25 June 2014

Mountaineers: Not Just For Old Dudes

The Mountaineers launched a fancy new website on Cinco de Mayo, and as the Content Project Manager, the site launch pretty much took over my life for all of April and May (except for, you know, when I was in Norway). Subsequently I neglected to share the most recent publication of Mountaineer Magazine, to which I was once again privileged to contribute.

Here's a look at the article for you (centerfold again! And this time my article is the cover photo too - although I get NO credit for the actual photos): an in-depth historical look at history of mountaineering with The Mountaineers, through the words of one of our excellent leaders Cebe Wallace, and his quest to change the "old guy's club" stigma.

Full article starting on page 23.

16 June 2014

Norway - Sjufjellet (1086m) (and our first summit!)

The roads in Norway are plagued with something called a Frost Heaves - a inverse speed bump caused from the freeze/thaw cycle of the road. Some of them look bad and are fine, and others look innocuous and will send your car airborne.

That is not an exaggeration. We might have done some damage (to the car AND Nick's noggin'). With a full car and 7 days of driving we went over many frost heaves and even came to regard the ones near our cabin with loving affection.

It should surprise no one that I laughed like a little school girl at the "warning: frost heaves" sign:

"Frost Heaves". Tee hee.

After getting shut down on our Norwegian summit attempts not once but twice we were hopeful our third day would grant us kinder weather. We selected a 3-4 hour tour of Sjufjellet, the "most popular mountain in the Tamok Valley" according to our guidebook. It had two possible descents, and only one real area of concern for avalanches, and we were stoked.

Day 3: Sjufjellet.
Unfortunately, we did not catch a break on the weather. Arriving at our parking area after another bumpy ride, we located the base of our "mountain" and parked. We could not, as per usual, see the summit. But on this day we did see other skiers, and were happy to follow their fresh tracks through the few inches of freshies to the top.

With very little convincing I got Julian to put on my loaner tutu (which at this point has traveled nearly as far and wide as Grandpa Max - thanks for the great Christmas present Matt!). And let me tell you - he ROCKED that thing. I mean, check out how he just owns the blue and gold:

Julian modeling the latest in tutu attire.

Two tutus. One Sjufjellet.

We followed the tracks up the mountain with really easy skinning. We caught and passed a few other groups, saying hello to mostly Finish people, and being on our way. I'd say we were enjoying the views, but, well, there weren't any.

Langley showing her enthusiasm for the AMAZING scenery. Photo by Kelly.

Skinning into the abyss.

Wait. I think I see something up there?

After skinning for about 1800' we did the long traverse (indicated in the guidebook photo) and could see nothing. We briefly thought of turning around when we made a left turn up a ridgeline and the change in aspect meant better visibility. We could continue! It was snowing slightly now and the wind had picked up, but I was pretty stoked to be able to keep climbing.

Rounding the corner.

The most perfectly timed selfie captured snowflake. Photo by Julian (obviously).

Before we knew it, we were on the summit! Or, I guess I was on the true summit by a whopping 3ft and everyone else had enough. The wind was quite strong. We all struggled to put on more and more and more layers, remove our skins, and get the hell out of the damn wind.

Selfie on the true summit. You can see everyone gearing up behind with the wind whipping around their bags.

We skied back down the ridgeline (in poor visibility) opting to descend the way we came, rather than the more challenging (navigation wise at least) other descent option. According to my notes from the day, the snow was "cohesive and fun". From what I remember now 2 months later, it was some of the better snow of the trip, and I really enjoyed myself on the way down.

Stoked to ski down! Photo by Kelly.


The view. Photo by Nick. 

That's me! Photo by Nick.

In fact, it was so nice we did it twice! After eating some lunch at the car, Nick, Julian and I opted to go for a second lap. We skinning back up to the 2100' mark, transitioned, and enjoyed another fantastic decent down to the car. I'm not sure if it was the leggings or the tutu or the fact that I was a girl ripping down the slopes, but I got my fair share of strange looks and confused faces. I suppose Julian did too, being in the tutu and all. Nick always get those looks, being a snowboarder. 


Grandpa Max is having fun too!

Oh that's weird. Waiting on a splitboarder to transition.

Happy skiers all ready!

I actually really love this shot. Contemplating awesomeness.
Not bad Norway, not bad. Photo by Nick.

With a successful summit in the can, we bumped our way home where everyone ate surprisingly delicious grilled cheese with tomato soup (prepared lovingly by yours truly). We also each enjoyed our one beer for the day. Ahh, Norway :)

See Ma? I cook!

Mmm? Beer.

