Category Archives: Climbing

Smith Rock Frontside

October 29, 2011.

This weekend I headed down to Smith to climb with some friends. Today we hit the frontside of the rock for some mixed sport and trad climbing.

We decided to warm up on Lion’s Jaw, a 5.8 traditional route. It felt really burly for me and it took me a while to finish it. Upon later reflection I wondered if it was because: it was my first trad lead in a month or that I was using someone else’s rack. Maybe it was a combination of the two.

Next we had to get out of the sun so we headed for the sporty Hesitation Blues (5.10b). It was a tricky but fun follow for me.

Next, Tom led Toys in the Attic, a 5.9 hand crack that widens to off-width below a big roof. Oh bt it’s not over yet, a horizontal finger crack traverse with smeary feet leads over to the anchor. That was the scariest part for me!

Then, we all took turns on Double Trouble, 5.10b sport. My partners left the quickdraws up so I could try a lead. It was doable but there were some really heady moves for me. Coming on to the face from the arete was scary, since I had to step off the lower block. I had to hang on the draws quite a bit but I pulled it together and topped out.
From there we moved over to Blasphemy (5.11a). At the time they told me it was 5.10d so I figured I’d give it a go (I should always read the book myself). It was fun but very challenging with some delicate and precarious stems mid-way up followed by a not straightforward bulge. They were just dying to shout up beta for it but I just wanted to figure it out myself. I did.

We sneaked in one last climb at the end of the day: Pack Animal Direct (5.10b). I flew up the lower finger crack and came to a screeching halt at the roof because I couldn’t figure out how to go around it. Once I figured out how to move my right foot a couple inches higher I was able to reach a giant jug and pull through the move. Duh.

A fun day followed by pumpkin carving at camp later that evening!

Goat Rocks: Old Snowy and Ives

September 24, 2011.

about 14 miles | 3700′ ele. gain | 8 hours
Snowgrass Flats > PCT > Old Snowy > Ives > down talus to PCT and out

Photos from this trip are on Picasa.

Sue and I left Portland early to arrive at what we thought was a reasonable time. When we pulled into the Snowgrass Flats trailhead parking area just before 9 am, the place was overflowing with cars. I was already not excited about my first trip to the Goat Rocks.

We walked for a couple of hours through unremarkable, forested terrain. The trail was well-maintained and well-graded, so we were able to cover a good amount of miles without too much work. We saw a handful of people who were mostly carrying overnight packs. I was happy to cruise by with just a small daypack.

Once we broke free of the trees and entered one gorgeous meadow after another, I began warming up to the hike. An undulating ridge overlooked the colorful wildflower display at our feet. Remnant snow patches still lingered on the rocky slopes. Paintbrush, lupine, gentian, and asters provided a never-ending show of beautiful hues. We followed the trail as it gradually gained elevation along zillions of switchbacks that ascended to the highest point of the PCT in Washington State. Along the way we watched a train of horses heading up the trail, spied a lazy marmot enjoying the sunshine, and admired the intriguing rock formations. There was never a dull moment.

Once we hit the apex of the PCT we turned left to climb the north ridge of Old Snowy, our destination for the day. Ahead of us was another group of hikers with a small child, moving upwards at a glacial pace. We cruised by and were greeted at the summit by a Mazama team who were enjoying some snacks. Once the other group caught up, it got awfully crowded up there and we wanted to leave. I had gotten the idea that we could tag Ives while we were up here and it was so close. I didn’t have any specific details besides follow the ridge to the summit.

It didn’t take much convincing to get Sue to agree with the new plan, so we happily departed under sunny skies along the bumpy ridge connecting the two peaks. The route turned out to be surprisingly straightforward. We had to negotiate our way around several large gendarmes along the ridge that looked more challenging than they actually were. Along the way we came across bits and pieces of climber’s trails and the occasional series of boot tracks. There was a considerable amount of loose rock on the route that reminded me of climbing back in Oregon. We essentially followed the ridge as it rose and fell, passing by an interesting rock arch and other notable geological features, until we hit one steep talus slope taking us to the base of the summit’s ramp. From the base of the ramp we were able to follow a climber’s path up the rock to the top.

