All posts by David Kiker

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!

https://www.strava.com/activities/cannon-couloir-february-27-2016-504727577?utm_campaign=ride_share&utm_content=7762021&utm_medium=widget

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.

First Turns of the Season

First Turns of the Season

Monday, November 9th, 2015

The forecast was looking promising going into the weekend with a cooling trend moving into Saturday afternoon and lots of precipitation. But we showed up in the parking lot at Chinook Pass a little before 10am on Sunday and it seemed most of that weather didn’t come through. Despite the absence of new snow, we are just excited to be back snowboarding in the mountains again.

There is enough snow to cover most of the major obstacles and make for a fairly non confrontational skin out to the east facing bowl below Naches Peak. It is still pretty low tide with some tricky turns to navigate down both the east and west facing slopes. Most turns result in a dirt slash or worse when there are rocks under foot but there’s enough snow to get down the mountain and even get a few fun blasts in when you find that good pocket.

It needs another foot to really get going out there, but with a big storm forecasted to come in this week it could be nice real soon. Fingers crossed we don’t get stood up again.

The Grand Teton, Upper Exum

The Grand Teton, Upper Exum

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

It has been a bit since any peaks were logged on the peak of the week. So The Grand is a good one to break up the drought. The climb was going to happen several different ways, including an original plan to camp overnight in the meadow and climb the Full Exum Ridge on the second day, but I was told that the weather in Jackson has been grey for a lot of the summer and the week of our planned climb was not an exception. Since Thunderstorms were threatening on Wednesday we decided to forgo the Lower Exum Ridge and try to climb the whole thing via the Upper Exum on Tuesday.

Me and Nick started off from the Lupine Meadows trailhead at 4:15 am. The early hours in the dark always goes quick and we were rounding the corner into Garnet canyon by the time the sun was coming up a little after 5:30 am. From there we started checking off the various campsites as we went by. First the meadows, then the caves, then a detour right, up to Jackson Hole Mountain Guides camp were they corrected my course and I reunited with Nick down at the moraine camp. It is kind of hard to get off track here but I saw the guide huts up on the hill to the right and figured they were on route. As it is, the trail stays low and runs pretty much a straight shot up to the saddle.

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From the moraine it is about 900 ft up to the lower saddle at 11,650 ft where the Owen-Spalding and both the Exum and Petzle Ridges really come into view. We stopped to refill the water bottles at a garden hose that utilizes a spring and then headed north up toward a black dike in the rock. At this point you have options for what you want to attack. The Owen-Spalding continues the obvious trail to the upper saddle. The Lower Exum access cuts way right to a chimney you can see on your way up.

We continued toward the upper saddle and then cut right at 12,500 ft across a big gully to Wall Street, a big ledge on the west side of the ridge. Here we roped up for the rock section of the climb. It was around 10:30 or 11:00 am at the point and the ledge is in the shade until you come around the corner to the jump off spot. It is a fairly easy move but very exposed. While doing it, it is wild to imagine Glen Exum leaping over it in his original 1931 solo climb of the route.

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The next few pitches included the Golden Stair and the Friction, which aside from those two we simulclimbed much of. Nearing the top we cut left, and climbed the V pitch, my favorite of the day. After that we wandered around until we hit the summit, topping out around 2:00 pm.

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Dragontail, The Enchantments

Dragontail, The Enchantments

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

This one is a bit over due. I wasn’t planning on writing anything on the Dragontail hike, but it was such a rad trip and I was kind of thinking that it deserves its own place in the log of peaks here.

We started around 8 am from the Stuart Lake trail head, leaving the splitboards at home for lack of snow. I had been up to Aasgard two weeks before with the intention of snowboarding but the snow is scarce below 7800 ft.

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2 hours up to Colchuck Lake. Stopped for a long lunch and another 2 hours to the top of the pass. Plenty of snow up top but not much below. It was the first weekend of permitting in the Enchantments for the season so we saw few people throughout the day. From the top of Aasgard we hiked along the North side of the basin on mixed snow and rock until about 8400 ft  where you take the obvious traverse up to the saddle at 8500 ft. From there it is just a rock scramble up the south face with great views of Iron, Earl and Navajo Peaks, to the top where the rest of Washington comes into view, a little less that an hour from the top of the pass.

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The trek back to the trail head is probably the hardest part of the day after the water runs out and the dogs start barking, but the scenery never gets tired, and the four of us, Shawn, Maddie, Alex and I made it back the the truck by 7 pm. Plenty of light left.

Mt. Rainier, Disappointment Cleaver

Mt. Rainier, Disappointment Cleaver

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

It’s hard to get things on the first try, especially in climbing. That’s kind of the allure of the sport when the difficult routes, and less technical ones, can have similar success rates when conditions and other factors don’t line up. For me, Baker, Stuart, and The Brothers have all been failed first attempts. As it turned out on Saturday I kept this streak in tact by not summiting Rainier.

