All posts by David Kiker

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!

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

It was a relatively quiet day at Paradise when we showed up in the parking lot. Despite the few visitors to the park on a Friday though, the skin track was well worn as far as Panorama Point. No doubt the powder starved masses trying to cash in on the most recent late season storm from last week. The new snow seemed well bonded now with the notable exception of some major movement down the Nisqually Chute. I didn’t hear when that occurred but the snow in the slide was set up pretty firm, when we eventually rode down on top of it.

The changeover

It was ultimately a fairly uneventful day riding the the Chute. We split to around 8500 and dropped in on a slightly lower aspect. Pretty windy today, especially about 6000. The snow was very blown up top but started to soften around 7000 on the way down and back to the parking lot.

With some significant snow in the forecast for tonight and through the weekend it seems it could get treacherous on some of the higher angle slopes in the next couple of days. I for one however, welcome some new snow in the mountains.

Eldorado Peak, North Cascades National Park

Eldorado Peak, North Cascades National Park

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Another week, another trip to the mountains, this time heading north with Sam, Whitney, Tim and Andrew, our sights on Eldorado Peak in North Cascade National Park.

In a range of peaks with names like Forbidden and Torment, Eldorado stands out with a friendlier designation. And it just might be too, while many of the surrounding mountains look seemingly unrideable for their craggy aspects, the east southeast side of Eldorado contrasts these with, “the largest contiguous ice-sheet in the lower 48 states not connected to a volcano”. And so we set out from the car at 6am, crossed the road, crossed the river where we quickly ended up off trail, bushwacking through the alder that goes up Eldorado Creek. 45 minuted later we were back on the trail, that while steep, was much more effective than our previous path.

The trail follows the lookers left side of the creek up to about 4k where it hits a boulder field. Another 400 ft and we were finally able to get the boards off of our backs and start splitting. The recent temp cycles have been freeze at night and soften during the day so at 830am ski crampons were very helpful. Around 930am and 5600 ft the snow started to soften as a warm sunny day began to take hold. The east side of the ridge sees a lot of early morning sun, resulting in some sloppy side-hilling and causing Tim to rethink his initial approach up the hill after loosing some serious ground in a battle with one particularly tricky kick turn.

We stopped for lunch around 1030am on top of the ridge, before dropping down the other side onto the Eldorado Glacier. From there it was more or less just an uphill shot to first, the basin southeast of the summit at about 7500 then, the Inspiration Glacier where we switched to boot crampons around 8k and finally the top, where this peaker staggered in last, around 230, nearly 34 years after “the probable first winter ascent made by Donald Goodman and party March 14 1981”.

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The knife ridge on the summit was slightly tricky to navigate so we strapped in about 70 ft below, and began our descent. The top skied pretty firm down to about 8k with one major but easily avoidable crevass. From there it softened into some great hot powder turns for the next 1600ft which finally gave way to spring corn right before the traverse back up over the ridge. A ski back to the bolder field and a tired hike down the trail had us returning to the car in just over 12 hrs.

For a season that has been disappointing by all measurements Eldorado certainly stood out as a high point, as it does in an area known for its high points.

Photos courtesy of Sam Hobbs

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

On Saturday we joined the mass-exodus from the lowlands up at Rainier and set our sites on Camp Muir. Anticipating an icy snowpack that would need some help from the sun in order to become enjoyable, we took our time through Puyallup, going as far as driving several exits in the wrong direction all in the interest of getting the best turns possible.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Paradise around 10:30 which was just about at capacity. The sky was blue and the snow was cold so we set off toward Panorama Point opting to boot last 500 ft or so, while the stubborn struggled with the skin track nearing the top.

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From there it was a straight shot and about 2000 ft to Moon Rocks where we decided on our turn around. The snow was consistently icy for the entire duration of the trip, making it difficult to hold and edge while side hilling along what I believe is referred to as The Sugarloaf, as well as extremely jarring on the ride down.

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Heading back toward the car around 3:30 we skied the Nisqually Chute, which despite sitting in sun all day, was no exception the hard snow conditions experienced everywhere else. A quick hike out of the chute and a bumpy ride back to the parking lot put us back at the car around 4:20 where we took our time packing up until the rangers came around and warned us that the Longmire gate closes at 5:00. I’m not sure how strict they are on that time but we drove through at 4:59.

It was a nice day at the mountain that can be summed up like this; Great weather, very poor snow conditions. The coverage up there is fine right now but it was horribly icy. I guess it just depends on what you are in it for.

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Photos courtesy of Charlie Coultas