It took an hour to reach summit #2. We stopped here to soak in the solitude that we longed for on summit #1. It was beautiful up here; we got a great view of Gilbert Gottfried Peak (or Curtis-Gilbert or whatever the kids are calling it these days) as well as Mt. Adams. Although I could have sat up there for hours, we had some friends to meet at a car campground that evening, so we packed it up and eyed a route down.

It was easy to see the PCT junction in a huge patch of dirt far below us. We headed down a talus field, crossed over some snow, then lots more rocks, until we bottomed out in the meadows. After dumping the rocks out of our boots we glided across the wildflowers to reach the trail again for some easy walking. The time from summit to trail: 1 hour.

As we walked out, we kept turning back to burn the images of the expansive and lovely Goat Rocks into our retinas. I was sad to leave the open meadows, and didn’t look forward to the treed-in slog ahead. We passed several more backpackers on their way up and I was glad that I would not be camping up here with everyone else. I suppose since the Goat Rocks are accessible for such a short period of time, that all the use is concentrated in that fleeting window.

I will certainly return to the Goat Rocks, preferably in the off-season with some snowshoes or skis. There are some other peaks and areas that I am interested in exploring. This was certainly a nice introduction to the area. We took a quick jaunt up Nannie Peak the next morning before taking the long drive back to Portland.

Smith Rock: Lower Gorge

September 17, 2011.

Today was a nice day for trad climbing at Smith Rock. I tagged along with a friend and his climbing buddy for the day. Since both were much better climbers than me I was able to look forward to a day of following hard trad routes!

First they graciously offered to let me lead something easy. I chose Two Gentlemen’s Pneumonia (5.7) at Shakespeare Cliff. I struggled majorly at the bottom, where smeary feet led to an off-width. After lots of gear-hopping and takes, I made it past that section to better moves. When I reached the chockstone, I opted to squeeze into the chimney behind a pillar instead of pull up and over on the face.

Next, a couple more climbs on this side of the river, with my buddies on lead. I followed them both: Azog (5.9) and Much Ado about Nothing (5.10d/5.9). The upper pitch has the 10d moves so I just completed the 5.9 variation. These were both really fun crack climbs with some bouldery finishing moves.

Back across the river, we chose a couple more climbs. On lead again, I tackled Dire Wolf (5.8). This was nut-tastic! The gear was so good and the climbing felt easy that I just cruised up it.

The last, and best climb of the day was Morning Star (5.10 c), which I toproped. It was a sustained, challenging finger crack. There were also some crazy stemming/chimneying moves thrown in for good measure. I fell once and yelled a lot but otherwise climbed it well. What a satisfying day!

Diamond Peak

September 3, 2011.

Rockpile Trail > PCT > Climber’s trail up South Ridge of Diamond Peak

12 miles | 3750′ ele. gain | 6.5 hours

Photos from this trip are on Picasa.

I had two sets of instructions for climbing the peak: one from Sullivan’s green book and one from the Oregon Scrambles book. Sullivan’s route included much less off-trail travel, and all of the “climber’s route” was in open terrain. The Scrambles route seemed to require much more off-trail navigation, and to make things worse, there was quite a bit of it in the depths of the trees. In making the switch from one backpack to another, I had forgotten to grab my compass before leaving town and I was not comfortable wandering through the woods with no directional cues. So I decided to follow Sullivan’s description.

I set out at about 7 am to enjoy the coolest part of the day during this hot streak. I proceeded to walk through a pretty forest on a well-graded trail. There was very little elevation gain over several miles of travel. It was very quiet. I stopped occasionally to observe the plants growing on the forest floor but overall I was able to maintain a quick pace. In no time at all, I found myself at the lakes. In a wave of confusion I ended up dead-ending at Marie Lake, having to backtrack my steps and return to the last junction before getting to the PCT junction and turning left.

