Tag Archives: Mountaineering

Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 2 – Part 2) – 11.4.17

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Traverse pitch from the horn, about to climb the face (have a change of pants ready!) Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P5: From the horn belay I down climbed 15’ to a ledge. Slowly and meticulously I moved climber’s right and headed out into a 40’ airy traverse and finally clipped an old school rusty hanger. From here I had 2 options, get into a rated R chimney on the right and ascend the 20’ up until the first piece of pro, or take the rated R face directly above me and ascend to that same place. I chose the face. I explored the small nubbins with my hands, I chalked up as I planned my line. I started up on the small foot holds and was instantly searching for the next small rock nub that I could use for a hand or a foot. I slowly moved out left before finding a decent line that went back right towards slab paradise. I climbed slowly and very carefully, a fall here would certainly be a huge whipper on a questionable old school anchor. Rock nub after rock nub I moved up and right until finally the angle relaxed and the slab climbing began. Used the dished face until I finally straddled the R rated chute that dropped into nowhere. I slung a large column and finally clipped in, feeling a little more relaxed as I did. I mantled over the chimney chute to nowhere onto a large ledge. I walked around a large boulder and climbed up until I found the base of P6 and set a bomber anchor for Kari. “Climb On!” I yelled down. Following the lead with essentially 2 pieces of protection in 80’ is not fun, especially when you could swing out and seriously get hurt. So the pressure of following was not as relaxed as one may think. I couldn’t see Kari at all as I belayed. All I could is reel the rope in as he climbed. I listened for any noise in the wind and finally it came as he mantled over onto the ledge: “Woop!” letting me know he made it past the chimney. Soon he joined me w a big hi-5 and an exhausted smile. We were both tired, but still had 1 more pitch left.

Time lapse, bottom to top, fun and rated R! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P6: I regathered the gear and grabbed the #4 Kari had been hauling up the whole time. I held onto a 0.75 Camelot (was so happy I had this later) and doubles from #1’s to #4’s. I once again started up, pulling a small roof before finding the off width pitch everyone boasted about. The corner facing wall to my left was blank and featureless and the bulge to my right was smooth and round. Nothing but the crack in front of me and smearing feat were there to aid my ascent. I worked at it, inch by inch, using the back of the crack with hand jams and used my gear as efficient as I could as I climbed. Once or twice I reclaimed a piece from below that I could use again higher up after placing. This pitch was the toughest and most painful! I fought for it, inch by inch, grunting, groaning through the pain. The flared wide crack finally started thinning up and I was so glad to have my 0.75 as it was perfect for the cracks exit. I placed my piece, took a rest, and finally reaching high and left for a really nice rail on the left wall. I knew I had it from there, even though the climbing wasn’t done. I kept fighting, up and on until Zoro finally seemed to give up a little. The pitch angle relaxed, my heart was thumping and the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. I kept fighting, and finally after 6 pitches of grueling technical climbing I topped out and slung a juniper pine at the top of the chossey exit. I set the belay and yelled down to Kari “Climb on!” Soon, after grunting and groaning, pulling hard for it, I saw Kari’s orange and red helmet come into view. I was overwhelmed with what we just did. I slapped his helmet, and the two of us, tired and ready to finish stood on the plateau just below the summit, knowing the technical climbing was done.

Dont mind the butt shot! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson
  • Looking up P6, the offwidth. Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

The Summit Plateau: We stood, beaten and bruised, looking towards the setting sun and the huge summit block that stood in front of us. We dropped our gear and brought just a pack as we walked in our climbing shoes towards the summit. The earth here was fresh and virtually untouched, we did surprisingly find a few footprints. As we neared the summit, the block just continued to grow and we started to wonder if we should have brought gear. We skirted south west of the block poking for weak spots until finally we found a route that went up. We scrambled the C4 route up a chimney crack up the sharp rock until finally we popped out into a large open plateau. The top was huge! We walked towards the south end and found a large cairn with a summit registry hidden below. The views were incredible, we could see the whole of the south rim and a lot of the Colorado River from here. We peered back to the approach we ascended, throughout the day and stood in pure amazement of the Grand Canyon’s beauty.

  • Summit block!
  • Skirting the summit block

We wrote our names in the book, so stoked to finally be standing on top after dreaming of this moment for so long. Kari claimed first Icelandic ascent, and it was nice to thinking that the only way to the top was real climbing. The sights, the air, the feeling, the thrill, made every step worth it. We turned knowing our time was limited as the sun threatened to leave us, and walked towards the north end to find the rappel route down to the base where we started.

Rap Route: The chains were at the top out just to the climber’s right of screaming sky crack, a 5.11 trad route to the climbers left of the NE Arete.

Rap1!

R1: The first rap was a nice 100’ long free hanging which ended in another set of nice shiny bolts. We stopped at each station, replacing the webbing for the rap rings so fresh stuff could be used by the next climbers.

Coming down Rap1, looking left to Screaming Sky Crack 5.11!

R2: A 60’ rap towards climbers left lead to a ledge with a nice tree and a couple more bolts, ready for fresh webbing on the rap ring awaited.

Setting up Rap 2! Kari works in the golden light

R3: A pretty straight forward 100’ rap down the face led to a large ledge. We worked to climbers left dropping another 10’ to another set of shiny bolts. R4: By this point we were pretty quick about replacing webbing, setting up and rapping down, I would keep my hand on the rope until I felt Kari’s tension release, then I’d start setting up. This time was no different I stood there waiting, hand on the rope, when all the sudden I felt a jerk of the rope and instantaneous slack on the rope. I though What the hell just happened, and I called down to Kari with no answer! There was only 1 way to find out and I set up the rap and had an ascender prussic ready in case I had to re-ascend the rope. I began rapping down, and finally about 60’ down the face Kari’s helmet came into view. “Kari!” I yelled. He answered back saying everything was fine and just come down slowly. Once I reached him I realized I was at the end of the 70m rope, but I was still dangling about 8’ above the ledge. I held onto the rock in front of my face, untied 1 knot out of the end of the rope, and repelled off the end of 1 side of the rope, and safely landed on the ledge. “Whewww!” I exclaimed, happy to be on the ground. Do not try this at home! I did see a set of bolts half way down the rap route that we could have used, but this turned out okay. R5: We found ourselves at the bolts at the top of P1 and relieved there was just a short 50’ rap left as the sun gave off its final rays of light for the day.

