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|Nearing the summit of Mt. Hood|
|At the Triangle Moraine, 10,000 feet|
When the alarm clock rang it was the second time that day I had been awakened so rudely. The first was about fifteen hours earlier after a late night at the prom. I looked around to see other students getting their packs ready and so I ate some of my doughnut and drank some juice. I stuffed all my climbing gear into my pack and joined the rest of the group as we stumbled into the darkness outside the Huckleberry Inn about 12:20 am to board the bus. We crossed paths with a few local citizens trying to squeeze something more out of the last bit of Sunday, while we were hoping to make our Monday a permanent lifetime memory.
We drove the bus, which started without problems, up the winding road to Timberline Lodge. Traffic was light. Once at the Lodge we dumped everything onto the pavement in the darkness and each person grabbed an appropriate amount of group gear to carry up the hill. We had three radios, a GPS, half a dozen cell phones, two mountain locator units, two tarps, a sleeping bag, a full-length foam pad, a first aid kit, a satellite phone, and also some gear used in climbing. The weather was spectacular, if a little windy. The stars shone brightly and we could see the glow of eastern Oregon towns in the distance. The time was 1:39 am when we made our first steps out of the parking lot and onto the endless snow that would take us to the summit.
The first part of the climb is pretty annoying, a long snow slog up gentle slopes. The wind picked up, but we kept a fast pace, stopping only twice for some brief clothing adjustments. Mostly we were each in our own world- illuminated by a cricle of bluish light cast by our headlamps. The required conditioning hikes paid off, and we got to the top of the Palmer snowfield at 8600 feet in about two hours. Peter told us this was a good pace. We stayed there for a bit too long, as everyone got cold in the wind. Crampons were put on boots and food was eaten. Above here the route steepens and becomes a lot more interesting. Students took turns kicking steps in the new snow from the past week as we made our way past the Triangle Moraine at 10,000 feet. Eventually, after some steep and tiring slopes we found ourselves at the base of the legendary Hogsback, a narrow ridge that points at the summit of the state’s highest peak. Here is where we split into two rope teams. We put on our harnesses and helmets and began the more technical ascent of the peak. No one had summited in maybe a week, so we ended up plowing our own way through the snow and into the standard chute that is known as the Barking Poodle, because its kind of scary, but not really. There are actually two cutes, and we took the left one, the right one looking too steep and difficult. Ian led the narrow and steep bit and placed a number of pickets to protect the rope in case of fall. There were no falls.
Above the chute is a broad gentle slope that leads to the summit. This is the slope known as the curse of the parental lecture, as it seems never ending. At this point we were climbing at over 11,000 feet, and each step was a struggle, both for altitude gained and for oxygen. But there it was- the summit! And the sun shone brightly up there, the sun we had not seen all day on the shady side of the mountain. We embraced all around and ate pop tarts. There was no one else on top, we gazed awestruck at the entire state as it was laid out before us.
The sun shone, it was 8:10 in the mroning, and there was no wind. We could have stayed for hours, but the approach of other parties alerted us to the need to be moving down before the snow got too soft. We made the descent past some friendly climbers, and past some rude ones who were so eager to summit they wouldnt let us pass. Adults, what can you do with em?
Once below Crater Rock we glissaded most of the way down. Glissading is just a fancy word for sliding on your bum instead of walking. It was noon when we got back to the parking lot and there was Len waiting for us with a dozen doughnuts, fresh doughnuts. What a guy.
We sorted out wet gear in the warm sun of the parking lot, filled with happiness and fine memories of a great day.
|The summit team|
|Ascending the Barking Poodle|
|Rounding Crater Rock and heading for the Hogsback|
Students from Catlin Gabel School made the journey across the mountains to the fairer weather of Central Oregon over the weekend of April 21-22. It took about three hours to get there in the cozy yellow bus we call "Melinda". Once there, we divided into a couple of groups: those going to beginning rock school, and those with climbing experience. The rock school students went to North Point and learned how to belay, move on fixed lines, rappel and climb. The weather was nice, though there were occassional sprinkles - just enough to send other parties home and allow the Catlin Gabel group to assume complete control of Smith Rock State Park. The climbing group didvided into some smaller parties, with some travelling to the west side, some to the dihedrals and some to red wall. Students who are certified as leaders put up routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.10a. That evening after a spirited debate we drove into Redmond for a Mexican style fiesta at a local restaurante.
Then the fun began as the group held a dance in conjunction with another youth climbing group (The Explorer Post) just outside Redmond. The melodic notes of Sir Mix A. Lot (not his given name) and others serenaded the sagebrush of Central Oregon as 35 dance starved students laid their inhibitions aside and expressed themselves in complete honesty. That night we slept the sleep of the pardoned lamb in the Grasslands east of Smith.
On Sunday the group split into five parties. Once again the Park was ours as an early morning shower discouraged lesser climbers. Our groups scurried throughout the rock faces, completing climbs they had only dreamed of. By the end of the day a whole generation of new rock climbers had been created. We trooped up the hill to reboard the yellow rocket and make the journey back to the sedate lives that awaited us in Portland.
The after school Outdoor Leadership and Adventure Program offers a rafting trip each term, and this year we went down the 70 mile wilderness stretch of the John Day River. There were nine students and four leaders in three rafts for the big adventure.
On the first day we drove in the bus which we affectionately call "Betty" to the put-in near Clarno. The rafts were waiting for us, and we loaded them and shoved off for the three day adventure. Within an hour we faced the first big challenge: Clarno rapids, a class three challenge that extends over half a mile of river. As a group we scouted the problem for over an hour. One by one our rafts went through gthe foaming whitewater, with each emerging unscathed on the downstream end. From here we continued on our northerly route eventually stopping at a wonderful camping spot after 20 miles of travel. That night we played cards only briefly before going to sleep under the stars.
