All posts by David Kiker

Inspiration Peak, East Ridge

Inspiration Peak, East Ridge

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

This year Tim and I decided we wanted to learn the true meaning of Labor Day so while we could have spent our three day weekend climbing anywhere we chose the Pickets, a range in the North Cascades known by climbers for its remoteness and inaccessibility. In 1931 when all of the major peaks in the Tetons had established routes the Pickets saw their first recorded technical ascent. When people talk about the wild of the North Cascades they are talking about the Pickets.

So we decided on the east ridge of Inspiration Peak, a route first climbed by Becky and company in 1958. We started from Upper Goodell Creek Campground at 10am on Saturday morning. The first 4 miles follows an overgrown road bed along the east side of the creek until it abruptly ends, signaled by a cairn and turns uphill. From there it was an unrelenting 5000 ft charge uphill on what is generously called a climbers trail. But even that doesn’t tell the full story, in a place where an approach is better measured in time rather than distance. And 8 hours later we made camp following a well traveled trail into a gravel basin  at 6000 ft with a meadow at the bottom and plenty of water to make up for the lack of it on the approach. Big views of terror basin the  the southern Pickets took some of the hurt off from the approach and reset our motivation.

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The moon was so bright at night that I woke up and ask Tim to turn off his headlamp and I saw the big dipper sitting right on top of Inspiration Peak. That must have been around midnight. Four hours later I woke up to make breakfast and by 4:45am we were on the trail picking our way around boulders and across massive rock slabs on our way up to the glacier. We tried to follow the cairns across the outlet of a lakelet and then down and across a bigger ravine that we made note of because the scramble up the other side was a little tricky but also tough to identify from the top. (note: It may be easier to swing way up high on this one and cross over the creek around 6400.)

When we hit the glacier we roped up for some fairly straight forward glacier travel up until our final crevasse crossing. We navigated it by down climbing off of a snow bridge onto a lower ledge and climbing out. And then we stood at the bottom of the route, 7,400 ft above the ocean, four hours after we had started. We simul-climbed the first “two” pitches following a series of gullies and ledges trending toward a notch between the east ridge and a small spire to its right. The climbing gradually turns into a blocky face that we broke out into two 5.7 pitches as we worked our way onto the east ridge.

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The next two pitches are the ones we came all the way out here for. The layback pitch starts exactly how it sounds climbing right around the roof and then straight up to a roomy belay at the bottom of a splitter hand crack. The crack climbs straight up and offers the occasional face hold but mostly excellent hand and foot jamming. At the top we cut out right aiming at the notch in the rock around the roof and then up and left to a belay.

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Now through the crux we simuled the last “three” pitches to help ease the rope drag on a wandering climb across the top. From above the hand crack drop on to the north side and then up and left and around the south side of the east summit. We crossed the ridge down climbing to the base of the True summit and then and easy low fifth class scramble all the way up checking in at the top at 4pm.

Now the good part. Three double length rappels down the West Ridge. Raps are easy to find. Three more double length rappels down the gully. Lots of loose rock with very little protection offered from above. This took us 3 hours. Then we were standing at the upper glacier trying to figure how to cross a massive moat to get up on top of the snow. As it was, we climbed down underneath the glacier through a tunnel and popped out on a ledge in a crevasse. It was dusk now and we were loosing light, so with no great option to get out we front pointed straight up and out which was a less desirable approach with a lot of exposure to what lay below but ultimately better than turning around and finding another route out in the dark.

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The rest of the trek back was long and circuitous in the dark, but generally uninteresting. Back at camp at 11:30pm. We had stashed a couple beers in the creek that made the hike back slightly more bearable and made dinner slightly more enjoyable.

Slept in on Monday but the smoke came in that night to punished us in the morning and then on out hike out. We made it back to the car in 6 hours. It doesn’t get much more Cascades than this. It may take awhile to forget the approach and head back into the heart of darkness that is the Pickets but we did well in honoring the holiday.

The rest of the photos

East Basin, The Brothers

East Basin, The Brothers

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Looking west from Seattle, The Brothers rises up from the sound to 6650 ft. The East Basin is the obvious line from the top and even from 40 miles away is clearly a sicky.