13 June 2014

Operation 30 Before 30 - Complete

Exactly one month ago I turned 30. Inspired by my fabulous and inventive friend Ginger, I created my own 30 Before 30 List just after my 28th birthday. With two full years to complete the list I was ambitious, listing things like: run a full marathon, travel to see my favorite band in concert, summit 3/5 NW volcanoes, and eat at all the restaurants in my new neighborhood.

By the end of 2012, I had completed some of my easier to do's, but certainly had a ways to go. Then, by the end of 2013 I was really feeling the pressure. I had just 5-months and, like, 13 things still on my list. D'oh. 

I endeavored on, determined to finish ALL of my tasks. Then, around mid-March I realized there were just a few things I no longer had the time/desire to do. And you know what? That's okay. In the end, I went a scored a solid 27.5/30 on my list. You can't ask for any better than your best - which I feel confident I gave. 

Despite some reservations, I'm going to share my list in full. I hope hope it will inspire you to set achievable but far reaching goals for yourself. It may surprise you that some of these are incredibly personal and not at all about outdoor achievements. In some cases I had an original goal but crossed it out in favor of a more achievable/realistic/desirable goal. In that case I've shared the original goal, but have crossed it out and shown the replacement. For the items not achieved I have listed them, but vaguely. Perhaps I will eventually unroll those for you when they're finally complete.

So here it is, as written, the Complete 30 Before 30 List: 

  1. Climb & Ski Three Volcanos (this is a big goal, so each volcano counts for one): Adams
  2. Climb & Ski Three Volcanos: Baker (so nice I did it twice)
  3. Climb & Ski Three Volcanoes: Rainier! (bonus of Hood and Helens with an honorable mention for admirable attempts on Glacier and Shasta)
  4. Run a Marathon
  5. Ride the STP Unpack and get over baggage from relationships past
  6. Visit Africa Go Skydiving
  7. Ride and elephant Allow myself to cry in front of someone without embarrassment
  8. Pay off student loans
  9. Hike Mt. Si
  10. INCOMPLETE: Climbing goal
  11. INCOMPLETE: Personal fitness goal
  12. Travel for a Mumford & Sons Concert
  13. Buy an Audi Become known for something (skiing in a tutu)
  14. Kayak in Lake Union
  15. Find a job I love (Bonus: they picked me in part due to this blog, and now I get to have my writing published!)
  16. Run 100 miles in a month
  17. INCOMPLETE: Technology goal (half-way though!)
  18. Grow basil at home Run a beer mile
  19. Hike the Enchantments
  20. Buy a new computer
  21. Use National Parks Pass in 3 parks
  22. Try standup paddleboarding
  23. Listen to monks at St. Mark's Cathedral Visit my neighborhood Monastery 
  24. Spend a day painting Get completely out of comfort zone (date auction anyone?)
  25. Take a 1-month hiatus from drinking
  26. Participate in the Fremont Solstice Parade
  27. Publish 200 blogs (I had 75 to go when I wrote that goal)
  28. Try every restaurant in my neighborhood
  29. Ski 12 30 consecutive months for Turns All Year (I'm now on month 32!)
  30. Throw a kickass thirtieth birthday party!!!
Celebrating 30 in style.

I could certainly write about each of these goals and what achieving them meant to me personally, but ultimately this was my journey, and my lessons will be different than yours. The overarching theme, though, is that it's okay to make changes to your list and goals. It's totally fair to want to adjust along the way. I don't view 8 crossed-out items on my list as 'failures'. I took stock of my place on this journey and allowed myself to change direction when it felt necessary. It's a success to redirect the course of your life when it's not going in the right direction. One of my favorite quotes of all time, which I've posted before, is this:

Turn around and take a step forward.

What's next? I'm not entirely sure. My goals for 2014 are to continue my best efforts to make a big impact at my awesome job, travel somewhere with lots of yummy limestone to rock climb (Thailand? Back to Hexico?), and enjoy a little more time solo time reading and sleeping. Yeah, after the last few months I could really go for some long afternoon naps in the sun.

05 June 2014

Baker via Squak Glacier - Summit Ski in a Day

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of posts about Norway to bring you this very important announcement : yesterday (Wednesday, June 4) I climbed Baker and skied down from the summit. With Theresa. We were both wearing tutus. Because: Team Tutu.  

Get your skins waxed and sharpen those edges, I'm about to take you on a trip up a mountain full of slide alder, adventure skinning, crevasse crossings, icy traverses, Agro wind gusts, perfect spring corn, grabby spring glop, and more adventure skiing.

Team Tutu!

