Monday, January 15, 2018

Pegmatite Points

Cole and I made plans to get our first climb of the new year in on Hoosier Ridge, but at zero hour – 4:00am on climb day we decided to change plans and head to the Rosalie area. The high country had been fairly windy with sustained winds in the 20’s and gusts in the 40’s (mph). Hoosier Ridge didn’t seem appealing since the route is exposed mainly being above tree line, so we elected to go into an area that at least has some tree cover for a good portion of the climb.
The Rosalie area has many options including climbs of Rosalie, and the Pegmatite Points as well as general trail hiking in the area. The trailhead access for this area is called the Deer Creek TH. Follow the hyperlink to old postings for general directions. The area gets moderate activity so the trail in the winter time is well defined.
The forecast as to be expected for the winter was not ideal. High winds are common everywhere in the Front Range, so if you want to get out in the mountains you have to learn to deal with it. For our climb day the forecast was sunny with a high of 26° with winds 16-22mph and gusts of 45mph which equated to a wind chill of -8° above 12,000ft. There was a recent storm that was forecasted to have up to 7 inches of snow in the area. The question as always was what kind of layers and gear to bring. I live in the world of have rather than have-not so I am prepared for most situations. I decided I was going to pack in my snowshoes and Cole followed suit. To be noted for others, there was absolutely no need for snow shoes, but foot traction like micro spikes could be useful. We didn’t use any foot traction and I only completely ate it once. The winds pushed us off of an attempt on Rosalie and we elected to head towards the Pegmatite Points instead. Our estimation were sustained winds in the high 40’s to low 50’s near the saddle between Rosalie and the Points, which was enough to push us both around.
By the time we made the summit of the Pegmatite Points we were both feeling it. We decided it was a good climb for the day and soon found a nice block from the wind to have a summit beer and some snacks. The sun was out for the most part, and the winds were still kicking around pretty good, so we felt comfortable putting on our puffy jackets and hanging out for a while. Views of Rosalie, Evans and the other surrounding mountains were great. We even had a nice backdrop of Pikes Peak and the Denver area.
We made quick work of the route down, and were glad to get out of the wind. There were maybe 6 or 7 others we saw in the area that day that were brave enough to face the wind. This is a favorite area of mine and at some point I would like to connect Royal, Rosalie, Epaulie and Epaulet, but that will be more of a summer time excursion.
Date: January 13, 2018
TH Elevation: 9,300 feet
Pegmatite Points Summit: 12,227 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2,879 feet (GPS)
Class: 2
Distance: 8.55 miles
Moving Time: 05:06:22
Stopped Time: 02:44:16
Climbing Partner: Cole

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Stanley Mountain

I know it’s been a while, but life has been busy, and in an attempt to make a comeback to the mountains Cole and I recently climbed Stanley Mountain from Berthoud Pass (BP). This was a fairly simple class 2 ridge hike where the only difficulties came from the frigid weather. I recommend this as an all-season hike, as we did this in mid-December the use of traction devices was unnecessary, so plan those weather windows correctly.

The trailhead used was BP. This is a pass along the Continental Divide (CD) that is extensively used for backcountry activities. There is a warming building with restroom facilities. I have used this TH in the past for climbs of CO Mines Peak, as well as Mount Flora. From Denver it takes a little under an hour to reach the TH. Cole and I met at the Wooly Mammoth Commuter Lot which is near the intersection of I-70 and C-470. From there we took I-70 west towards Empire. Take exit 232 onto HWY 40, this road will take you directly to Berthoud Pass where there is a large parking area. From the parking lot on top of the pass you will have to cross the highway to the west where the TH starts for this climb.

The forecast was quite frigid, which is to be expected for this time of year being on top of the Continental Divide. A high of 12° with winds 15-20mph and gusts of 25mph which equated to wind chill of -10° above 12,000ft. With proper layering this isn’t a big issue. We left the car about 7am where I had two bottom layers and three upper layers. I run a bit cold so I even double layered my socks, the layering worked well as I got a little chilled from time to time when it was windy, but overall stayed warm and comfortable considering the conditions.
Though I have never done this climb in the summer time, I believe there is a full trail that leads up to the CD from BP as part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The west side of the highway where we were headed is heavily used for backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers so there was a good path in place already. The snow was solid and we didn’t need to put on snowshoes or microspikes.

There are a series of points that you will pass on the way up. The first was point 11,963. There is some sort of radio tower and possibly some leftover poles from the old ski lift that used to come up this mountain. Once you are to this point the ridge levels out a bit and you will be able to see switchbacks making their way up to the 12,391 point. We decided it would be more efficient to go directly up rather than attempt to stay on the drifted switchbacks. This worked well, although it did get this old boys heart rate going pretty quickly. Once on point 12,391 the majority of the elevation gain was complete. We were now high on the CD and we could tell immediately from the gusty winds. There were three small high points along the ridge heading southwest with Stanley being the last of the group at 12,521ft high.

We could see the ridge was pretty wind swept so there would be no use for snowshoes. We ditched the shoes near a large cairn, since there was no point of taking the extra weight. The CDT was visible here and there and we followed it for the most part, but we figured why not hit all the high points along the way as well, so we veered off trail a few times to meander up these humps. A simple ridge hike will take you to Stanley’s summit where there was a small wind block constructed out of nearby rock. We wanted to take a break out of the wind, but the rock shelter needed some help. We quickly dug out snow, and added a few layers of rock to try and make a comfortable shelter on the summit. We hung out on the summit for about half hour drinking warm tea and cold beers. The views as always were spectacular, and it was just nice to get back out into the mountains.

