18 October 2018

Don't Cry Over Spilled Booze



Even if the glass hadn’t shattered everywhere, the snow was too dirty to make any remnants salvageable. The malted-brown goodness Andrew had carried for hours was gone forever, dissolving before our eyes into the frozen earth. We’d be spending New Year’s Eve without whiskey.

A group of us were at Keith’s Hut, near Pemberton, British Columbia, to ring in the New Year. Keith’s Hut isn’t remote, but it does require a reaonsbale amount of effort to reach. After a spicy creek crossing, you climb 1,500ft over 3 miles to the hut, with the most elevation gain coming in the final half mile. It’s just far enough to be tiring, but just close enough that it’s seems okay to pack a few extra pounds of luxury items. That is how we came to be in possession of a glass fifth of Crown Royal, strapped securely to the outside of Andrew’s backpack. 

The crown is in there. Stuffed into the black center pouch.

Yeah.... we definitely packed too much stuff....

The problem with said arrangement, if you haven’t surmised already, was the container in which the whisky resided. Besides being stupidly heavy, glass - even thick, elaborate glass like that of a Crown bottle - is delicate. When Andrew threw his pack to the ground in a moment of triumph after many hours of effort, the glass shattered. We all watched in horror as our hopes and dreams seeped into the snow, staining it brown with our grief. I’m that moment of disbelief, more than one of us shed a tear.

Even looking at this photo again makes me sad.

But our loss is your gain. I want you avoid this sad fate and learn from our experience. Follow these three simple rules to keep your booze safe and ready to enjoy on your next adventure, and remember to always drink responsibly:
  1. Never on the bottom. Or the side. Or the outside. Or - and this should be obvious - next to any of the pointy things. I’ve known more than one person who has punctured a beer in a pack and spent a cold night in a stinky, wet sleeping bag. Be sure to add padding around your beloveds, and be careful not to squish or squeeze it too tightly. And whatever you do, don’t drop 50lbs of pack right on top of it. Your alcohol is precious cargo, and should be treated as such.
  2. Glass is a no no. Most good alcohol comes in glass bottles, but it needn't stay there. Plastic bladders (including the one referenced in my Alpine Gimonade blog) are cheap and readily available. Buy one designated to your mountain beverages, and be sure to rinse and store it in the freezer when it’s not in use. You could also pack a decent boxed wine (or canned!) or a plastic bottle of booze. Stick with beer in cans for adventures, and keep those glass bottles in the cooler in the car. You’ll be thirsty when you get back too. 
  3. Check (and double check) your seals. Even the best container can leak when not sealed properly. Wine, water, beer, booze - all of it sucks to spill on your kit. For smaller containers, add a plastic baggie to be on the safe side. It’s easy enough to remember: always righty-tighty those containers so you don’t end up with lefty loosey boozy all over the place. 
Our trip did turn out alright, albeit different than we had intended. We skied from dawn until dusk on New Years Eve day, and came in at dark to eat dinner and ring in the New Year. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, someone checked their watch and it was only 6:30pm (the sun sets just after 4pm that time of year)! We struggled to make it to “Novia Scotian New Years”, and at 8pm cracked the cans of champagne I had carried to celebrate.

Emboldened by our bubbly, we put our boots back on and skinned above the trees by the light of the moon. The ski down wasn’t the best of my life, but it still stands out as one of the most memorable.

Cheers to Newfoundland!

Joffre Peak by Moonlight.

15 September 2018

My First Editor's Note



This summer kicked my ass. Between family visits and house projects and planning a secret, surprise wedding, my personal life has been all over the place. Life at the office has been similarly hectic, with an organizational restructure resulting in two openings on my team and a reshuffle of priorities we're responsible for. I may have given up busy, but in its wake I feel like I've been forced to embrace chaos. To be honest, digging my way out of the deluge has burned a bit of my mojo.

Astute readers will notice it's been awful quiet on the blogging front. I've barely published in months, and honestly I'm really disappointed to see my weekly blogging streak die. I believe writing regularly is an important exercise - one I find personally fulfilling. I started this blog to document my trips, and, if you'll indulge me for a moment, as a way to "practice my craft". Now that I've fallen "behind" I find myself overwhelmed at the idea of "catching up". I have so many stories I want to share but am paralyzed by the sheer volume of stuff in my brain. Plus, I really want to upgrade to a new website, which has further prevented me from moving forward and investing in this platform. I have 14 blog drafts started and just. cannot. finish.

But mountains are climbed one (sometimes painful) step at a time, and I shall get back into the swing of writing the same way. Thus: this blog.

The truth is I've been doing a lot of writing, just not here. One of the projects I'm most proud of from this summer of insanity is our fall edition of Mountaineer magazine. It may be a small publication with a distribution of 10,000, but this edition the magazine fell to me and I'm relieved we got it out on time and relatively error free.