Theresa doesn't work Wednesdays and I have an amazing job that let me take a much needed comp day, so we drove up to Baker on Tuesday night. Models of efficiency, we arrived at 10pm and lights were out by 10:30pm. In that time we entirely packed our bags and prepped our gear for a 4:15am wake up call, and we made a very comfortable bed in the back of her Saturn. I was big spoon. 


We left the car at 5:09am (officially) and started skinning up right from the car (at 3200'), which was parked just down the road from the trailhead due to snow closures. We made it a whopping quarter mile before yours truly needed to use the facilities - but luckily we just happened to be passing the trailhead at the time. High-fives for fully stocked outhouses!

Our car on the right. Theresa started skinning from where she's standing.

Instead of taking the normal summer trail, we just started skinning straight North from the trailhead and found ourselves meandering amongst the standard PNW fare: slide alder, downed trees, muddy snow, you know, the usual. Theresa and I had just reached a point requiring navigational decisions when another group happened upon us. As luck would have it, 3/5 of them had done the exact same ski just four days prior (it was so nice they did it twice) and so we followed them up through the dicey tree section. 

For about 1,500 feet you're in pretty gnarly old-growth forest with lots of downed logs and pine needles and old man's beard everywhere. We skinned through the muck pretty consistently with only one short carry-over. Dave, the leader of our new friend's who had done the same tour on Sunday, said the meltout even over just a few days was considerable. Needless to say, our skins were soaking wet. I recommend pre-waxing your skins.

For our part, we were stoked to have someone show us the way, and even more excited when we came out of the trees ( at 3890') and could see the mountain for the first time. It was a beautiful morning.

Adventure skinning. Just follow the snow.

Mank on our skis.

Mountain View

Once out of the trees and into the sunshine, I got super hot (the temps were mid-50s with minimal wind) and had to remove my pants. Don't worry folks, of course I was wearing my radtastic tiger leggings underneath. I don't know what it is with those leggings - maybe they are made out of magic - but they perfectly regulate my body temperature even in high winds... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Once we cleared the trees we hugged the ridgeline climber's right to make it to the top of a prominent rockline (at 5740'). There, we put on our glacier gear (harness, beacons) ate some food and were on our way. With the dicey tree navigation it took us just under 3 hours to get here - we left that spot at 8:19am.

Prominent rockline at center. Baker summit behind.

Out view of mountains in the mist.

From the rock ridge some of the climbers in our group opted to stay high to cross the valley before you reach the glacier. We stuck low, and while we lost a little elevation initially, the skinning was much more tolerable, and we could see that the other climbers were actually on the down track, making it all the more difficult.

Our advice: stay low.

We took our next waypoint about an hour later when we were roughly half way up the mountain. Four thousand feet down, four thousand more to go. At this point the skinning got a bit more difficult, but nothing we couldn't handle. Overall it was definitely on the icy side, getting firmer as you ascend. Some clouds were coming in but generally just formed a layer of mist, and were not troubling.

Me skinning! My hands are in the air because I am having FUN!

Theresa with views of the Sisters behind.

We slowly ascended until we encountered the first real seracs around 7500'. At this point my TopoMaps iPhone app isn't the most accurate, but, you'll know these seracs when you see them. We stopped nearby for some fuel and to take in the views, then endeavored on. At this point we also opted to put on our ski-crampons, a must have piece of equipment if you plan to skin Baker in a day in the spring. The skinning was quite icy, and any sort of side-hilling was nearly impossible without immaculately tuned skins and supremely sharp edges.

Me skinning past seracs.
Looking over at the seracs.

We came to our first crevasse at 8200', and then encountered a second crack just 300' higher. We were wearing harnesses but were not roped up, and as we were on skis and not on foot we deemed these safe to cross sans roping-up. 

The first crack was about 8" wide at its thinnest point where we chose to cross. It was very deep and incredibly blue at the bottom. To climbers left as you cross there is a hidden deep gully. So be careful. I wish I had taken a photo, but when you're crossing a crevasse the last thing you want to do is take a few extra seconds for a picture. 

The second crack ran across nearly the whole slope but was easily crossable at a few points with solid snow bridges. It did not appear to be nearly as deep, or rather it hadn't opened up as far quite yet. This one will most likely create problems for climbers this summer, and I'd imagine will eventually make the route impassable.

Second crack.

Now safely above the crevasses, the skinning was steep but doable to the crater rim. Once we rounded the corner off of the Squak Glacier to the Easton however, the wind just started HOWLING. Theresa was miserable - I, wearing the magical leopard leggings, was less so but still not super stoked to be getting blown over.

