Posts Tagged ‘snowboard’

Rocky Mountain National Park – 1/22/11

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
The Front Range area got pounded with a lot of snow all week, so my skier buddy and I took a trip up to RMNP to do some touring/exploring/adventuring. I’ve been up to the Bear Lake area a few times, and the paved road access cannot be beat, save for Berthoud or Loveland Passes. However, the crowds that mass at those areas are nonexistant up here in the wilderness.

We set off from Denver in the dark at 5:00, passing through Boulder and grumbling at the two dozen traffic lights on highway 36 that seem intent on screwing over the very few early risers on the road for no reason. The ground through the entire drive was dry as a bone.

Finally, we entered the Park through the north entrance station. Instantly the conditions changed from dirt brown to wonderful, fluffy white. In the early dawn light, we spotted a herd of at least 50 elk huddled together near the side of the road! We stopped and got out to have a look. The air was warm, dark, and silent. I watched as the herd moved about in the tranquil scene, going about their business as we were going about ours. We left them be and continued to the trailhead.

There was definitely over a foot of new snow at the trailhead, and the sky was very dark and overcast, with strong winds. We started off on the Dream Lake trail in a southern direction, before hitting Tyndall Creek and turning due west. On the way, we met up with a solo ice climber skinning his way towards some falls a bit south of us. We stayed with him until the fork south of Nympth Lake, where he headed towards the big cliff faces near Chaos Creek.

Tom getting stoked for some Corps of Discovery type action
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It was dark and grisly, but the powder and terrain was beautiful
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Although the plan was to get above Dream Lake, we were greeted with a huge blast of gale force wind at the edge of the lake. We took shelter in the trees and evaluated our plan. We decided not to go any higher and instead head north on the bench, putting us above Bear Lake.

We made our way higher and higher on the bench, and the sun finally started to make its way out between the clouds. We finally topped out at about 10,500′, amid some rocky bands and trees. From here, we had a pretty good view of the whole line down to Bear Lake, save for a few steep rollers.

Scoping out our intended line. We decided to follow the natural fall line down and to the left in this photo. (Photo by Tom Armento)
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I am ready to drop in. First splitboard descent of the year for this guy! (Photo by Tom Armento)
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I dropped in first. The line was a moderate one, but the two feet of powder was excellent for surfing. I got to another lower bench and called down for my partner to follow. We dropped a good 300′ of steep powder before we got benched out.

Tom blasting the pow
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My turn to surf (Photo by Tom Armento)
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(Photo by Tom Armento)
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This is when things started going bad. The bench was too flat and my board was getting buried in the immense snow. I unstrapped and found myself up to my chest in unconsolidated snow. It was a little scary, especially when I found myself in a tree well or two. I started having flashbacks to a nightmare two years ago on Vail Pass. Eventually, I found a solid ridge that I was able to climb up on by taking off my pack and stepping down onto it to climb up. Then I reached down, pulled up my pack, and continued the process. It was exhausting, and I was in no mood for any more touring.

Luckily, we hit another steep area and I dropped down around some cliffs. My partner took a more direct line on a short headwall, setting off a small sluff slide, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Hitting the steeps above Bear Lake
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Finally we made our way out towards Bear Lake, passing a few more ice climbers getting after it. When we walked way out to the parking lot, we past a much more crowded scene than we encountered at 6:00 AM. Dozens of snowshoers and a few skiers who were just arriving to start their day, while we kicked back and reflected on ours in true alpinist fashion with some cans of Old Chub.

Map of our ascent (green) and descent (blue).
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(Narrative and photos by Adam Reiner, unless otherwise specified)

Castle Peak, North Face

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
El Nino has come through with his promises and has been hammering the Colorado Rockies with spring storm cycles. From my daily vantage point at DIA, I could see that Pike’s Peak was more white in May than it ever was in March. The rest of the Front Range was no different. After a long and dry winter, we had thought that the ‘big line’ season was going to be relatively short. This new snow has infused all of us with new confidence of a prospective spring season.

According to Lou Dawson, the guru of 14er skiing, the East Face of Castle Peak is a ‘plum’: sought by many, but plucked by few. Because of sheer avy danger, it is nearly impossible to descend in the winter. By the time the snowpack finally matures to stable spring snow, the eastern sun works the snow so fast that it becomes runneled and full of wet slides.

Barrows and I had suspected that because of the recent barrage of spring storms, that the east face ‘just might be in season’. Both of us being 200 miles away, with no insider contacts in Aspen, we decided to take the gamble and head up there on Sunday morning.