The process was full of learning - I've never produced a magazine before! Figuring out deadlines and working with contributors and making last minute red-lines was a surreal experience, and in a way a dream come true. Who doesn't want to be Editor-In-Chief for a magazine?! Of course it takes a village, and I couldn't have done this without an incredible team of colleagues and contributors, to whom I am forever indebted. I'm so happy to have had this opportunity, and am also relieved to hand it off for the next edition. This may very well be my first AND last Editor's Note, and career milestones should be celebrated because.

I had no idea where to start or what to write. After researched, I opted to go with a personal story which you probably know. It felt scary and vulnerable to put this out into the universe, and it's been exciting to run into folks who hadn't heard and hear their feedback. I'd love to know what you think! You can view the full edition here, and without further ado, here is the full Editor's Note:

Editor's Note


Community is a funny thing. You can go looking for it, or it can find you when you least expect it.
Each August we host a Mountaineers staff retreat. We bring together the hardworking folks from our publishing and programs divisions to tackle one big mission-centric topic, then spend the afternoon getting to know one another over watercolor circles and canoe races. This intentional day of relationship building has turned into one of the highlights of my year.

This day is so important to me, I recently realized, because my colleagues have become my community. Like so many people at The Mountaineers, I joined to learn specific skills and was drawn into the people who make this organization so great. In my case that meant joining staff and learning to hone my communications chops in a professional marketing role. What I didn’t expect – what I still thank my lucky stars for every day – was that my days would be filled with hardworking, dedicated, passionate, risk-taking, adventurous colleagues, both in my fellow staff and in the coalition of volunteers we support.

But my connection to The Mountaineers goes deeper still. One year after joining the team, our Education Director Becca Polglase introduced me to a friend of hers who she met through, of course, The Mountaineers! She thought we might make a good match because of our shared love for enjoying the outdoors.

We met over Fourth of July weekend in 2014. Our first year took us sailing, skiing, backpacking, and kayaking. We said I love you for the first time on the summit of Mt. Adams, and, after an unsuccessful third attempt on Mt. Baker, he proposed. This summer, we surprised everyone at our housewarming party when I came out in a wedding dress. Becca officiated the surprise wedding, attended by skiers, hikers, climbers, and Mountaineers. It was our outdoor community that brought us together, supported us, and helped us celebrate. I can’t imagine it any other way.

When I say I love The Mountaineers, I mean it quite literally. That’s why I am so excited – stoked if you will – to be here working to further our mission to connect people to the life-changing connections made through outdoor experiences. I get a front row seat to the magic of our community.
In this edition we explore the idea of stoke, and how a flame - literal or figurative - keeps burning deep inside. Sometimes that flame stokes you to climb mountains, like in our piece on K2 by accomplished climber Jim Wickwire, and sometimes it inspires greater action, like for Charlie and Carol Michel, who recently made a significant donation to The Mountaineers to help us install solar power at the Seattle Program Center. Other times stoke can mean taking time to heal yourself with a trip into the mountains, as Tyrhee Moore explores in his feature, or in can mean grounding yourself on a daily basis in your own backyard, as recommended by our resident performance expert Courtenay Schurman.

To move forward in our lives we must stoke the flame and keep it burning. Every one of us does this every single day, whether we realize it or not. And we are each supported by a united Mountaineers community bonded by love for the outdoors, sharing a stoke to explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

11 August 2018

An Epic Climb of Mount Rainier via the Willis Wall

Nearly 400 people have been members of The Mountaineers for 50-years or more. Together, they share 20,000 years worth of outdoor memories: exploring, learning, and conserving in our wild places. I have the privilege of learning about their stories on a weekly basis.

One such epic arrived to us via Eddy Boulton, a second generation Mountaineer and daring explorer of PNW mountains. In 1971, he and Jim Wickwire (the first American, along with Lou Reichardt, to summit K2) shared a harrowing ordeal on Mt. Rainier. They barely lived to tell the tale.

Eddy and Jim shared their accounts of the climb with us for a feature in Mountaineer magazine. While the bulk of the credit for this piece goes to Eddy, I had the pleasure of weaving their details together and took great care in editing this piece. I am so in awe of their accomplishment. The resolve and will to endeavor leaves a lasting reminder to us all about the power of the human spirit.


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories, click here. It's also published as a blog on The Mountaineers website
The wind is howling; it’s pitch dark, and heavy snow is blowing sideways. I stagger, trying to stay on my feet while Jim shouts at me from the bivouac to get in. Struggling in the gale, I lift one leg, try to step into the sack, and am blown flat on my side. I get up and try again. “If you don’t get into the sack, you’re going to die,” I think.
Jim and I lay still as the snow rapidly piles onto our bodies, turning into a suffocating weight. I’m exhausted from the exertion, and we’re both shivering violently, slipping into the first stages of hypothermia. If our temperatures continue to drop (below 93 degrees Fahrenheit), we will face complete mental and physical breakdown, and ultimately death. Gasping for breath, I feel as if I’m being chased by devils who won’t let me rest.
Our bodies will probably be found later I think, in August perhaps, as the snow melts away. No one knows where we are on this huge 14,410-foot mountain. Strangely, I feel little fear or regret.