This was a “yo-yo” route, so we took roughly the same track on the decent as we did on the ascent. We avoided the high points heading down, making good time as we let gravity do a lot of the work. We started to see quite a few skiers heading up and even got to watch a few guys ski down one of the chutes from to CD ridgeline. As usual the further we descended the temps rose, so eventually I was able to ditch a top layer. Overall the layering for the day worked very well, where my toes didn’t even get too cold for once. The car-to-car time was 5 hours, which I was pretty happy with for our first outing in pretty much forever. This was a good entry back into the mountains and I look forward to my next tramp with Cole in the backcountry.

I should note that on the ascent my phone froze and shut down due to the chilly winds, so my GPS track didn’t complete. The statistics below are approximations where I think its safe to say this was around 7 miles round trip with roughly 1,300ft in elevation gained. Cole’s phone didn’t shut down so he became the photographer for this trip.

Date: December 18, 2017
TH Elevation: 11,325 feet
Stanley Mountain Summit: 12,521 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
Class: 2
Distance: 7 miles
Climbing Partner: Cole

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hagar Mountain

Hagar Mountain
A few weeks have passed since this climb took place. Kristi and I were expecting our daughter to arrive on November 20th, so in my mind I had time to get out for a short climb that was local to the Denver area. As it turned out a day after this climb (November 13th), Kristi and I were at the hospital with a baby on the way, so I was cutting it a lot closer that I thought. Since then life has changed in many ways and time has become hard to manage. I did not want to forget about the details of this trip, so I thought it was important to get this TR out before too much more time has passed.
Morning Light on Snictau
Cole and I decided on Hagar Mountain, this is close to the Denver area and we would be in cell service for the majority of the route; these were requirements due to the due date of the baby. We met at Cole’s place around 6am and were up to the TH by 7am. This route heads up Dry Gulch near Loveland Ski Area. To get to the TH take exit 216 off of I70. Coming from the east, take the exit and take the immediate hairpin turn onto a dirt road access road that heads to the east along the freeway. Follow this road till reaching the gate, maybe about a mile down the road. Park here and this is considered the TH for this route up Hagar. We were the first car to arrive and were off on the trail by around 7am with a hint of darkness. We both had headlamps, but only used them for maybe 15 minutes.
The first part of this route follows a dirt access road, after about a mile the road turns into a trail. I have attached my GPX track that may be useful with finding the route. As you make your way the trail will start to fade, at around the 11,000ft contour, take one of the may trails heading up the steep south face of the draw making your way above the trees. Gain about 600ft vertical and then you will be above tree line and can start a traverse to the base of the mountain. This traverse can go pretty quickly, if you are following my GPX track stick to the lower track, you will make much better time. The upper track we used for our ascent and scrambled around on some rocks, but we had to lose and regain some considerable elevation in the process.
Hagar's Summit
The traverse will bring you south around a rib that heads up towards the Citadel, there is draw that holds a body of water around the 12,200ft mark, from here the traverse will end and the climb up the gulley will commence. We chose a line that made its way to the middle point of the mountain, it is easy to make out from the near the 12,000ft contour. Some of the rock was loose and sandy like kitty litter, making our way a bit to the West we could stay on more firm ground and made good time on the ascent. The route is steep and gets rockier the further up you get. Just above the 13,000ft contour we came onto the ridge via a small saddle between a couple mounds of rock defining the summit block. The USGS map shows the summit block being to the west of the saddle we ascended, but the block to the east was much higher.
From the saddle to the summit is mostly class 3 climbing. The exposure wasn’t bad and the foot and hand holds were plentiful. This scramble isn’t long and takes only 5-10 minutes to complete. It was a fun ending to the ascent. The wind was howling on the summit so we took just a few minutes before making our way back down to the saddle to have lunch.
Me and Cole at the Saddle
Today we were lucky and got a clear blue sky day with comfortable temps. I knew this would be my last climb for quite a while with a baby due in another week, and it turns out that it is Cole’s birthday on Sunday….so it’s a good thing we brought two summit beers to take it all in. We took a long hour break taking in the view and shooting the shit while we drank our beers. It was a good time, and possibly one of the best mornings in the mountains this year.
It was time for us to get on our way, so we started making our way back to the TH. We made good time getting back to the car and didn’t see anyone till we were almost back to the TH. That is always a good sign that you chose the correct mountain in Colorado. Happy climbing everyone!

Date: November 12, 2016
TH Elevation: 10,585 feet
Hagar Mountain Summit: 13,220 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2,772 feet
Class: 3
Distance: 7.0 miles
Moving Time: 4hr 0min
Stopped Time: 2hr 20min

