About Me

My photo
I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tuff Love in Smith Rock

Mike Blicker, Jan McPhee, Jon Effa and I headed down to Smith Rocks over the Easter weekend for some sweet climbing on volcanic tuff. We left Vancouver at 7pm, and showed up at the campground at 4:30am the next morning. We were delayed only by Vivace coffee in Seattle, some funky navigation in Portland, and a police officer somewhere outside of Portland who told Mike to slow down. Several hours later, we woke up to go climbing, and it was sunny. There's so much good climbing here, you can do the usual sport routes on the front side, or go to the backside and find some gems like Spiderman or Trezlar. It was pretty crowded on the frontside, so we did the easy popular climbs at dusk. 

Early Saturday morning, Jan and I headed off at a way too early time to go and climb the Monkey Face, via the west face variation. The first 5.7 pitch felt really hard, but maybe it was just so cold in the morning. The exposure was great though, and it was only going to get better. 



Part of the reason that the Monkey Face feels like such a big climb (even though it's only four pitches), is the A0 bolt ladder. Armed with two ghetto aiders made out of a big biner with a short and long slings and twenty something draws, I worked myself up the aid pitch, thinking about Champagne's epic. 



Neither of us really knew what we were doing when it came to aid climbing, but clipping bolts seemed straightforward enough. Eventually we both made it to the belay at the cave, just as other parties showed up at the ledge below. The cave was nice, but we knew previous parties had peed all over the cave. The final pitch exits the cave via 5.7 moves with big exposure, and Jan was nice enough to let me lead this pitch. 



Four hours later, we were on the ground (after an exciting 60m freehanging rappel)and enjoying the sun, while watching Matt Frey and Ian on the aid pitch from afar. Ian is the black dot above Jan's helmet. 



It was nice in the backside, not too crowded, and really nice views of the volcanoes and surrounding farmland. 



To get from the frontside to the backside, people usually scramble over Asterik Pass. But on the way back, you can climb something like Spider Man (5.7 3p) and then rappel down Cinnamon Slab on the other side, which is exactly what we did. This is such an awesome climb! In fact I did it twice, on back to back days. 



I guess we were feeling a protein shortage after the day's climbing, so we headed into town to find dinner. But the only thing open was a BBQ house, complete with a bar pumping wild tunes. They had buckets of peanuts, with nowhere to dispose of the shells but the floor. We woke up the next morning, feeling a little too healthy, so bacon and eggs were the solution. Note to self: avoid bacon and eggs if you don't want to feel lethargic while climbing for the next couple hours. 



On the third day, we headed down to the east side of the Lower Gorge, looking for the Windfall? wall, but ended up on the Hand Job wall instead. It's a bit of a hike to get here, but the basalt columns are nice, and it's quite a peaceful setting. 



It's all about the basalt columns here, with good stemming and jamming action. The basalt felt more solid than the stuff at Vantage, but detached columns like this one kept me thinking about which column would fall down next. 



Crack is good. After a bit of a warmup, I got on Hand Job, an exciting climb with a crux down low. Afterwards Jon got on Original Sin, another stellar crack. 


Spring means long climbing days in Smith, and we climbed until the sun disappeared. This is a picture of Mike on Master Looney, an awesome climb with a bolt protected roof move leading to big jugs. 


On the fourth day, we were all feeling somewhat bagged. It's a long drive back to Vancouver, so we just had enough time to climb in the frontside, getting on some classics like Karate Crack. Grunting sounds were definitely made on the route. 



We finished up on Pack Animal, doing the direct start which offered way nicer (and harder) climbing than the traverse start. Eventually it was time to leave the nice place that is Oregon, and head back to Vancouver. The border delays weren't bad at 11:30pm, and soon it was time for bed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Day of Exploring: Hanging Lake

Losing an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time isn’t the best for trying to get an early departure, so when I called Pete Hudson last night, he suggested a 7:15am “old time” departure. The destination: Hanging Lake, aka Sledhead highpoint city.



We drove to the Callaghan Olympic centre, and parked at the Biathlon centre. As we were putting on our boots, we were approached by one of the staff, who told us about the backcountry pass. We really didn’t want to pay it, and tried to argue that we were going to be on the groom trails for a very short period of time, and crossing it perpendicular most of the time anyways. She explained that the backcountry pass was part of a liability issue, and that it would also helped to cover the cost of building the road, plowing it, and building the parking lot. In addition, the $6.50 per person was the same as the snowshoeing cost. She seem quite interested that we were going touring up to Hanging Lake, but insisted that we go to the Nordic centre and pay. She mentioned that when we get the backcountry pass, we would get a note for our dashboard so the staff knows if we’re gone for a day or more.

After a long contemplation at the truck, we decided to do Scott Nelson’s option 4, which was to buy one backcountry pass, and split it. Pete went into the office to inquire about it, and it turns out that you get one of those lift ticket things to stick on your jacket (which Pete never did), and you don’t actually get a note for your dashboard. The gate to the Nordic centre closes at 5:30pm, but there is a security guard who has keys, but it’s best not to rely on it.

From the parking lot, we mostly cut across the maze of cross country trails, until we got to an old road which took us up to the cutblock that you can see from the parking lot. Just over an hour later, we reached Hanging Lake, after doing a slighty detour when we realized we were too far north of the creek. The trees here are steep, but would be amazing in powder conditions. There are one or two open sections which could get sketchy though. While skinning up through the trees, we thought about our worst ski descents.It was quite cloudy at the lake, so we only saw sled tracks, but no sledders. To quote Pete, What do you do when a sledder with half a head is coming at you? Stop laughing and reload. From the lake, we skied up the north facing slopes towards a bump at 5800ft. It wasn’t a “summit or die” day, so we didn’t bother going all the way to the bump. While skinning up, Pete wondered why we kept going up to only ski down the mashed potato snow. I was hoping the snow got better. The lighting today wasn't exactly photo inspiring today, so the cameras rarely came out. 


Pete doing a quick ski wax with the pink lady. 


Matt Gunn inspired photo. 

Anyways we did one run down to the lake, made some decent turns, but it was quite tracked out and heavy. The snow on Seymour on Monday was even better. At this point the weather got a little better, and the snowmobilers showed up. Too bad we forgot to bring a kilo of sugar and a handgun. They were going towards the north facing slope, so in hopes of getting some more exercise and fresh air, we skinned up 5300ft bump northwest of the lake. It was “summit or die” time, so we skied to the top of the bump. I don’t really know why we skied up this, since it was either dicey crust or breakable crust all the way back to the lake. Pete described it as “landmine snow,” where you sink through with one foot but not two foot.

There was still a long ways of survival skiing down the trees from the lake outlet to the Nordic centre. We had some unexpected turns when in patches of good snow, but most of it was survival skiing on a typical ice crust, about 1500ft of it. It only took us 40 minutes to go from the bump to the cutblock at the bottom, so I guess it wasn’t that bad, but think about how fast you could go down if you actually skied it. We found corn snow on cutblock. I don’t know how many people have skied powder and corn on the same day.


Pete showing what he thinks of the snow quality in the trees. 

Anyways it was a good destination to explore, with potential for good skiing, and the whole trip only took five hours. Maybe the snow will be better next weekend.