After a very wet March and April with few breaks in the weather, Easter Sunday was forecasted for sun so we camped out at the Lena Lake trailhead the night before and hit the trail at 4am for what would be a 14 hour day. The first 3.5 miles were in the dark, we reached the lake at 6am. From there the hike slowed with with several broken bridge crossings and a bit of route finding up the Valley of Silent Men.

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When we reached the climbers camp a little after 8am we had enough consistent snow to finally get the boards off our backs and transition to splitting. We crossed over to the west side of the creek almost immediately and traveled until we broke out of the trees into the basin. Now we had to deal with some difficult travel conditions in steep brushy terrain and sloppy snow, a lot of which had shedded into massive debris piles during the previous rain cycle.

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At 5000ft the travel eased up and it was smooth sailing until 6400ft where we switched over and boot packed to the summit, topping out at 1pm. The descent was fast then slow, beginning with spring powder conditions then warming into a mush near 5000 ft.  The basin itself is huge and paired with the numerous bulges, windlips and steep chutes that filter into and out of it, it offers a ton of rad skiing opportunities. At 3400 ft we switched back to skins until it was time to put them on our back and make a break for the car.

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We ended up back where we started at 6pm rounding out the trip with some Milano cookies and a couple beers. I think we’ll be looking at this one for a long time once more until we decide to go for it again.

The greatest brothers in all the land. #peakoftheweek #olympics #thebrothers

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Wendy Thompson Hut, Marriott Basin

Wendy Thompson Hut, Marriott Basin

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Another year, another hut trip. 2017 was the Year of the Coast Mountains in British Colombia. The Wendy Thompson Hut was nearly booked full when we decided to make reservations in late summer but we managed to score 5 days in for the beginning of March and score we did.

Wendy Thompson Hut Trip - March 2017

After a drought that seemed to last most of January and February with a few exceptions, the snow returned in a major way the week before our Saturday departure and dropped nearly 3 ft around the Duffy Lakes area and then cleared allowing a mostly sunny tour in. 4 miles and 2000 ft put us at the front door of the hut right before the clouds came back in for another storm that brought us snowfall for the rest of our trip.

Because of the recent and continuing snowfall we kept our objectives fairly conservative for the entirety of the trip, venturing into steeper terrain only a handful of times and when we did it was brief. Our use of extreme caution was rewarded with no accidents, blower powder and collective hours spent in the white room.

Wendy Thompson Hut - March 2017

We managed to ski safely and that is significant, when you consider the high avalanche danger bulletin that was in effect, combined with a fatality that weekend in the greater area. The snow was definitely wanting to move while we were out and while one couple in our group did manage to break off a sizable slab about 18in deep and a few 100 ft across on the first day, we all managed to keep our noses clean.

Another one for the history books, time to start planning for next year.

Photos Courtesy of Brian Behrens

Mt Herman, Stoneman Couloir

Mt Herman, Stoneman Couloir

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

Alright! Time to break the long silence with the first snowboard trip report of the season. Did you miss us?

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We went up Table Moutain and Herman a couple weeks ago but it didn’t quite warrant a write up. Fast forward to today and once again we were heading out of the upper lot at the resort around 9am. The snow around Bagley Lakes has been hit hard with tracks since the last storm but was holding up great with the cold temps in the last week.

We headed toward the high saddle that splits Bagley Creek from Mazama Bowl where we found deep consolidated powder on E and SE facing slopes. Dropping in off Mazama Dome we found much looser unconsolidated but mostly stable snow on N and NW aspects that made for some killer turns but difficult uphill as we transitioned and made the approach to the saddle below Herman proper.

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From there it was a boot pack traverse out to the top of the couloir where we made the transition at 11:30am. While we were not the first to ride Stoneman Couloir on this last storm cycle, it hardley mattered as there was plenty of room for everyone and the snow was deep and light. At the bottom we traversed left above the trees to a smaller tighter couloir that starts at about 5300ft.