A DUBIOUS INVITATION

It was May 15, 1971. Jim invited me to climb with him back in January, and what I didn’t know at the time was that Jim had considered other climbers, who were not available, before calling me. At 44, with little history of difficult climbing, I was a second-rate partner. But Jim and I had become friends through The Mountaineers and he trusted me. I was flattered by his invitation and said yes to the chance to do something remarkable.
I should mention my friend Jim is none other than Jim Wickwire, well-known mountaineer and author. He made the first ascent of the Willis Wall by its East Rib in 1963, and he and Alex Bertulis made the first ascent of what Alex called “the Brummel Buttress” a few years later — both challenging routes on Mt. Rainier. Later, Jim was a member of the first American team to climb K2, known as the most dangerous mountain in the world. It is a mountain that has claimed many lives and only a few hundred have reached the top. Jim came close to death when he was benighted, alone, near the summit with only a bivouac sack.
For our climb, Jim wanted the classic route: the Willis Wall. It runs straight up the north side via the Central Rib and is considered one of the most dangerous routes on the mountain. While the Willis Wall is not technically difficult by today’s climbing standards, it poses significant risk. A great overhanging ice cliff about 300 feet high, originating from the summit ice cap, looms ominously above the 4,000 -foot wall. The wall is so steep that the falling ice, breaking from the cliff above, falls straight down to form the head of the Carbon Glacier nearly a mile below. The danger is unavoidable. Chunks of ice bigger than Volkswagens break off frequently without warning night or day, all year round.
During summer and dry periods in winter, the Wall is too steep for the snow to accumulate, and the black face can easily be seen from Seattle 60 miles away. Liberty Ridge, to the right of the Wall, is the route of ambitious climbers due to its relatively safe position along a prominent ridge. It was first climbed in 1935 by Ome Daiber, Arnie Campbell, and Jack Borrow and was known as “Suicide Ridge.” No one at the time even thought about climbing the Willis Wall. I heard of Willis Wall in 1938 when I was 11 years old from my brother Bill, who attended The Mountaineers climbing course with Fred Beckey. Fred, may he rest in peace, was a cautious climber with over 1,000 first ascents and never considered climbing such an objectively dangerous route.
Twice that spring I made summit climbs of Mt. Rainier to get into better physical shape. Jim, being confident of his strength, ability, and experience, did little to prepare, as he was busy with his work on the Alaska Native Land Claims Act.

AN AUDACIOUS START

Leaving Seattle at 4:30am on our fateful morning in May, we head toward Ipsut Creek Campground at the foot of the Carbon Glacier. We stop by Charlie Crenchaw’s house to pick up stove cartridges and advise him of our plan. Charlie is active in Seattle Mountain Rescue and was the first African American to summit Denali. Later that weekend, he will help coordinate our rescue attempt.
Halfway across the 520 Bridge we realize Jim doesn’t have his double boots. A quick U-turn in the middle of the bridge takes us back home; then once again, we’re on our way.
The weather prediction is ideal. Driving toward Enumclaw at dawn, I snap photos of the north face in all its glory under blue skies. We’re excited to begin hiking up the moraine toward the snout of the Carbon Glacier in windless conditions. We carry snowshoes, but never need them. In the afternoon we move to the moraine and build camp in the sunshine.
The next morning we wake early and walk the rest of the way up the Glacier over the frozen snow with no difficulty. We make camp at the northeast side of Curtis Ridge, which separates the Carbon and the Winthrop Glaciers, and rest for the afternoon. Our first two days on the mountain have been glorious.

