Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Volcano Tour 2010

Jason, Lars, and I are up in the Pacific NW on our quest to summit and ski 5 of the major volcanic peaks. They are in attempted order: Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helens.

We have 7 days and a marginal weather forecast so we'll be going for them all car-to-car in a day and then moving camp to the next trailhead. We're a few days in now and...

Mount Adams: Check

Mount Rainier: Check

14,411 feet high

Three more to go. Trip reports and pics to come...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Southern Utah Sampler: Ski/Bike/Climb

I picked up "little brother" Sam early Friday morning and loaded up skis, bikes, and climbing gear for a trip to Southern Utah. We only had a couple days, but decided we should try and make the most of our time. Our first stop was the ultra scenic Indian Creek pictured above. We met uncle Roman and Sam's brother Aaron and headed to the Battle of the Bulge Buttress where we all thrashed about on some of the easier but classic routes like "Think Pink" and the "Cave Route."

Think Pink, 5.11-

Cave Route, 5.10+

Here I am, PSYCHED

for Sam who is in the process of "honoring" his first Indian Creek 5.10

Some late afternoon rain sent us scurrying back to Moab for some Micky D's, where we bid farewell to Roman and Aaron. Sam and I had designs to ski something in the La Sals, but being unfamiliar with the area, just blindly drove up and up to a trailhead at 9,200', where we camped, conveniently right at the snow line. A topo at the trailhead informed us that Mt. Mellethin, a 12,700' peak and second highest in the La Sals, was an easy skin/ridge traverse from the car.

What's wrong with this picture?
The women's ski boots, the tights, the board shorts, or snow in the middle of the desert?

Mount MellethinOur line descends from the top, cuts through the middle of the upper cliff bands and takes the chute on the looker's left.

On the way, we topped out Peak 12,271 making good use of the summer trail.

A quick ski off Peak 12,271 and a short booter up the south rigde caused Sam to get a little confused, thinking he was in the desert The La Sals are a beautiful range with an apparent abundance of big lines.

Sam on the summit, still hot

Awesome corn skiing on what turned out to be a pretty mellow line brought us back to the car.

A quick bite at Subway and it was off for round two

The stellar North Chimmney was the route of choice

Summit shot from Castleton Tower

We ran down the trail and jumped in the car to try and bang out phase 3 of the day before dark Riding the Slickrock Trail seconds before laying my bike down. I am a terrible mountain biker. The ride was by far the scariest part of the day for me.

We raced the sun
and made it out just before dark.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NE Couloir, Lone Peak...Finally

After so much talking and lusting after this line, I finally got the chance to ski it today, May 13th, in prime powdery conditions. I've been spending a bunch of time running, climbing, and vacationing with Jessie so there hasn't been much time to ski lately. I even did my first bike race last night at the DMV Crit. I guess after the WURLOS I had had my fill for a bit. But, I was starting to think I should make the most of my time off and get in some skiing to prepare for the Volcano Tour 2010 (more to come on that in late May). I called Adam who called a friend of a friend, and we decided we'd head up Bell's around 6:30 AM. Why Bell's? I feel like I've hiked up and down that enough this year. We wore running shoes and ditched them in a tree at the snow line a couple miles up. I wasn't feeling all that strong, likely as a result of too much gluttony at sea level last week and the most time off snow I've had all winter. A couple sweaty hours later we found ourselves at the base of Lone Peak's impressive NE face wondering which line was the NE Couloir. From the bottom, there are a number of cliff bands and the chute proper isn't visible. We guessed right and traversed in above the cliffs ready to boot our way to the summit.

The guys switching to booting as we find the sneak entrance

Beautiful midwinter day in May. Huh, the peaks in the distance look all too familiar.

The snow was still a heavy powder that was a chore to boot up.

Near the top looking down with the boys plugging along.

We were able to boot directly to the summit with the last 10 feet being a bit of a scramble.

Summit shots

I chose to down climb the top few feet as did Adam, but Zack aired off the summit block onto the steep (50 degrees?) upper slopes. A little jaunt skier's left from the summit brought us to the top of the chute.

