Saturday, July 17, 2010

Forbidden Torment

If there was a climb called Forbidden-Torment, you'd want to climb it, right?

Several years ago, Mary said "I want to climb Forbidden." It is a well-known climb in the North Cascades, classic easy-moderate rock in a beautiful alpine setting, way up in the high mountains on a ridge with views of mountains and lakes and forests and pointy rocks all around. I said, "how about the Forbidden-Torment traverse?"

This traverse is, among other things, featured in a coffee table book called "50 Classic Climbs" which popularized some beautiful climbs, many of them not prohibitively difficult for your average climber. It is a mile-long pointy ridge between Mt Torment and Mt Forbidden, and requires both technical rock climbing skills and commitment to the route - once you rappel onto the north side of the ridge from Torment, it is prohibitively difficult to get off the ridge without continuing to Forbidden at the other end.

Four years ago Mary and I got caught in an ice-storm up there, and were on the traverse for four days instead of our planned two, just continuing to climb the ice-coated ridge in zero visibility so we could get off. We ran out of food and were at times very concerned about hypothermia - it's the first time I've actually contemplated the possibility of dying in the mountains. (The above picture is of Mary on that first attempt.) But we made it down in one piece, and came up one other time to attempt the route before turning around.

This time, Mary led the hardest part - getting off the glacier and onto the rock - and we headed for the top of Torment. Unfortunately, we haven't done much climbing together recently, and in the end we were moving too slow to anticipate a good climb - the time we had would not permit us to have normal-length days and achieve our objective. We'd done the traverse itself once, though it wasn't fun. If we weren't enjoying this climb, why were we doing it? So we came down and camped with the marmots, and enjoyed the sunset.

Next time Mary says "I want to climb this mountain," I'm just going to say, "OK."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Vantage and Baker

So this might not be the kind of climbing that inspires dramatic posts. It was not hard, it was not impressive. It wasn't something new or different, in fact I think I've climbed most of what we did before. But it has been some time for me and Mary and Erin, both since we climbed individually and since we got to play together. Which means... things got a little ridiculous.

The three of us have climbed Rainier in tiaras, and basically find joint ventures to be an excuse to indulge our inner 12-year-olds. Or younger in this case - we got silly stretchy bracelets and temporary tattoos and just enjoyed a sunny weekend in the desert of Eastern Washington with the excuse of doing some rock climbing. Really, what more do you need? Our original plan had been to climb Mt Baker with a couple other folks, but the forecast was for rain, and we found out later that's exactly what it did - boy was it nice to be in the hot and dry! It had been a pretty crappy spring here in the Northwest so far.

A week later, the switch for summer flipped here, and it was beautiful everywhere. So I did go to Mt Baker, but this time with skis. Dave and two of his friends and I went up to ski the Squak Glacier - an ancient native name for "glacier without big crevasses". The snowline was finally rising, so we had to cross the lowland rivers and hike up to the snow. From there it was a mellow day, just skiing up as high as we wanted and then making big turns down the vast canvas of the unbroken snow. Sweet!! More weather like this, please!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


OK, so I had a little time off, and it was (of course) promptly filled with those day-to-day things that most people take for granted, but which are impossible to do while on the hill. Catching up on life stuff, and a little fun thrown in for good measure: manage the email (obviously), sleep, do laundry, spend time with boyfriend/partner Dave, go skiing, work one Rainier climb, get a haircut, do a few RAMROD training rides, catch up with a few friends in town...

There's always plenty to do, but as with all lives, it becomes part of the day-to-day, strange as that may sound. After the chaos of the RAAM, it was nice to have my time back for a little while.