THE WILLIS WALL

We leave our snow camp before midnight, heading for the smaller of two avalanche cones at the foot of the wall. Cones form when falling ice and snow accumulate at the bottom of the gullies of the central rib. We have to climb one of the cones and get over a bergschrund to continue up the Willis Wall. With no way across the gaping ‘schrund, we traverse to the larger cone a hundred feet away. Hoping it will ‘go,’ we climb the cone and jump the gap, clinging to the vertical ice wall on the other side. On the morning of our third day, we are finally on the Willis Wall.
I hear a whistle in the dark, high overhead. When pieces of rock or ice fall from great heights, they ricochet, spin, and emit fearful shrieks, whistles, or buzzing sounds as they fly. Jim thinks they sound like a 105mm howitzer shell. You wonder if the next one might find you. I try not to worry. You won’t hear it before it hits you, so the ones that whistle are passing safely.
Jim leads the steep snow gully through the dangerous icefall. We move fast. About 300 feet up, I spot a ledge covered with snow to our left and call out, “Jim, I think this is our escape ledge!” I studied the route carefully the day before. He agrees to get out of the gully and onto the rib despite our quick upward progress. We attain the highest part of the rib and hear a faint noise. We look up to see a puff of smoke in the starlight. Within seconds, an ice avalanche is roaring down the gully where we had been climbing only moments ago. Chunks of ice ricochet hundreds of feet high and whistle over our heads as we flatten ourselves on the snow. Even ribs don’t offer good protection from ice avalanches.
Then, just like that, the shower is over.
We climb on at a steady pace, taking notice of the stars disappearing as clouds form overhead. We don’t know it, but an ominous front is rapidly approaching.
We focus on our task at hand. The snow is icy and hard. The 1971 spring thaw had come early, melting and refreezing the upper mountain and making it impossible for us now to jam the shafts of our ice axes in to make belay anchors. We chop small holes instead, placing our ax picks in them as anchors to form a belay. As Jim climbs, I pull up the rope and pass it over the ax; then, as he passes me and continues up, I pay out the rope as he climbs. We have no additional anchors. The rope is 150 feet long, so if Jim falls near the top of his lead, he will tumble about 300 feet before the rope stretches taught. It’s doubtful that our ice axes will stop a fall like that, so our efforts amount to little more than a psychological belay.
As we leapfrog up the wall, the clouds roll in and it begins to snow. We reach a vertical rock cliff sheathed in verglas ice. I wait while Jim reconnoiters around to the left, making best of a very poor belay stance. After a long wait, I get a cramp and straighten up, letting go of the ax and rope for only a second. At that very moment, Jim slips on the ice and falls. With a desperate one-handed lunge he spears the ice with his Penberthy Thunderbird ice ax. The extreme-angled pick catches… and holds. Our old traditional Austrian axes would NEVER make a stop like that. The Thunderbird, a prototype given to us for testing by Larry Penberthy, an old friend and climber, saves us both.
We’re both unnerved by the near disaster, but persevere because we have no other choice. We can’t go down from here. Jim leads more vertical verglas rock 30 or 40 feet and calls me up to a ledge. Jim was here eight years prior with Ellensburg climber Dave Mahre, and they named this ledge the “Traverse of the Angels.” It leads to a small tunnel in the volcanic rock leading to a gap between the upper and lower ice cliffs. It’s the only way through to the summit. And it’s completely blocked with ice.
A coal miner in my youth, I am undeterred. I swing my ax furiously, throwing great chunks of snow and ice over the cliff and down the mountain. I drop my pack and crawl into the newly exposed tunnel. Easier ground lays on the other side. With two packs to carry, Jim has a much harder time negotiating the tunnel. I hold him fast on belay as he crawls through the tunnel, pushing my pack and pulling his own.
ED CLIMBING THE WILLIS WALL WITH OLD BOOTS AND OLD GRIVEL CRAMPONS (HE COULDN’T CLIMB ON FRONT-POINT – HIS CRAMPONS FLEXED). EVERYTHING WAS ICED OVER. PHOTO BY JIM WICKWIRE.

Finally, we’re safe and done with the difficult and dangerous climbing. And we’re exhausted. About 50 feet below, I spot a small hole in the snow. Guessing it might lead to a moat, we descend and dig, finding a fine place to bivouac. During the night, ice thunders over our heads. We get very little sleep, but at least we’re safe in our little hole.

THE STORM

On the morning of day four we emerge to find low wind and quickly accumulating snow. Jim leads a steep and tenuous section for about 300 feet. When the slope eases I get in front, where I face an uphill struggle to kick steps, alternatively sinking up to my knees, waist, and armpits. It’s the definition of wallowing, and we are not moving fast enough. Jim takes over with his longer legs and fights for five and a half hours until we reach the crest of Liberty Ridge.
It takes us nine hours to climb 1,000 feet. Jim is utterly exhausted from his efforts. We spend two hours taking turns building a snow cave, alternatively working to delicately balance overheating and shivering. We crawl in and the roof collapses. With strong winds and heavy snow, we start another cave in the dwindling light.
The second cave is very small, much smaller than the first. I sit next to the opening and focus on keeping it clear as the blowing snow fights to pack our entrance shut. Claustrophobia slowly possesses me. I nearly died in an avalanche burial six years prior on Mt. Robson in the Canadian Rockies. Suddenly I have to get out! With no thought, I begin thrashing and burrowing through the packed snow toward the entrance. Jim tries to stop me but I am obsessed with escape. When I emerge I am blown off my feet by the high winds, which are gusting at 70-80mph. Jim is nearly buried in my animalistic escape but manages to crawl out behind me with the bivouac sack. That’s when he shouts at me to get back in.
The bivy sack offers little protection. We shiver violently. Time is standing still. As hypothermia takes over, our shivering slows and eventually stops. I have no recollection of how we came to be sitting in the snow with the remnants of the bivy sack wrapped around our shoulders.