As expected, the trailhead at Castle Creek/Pearl Pass road was bone dry. We drove up to the first major snowdrift and then began the hike in. This was my fourth time up this valley, and I was well acquainted with the approach. The first section followed the north bank of the creek, which would be dry all the way to the bridge that crossed over to the shaded south bank. Reluctantly, we shouldered our boards and packed in up the road.

Mandatory springtime photo of a dude dry-packing in snowboard boots
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The snow was looking very good on the north face couloirs of Mace Peak. There was no sign of the dreaded ‘snirt’ layer, although I knew it was all there below the powder white surface. After a few short miles, we reached the fork in the road and headed south up Pearl Pass road, past the Tagert and Green-Wilson huts en route to the basin below the East Face. I had lost sight of my partner a while ago, and I figured he had already headed up into the basin. Up here I saw a lot of wet slide activity. It was a little intimidating, but I followed an existing skin track that avoided all of the debris. Still with no sight of my partner, I kept skinning higher and higher, as the sun was retreating behind the ridge to the west. Finally, I was up in the basin and got a good look at the East Face.

East Face of Castle Peak at around 6:00 PM
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Although I still hadn’t talked to my partner, I already felt a feeling of discouragement when analyzing this face. It appeard that a wet slide had propagated from the upper ridge, and fell into the thin couloir, where what looked to be a runnel had formed. In addition, the slide debris was blown all over the apron below the couloir. (read my analysis here)

My partner was still nowhere to be found, and I began to freak out. It was getting dark. I didn’t actually think he would have been higher up in the basin, so I figured I’d stand around for another ten minutes, calling his name, before heading down. Just before I was about to head down, I heard yelling far below me. He had taken a left back at the huts and was waiting for me down below. Relieved, I skinned back down to him and we reaquainted. Let that be a lesson in ‘keeping the group together’.

We held a meeting and decided the east face was a ‘no-go’. Not to be defeated, we decided to break for camp and make a go for the north face the next day. I had been up Montezuma Basin before, so I knew the way up in that direction. We camped not far from the huts, set up and made a little dinner while looking out at Mace Peak as it was engulfed in darkness.

Dick Nixon decided to show up for some stew
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It was a cold night and I didn’t sleep much. The alarm went off at 4:00 and we started to mobilize. Barrows saved the day with a really cool espresso plunger, and I was able to sit upright in my sleeping bag, drinking a strong cup of espresso. I was quickly energized and we departed at about 5:30 AM.

Heading up before dawn
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Montezuma Basin is really a spectacular place. It is a huge glacial-carved cirque surrounded by steep headwalls and peaks. The terrain up here is so gnarly, that a mid-winter attempt would be anything short of a suicide mission.

Here you can see the ‘hugeness’ of Montezuma basin, by the spec of the splitboarder below the huge peaks.
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Back in the 19th century, this was home to the silver boom that practically created the first of many ‘rich-ass mofos’ that would reside in Aspen for the next 150 years since. There are even the remains of some old cables where the mine carts followed on down the road. I’m a history nerd, so I snapped some photos for good fun.

On the descent, I actually threaded these cables. Probably not the safest thing to do on a snowboard!
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The first part of the approach was relatively mellow, but soon we had to skin up a series of headwalls, each one steeper and bigger than the last. By the third and final one, I was already beginning to feel gassed. The thing that motivated me was thinking of the amazing high speed corn runs I was going to make on them a few hours later. That, and the view of Castle Peak that final came in from the distance.

I called this final headwall the ‘meatgrinder’. If you make it through this, your reward is getting to grovel up the face of the mighty 14er above.
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Finally, I had made it into the familiar upper basin. In the summer time, Aspen locals will four-wheel all the way up here, to ski on the small ‘glacier’ that remains at the end of the basin. However, today we were treated with complete solitude high above treeline in the alpine zone. From here, I could see my partner already setting a skin track up the couloir, and I was in awe by the sheer epicness of the Elk Range’s tallest 14er.

Barrows setting the track up the couloir. You can see that it was skiied very recently
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I met up with him and switched over to crampons for the climb. At first, we discovered a good freeze and easy climbing. However, the conditions quickly turned to deep, winter powder. Climbing this thing was going to be tough, as each step resulted in a knee-length post-hole. Fortunately, the face was well shaded, and I had no concerns about losing the snow to the sun, so I eased my effort and worked my way up, slowly. The couloir was actually shorter than it looked: probably no more than 800 feet.