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Now to find a way out.. From 4800ft the exit down to Bagley Creek either requires a hard cut right or a hard cut left. We tried to split the difference and ended up on a cliff band that required some trickery to get down. Next time I will opt for the honest line. In the end we made it out arriving back in the Heather Meadows parking lot a little before 2pm.

Check Stoneman off, and then add it back on the list. This one is a classic!

 

More photos courtesy of Corbin Hudacek here

Prusik Peak, West Ridge

Prusik Peak, West Ridge

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

The great debate, skiing vs snowboarding, Hillary vs. Trump, is OJ Simpson innocent? And then the big one; to approach Prusik Peak from Snow Lake or from Colchuck Lake. Certainly there are merits to both but in this increasingly partisan world, people have picked their approach and climbing teams all over the Northwest and beyond have been ripped apart by their inability to see the other side.

On one hand you have Colchuck Lake; less mileage and slightly less elevation but a grueling climb up Asgard Pass gaining 2200ft in less than a mile. On the other hand Snow Lake; nearly 6 miles longer but a much more gradual elevation gain, a well marked trail and significantly less snow and ice this time of year.

Fortunately Whitney and I are rarely consumed by such mindless bickering so after weighing our options carefully, I won and we went from Snow Lake.

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Personally, I wasn’t keen on trying to tick this one off in a day, but we didn’t like our chances for getting a permit in the Core Zone so Whitney suggested we just go for it. So we did, starting out from the trailhead at 5:15am. The spillway at Snow Lake was running about ankle high when we crossed at 8am, stopped at Lake Viviane for an early lunch and made the turn off to Prusik Pass at 11. From here the trip gets better.

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The snow is patchy beginning in the upper lakes becoming fairly consistant by the time you hit Perfection Lake. Trying to find the high point on Prusik Pass we lost the climbers trail in the snow and started on the route a little early. In this way we got an extra pitch in on some mossy rock that wanted climbing. No doubt we are not the first climbers to climb this desperate crack. From there the climb was as follows.

Pitch 1

The longest pitch, it ran through just about all 70 meters of the rope but its fairly soft climbing trending left until you hit the ledge.

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Pitch 2

This one was a quicky. You jump over to the north side and up a short slab until you hit the piton and slingable block right before the crux.

Pitch 3

The crux is really only 3 frictiony moves that feel exposed because theres nowhere to protect. Whitney clipped the piton and pulled the crux like a pull tab. From there, climb high and right traversing the south side with excellent exposure, until you hit the notch and then back over to the north side. Communication was a little tough here and rope drag was bringing us down so we stopped to belay.

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Pitch 4/5

From here you scoot out onto a series of wide ledges back on the north side. They can really just be done as a casual scramble to set you up at the bottom of the final pitch. This is where the climbing gets really jazzy. Climb up a dihedral on the left then move right to a big lay back flake. We skipped the obvious wide crack directly above and instead climbed right around the corner to two smaller chimneys to make the summit at 4pm.

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From the top it is 5 raps down the north side to the base. We traversed back around to where we stashed our gear at the start and were on our way out by 530pm.

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We hit Snow Lake at 8pm. Nada Lake at 830pm. Car at 1050pm. The last couple miles were dark and pretty slow. A brutally long day but an absolutely classic climb, for hotdog and hamburger lovers alike. Next time we’ll try it from Colchuck.

Snow Creek Wall, Outer Space

Snow Creek Wall, Outer Space

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

What originally was planned as a weekend mission out to climb Leavenworth, became a day trip to do Outer Space when the weather went sideways. Turns out we missed a nasty day on Saturday too. The guy at the shop in town said “it just doesn’t rain like that here often”. However by Sunday it had all blown through so we cruised out there to take advantage of the second longest day of 2016.

We left Seattle a little after 8am arriving in the Snow Creek parking lot about 1030am. We were on the trail by 11am. It took us about 50 min to get to the cut off to cross Snow Creek. The trail cuts left after crossing the creek, goes over some logs and then joins a well worn path up the hill to the base of the wall. We skipped that though, in favor of a bushwhack up the right side until we got worn out and traversed over to the base of the route.