Once on the PCT I timed myself carefully so as to not miss the climber’s trail mentioned in Sullivan’s book. As noted, there was a huge cairn about 50 feet from the obvious hairpin turn in the trail. Perfect! The trail immediately detoured uphill, a huge change from the last 5 miles or so. This was one of the best climber’s trail I’d ever walked upon; the route was clear and the tread was well worn. A great effort was put into building cairns frequently along the path as well. I stopped to rebuild several of them on my way up. As the trail left the trees, the ground turned to a steadily ascending slope of rocks and debris. Among the rock and gravel, there appeared to be footsteps all over the place as well as cairns barely discernible from the other rocky piles. It was easy for me to find the way up but I was concerned about the way down. I stopped several times to turn around and gain the opposite perspective, as well as make a few mental notes to help me navigate back down to the trail. With huge and distinct volcanic peaks sticking up everywhere as well as obvious features on Diamond Peak, it was pretty easy to get my bearings.

The slog uphill was long but absolutely gorgeous. It was like walking through an ornate rock garden. Delicate and hardy alpine plants emerged from the seemingly lifeless dust covering the rock. The hillside was adorned with buckwheat, stonecrop and paintbrush of various colors.

Upon gaining the false summit, I looked north to my final destination. A half-mile rocky, undulating ridge lay between me and the top of the peak. This interesting section of climb took me past several cliffy rock outcrops that I had to navigate down and around. Squeezing in the space left by melting snow as it parted ways from the rock wall, I pondered how much easier this would have been just a few weeks earlier with a more hefty snowpack.

The summit area was flat and broad; it was a great place to sit and relax before heading back down. In the sun and haze I was able to see several peaks including the Three Sisters (at least two of them), Mt. Thielsen (aka “Tomorrow”) and Mt. Yoran (aka “Yesterday”). It was remarkable to have this beautiful place to myself at 10:30 am on a holiday weekend.

But I knew I had to get down before it really got hot. I sadly left the summit behind, hopping across the rock to a narrow snow ridge that I walked across until it got a little too narrow for my liking. I squirmed through the moat again, returning briefly to the rock ridge before barreling down the talus and scree. I edged right to another snowfield and plunge-stepped down as far as I could before moving back to the rock. About an hour later I reached the trail, immediately encountering people. I passed another couple at the corner and then three backpackers further down the trail. After that short rush of congestion I swiftly walked out to the car in peace and quiet.

Summit 2 out of 4 for this trip is also highly recommended. The flat approach provides a nice warm-up for the climb itself, and the off trail navigation is pretty straightforward. This would likely offer an interesting snow climb for most of the year as well, although it would be a shame to miss the spectacular alpine flora during its brief bloom.

Mt. Yoran and Peak 7138

September 2, 2011.

Vivian Lake Trail > Mt. Yoran Trail > Yoran Summit > Peak 7138 and back

8-ish miles | 2500′ ele. gain | 5:30 hours

Photos on Picasa

A holiday weekend: 4 summits in 4 days was the plan. I drove down to the trailhead for this hike the night prior and slept out under the stars in hopes of catching an early start in the morning. Temperatures this weekend were threatening to be in the high 80’s and into the 90’s, so I’d planned to avoid the worst heat of the day. This was easy to do, as I was alone for this part of my trip.

At 7 am I began the approach hike up the not-so-pretty Vivian Lake and Mt. Yoran trails, which traveled through brown and boring forest for most of the way. Just before descending to Divide Lake the forest floor picked up some interesting color and vegetation, adding some excitement to this so far trudge-like walk. Upon arriving at the lake I was greeted by a pine marten who stopped to pose on a log before running into the safety of the trees.

With a copy of the 75 Scrambles in Oregeon route description in hand, I promptly ignored the suggestion to find the climbers trail and headed straight up the obvious rock field leading towards the summit. Mt. Yoran is an impressive looking rock block; from many angles it looks impassable to the average hiker. However, the rock slope leads to a somewhat solid gully filled with loose rock that is manageable to negotiate. I moved into the treed section of the steep slope and climbed up the right side of the rock below the large gendarme. From there, I followed the most obvious route to the notch above, walked up the next gully and traversed right across an exposed ridge to the flat summit. It was over just as soon as it begun. While fun, the scramble was short. I sat atop the peak, enjoying the cooler air temperature and lovely breeze.