Climbing up the couloir
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As I slowly made my way up, I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings. My gaze alternated between my ice axe and boot steps in front of me, and the top of the couloir ahead. Fortunately, I took one break and looked around over my shoulder to the north. I was greeted with one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen in my five years in the mountains–all of the other 14ers in the Elk Range lined up in a row: Pyramid Peak, The Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak, and Snowmass Mountain!

God, I love Colorado!
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Finally, I pulled into the top of the couloir, exhausted. My partner was up on the summit, but my climb stopped here (I’ve been on the summit once before). The ridge was thin, and I was able to peer over into the entrance to the East Face that I had viewed from below the day before. I also looked out at the grand view of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Star Peak in the immediate vicinity, and the Sawatch Range far to the east
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The climb was over, and it was time to ride. We were both really looking forward to this descent. It is not often you can find a steep run of pure winter powder in May. All of the post holing and grovelling would be rewarded. Barrows dropped in first, and we leapfrogged all the way down. The snow was incredible.

Enough talk. Here is the stoke:

Barrows dropping in…
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Had a bit of condensation on my lens, causing this effect that looks like an acid trip I wish I once had!
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Great powder
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Finishing it out
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My turn in the white room (photo by Barrows Worm)
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The ‘Alaska Shot’! (photo by Barrows Worm)
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Then it was time for the bonus turns, another 1500 vert of awesome corn snow, all the way back to camp!

BTW, dude is pulling off this steez in hardboots!
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We made it back to camp right around 11:00 AM. The sun was shining and the familiar sounds of spring were all around. I laid out in a T-shirt, refueling on water and soaking up the moment. We decided that aborting the East Face and riding the North Face was the best decision of the year. This was by far my favorite line of the year, and is right up there as my favorite of all time…

…until next year, when the East Face beckons once more…

(Narrative and all photos by Adam L. Reiner, unless otherwise labeled)


Lindley Hut trip (Central Colorado) – 4/30/10

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
As winter rolls into spring in Colorado, it is time for my annual hut trip in the Elk Mountains. While most people do the huts in the winter time, but I always prefer the longer days, shorter approachs, and safer snowpack of early May. Luckily, I was able to find a couple of other backcountry enthusiasts that have not retired their boards for the mountain bikes just yet.

This year I chose the Lindley hut, which provided a very short hike to get to. Even better, the winter gate at Ashcroft was open, which allowed us to drive an additional two miles to the summer trailhead.  All the way up from Denver to Aspen, we encountered every sort of weather condition imaginable. It was supposed to storm all weekend, so I was prepared for whiteout conditions at the trailhead. However, we were greeted with partly-sunny skies and light snow for our entire approach to the hut.

Ed da’Gnarly getting stoked at the trailhead.
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We skinned up Taylor Pass road through about four inches of fresh powder. This was my first time taking the left branch of Castle Creek road, instead of the usual right branch towards Tagert, Green Wilson, and Friends Hut. As we crept around Greg Mace peak, the rest of the Cooper Creek drainage came into view. We reached the hut in a little over an hour. I was already beginning to like this hut  .

Skinning up the road
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The hut was very large, and quite comfortable for our small group. From the south deck, we were treated with an incredible view of the Cooper Creek Basin

On the left is the north shoulder of Star Peak. On the right is an unnamed peak that separates Cooper Creek Basin from Pearl Basin (towards Pearl Pass)
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On Saturday morning, we decided to head up the basing towards the face on the right. The aesthetic couloir direct center was calling our names.

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We started up the Cooper Creek drainage, but greatly underestimated the steepness and rugged bushwacking required to reach the base of the mountain. Getting up there would have required many ups and down into creeks and ditches, and skirting cliffs. Its no wonder this area doesn’t get skiied much. It was much gnarlier than the standard approach to Pearl Basin from the other side. Regardless, we found some good features to ride back down towards the hut.

Ed riding a steep tree line
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Mike hucking a small cliff
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Rachel making turns below the cliffs
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After regrouping at the hut, we decided to head back towards the mining road that we came in on, and climb the north facing slopes above the hut. The terrain here was variable. There was deep powder in many areas, but really nasty and rotten ‘snirt’ in others. After an exhausting and frustrating climb, we finally made it near treeline, and switched over to drop in.

Mike
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Afterwards, we retired to the hut, opening the whiskey and running through the various board and card games there. (Let it be noted that I kicked Mike’s ass in chess, twice)

A few photos of the Lindley Hut
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The next morning, we awoke to a much more overcast day. It was snowing much harder than the day before. We cooked a hearty breakfast and prepared to leave.