The weather dawned clear the next morning and we were on the river by 7:45 am. We floated past unique geologic features and watched eagles and osprey fish for their own breakfast. About noon we pulled the rafts over at the apex of Horsethief Bend and made the hike up to the saddle where we could see river wind its way both north and south. The paddling that afterboon was more challenging as we moved against the wind for most of the time. Just around the bend from Owl Rock we pulled the rafts over and settled in at a fine campsite. Some of the students took a hike up to Owl Rock while dinner was being prepared. Again most everyonme slept out under the stars.
On the third day of the trip, Monday, we paddled to Ferry Canyon and pulled the rafts into the marshy area where the stream meets the John Day River. The group took a long and somewhat challenging hike onto the hills above the John Day and overlooking an abandoned ranch. Once back to the rafts we floated north through some mild rapids. The weather stayed perfect and we met the bus at 2:30pm. The drive back was fairly quick, and we laughed and talked over the trip through history we had all just experienced.
Deschutes River Rafting Trip Report
by Zanny, Grade 9
The rafting trip was an exciting journey filled with memorable moments. After an antsy bus ride, the twelve of us were finally ready to be suited up, booties and all. We learned the basic commands of the raft- all forward, all back, left back, right back, and even “high side” if the raft is at risk of flipping.
The first and second day of the trip we were all catching on, and becoming oriented with the river. We made a lot of snack breaks and had plenty of time when we were not paddling to just soak in the beauty around us- the red-winged black birds and column basalt. The raft group I was a part of definitely bonded, although not all of us were friends at the beginning of the trip. We played games on the raft, and told group stories, switching off every word. All of us even got a chance to guide the raft ourselves, shouting commands (in a friendly way of course!) to the crew based on the current and bends of the river. It was quite an experience to be such a leading figure and to be depended on to use your sense of judgment of how to maneuver the raft.
On the third day, we all walked with small strides apprehensively towards the scouting point for the infamous rapid, “Oak Springs”. The guides explained to us, pointing to the different sections of the river, all the possible ways of going down the rapid. First, on the left, there were a few very big waves to go over then a small slide. On the right side the raft would just go straight down a huge water slide into a hole, which to most of us, looked like a great place to potentially flip over. To make matters worse, rocks encompassed both sides, right and left. These rocks were not pleasantly smooth river rocks, but rather rocks that common rafters called “cheese graters”. The two raft groups then split up to discuss which route they wanted to guide their raft down.
The group I was a part of unanimously agreed on which side was the most intense- the right side. Whether or not we actually wanted to go down the right side was another story. While a couple of people were intent upon having an epic run at the right and risky side, others were a bit more reluctant. Exclamations along the lines of, “I want to live to see my wedding day!” were being made followed by comforting promises like “I promise that if we flip I will at least try to swim after you”.
Finally, we came to a consensus: we would go down the right side. ALL BACK. We shakily pulled out of the viewing point, one crew member decided to tie a loose shirt around his head, making him look even more intense. ALL FORWARD. Our crew, shouting sharply at each other to paddle well in order to assure everyone a safe ride, also let out some loving remarks to one another like “no matter what happens, you’ve been a great friend.” RIGHT BACK. After a short little dip and bump and a minor spray of water, we had conquered our enemy: Oak Springs. That rapid may have battled our mental limits, but we won the war, and it was a fun ride down too!
Evenings were filled with good times; night hikes along railroad tracks, bocce ball, improv stir-fry, president (card game), and campfires (without the fire due to fire laws). All and all, rafting was challenging, tiring, and a lot of us were exposed to new things, but there were also countless good times. One thing is for sure; we could all agree that the Deschutes rafting was a wonderful trip!
|Andrew guides the boat through the San Juan islands of Washington|
|Trimming the sails|
Sailing in the San Juans
We arrived at Catlin Gabel about six in the morning; to go to the San Juans for the experience of a lifetime. With sleep in our eyes, seven other students, the two adults and myself loaded the bus with the clothing and food that we would use to survive at sea. There were plenty of fruits and vegetables to fight off the scurvy. As we strapped ourselves in I had no idea how much fun was headed my way. Five short hours had passed and we pulled into the yacht charters. After a short orientation, we boarded the Double Eagle, our home for the next five days. We began to settle in, picking our beds, storing our food in cabinets and learning the ins and outs of the boat. That same day we got an alert that there were gale warnings, meaning the wind was too dangerous to sail in. The disappointment of not being able to sail soon ended when we began to play nautically themed games and started to get to know one another. Still docked, we left the boat for some pizza and dessert. After we got back on the boat we sat down for a movie before bed. We watched “Master and Commander”, which improved our knowledge of life at sea. About ten-thirty we laid down to rest for the next day.