Climbing Partner: Cole

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pettingell Peak

Pettingell Peak and Herman Lake
We are now into October and it feels like an eternity since my last outing. I made myself a cushion with my school work so I could get a day out in the hills. I texted Cole and he was in. To keep the climb close to home we decided on Pettingell Peak. Pettingell is a mountain along the Continental Divide near the Loveland Ski Area.
The route we used is the South Slopes route from We varied it a bit in true “Karl” fashion, but more or less it was the same. I would suggest following our descent gpx track which is what has been attached to this report. The trail starts at the Herman Gulch TH. This is a popular place for hikers making their way to Herman Lake.  Take exit 218 off of I-70. At the stop sign at the end of the off ramp take a hairpin right turn down a bumpy dirt road. This will lead you to the TH. There is a pit toilet there if you need it.
We took the luxury of sleeping in on this trip. We met at 6am in Denver, and made the drive to the TH arriving just after 7am. The sun was starting to come up, so for this trip we didn’t need our headlamps. It was a brisk morning, so deciding on layers was a bit difficult. With winter looming over us it’s always hard to tell what you need. So, to be prepared I brought most of my cold weather gear just in case it got windy at the summit.
The Citadel
There is a trail that leads you all the way to Herman Lake, I would say it is just over 3 miles. We moved pretty well up the trail, but there were sections of ice through quite a bit of the trees. We had micro spikes, but never needed them. Just as we were breaking tree line we took a break to put on some sun block. It seemed to get a bit chillier, but that may have just been the fact we were feeling the breeze for the first time. I continued just wearing my mid-weight base layer top. As we crested a small hill that looks over Herman Lake the winds picked up and we both decided to put on our shell jackets. The views of the Citadel were pretty amazing from here. That is a truly rugged peak, and I looks like a technical mixed climb with the current conditions.
We saw the first two people of the day near the lake. The route takes you off trail at the lake and you make your way to the northern point where a rock field ramp so to speak will lead you towards the saddle on the western side of the summit. This section wasn’t difficult but it was tedious. There was enough snow in-between the rocks to piss you off a bit. Lower on the ramp the rocks were more consolidated which made stair stepping a good option, but the higher you get the smaller the boulders were and the more lose they became.
Me and Cole at the Summit
Take this ramp all the way to the saddle. Don’t get lured by the summit and climb direct. I know, because that’s what we did. The slope is fairly steep on loose unconsolidated rock. We found out on the descent that the normal route is pretty solid for the most part. Since we were on the “Karl” route we just kept trucking up the crappy rock till we hit the eastern ridge. Once on the ridge we had a couple hundred feet climb to the west to make the summit.
Just after 10am we were on the summit, so that was about a 3 hour ascent. You could probably shave some time off by taking the longer, more solid route to the west, but either way it’s not a bad climbing time. We were both shocked about how warm it felt on top. Cole never put a jacket on, but I threw on my puffy just because I had it. We cracked open a few summit beers, kind of a celebration for a solid climbing season. We both decided that cameras will never capture the true beauty the eye takes in while you’re in the mountains. This had one of the better, clearer views I’ve seen this year. I’m glad we were able to sneak this one in.
Pettingell from the Saddle
We probably took a half hour on top before we started our descent. We headed down the standard route and were both pleasantly surprised how much more solid the rock was. It seemed like we were moving down the rocks pretty quickly and within an hour we were probably back to the lake. The lake was overcrowded with probably about 50 people. We took a small water break before heading down. Along the trail loads of people were heading up to the lake, this is a hot spot I guess. We were in high gear, trotting in some of the downhill sections. Just after 2pm we were back to the TH.
This is a really nice climb. In the summer I would like to take the East Ridge route from the Continental Divide Trail and maybe add Hassell Peak. It would be interesting to do a Pettingell-Citadel-Hagar trifecta, but I’m assuming it gets pretty technical. Worth looking into anyway. Well, it’s been a good season of climbing, and all good things must come to an end (what a shitty cliché). I’ve got a busy schedule ahead, so I hope some of you get out there and climb and share your stories with me for a change. Cheers!
Herman Lake

Date: October 8, 2016
TH Elevation:  10,300 feet
Pettingell Peak Summit: 13,553 feet
Route: South Slopes
Total Ascent:  3,300 feet
Total Distance:  8.4 miles
Class:  2
Moving Time:  5 hours 35 minutes
Stopped Time: 50 minutes
Climbing Partners: Cole
GPX Track
Photo Album