Goodnight fella!

We were finally back on the ground, realizing we were on rock for a good 8 hours, between the climb, the summit block scramble, and rappelling with replacing all the webbing as we went. Tired, beaten, but happy to have accomplished out goal, we headed back towards camp the way we came. We hiked through the night reversing every obstacle we ascended, rapping where it seemed logical until reaching camp. We were both beat as we packed up camp and headed back down the red wall, how do people do this in under 24 hours?!

Zoro, still staring us down in the moonlight!
Kari, heading down the slot! Towards the cliff bands!

We descended Sumner Wash and finally found feet back on Clear Creek trail. With our slightly lighter packs we headed back towards Phantom Ranch totally beat. We reached the ranch overlook at about 1am and both looked at each other knowing there was so much more trail before we exited via Bright Angel . . . “let’s have a quick nap”, I said. We pulled out a tarp and our sleeping bags and laid in a pullout of the trail and crashed until 5am. A ringtail visited us in the night attempting to “borrow” a few snacks, probing our bags for weakness. I heard some stirring, woke up and scared the little fella off. By the next morning our packs were covered with his prints.

Ringtail prints =)

We woke, and packed our bags once again and were soon descending into Phantom Ranch. We took a quick pause to re-up on our almost depleted water supply. We snacked up, watered up, and chatted with other trekkers at the ranch with big smiles on our faces. It was only about 9 more miles out via Bright Angel trail. We walked those miles feeling pretty light despite our load. We had somehow accomplished the goal we set out to achieve. The entire day before seemed like a dream as we ascended to the south rim. We glanced back when we could, thinking about the day before and how rare of a chance we had to stand among the few who have summited. What a great feeling, another awesome trek in the Grandest of Canyons!

  • Almost to Phantom!
  • Heading back towards Phantom Ranch

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, apple
  • Time: (Day 2) 7 hours
  • Distance: (Day 2) 10 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 2) 4,800 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 2 – Part 1) – 11.4.17

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Morning begins to break over the canyon

The wind screamed by our tent most of the night, waking us every 15 minutes it seemed. Finally, after midnight, I remember it dying down and getting some solid sleep. The alarm blasted, Bzzzz Bzzz Bzz, man was it time to get up already?! We woke, staying still for a moment checking the time. Sure enough, it was time to start our haul to the base of Zoroaster and hopefully attempt our bid on the summit.

Good morning!

We ate breakfast, packed up camp, and before we knew it, Kari and I were taking our first steps towards the monstrous beast that loomed over our camp just as day began to break. Feet in red dirt we ascended Zoroaster’s arm, chimneying up a small obstacle and soon the next cliff bands stared us in the face. We picked our way through, shimmying up some low class 5 (C5) chimneys, handing packs as we ascended. We moved as quickly and safely as we could. A slip or mistake here would not only cost an injury, but also the goal, and not to mention the excruciatingly long rescue effort. Cliff band after cliff band we somehow found our way through. We pushed further up the arm, and finally after a long slot ascent and a large boulder shuffle, we skirted to the north and headed towards the saddle of Zoroaster and Brahma temples.

  • The overscast morning seemed to start slowly
  • Cliff Band obstacles

The footpath grew very narrow, vertical rockface to the right, and sloped dirt leading to a 400 foot drop to the left . . . better keep our heads on in this section! We carefully picked our way through following the footpath, cairn after cairn guided our way. Finally we found the weak spot in the headwall and started to ascend. The first obstacle was a chill class 3 scramble up to a ledge where we found a fixed rope for the next obstacle. We bat-manned up and sere soon past the next C4/C5 section. We followed the cairns as we went, across another rope less climb, up a slab, and finally to the spiciest of the obstacles. It was a good 20’ C5 climb with a fixed rope to guide us up! “How nice of someone!” I thought as we exited the obstacle.

  • Kari squeezes on the small footpath between the rock face and the dropoff

We kept pushing our way up the steep faint trail, following cairns until finally we were face to face with the sheer walls of Zoroaster. None of the faces we could see looked like our climb, so we continued to skirt east across the north face of Zoro. Walking on and on, when all of the sudden we turned right at the arête and stared at the 5.9+ NE Arete route. It was time to go to work! We racked up and Kari put me on belay as I stepped towards the start of the climb.

Skirting east along the north face of Zoroaster towards the Arete

Pitch 1 (P1):  My hands were sweaty as I made my first step towards the start. I plunged them into my chalk bag shaking off the jitters and stared at a large triangle roof a good 25’ up a face. I started up the sandy sandstone face reaching the clearly clean roof. I threw a #3 Camelot on the crack and inspected the face wondering how I would pull the first obstacle. I reached high, and using a nice foothold on the left face I pulled myself over the roof and was soon clipping chains just 50’ off the ground.

Taking on P1, trying to shake out the jitters! Thanks for the pic: Kari Hreinsson

P2: The crack went up and climbers right from here and I followed. There were some fun moves, I stepped up, finding the next hold, repositioning and finding good gear placement. The long pitch meandered up right through the crack around some small trees. Move after move I ascended, sometimes being pushing onto some short slab climbs until finally I reached a tree covered in slings signifying the end of P2. Whew, made it! I threw Kari on belay and he soon followed. Trying to move quickly we spared no time exchanging gear and I set off again!