That next morning I woke to the smell of spam and French toast. Never having spam before and hearing unpromising things, I was a little nervous about eating it. When it touched my lips, I knew I would be waking up each morning hoping for a few good pieces of spam. As the clock struck twelve (eight bells) he wind dropped and we were ready to sail. We put on our gear and climbed to the top level of the boat. We motored out of the dock and were finally at sea. Our hearts began to race as the skipper called out commands, “tighten the jib.” and “prepare to tack.” Not knowing what any of these things meant we followed the directions and eventually learned what we needed to know to sail a boat. We pulled into our next destination, anchored in the water and jumped into the dingy to explore the island. On land we climbed in caves and explored the beach. We lost light quickly and headed back to the boat. We prepared for dinner and played our favorite card game around the table. Hungry from a full day of sailing we scarfed down a plate of lasagna and watched a movie about sailing. As thoughts of sailing raced through our heads we climbed into bed for another good night’s sleep. Waking at seven the next I was ready to sail. We got off to an earlier start and raised the anchor around nine in the morning. That day was packed with excitement as we sailed through a pod of harbor porpoises. There were 80 to 100 of them. They jumped out of the water and swam around our boat. While sailing we saw two bald eagles together – just like our boat’s name - and many other birds. When we came to the next island we lowered the anchor and hopped in the dingy to go play ultimate Frisbee on the beach. When we got tired and cold we returned to the ship and played a relaxing game of cards. After we had warmed up and finished dinner, we went back to the island for a bonfire. As a group we shared the highs and low of our trip and spent time with each other around the fire. Growing tired we put out the fire and headed to our ship for bed. That next day we rose to watch the sunrise out over the water. We arrived at the island around one pm and gathered our gear for rock climbing. As we reached the island we hopped out of the dingy and began to hike a steep rocky trail to the rock face we would be climbing. As I climbed into my harness and put on my helmet I began to feel nervous. I approached the rocks and they felt cold on my palms. I began to climb. Knowing that I was so far from the ground my heart raced as I neared the top. When I was coming down the thrill of climbing was overwhelming and I was so happy that I overcame my nerves and climbed. We hiked back down the hill and went back to the boat for another game of cards. Knowing it was our last night we made the most of it by playing all of our favorite games and enjoying the company of everyone. Late that night we went to bed. As the boat rocked us to sleep we recalled all of our adventures on the trip. The rain fell hard that night, leaving us a wet boat to sail back to the yacht charters where our journey had started. We cleaned the ship and packed all of our belongings. We pulled into the dock and carried our bags and what was left of the food to the bus. Saying our last goodbye to the Double Eagle we got on the bus and pulled out of the parking lot. The bus ride back was full of laughter and remembering the events that took place when sailing through the San Juan’s.
Looking back on this trip, I realize that opportunities like this don’t always come and I was really lucky to have gone sailing. I learned all about sailing; the terms and how to operate a sail boat. I made friends with people who I would have never thought of talking to. The most important thing I learned on this trip was to take risks and try things that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. You will probably find that you love doing them, as I did with rock climbing and eating spam! Overall this trip was amazing and if chances like this come again I won’t hesitate to take them.
|"This is different than school"|
|Off of Orcas Island|
|80 Harbor Porpoises!!|
|Ten knots in heavy winds|
|At anchor in Watmough Bight|
|Frisbee at Spencers Spit State Park|
|Its good to be out here|
|Sunset from Sucia Island|
|Sailing is a good thing|
|On Chadwick Hill|
|Hey, somebody help him!|
Cross Country Skiing to Peterson Prairie: January 21-22, 2007
Mt. Adams Cross Country ski trip
By Alix Junior
We departed from Catlin early on Sunday and drove to Peterson Prairie, at the base of Mt. Adams in southern Washington. From the parking lot at the beginning of the trail we skied more or less two miles to the cabin, everything—clothing, sleeping bags, other accoutrements—in our backpacks. Stew graciously hauled the sled loaded with food. The road to the cabin was scenic, slightly uphill, and quiet, interrupted only by the snowmobiles that whirred past us.
The combination of remaining upright and moving forward at the same time proved more difficult than expected. Well, difficult for some of us— those who had skied before, as well as novices who had an innate knack for, it moved with enviable efficiency and grace. Carrying a pack both increased the risk of falling over and made standing up again after the fall near impossible. After the inevitable fall, sitting in the snow with my skis askew, I felt like a turtle weighted down by its shell and unable to turn itself right side up.
At lunchtime we convened at the cabin, our tiny, yellow, three-room home away from home. Afterwards, we skied to and across three or four natural bridges that spanned a gully. Several people climbed into the aforementioned gully, sans skis, and a raucous snowball fight erupted. In an adjacent gully, others built jumps of various sizes. If memory serves correctly, Michal, Rocky, and Conrad managed to ski the jumps and land on their feet at least once. These amazing feats of cross-country downhill ski jumping and perfect landing, however, were not repeated despite our efforts.
Everyone returned to the cabin at sundown to cook dinner, lounge around, melt snow for water, and change into dry clothing. We shared our thoughts on the trip so far, as well as beautiful nature-related moments. We played cards and drank hot chocolate, tea, and coffee (made possible by a coffee filter and sieve contraption to filter out the pine needles and bits of moss) until bedtime.
The second day, we deviated from the main trail and chose instead to ski through untracked snow on our way back to the natural bridges and nearby gully. We brought the sled, and spent the morning skiing and sledding down steep ravines (mostly successful) and off of cornices (decidedly less successful). Somewhat shockingly, no major injuries were sustained. On the trip back to the parking lot we stopped at the Ice Cave, where we made a descent down snow-covered stairs into the chilly cavern. The ice stalactites and stalagmites were eerie but beautiful.
The bus ride home was quintessential: the sun was setting, and we were sleepy and content. That sentiment suits the trip quite well, as the experience left us exhausted and sore, but it was nonetheless rewarding.
|Natural Arch Bridge!|
Ochoco Mtns Backcountry Ski and Snowshoe Trip
Winterim 2006: Ten students and faculty travelled to the Ochoco Mountains of Oregon and skied through untracked powder in cold conditions.
Winterim 2006: Ten students and faculty travelled to the Ochoco Mountains of Oregon and skied through untracked powder in cold conditions. The group stayed at a warm Forest Service cabin.