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Longs Peak

Longs Peak
When you think of the mountains of Colorado, Longs Peak is usually at the top of the list. I’m not sure what the allure is about the mountain, perhaps that it’s a lone giant, the long history of ascents or that it is simply part of Rocky Mountain National Park. Living in the Denver metro area, Longs Peak is a part of the skyline to the north I see each day. Climbing Longs has been considered a classic and put on the list of many climbers, even before moving to Colorado I was aware of the allure of the mountain and was drawn to the idea of summiting it one day. I have been in Colorado for five years now and have for a long time contemplated the idea of Longs, on Thursday I convinced myself it was time to attempt the giant.
Longs Peak in no way is an unobtainable mountain. In fact through this report I hope you see that it is not a hard or technical mountain to climb at all. I think the naming of many of the features such as the ledges, or the narrows that create a lot of concern for people. I’m not sure exactly why I put it off so long, but I like to tell myself it was because of the route being nearly 15 miles and having to start around 2am. Over the past two weeks I couldn’t decide what mountain to climb, but the idea of Longs was always there. Late in the week I texted Cole and told him I decided on Longs and he agreed to join me, even though that required a midnight wake-up.
The Keyhole
The Longs Peak parking lot is notorious for filling up before 2am on any weekend. Even though the weather was going to be clear, we wanted to avoid as much of the traffic on the trail and still be able to park in the main lot. We decided a 3am start would work for us. I left my place at 12:30am and picked up Cole. The TH is located off of HWY 7 that runs in-between Lyons and Estes Park. We arrived around 2:30 am and snagged the last spot in the main parking lot.
As we were gearing up at the TH the temps were very cold and the wind was breezy. I decided to pack my heavier parka instead of my light one, which was a wise decision. We didn’t take too much time and were off along the trail by 2:45am. I was feeling pretty good considering the hour and lack of sleep. I told Cole to let me know if my pace got out-of-hand, he never complains and always keeps up. I had set break points along the route so I could ration my water/food, wanting only to carry only what was necessary.
The pace was more on the fast end, where we hit the Chasm Lake junction in an hour and half covering about 3 miles and 2,000ft. We took ten minutes to take in some fuel/water. The parkas were much needed as the wind was howling. The one bonus were the stars, you could not quite see the full Milky Way, but with a little less headlamp pollution it may have come through. I could not get a picture to come out showing the headlamp trail from all the climbers, but it looked like I70 on a ski weekend in the dark.
The next break was the Keyhole. The Keyhole is where the trailed section of the trip ends, about 6 miles into the climb. My goal was to be there for sunrise at about 6:30am, so far we were moving better than expected so I was confident we would make it to the Keyhole for the sunrise. From the Chasm Lake junction there is a long traverse to Granite Pass. From the pass there was almost a paved path of granite slabs, quite unusual, but made our travel very efficient. Not long after the pass the boulder field starts. We could gauge where landmarks were in the dark based on the line of headlamps in front of us. There is a trail through most of the boulder field, but good luck keeping to it in the dark. We probably made better time hiking more directly towards the headlamps just under the Keyhole than staying to a meandering trail anyway. We arrived at the Keyhole about 6am and the winds were howling at what felt like at least 40mph.
The Ledges
There is a memorial shelter just below the Keyhole and it was packed with people. I found a hole for us to crawl into so we could take in some calories. We started to freeze from the wind almost instantly, I wanted to see how Cole was feeling about moving along the route. He decided to stay at the Keyhole and I would push on the summit by myself. I knew I needed to get moving before I got any colder. Even though I wanted to stay and see the sunrise I knew I had to get a move on it. I put on my helmet and took off on the ledges.
For the scramble part of the route I had an idea of what to expect, but you never really know what it’s like till you are there. I figured it was a thousand feet over about a mile, so I planned on about an hour and a half to get to the summit. There are four sections: The Ledges, Trough, Narrows and The Homestretch. I started out along The Ledges with nobody in sight as most people were apprehensive to continue with the windy conditions. There are bullseyes along the route to follow which takes a lot of the challenge of a class 3 route away. Since I was running solo, I was almost on a trot during some sections as I didn’t want Cole to have to wait out the cold winds longer than was necessary. I’ll be honest, The Ledges are a cakewalk. But bear in mind I have quite a bit of experience, for someone that is more accustom to trails they would not see it as I do. For the most part I thought there was a trail, where you would occasionally pull yourself up over a rock, nothing to get concerned about. I would say The Ledges took me 10-15 minutes max, and this section leads to The Trough.
The Trough
The Trough is as bad as the word sounds. By far the worst part of the climb. It was not difficult or dangerous, just annoying. As one would expect with a high mountain gully there was a lot of loose rock to deal with. Lucky for me there was only one group a few hundred feet above me and nobody below me. I would recommend a helmet just in case someone knocks down rocks, but I didn’t have to worry about that in my case. The crux of the climb in my opinion is the climb up the rock that takes you out of The Trough. It’s not that difficult, but it is something that you should take care with on the ascent. Once over the crux The Narrows begins.
I want to say I was looking forward to The Narrows. Don’t get your hopes up, it’s a disappointment, or at least it was for me. This section reminded me of the hype for Chicken Out Ridge on Mount Borah in Idaho. A lot of hype, but when you get there, it was nothing more than a ridge climb. I caught up to the three guys taking a break before starting The Narrows, I chose to keep moving. For the most part The Narrows are not so narrow, there is a crack that is about a foot or so wide that you can walk in or the surrounding rock that gives plenty of room (many feet) to walk. To give you an idea on my descent I passed people breast-to-breast and didn’t even think about exposure. Stay on route and there shouldn’t be any issue. The Narrows leads to The Homestretch which is the last 300 feet of the climb.
I can handle exposure, climbing crappy rock, but the one thing I hate is slick rock. In my mind that was what The Homestretch was. As Lee Corso says: not so fast my friend. The rock is slick, yes, but very manageable. There are many cracks that flow directly to the summit to ascend. This section is steep, but for the most part you can climb upright with a hand down here or there for balance. Don’t get intimidated by the hype yet again. I spent maybe 10 minutes ascending this section. This leads you right to the summit.
On the Summit
At 7am I reached the summit, from the Keyhole it took me about 45 minutes. I had the summit all to myself, which I though was amazing considering the amount of people on route. The summit area is huge, a football field at least. I’m not sure what it was, most likely a huge sense of accomplishment, but summiting Longs gave me one of the best feelings I’ve had on a summit in a long time. I think it’s been one of those mountains I’ve wanted to climb for so long, and mentally I probably thought it was beyond my ability. Not so much I guess. What a great climb, and a rewarding summit. I gave Kristi a quick call to let her know I was on the summit, guess I woke her up . The guys I passed on the narrows summited maybe 5 minutes after me. It was nice having my few minutes of solitude up there, but I enjoyed chatting with the group of three while I was up there. I walked around enjoying the views, I only wish I could take a decent picture, but I still have all the clear ones in my head. I was able to text Cole and let him know I was on top, so there is cell service (AT&T) at the summit.
Summit Benchmark
After about 20 minutes I started down. I wanted to beat the conga line down The Homestretch. I got lucky and there was only about 10 people on the ascent through The Homestretch, I was easily able to avoid them. Keeping your weight over your toes is the trick to not slipping on the slick rock. This worked for the most part, but I sure wouldn’t do this if the rock was wet. I almost wish I had a clicker to count the crazy amount of people along the route leading back to the Keyhole. Everyone wanted to know how far, how long, how scary it gets. I tried to be helpful and gave what information I could. The Trough was the busiest section. I had no problem passing people along the route, and I thought that would be rather difficult. Somewhere around 9am I made it back to the Keyhole and found Cole.
We had a good time talking about my climb, and I took the time to eat and drink up. The hard part was over and we only had a 6 mile hike out. After a good rest we started our descent. This was one of the better descents I’ve had in a while, there was great conversation with a good friend and the sense of accomplishment that fed me energy. We made good time and were back to the TH just after noon. Both of us had cold beer and pizza on our minds so maybe that was some added motivation to get back to the truck.
Longs Peak is a great climb, if this is something on your list don’t get intimidated by the feature names. Get out there and give it a shot. The purpose of adventure is to live and learn, build your skills and then test them. The mountains are there for us, and they do give us a sense of freedom when we let them. Enjoy it…till next time.
Date: September 10, 2016
TH Elevation:  9,400 feet
Longs Peak Summit: 14,255 feet
Total Ascent:  5,043 feet
Total Distance:  14.7 miles
Class:  3
Moving Time:  6 hours 45 minutes
Stopped Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Climbing Partners: Cole
GPX Track
Photo Album

