 2020

Mores Mountain and Shafer Butte

Date: July 4, 2020.

Partners: N/A.

Objectives: Mores Mountain and Shafer Butte.  Running at altitude and hopefully training for IMTUF.

Stats: 17 miles and 3,000ft of vert.  Strava.

Gear notes:  N/A.

For some reason, trying to "run" 100 miles sounds like "fun".  I missed the cutoff for official registration so I had to settle for a spot the wait list.  Hopefully I'll get in because I'm training and planning like it's going to happen.  I decided to break 2020 up into 3 three month training blocks, each with a different focus.  All the COVID nonsense was a bit of a stick in the spokes, but overall it hasn't been horrible.  One of my mantras for 2020 and IMTUF is; no whining, no excuses, no regrets.  So in keeping with that theme, my plan is to transition into big mountain runs and tagging peaks to train for IMTUF.  This is the first long run of this cycle.  My route basically followed the Around the Mountain Trail with side tours to the peaks.  Pictures below.

Summit register on Mores.

Summit register on Mores.

Summit of Mores.

This crow was pretty chill and didn't mind me talking with it while I took some pictures.

Summit of Shafer.

Summit of Shafer.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Stanley Creek Backpack

Date: June 26-27, 2020.

Partners: Deez, Landen and Ketchum.

Objective: Fun and easy backpacking.

Stats: 8.6 miles round trip with 700ft gain.  Strava.

Gear notes: Bug spray.

We wanted to get out for a quick and easy overnight hike, something close to town and without a lot of elevation gain, so I decided to check out the Stanley Creek trail towards Bridal Veil Falls.  We left the Stanley Lake trail head at 3:30.  A little late in the day but we wouldn't be hiking too far.  It was definitely warm and there were a lot of cars at the parking lot, but most of them were headed out.

The section of the trail close to the lake affords wonder views of McGown Peak.

I knew we didn't need to make fast time getting anywhere, but the open and unshaded areas weer pretty warm and reason enough to move quick.

The open views of the meadow were quite fantastic though.

Soon we entered the trees as the trail followed the creek.  The shade was nice and there wasn't too much climbing involved, although I was reminded several times that I promised "not a lot of gain".

We skipped the side trail to Lady Face Falls and soon found a wide but shallow crossing of Stanley Creek.  We kept our eyes out for a camp site and eventually found one just north of the cutoff for Bridal Veil Falls.  The weather was pleasant but a little buggy, so soon we retired to the tent for a back country Uno tournament.

We were up early the next morning, mainly because I knew there would be a ton of people on the tril very soon.  We had loosely planned on going up to the waterfall, but decided breakfast in Stanley sounded more fun.  The hike out was uneventful, other than the very cold creek crossing.

As was expected, every Tom, Dick and Harriet with their extended family and 15 dogs were on the trail and we were glad we got back early.  An easy trip indeed!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Mount Hood

Date: June 19, 2020.

Objective: Mount Hood - 11,239'.

Partners: Roy and Todd.

Stats: Approx 8 miles and 5,300' of vert. Grade II, class 2/3.  Strava.

Gear notes: Two ice axes recommended.  Carried full glacier travel and crevasse rescue gear that went unused (a good thing).

Mt. Hood from the north on the drive in.

This trip was originally supposed to be a climb of Mount Rainier, but all the COVID stuff had pretty much turned everything upside down.  The team we had put together consisted of three buddies from work and myself.  We were all dealing with scheduling conflicts, child care etc and basically everything was in flux right up though the climb itself.

Since Rainier is in a National Park and the park was closed, we needed a new objective that we could hit in a shorter time frame and Hood seemed to fit the bill nicely.  Roy and I headed out a day before what should have been the other half of our group to do some skiing/boarding on the Palmer snowfield and to get a good feel for conditions on the route.  We talked with several parties that were descending from a successful summit via the Pearly Gates Left Route and we also heard that the Old Chute was in.  From what we could see the Bergschrund was not open which was slightly concerning because at some point the snow bridge that covered it would surely fail.