  • Top of P2 - Tree belay (don't mind the guy thigh). Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P3: The infamous “Crux Pitch”. I move up and climbers right towards a fresh rock scar where a pinnacle used to hold on, creating a chimney for the next pitch (it fell in 2004). There were now 2 options for this pitch: ascend a section of runout slab face climbing with no protection, or a vertical sandstone slopper hold climb. I chose the sandstone, heading almost vertical and slightly climbers left from the tree below. I placed a Camelot #3 deep in a hole/crack with soft sandstone edges and prayed it would hold. I moved up and left, finding a good left foot, dropped knee, intermediate sloper with my left hand, pinching a sandy sandstone shelf with my right hand . . . needless to say it was awkward . . . all of the sudden I was out of position. “Falling!” I yelled down to Kari as I blew off the face! Gravity took over and I fell for a good 20’ whipper before my #3 dug in and held me. Whew!!!! I thought to myself and let out a loud happy yelp “Wooooooo!”  I grabbed my composure . . . this climb could end here. I stood back up and headed back for the same move. “Falling!!!” Boop, once again I was thrown from the face, the # 3 held, my hero!!!! I dusted myself off and looked upwards woundering if this was the end for us. I got back into the same position a 3rd time, only this attempt I threw my right hand up, blind, above the huge sloped rock in my face. To my surprise a bomber hourglass shaped hold!! I grabbed in and rejoiced as I made my next move to climbers left and safety of the next anchor. Sweat dripped from my body and I put Kari on belay.

Looking down the P3 crux (you can see the hour glass bomber hold here at the right hand). I shamelessly “borrowed” this picture from B Kiessel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcGlIpfjoaI)

P4: I stood on a huge ledge and soon Kari joined me after enjoying the same interesting crux as I. We had no time to waste, so I geared up and headed to a crack that was just above the fresh rockscar that moved climber’s right. I continued up this chimney running it out a bit, placing gear only where I had a nice stance. Even with all the runout, I started running low on gear! I found a small tree and looked up past the next chimney and there was still about 30’ above to the infamous horn belay. I decided to just build an anchor here and belay Kari up, breaking this pitch into 2. After some “fun” chimney Kari appeared at the belay, looking a bit tired and ready to be on the horn. I collected the gear he cleaned and headed up the final section of chimney towards the horn. I popped out of the chimney only an arête that ended into a loose slab section. The next place I could throw gear in was a good 20’ away, so I carefully climbed. Smearing my feet and slowly controlling my weight. I worked my way up until I found myself grabbing a bomber hold!! I quickly pulled myself up onto the infamous horn belay with a nice set of anchors. I set the belay, and Kari began to climb, cleaning gear as he went. As he popped out onto the loose slab section, he had the same impression as me: “What is this crap?!” Kari exclaimed!

  • Which way do we go?? Oh yea, up! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson
Looking up Second half of P4 (after the tree break), interesting chimney style climbing! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

Kari joined me, as I sat straddling the horn, chilly, fully zipped up in my hoody. We had just 2 pitches left before the technical climbing was over. Although nervous, I was excited to take them on. The traverse was up next and after that the off width pitch. The traverse boasted almost no choices for protection and the offwidth pitch was some hard technical climbing. Kari but me on belay again . . . “Climb on!” he said. It wasn’t over yet!

Sitting on the Horn Belay top of P4, you can see the down climb and the sheer exposure! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, orange, chicken and mashed potato MountainHouse
  • Time: (Day 2) 20 hours
  • Distance: (Day 2) 7 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 2) 1,700 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 1) – 11.3.17

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Zoroaster Temple & Brahma Temple

I stood there, palms sweaty, weighed down by the gear on my climbing harness, looking up at the start of a climb that took us 15 miles to approach, countless hours of training, and almost 2 years of dreaming to bring me face to face with the start of the route. My hoody was zipped up, and I could feel the chilled wind on my legs whipping by on the North face of Zoroaster Temple, deep in the belly of the Grand Canyon. I had plunged my hand into my chalk bag and took my first step towards a climb of a lifetime, and it all became real when Kari called out “Climb On!”

North East Arete: 6 pitches – 5.9+ Trad (click to enlarge)

I started this climbing thing after setting my eyes on the Grand Canyon summit Zoroaster Temple. Its  a magnificent formation that stands tall, guarding the Colorado River, just northeast of Phantom Ranch. All I knew at the time was that it was a technical climb. As my climbing experience increased, I found out that summiting came at the price of 6 pitches of 5.9+ trad climb; that was nothing to shake a stick at. In the Grand Canyon it’s the king of the back country rock climbs, in that to get to the top the easiest route up (NE Arete) boasts this stiff ante. After talking about this thing at nauseam to my friends for almost 2 years, finally my climbing partner Kari was available, my training seemed right, and the weather window opened for a summit attempt. This is my account of our summit attempt:

Day 1:

Kari and I pulled ourselves from the van, groggy and disoriented from the long drive the night before, the short sleep, and the frantic packing, before the bus came hissing to a stop just in front of the Bright Angel Lodge. We scrambled on board, and we were off! After the short bus ride to the trailhead we were finally feet on trail looking down South Kaibab trail and across the canyon to the base of the beast.

Ohh Ahh Point!
The Grandest of Canyons!

Even from Ohh Ahh point Zoroaster stood proud and bold just tempting anyone to attempt a summit bid. We kept on trekking down towards the bottom of the canyon chatting with people and taking in the views as we went. Before we knew it, 8 miles later and 4500 ft of elevation drop, we found ourselves at the doorstop of Phantom Ranch. We threw our heavy packs onto the picnic tables and headed inside to grab some postcards to send home. After a quick rest we loaded up on the 5 liters of water that would last us through the night and the entire next day.