Ochoco Mountains ski and snowshoe adventure
Our backcountry skiing winterim began way too early on the morning of February 15th 2006. We loaded the bus, cracked out the Oreos and began our long drive to Prineville Oregon. Ana slept as we ascended Mt. Hood and woke only when we stopped in Welches to rent our skis and snowshoes. The excitement level jumped as we traveled further; the air became nippy and the snow deeper. When we arrived, Ana jumped out of the bus yelling incoherently, as we followed we noticed she was pointing at a cat in this tree. The cat began climbing backwards down the tree and jumped into her arms. We unpacked and got out our skis thinking we could just ski on the road for awhile, we were wrong. As soon as we got to the road we realized that it had just been plowed and we would ruin our skis if we continued, so Greg jumped over the pile of snow on the side of the road and we all followed him because he was the titular head and was supposed to know what he was doing. But he didn’t and we split up because it was a very steep hill and some of us couldn’t get up the hill. Greg and Peter ended up going and getting the bus and we drove up where the snow plow had stopped and got out and started skiing. We stopped at this big hill and a bunch of us climbed up the hill and jumped/rolled down. Then we continued on a bit and drove back to the cabin. We had a fiesta dinner. The next day we went to a snow park and our goal was to ski to some crazy meadow that Peter found on the map. “oh come on guys, its only a couple miles away” but no. We skied for 5 hours and never even made it to the meadow. We went down some really steep hills in the beginning and Peter S., Mandy and Cristin decided to go another way. I cannot tell you what they did, but we continued down the hills into this valley. One of the most memorable moments was when we had come to a log in the path; Ana and Peter decided to just go over but we would have had to wait forever so I started up the hill with Ian, Greg, William and Jack. We made it over the place with the log and Ian went down. I followed him but crashed right into a tree well and was stuck. Jack had made it down by then too and he unhooked his skis and came over to help me out. But William had decided that he was going to come down right where I did too, and he crashed in to the tree and me. Greg then, despite the warnings of Peter and Ana came down too, saying “oh no, I won’t hit them” but he did. So now me, Jack, William and Greg, were smashed up into this tree. It took a while to get unstuck but we continued and crossed a very little frozen creek, and up to a road. We followed the road for what seemed like hours and finally we saw all of the meadow that we would ever see. About ½ a foot by 1 foot through some trees, but none of us I think felt any disappointment because we had come so far. The trek back was pretty hard for me at least, but we kept talking and that talking took my mind off of the physical pain in my legs and well I guess if I could have felt my fingers it would have taken my mind off of that too. We were taking a water/Gatorade break and for some reason talking about Günter (pronounced goon-thur), some weird rock climber I think, when apparently I said “he is so hot” but I swear that I didn’t! Then we continued on the road; Peter got out his GPS and informed us that we could continue 2.5 miles down the road or go up this steep hill right to the bus. Everyone ran up the hill and packed our stuff onto the bus and left to go pick up Mandy, Peter and Cristin. On the way down, Ian got on the radio and yelled “The goose cannot land, the goose cannot land!” but we stopped and picked up our remaining team-members and traveled home. We had soup dinner with grilled cheese sandwiches. The next day we decided to do some snowshoeing because it was our last day to do any snow activities; we went out to some lake and snow-shoed around it but it was so cold and windy that we decided that we needed to do something else and had a snowshoeing Olympics. William amazed everyone by beating Ian and Greg in the front-ways running but he still refuses to do track. Then we went to the cabin and left Mandy, Cristin, and Ana there (because they wanted too) and went out skiing or snowshoeing again. We went up this path and then up off the trail to this really steep hill, which we climbed up and then found this really cool bowl which we (being Ian, Peter, Peter and me, cause we were the only ones with skis) skied down and in. It was really hard both hard to ski down and hard to fall on; but it was probably one of the most fun times I had on the trip. We then continued because Greg was getting a little antsy and was going on without us and went further up the road to this big hill which went down to a little mine we found out later. The only building we could see from the road had was covered with a thick layer of snow and surrounded all the way to the eves with snow. We would have liked to continue on into the woods and ski some more but the sun was beginning to set and so we skied up the hill again and began our decent. Going down that hill was also a lot of fun but that day was the coldest of them all, and my gloves were freezing even with my hands in them. Peter then stopped really suddenly and told Ian to fall over, and so he did and Ian threw himself into the pile of snow on the side of the trail. The snowshoers (I don’t think that is a word) were coming down the trail and Peter yelled to them that Ian had fallen and broken his leg and I started fake crying and we all decided that our best course of action was to build a fire. (If you haven’t gotten it yet, this was all just to see if we could build a fire in the snow) So we gathered things that we thought we would need, including little twigs, dry if possible, and needles, and moss. Jack got out his water-poof matches and after one feeble attempt we got a nice fire going and it was actually quite warm. Then we stood around and talked until the sun was very close to being gone and we skied down the rest of the hill, got on the bus and went home. Then for the final night, we had lasagna of which William had the most. The next day we packed, cleaned and loaded for about 2 hours and drove home. OOH! I forgot to mention that every morning the bus wouldn’t start and so we would have to call Catlin and ask them how to start it. They said that we had to find some cord and plug on the front of the bus and plug it in every night because it was the starter that was just too cold for it to start the bus. So William and I went out after dinner the second night and we (meaning him) stuck his hand in the front of the bus and wiggled it around until we found the plug. Then the bus worked. But on the ride home we played this game that Cristin started where you go around and say animals that start with a certain letter until someone can’t think of one and then we go to the next letter. Jack was probably the most memorable because we would be on ‘p’ or something and he would whisper to Ian, his team member something and Ian would make a funny face and say, “Jack! No wrong letter.” I also forgot to mention our card games every night because those were also a huge part of the trip because we really got to find out about each other. We mostly played caca however hearts became a favorite among many of us and I just have to say that I shot the moon. Then there was a spoons competition, which I won. This trip was a lot of fun, it was my first outdoor trip at Catlin and I don’t think that it could have been any better. The skiing was fun even though I was very sore for the rest of the weekend.
by Julia, Grade 10
At 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, fifteen pairs of sleepy eyes boarded a small yellow bus, each eagerly anticipating a weekend of skiing and bonding. We talked and listened to cheesy road trip music as our surroundings changed from grey puddles to piles of gleaming white snow. Stopping in Sandy for ski gear, many of the members started to awaken, restoring the deep-seated enthusiasm they had when signing up for the trip. My excitement grew steadily during the car ride, and reached a high point when renting the ski gear. I doled out chocolate to those who hadn’t quite realized what was going on yet.