Mike and Rachel out front
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Ed, locking it up. Goodbye, Lindley Hut!
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Just because we were on our way out didn’t mean we were done making turns. We had spied a small chute during our approach that we decided to return to. Mike left to hike up around it to get above the cliffs, while Ed and I ascended the chute proper.

Ed, dropping into the chute. Best powder of the trip right here (not bad for May!)
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‘Huckmaster Mike’ in action
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This hut trip was pretty casual. There were no huge lines descended. However, it was very relaxing for me to get away from the city life, avoid Facebook for three days , and just chill out with some good friends.

Until next year!

Splitboarding Mount St. Helens, 5/18/2009

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
5/18/2009

My 10 day long tour of the Pacific Northwest took me midway up the slopes of Mt. Rainier, trekking the urban streets of Seattle, touring the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula and the Hoh Rain Forest, body surfing on the sandy beaches of the Oregon Coast, and the greatest “slackcountry” turns I’ve ever had making yo-yo laps on Mt. Hood until the sun went down.

On the final day of my trip, we awoke at dawn at 2700′ in the Marble Mountain Snopark, 5665 feet below the summit of Mount St. Helens. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to the huge climb ahead, for I was all but done with my vacation and a bit homesick. But I figured “hey, I’ll just start up and see how far I get.”

There were already a lot of people ahead of us. We only caught a glimpse of a few skiers, some on skins and others with snowshoes on their feet and skis strapped to their pack for the long ascent.

The trail wound through the forest for a few miles on a long, flat approach on pine-needle covered brown snow very similar to most Colorado 14er approaches. Finally, we emerged from the trees and had our first view of the monolithic south slope of the volcano. It looked huge (just as Rainier and Hood had before), but most of the slope was low angled, which meant we could maintain an efficient pace with climbing skins.

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First view of the whole mountain.

It was already getting very warm in the morning sun. Forecasts were predicting over 80 degrees at our elevation. As I climbed I could see Mount Adams dominating my view to the east. While on Mt. Rainier the week before, I looked to the south at these two mountains, and although they still looked very big, they were very far apart. Now, Mt. Adams appeared to be right next to St. Helens. The immense size of these volcanoes plays weird games on your perception.

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Mt. Adams

As we kept climbing, I wondered when we would decide to turn around. Funny, however, that the farther up I got, the stronger I felt. At every stop, we set a new goal, whether to get to a rock outcropping, cornice, or ridge. Before we knew it, the summit was in sight, and felt attainable. There was a group of telemark skiers already on their way down, but I could see at least three other groups still heading for the summit.

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Heading for the summit. It was so relieving to be able to skin up the whole thing!

At this point, some dark clouds began moving in. I have heard many things about Cascade weather, that when it comes in, it comes in STRONG. I was a little nervous about the oncoming clouds, but we hurried our pace and set out for the summit.

On the way up, I saw a lot of hikers “glissading” down. Some of them were on plastic garbage bags. Still others had on nothing but jeans and tennis shoes. I couldn’t believe they were up here, soaking wet with clouds rolling in, but I am no one to judge.

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Are these people for real?

By the time I could have seen the summit block, it was a total white out. I could barely make out the figures of the group of climbers on the summit, and finally met my partner and celebrated our accomplishment. For not really being “in the mood” at the trailhead, I had made it to the top of the mountain roughly 5 hours later!

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Conditions on the summit

On the summit, one man asked us “Did you guys climb this because it is the 29th anniversary of the eruption?”

We both looked at each other in surprise. We had no idea of the historical significance of this day, but thought it was really cool, almost ironic, that we had climbed to the summit on this day. I tried to peer over into the crater rim, but could barely see anything but some very steep spines that disappeared into the white abyss.

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The team on the summit with the inside of the crater barely visible behind us

We tried to wait for some sort of sun break to make our descent, but finally realized we would not have the luxury, so we made some careful turns down the upper face of the mountain.

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Dropping into a total white out

Once we got out of the clouds, however, it was sunny spring conditions again, and we were rewarded with 5000′ of excellent corn snow on the descent!

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Brian making great corn turns

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The author slaying the volcano

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Life is not better than this!

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Brian hucking the cornice

This trip has been a series of milestones after another. But the final day was the best of all, as I had finally snowboarded off of the summit of a Cascade volcano. I can’t wait to come back!