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier - From Paradise
Plans to climb Mount Rainier started to materialize about a year ago when my friend Harsha extended me an invitation to join him. I previously climbed Rainier in 2008 with my Dad as part of the Summit for Someone program. I couldn’t head back up there without asking my Dad to join us; he immediately said yes. Harsha planned on using the Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated (RMI) guide service, which was the same guide service I had used previously. I was more interested in doing a non-standard route, but with this being Harsha’s first climb on Rainier we selected the standard Disappointment Cleaver (DC) Route. Our climbing team would be composed of six other climbers that we would meet on our first day of the program.
Over the year leading up to the climb, getting into climbing shape becomes the priority. Throughout the year I kept to my same workout routine, and would try and get my boots on the dirt as much as could on the weekends. I have the advantage of living in Colorado at an elevation of about 5,700 feet, so my primary concern was not the elevation on the mountain, but rather the technical elements that a glacier climb presents.
We arrived in Ashford on the first of four days with RMI on Monday August 15th. On this day we met our guides and the other team members in the group. There is an overview of what will take place over the next few days, then there is a gear check to ensure each climber is adequately outfitted to climb the mountain.  We found out our lead guide would be Jake in which he would have two assistant guides; Jesse and Megan. Jake was an assistant guide on my trip in 2008, so it was nice to see a familiar face. The rest of our team would be composed of the Callaway family.
The Team 
Before I get too carried away with this report there is another aspect of the climb I would like to mention, and that is the development of relationships with our fellow teammates, the Callaways. The family included Mike, the father; the four siblings: Andrew, Matt, Will, Amy and Neil which is Amy's husband. The family is from Arkansas and a couple of them live in Kansas City, so they are very much flat landers. The Callaways have a great history of doing adventures together; previously they have climbed Mount Hood, Pikes Peak and the Grand Teton, all very difficult challenges. I knew right away we were all going to get along and have a great experience together. I enjoyed getting to know them as we climbed the mountain together.
Day two was mountaineering school. This was basically the introduction to techniques of mountaineering. I had been through this last time on the mountain, but it was good to get a refresher. You learn how to walk all over again, there are various walking techniques that make you more efficient on the mountain. After you have learned to walk, it’s time to learn to fall…in style as Jake would say. Learning to self-arrest is what can save your life on the upper mountain should you fall. You get a lot of practice falling in different ways. The remaining time is used working with rope travel. This shows you how to ascend and descend switchbacks and the proper length to keep between you and the climber in front of you. While you are in school you take a few 10 minute breaks throughout the day to get you prepared to manage yourself of the mountain. Time goes quickly, so you learn to eat, drink, medicate, and adjust layers and gear during these quick breaks. The climb to Muir is tomorrow, so the rest of the evening in Ashford is used re-packing bags, fueling and hydrating our bodies.
Climbing the Muir Snowfield
Day three is all about making the ascent to Camp Muir. The climb starts from Paradise and covers about five miles and about 4,500 feet of vertical gain. We loaded up our big packs and hit the trail out of Paradise sometime after 9am. The first hour and a half stays on the trails surrounding Paradise, so some people chose to wear an approach shoe. I chose to climb in my mountaineering boots to avoid having to do a change during the ascent. The pace was very moderate, keeping to about 1,000 feet of vertical gain per hour. We took a ten minute break about every hour. This gave us enough time to fuel and hydrate up for the next stretch. We hit the Muir Snowfield after our first break and would remain on the snow for the remainder of the day.
The goal of the day was to climb to Muir “in style.” This was an opportunity to work on all the techniques that we learned the previous day. The more efficient we could climb today, the easier our summit bid would be tomorrow. I’m not sure how long it took us to get to Muir, but I would guess we arrived around 2pm. We had about an hour to rest and get moved into the sleeping hut before the guides came in to give us the low-down on how the rest of the day and tomorrows climb would be played out. With temperatures being fairly warm we knew we would have an early wake-up. The warmer temperatures heat up the ice which dislodges boulders down glaciers, so this is the reason to get more of the climb done while the mountain is ‘sleeping’. After packing for the summit climb we needed to fuel/hydrate, and try to get a nap in before the early wake-up.
Most of us tried to fall asleep around 6pm figuring we would be up around 11pm for a long day. It didn’t sound like too many people got much sleep if any at all, but I felt like I got a few hours so I wasn’t feeling too bad. The guides woke us up at 11pm and we had one hour to fuel/hydrate and gear up for the day. It wasn’t too cold out, but as the night progressed we would be working into the coldest part of the night just before summiting. Jesse was guiding me and my Dad. Harsha unfortunately decided not to join us on a summit bid. He will be back at another time though. We met up with Jesse a little before midnight and soon started along the first stretch of the route.
Camp Muir and the Upper Mountain
The climb starts by crossing the Cowlitz Glacier, and then ascends Cathedral Gap leading to our first break on Ingram Flats. This section is a bit over an hour long, and covers about 1,200 vertical feet. The crossing of the Cowlitz Glacier is a nice warm up before hitting the rock/dirt path up Cathedral Gap. Or the “brown stuff” as Will called it. I heard rock/ice falling a few times as we ascended. This keeps you very attentive even when your body is used to being asleep. Once we hit the rock we short-roped through the gap till reaching the Ingram Glacier. You go short-roped in order to prevent snagging and abrasion to the rope. This is a good idea, but also presents some difficulties when you are working your way through the boulders. Once we arrived at the Ingram Flats break I pulled out my parka and had my pop-tart waiting for me in the pocket. During the breaks the guides talk to each climber individually to monitor how they are doing. I found out the Amy and Neil had decided to turn back just before we were set to leave. On the way up to the flats Amy and Neil were on a rope with Mike which was guided by Megan. There was some swapping, where Megan became our guide and Mike was added as our anchor.
Harsha, Mark and Me