We drove up the mountain until finally we reached our destination. After checking and rechecking for all the necessary (but surprisingly unnecessary) warm layers, we commenced our journey into the wonderful world of cross-country skiing. Ironically, the course we took started with a steep downhill, and as a result of our ignorant confidence many of us had a rocky start. After that, we embarked on a series of gentle rolling hills, and they became quite enjoyable after we mastered the art of standing upright. Each one of us had our own original way of avoiding direct contact with the snow, and many proved faulty. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the beautiful and serene setting with each wobbly glide. After a quick and cold stop for lunch, some of us ventured a bit further while the rest started back to the bus.
After about 5 hours of skiing, the whole group ended up at the bus, tired but satisfied. We looked forward to the warm and luxurious cabin awaiting us. When we arrived, a beautiful cabin welcomed us with open arms, though the power had stopped working. Despite this minor setback, we made the best of it by spending the night enjoying each other’s company, lighting Hanukkah candles (courtesy of Rob Kaye), eating dinner, and playing cards.
We awoke to power once again, and got ready for another day on the mountain. This time, we split our group in two, a beginning group and an intermediate one. Although both groups were to go about the same distance, the intermediate faced steeper and more frequent hills. I decided to go with the intermediate group, which started with a hike up a downhill ski slope. After that, we had another long ski uphill. After defying gravity for what seemed like ages, we finally reached a gratifying downhill slope. I enjoyed the downhill, but looking back I also appreciated the uphill because of the time we had to spend with nature. While trudging up Mount Hood, we were able to gaze at the serenity of the snow and the abundance of trees, a rare occurrence in everyday school life.
After another 5 hours of skiing that day, many of us felt ready to head back down, and after a stop at Joe’s doughnuts, we arrived back at Catlin. The brevity of the trip was nice because it offered only a taste of cross-country skiing, and left me wanting to return to the mountain. I’m sure all of us made great memories on this trip, and all that I learned about cross country skiing and the other people accompanying me will not soon be forgotten.
to Salt Lake City, drive south, over mountains, past canyons, pause to play frisbee in a sleepy town punctuated by the lights of gas stations: Hanksville, Utah. Last outpost of civilization.
Drive dirt roads, dodging kamikaze jack rabbits, park at trailhead. We have arrived.
Wake to brilliant sunrise, mountains, canyons surround. Load all belongings in backpack, repack, repack once more. Tie boots, check map, set off.
Mesa recedes, slickrock appears. Descend step by careful step with the world spread out before you. Eat, rest, cross river, hike on. Our camp is our home.
Explore archways and quicksand. Feast on pasta, made more delicious by hard work. Move to a new camp, wading through the river over again and again. Cold clear nights freeze our boots and reveal stars upon stars.
Rise early, hike, climb, hurry to reach our goal. A darker canyon, narrow and twisting, opens to us. Enter, wiggle, slide, rappel, use caution, exclaim.
This place is ours, we belong to it.
Utah, According to Sam (senior)
After a long day of travel, I quickly fell asleep, and remember mostly a sense of slowly leaving behind all of civilization as we drove further and further into the desert. Long after the sun had set, we stopped to play a night game of Frisbee, eerily illuminated by the harsh lights of a gas station. Finally, after having gingerly guided the vans over miles of dirt road, we found ourselves at the trailhead.
In the morning I had to massage the tip of my nose for five minutes before it felt warm again. For the first time, we could see the desert surrounding us. An enormous mountain range shot up out of the tableland, while in front of us were the canyons. After dividing up the group equipment among the packs, we set off downhill. As we descended down slickrock formations as round and smooth as gigantic popcorn kernels, I noticed that the canyons were a fascinating study in color combinations-- the cliffs rearing above us ranged from rusty to crayon-pink to a glassy black that looked like scorchmarks from a rocket.
The most surreal moment for me came as we turned a corner and found ourselves facing a ridiculously tall, sheer cliff the color of pepto-bismol. Branching off from the main canyon, we hiked a little ways up the side canyon where we planned to set up base camp, and laid our tents and tarps down under the spindly branches of an old tree. The canyon walls leaned in towards us, creating an odd, stadium-like effect.
Since we were hiking up a creekbed, we experienced the entire spectrum- mud that your foot immediately sunk into like iron weights in water, mud that was mostly slippery clay, mud that looked like solid rock but had the consistency of thick chocolate frosting, and this really bizarre mud with a thin pudding-like membrane which slowly stretched under your weight and then broke like a punctured waterbed (we later found out that this was quicksand).
Angel’s Arch was a large circular hole that pierced right through a thin peninsula of canyon wall jutting out like the front of a ship into the canyon. We clambered up through the hole and around what would be the bow of the ship to the top of the rock wall. From here, we could access a strange, globular landscape of tremendous slickrock half-globes.