We were climbing at the end of a short weather window after a decent stretch of not great weather and that meant there were a lot of people on the mountain.  If for nothing else, Mt. Hood is known for a few things; rock/ice fall, heavy traffic, accidents and rescues.  Objective hazard is very prevalent on Mt. Hood.  Cue the anxiety.

Unfortunately we found out the day before the climb that one of our team members was unable to make the climb.  We were bummed to say the least.  This also changed the approach since we would now be skinning up the snowfield, planning to stash the skis/boards somewhere above Palmer and ski down, instead of booting the whole enchilada.

Todd met up with Roy and I at our camp site at Trillium Lake a bit after 3pm on Thursday.  We got our gear sorted and went though some technical refresher stuff.  With most of our gear packed up we finally hit our tents about 7 with an alarm to get up at 10:30pm.  With "Trilliumfest" going strong, sleep was basically non-existent for us.  Even with my sleep mask and ear plugs, I managed maybe one hour actual "sleep" by the time my alarm went off.  I was groggy and a little tight from skiing that morning but quickly snapped to.  We were up, fed, caffeinated and out of camp and headed to Timberline at about 11:30.

Gearing up in camp.

Tech training.

10-15 minutes later we were up at Timberline and registering for our climb.  We searched in vain for a restroom, but we were out of luck.  We were also out of time.  We needed to get rolling and were actually about 20 minutes late getting out of the parking lot.

Packed up.

Time to go.

Once we were headed up the climbers trail we realized we were behind more traffic than we would have liked.  It was rather warm at the base and the snow was a bit soft and punchy, even with skis on.  We hit a good groove and fell in with a good crowd.  After about an hour and 1,000 feet of gain, we took our first break near the Silcox Hut.  10-15 minutes later we were back on the trail and over taking most of the people who had passed us at Silcox.  We ended up near the same group of people we started with and pushed up to the top of the Palmer Snowfield were we took our next break on the flat cat track at the top of the ski area.

Me, Todd and Roy near Devils Kitchen.

Leaving Devils Kitchen.

Looking up to the Hogsback.

I quickly realized how cold it was here and put on my down hoody and warmest gloves.  Other than the shocking cold, two other things of note happened here.  Todd, the youngest of the group, offered to take the climbing rope.  He was in Beast Mode and his offer still stood even after my "are you sure" retort.  As we focused on our individual needs Roy popped off with "guys, I forgot my crampons in the car" in the flattest, most realistic tone he could.  He got Todd and I pretty good with that one.  I think even one of the guys next to us took the bait.

With a good laugh under our belts, we set off above Palmer.  We made it maybe a few hundred feet up on skins but it was far too icy to continue.  I had thought about carrying the skis up higher, but eventually decided the best thing to do was to stash them and save the weight.  I was also wanting to get a good test of my crampons on my ski boots.  If I was going to have a problem, I wanted to have it down here on mellow terrain.

After switching to crampons and ice axes, all systems were go and we motored up to the top of Triangle Moraine for our next break.  We stuffed down some calories and donned helmets and harnesses for the push up to the base of Devils Kitchen.  The smell of sulfur was crazy strong and that was all the motivation I needed to keep moving.


The climb up the Hogs back was where the hangups really started to happen.  Todd and Roy ended up in front of a slow moving pack that I got stick behind.  Eventually I made it past them and we regrouped for a micro break.  We could see most, if not all groups were heading up the Pearly Gates.  It looked like the line was moving well so we went that direction.  Roy, AKA Mr. "I forgot my crampons" ended up having a crampon issue about midway up the Hogsback.  He and Todd were able to figure it out and we were once again under way after a slight delay.