The next stretch was the ascent of the DC, this is the crux of the climb in my opinion. This starts by traversing the Ingram Glacier to the base of the cleaver. I would say it was about 1:30am when we set off from the first break. Climbing the cleaver is no joy ride. You ascend wearing crampons climbing over 1,000 feet of crumbled rock. We were short-roped through this section, just like the Cathedral Gap section. Mike was having a rough go of it and at times I would be pulling the rope along with him. Megan could see this going on and when we got to the top of the cleaver for a break Mike had to make the decision to continue or descend. After he talked it over with the guides Mike made the decision to turn back. This broke my heart a little; I know how hard each of us train for a climb like this, and it’s hard to make decisions like that when you are so close to attaining your goal. He made the decision, but in the end he chose what was best for the team and himself, I have a lot of respect for someone that can make that call. From the DC our team now consisted of the Arkansas boys, and me and the old man along with Jake and Megan. It was starting to get colder and windy, so I added on my third layer then we took off for high break, another hour and a thousand feet to go.
Sunrise from the Crater
On the way to high break you climb on the upper mountain. The route was steep and there was significant exposure as the boot pack wasn't even wide enough for a mountaineering boot to fit across. I recall three or four running belays that are placed for added protection in zones where a fall has a higher probability or there would be no chance of team arrest. At one of the belay points I remembered looking over the edge into a crevasse that had no end. After a few belays we came to our first ladder crossing. Now, for all of you that have seen pictures of these from Everest, it wasn't like that...but that doesn't mean you don't pucker up a bit. The crossings were maybe 6-8 feet across a crevasse with a couple of 2x6 boards attached onto the ladder to walk across. There was a rope to hold for balance, but if you fell you were going into the crevasse and your rope team was the only line of defense.
After an exciting hour of steep climbs, running belays and ladders we made it to high break.
High break is at about 13,500 feet on the face of the mountain. This was by far the coldest break. None of us were doing a good job of consuming calories at this point. It's difficult when you are cold and tired to force any food down so we ate what we could. I chose to leave my parka on since it was so cold.
The Team on the Summit
About 30 minutes after leaving from the break I was heating up as the wind died down. I started unzipping what I could as we kept moving. This section went the fastest for me. I felt pretty good considering the situation. I recognizing the protruding crater rim rocks from my previous climb, so I knew we were close. A look behind us, we could see the deep red color on the horizon. Sunrise was within minutes. Our team made it into the crater we tossed our packs on the snow, let a few screams out and watched the sunrise over the horizon. I have seen my share of sunrises, but there is nothing that gets even close to experiencing one on Mount Rainier.
We all took in the moment and the high fives and congratulations were making it though the team. I went over to the Arkansas boys and said: “Not bad for a bunch of guys from Arkansas.” These guys are climbers, no doubt in my mind. What an accomplishment! We made our way to the true summit, which is called Columbia Crest. We signed the register as we climbed to the high point, it was neat being able to write down that this was my second summit.
The Descent
On the true summit we had the sun rising to the east and the moon setting to the west. That was something I had never experienced before.  We took 10 minutes up there taking pictures and enjoying the surrounding views. We need to get back into the crater to our packs to fuel/hydrate as the climb was only half over. The descent can be the dangerous part when the mountain heats and becomes alive. We had about an hour on the top of the mountain so it was time for us to start making our descent.
The trek down the mountain seemed to go by pretty fast. We didn’t take our first break till we reached the top of the DC. With the sun out we could get a good idea of what we climbed up during the dark hours of the early morning. Some of the crevasses that had ladder crossings had views of blue ice with no end. One area we crossed under a fairly large serac, and I thought to myself about the “motivator” that Ed Viesters describes from K2. It was neat walking through this area, but I was glad to be out of what I considered an area of danger.
Once we were on the DC, we took our crampons off for the descent to make our travels more efficient. This was a pretty nasty section, must like the ascent, but in about a half hour we had made it down to the Ingram Glacier where we put our crampons back on. We followed Megan’s zig-zags through the crevasse field till we made it to our break at the Ingram Flats. This was our last rest till getting back to Muir. We were able to swallow down the last of our water since we knew we had water waiting at camp.
Mount Adams from DC
The last leg of the trek to Muir took about 45 minutes. We dropped over Cathedral Gap back onto the Cowlitz Glacier. As we got closer to camp we could hear the cheers of our fellow climbers that were waiting for us. It was nice to see our friends/family back at camp. They all made a tough decision to end their summit bids early, but I would not consider their attempts as failures. Each climb presents new challenges that you have to overcome, for a lot of people these are simply mental barriers. I think everyone got something out of this experience that they will be able to build off of for their next adventure. After chatting with everyone we had to get prepared for the next leg of the trip. We had an hour to get our big packs loaded up before heading down another 4,500 feet to Paradise. I took my boots off for what time I could. All my socks were damp or wet at this point so my heel blister needed taping again. I crammed all my gear into my bag, it was a mess.
On our way down the Muir Snowfield we tried to ski-glissade when we could. The snow was pretty snow-cupped so it was a bit difficult to slide for too long. After a while we came across some glissade chutes, so I grabbed my garbage bag out and made a diaper out of it. This way I could cruise as far as possible down the mountain. The rest of the hike down to Paradise was more of a march. My feet and body were beat so it was all about getting off the mountain and unloading the heavy pack from my back.
It was a relief to be off the mountain, summit day is one of the more exhausting experiences I’ve had in the mountains. In all you gain near 5,000 feet and descend about 9,000 feet that day. Once we got down to Ashford our group dove into a 12-pack of beer I had waiting in the truck. A nice luke warm beer and a cheeseburger sure hit the spot. It was nice to sit and talk with the others in our group about their experiences for the day and unwind a bit before the drive back to Portland.
Ingram Glacier
This climb I was in much better shape than I was eight years ago, but the mountain was much more difficult than I remembered. The route seemed narrower and steeper. The technical nature of the mountain was higher as the crevasses were more open requiring multiple ladder crossings and running belay protection points. So even though I was in better shape, this climb was more taxing and more rewarding at the same time. I was very thankful to be able to climb the two highest volcanoes in Washington over the week. I’m motivated to keep in shape to continue climbing mountains back home in Colorado.