Once dark had set in we sat down to fix dinner- quesadillas made with three different kinds of cheese. It struck me that almost anything tastes better when you’re cold and hungry. After extensive debate about the days ahead, we decided unanimously to pack up and travel to a new campsite further down the canyon, and then go rappeling from the mesa the next day. I harbored some anxiety about the rappeling-I pictured leaping off some sheer precipice of ungodly height, tethered by a wire-thin cord to a small shrub. But I agreed with the decision, albeit hesitantly.
In the morning we packed up the campsite and headed up the river. We had to cross the Dirty Devil river again, and then immediately cut back across. We continued to switch back and forth like that for a good few hours, at one point hugging a cliff wall to inch along a narrow rock shelf. After a nasty tangle with some quicksand, we ate lunch on a sunny sand bank and made sandwiches.
(continued from above)
In a search for a drinking water source, Aiyana and I ventured up a ravine made up of pink so dark it was almost magenta. The rock swirled into itself so fluidly it looked more like liquid than stone. The ravine was punctuated by deep holes big enough to fall into, which collapsed down into blackness like whirlpools. We found only a tiny pool of stagnant water and mud, and returned to the group with the bad news.
We set up tarps and sleeping pads as the sun began to disappear behind the mesa. We began to realize at this point that we had brought a slightly excessive amount of food. I got very excited about the prospects of an elaborate spaghetti dinner, and coerced several others into frying, mixing, and otherwise preparing the dinner.
Our plan for the next day was to trek up to the top of the mesa and then rappel down a narrow side canyon. Upon awaking, we found that our boots had frozen overnight and were impossible to get on. We wrestled with them until everyone had some kind of footwear on. One by one we tied in and scrambled up a steep slope of slickrock, until we had all assembled just below the mesatop. Finally, we reached the flatlands. It was the first time since waking up at the cars that we had been this high. The sun was suddenly unavoidable and unbearable, and we began to shed. We saw for the first time in days evidence of civilization- tire tracks and beer cans. We stopped at the top of the cliff we planned to descend, and it was somewhat difficult to eat lunch with such a clear view of the impending danger.
We tied the rope to what Chris assured me was a secure anchor (it looked more like a pile of boulder loosely stacked on a slope). Then we all walked up to the cliff, roped in, and rappelled. I had been apprehensive, but the actual descent was quite manageable and even fun- there’s a certain James Bond-like quality to it.
The canyon had become very narrow and twisty, and for the next few minutes we noticed a significant drop in temperature as we made our way down the passage. The clay-colored cliff walls bent and curled like smoke, blocking out the sky and enveloping us in their grasp. I’m not sure if the sinister atmosphere I’m describing was something that I noticed at the time, or what I imagined retroactively, in light of the events that took place afterwards.
We had decided to climb down a short cliff while roped in, with Chris and Aiyana acting as our anchors by bracing themselves against the cliff walls while we climbed down. Michael went first, and then Max, both without incident. The rest of us waited in a loose line, chatting and kicking rocks. Suddenly, everyone around me became very silent. I turned to see what they were looking at. A tiny rattlesnake, as big around as my thumb, was curled up a few feet from Chris. Aiyana whispered to us that we should all calmly and quietly climb down as unobtrusively as possible. Any sudden noises or movements might have endangered Chris.
(continued from above)
After ten minutes of very quiet rock-climbing, we had all gotten down to the bottom, and we could discuss the event in incredulous tones. Chris’s statement on the event was, in my mind, the most descriptive: “I respected the snake. There was respect, but– also– there was fear of the snake. And the fear was that the snake was going to bite me.”
We hadn’t gone too much further before we hit another obstacle- an impossibly narrow, steep passage of canyon that we would have to slide down feet first if we wanted to get through. Again we waited in line to rope up and make the descent. This time I actually found myself a bit frightened by the experience—the sensation was fairly claustrophobic. I did eventually hit the ground, and then we actually emerged from the narrow canyon! Wonder of wonders! We could see the sunset, as well as actual vegetation and wildlife. It was a beautiful sight.
As we followed the canyon bottom back to camp, we kept encountering gigantic, foul-smelling cow droppings, and it wasn’t long before we encountered their source. A herd of cows was ambling nonchalantly down the trail, and quickly spooked at our approach. After this long day, I was feeling a little under the weather, and was inexplicitly missing my headlamp. As night fell, I resembled a zombie- staggering forward uncertainly with my arms outstretched (to ward off branches) and moaning groggily. When we got to camp, I tore off my boots and immediately fell into bed and went to sleep.
After an intensely pancake-oriented breakfast, we crossed the river one last time and took off up a hill, until we finally reached a dirt road on top of the mesa. We arrived at the cars with hours of daylight left, and enjoyed our first free time in days. Dinner that night was quesadillas and whatever we could dredge up out of our packs. We fell asleep next to the vans secure in the knowledge that the next day would require next to no physical exertion.
Click on the pictures below for a larger version.
Caving Adventure in the Washington Cascades
Seven students from Middle School and thirteen Upper Schoolers travelled to the remote forests near Trout Lake, Washington to explore lava tubes over the weekend of November 4th and 5th.
We met at 8am, gathered up our belongings. Setting off by bus, we were met by Dave Corkran, alumnus who had worked 25 years ago at the same spot we would. We were joined by a staff member from the Bureau of Land Management in front of the BLM building. Expecting to find a large assortment of gear in our trailer, we were bewildered to only find a couple of shovels. We imagined our attempts at cutting down Juniper trees with those… not good. But Lady Luck was on our side, and Dave Corkran arrived with enough gear and saws for all eleven of us…mostly. On the bus ride to our site, we saw all of the Juniper trees (they covered the hillsides and extended beyond the horizon). If theres one thing we learned this trip, it was that many juniper trees should die. That was the joke anyway. We cut down Juniper trees and cut willow wands to plant, as well as digging an endless amount of weeds and tossing them away only to find them at our feet again when we dug somewhere else. After about three hours, we left and set up camp next in a flood plain. Then we ate dinner (I forgot to bring plates, forks, etc. so I had to eat in a frying pan with a spoon Dave Corkran loaned me), and went to cut wood for a fire. We used our saws to get random dry pieces of wood (we got some pretty big pieces too), and set them on fire ^_^ . Then we went to the flood plain to look at stars.
