Monday, February 28, 2011

Lots of snow!

Well, it's supposedly a La Nina weather pattern year, but while we're getting plenty of precipitation, and plenty of it as snow, the freezing level occasionally goes way up and drops some rain, too, so it's not shaping up to be quite as extraordinary as the record-setting winter of 1999.

Still lots of great snow, though! Some of it comes with good visibility, some of it does not. One of the first tours we did when I got back was up by Mt Baker in possibly the most complete whiteout I have ever experienced. We call it being in the ping pong ball - the light scatters and refracts from clouds and snow the same way, making it impossible to distinguish surface water crystals from suspended water droplets. You find yourself in a perfect visual sphere with no orientation, literally impossible to tell whether you're about to bump into a snowbank or have the snow end beneath your feet. Great snow, but hard to ski! Still good to be out, of course.

Next time out, a little better visibility, but we still needed some trees to steer by. So into the Swift Creek woods, just behind the Mt Baker ski area. The snow was amazing, knee deep until you got your telemark turn on... then it became waist deep as we crouched down mid-turn. Heavy enough to ski on top of, light enough to be really, really fun. Telemark is such fun. A little video of some low-angle lovin' - it doesn't have to be steep to be fun...
video

A few weeks in town, a little skiing and catching up with friends, and suddenly it's time to head up to Canada for a longer ski trip with Dave. There's certainly plenty of snow, so let's hope the weather cooperates, too!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Team Bob addendum

One of the climbers on Team Bob had enough oxygen capacity left over on the summit to do a little filming. It's a good glimpse of what it might feel like up there... Enjoy!

video

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Team Bob

Yes, it's true, Bob, you get a whole post! Team 8 was definitely an interesting team, a great collection of easy-going characters that made this trip a good one.

Many changes took place on the mountain in my absence. For one, it had gotten hammered with snow, so the concern for water at the higher camps was alleviated, and upper trails were covered in perfect styrofoam snow, great for cramponing. Additionally, the park (which is a provincial park, not a national one, which might explain some things), in its zeal to be a real park with real rangers and rules, used some of the newfound money from elevated permit fees to station a doctor at the very first camp. So while Matthew made hamburgers for dinner, I sat with the doc while all our people were checked for oxygen saturation, lung sounds, blood pressure, etc. More checks and more structures = a better park, right?

Ahem. Once at base camp (after a second medical check), we settled into carrying loads up the mountain. Lhakpa Gelu joined us at Camp 1, which meant that we had more stories and carrying power added to the team, as well as just an amazing mountain person. Afternoon snowstorms graced us for a few days but didn't cause trouble, and after that we had some great weather and moved up to our Camp 3, most people's camp 2. The forecast was for a couple days of high winds followed by a good period, so we spent an extra day there, gaining a little more rest and acclimatization, then moved up and summarily had our summit day.

A beautiful day, though a little windy at the start, and 6 of 10 folks stood on top with us. Lhakpa took three down who were running out of resources for a continued trip up AND down, and once back at camp we pooled all of our remaining meal resources to have some very flavorful mashed potatoes for dinner that night. But there's no standin for real food, so the next day we gratefully headed down to base camp and the path home. A memorable team, for sure!

Back in Mendoza, I was psyched to enjoy a few more days of watermelon and other fresh summer fruit, but am expecially excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest where there are things like organic lettuce and molasses. Yes, I have odd tastes, but it's good to be back where I can have them! The mountains are wearing some fresh snow, I get to go skiing in the fog with my partner, and it's good to be back.