The Pearly Gates are a bottleneck and would be best avoided with significant traffic.  We ended up stuck in line for a few minutes.  Roy was in the lead and had the best view of the situation.  Eventually the climbers above us made it though and the line was moving again.  The left chute was about 30 feet high and a bit steep at maybe more than 40 degrees.  It was a little icy but it went without too much trouble.  Once past that it was a straight forward walk to the summit.

Summit view.  St. Helens, Rainier and Adams are visible.

Summit selfie.

Summit shot.  Todd C. photo shot by a nice stranger.

Mt. Hoods summit ridge.

We topped out at about 6:45 which was little later than we had hoped but still not too bad considering all the factors up to this point.  There was still a lot of traffic headed up and we knew descending the Gates was out of the question.  The best option was to descent the Old Chute and to try to get ahead of as much traffic as we could.  After a few pictures we moved off the true summit for a break and to finalize everything for the down climb.  The summit traverse was only a little more than a boot path wide with a fantastic drop down the north face just inches away.  The most exposed section was just before the top of the Old Chute but really did not pose any significant difficulty.

At the top of the Old Chute we had another hang up.  A lot of people were down climbing below us and not spread out enough and moving quite slow.  We hung back for a bit and waited for the traffic to thin out but people kept jumping right in.  Eventually we were able to begin our down climb even though it was a bit too crowded and stacked to be really considered "safe".  Using two tools and facing in was very secure and we made good time.  Other than an ice bulge near the bottom of the steepest section, there was no major difficulty.

Down climbing the Old Chute.  Roy (left) and Todd (right) are the two climbers on the bottom.

Looking down towards the Hogsback.

The snow was a fine mix of crusty-punchy junk and bullet proof hardpack that kept us on our toes.  The smell of sulfur rising up from the fumarole's was even stronger than it was earlier and enough to make me gag.  We discussed taking a break at Hogsback but eventually we just descended to the flat area just below, near Devils Kitchen that was still in the shade.

After a nice rest, peeling off a layer and doffing helmets and harnesses we began the trudge down.  I think we were all pretty tired at this point.  Since we were basically back on easy street we took our sweet time going down, stopping at our leisure and enjoying the view.  The snow was still a bit firm at Triangle Moraine but it would have been nice to have our skis/boards.

Looking up from Triangle Moraine.

Looking down.

Back at our stash site we plopped down and chugged the last of our water.  The ski down was fun but the soft snow and 30lb pack put my tired legs to the test on the 2,500ft descent.  Once back at the car we couldn't get our boots of fast enough.  I went to sign us back in at the climbers registration kiosk but all of the days "out climbing" sheets were gone.  Odd, but nothing I could do about it.  At least our spouses knew we were off the mountain and safe, so there was little chance of the National Guard being dispatched.

Cheers and summit beers.

Burgers and beer at the Ratskeller replenished our depleted fuel reserves.  In hindsight we should have climbed and descended the Old Chute to avoid the traffic jam at the Pearly Gates.  I could also argue a case to start an hour earlier than we did.  Overall it was a solid day with a strong crew on a big volcano in June.  Days like that are hard to beat.

Monday, May 18, 2020

White Cap Peak

Date: May 16, 2020.

Objective: White Cap Peak - 11,899ft.

Partners: Malachai and Todd.

Stats: 8 miles and 4,500ft gain.  Class 2/3.  Strava track.

Gear notes: Ice ax and crampons carried but not needed.

White Cap Peak from Hwy 93.

This was supposed to be the week that we did our main group training climb for Mt. Rainier in June, but with the National Park that the mountain is located in being closed, we had no choice but to call it off (for now).  I was still planning on getting out and Todd said he was in and Malachai jumped on at the last minute.  I figured White Cap Peak would be fairly straight forward, although I was a bit worried that it was going to be tough on Malachai for a first time peak.

I had taken a good look at the peak earlier and could see an overhanging cornice above one of the major gullies that our potential route would follow.  It was big enough that I could see it unaided from the road and it looked pretty monster through the binoculars.  I figured the gully was wide enough that we could avoid the overhead danger, and if all else failed we would find another way.