  • Kari, leading the charge, O'Nielle Butte in view, Zoro looming
Just above the Colorado on South Kaibab, gorgeous views

Our packs were heavier than ever, weighing in at a bolstering 53lbs each. The rope, trad rack, camping gear, food, clothes, and finally water was a tough but necessary in order to pull off our goal. We headed up the trail wincing at the weight as it cut into our shoulders. About ½ mile north of Phantom Ranch the Clear Creek trail took off right, east towards Sumner Wash where the “real adventure” began!

53 lbs? Think I need a diet!

We pushed up and on as the two grueling miles gained 1500 feet towards the wash, Kari seemed un-phased by the weight. For some reason that day, it weighed heavy on me. I am not sure if I had met a weight limit that stunted my push, or if I hadn’t trained my legs enough, but I was definitely feeling it as we pressed on. Finally we reached Sumner Wash and diverged from Clear Creek trail. We headed north for the Redwall Notch which gave us access to the Lower Supai Layer and Zoroaster’s arm.

The inner gorge from Clear Creek trail
  • Popping out to see the Colorado after some nice gain on Clear Creek trail
Ascending towards the red wall notch

We grunted on finally reaching the base of the notch and threw packs down for a quick break. We each dropped a liter of water and stashed a little food in a tree to save weight. Soon we were on our feet again, racing against the sun, and heading out climbers right to a nice exposed class 4 climb that would circumvent a 5.7 technical climb (aint nobody got time for that!). We ascended carefully on the sharp rock, looking for the path of least resistance. Soon standing high over a sketchy down climb we looked at our options. There wasn’t much time for debate, so we de-packed and I down climbed as Kari got the packs ready to be handed down by rope.

  • Grinding on! (photo credit Kari Hreinsson)

Soon after some questionable exposure we were both safe past the obstacle. We looked up the notch to see our next class 4 obstacle to navigate past. Sweaty palms, and labored backs, we carefully ascended a crack, going behind a short stubby bush, and finally taking an airy step across a death defying drop to safety. Whew! We both made it and were definite ready for safe ground. We continued up the class 3 notch towards the top out which was surprisingly tame.

Camp baby!
The sun set as we finished setting up and cooking food, an early bedtime was most definitely warranted!

Finally we popped out and eyeballed a juniper tree with a large flat spot for a nice camp spot. We had made it safely to camp!!! I dropped my pack that had been cutting into my shoulders, with a gasp of relief! We began to set up the tent and looked south to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the Grand Canyon. Zoroaster stared down at us, and we stared back knowing the next day would hold some of the hardest trad climbing (well my limit at least) with no true promise of a summit in sight. Our work was cut out for us and we tucked into bed, trying to get as much rest as possible.

Goodnight old friend

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters (5 liters packed in addition)
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, orange, chicken and mashed potato MountainHouse
  • Time: (Day 1) 10 hours
  • Distance: (Day 1) 12 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 1) 3,000 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Kinglet Traverse – Chugach – Day 2 – AK (7.2.17)

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Campside lake views

Brendan and I woke to the sound of rain hitting the tent. The rain started the night before as soon as we zipped the tent closed. Unfortunately there was no sign of it giving up. We poked our heads outside to see a low looming cloud near the surrounding peaks and a grayed out sky slowly drizzling down its rain on us. Gah, I didn’t want to move, I had slept so well that I didn’t move an inch all night. Regardless we had no choice but to get moving, trying to find our way out of the Chugach.

Welp, time to get moving!

We packed up camp, pulled on our rain gear, and soon stood ready to let out from the no name lake we found the night before. I bought Frog Togs on the way to the trail head as I neglected to bring my rain pants with me . . . . . they ripped in the first 2 minutes, right up the crotch . . . hahaha! I could tell it was going to be a good day!

Nice and soppy

The rain drizzled on as we began to skirt north, across the wide open side draws that fed the North Fork of Ship Creek valley. The ground was covered in a cushy nice moss and speckled with jetting rocks here and there. We gained a small ridge and we could see the whole valley including the contributing side canyon that we oringinally intended to use to approach Organ Mountain and Synthesizer Peak. All we could do was speculate from a far, as the weather, snow in the shoot, and whiteout conditions made us call for a “raincheck” on the peak attempt.

Beautiful, even with the fog
Damn bro, couldnt you hold it?! Hahaha little Grizzly sign

With bluebird dreams in our heads we dropped into the next valley, crossing a stream were the open draw headed up canyon via Ship Creek towards Moraine Pass. We saw a nice big pile of fresh bear skat in this valley, we kept our heads on a swivel in this grizz filled country. No one wants to accidentally come face to face with a bear, especially way out here in the heart of the Chugach. We kept skirting the south side of the valley headed east, and soon Grizzly Bear Lake came into view.

Further up Ships Creek
Choss and snow be darned, up we go!

Even with the clouds looming and the rain drizzling it was still gorgeous out here. Gnarly looking raw peaks jetted up on either side of the valley loomed in clouds with lush green bases, touting huge vertical gains, just daring to be summited. We stopped for a nice snack break. Grubbing down on PBJs and chips we looked in the distance to the snow covered Paradise Pass that we had to gain for our exit. We planned to dump down into Paradise Valley which would connect us back into the trail to Crows Pass. Brendan pointed “When you see this thing up close you are going to be like “why the heck did they name it paradise pass?!””. We chuckled at we snacked on taking in the incredible views.

Let the snowfield begin as we ascend Moraine Pass

Still a long way off to go, we pressed up a steep snow covered hill to enter the open Moraine Pass. Brendan took off up the snow like a Polar Bear, walking straight up and soon kicking in steps as the incline became almost vertical. I followed suite, and after a nice steep push we could see the next obstacle. Snow patch after snow patch, we hopped between the good snow and rocks avoiding the rotten snow pack. When you stepped on it, it would just give way, letting you sink like a brick.