To the southeast, another rocky peak jutted prominently out of the forest below. The seductively named Peak 7138, which is actually taller than what is labeled as the “summit” of Mt. Yoran, looked like a nice secondary objective of the day. It only took me two hours to get here so I had plenty of daytime to play with.

I descended mostly the same way I came up, skirting away from the loose rock in the gully and exiting as soon as I could in order to reach the saddle between Yoran and 7138. I followed the ridgeline, keeping to the south side as to avoid the crumbly, steep, and exposed ridge proper. Traversing talus and grass, I bypassed a tall rock pinnacle and headed for a rock outcrop that appeared to be loose but fun. And it was.

A few hairy moves and tumbling boulders later I reached the top of the peak. That was actually more scrambling and more fun than the route up Mt. Yoran. I would highly recommend doing this double feature to someone considering the scramble of Mt. Yoran. It would be a bit more treacherous with a group of people due to rockfall, so helmets and functioning brains would be advised.

Atop the summit, gorgeous views were to be had in all directions. I admired Diamond Peak, my goal for tomorrow. I also found a memorial carved into a rock: “Norman Thomas 61-87.” I was blown away that someone came up here to this random, off the grid peak to remember a lost friend. As much as I despise these things at commonly visited spots I was surprisingly inspired by seeing this carving located here. I wonder if this particular peak had some significance in this person’s life, or what the story of his death was. I couldn’t find any information online when I returned home, so I will continue to wonder.

After getting sick of swatting flies and mosquitoes I began the exciting descent. I didn’t want to go down the way I ascended so instead I did some rock-surfing down a steep and loose gully that pointed me towards Divide Lake. I cursed the stupid chipmunk who danced across the rock as I fumbled around like a drunken sorority girl. Once back at the lake I paused for a nanosecond to take a picture before the mosquitoes could figure out I was there.

Shortly after, I passed a couple who were on their way up to the lake; they were the only humans I’d see on the trail. I’m not sure if it was so quiet because it was a Friday morning or because this isn’t a particularly popular destination. Either way, it was a win-win situation for me. The triple win came within a quarter mile of the trailhead, where huckleberries were ripe and ready for consumption. I stopped and gorged myself on the berries, which were the sweetest and tastiest huckleberries I think I ever had. They were large and sweet, tasting more like blueberries than the huckleberries I’m used to. What a treat!

I had a snack and then moved my camp to Indigo Springs Campground so I would be closer to my next hike. I still had all afternoon to read, stretch, explore the woods, and relax by the creek. It was a great way to kick off the long weekend.

Valhallas Climbing Trip (rest day and hiking out)

August 18, 2011.

Today, with no particular objective in mind, we decided to take a rest day. Two of our group members hiked out early in the morning, leaving the remaining group with 5 people. We had a lazy breakfast while chatting on Kitchen Rock with a great view of the floating ice in Mulvey Lake. It was a treat every morning to wake up to this little piece of outdoor heaven. In the six days we had been in the basin, we had encountered no other parties. Yesterday when we hiked up to the col, we did see two other teams; but no one had made the slog down to our blissful camp.

We spent much of the afternoon building an incredibly elaborate toprope anchor to TR about 25 feet of overhanging slab. I got bored with that project pretty quickly, but the others played around with climbing on it for hours. Meanwhile, I sneaked in an amazing lakeside yoga session and a quick nap.

Dinner was fantastic yet again, and the loss of two hungry stomachs was evident; there was a ton of couscous left in the pot at the end of the night. We discussed our options for the next day and decided we would hike back out to the car so we could drive up to Banff for some sightseeing before heading back to Portland.

August 19, 2011.

It was a bittersweet day. The weather was phenomenal; clear blue skies and bright sunlight shone overhead. Who would want to leave? But with the prospect of bad weather coming in soon, I would have rather packed out in the sun than in the rain. Plus, we had some extra time to complete the long drive home.

With heavy packs on once again (did they get any lighter??) we trudged up the snow, rock, and snow to the now familiar col. No one really wanted to carry their packs along the narrow catwalk to gain the col so we dropped packs at a big ledge and walked up without them. Brody stayed low while Lee and Eric built an anchor to lower a rope down. The packs were pulled up the corner, one by one, until all people and packs were safely on the rock. It didn’t take that much extra time, and it made the crossing safer.

