Category Archives: Touring

North Face of Burgundy Spire, Washington Pass

North Face of Burgundy Spire, Washington Pass

Friday, July 21st, 2017

The plan was do to a Paisano Burgundy link up, but nothing that day quite went according to plan. Andrew, Tim, James and I slept at the trailhead 4mi east of WA pass, and were walking by 5:45 Saturday morning. The trail starts by scrambling down past cairns to Early Winters Creek, then weaving up through the woods to the bivy camp. The camp is roomy and has excellent views of the Liberty Bell group – next time I’ll block a few more days and plan to stay here. The trail up the spires is steep, and at times the footing is poor on marbly rocks. It is relatively easy to follow with regular cairns.

As we approached the base of Paisano around 8, it became clear that we would have to wait for a few other parties to climb before our two parties of two could jump on. Weighing our priorities for the day and recognizing that a delay may mean we couldn’t complete the link up, we decided to push on to Burgundy. We scrambled up to Burgundy Col at 7720’, roughly 3600’ above Early Winters Creek.

At the col we left our bags, and started scrambling to the base of the climb. We had planned on climbing the original route that heads directly up the north face of the spire. However we struggled significantly with route finding, and ultimately opted for what now seems to be the most popular route. This option traverses right at the top of pitch two. If I described the climb how we did it, it would be a messy and confusing string of climbing, rappelling, traversing, and so on. I will instead pitch it out how I would climb the North Face of Burgundy if I were to do it again.

P1. After scrambling slightly right and up from the col, rope up where the 5th class climbing starts about 45m above the col. Climb the right facing corner on the left side of the amphitheater without swinging around to the east side. Chossy rock. 5.7

P2. Trend back right to find a crack system with numerous flakes, ending on a large ledge. 5.8

Traverse right 50m, under a large block, to a long ledge to start the third pitch.

Belay ledge for P3

P3. Easy climbing in a left facing corner, then swing right, setting up an anchor roughly 25m above the last belay. 5.5

 

P4. Follow a fun corner hand crack with good pro, sling a horn and belay from a small stance at 30m. 5.8

Belay stance at top of P4

P5. Trend left, stepping around a bulge into a tapering left facing crack. A move or two of offwidth then good hands higher up, and a slightly overhanging jug to pull onto the ridge. Belay from the ridge to avoid rope drag, then scramble left to the summit.

Summit ridge

Descent: Two 60m ropes made for a relatively quick decent. We doubled up to rappel climbers left of our route to the next station. Another single rappel brought us to the ledge at the bottom of the third pitch. Rather than following our ascent path, we cut left down to a rappel station just after walking back under the large block. Three more double rappels brought us back to the col.

Southwest Rib w variation, South Early Winters Spire

Southwest Rib w variation, South Early Winters Spire

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Tim and Andrew beat us to the same summit up the same route two days earlier, so David and I rolled into Monday with some helpful beta for the climb. In hopes of a warmer climb we opted for a later start, leaving from the trailhead at 7am. We followed the Blue Lake trail for 1.5mi, until the terrain opened up and we had views of the Liberty Bell group. From there we took the obvious climbers trail that branched left, headed up towards Concord tower. The trail dwindled, and we got off track trending too far left, getting almost to the base of Concord before cutting back right. A high traverse across snow brought us to the base of South Early Winters Spire.

There were two parties ahead of us, so we waited at the high ponderosa hoping the sun would come over the ridge soon. When the route cleared, we scrambled climber’s left to rack up at the Y-shaped larch.

Looking back up at the approach at the end of the day

P1. The crux pitch starts mellow, then has a few 5.8 moves to get past a bulge. Protects well. 5.8

P2. The Wavy Crack – quick climbing up onto a ledge, then follows a wide left facing crack. 5.8

P3. We opted for the 10.b variation, traversing right 20m to a left facing corner. The seam starts as tight fingers, then widens slightly toward the top of the corner. The climbing gets easier further into the pitch, but has some boulder moves higher up to get over a bulge. Once over the bulge, you’re on the Nervous Nelly pitch and can look up to Bear Hug. Climb through Nervous Nelly to the ledge below the Hug. 5.10b

P4. The Bear Hug – The hug itself is only about 5m of super fun climbing. Protection felt adequate with one 4 at the bottom, but the crack would have taken a 5 and a 6 higher up. From there traverse right to a large south facing corner ledge. 5.7

P5. Easy but exposed climbing on an arête, minimal pro. Stay on the right side of the arête to find a small belay stance before the base of the gully. 5.6

David belaying from the bottom of pitch 6

P6. Low 5th class, drop down and right into the sandy gully before the ridge steepens and would require a rap to get into the gully. Belay off a tree in the middle of the gully. 5.2

 

P7. From the notch at the top of the gully climb the obvious crack system right to the summit. 5.6

Summit photo for mom

Descent: Down the South Arête. At the top trend left to avoid dropping down the gully. There is a tight gently sloping chimney to descend, this awkward move is somewhat easier without a pack or rope on your back. Continue down the arêtes to the first of three rappel stations. After these rappels you are at the base of South Arête, and can walk back to the base of the Southwest Rib.