The long steep slope up towards Paradise Pass
Looking back down towards Moraine Pass

A snow patch just below Paradise Pass was particularly rotten, so we decided to use a snow ramp to climber’s right to gain a rock traverse that would eventually bring us to the thin knife-edge pass. We kicked in snow steps once again. High on the ramp I looked down as the snow started to rot out just before reaching the rocks. This is the last place I wanted to fall I though to myself . . . one careful step after the next I finally grabbed chossey crumbly crap rock on the other side, whew!! Relatively safe?! We skirted the chossfest rock face until just before the pass when the great Chugach gave us one last nice class 4 step across crumbly rock. Not one hold was good, and the price of a mistake here would send you a few hundred feet below. You probably wouldn’t die . . . but it would definitely hurt. Everything was coming apart like trying to rock climb a sandcastle . . . with a nice big pack on. Brendan moved past it and was chilling on the pass I went for the move. Not one good hold, I just tried to distribute my weight out to 3 points as I moved. I stepped across as lightly as I could . . . and to my relief, soon standing on the knife-edge Paradise Pass with Brendan. Gotta love the spice level . . . Spice Word! The rain stopped and the clouds rose just momentarily enough for us to cook some lunch and take in the sights.

Its Paradise Boys! Count Chossula has definitely been here!
This looks like a good place for some Maruchan Chicken!
The fog moves in and out, giving us glimpses of the land below

We packed up once again and got going. We dove the scree field into Paradise pass, pushing quickly, surfing rocks and snow when there were good patches. We soon found ourselves at the mouth of Paradise Pass side hilling on a small goats path towards Clear Creek valley. We dumped down into Clear Creek valley and searched for a good crossing, I went high and Brendan went low. Soon, after some careful navigation and wet feet, we were on the other side of the creek. We pressed on, finishing out the side hilling and tied back into the trail to Crow Pass.

Dropping over the pass, we pressed further towards the trail
Lush, green, and beautiful

We gained Crow Pass, meeting a few day hikers and backpackers for the weekend. The rain kept coming down and the clouds closed us back up. As we descended the path headed towards the truck, I thought about how I wasn’t ready for the trip to end, and how special Alaska really is. Then all the sudden a white mountain goat appeared on the trail headed directly for us! The huge beast just walked towards us without a care in the word. We went high standing on a slope just 15 feet above him. He trotted by grazing on grass and flowers as he went, not caring that we were standing just feet away.

Almost back to Crow Pass
Look at this huge fella!
GOAT!!!! Photo Credit: Brendan Lee IG: alaskan_bren

Excited we snapped pictures and watched him closely pass. Awesome!!!!! I had been hoping for this the whole trip, and just feet away I finally got a close encounter with a mountain goat in Alaska. We trekked the final miles to the truck high on the experience and were soon throwing out packs in and pulling off our wet clothes for dry ones. Alaska is a beautiful raw place, and I was so happy to see it.

And there he goes, trotting up the trail like he owns it
One last glimpse up valley before finishing off the last 1/2 mile

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

  • Cool plants right where we camped, no idea what they were, some kind of lichen perhaps
  • Paradise Pass

HIKE INFO:

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in mid 50s, Low in upper 40s, Foggy, Rainy, Socked-in
  • Water: 4 Liters
  • Food: 1 Bagel, 2 Protien bars, 2 Cliff Protien Bars, 2 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Apple, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, 1/2 bag of Salt and Vinegar Chips, 1/2 bag of trailmix, 1 PB&J sandwich, Maruchan Chicken Ramen, Snickers.
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~3100 accumulated

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • 60 ft 7mm pull cord
  • Black Diamond Ice Axe

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool – long sleeve 195 shirt
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Solomon Waterproof Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
  • Patagonia Rain jacket
  • “FrogTog” Rain Pants
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Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point – CO (6.30.16 – 7.1.16)

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View From camp at 12,200 feet the afternoon before the climb

My stomach flip flopped as we pulled up to the Blanca Peak trailhead. I am not the biggest fan of sitting in the backseat of vehicles, and something about not being the pilot just throws me into nauseous spins. As the truck came to a stop, I threw open the door and practically fell out of the truck.  Feet were finally back on the ground! My buddy Stevo, his gal Annalise, and I decided to go to CO for a week and explore the outdoors. Stevo was from Durango and wanted to go back to his mother land, see some family, and show Annalise around his old stomping grounds.  Of course I was there to hunt down a few 14ers. We were about 5 days into the trip and sitting in the truck for longer than a few hours had me begging for a bag on my back and some good trail time. I planned on backpacking up towards Lake Como and sleeping for the night, then waking the next morning and attempting to take on Little Bear Peak ( ft.), Blanca Peak (14,345 ft.), and Ellingwood Point (14,042 ft.).  I would then return the same way I came and grab a ride back to camp with Stevo’s family at The Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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The start of the climb, the road gets pretty chunky from here

I wasn’t much in a talkative mood as I slowly gathered my things, my stomach still performing acrobatic feats.  It was pretty warm at 2pm, but even in the heat I pulled on my long sleeve smartwool shirt and long pants (rolled up of course) because I knew the temps up at 12,000 feet where I would be camping and hiking would prove to be much cooler. Pack strapped, glasses on, and trekking poles in hand I waved goodbye to Stevo and Annalise and headed up the boulder covered dirt road that lead to Lake Como.  Chunky and hot describes well the climb to the tune of 3,900 feet gain in 5.5 miles with a 30 pound backpack on. There was no one else around as I climbed through the high desert surroundings.  The road snaked back and forth across the face of the mountain, every once in a while giving glimpse to the peaks above.