Splitboarding Mt. Rainier attempt, via Nisqually Glacier

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

5/9/2009

I landed at Seattle-Tacoma airport on Friday, fully loaded with gear and ready to head straight for Mt. Rainier. I took a bus from the airport down to Tacoma, where my partner would pick me up. Much to my surprise (and aggravation), when I asked the bus driver to open up the under-floor cargo space for my gear, she said “No, you have to bring it all on.” So there I was pushing my snowboard bag down the crowded aisle while bumping people with my backpack and duffel bags. Finally I found a bunch of seats at the back of the bus where other travelers had piled up their luggage, golf clubs, etc. We all thought this was the stupidest thing we’ve ever heard of. The driver never gave a reason for not opening the cargo bays.

After a few hours of traffic, I was dropped off at a mall south of Tacoma and waited for my partner to arrive. The weather was gorgeous. Blue skies, sunny, green trees, no wind. It was not at all what I was told to expect of the Pacific Northwest. Finally my friend arrived and he said that this weather was “the exception”. As we drove out of the city and through rural pastures, the scenery reminded me more of the western coast of Michigan than anything I’ve seen in the mountain west. Suddenly, the clouds to the east broke open, and my friend said “there she is!” Mt. Rainier was peeking out of the clouds, and I had my first physical view of the summit.

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The mountain peeking out from the clouds

All the way to the Park, all I could see was endless miles of trees. Huge masses of light and dark greens, all neatly grown in a row. My friend called these “new growth” forests. The forests were so much more lush than anything I’ve seen in Colorado. Driving into the park, it was still miles of trees with no view of the peak. Finally we rounded another bend, and I had a real quick view of it, before it disappeared. The image dominated my frame of view. It was like we were right next to the summit, but in reality we were over 10,000 feet below it.

It was nearly dark when we arrived at ‘Paradise’, the main winter visitor area and trailhead. Being such a popular mountaineering site, there was a bit of paperwork and registering, with payment, that we accomplished in a small A-frame structure at the trailhead. Then we settled in an camped in the van. The air was getting very chilly. I thought about how we had traveled essentially from sea level to 5,400 feet in less than 100 miles by van…the only other time I’ve made that elevation change was from Chicago to Denver, across over 1,000 miles. Strange.

The next morning, we woke, ate a hearty breakfast, and geared up for the initial climb to high camp. Our intended route to the summit was the ‘Fuhrer Finger’ route. According to the guidebook we had, there were two ways to get there, both via the Nisqually Glacier. The standard route was to cross the glacier down low, and climb up to the left of the glacier via a snowfield called ‘The Fan’. However, the guidebook mentioned an ‘early season variation’ directly up the Nisqually Glacier. Apparently the route is not good late in the summer because of crevasse navigation, but the snowcover was very deep this time of year, so we went for the direct route up the Glacier.

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Starting our adventure from Paradise

As we skinned up from Paradise, we met another splitboarder, and a group of four mountaineers, all heading up the ridge toward Camp Muir. The splitboarder seemed obligated to give us a report “two feet of snow up high in the past few days; a lot of sun yesterday; watch yer-selves!” and with that he was on his way. We were the only group splitting off from the main route and dropping off from the high point above paradise down to the Nisqually Glacier. Once we dropped over that edge, we were alone in the wilderness.

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About to drop down off of the Paradise trails onto the glacier. The summit looks so close!

We roped up at the base of the glacier and headed onward on skins. The skies were clear, and it was getting very hot. The average angle of the climb was about 20 to 25 degrees, and as we moved along at a good pace, we were both sweating profusely. Still, I felt really good about my conditioning and our pace, and possibly even making the summit the following day. First things were first, and we had to make it to a high camp. We encountered about a half dozen crevasses along the way, all of them had very good snow bridges which allowed us to cross without incident. It was the first time I had ever been on glaciated terrain, and staring into the mouth of the first crevasse (which we nicknamed ‘Jaws’) was very intimidating.

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The first of many crevasses. Snow bridges were excellent this time of year.

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Breaking for lunch, just below the final push to the Nisqually Ice Fall.