A few times with different people during this trip we discussed the types of mountains we enjoy climbing the most. I did enjoy climbing Rainier, and am grateful to be able to climb it twice successfully, but in the end I do not prefer this type of mountaineering compared to what I do in Colorado. Though climbs like this may be more rewarding, I feel a lot of the experience is spent looking at a rope, and not enjoying the surroundings as much as I would like. I enjoy self-reliance as opposed to group-reliance, and being able to adventure more freely. I probably will not climb Rainier again, or even do roped mountaineering travel, they are just not my cup of tea. I am perfectly content with climbing mountains in Colorado and Idaho, there are plenty of challenges I have yet to face. Get out there and climb, and If you would like come climb with me, I am always in the search for a new adventure.

Date: August 15-18, 2016
TH Elevation: 5,440 feet
Camp Muir: 10,080 feet
Mount Rainier Summit: 14,410 feet
Total Ascent: 9,352 feet
Total Distance: 12.6 miles (TH to summit back to Camp Muir)
Class:  glacier climb
Moving Time: 9 hours 50 minutes (Add at least 2.5hrs for descent from Camp Muir to TH)
Stopped Time: 6 hours 41 minutes
Climbing Partners: Harsha, Mark, Mike, Andrew, Matt, Will, Amy, Neil, Jake, Jesse, Megan
GPX Track
Photo Album
RMI Guide Blog Post