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We Cant Stop Here . . . Its Bear Country!

Finally I pushed up into canopy cover which was a relief from the sun beaming on my head. There was an inviting creek crossing the road where I paused a moment to take in the sight.  I dipped my hand into the cool creek and threw some in my mouth to wash around before spitting it out and pushing on. The last thing I needed was to get sick on the way up to altitude. I felt something wet hit my shoulder. I glanced up into the sky and watched a cloud rolling in full force, just starting to dump a bit of rain on my head. I quickly pulled my raincoat and pack cover out. Thunderstorms in CO afternoons at altitude have never been my favorite (lightning at alt = no bueno).  As quickly as the rain came, it moved on, much to my enjoyment.

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Clouds forming as I climbed
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Finally pushing into the trees before it started to rain on me

I hiked on for a few more miles to the entrance of the upper valley that houses Lake Como. Another beautiful place! High pines surrounded the lake, shading the area and giving shelter to the bears in the area (according to all the warning signs on the trees).  I hiked around the lake looking for a suitable camp to stop for the night when I ran into two other backpackers, Doug and Stacy. They were all smiles and in the middle of cooking dinner as I walked into their camp. They were there for the summit as well and had brought their 2 kids with them (14 and 10 years old). What an awesome little family unit! Doug had mountaineered for some years and now that the youngest was old enough, he was pushing them all to new heights and experiences!

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Lake Como, getting closer now!
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Skirting around Como towards camp

Doug had done Little Bear Peak in the past and knew about the sketchball upper Class 4 traverse to Blanca Peak. “It’s a little sketchy, and I heard about a guy bringing climbing shoes for the traverse” he told me. This didn’t boost my confidence at all.  On top of that, the clouds overhead didn’t look the best for summit, and I had heard the only time you should do Little Bear is in perfect weather.

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Beautiful lush green flora around Como

I said my goodbyes and pressed further up past Como to one of the smaller lakes. The tall trees around Lake Como were all but gone and only short hip high shrub remained. I set up my tent and made dinner. The marmots here were relentless and practically walked up and tapped me on my shoulder asking me for handouts. After finishing my Mountainhouse meal I threw all my food into 1 bag and piled it under a large stack of rocks (no trees to hang food from), gambling that no bears would come up this far and marmots weren’t strong enough to move the rocks. As I got ready for bed I watched marmots run up to the rock stack, sniffing furiously at the contents below. If they got to my food I would have to turn back and couldn’t summit the next morning.  I crossed my fingers and went to bed.

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Higher into the Alpine I pushed, the trees turned to shrubs

Waking early at 4 am to rain on my tent I prepped my bag and stuffed water and snacks for the day in. Searching, searching . . . no headlamp. What a bonehead move! After checking everything, I realized I must have left it in Stevo’s truck after using it the night before. Welp, I had to make the best of it. I set my alarm for 5am and went back to sleep. Beep beep beep, lets try this again! Sleeping at 12,200 is always tough but I had to get motivated.  I saw a few headlamps in the distance which could only be Doug and crew, but the light was just enough to see without one so I leapt from my tent and took off.  The trail climbed up the large waterfall feeding the small lake I camped next to. At the top of the fall I met up with Doug and family who were all smiles, even the kids, pushing up a huge peak in the dark. After quick greetings I pressed on.

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Time to get moving, upward, into the cloud!

After the waterfall was the summit plateau, which housed another small glacier lake and the final trail to the col/saddle between Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak. The only thing that stood between me and the ridgeline was a large frozen snow field.  No ice axe, great! I crossed the snow carefully and made it safely to the rocks on the other side. Pushing up from here, after some searching I found the trail. Switchback central! The sun was just lighting up the sky enough to see that I was hiking into a thick cloud clinging to the top of the peaks. The rocks were wet and slick, every step was critical. Up and up I went until finally reaching the col/saddle where a large cairn stood.  Left to Ellingwood, or right to Blanca? Ellingwood was a Class 3 traverse I was anxious to see, so left it was!

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Large cairn at the Ridge, at the split to Ellingwood and Blanca

I followed the cairns across the ridgeline towards the first peak of the day. The looming cloud prevented me from seeing out past more than 10 feet in front of me. Scrambling up, down, and traversing I continued to route find. I skirted rock faces looking down into the cloud not knowing if it were a 10 foot drop for 100.  No matter, just don’t fall! After half an hour I finally made it to the home stretch.  Out of breath and tired from the ascent, I carefully pulled myself to peak! I stood up giving it a quick 360, nothing but whiteout conditions! Then on my way back down to the ridge for a brief second the clouds gave way and opened up, so I snapped pictures as quick as I could before they closed back in around me. It was a short celebration, and fearing the weather could turn on me, I scrambled back down across the traverse to the base of Blanca.

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Views to the West from just below Ellingwood Point (click to enlarge)
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Views to the East from just below the Ellingwood Point (click to enlarge)

I made it back to the large cairn and started pushing up Blanca. Blanca was a decent Class 2 with a few scrambles here and there, but much less threatening than Ellingwood Point. I climbed through the clouds again upwards towards the peak, and in the distance I heard voices. It was Doug and crew once again, going for their summit bid of the day! I caught up with them and pushed to the peak together. His kids were doing surprisingly well under the low oxygen, wet, whiteout conditions. Finally we reached peak, every step was well worth it! I snapped a few pictures for them and headed back down the way I came.