THE DESCENT

Mercifully, dawn comes. The sun pokes out at us through the dying storm on the morning of day five to reveal a ground blizzard blowing across the summit saddle. I’m fascinated watching the whole surface moving like a thick, white river.
We sit motionless. Jim is having auditory and visual hallucinations, and I begin imagining helicopter noises. Realizing we need to move or die, I dig a frozen orange out of my parka pocket and break it into sections. I push orange into Jim’s mouth, and then into mine, until it is gone. I find stale peanuts in a pocket and feed them to Jim one at a time. Still famished, I eat the orange peels too.
I retrieve our crampons and put them on Jim’s boots, then my own. I try to pull the climbing rope out of the snow, but it has frozen solid. I simply don’t have the strength to pull it loose or dig it out, so I untie it from my waist and drop it. Jim tries to rescue my pack from the bivy hole, but it too is frozen into the mountain. I pick up Jim’s pack, stuff the bivy sack into it, sling it over my shoulder, and help Jim up. “Come on, let’s go.”
Punching steps in the snow, I slowly guide us toward the Emmons Glacier. I make it only a few steps when I hear Jim cry out. He’s collapsed. He gives me a desperate look as I help him up and put his arm over my shoulder. We wind our way across the top of the Winthrop Glacier icefall in the direction of the Emmons Glacier: the easiest way down the mountain.
The ground blizzard is still blowing snow down the mountain, and having no climbing rope, I worry about the snow-concealed crevasses. I observe that chunks of frozen snow are blowing down the mountain, visible unless they drop into a crevasse, so I carefully proceed down following the chunks.
It takes us six hours to get to Schurman Hut.
We find its outwards opening door buried in snow and frozen shut. The only window has a broken pane, so by working through the hole I manage to get the window open and crawl in. The bunk next to the window is covered with a large mound of snow that had blown through the broken pane. I jam the door open by shoving from the inside. It’s done. We’re safe.

IT’S NOT OVER UNTIL IT’S OVER

Schurman Hut, named after an early Mt. Rainier guide and Boy Scout leader, was built by dozens of volunteers, including Ome Daiber who helped create Mountain Rescue, in the early 1960’s. It’s built of steel tunnel liner covered with cemented rocks and serves as a climbers’ refuge for emergencies. During the climbing season, it’s used by climbing rangers. In it, I find a two-burner Coleman stove, five gallons of stove fuel, a candle, a half-book of paper matches, a can of Spam, some dry milk, and coffee. We also find a radio with batteries too cold and weak to transmit, but we can hear the rangers ticketing cars without chains.
The storm, which had died considerably during our descent, comes back in full fury. Jim is very tired and doesn’t get up much for two days. I busy myself making toasted Spam and coffee and searching for more supplies. At the rear of the hut I find a steel locker with a brass National Park Service padlock made by the Best Lock Company. I beat on the lock with my ice hammer until it gives. Inside I find treasure: big, 5-gallon tin cans of emergency food! I keep what remains of the lock.
Using the big mound of snow by the window as a water source, I cook for two days, mostly soup and dried potatoes, and the hut warms to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, we snuggle together on a bunk under an old, rotten tent.
On the second day in the hut, we decide to make a run for it. We make it as far as the door where the wind literally blows us over, gusting at 90-100mph. Back inside we go.
At 4:30pm on the third day in the hut, we hear the wind die down at long last. We grab what little gear we have and start for Glacier Basin. By midnight we reach White River Campground, completely exhausted. Unable to wake the ranger, we sleep on the dry Ranger Station floor for a few fitful hours. 
Too cold to sleep any longer, we resume our march toward home. All night I punch steps in the snow. By dawn we arrive at the Park’s White River entrance, some 20 miles from Schurman Hut. We flag down a snowplow on Highway 410, and the driver takes us half a mile down the road to a working phone.
Jim calls the Mount Rainier Park Superintendent, who’s relieved to learn of our return. An Army helicopter had been waiting for days for a break in weather to come searching for us, and was just about to depart. We are taken to Jim’s car at Ipsut Creek where we we’re greeted by six of Jim’s friends who marched all the way up the Carbon Glacier to look for us. It’s our eighth day on Rainier, and we are finally safe.

EPILOGUE

All this happened 47 years ago, but the memory is as vivid as if it were yesterday. I’ve been lucky to survive 7 or 8 near-death experiences, but none as profound. If not for the Penberthy ice axes, or the break in the weather at the summit, our bodies would have been found later — just as Bill Loki discovered my pack in August 1971. I found Jim’s climbing rope, too, in July when I led a Mountaineers climb of Ptarmigan Ridge.
Jim and I never climbed together again. He went on to do important Himalayan climbs, and in 1972 I married Hille Harms, a climber, skier, kayaker, and artist, and I never did risky climbs again. But I cherish my memories and remember my old friends, including Jim and Mary Lou Wickwire, and will always hold a special place in my heart for the Willis Wall.
LEFT TO RIGHT: HOWARD ANDERSON, BILL LOKI, FRED DUNHAM, ED BOULTON, JIM WICKWIRE, FRED STANLEY, BARRY PRATHER (ON ‘63 EVEREST EXPEDITION). THEY ALL CAME TO FIND JIM AND ED BECAUSE THERE WERE NO PARK SERVICE MOUNTAIN RESCUE SERVICES. THEY CAME UP THE CARBON SIDE. PHOTO BY GENE PRATER.