After cutting junipers for two hours, I feel like I had been running a cross-country race and run out of adrenaline and sugar. I notice something white at the bottom of the river. I set the tree down and approach the object curiously. My shoes stick to the rotting wet ground and slosh their way to my goal. The grass parts like a curtain being pulled aside and reveals a deer skeleton lying on the ground. When we drive away from the site, cars in the on-coming lane of traffic gape at our bus--we had strapped the deer skull to the grill, staring out blankly at the world. After edging closer and closer to the barbed-wire fence, a herd of cows started staring at us. After our final twenty trees, we were so close to the fenced off area with the cows, they started to moo menacingly. Finally, we had lunch—it’s amazing how satisfying a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich can be after working for two hours. We ate on the back of Dave Corkran’s car…good times. We got rid of the evidence of our feast and went back to work. I saw Andrew cutting down a honkin’ sized tree that fill the entire ravine for 30 feet.
We finally got around to going to Smith Rock Monday. Andrew and I hadn’t ever done outside climbing, and Andrew had never done any climbing. We did a bunch of climbs I thought were hard, and it was sunny and warm. It was really fun, and we got a lot of climbing in. After all of our climbing, we went back to camp and slept.
Expecting the same weather, especially because it was sunny and surprisingly warm in the morning, I wore my shorts. Big mistake. When eating breakfast, Peter points out a cloud in the distance. All of us say it’s just a little cloud, but Peter says something like, “just a little cloud? That’s an entire weather system!” He was right. Soon, it spread out across the entire sky, threatening to pour its contents over our heads. Climbing was cold, especially in shorts. Eventually, it warmed up, but only for about an hour at about two o’clock. It was still fun, and though I was too afraid to do multiple pitch climbs (where you climb, anchor yourself to the rock wall, then belay your partner up until you climb the entire face), many people did. I had fun on the smaller climbs, and we left at about three thirty. By the time we got back, darkness had enveloped the Earth.
Trip report for Smith Rock:
It was a cold October morning when we boarded the bus for Smith. We dumped our stuff under the bus and eagerly anticipated the departure to Smith Rock. I fell asleep, being very tired from the early morning. I was sleeping until we woke up stopped at a rest stop on the side of the road. The landscape out the windows was amazing. The only trees were stunted junipers that sat lonely in the middle of far stretching hills and plains. Once we reached Smith Rock, everyone made a stop at the bathrooms before getting our gear. We divided up the ropes, gri-gri’s, ATC’s, tarps, harnesses, and helmets. We introduced ourselves in a group and got to know each other by learning everyone’s favorite dessert. Once instructed of the plan, we divided up into two groups; the experienced climbers and the less experienced. Being in the less experienced group, I headed off with Aiyana and Chris, as well as Patrick, Murphy, Ana, Colby, Max, Andy, Charlie, Mike, and Maddie.
We hiked to the edge of the parking lot where we headed down the side of the cliff to where we were going to climb. We talked about not yelling or throwing rocks and the “rules” of the trip. Excitement filled the air when we reached the small spot in between two big boulders where we would be climbing. Aiyana laid a tarp down and some people began to pull out food. She explained to us how to flake a rope and how that was important to do or else the rope might have knots in it. She instructed us how to belay and the other devices we would use. We went over a lot of specific safety instructions, but the most important was that you couldn’t step on the rope. If anyone did however, they would need to kiss the rope and apologize, or else the rope might take vengeance on you.
Over the course of the day, everyone climbed at least 2 of the routes that were set up to climb top rope, meaning you climb attached to a harness, which is attached to a belayer. This is the safest way to climb, and the easiest to learn. It was much different than I expected, and it was really cold since we were in the shade. The rock was cold on my fingers, and they were numb by the time I reached the top of my first climb. The day was filled with encouragement, yodeling off of tall rocks, and eating Starbursts that Murphy brought. Nearly everyone was taught to belay and at the end of the day, we were taught how to rappell. We practiced walking down some comparatively flat rocks before we rappelled down the big climbs. We picked up everything and hiked back up towards the parking lot. Along the way, I chatted with Charlie and Patrick. We walked and talked on the dusty path towards the bus. Then, out of nowhere, Greg and Jack jump out of the bushes and scare us all to death. After what seemed like a few minutes of screaming, we laughed and Greg told us that they were waiting for us to walk by for a while, and so he saw these other people and he just stood up when they walked by, but when they passed Jack, he jumped out and yelled, “RAAAAAAAWHAUAOAOAAA…..oh sorry…I thought you were my friends….” We laughed all the way to the bus. We talked to the other group members about their day and couldn’t get much out of them because we were all too excited to go eat Mexican food at a nearby Mexican restaurant. The drive seemed to take forever and it was already getting dark when we finally reached the restaurant. We took up 5 tables side-to-side in the middle of the restaurant. We were all excited and hungry, but also dirty and sweaty. We sat and chatted until our food came. The food was amazing for how hungry we were. I swear as a group, we probably ate about 40 bowls of chips before our food came. The only exciting things that happened at dinner were when Wayner spilt his Pina Colada and he was so sad, and also when he poured too much hot sauce in the bean dip, then had Colby try some. It was hilarious!