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There were probably 3 or 4 teams on the wall when we arrived but it moves fairly quickly and we didn’t have to wait long to get going. We started on the Remorse variation, to the left of the vegetated gully. It sort of just meanders left until you hit the ledge just within earshot and almost a full 70 meters of rope out. From there the second pitch climbs the ramp to the right straight up the the Two Tree ledge and joins with Outer Space proper.

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From here we found our groove and knocked off the crux pitch up to the short pedestal ledge where we sat and thought about climbing while we let a couple of faster local dudes pass us. They were nice about it though and despite going ahead, they left some rock for us to climb.

From there it is two pitches of a steep, splitter hand crack to the top. The crack is only interrupted once at the start of the final pitch with a bit of a tough move, stepping left off of the belay ledge and using a finger crack and a couple of far left knobs.

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We topped out a bit before 7pm and rushed down to beat the light. The walk off sucks big time but it is well marked so I guess whatever. I think we were back at the base of the wall by 8pm and back at the car by 930pm. Over all a great climb, a classic route and a very long day.

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Mt. Rainier, Fuhrer Finger

Mt. Rainier, Fuhrer Finger

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

This one has been in the works for a month or two but this last weekend we finally got our schedules to line up with a weather window so the Fuhrer Finger was a go.

Chris and Colby drove in from Utah on Friday and camped out, so Sam and I met them in the Paradise parking lot Saturday morning around 9:00 am. We spent a couple hours arguing over gear and drinking beers at the car before finally setting out around 11:00 am. A skin up to Glacier Vista and a ski down the other side of the moraine put us on the lower Nisqually Glacier where we crossed with out roping up seeing no evidence of anything that opened yet this season. Of greater concern was rock fall and wet slides in which we saw increasingly as the temperatures climbed toward the 51° high for the day.

On the other side of the Nisqually we ascended to the Wilson Glacier up a chute know as the Fan. At this point wet slides were a real prospect and we saw several trigger as skiers rode down from their high camps. We reached the ridge at 7800 ft and followed it up to 9000 ft where we made camp for the evening around 4:30 pm.

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As the sun went down the wind picked up and really whipped around so by the time the alarm went off at 2:30 am it was just as well, we weren’t sleeping much anyways. From the tent we could see the headlamps of several teams making their way up the lower Wilson toward us, in what was likely a single day push for the summit. We wrestled with our gear and fought to stay warm before shouldering our boards and skis, roping up and setting off. This was pretty straight forward although there was a massive debris pile to cross and a few big cracks to side step but then we arrived at the base of the finger. There were a few teams already in it at various stages of their climbs so we unroped to travel easier, switchbacking until it was too steep and front pointing became the only option.

At the top of the finger we were almost forced to stay left onto the ridge as the upper Nisqually is so broken up at this point in the season, trying to navigate it would be a headache. The ridge is much steeper however and provides the crux of the route on both the ascent and descent, a 50°+ pitch around 12200 ft where a fall would have harmful implications.

At 13,400 ft we roped up for the final time and made our push to the summit on skins. The splitboard on the feet proved to be crucial when at 14,000 ft the snow bridge I was crossing collapsed leaving me suspended over the void with just the tip of my split hanging onto the up hill side of the crack and my tail on the other side. Good prevailed in the end though and we topped out around 1:00 pm. The weather on the summit was warm and if it hadn’t been for a strong breeze blowing around, tank tops would have been appropriate attire. As it was we were already a few hours behind our anticipated schedule so we hurried down.

nice work dudes!

The top 2000 ft of turns left much to be desired, retracing our climbing route as we rode down. Around 12400 ft the snow was beginning to warm, making the crux on the ridge just bearable (though we did see one guy down climbing it). By the time we got to the top of the finger the snow was perfect leaving us with 2500 ft of spring time riding down the Fuhrer Finger, on the tallest volcano in the lower 48.

Back at camp we packed up and headed out ready to get back to the car. We enjoyed another 1600 ft of good turning before the snow quality deteriorated completely and turned to slop. A happy first ride off the top of Rainier. Let’s not wait so long to do it again!