Mt Rainier, Success Couloir

Mt Rainier, Success Couloir

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Success Glacier Couloir on Mount Rainier. A friend of a friend had heard about it.

Finding information on the route wasn’t easy; a google search pulled up a couple dated trip reports with helpful beta but very little to cross-reference against. Skiing down the south-facing couloir seemed straight-forward (and fun!) but climbing up was more like choose your own adventure. We chose the Kautz Cleaver for the ascent with two goals in mind: 1) ski the couloir, and 2) summit rainier via a traverse onto the Kautz Headwall.

We (David, Sam, myself) started Saturday morning from Paradise at 9:30 AM. Day One was largely a traverse taking us across the Nisqually, Wilson, Van Trump, and Kautz Glaciers. The route steepened when we got to the cleaver (35 to 45 degrees) and we ascended to 10,200 feet before taking up camp at a lovely bivy spot. For some reason this route just isn’t popular with the rainier masses, so we had the entire cleaver to ourselves Saturday. Party! A couple flasks were downed and the three of us retreated to the tent to rest up for summit day.

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We continued up the cleaver Sunday morning at 5 and by 7 the sun was hitting most of the route. This proved to be a big problem; around 12,000 feet we started getting hit by ice pellets, which turned to ice balls, which turned to rock, one of which flew right over my head. Good karma? Bad karma? Damnit. The reality had sunk in. Our timing was off, conditions weren’t right. The good news was we were nearing the top of the couloir. The bad news was if we wanted to summit, we still had an exposed traverse over the Kautz underneath a rimy, rocky, ridge that was also likely unloading its contents onto the slopes below. A fall would be “a bummer” in the words of David Kiker. Agreed, David.

We made the safe call to fold our hand on the summit bid and focus on the ski/board down. After a quick nap at 12,800 feet, we headed down. Snow was firm up high, with some packed powder turns, turning to corned snow between 12,000 and 9,000. We did not observe any loose wet avalanches on the way down, although the snow got very rotten around 7,000 as we descended via the Van Trump, down through comet falls and eventually onto the hikers trail. This is a fun tour that is highly recommended over two days; great steep skiing and an isolated feeling.

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The Brothers, East Basin

The Brothers, East Basin

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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Emerald Bay Chutes, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay Chutes, Lake Tahoe

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Lake Tahoe is California’s premier summer playground. Flooded with tourists longing for beachy days, boozy boat rides and immaculate mountain views, it can be a challenge to find solitude in these mountains. Winter, however, is when the real magic happens. Luckily for Mark and I people seem to shy away from the piles of snow and cooler temps of winter.

Despite the cold and stormy weather that had defined the season, cold temps were not in store for us. Lows were lingering around the high 30s and 60 degrees was going to be our top end temp for the day. With an understanding that quality snow was going to be hard to come by, we headed south from Marks squaw valley residence toward Emerald Bay. The goal was to get to some views and find a chute that’s rarely in due to waterfalls and cliffs at the terminus of the route on an average snow pack year. Average is not a word we’ve been using this year here on the west coast.

With over 600” of our favorite substance deposited by mid march, the Emerald Bay Chutes were fully in. We hoped it wouldn’t get too sun baked but when we arrived at the TH at 9:30am a couple had just come off the main descent from Jakes peak and said it was already punching through.

We started up the first pitch which was mellow and gained about 800′. Very easy cruising and no real skin track to follow as there were tracks running in every direction. Choose your own adventure.

After contemplating a route up and through some trees, an avalanche path seemed to be the most direct and avy danger was low. Wet loose was the only concern and given the terrain below we weren’t concerned about being carried a little ways if something small were to peal off. We opted to boot up most of this pitch to attain the saddle between Jakes Peak and Peak 9195′. Only a couple hundred feet of vert separated us from our peak.