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Looking back down the chute to the valley below (click to enlarge)
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Climbing down the waterfall just above the small lake I camped next to (click to enlarge)
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Views of Lake Como as I headed down (click to enlarge)

On the way down I finally dropped out of the clouds and saw bluebird skies over the valley below, giving me some hope for the return hike. I reached camp, broke it down, packed it up, and with trekking poles in hand headed back down the mountain. I was surprised at the number of people pushing up the mountain into the clouds so late in the afternoon. I wished them luck and dropped back down into the warm of the valley below. As I hiked west I watched this wall of clouds just dumping rain across the fields below. It was time to move! I picked up the pace and barely made it to the car before we were covered in a downpour! What another awesome adventure! Tired, smelly, and grinning ear to ear I rested in the backseat headed for the Dunes with another story to tell. It’s a beautiful country we live in, get outside and see it sometime!

  • Pushing up to the valley where the Lake Como resides
  • Into the trees!

HIKE INFO: http://www.14ers.com/photos/peakmain.php?peak=Blanca+Peak

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low in the lower 50s, Cloud cover, Fog, Sparse Rain, Partially Sunny, Slightly windy
  • Water: 6 liters (2 days)
  • Food: 4 protien bars, 2 Clif Bars, 2 Granola bars, 2 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Mountain House, instant mashed potatoes, 1 bag black forest gummies, 1 bag of trailmix, 1 Twix bar, Bag of salt and vinegar chips, 2 plums
  • Time: 2 Days (Hiking time – 5 hours, Day 1; 12 hours, Day 2)
  • Distance: 6 miles day 1, 12 miles day 2.
  • Accumulated Gain: 7,000 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • MULE Camelback
  • Big Anges Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Patagonia Rain Jacket
  • Smart Wool Beanie
  • Smart Wool Gloves
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Alaska: the Last Frontier – Eagle Peak – AK (5.26.16)

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Flight in, sunset on the “promised land”

When I stepped onto a plane headed for Alaska I had no idea what to expect, nor did I know much of an impact it would have on me. It is undoubtedly the Last Frontier! My buddy Brendan has lived in Alaska for 4 years now while serving in the US Air force. In his off time he somehow found himself amongst the mountains and was soon honing his skills to become a darn good mountaineer! Ice climbing, snow climbing, rock climbing… you name it, he’s got the credentials. So I couldn’t resist when he invited me to visit and take on a few treks with him!

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trekking towards Eagle Lake, mountains peaking out from the back

The wheels of the plane chirped on the runway as the plane touched down.  I had finally reached Anchorage and would soon have my feet on dirt in this legend-(wait for it!)-dary place. Brendan met me at the gate all smiles and let me know that all the plans were set for the next day. We were to take on Eagle Peak of the Chugach State Park, just outside Anchorage, a sprawling range of approximately 495,000 acres of land and one of the four largest state parks in the United States. I was awe struck by the mountains surrounding the city, even on the flight in, and my first impression seeing the light dance off the peaks was “I have found the promise land!”

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Another small lake as we get closer and closer to camp

The next afternoon Brendan, Ryan (a local friend of his), and I let out, headed for Eagle Lake to set up base camp for the weekend ahead. My head was constantly on a swivel, looking left, right, up, and down, taking in all the views as my curiosity was raised by the snow-capped peaks in the distance. As we hiked the 4 miles approaching Eagle Lake, we strolled through beautiful creek ridden grassland until Eagle Peak finally came into view. What an intimidating beast! It stood tall and covered with snow on its north side, just daring us to make a summit bid. We met Nathan, another seasoned mountaineer, at a small shack at the head of Eagle and Symphony Lakes and chose a spot to bed down before the big push the next day. We all cooked up our freeze-dried meals, took in the 11:30pm sunset, and gazed up at the unknown adventure to come.

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Finally a view of Eagle Peak looming over Eagle Lake, just down from our camp

It was a bit early in the season to take on the peak, but with the mild winter conditions were favorable, although the unspoken threat of avalanche loomed over us. We woke early; the sun was still up due to the long 20 hour days in Alaska this time of year. We cooked breakfast, packed our gear, and were soon heading up the valley that would serve as the approach route to the “gully” eventually leading to the peak.

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Let trek on! No idea what this plant is, but it looked cool!

The valley was fed by snow runoff which was a nice crisp, cold temperature, undoubtedly in the 40s. I strapped my trail runners on, wanting to keep my waterproof boots dry for the push up the mountain. At our first creek crossing I plunged my foot in, pain immediately shot up my legs as they were submerged shin deep in the creek.  The pain died as the cold water numbed my senses, but soon enough I was on the other side and the pain returned with a vengeance.  Nathan was strapped up with mountaineering boots, Brendan with some Gore-Tex throw offs, and Ryan with some running shoes. I suddenly felt unprepared for 40 degree creek crossings, but I knew this would only last a short while.  Before long we would be at the headwall of the waterfall feeding the valley where I would be strapping on my own dry, warm, waterproof boots (or at least that’s what I told myself).

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Overlooking the flooded valley as we began to ascend the head wall, you can see Brendan, Nathan, and Ryan in the lower left of this picture

We weaved in and out, across the creek, through bushwhack thickets, until finally reaching the last crossing where we decided to take a break. Relieved, I put on my boots, grabbed a quick snack, and rejoined the guys ready for the next challenge. We finally reached some good gain and I was thrilled as I went to work against it. My original plan was to avoid the snow all together up the headwall to the valley to the canyon above, but soon found that Brendan and the other guys had different plans.

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looking up towards the head wall and the creek making the waterfalls that fed the flooded valley below

Ice axes in hand (using them as an anchor stuck in the snow), I watched as the guys kicked in steps across a large angled snow patch, making the traverse look easy as pie. Never having to deal with snow of this magnitude myself (hard to come by in the Arizona desert), looking down the snowy 40 degree slope ending abruptly in sharp rocks admittedly made me a bit nervous. I plunged the axe into the snow and kicked my first steps. One after another, I tried to take it slow and easy so as not to go skating down to certain injury. I kept my eyes on the snow, and slowly but surely made it to the other side.  Whew, safety of the rocks never felt so good!

