27 June 2012

Seeing Red

Red Mountain, out objective


One weekend in April, James and I decided to head up to Red Mountain for a little spring corn action. The route to the summit shares the start with Slot Coulior, meaning we hiked adjacent to Phantom Face and skied down close to the same route we came up. Luckily on my trip with James, I did NOT lose my helmet or have any other unfortunate incidents, although we both almost fell into a river.... James may have tossed my ski in the water on accident, but it's okay, I may have hit him in the face with my pole accidently, so these things have a way of working themselves out....All in all we had a great day! We had to boot pack the last bit to the summit (since it's steep), but the weather was decent and the snow was some of the best corn I've ever skied! Thanks Red!

Summit Self Shot

View of the Tooth from the top. Some day I plan to climb it.

James coming up the last bit. His lazy glute started acting up

Phantom Face

Spicy River Crossing

20 June 2012

Little Devil - Part 2

I left you with Day 1 of our 2-day epic trying to reach Little Devil's Peak in the North Cascades. Here's how the rest of the trip shaped up:

We awoke on Sunday morning to clouds and rainbows. There was definitely a storm coming in and we were glad we planned to get out of camp by 5:45am to start towards the peak. We estimated it would take about 3 hours to get there.

Storm Clouds

Rainbow!

The night had not brought us the thaw that we anticipated. In fact, it was rather humid and warm. I always have a hard time layering in those conditions, but eventually I figured it out.

HOW many jackets should I wear?

I love this picture. I'll call it "Skier's Silhouette" 

Even though the weather didn't require it, we were all still thankful to Kevin for putting in the skin tracks the previous evening! It made for some fast skinning, and we were across the long ridge in a mere 30 minutes.

Setting off

Pole. Step. Pole. Step. Pole. Step.

The Ridge Traverse

Once around the bend, we navigated through a flat section with the sun peeking out of the clouds. We had still NOT laid eyes on Little Devil's Peak, and 90 minutes into our tour I was beginning to this this peak was a figment of Kevin's imagination....

Sun Spots

Huh, I wonder where the cloud layer is? Not obvious or anything.

Looking back from whence we came

Then, as if on cue, we could suddenly see it. Little Devil's Peak, in all her glory! 

There she is! Center.
Who's excited? THIS GUY!

To get to Little Devil, we needed to pull off our skins and made some turns down an open bowl before skinning back up and traversing to begin the climb to the summit. We discussed avalanche conditions, as the temperatures were warming, but it was still before 8am, so we chose to keep going... speedily.

Conferencing

First turns of the weekend. Heavy, but decent snow.

In total, it took about another hour from where we skied down to get to the summit. In keeping with Cascade weather traditions, the conditions that met us on the summit were rainy, windy, and generally unpleasant. Kevin stood on Little Devi first (he certainly earned it!) and he was able to find the register placed there in 2007 by Fay Pullen, a local area legend known for being the first person to stand atop the summit of most of Washington's more obscure peaks.

Fay's Register

Little Devils

While on the peak, we all heard buzzing, similar to what it sounds like to be under a power line. I had never experienced this before, but apparently before/during a storm the ambient static energy can cause your metal objects to literally start buzzing. We were all carrying ice axes - thus the buzzing. This phenomena was completely mind blowing to me, but it also signaled danger, so we got off that peak without dawdling. Not that the wind blasting in our faces was encouraging us to stay anyway.

Skiing off of Little Devil was better than anticipated. We made a couple of long cuts across the bowl to make sure nothing slid, and generally enjoyed the skiing.

She looks much better with ski tracks

We were traversing below a rocky ridge line to begin climbing the first bowl we had skied earlier in the morning, when a cornice above let loose a point avalanche. Roaring towards us, the avy stopped just above our ski tracks. To say we were unenthusiastic by this development would be a gross understatement. There was no time for discussion, we just had to get out of there! Fast. With my heart beating out of my chest, I BOOKED IT up the hill, setting a new Kristina Land Speed record for skinning.

Once safely out of harm's way, we looked back to survey just how close we'd come. The picture says much more than I ever could.

Lucky

The rest of the trip back to camp went smoothly. We packed up our tents, ate some much needed food, and started on our ski trip down. The snow was wet and miserably heavy. I fell a number of times due to thigh muscle fatigue. Skiing in that stuff is hard enough, let alone with a 35lb pack. 

At one point, Kevin let off a slab avalanche (on purpose) which cleared a HUGE area for us to ski down. It was like a grooming machine had driven straight up the slope! I was happy to make a few awesome super-g style turns before we got back into the miserable heavy snow in the trees.