From here, it was a trail hike back to the car. The section between the col and the Gimli camp was the most treacherous. There were some steep downhill sections and plenty of loose rock. When I reached the camp I waited for everyone to arrive. There were marmots, ground squirrels, and goats hanging out here; they know where the food and urine are.

We took a short break here before making the last push to the car. I was ready to just be done with it, so after walking with Brody for a bit I blasted off at my own (non-stop) pace until I saw the parking lot. It felt so good to take that backpack off and change into new clothes. There was a Pepsi, still cold, in the van as well as crunchy cheesy poofs for a treat. One by one the others filed in and we took our time loading into the van to leave. It had been a tremendously fun vacation with a great group of people, in a place of unparalleled beauty. But, we had to go.

The drive home included a few interesting stops and a road that ended at a lake. A free ferry ride took us across to the continuation of the road. That was a fun little adventure! The drive through British Columbia was incredibly pretty. I will have to come back to do some more exploring in the mountains and forests of this amazing land.

View the photos from the entire trip on Picasa.

Valhallas Climbing Trip: Niselheim (E Ridge)

August 17, 2011.

After having a full day of climbing on Asgard, we decided we’d tackle the “easier” East Ridge of Niselheim. This was rated 5.7 and involved just 2 pitches of climbing. Again we split into two teams and since one person planned to head out to the car today, her team tackled the route first. That gave Ryan, Eric and I time to relax, eat lunch and soak in some sunshine before getting ready to climb.

We left camp shortly after Team 1 and cruised up from camp along rock and grass until we reached the upper lake. Here we stopped to put on crampons and get our axes out for the ascent up the snowfield to the Gimli-Niselheim Col. At the top of the col we rested and I watched the other team ascend for a bit so I could try and figure out some route beta before I took off on lead. This climb had no “instructions” for it either, so I would have to learn it on the fly. We ditched our axes and crampons at the col since we didn’t want to carry them up and over the mountain.

After the first lead was complete and the followers were on their way, we ascended a fixed line up a slab to the first belay, where I began to climb. I immediately had to step right onto the face using a great crack behind a flake for hand and fist jams as I went up. The beautiful flake quickly ended and I looked around for the path of least resistance. About 40 (?) feet up from the belay I found myself in a spot where I didn’t feel comfortable moving up or moving down. I panicked, searching for something, anything to use for protection so I could take a rest. I spied a gap between a rock wedged in a crack and the wall itself where I threw in a tiny purple nut. After clipping the rope in and examining the piece I knew I didn’t want to risk falling on it because it looked shoddy. The panic continued. I used my radio to communicate with my situation with my team, knowing I just needed some time to problem solve. Eventually I stepped down and found a good place to sink a .75 cam that I trusted. I rested. And waited. And looked around. I took one step up, then went back down. Wait. Two more moves up, nope, then back down. It felt like forever.

Finally I made the unprotectable slab moves I needed to gain a ledge and stand on more solid ground. Oh, what a sense of relief! I felt terrible for my belayers sitting on the windy ledge below. Surely I could speed things up from here.

The climbing was simple from here, and I stopped to place gear mostly for rope management purposes. Once I ran out of rope I stopped on top of a massive ledge and scoured the place for a spot to build an anchor. Nothing. I stepped back down to a much smaller ledge and rigged an anchor here. I had a really uncomfortable belay position but I was glad to get the team moving.

We walked across the massive ledge, holding the rope coiled up in our hands, to the other end. It was unclear how to start the second pitch. I had wanted to climb up and over a short bouldery-type problem to gain the next step, but one of the big boulders lodged in a gap looked possibly loose. Rather than spend too much more time contemplating the start, we set a belay anchor where we could and I climbed over the suspect boulder. It was one of the more fun moves of the climb!

A handful of interesting face moves and hand jams on increasingly more portable rock made an enjoyable start to pitch two. This was all over soon, as it reverted quickly to third and fourth class scrambling. Finding the most solid rock was the name of the game. We were at the summit in no time.