Adam, from just below the summit


We skied one at a time with Zack and Adam making it look easy. It was cool to watch their sluff pour down the chute and over the cliffs at the bottom. While I was working skier's right to avoid the lower cliff band, Zack decided to take the direct route. He said, "well, if I go fast enough, I'll clear anything." Good advice eh? He landed the jump in style.

Even though we're in the midst of a schizophrenic spring, the snowpack is super deep up high. There are a few more lines I'd like to get in before I turn my attention full time else where, but today felt like a capstone to an awesome winter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New American 10K Record

Last weekend at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, Chris Solinsky of Nike and the Oregon Track Club set the new American record in the 10,000 meters. He is the first runner of non African descent to break the 27 minute barrier and the fourth fastest ever debut at the distance. He is also by far the biggest runner to go under 27 minutes, checking in at 6'1" and 164 lbs. Prior to the race, there was a lot of hype about Galen Rupp making an attempt at the American record with Nike organizing pacemakers for his bid. Rupp had a great ballsy race and pushed the pace through the 6-9K range after the rabbits dropped out. It never occurred to Rupp or his coach Salazar that they could setting up Solinsky for the win. Here's the video of the whole race. It gets really exciting about 25 minutes in.

New American 10K record

With some plans of our own, Jessie and I have been putting in some nice runs in the Whitefish, MT area. 6 easy on Mon and 13 on Tues. The weather hasn't been good for much of anything else.

Dreary Montana

Beautiful Montana

Another easy run today in Glacier National Park and then next up...Bismarck, ND

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prodigal Sun/Gooseberry Mesa

The climbing allure of Zion National Park has quietly been tempting me for the last three years. A friend took me down there once to teach me how to aid climb, but we only ended up "aid cragging" at the base of some of the bigger lines. Since that day, I've climbed bigger stuff in Yosemite and elsewhere, always bypassing Zion because it was too hot, too local, too whatever. Well, with less than inspiring weather everywhere except Zion, I conned trusty Sam into coming down to chase down the line, Prodigal Sun, on Angel's Landing.

Angel's Landing is a striking formation that extends from the canyon walls like a peninsula in the sky and is a major hiking destination for many park visitors. The hike itself is a proud scramble that occasionally turns fatal as the exposure is extreme and the terrain rugged. Maybe 10 years ago, I stood on the summit oblivious to the real climbing possibilities.

Prodigal Sun is predominately an aid line that ascends the right side of the above picture. It is continuously steep with a smattering of tricky placements and hook moves. I had planned on leading the majority of the climb and having Sam dispatch the C1 pitches and the last free pitch. But first, we had to cross the river, which was flowing at 300+ cfs. The flow wasn't difficult, maybe just above the knees (mid thigh for Sam), but the water was ICY cold. Painfully cold. We crossed without mishap, pantless, but with puffy jackets and beanies.

I lost the trail and mud soloed a small cliff band, where I could look down and point Sam in the right direction. He skirted around, and soon we found the base of the climb.

Looking up canyon toward Moonlight Buttress

A look East at the Organ and the Virgin River

The route starts with a good ole fashioned bolt/pin ladder

Sam jugging in the backgroundSam had practiced ascending a fixed line the day before in my garage. It's a little different doing it for a thousand feet straight up. But, like all things, he picked it up quickly and made easy work of cleaning the route.

Somewhere near this point, after seeing the cumbersome engineering that is aiding and hearing me mutter something about breaking my ankles while above tipped out cams, hooks, and poorly placed tricams, Sam decided he'd be better off jugging the rest of the route and graciously let me lead the whole thing.

The jugging machine

Up Canyon, Moonlight and Spaceshot visible

Cerberus Gendarme

Near the top of the route We just finished in the daylight then hiked out to the Grotto where we caught the second to last bus back to the visitor's center. A short drive led us to Hurricane where a McDonald's victory dinner awaited.

That night, we drove out to Gooseberry Mesa and tried to sleep through a wind storm and even a little snow. Actually, I slept pretty well in the Subaru.

Sam still hiding in the tent.

We went on a mellow short ride with Sam coaching me the whole time.


Sam near the "point"

Beautiful view toward Zion

And lastly, my new love affair

Jessie and I are up at Whitefish Lake in Montana right now enjoying a little sleet and snow on our vacation. Too bad I didn't bring my skis.