We met up in Mackay and found some not great but free camping.  After some dinner, a couple beers and a lovely rain/hail mix we were off to bed hoping that our apparent party animal neighbors weren't going to pull an all nighter.  It was a cold night but I managed to sleep fairly well.  We woke up at 5 to cold temps, clear skies and a bit of frost.  I hopped in Todd's rig and he was able to muscle it up Sawmill Gulch Road and cut a big chunk of leg work out of the day.

We set off at 6:45, following the road to it's end, then following what we could of the unofficial trail.  There was a decent amount of pretty hard snow in the canyon and we could hear running water underneath.  At one point we were no longer able to follow the trail and we were short of the gully we wanted.  After some brief conversation, we decided that instead of bushwhacking to get to where we wanted to be, we would just start up the the slopes to the left and get out of the canyon.

Early morning view of the White Knob Mountains.

Getting ready to hike.

View across the Lost River Valley.

Walking up the road.

Leatherman Peak a the head of Sawmill Gulch.

That worked quite well and we soon arrived at a nice bench, had a short rest and then began another push to the tree line.  At this point we were at 10k and after more brief conversation Malachai had decided he was at his high point for the day.  We made sure Chai was good-to-go and decided that we would split up (slight wince) and would regroup in about 2 hours.  From there I could see that the ridge we wanted was not far and decided to keep the line we were on, aiming for the Col just northeast of point 11,045.  Todd worked the snow and I stuck to the rocks.  That overhanging cornice turned out to be a decent size and I was glad we were never under it.  We arrived at the Col, had a short break then set off for the summit, skirting the rise in the ridge to the north to about 11,400.

Todd at a rest break.

Chai coming up the hill and probably thinking we're nuts for calling this fun.

Crossing an old avalanche track.

Bad Rock Peak.

Chai crossing some snow.

Bad Rock and Church.

From there it was a typical, albeit very scenic and kind of steep walk up.  Conditions were cold and breezy on top and some pretty hefty cornices adorned the summit ridge.  We summited at noon-thirty and only stayed long enough to snap our glory shots and gawk at the view.  After maybe 10 minutes we headed back down to the Col for a nice break where it was relatively warm.

Todd climbing with Leatherman in the background.

View of the top of the gully and a small portion of the cornice.

Todd with the LRR crest in the background.

Summit push.

Close to the top.


Me on the highpoint.
Todd on the highpoint.

Looking south-ish along the crest.

Mount Borah.

Looking north-ish.

There were a few decent fingers of snow to glissade and that made us quite pleased.  Malachai was in fine shape and waiting for us as we descended to his position.  Todd really wanted Chai to get some glissading time and the fresh blood jumped at the chance.  After a quick snow climbing and glissading 101 course Chai was ripping glissades and self arresting like a pro.

White Knob's.


Chai the mountain climber. Photo: Todd C.

Glissading.  Photo: Todd C.

We followed that finger of snow as low as we could, then bushwhacked in the direction of the mouth of the canyon until we found the trail again.  The snow was very soft and sloppy on the way down and while we did post hole from time to time, I had to remind the guys that if your're not punching in at least knee deep, you're not doing it right.

While we were walking down, Todd graciously suggested that he could jog down, get his truck and drive back up to us.  Malachai was in borrowed boots and developing some blisters.  That allowed him to get his feet dry and save him some misery.  Chai was fresh blood and got served up what I like to call the full mountain buffet.  It's a little bit of everything; rain, snow, hail, wind, cold, hot and sunny, bushwhacking and blisters, all topped off with amazing views.  While we didn't get any bug bites, I hope Chai at least got nibbled on by a big fat climbing bug.  He has rock climbed, hiked, hunted and backpacked before, but this was his first attempt at a big peak and he hung in there like a champ.