All posts by David Kiker

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.

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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.

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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.