A few more face and some close calls with tree branches later, we were back at our shoes. We slid down the snow taking short cuts of the trail for as long as we could, before having to hike another hour plus back to the car. I have never been happier to get in a skunk stinking car!

Our trip ended in a small Washington town off Highway 20 at a restaurant called, if you can believe it, GOOD FOOD. The food was not what I would call good, but it was food and we were hungry. Plus, it gave Grandpa Max and Wammie a chance to make a new friend - the restaurant cat, who would NOT leave us alone. 


Kitty was very tolerant, for the price of some chicken

Fed Little Devil was a GREAT weekend and I give it an A+ for embracing new experiences and weekend warrior-ing. Thanks Kevin for taking us out. I can't wait for our next adventure!

Flashing the gangsta UW sign. Great weekend!

17 June 2012

Little Devil's Peak 2-Day Trek - Part 1


In late April, Kevin decided he wanted to make one more attempt to summit Little Devil's Peak, an obscure, indistinguishable peak in the North Cascades that tops out at 6,985 ft. Kevin, who you remember from Slot Coulior, had made two previous attempts to summit but had been turned around due to inclimate weather. Never one to turn down an opportunity to get outside, I jumped at the invitation to join Kevin and Ben in their little adventure. With the last minute addition of Ryan, our summit team was born.

THIS is how you pack a car
We met at my house on a Friday afternoon and loaded up the Subi. One thing to note - Kevin got skunked a few weeks prior to this trip, and let's just say his car did not exactly smell like daisies....

A few hours and mild nausea later, we arrived at the trail head and pitched our tents. Grandpa Max, never one to be left out of the action, poured a few back, and even made a new friend!: Wammie, Kevin's Action Figure Mascot! 

Gpa's FIRST wombat ride!
After a restful night's sleep (once the skunk-smell headache subsided) we packed up our gear and set off up the trail. This was my first ever multi-day ski trip and my first time snow camping. I learned many things on this trip:
  1. Load up your skis, then clip the boots into them for ease of carrying
  2. Bring plastic bags - they go over your ski boots to keep stuff from getting in them while you're hiking, AND they serve as a place to stash your hikers once you're done with them
  3. Always bring extra caribeaners. Always.
Skis + Boots + Skins +++ Camping Gear = Seriously heavy pack 
Boys scoping out the trail; Post-holing pre-skinning. Post-holing is the worst
Trail hiking took about 90 minutes before we hit enough snow to warrant putting our skis on our feet. By the time we "skinned up" I was ready for a break!

Gpa helping Kevin with the route finding - is it this way?; Skinning up
Once up on the snow, our route split from the trail that we had been sharing with Lookout Mountain trailhead and we (read: Kevin) cut a steep, wandering skin track up through the trees. Searching for the safest route, we meandered a little bit, but ultimately came to a series of mushroom pillows that needed to be navigated to get us to our camping destination for the evening. It made for some challenging skinning, ultimately resulting in a little scramble to get to the top. Great views though!

So. Fluffy!

Lookout Mountain, complete with a Lookout

Our dicey snow scramble - skis were passed up conveyor belt style
After the mushroom pillow debacle, we were pretty much home free! Kevin led us to a flat col on the mountain, out of the wind and safe from any avy danger.  

Last traverse

In all, it took us about 7 hours, with breaks, to get to camp. Quite a big day - but it still gave us plenty of day light to set up camp. Everyone pitched in to dig us two sweet tent platforms, a 'kitchen', and a bathroom - even Grandpa Max!

Shoveling tent platform; Digging out the latrine, Grandpa got interrupted doing some business
Boys in the kitchen, as it should be

The views were breathtaking. I feel like I've said this a lot in these backcountry blogs, but there really is nothing like being out in the mountains, especially the North Cascades. And when the weather gods shine on you, you've just got to take a moment to breath it all in. I feel very fortunate to lead the life I do, and I am definitely not taking any of this for granted.

A picture says a 1,000 words
Glacier Lake
Perfect spot to enjoy my bag o' wine
Panoramic - wish there were a better way to share this. Click on image to expand.
After dinner we were treated to a lovely sunset which I enjoyed from the comfort of the 'kitchen'. Kevin was concerned about the snow freezing over night, so he took off to lay in a skin track across the nearby ridge to anticipate saving us hours of skinning the following morning.

Kevin taking in the views at the top of the point

Gorgeous Campsite
Cloud whisps saying goodnight
Good Night Ridge

The sun went to bed and so did we, anticipating an early start to avoid avy danger. Did we make it to our destination summit? Tune in to the next blog to find out!