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Above the head wall, the snow covered bowl that would eventually lead us to the base of the “gully”

We pressed on up the headwall into the snow covered bowl above where the large sub-surface creek flowed, feeding the valley below. We pushed across the snow pack, plunging our ice axes in to search for weaknesses in the pack, before finally coming to a thin snow bridge that traversed the creek. Brendan cautiously probed the bridge for strength. Encouraged by the lack of collapse, he took the first step across . . . success! The bridge held and Ryan and Nathan followed suit, stepping over like it was solid ground.  Soon we were all across, now debating the route up the bowl which would lead us the base of the southern gully, the path we planned to utilize for our summit bid.

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Slim Ice Bridge! Nathan beasting it across

Pushing up yet another snow-covered slope, we finally found ourselves looking up the southern chute which had some small avalanche sign. This was anything but confidence building, so we decided to push up the snow on the edge for safety. As we made our way up the aggressive incline, we decided to split up to check out two different routes. Brendan and I would take to the cliffs on the left while Nathan and Ryan would look at a snow pinch, putting them just below a cascading waterfall that ran down the gully. Brendan and I quickly found ourselves pushing class 4 moves and gaining some traction up the steep beast. Meanwhile Nathan and Ryan found themselves dangerously close to a slip crack, an early sign of a large avalanche that could spell utter disaster for our entire group.  In the interest of safety, they returned to the cliffs find their own route past the pinch and back into the safety of the gully.

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Ascending the side of the snow covered bowl, man i would hate to fall down that without an ice ax!
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Nathan and Ryan discovering the slip crack, and immediately going towards the safety of the rocks!

After they caught up, we started poking away at what seemed to be never ending cliff bands. Obstacle after obstacle we would attempt to circumvent either via a class 4 low class 5 climb or getting in the snow chute traveling towards the edge hoping for the best. This was slow work but soon we found ourselves pinched down in the final snow/scree chute just before the summit. Brendan and I pushed up first and Ryan and Nathan followed suit.  Nathan accidentally pushed into the fresh snow with a boot.  As it began to give way, he hollered up “Watch out!” We looked down and just below his seemingly innocent footstep the snow began to move, gaining momentum and girth as it flowed down the mountain. The snow picked up rocked and dirt, flinging them downwards to the chute below. We were all quiet for a moment before Nathan stated what we were all thinking: “Yeah, I think we should stick to the rocks as much as possible.”

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careful steps!

Back into the scree we went, pushing on and up until finally meeting the col and the final ridge to the peak! The sights were incredible; we could see all the way back to camp and many miles further into the snow covered Chugach Park. All smiles, we scaled the homestretch and summited together! Breaking out snacks and taking pictures, we took time to enjoy our hard work. From the peak we heard numerous avalanches in the distance crashing down the steep faces of the surrounding mountains. Every once in a while we could spot them from a far and nervously watched as they covered the base of the routes below. Knowing the day was only half complete, we packed up and headed back down.

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Just above the col! Views of Eagle Lake below, we are almost there!!!
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Summit baby! Well deserved!

We had learned our lesson and stuck to the rocks, challenging the cliff bands to keep us safe. Ryan took the lead, and soon gained the nickname “3up5down”. His seemingly nervousness on some of the up climbs was nowhere in sight as he lead us down some easily class 5 routes. As slowly and safely as possible we scrambled down the rock faces, which always had some large penalty for failure. Once or twice we broke out a 60 ft piece of 7mm rope which came in handy down some of 3up5down’s route selections!

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One of the tamer scramble downclimbs

Finally we reached the snow chute near the bottom of the gully.  Brendan looked at me and said “you may have to come dig me out” just before plopping on his butt above a good 50 yard slope. He slid with ease, looking as giddy as a kid on a sled in the first snowfall of winter. We all followed suit and were soon safely down at the base of the chute. At the bottom of the gully, the angle of the slope decreased and cradled the glissade which was a lot safer than attempting this move on the higher, steeper slopes. After this little bit of fun we gathered back together and crossed the snow bowl, the headwall, the flooded valley, and the edge of Eagle Lake before finally making it back to camp. What a long but glorious day!

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Sunset as we returned to camp

Proud of our accomplishments, we all plopped down, made food, and began to get ready to rest for the night.  That is, all but Nathan. Nathan, the trooper that he was after taking on a huge mountain, had to pack up camp and walk the 4 miles out to his truck, drive home, and get in bed so he could be at work the next morning. What a guy! Alaska is truly a wild land, untamed and raw, and nothing was easy about the day’s trek, but after all that we encountered you realize that its what makes it so beautiful and fulfilling.

  • Eagle Lake
  • Lets Get Started!

HIKE INFO:

http://www.summitpost.org/eagle-peak/952255#chapter_3

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the lower 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 6 liters (3 days)
  • Food: 6 protein bars, 2 Clif Bars, 2 granola bars, 2 via starbucks instant coffee, 2 Oatmeal Medly cups, 2 Mountain House, 1 bag instant mashed potatoes, 1 bag gummy worms, 1 bags of trailmix, bag of Salt and Vinegar chips, 2 Avocado, 1 pear, 2 plums
  • Time: 3 Days (Hiking time – 2 hours, Day 1; 15 hours, Day 2; 2 hours Day 3)
  • Distance: 4 miles Day 1; 16 miles Day 2; 4 miles Day 3
  • Accumulated Gain: Approx 6000 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
  • Big Anges Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • 7mm Rope – 60 feet

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool beanie
  • Smart wool glove liners
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Cloth bandana
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots – Waterproof
  • Nike Running Shoes (used for water crossings)
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
  • Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
  • Black Daimond Raven Pro Ice Axe
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