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mount Adams - Washington

Sunrise on Mount Adams
                 Mount Adams is the second highest volcano in Washington, standing at 12,276 feet. I previously climbed Adams back in 2009 on a trip with my Dad in which we also climbed neighboring Mount St. Helens; and Mount Bachelor and the South Sister in Oregon. I was invited on a trip up Mount Rainier that is planned for later in the week, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a warm-up climb on Adams. The crew heading up the mountain was my Dad, Mark and my friend Loren (LT) and Cédric which is LT’s exchange student from France.
                We chose to climb the standard South Climb Trail that begins at Cold Springs Campground. This climb requires the Cascades Volcano Pass that costs $15 and can be picked up at a self-serve station at the Mount Adams Ranger Station in Trout Lake, Washington. I flew into the Portland International Airport and had my Dad pick me up there. To get to Trout Lake from Portland drive east on I-84 taking exit 64 in Hood River. Use the Hood River Bridge to cross the Columbia River, there is a toll of $1 for using the bridge each way. Follow WA-141 for the next 24 miles into Trout Lake. The ranger station is along WA-141 on the west side of the town. Pick up your permit and start making your way up to the TH. To get to the TH, drive back into town turning north on Mount Adams Road. After about 5 miles take a slight left onto NF-8040, this road will turn into NF-500 another 5 miles down the road, follow this to the right for an additional 3 miles to the TH/CG. This area is chaotic and parking sucks. Try to find a spot; we arrived about 11pm so there were a few available spots, but if you came in the morning I doubt you would have luck finding a spot especially on the weekend. Expect about a 45 minute drive from Trout Lake to the TH.
Climbing the Snowfield to Lunch Counter
                We arrived at the TH around 11pm. Instead of digging out tents we just slept in the back of the truck. We didn’t crash before having a few social beers and taking in the meteor shower that was in full effect. Throughout the night/early morning there was moderate activity with people arriving and heading up the trail. Since we were doing this as an overnighter staying at Lunch Counter, we weren’t in a hurry to get up the trail too quickly on Saturday morning. Lunch Counter is the name of the flat feature where most people camp and it represents the halfway point, to get there it is a 4.5 mile climb of about 3,800 vertical feet. After getting our gear together in the morning we finally hit the trail at about 9am.
                This was my first time backpacking in almost two years, so my pack was feeling quite heavy. I guess if I left the beer in the truck that would have shaved some weight off, but what fun would that be? I considered doing this climb as a day trip in order to lessen the load on my back, but in the end we decided this would be a good chance to test out the gear we would be using on Rainier later in the week. The trail starts in an old wildfire burn-out area from the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire. The trail is fairly wide, and very dusty. After gaining the initial 1,000 feet you finally will be out of the burn zone and will see Mount Hood to the southwest.  
Climb from Camp to Pikers Peak
                Crossing Morrison Creek was the last chance to fill water bottles from a flowing source until reaching Lunch Counter. After the creek the trail splits into several paths that others have created. Follow the large cairns with the poles and you will stay on route. There is a traverse leading to the main ridge that you will be ascending for the remainder of the day. Once on the ridge you are reminded that this is a volcano as you see all the volcanic rock (scoria) at your feet. As you ascend the ridge there are several makeshift campsites that use the available rock to build wind shelters. There is still 1,000 vertical feet to climb to get to Lunch Counter. Somewhere around 8,400 feet we finally hit the snowfield, this is what’s left of the Crescent Glacier, but it is a snowfield and there are no crevasses to worry about. From here to Lunch Counter the travel would all be on snow, you can stay on the rib in the rocks if you wish, but the snow seems to be the easiest mode of transport.
Sunset on Mount St Helens
                Once on the snowfield I elected to put on my crampons. You could easily climb the snow in boots, but I felt I could move more efficiently with a solid purchase of the surface. The sweat started dripping off me as the albedo from the snow and lack of wind made me pant like a dog. I tried to put on sun block a couple times during the ascent, but I’m sure most of it just sweat right off of me. Now that I had arrived at Lunch Counter my task was to find a good campsite for the night. I had two requirements for our campsite: near running water, near snow to cool our beer. It took a bit to find the running water, and I would call it more of a trickle than running. There was a small runout of water from the main snowfield heading up the mountain that we were able to filter from. It took some time, but it was better than melting snow or carrying up all the water we would need. We were surrounded by smaller snowfields, so the cooler was not hard to find. Dry bags filled with snow make nice portable coolers as well. Our camp was set up around the 9,400 foot elevation and I would say we arrived there around 1:30pm.
Mount Adams Benchmark
                We had ample time to relax and explore the area. The best part about our chosen campsite was the view. As the sun was setting the colors on Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens were amazing, I don’t think our photographs were able to capture the true color we were seeing. We all stayed up till the light started to fade, then we hit the sack. Our wake-up alarms were set for 3:30am.
                It was rough waking up early, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. After getting out of my tent I could see a number of groups already on the mountain. We took in some breakfast and were on the route by 4:30am. The goal was to see the sunrise from at least Pikers Peak which is a sub summit of Mount Adams.
                I was feeling pretty good from the start and had the direct line of ascent in mind. I followed one group up the first 300-400 vertical feet, as they stopped for a break I took the opportunity to get ahead of them. I saw I was losing my group, but I wanted to keep the pace going. At 5:37 I was on Pikers Peak, just before sunrise. In just over an hour I was able to climb 2,200 feet. I love these steep ascents where you just gain vertical elevation. Since the sunrise was close I continued to a high point in-between Pikers and Adams to watch the morning come in. I figured I’d have a bit of a wait for the rest of my group so after the sunrise I found a large boulder to sit on where I would see them come up the trail.
Summit Crew: Me, LT, Cedric, Mark
                As I saw LT ascending the main route, I started making a move up the ridge instead of dropping down to where they were. There was maybe 500 vertical feet to the summit. I met up with everyone about 100 vertical feet shy of the snow filled structure (I’m not positive this was a fire lookout or a mining structure). We all crested about the same time and the first thing you see is the dramatic view of Mount Rainier. Most climbers hung out near the structure, we made our way east to the true summit which is marked by a USGS benchmark. Just past 7am we were all on the summit of Mount Adams.
                We took maybe an hour on the summit. LT proceeded to make us all breakfast in the form of salami, cheese, crackers and a communal beer. He never disappoints, I guess that’s why I invite him…haha. We explored the eastern side of the mountain where nobody else was and the glaciers get pretty intense just of the edge.
Cedric Wandering
                As we started our descent we could see the sun was already softening the top layer of snow. From Pikers down the southern face it is pretty steep and the snow was a bit slushy. The glissade chute from the top still seemed a bit iced over, so we descended maybe 600 feet before attempting to slide. These chutes resemble more of a bobsled track as they are fairly curvy and can get up to three feet deep. I jumped in without changing to my Gore-Tex, and I slid just fine. It didn’t take very long to get down the remaining 1,500 feet near the rocks by our camp. My knees appreciated the slide I’m sure.
                Once we made it back to camp it was time to pack it up and hit the trail back to the trucks. I wasn’t looking forward to this part, so it was more about getting it over with at this point. On the hike out we took advantage of sliding on the snow as much as we could. I got a decent amount of snow into my boots making my socks wet, as we continued down the trail I developed a nice dime sized blister on my left heel. I could feel it pretty good over the last mile or so, but at that point it was a march to the truck.
                Now that the Adams climb was behind us, my Dad and I had a day of rest before the climb of Rainier was to begin. This is a fun climb, but the trip ends on a dusty trail that is a less than pleasant ending. This is a busy area, not as busy as Colorado 14ers, but I would guess there was at least a hundred people up on the mountain if not more today. Now that the climb was over it was time for mending the body with a cold beer...cheers!
Date: August 13-14, 2016
TH Elevation: 5,600 feet
Lunch Counter Camp: 9,400 feet
Mount Adams Summit: 12,276 feet
Total Ascent: 7,140 feet
Total Distance: 13.9 miles
Class: snow climb
Moving Time: 7 hours 26 minutes
Stopped Time: 5 hour 29 minutes
Climbing Partners: Mark, Loren, Cédric