28 July 2018

Extreme Fun for Turns All Year: Month 81


Get into the car wearing nothing but a tank top, shorts, ski boots, and tutu (duh). Go on a five minute ride. Walk 30 seconds, on snow, to the top of a flat landing and click into your skis. Sloosh your way down for 750ish vertical feet on perfect, skier-groomed corn. Carry skis back to car. Rinse. Repeat.

Thus Turns All Year Month 81 was complete! Generally skiing in July requires quite a bit more work (evidence here, here, and here), but this year Ben, Theresa, and I decided to push the easy button. As ya'll now know, I was busy planning my secret wedding and knew I had only one day in the month where I could ski. Theresa suggested a change of pace from our usual July Muir slog, and we were game for an adventure! Mt. Baker - here we come!

July 8, 2018 - Artist Point at Mt. Baker
We arrived and spent 45-minutes in the parking lot trying to figure out where, exactly, we should go. Eventually following a group of gals up a boot pack to a high point, we quickly realized we had no idea where we were going. Frustrating exploring brought us to the top of a steep chute that looked like it would go, but no one was sure. Brave Theresa raised her hand to go first!

You wouldn't know by her amazing style, but T still has no idea if this will go through or not yet.

Lucky for us, the chute had continuous snow, and only required one spicy snow-bridge crossing. Go fast so you don't fall in!

Snowbridge up and to the right. Photo by T.

Shredding the dirty snow.

Ben on a second lap, with our first object behind him, center.

Traversing down to the car, we realized we had a much easier option where everyone else was skiing, and set our sights on that. Back at the parking lot, Ben hitched a ride to get our car, brought it back down, and brought us all up. We did a few different creative shuttles like this during the day for a total of five laps and exactly 3,000ft of vert. I even reached a blistering 34.4 mph on one of those laps. Oh baby. Oh baby.

While we skied, the sun put on a dazzling show with a full "sun dog" rainbow ring. Ben also put on a show, skiing in shorts and donning a green tutu so he could fit in with the crowd.

The easy run. By the end of the day it was covered in moguls!

Sundawg. Photo by T.

#TeamTutu!

We made friends hitching as well, and did three laps with Travis from Canada. After our 5th easy lap we were tired, so we grabbed beers and lawn chairs, and joined the crowd for local pond-skim entertainment. By 2pm in the afternoon, the snow was warm, sticky, and slow. It made for spectacular crashes into the frozen lake that would literally take your breath away.

The jump collapsed at take off....

....and ended in an icy backflop!

All in all a GREAT day for Team Tutu! Dare I say the best July skiing I've ever experienced. I think we'll put this back on repeat next year!

Obligatory photo with Mt. Shuksan. Until next time my dear!

18 July 2018

How To Plan A Surprise Wedding



How to plan a surprise, secret wedding in 10 easy steps:
  1. Get engaged. Tell no one.
  2. Decide you don't want to plan a wedding and opt for a secret, surprise backyard ceremony instead. Make it a western themed pig roast, because you are from Montana and he loves to roast a pig.
  3. Go dress shopping. Alone. Surprise even yourself when you say yes to the dress and ugly cry when the sales gal asks you if it's the one.
  4. Convince your family to come to Seattle under the guise that it's a housewarming party. And oh by the way his family will be here and you don't want to plan a wedding so this might be the big chance they have to meet. Celebrate when they book tickets to come out. 
  5. Put together an elaborate plan to ask the person who set you up to officiate your wedding. Take her to dinner, then figure out a way to work the secret code word "persimmon" into the conversation as a clue to your soon-to-be-spouse to say the magic words: "Will you marry us?"
  6. Make a weekly list of tasks starting six weeks before the wedding, then have a daily list for the seven days prior. Scramble over all the last minute crap you just realized you need, and thank your lucky stars that you have helpful (but oblivious) friends and family to step up when needed. 
  7. Freak out a little more every day when you realize only four people know about this thing and 70 people are coming and ohmygod how the hell are you going to pull this off? 
  8. Run around like a chicken with your head cut off the morning of the party. Get everyone to leave so you can freak out alone while setting up without witnesses. Pull off a miracle, despite a few setbacks with the pig roaster, to get it all ready in time. Take a quick shower, make your sister do your hair, and show up to your own party 20 minutes late, but still 10 minutes before anyone else arrives. 
  9. Drink, mingle, try not to have a heart attack over the fact that, in minutes, you will be getting married. Find a creative way to empty the house, then get dressed with your photographer and officiant in secret. Have your Dad sent in so you can surprise him four minutes before everyone else so that he can walk you down the "aisle". Try not to cry too hard. Fail miserably.
  10. Take a deep breath, walk outside, and wait for the man of your dreams to point and say, "Hey, look back there!". Stand there with your dad, then start walking as the sea parts. Catch the eye of your soon to be spouse and take a deep breath. Appreciate. This is the first day of the rest of your life, and you have an amazing spouse and supportive family and community to share it with.
Of COURSE I rode a unicorn at my wedding.

