Monday, May 19, 2008

On your marks...

And so begins another season of Rainier and North Cascades climbing. Our Denali Preparation course was a mixture of terrible and perfect weather - great for preparing for the big hill. Thirty-one degrees and raining to bluebird skies and 80 degrees... you never know what you're going to get up there.

But we did get to summit of Mt Rainier, the first Denali Prep course of the season to do so, thanks to strong climbers, perfect weather, and a snowpack that was solid enough not to avalanche in the first warming cycle of the year.

Even better, with the sleds required to pull heavy loads on Denali, we were able to slide down the 4500 feet elevation back to the parking lot, a normally obnoxious descent in soft snow. Sweet!

A couple Rainier summit climbs and a 6-day glacier course will keep me busy for the next month while summer tries to arrive in Seattle...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wilderness time

After yet another plan change once I left town, I did indeed manage to get out kayaking. Turns out Ross Lake is down 100 feet below its normal level (managed to make room for spring runoff), so there's a whole lot of bare gravel surrounding it currently - not the serene experience I was looking for. So off to Lake Chelan...

So it has the occasional motor boat, passenger ferry, and float plane, but pre-Memorial Day, it was actually pretty peaceful. The ranger station was closed for the weekend, so I hand-copied the display board map and set off.

The farther up the lake you go, the windier it gets, apparently, even early in the morning. I did make it within looking distance of Stehekin, at the far end of the 55-mile lake (I started about mile 10), but at that point there were whitecaps and 1-2 foot waves in addition to a pretty strong headwind, so looking seemed sufficient. I turned around and went back to a camping spot.

Not a lot to say or take pictures of on a solo kayak trip - there's water, trees, mountains, and the occasional beached-kayak picture. The last three days were all pretty rough water, and my arms were definitely ready to be done, having let my legs do most of the outdoor work for the last several months. This morning, tired of fighting the wind (a tailwind is actually much more tiring to control the boat in!), I pulled up about ten miles short of my car, walked/hitched to where it was parked and drove back to the kayak.

It was, however, overall great weather - a nice dose of sunshine for those of us who are convinced spring will never actually come to the Northwest. (It snowed briefly as I was coming back over the pass!) Now it's back to work until September...

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Last week on Rainier was, indeed, cold and snowy - all except the last day as we were leaving, of course. The better to prepare folks for Denali, I suppose.

These two weeks, however, have been much less structured - it's amazing how hard it can be to make a trip happen. Of the solicited suggestions from friends, I've probably planned and changed plans to include nearly all of them:

Week-long canyoneering trip to Zion. Nope, conditions are bad, so week-long kayak trip, then ski St Helens. Nope, I actually have a place to stay for the week so short bike trip and ski St Helens. Nope, people are coming back early, so long bike trip and ski St Helens. Nope, St Helens friend can't do it, so back to a week-long kayak trip. Next!!

Currently planning to kayak somewhere for a week, not sure where yet. Until tomorrow, when it will all change again...