John, Micah and I started off on Friday morning from Paradise amid a thick fog and a full on search and rescue for a missing climber on the upper mountain, making it difficult to acquire climbing permits, as all hands were on deck for the search. A couple trips back and forth between Paradise and Longmire and we were three climbing permits richer, and set off about 930 am. Snow started just below Panorama Point, and if you’re looking to ski on the Muir Snowfield anytime soon the snow is continuos by the time you get to the top, around 7000 ft.

Between 8000 and 8400 ft we finally broke out of the clouds to a warm and sunny day on the mountain. We took our time getting to Muir stopping first for a long lunch and later to shed layers and just generally enjoy the scenery, showing up at camp around 300pm. Anticipating high winds on Friday evening, we spent some time digging a pit for the tent and I was calling it a night by 730 pm.

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The wind did turn up at night but we stayed fairly warm. At 1130 pm we got up, anchored the tent, and were going by 1230 am. It was a super nice night, clear and a little cold. I was struggling to keep my harness tight around my waist most of the way up, so at Ingraham Flats we stopped for the first of many times so I could re-adjust it. From there the snow started to break up and just below the cleaver a ladder had been set to cross one of the wider holes in the snow. We went up the Cleaver and at 12500ft we started cutting over to Gibralter Rock, crossing a second ladder and then a fixed rope for about 150 yrds. The sun was starting to come up now and I was starting to feel the altitude kick in, causing me to slow down significantly.

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From Gibralter Rock we  went straight up the mountain, stopping at 700 am around 13400 when the altitude really started messing with my head. I decided that was enough for the day and any further was going to be a sad time for me. The day was getting nice at this point and as hard as it was to keep going, it was almost harder to turn around. When you get a window where the conditions line up as they did, it is a shame not to capitalize on it but such is life at elevation.

The snow on the mountain is really breaking up now so there are a lot of cool formations on a huge scale. We followed our same route back down to basecamp and after a short break packed up and headed back to the car. Typically these trip reports are reserved skiing but as we are in full on summer mode now, the touring set up for this trip seemed like it would be bulky and the turns seemed like they would be slow. We did see some folks still skiing the Nisqually Chute though, which is still continuos from the top but turns into a bit of a white ribbon down low.

So no skiing, no summit but it was no problem, because I think we all had a fun time and for my first time on the upper mountain at Rainier it was great, still it would have been nice to get it on the first try.

Mt. Ruth, Mt. Rainier

Mt. Ruth, Mt. Rainier

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

I think the objective for the day changed at least 4 times before we finally reached a decision. We decided on Mt Ruth about 200 ft from the summit. It seemed like the right choice, for the time.

We left the White River Campground at a casual 9:45, taking the Glacier Basin Trail up to about 5500 ft where we hit continuos snow. Dropped the shoes, took the trail for another 1/4 mi before we cut left, and crossed the creek just past the turn off for the trail up Burroughs Mountain.

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Micah crossing the Inter Fork

From Glacier Basin we headed more or less due south up to the ridge, stopping for lunch at about 7000 ft then following the ridge line up to the top at almost 8700 ft. The snow was soft and offered good traction on a day when the highs were in the low 60s and the wind was nonexistent.

Little Tahoma and the Emmons Glacier from Mt Ruth

We dropped around 4 and skied the north/northeast face in about 4 in of new snow from a couple days prior that took the form of hot pow. Around 7200 ft the new snow had moved in a wet slide abut 8 ft across making the skiing through the chute less fun through the choke point. Below 6500 ft it got pretty sloppy but still fun for pushing around.

A split back to where we had ditched our hiking boots and then a little bit further before we switched back over and finally hiked out.

I knew we wanted to ski something on Friday but I wasn’t sure where. Mt Ruth provided the answer to that question.

A Not So Humble Brag, Chinook Pass

A Not So Humble Brag, Chinook Pass

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Two peaks in one week?! What a treat.

A late winter storm hit this weekend leaving over two feet of snow in the mountains in 48 hours, remarkably Stevens Pass started spinning the lifts for a day. A few of us chose a different pass to ski on Sunday. For the second time in two weeks we set off from Chinook Pass around 10 this morning to join roughly 100 other folks on the hills around Naches Peak. The late start was no problem, as there were plenty of good turns to go around.

It seems 75% of the crowd generally clears out by 11:30 up there, so by noon we were skiing the thigh deeps turns by ourselves. The new snow was bonding to the layer below extremely well and we saw little to no activity, even in the steeper terrain. Bottomless and stable, truly hero snow today.

On the way out we skied a new route off the west side of Naches back to the car. It is ridden just as much as the east side but it was new to me, and makes the trip out much more enjoyable.

The snow is good out there right now, and it looks like there may be a bit more on the way. How nice is it that they opened the pass so early? If it keeps snowing like this they may close it down again. Get it while it’s hot cold!