Afterward: If you want to know how it all came together, read on. Otherwise scroll through for more pictures from our surprise wedding day.


I still cannot BELIEVE we pulled off the surprise wedding! Standing in the back of our yard next to my dad, watching the looks of surprise and shock on everyone's face when Jordan told them to turn around to see me in a wedding dress, is a moment I will cherish forever. We're so grateful for everyone who was able to be here, and sad about the people who were unable to come or we weren't able to include due to space/travel/logistics, etc. We love all of you, and appreciate having you in our lives.

You people have a lot of questions, so here are some answers to let ya'll in on our secrets: 

Yes, we really got married! Some folks thought it was a very elaborate joke, but I'm here to tell you, we signed paperwork and everything! Becca, our friend who is responsible for setting us up, was officially ordained to minister our ceremony, and my friend James and Jordan's mom signed as our witnesses!

No, no one else knew. We really didn't tell anyone! We asked Becca to be our officiant in April, and Meghan to be our photographer in June. Add Jordan and me to the list and you have a grand total of..... four people! That's it. Immediately after the ceremony, we walked back into the house with our families started pointing fingers accusing each other of hiding secrets. We called Dan and Allison up at the beginning of the ceremony to be our Best Man and Maid of Honor, and I planted limes in the pockets of Jordan's sister Olivia and my friend James under the guise that we were having a scavenger hunt and they would need those later when really they were for our gin & tonic unity ceremony. Only my dad found out before everyone else...by 4 minutes.

Surprise! You're my maid of honor! Sweet cat tank top by the way.

We had a rehearsal dinner, but no one knew it! Our families arrived by Friday evening, so we had everyone over for a pizza dinner. It was the first time they met, and I took this sneaky photo of everyone sitting in a circle chatting over 'za. Little did they know this was a rehearsal dinner!



This idea, like many good ones, was born on a road trip. We've been talking about getting hitched for a while, but never had any great ideas as to when and how, and frankly I didn't want to plan a wedding. I'm not one of those gals who grew up imagining my wedding, and the few things I wanted (a theme wedding. hawaiian rolls.) aren't generally accepted in "wedding culture". We were driving home from somewhere in early March when I told Jordan about a friend of our friend McKenzie who had a Gentlemen's Bocce Ball Tournament wherein the winning couple got a prize. It was rigged, and the prize was that they got married! He thought it was so cool, and I loved the idea of a surprise wedding! A few weeks later it dawned on me that we could do the same thing, and after telling Jordan I had an idea but I wasn't sure he was ready for it, I suggested that perhaps we should have a housewarming and do a surprise wedding. To my surprise he loved it, and we began planning the wedding on our trip to the Bahamas in late March.

We became officially engaged in our backyard. A few years ago, we went on a trip to see my grandparents in California and we visited an old coal mine. I'll write a longer post about this in the future, but on that trip I was given a "prairie engagement ring" by an old man in a re-enactment blacksmith shop. The ring is a flat-top, horseshoe nail bent in a circle. I've always loved it, and Jordan had a platinum band custom designed after the original ring. He was planning to propose in the Bahamas, but the ring wasn't going to be ready for a while. Then he was going to propose on the summit of Mt. Baker in May, but we didn't make the top, so he proposed that night in our backyard. It was simple and perfect.

Photo by Meghan Young.

Yes, I bought the dress by myself (and it came with pockets). Knowing the timeline of needing to get a wedding dress, I went dress shopping before we were engaged. I went to one store, tried on six dresses, and bought the very first one I tried on. I loved the ivory color, the open lace, and the fact that it had pockets. When I said yes to the dress, I absolutely ugly-cried in the store by myself. It would have been great to have a gaggle of friends and family with me, but this was one of the trade-offs of a secret wedding.

I picked the theme based entirely on a pair of cowgirl boots. We were in Portland last year shopping at the flee markets when we saw a pair of blue cowgirl boots in my size. They were $12. Jordan bought them for me and I love them, and knew they'd make an excellent wedding shoe as my "something blue". The Western theme was born from this pair of boots.

Before the reveal.
Carve it up pardn'r!