Our line was along the south ridge of Peak 9195′. We’d scouted the two chutes from below and I was hot on the one further south. Mark and his new, untested boots were pushing for the more mellow north line. We made our way down to the south line to have a looksy. While on top of the glory run we had a conversation and agreed to boot back up the ridge and go for the more tame line.

Just as we unclipped to head back up the ridge, 4 skiers came tearing down towards us. Mark yells “Hey Kioki!” It was one of his ski cinematography buddies from decades ago. It seemed everywhere we went Mark knew someone. Luckily for me, Mark was easily persuaded after watching this crew go for the line.

The first couple turns were steep. Pow turned to unconsolidated mush seemed very challenging on skis. On the board I felt like I was surfing. Sub optimal ski conditions would not be the conversation piece regarding this line, however. With views of desolation wilderness to the west, Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay to the east, it’s hard to find a zone that’s more aesthetically pleasing.

Sheer granite walls on either side gave us a wide enough chute to surf the walls of snow that had been peeling off the rock through the season. It was essentially a wide and steep natural half pipe for much of the 2000 vertical foot run. As we spit out the end, the water was roaring underneath the snow pack and it was clear that the cliffs and waterfalls would be exposing themselves within the next couple weeks.

Full of cheer, we gathered around Kioki’s van and peeled open a beer. This tour certainly left me wanting more form the region. It’s all about timing with this one but if it’s in, it’s on!

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

Commonwealth Basin, Snoqualmie Pass

Commonwealth Basin, Snoqualmie Pass

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Car window got smashed weeks ago, too cold to drive without it. David picks me up dark and early. We pick up where the late night text storm left off…

Where we going today? Definitely the pass. Snow is dry, low density blower. So it’s a question of how big… How far? How committed? The debate commences and hardly abates when we stop for Brian at the P&R.

The truck feels smaller now. Three egos battling for mindshare. Six eyes popping as we pass snow on the ground in North Bend. Decisions made, minds changed, decisions unmade, the same decisions made again, but this time in reverse…

Eventually we settle on the most conservative option. Pursue turns in terrain from which we can easily retreat. Dip our toe, test the temperature. I know a spot where the terrain has called me, let’s head there and see what it has to offer. And so we do…

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

David rules out Red: “I wouldn’t ski that with a ten foot pole”

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Pushing up the first bench: Three steps forward, two steps back.

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

It’s deep and dry and we like it.

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

David projects our position on the map… These augmented reality ski goggles are really worth their weight.

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

David finally says “yes, I’ll ski that.”

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Life is a dream.

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Smoothest ride is in the backseat.

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

In moments like these, you’ve gotta thank the person behind the camera. This one’s for you, Brian.

And here’s the edit:

Arrowhead Mountain, Stevens Pass

Arrowhead Mountain, Stevens Pass

Monday, December 26th, 2016

What started as an idea to make a solid attempt to take on Jim Hill Mountain turned, out to be a relaxed post Christmas tour to Arrowhead Mountain. A much needed tour after a few days regaling of old Christmas past with family and friends. The weight of honey ham, seasonal meats and cheese, and a few many holiday spirits needed to escape our bodies in exchange for a solid tour.

We started out at the Henry Creek approach on the east side of US 2. Making our way to FS road 687, skinning the logging road up the twisty switch backs to the clear cut. Arrowhead Mountain was hovering above us so we knew we where headed in the right direction. After the clear cut the tight trees get thick and the trail is steep. A slight skin track was broken before us and we where able to navigate through it while noting the map to reinsure confidence in our navigation. The open ski glades started to pop out as we where skinning through the tight treed forest making our way up toward the rocky clumping to the summit of Arrowhead Mountain.

Although the tempter was only around 30F, seasonal treats might have been escaping through our skin… I was sweating like the honey ham I had for Christmas dinner! At the summit the wind chill was brisk and we quickly snacked to get over the bonk of the strenuous tour. The views are amazing from the summit, Jim Hill, Lichtenberg, Rock Mountain, Nason Ridge, etc…. I could see a passing train and hear the roar of the mighty BNSF train passing through the legendary North Cascade train tunnel!

Enough of the snacks, it was getting cold and we needed to warm up to prepare for our decent through the open glades of POW we passed while making our way to the bottom. Early season conditions do exists, so travel down with caution. Lucky for us our descent was filled with good times, and POW turns that felt bottomless. Jim Hill will come to us again with more planning and time. But for a short, steep, and rewarding tour I would recommend Arrowhead Mountain as a must tour.

 

 

 

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.