08 June 2012

San Diego Half - Results Edition

I started my birthday month off with a BANG traveling down to San Diego to run a half-marathon with some members of The Group. We stayed with our running Mo-Pho friend Lee and his lovely family. I've got lots and lots of pics to share, but for now, I'll just say it was a great trip and a great race! I didn't hit my goal, but I did set a new PR (personal record) and had a blast traveling with Grandpa Max and the crew!

Gpa Max, RAWR, and Jose Cristo. Oh, and me and Allikeeno of course

Safari Run? Safari COSTUMES!
Proud Finishers! Man I'm short.
I'm excited to share my results, plus I don't want you all think the only thing I do is ski! I came in 33rd out of 369 in my division of females 25-29! Finishing time was 1:55:35; :35-seconds slower than my goal, but with the killer hills at miles 6 and 12, I am not at all upset! Here's a look at the race profile from Lee's watch and from my new Garmin 610. My best mile? A 6:05 pace - yup that was straight downhill!

Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

I just signed up to run my first full marathon in Portland in October! EEEK! Nervous and excited!


Slot Coulior - A Helmet's Tale

I have been hearing about the Slot Coulior on Mt. Snoqualmie since I started BC skiing. The skiers who dared face it's perils said such thinks as:
  • Oh man, SLOT is wicked steep
  • Slot has to be IN or it's a death trap
  • Duuuude, Slot is sweeeeet
You can imagine my elation, then, when my friend proposed we go and do Slot Coulior. "Isn't it steep?" I asked. "Why yes, yes it is," he answered. AWESOME!

On April 8, I ventured out with Ben, Kevin, and George. The early morning greeted was cold. We started skinning before the thaw, meaning the going was icy and difficult! As outlined in my Intro to BC Skiing Blog, skins affixed to the bottom of bc skis to provide friction on the snow and keep you in place as you move uphill...but they can only go so far. For conditions such as these, it's really beneficial to have ski crampons. At the time I was not an owner of said glorious devices that let you stride up an ice face with ease and confidence, so instead, I floundered.

For an hour.

I took my skis off and boot packed.

I put the skis back on and attempted to skin some more.

I wallowed.

I took the skis off again.... you get the drift.

During my struggle (covering 400ft in the hour), I managed to unclip my climbing helmet (which I use for BC skiing) and watched it slide dramatically down into the icy culvert we had just struggled to climb. I watched in horror as the helmet bobbsledded through the gully, listening to the heart wrenching skidding sound as it sailed across the icy crust. Eventually it came to rest. However,  a good 45 minutes below my current location factoring for round trip travel, we chatted as a group and weighed our options and safety concerns, and ultimately decided to leave it and get it on the way down.

Ben showing off his....actually I'm not sure what he's doing. Warming the snow?

A few hours into our climb we took a break to have some snacks. I was drowning my helmet-sorrows with a juicy apple with trail mix, when up the trail strove my Knight in Shining Armor: a sweaty skier wearing my helmet! He had found it on the way up, and was planning to keep it, until I gave him my puppy dog eyes and he graciously gave it back! Apparently my helmet's resting spot was this skier's lucky spot - he had found a GPS device in the exact same place about 2-months prior.

Okay, enough with the dramatics - we geared back up and continued our climb up Phantom Face until we came to a col. This is the turning point, as some climbers continue up to ski the slot site-unseen, and others choose to ski down a nice little bowl to traverse and climb directly up the slot. We chose the latter, and more arduous, option as it would give us a better sense for the conditions.

Views looking south and west from Phantom face

As advertised, the face was steep, but not overly intimidating. I found it too difficult to skin up, so I chose to hike with my skis on the pack (this time successfully and with my helmet securely fastened). For 2,000 vertical feet.


Boot Pack Train, going up

Watch out that your skis don't tip you over there Kevin

Two parties skied down past us as we were climbing. The snow looked fluffy and awesome. Much better for skiing than for boot packing, but hey, that's a trade I'll take any day.

The summit views were a bit cloudy, but still pretty spectacular. Lots of pointy Cascade mountains to drool over. I might have picked out a few future lines....

Boys are too busy eating to smile for a summit shot

Summit Views

After masticating to our hearts content, we dropped into the slot one by one. We were rewarded with fluffy, amazing, steep turns. At its steepest, the slope was probably close to 50 degrees. I, of course, picked the steepest line. I don't have any pictures of me skiing, but here's Ben in the slot, to give you a sense of it's sheer awesomeness!

Ben scoping his line on our glorious day

I can't wait to go back next year! Who's with me?