Getting everyone here was a challenge, and we regret a few notable absences. Jordan's parents and sister were planning to come to Seattle for his cousin's wedding in late July, so we decided to see if they could also come the weekend prior. When they said yes, we started planning the Housewarming Pig Roast for July 14, 2018. I called my family and suggested they come out for the party under the guise that Jordan and I would likely elope so this would be the only chance for our families to meet. My mom booked a flight, and my sisters, dad, brother-in-law, and baby niece drove the 10+ hours each way to attend. My mom also helped convince my grandparents to come with only a few weeks to go - thanks Mom! My best friend Allison lives in San Diego, but she was going to be in the Seattle area for a class, so she came a few days early at my request. My oldest friend and #LimeOfHonor James lives in Chicago, but has a brother in Seattle, so I asked him to pretty please book one of his trips to visit around our party. Then came Jordan's friends. He's never specific, so when he called a few of them and asked for a visit on a specific date, they obliged, flying in from Florida and driving up from Portland. The local friends were easier, and we appreciate the folks who let us convince them this was better than Enchantment Permits, climbing in Squamish, and hanging out with their wife and 5-day old baby. But the hardest thing about this party is the folks we weren't able to be here, specifically Jordan's brother Adam, his wife Vicki, and kids Sam, Brooke, and Luke. They were especially missed.

Putting in the lime in our "something borrowed" glass from McKenzie's wedding! #BestLime #LimeOfHonor #WhatNoLimeBearer?

We had a few big snafu's the day of the Pig Roast (with a side of Wedding), but in general the whole thing was relatively stress-free. I have a number of friends planning weddings right now, and it all seems very high-drama. The beauty of a surprise wedding is we had only our own expectations and, overall, things went pretty well. The day of the party our rented, tow-behind propane bbq stripped a screw in the motor and wasn't turning. We turned it manually for about an hour before the awesome folks at Aurora Rents were able to fix it! And actually, Jordan told that guy it was for a surprise wedding and they really took care of us (so, technically, 5-people knew - shout out for excellent response time and customer service from Aurora Rents!). We also had a few tense moments when a line on one of the kegs blew and when we discovered ants devouring some food, but we got all of that sorted. 

My dad found out 4-minutes before he walked me down the aisle. I couldn't be absent from the party for very long, and we needed to lock up the house to keep everyone out while I got dressed, which is not a very good idea at a "housewarming". Becca helped me dress while Meghan took photos. When I was ready, we sent Becca out to get my dad (which took a minute, because it happened at the same moment we had the ants-on-the-food situation). He came in, took one look at me, and we both started crying. It was a special moment. "Did you get married?" Yes...well no. We are getting married. "When?" Well, right now! "I better go put my boots back on!" He ran out of the room but I grabbed him and said, well, we have a few more minutes! Meghan snapped photos, then it was time to go outside.

Popi tears will make anyone cry.

I made my own bouquet, but forgot to carry it. With all of the things to remember and only a few folks to remember them, I forgot my bouquet when I walked down the aisle. I made the bouquet only a few hours before using some of the flowers from the store, but also two roses and a handful of wildflowers from our yard. We also forgot to video call important family members, and we completely neglected to do our First Dance, Father/Daughter Dance, and Mother/Son dance. After the party wrapped up, Jordan and I did share a first dance in our bedroom at 2am. Like the proposal it was intimate, simple, and perfect.

Jordan gathered everyone at the front with an "announcement", while I snuck out of the house and stood at the back. Then he said "look back there". Everyone turned in unison. Folks started to gasp, and then cheer. Becca turned on my music, and I walked down the aisle to this version of Here Comes the Sun. Well, it wasn't an aisle until Jordan asked folks to move and make one. I was so distracted that I didn't even look at Jordan! But when we locked eyes for the first time, it was a life changing moment. I feel like my heart grew a little, feeling the love coming from him and the support from our community.

A dress with pockets = I could take a picture of everyone mid ceremony!

Becca performed the ceremony, and did a wonderful job. Four years ago Becca introduced Jordan and I. She's been a wonderful support system for me both as a friend and colleague, and an amazing friend to Jordan for many years. We are forever grateful for her to setting us up, and cannot imagine our wedding day without her. Many folks could not believe she wasn't a professional officiant! She told an incredible story of our relationship in her ceremony, which I will share, at least in part, in the future. We also integrated my GrandBob, who officiated a number of weddings in my family, to read the Apache Wedding Blessing in a surprise reading (he really wasn't in on it either)!

Seconds before the first kiss. 

Gotta do a dip for the first kiss.

Really, no one else knew. Not even my mother and best friend. Seriously. As proof, here is photographic evidence of what my mother wore to the wedding. Do you think she would have chosen this outfit knowing it'd be memorialized forever in our wedding album?




We cannot thank everyone enough for being a part of this special day. We hope it was as memorable and fun for you as it was for us.



Walking down the aisle to Macklemore! High fives for EVERYONE!

Photo by Meghan. Tutu suggestion from Jordan.

Cheers to a new life together! Huge thanks to Peggy and Doug for this thoughtful (and perfect) gift!