Our summit celebration was short-lived as it was now 5 PM and we had to think about getting down. The so-called 4th class scramble was anything but; we had to rig the rope to lower down a big vertical step and we slung a horn to rappel down a longer stretch of sketchy rock. After all that nonsense we reached a spot where it was safe to change into boots and we hightailed it across the backside of the mountain. We crossed up some snow and mud, then crawled through a cool “cave” formed by a pile of big rocks. From the cave we downclimbed rock to a moat, followed the moat as far as we could, then walked in old footsteps in the snow to reach the talus field at the other side.

The other team was still milling about at the col since there was a miscommunication between teams, and apparently now we’d all be walking back to camp together. We picked up the gear we stashed, climbed up and over the col and prepared for one last snow slog downhill in crampons. At least this didn’t take too long. Lucky for us, one member of the group was enjoying a rest day back at camp and he had dinner all fired up and ready to eat by the time we rolled into camp. Awesome! I was happy to be back before dark.

View the photos from the entire trip on Picasa.

Valhallas Climbing Trip: Asgard (SE Ridge)

August 16, 2011.

Today we split up into two teams both tackling Asgard from different angles. My team (including Eric and Ryan) chose the shorter, 3 pitch 5.7 route following the SE ridge of the mountain. Asgard looks to be a striking feature from camp, rising distinctly above the lake basin. We left camp, heading up a similar route that we came down yesterday, picking the best route over wet slab, thick grass, and patches of snow.

We had to traverse far to our right to hit the rocky ridge, and then walk all the way back to the left on piles of huge boulders to reach the base of the climb. We debated for a bit where the best starting point would be and then laid out our gear for the climb.

I started up the first pitch, climbing over slabs overgrown with black lichen and tufts of grass. Cracks were flaring, shallow and irregular, which made placing gear a challenge. There were some opportunities to sling features and eventually I began to find some nut placements, which helped me relax a bit. The climbing wasn’t hard but the route finding was not straightforward. There was one fun sequence to climb around a roof, and that’s all I remember about the climbing. There was a considerable amount of zig-zagging to find reasonable climbing that also had places for pro. I made the first belay station when the rope drag was so bad I couldn’t move up anymore. It was not the greatest place for three people to hang out, but thankfully we didn’t have to crowd there together for too long.

The second pitch began with some “trust your feet” lichen smears with no hands. I was happy to get high enough above the blank slab to find some gear placements. From there I moved slowly left, towards the edge of the ridgeline. There was a short section where I was traversing on edges on the south face of the mountain with a good 1000′ of vertical drop beneath my feet. A nice looking crack lured me further along the traverse. But when I realized I would get stuck out here if I made too many more moves here, I reached out long for a nice cam placement, then hopped up the slab back onto the ridge proper. That was exhilarating. As soon as I found a mediocre ledge I stopped to build an anchor.

I’m pretty sure my two followers enjoyed the exciting jaunt on to the face based on their commentary on the way up. The next pitch was more similar to the first, with easy climbing and not too much pro. There was grass growing in all the cracks and on the ledges, and I had to trust that some of those ledges weren’t just thin piles of dirt that would blow out when I stepped on them. I ran the rope out to the end on easy scrambling and belayed the others up.

Not sure what the rest of the ridge would bring, I set off on belay for a fourth “pitch.” It turned out to be pretty easy walking, with some cool exposure and teetering rocks. I reached a bolt and a piton tied together with webbing and decided to stop here. The rest of the ridge we clambered up unroped, and shortly after we were standing on the summit.

The other team was nowhere in sight but we were in contact with radios. They apparently had some routefinding issues and would be awhile before summitting. We hung out on top for a good hour before we packed up to walk out. It was so beautiful out here with 360° views of snowy peaks, massive granite faces and deep valleys.

On the way down we decided to use the bolt/piton anchor station to set up a 60 m rap with the double ropes we had. Ryan went first, taking in the pleasures of tangled, ornery ropes on the way down. She eventually pioneered a new arm-gunslinger-rap technique that no doubt will be the hit in climbing circles in the coming year.

