Thursday, August 28, 2008

Summer going, going...

Back on Rainier for a few climbs, and the weather is less than cooperative. I stayed up at Muir for two trips in a row, and our first had great summit weather. A bit of new snow gave the mountain a fresh dusting of white to show off features and cover up some of the dirt that blows off the ridges. It made for a bit of work - high camp had been taken down because of the storm and had to be re-set up, and two of our guides went and shoveled out a path on a steep section the afternoon before our climb. My next trip had good weather until summit night, when freezing rain was followed by high winds and a couple inches of snow. Potentially hazardous climbing conditions and likely avalanche danger kept us in camp - no summit this time around. We got off easy though - two days later they got another 2 1/2 feet of snow at high camp! Happy August...

I stayed in nearby Ashford (where there is a company guide house for us) for a few days after my climbs, just reading and trail running and making good food. There's a chill in the air even though all the snow hasn't melted from the lower elevations yet, and that sense that the flowers are about to be covered up again. A few more trips up the mountain for me, then time to think about plans for upcoming seasons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I'd been up once before and wanted to go back, so Mary and I headed up to the Bugaboos, an alpine rock climbing playground on the eastern edge of BC in Canada. A relatively short drive and relatively short (though steep!) hike in with lots of gear, so off we went for a week.

It was spitting rain as we hiked up, then full-on sleet and wind as we arrived at the Cain Hut. This is no kind of weather for a tent, so we forked over the $25 per person to stay in a nice warm hut half-full of friendly climbers instead of hiking another hour to set up camp in freezing rain. This is what we call a "no brainer" - the day before, marble-sized hail had destroyed several tents camped above! The next day was similarly crappy, so there was lots of playing cards and napping and being social, wondering if we'd aver be able to climb.

When the sun finally came out, several parties set out ahead of us for the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire, an uber-classic 5.4 that's a great orientation climb for the area. Alas, the preceeding days had coated it in ice! Rather than make a very enjoyable climb epic, the 15 of us stared at it for a while, unwilling to turn back right away, then wandered off to scope out the conditions on other rock. Mary built a scary little snowman, then we wandered around the glacier for a while and took the long way back. Maybe tomorrow...

Went up the Cain route on Bugaboo the next day - I'd descended the route last time I was here, but that meant we skipped all the fun climbing. An interesting pitch or two made it much more fun than I remembered coming down. The next day, back to Pigeon Spire for a lovely day of ridge scrambling. Both days, we took far more time than most people do, and met (waylaid, harrassed, chatted up) pretty much everyone coming or going on the Snowpatch-Bugaboo col that accesses most climbs. Far more entertaining than actually climbing!

On our last day, we decided not to go for the big alpine traverse that we had gotten excited for and spent the day mostly wandering around again, traipsing around glaciers and sunning by a lake. We met some cool folks from Seattle, Boston, Mexico, France, Australia... While I don't support huts in the Cascades or most areas in the US, it is fun to have areas where they exist. Even without big objectives, this is a beautiful place - 'til next time...

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Six-day courses, a backpacking catch-up trip, and a climb for fun - time flies when you're running around like the proverbial headless chicken.

Nice to come back from Denali to some nice days - the first weather-cooperative glacier course of my season was a great distraction from Alaska.

Then to the Enchantments with Lin. Neither of us had been to this limited-access, quota-governed, much-talked-about area, so off we went, no climbing due to my wrenched shoulder from a bike mishap. It's beautiful, it's true, but there are a lot of beautiful places in the world, and I've been to many of them. It is amazing for its access and proximity to I-90, but similar to other high alpine zones. We spent a valuable couple of days catching up from winters spent elsewhere, enjoying the lake and quiet.

On to Rainier with Rob and Erin and her friend Wolf. Despite working on the mountain quite often, it was nice to climb with friends, people who I'd trained with before and looked forward to hanging out with. Erin's friend's knee took him down early, but we had a beautiful summit day with few others around - nice to have the mountain largely to ourselves.

Now off for a little more work before some play time...