By mid-afternoon, we had made it to the part where the Nisqually Glacier transitions into the Nisqually Ice Fall. From there, we would leave Nisqually and move left onto the Wilson Glacier towards the base of the Fuhrer finger. After about 3,000 feet of climbing (a typical Colorado summit!) we were still some 6,000 feet below the summit of Rainier. I suggested we continue climbing for at least another 1,000, to lessen the next day’s efforts. However, the terrain above us was much steeper than we had been on, and dominated by a rocky headwall that was shedding volcanic projectiles down the slope from the hot sun. The guidebook mentioned a camp across the Wilson Glacier at a high ridge labeled as ‘point 9,200′ which would have made the best camp. However, that would mean crossing the Wilson once to get to camp, and again the next morning to get to the couloir. Instead, we made camp on a high plateau at the base of the Nisqually Ice Fall, safely out of the way from falling rocks, and also out of the fall line of a potential avalanche or tumbling serac. (or so we thought, but for the rest of our time there, we couldn’t help but have a general uneasyness ever time we heard movement from above!)

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Here, we were supposed to go left around the big rock ‘cleaver’, and onto the snowcovered Wilson Glacier.

It was early when we made camp, and I still had a really good feeling about making it at least above the Fuhrer Finger, if not the summit, the summit the next day. If we had moved 3,000 feet today, we could do another 3,000 the next day, and at least tackle the finger. We spent about an hour relaxing at our camp and checking out the jaw-dropping views of the Tatoosh Range. In our panoramic view, we could see the other Cascade volcanoes, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and far off in the distance, Mt. Hood. I was amazed at how these volcanoes just dominate the skyline above all the other surrounding mountains.

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The author posing in front of Mt. Adams (covered by clouds)

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Cool looking seracs

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Brian chilling out at camp.

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Camp robbers in the alpine zone? We must be in a National Park.

We turned in early, even before sunset, for the plan was to sleep during the warmest part of the night, and wake up at midnight and make our push for the top. We agreed that 10:00 am would be our turnaround point, summit or not. When we woke, it was close to 2:00 am, and I got out of the tent to check out the snow conditions.

Up until now, I had some good feelings about the trip. However, I had my first doubts when I walked around camp and found a very thin layer of crust, with unconsolidated snow underneath. This condition was very similar to my aborted attempt on James Peak a few weeks ago. It would appear that the “two feet of new snow” that the splitboarder talked of the previous day hadn’t had enough sun to consolidate.

Now we had serious doubts, but since it was still way before dawn, we could either sit around in our tent for the next 8 hours, or at least make an attempt at climbing. We geared up with crampons and started up the slope. The 30-something degree slope would have been a breeze if we were able to toe-point on solid ice. However, we were breaking right through the crust and sinking almost to our knees with every step, moving just inches at a time, and burning a ton of energy. I kept hoping for better conditions as we got higher, but just like the James Peak experience, it only got worse. With heavier snows up high and less daytime warmth, we were pretty much discouraged from going any farther. We both knew our limits, and the energy drain that the conditions would do to our bodies, and decided to abort. It was way too early to ski, so we carefully downclimbed back to camp.

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Post-hole hell

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Sunrise over the Ice Fall. This place reminds me of Superman’s “Fortress of Solitude”. Haha.

Now all we could do was sit an wait for the sun to come out and heat up the lower part of the mountain and provide us with some good corn snow to descend. The weather was clear, so we just waited and waited, enjoying the view. We saw a lot of rockfall across the opposing slope on the Wilson Glacier, but no signs of snow instability.

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Mt. Adams

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Mt. Hood

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Mt. Saint Helens

Finally, when we thought we’d given the snow enough time to corn up, we made our descent. At first we tried skiing roped up to cross the crevasses. However, this proved to be too cumbersome, so we unroped and carefully made our way past all the crevasses by following the previous day’s tracks. Once we made it past the scary part of the glacier, we happened to find the best corn snow, which we rode down for another 3,000 feet, far below our starting point and arrived at the bridge where the National Park road crosses the creek. From there, we climbed up and hitched a ride back to the visitor’s center.

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Brian skiing down

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Whoah! Watch the hole!

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The author descending

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Back to civilization

In retrospect, I first always view a trip as a success just for making it back without incident. On this trip, I was also completely satisfied with our accomplishments. We had performed a ‘DIY’ mission, on skies, up a very challenging mountaineer’s mountain. The snow conditions may have deterred us from going further, but I think the greater challenge is just the sheer size of the climb. 9000 feet is 9000 feet, and it was pretty much exactly how I expected it to be. I feel that all the conditioning I’ve done up in the Rockies really helped. I felt very strong during the trip. However, If I have future hopes on making it all the way to the summit, I think I’d like to go up via a standard route, in summer, mountaineer-style. Once I’ve made it to the top that way, then I can think about doing it with a splitboard.

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Final view from the road