Photos Courtesy of: Sam Hobbs

Cannon Mountain, Cannon Couloir

Cannon Mountain, Cannon Couloir

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Andrew and I were liking what we were seeing in the forecast for Saturday so we split for the east side to check one off the list. Cannon Couloir has all the essentials that make up a classic Washington ski tour, a long road approach on skis, an endless bushwhack, a ptarmigan. Turns out we just took a wrong turn and both the bushwhack and the ptarmigan could have been avoided. But the weather stayed positive and the snow stayed soft.

We left Bridge Creek Campground at 7:15am with continuous snow from the parking lot, and split the road up to 3000ft. Rather than waiting for the creek to meet the road, we dropped a few hundred feet to meet the creek for a questionable crossing and a nasty fight with every known plant native to the area in some really steep terrain. That was a bit discouraging and added an extra 40 minutes on to our total time spent in the mountains, however once we got back on track around 4000ft it was much easier going and fairly straight forward from there.

Cannon Mountain Couloir

We took the overgrown service road for a short time at about 4500 ft but bailed on it when the brush got too thick for it to be an efficient way to travel. From then on we more or less followed the ridge up to 6500ft where we took a short lunch and transitioned to ski crampons for an icy bit of terrain before the snow got deep again in the burned trees. From there we were touring through some real powder until the last 100 ft where the crampons made one more appearance.

Cannon Mountain Couloir

At 2:30pm we topped out just as the weather was clearing and the wind was dying down. Dropping into the couloir the snow was packed but soft after that deep turns were the norm with some hardpack thrown in just so you don’t have too much fun and the occasional icy patch to keep you honest.

At 6000ft we hung left and traversed out through some pretty wet snow that had seen some high freezing levels quite a few of wet slides. At 4500ft we made it back to the ridge where we were able to thank the dudes in front of us for setting a good amount of the skin track.

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thanks dudes!

Back at the car by 430 we passed quite a few snow shoers, sleders, ski mountaineers, bird watchers and the like. It really is a true recreational area and that’s what makes Washington classic!

Tye Peak, Stevens Pass

Tye Peak, Stevens Pass

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

With the second storm in two weeks coming through the Cascades we took a quick trip up to Stevens Pass on Saturday for some winter analysis on the area. Tye Peak was the test subject and offered some shelter from the snowy weather which only got more severe as the day went on.

We started from the parking lot in about 6 inches of light fluffy snow that got deeper and deeper nearing Skyline Lake. The lake is frozen over, although we still opted to skin around it and then up to the ridge at about 5220 ft.

Dropping off the other side down into the creek is still fairly exposed and if you trend left to stay higher up in the top of the basin you have to navigate some very big boulders. However we found if instead you ride straight off the ridge the turns are better, steeper and a lot better coverage. In this way you end up crossing the creek at about 4400 ft.

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Going up Tye Peak the stability above treeline was solid although with the increasing weather a storm slab was beginning to develop. There is about a foot and a half on top of the old snow from earlier this week but the rain seems to have removed any weak layers.

The turns were deep off of the top and no further testing was required. The results are in, winter is here!

Heliotrope Ridge, Mt. Baker

Heliotrope Ridge, Mt. Baker

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

The storm last Tuesday left a lot of trees and other debris across the road, though the trees have been cut up now and most of it is passible in a higher clearance vehicle. The snow starts at about mile 6 and parts of the road are vary icy. Another good snow storm and the road up the the trailhead should be out for driving this season.

The good news is, you can start splitting from the trailhead. The bad news is, that only lasts for a quarter mile. The snow on the trail gets patchy so we threw the boards on our backs and hoofed it up the the second creek crossing were we could resume the split.

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The snow is punchy down in the trees down low with big windblown spans of ice as you move up onto Hogsback ridge, making ski crampons useful. From the top of Hogsback we trended right and then took a straight shot up to Heliotrope ridge, topping off around 7200 ft.

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The good turns are the top 1000 ft or so where the mountain is north facing and more protected. Not enough snow to make us feel comfortable skiing straight down to the creek so we followed out skin track back down the hill getting back to the car about 3:30 pm, about 5 hrs after we started.

Lots of good snow for mining up above 6000ft, with more on the way. The good turns have finally come around.