Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 27, 2015
Today I braved the sweltering heat to hike/scramble up the south ridge of Black Peak in the north Cascades.  Normal people opt to take on the 11.2 mile trip in two days, enjoying stunning views of the three lakes and wildflowers along the way.  But since this is training, I made the trip in one 9.5 hour day.  Whew!  

Surveying Black Peak
Photo:  Darrin White
I made good time to the snowfield and as I made my way onto it, I encountered the first descending climber that I had seen all day.  "How was it?" I asked him.  He sort of grumbled about loose rock and asked me if I had an ice axe.  "Nope."  I said and tried to bury my trail running shoes in the snow. "But I have my helmet!"  I told him as consolation.  Just before Wing Lake, which sits at the bottom of the snow field that I was now standing on, I had cached my boots, deciding that there was no way given the recent heat, that snow would be an issue.  I was wrong.  So, I put on my helmet and started up, carefully placing my feet in the path of another cramponed climber, and kicking steps when I had to.  I was thankful when I made it to the col at the top of the snowfield without incident.

View from col - Wing & Lewis Lakes in background & climber on snowfield
Photo:  Lisa White 
The rest of the route would require scrambling, so I was once again thankful for my trail shoes.  I picked my way through the rock, stopping to build extra cairns to assist my descent, and made it to the top and was just a little frightened on the last pitch up a chimney to the summit. 

View of the summit
Photo:  Lisa White
View from the top
Photo:  Lisa White

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 21, 2015
Mt. Rainier is probably my favorite mountain, and Darrin and I endeavor to climb  it each summer.  So, this week I decided to cap off my training with a Rainier climb.  

We got permits to camp an 10,188 foot Camp Muir and made it there with a 40 pound pack in under four hours on Saturday, not horrible time, plus I did stop to change from trail shoes to mountaineering boots on the way.  Camp Muir is an interesting mountain setting, and I am always entertained when I stop to people-watch.  Invariably, there will be one or two people lying in the dust and rock, too exhausted to move, there is usually also someone trying to make a phone call to advertise their locale, plus a handful of mountaineers bustling around either making or breaking camp.  

After a pleasant night with mild weather, we left camp for the summit at 2 am, carrying light packs.  The snow conditions were really good -firm but not icy - and we made good time through cadaver gap, across Ingraham flats, and onto the rocky spine called disappointment cleaver.  We meandered through the loose rock. scree, boulders, and talus and exited the cleaver just as the sun was starting to light the eastern horizon.

Sun just starting to rise
Photo:  Darrin White
After the rock gave way to snow, we got into a steady rhythm, slowly moving up the mountain.  The winds were forecasted to be between 20 & 25 miles per hour, and as we started a long traverse toward Gibraltar ledges, my hands were starting to feel it.  My rule when my hands get cold is that I will make an adjustment, and continue moving for twenty minutes to assess improvement,  Today I was counting on the sun to warm them,  but as soon as it rose, it was concealed by thick, dark clouds.  Next I changed to my warmest gloves.  After twenty minutes my fingers were still painfully cold, and a couple of them  had been cold for more than forty minutes.  I put my head down and kept moving, certain that they would warm up if I increased my heart rate.  But I was breaking my rule, and the summit wasn't worth damaged fingers.

So we turned around, and started to descend quickly.  It would be thirty more minutes before I could feel all of my fingers.  Once I was warm, we could take our time and enjoy the mountain, stopping to marvel at teetering seracs and endless icy crevasses on the way back to camp Muir.  

Looking down on Ingraham flats
Photo:  Darrin White
As I was loading our gear into the car a few hours later, I looked back at Mt. Rainier, already planning my next summit attempt.  I noticed what looked like the beginning of lenticular clouds forming over the summit.  I've been told that lenticular clouds are a sign of high wind and impending precipitation when they sit over mountains.  I'm not sure if  that is true, but it made me feel better about making the right decision.

Lenticular clouds?
Photo:  Lisa White

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What an incredible weekend to be in the mountains!

It started on Saturday on Mt. Rainier, I left the Paradise parking lot at 9:30 and started off for Camp Muir on the under warm blue skies, I was carrying a light pack and moving quickly up the rocks and eventually onto the Muir snowfield.  Once on  the snow, I settled into a quick pace, the sound of my boots in the snow muffled by the drone of a Chinook helicopter searching for a missing climber on the north side of the mountain.  It reminded me that while it was a beautiful day, mountains can be dangerous places, especially when you let your guard down.

I continued moving quickly, thanks to firm snow, even under the sunny skies, and made it to Camp Muir at 12:05.  A new record for me!

I met Darrin a few minutes after I started to descend, and together we hiked down in a little more than 90 minutes.  Thanks to firm snow we were able to quickly boot ski most of the way down the snowfield.

Hiking down the Muir snowfield
Photo:  Darrin White
Today with our friend Jeff I traded Mt. Rainier's snow for dust and rock on Granite Mountain.  Again a light pack allowed me to move quickly, my legs no longer feeling tired like they had a few weeks ago ... all of those squats & step-ups are paying off!  I made it to the top in 1:59 and despite the wind enjoyed view of Mt Rainier and Mt. Adams.

Mt. Rainier from Granite Mountain lookout
Photo:  Lisa White
In total,  this weekend I gained 8,440 feet in 8.3 miles ... whew!  Time for some stretching and a foot massage! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Yesterday, Darrin and I climbed up Silver Star mountain in the north Cascades.  It was a beautiful climb, with just the right balance between glacier travel and scrambling.  We ascended via the Burgundy col.
The Burgundy Col is the deep notch in the middle
as seen from the trailhead
Photo:  Lisa White
I was very happy to encounter only three other climbers the whole day,  I was less happy about the endless scree and shifty kitty litter on the descent, but we made it back to the car with just a few scratches and one blood knee.

View from the summit
Photo:  Lisa White

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My plans for Manaslu haven't exactly been on hold, but we've been carefully considering whether it still makes sense to go, given the level of destruction from recent earthquakes. 

Since the first and most devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake near Gorkha on April 25th, there have been over 240 additional, smaller rumbles.  One of which, a 7.3 magnitude on May 12th  was situated near Namche Bazar, closer to Manaslu.  My hesitation to continue the trip was twofold:  I don't want to climb on an unstable mountain and I don't want to be inconsiderate of the local people who are rebuilding their homes and lives.  Making the best decision was complicated by the fact that getting accurate, detailed information from such a remote area is very difficult. 

But, after multiple internet searches and conversations with friends and acquaintances that were in the area during and after the first earthquake, two themes emerged:  climbing Manaslu in August will probably be safe but I need to be flexible in the event that it is unexpectedly not, and that the locals are eager to receive visitors and tourists in order to boost their economy and hasten the rebuilding process. 

So, on Saturday we confirmed our trip, sent a big fat check to our friend Jeff Witt to begin building our team of Sherpa and base camp support, and I started shopping for plane tickets.