We took some time at the crater rim (which I'll be honest, I had NO IDEA was there because I've only ever climbed Baker from the Coleman-Deming side, which was much more of a slog than the direct Squak route) to discuss the clouds, which were rising in elevation but not increasing in size or changing consistency. After eating more delicious sandwich and putting on extra layers, we were both motivated enough to continue our climb up the Roman Wall. We shouldered our skis and put on our boot crampons. Only 1,000 feet to go!

Below Sherman Peak. Cross this crack far-left where there's no real crack yet.

Yup. Had no idea this was there.

Theresa approaching the crater rim with smoke billowing out.

Once on the Roman Wall, the wind abated just a bit, and with the sun beaming we noted the skiing might be quite good. Warning to my fellow sufferers of shortness, the steps up the roman wall were lain by giants. I had to take some pretty gigantor steps.

We crossed the standard bergschrund mid-wall and were basically good to go from there. Although poorly spaced the booting was straightforward and soon we were making our way to the true summit. It took just over 8 hours to cover the 8,000' to get there.

Theresa crossing the schrund.
Summit view looking south.
We spent a whopping total of about 45-seconds on the summit taking these photos while be blasted by the wind. We found another use for the tutus as well (other than the obvious: safety, awesomeness, identification in photos, making your legs look skinnier) - WIND SOCK! The tutu always lets you know if the wind is blowing, and blowing it was. One gust of especially agro wind almost knocked me from my feet. I'd like to give a shout out to my awesome ski poles for providing some stability in my moment of need.



Team Tutu!
We put the skis back on (with skins) and scooched our way towards the edge of the headwall to see if we could see below. Afraid of a cornice collapse, we didn't see much. Back at the top of the Roman Wall we ripped skins and started ripping turns. Firm for the first 300', the snow softened up below and was a really, really fun time!

I might be excited for SKIING!

Theresa scootching towards ecstasy. You can't see but she's excited too.

Aight - here we go!

We skied for about 2,000' before we felt out-of-the-wind enough to open our summit beers. We laid our our packs, propped up our skis to dry, and took in the beautiful views. Clouds were continuing to blow in from the west, but they were dissipating right above our heads, and so we didn't mind at all and instead took our time to enjoy the beers. Man were they delicious. 

Theresa on the Roman Wall.


The skiing was really good in the upper mountain. Pretty much perfect spring corn. Don't take my word for it - here's some video of me chasing Theresa down the hill (once we were safely below the crevasses of course). One thing to know about Theresa - she's a racer. I am a racer too, but less so, AND I was filming, so don't judge me for not quite keeping up with her.

The skiing on the lower mountain, specifically just above our "harness up spot" (roughly at 6500') was decidedly less awesome. Like a drunk guy at a party who gets a little too handsy, this snow just did not know how to not grab at you. I can deal with sticky snow, but not when it's grabby and inconsistent. The might "pizza" snowplow would soon become my best friend.

Now we start the 'manky' portion of our 8,000' ski decent.

From there we made our way down and through the trees, which seemed to have melted out further from our morning ascent. Once again we were VERY happy to have had a group go down ahead of us (of the 5 we met in the morning, 3 summitted and two stopped at the crater rim - they all descended together, we're guessing about 90 minutes before we did). Like tracking a lioness, we sniffed out their turns through the dense forest. I was surprised actually at how fun it was. I felt kind of like a kid in an obstacle course avoiding trees while getting extra points for keeping my skis on the snow!

Oh yeah, this totally goes.

At one point we encountered the completely melted out summer trail and removed skis to find more snow. Find we did and we continued our quest to the car. It's funny how on the ski out you really realize just how far you went in the morning. hindered by some slide alder and "mud skiing" we eventually made it to the car - round trip in 11.5 hours. My motivation for doing this trip was a post by my friends Imran and Miles about their tour up the Squak on Sunday. Only they did it in 8 hours car to car. I choose to believe that they are freaks and absolutely nothing is wrong with my 11.5 hour trip. I could maybe do it in 10...maybe...

Mud skiing. That's good for the base.

Follow the white stuff. It will lead you home.

It feels awesome to have a success story after so many misadventures this year. You may remember such sufferfests as The Great Colchuck Ice Skating Incident of 2014, or, most recently, The Failed Attempt on Glacier Successful Summit of White Mountain, about which my buddy Nick wrote a fantastic trip report (in which he recounts, accurately, our experience as being "as much fun as running across a sea of tacks while being hit in the thighs with a lead sledge hammer and listening to Celine Dion." - I hope you can now understand why we hang out). Looking forward to (hopefully) more successful adventures this year. Huge thanks to Theresa for providing all of the photos of me, and for being a SPECTACULAR ski buddy. And a shout out to Tobae in the other group, who was spending her 60th birthday skiing!