After the rap, we pulled the ropes free and continued to reverse our route all the way back to camp. We took turns testing out the quality of the snow, which was never exactly what we wanted it to be. With no crampons or axes it was easier to boulder-hop most of the way back down to the grass.

We noticed the other team had summitted and were making their way down the ridge as well, which made us feel relieved. It was a great first real climbing day in the mountains.

View the photos from the entire trip on Picasa.

Valhallas Climbing Trip (meadow hiking)

August 15, 2011.

It rained all night long. Wind threatened to smash down our tent. We awoke to gray skies and low clouds shrouding the peaks ringing the basin. When the clouds lifted briefly, we caught sight of fresh snow plastered to every teeny shelf on the enormous granite faces above us. While most folks chose to sleep in a little (or a LOT), I was going nuts inside my little tent and decided to get out. I had a nice, warm breakfast and hot beverage while waiting for people to arise.

Later that afternoon, the weather relented a bit, allowing Brody and I to take a walk through the meadows below our camp. The meadows were laid out in steps; we descended a steep grassy slope to the first step. Here we could get a better view of the waterfall that also served as the outlet of the lake. We crossed the meadow and forest, descending another steep slope to the next step. There were only a few wildflowers blooming, as much of the meadow was soggy and had probably just melted out. We continued walking through grass and trees until we arrived at the edge of a huge drop that ended in a wide river valley below. It was a classic U-shaped valley with impressive mountains forming either side. The river at the bottom looked tiny from way up here. We angled to our right, following the tree-line, until we could drop down to one of many lakes formed by the runoff from the lake near our camp. They were all gorgeous, with crystal-clear water and snow sculptures piled on their banks. We followed the lakes-and-river system back up to the base of the waterfall, then continued up the grass to our camp.

We enjoyed another elaborate meal for dinner; no one would go hungry on this trip. And none of us wanted to pack out extra food, so EVERYTHING had to get eaten!

View the photos from the entire trip on Picasa.

Valhallas Climbing Trip: Midgard (North Ridge)

August 14, 2011.

The group decided to stick together for a day of scrambling to a closeby destination. Having very little beta aside from “go up the north ridge,” we decided to pack the rope and a small rack of pro to fix a line if needed. We moseyed out of camp mid-morning as the sun tried to sap every ounce of energy we had. A short detour to cold, refreshing water at the waterfall slab was our first pleasant break out of camp. From there we headed over grass-covered slopes to a huge talus arm, where we took another rest. Once the troops were satisfied, we continued over more rock to a moderate snow slope. We kicked steps in the softening snow almost all the way up to the ridge. Some preferred rock, others preferred snow, and we all eventually met up on the rocky spine of the ridge.

From here the walk alternated from fun, easy rock hopping to exposed, slippery, loose traversing. Lichen and grass doesn’t provide the best footing for sure, but we managed to make it to a flat spot below the final push where we all regrouped and assessed the route. We dropped our poles here and ascended carefully, looking out for loose blocks, until we reached the summit. It was marked with a large cairn and had a summit register packed into a canister made of PVC pipe. The views up here were outstanding; there were no roads or signs of civilization as far as the eye could see.

We decided it would be nice to have a handline to help ensure everyone’s safety getting down from the top. Spencer took off with the handful of tricams and nuts that we brought and set two fixed lines for the team. The exposure, combined with the experience level of the team and the loose rock seemed to warrant the extra protection. It was a quick descent back to the platform where we left our poles. We were able to find a less sketchy way of returning to the snow on our way back. The team splintered here; three people went back to camp and four continued along the ridge towards Asgard.

The walk towards Asgard was mostly mellow and really fun. We stopped when we reached a vertical drop at an obvious notch. With the gear we had, we set up a rappel for three of us while the last team member cleaned and downclimbed. Looking back up at the route, it seemed much more reasonable to downclimb; it’s interesting how the perspective drastically changed my impression about the rock.

I was glad to be back on snow. We raced down the low-angled slope to the grassy ledges and bouldery cliffs. With some patient routefinding, we made it back to camp in time for dinner.

View the photos from the entire trip on Picasa.