We headed back to the bus and drove a bit to our campsite. The bus driver said we have 10 minutes to get ready so we just laid all of our sleeping bags on tarps and some put up tents. Once the lights went out, Peter pointed out constellations such as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, Pleiades, Orion’s Belt, and the Milky Way. I didn’t know some of the stars he pointed out, and it was relaxing to lie down and look up at the stars. We were all tired from the climbing we’d done that day, and we quickly fell asleep.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I woke up to that next morning. My sleeping bag was still kind of warm, but my feet were cold. I pulled the sleeping bag back from over my eyes, and I heard a crackling sound. I sat up and saw my whole sleeping bag was covered in frost. I looked around and all the sleeping bags were covered in this thin, silvery-white blanket. I was glad I covered my shoes and backpack with my raincoat, and I was able to shake off the powdery frost. Patrick stood up, freezing, wearing at least 4 jackets, and Andy groaned, saying, “Man, I wish I left my pants on…” We hustled to get ready and get back on the bus, hoping for warmth. It took a while for everyone to get back from the bathroom and pick up all the tarps from the site. After we had everyone on the bus, except Greg and Wayner who went on a run to Smith, we were off.
I talked with Tony about how the Goldfish manufacturers segregated the goldfish. It’s a good question why the pretzel goldfish aren’t combined with the Parmesan. Everyone was all bundled up until we reached Smith Rock and it actually felt the heat on the bus. We got there and were split up into groups to go out and climb. My group was with Peter, Andy, Charlie, Patrick, and Wayner. It was getting warmer outside as we ran to the 9-gallon buckets climb, and Wayner climbed lead. More and more people showed up and some asked when we would be done, but then seemed frustrated to find that we were going to be there all day. Everyone made it up the climb, but everyone seemed to have a hard time getting started. It warmed up a ton during the day.
Once everyone climbed this route, we walked over to where the other group of Murphy, Torin, Greg, Jack, and most of the other guys were. There were three climbs set up and I belayed two and debated whether I wanted to climb the route where Brynmor had just shot off the side of the cliff when being lowered after his climb. This was when we heard about Jack’s crazy climb of a 5.11 B or C . My group just heard about it, and weren’t able to see his lead climbing. He still made it up and it sounded awesome. After climbing for a while, a group of us decided to go to another area where not many people were climbing. Murphy, Charlie, Patrick, Torin, and I decided to go to where Chris’ group was, on the other side of the river. We walked, with Kix cereal in hand, talking on the way to the climb. We met up with Maddie Miller, Colby, Max, and Mike who were climbing the other routes. There wasn’t much time, so I only got to belay but we watched them finish the three routes then we packed up and started the hard walk back to the bus. We filled up our water bottles when we got to the top, and walked to the bus. It was getting warmer and once we sorted our stuff by the bus, some people got out their food and laid outside the bus on the hot cement.
Once we got back on the bus, I took some pictures of Smith from the bus, and then fell asleep with the sounds of Patrick rapping in the seat behind me echoing on the bus. I fell asleep so don’t really know what happened on the way back. Once we got to Catlin, parents eagerly awaited at the Cabell center parking lot as we cleaned the bus and dropped the gear off in Peter’s office. It was dark as we headed to our car.
Wow! We just got back from a wonderful rock climbing trip with 11 Middle Schoolers. I cannot sing their praises enough.
Early Saturday morning, these kids met at the theater parking lot ready to go, and cheerfully rode the bus east to Horsethief Butte near The Dalles. We spent five hours learning how to tie a Figure 8 knot and put on a harness, testing our skills on the rock, and exploring this amazing rock outcropping under clear skies. Saturday afternoon was spent swimming in Horsethief Lake, playing soccer and Frisbee, and generally running around. A huge meal, prepared by the kids, was followed by flashlight tag, Smores, star gazing, and a little talk about Celilo Falls. Sunday morning we went down to the Columbia River again and had a rock throwing contest, spotted hundreds of ducks, and looked at dozens of petroglyphs. The rain didnt hit until we were driving home.
Gleeful Dampness on the Deschutes
Written by Liz Junior
It was a perfect morning. The bustling bus had energy floating around in the air with anxious kids chattering. An excited silence fell over the bus as we pulled up to the river. We smashed up fallen apples with our paddles as we awaited instruction after loading our precious clothes in dry bags. The leaders split us into two countries, (in order to comply withy BLM regulations), torn apart from our brethren. The Indians and the Pakistanis mock-scowled at one another and started a “battle” that would be a constant division between the groups. “Where are you from?” became a common thing to holler at an approaching raft. The first day we drifted along, each person taking control of the rafts steering, and later laid down on the raft, letting the current carry us. This was a day for mischief and mutiny as many people betrayed their country by switching rafts in tricky maneuvers or by pushing their raft mates overboard. It became the goal to make sure no soul was dry. After setting up camp, and changing clothes, the shrill sound of the train echoed in our ears. We set off toward the tracks and enjoyed the full moon over the soft sounds of the river. On our return, while still on the tracks, two bright lights could be seen in the distance. “Train! Train!” multiple voices shouted as each person hurriedly moved far off the tracks to a safe distance. As the train went by, we could feel the pressure on our skin and in our shoes. After arriving back at camp, some went to bed while others stayed up and talked with their toes in the sand. The following morning was a late one, feeling well rested and fed; we set off for a more difficult day. Early on we reached a large boulder which nearly everyone jumped off of. And one guide jumped off an even higher one as everyone looked on in anticipation. Now already damp, there was nothing left to lose. The Indian (Kulu) state started a civil war. Peter Green’s mentality seemed to be that all food must travel by air, so when our fellow Indians asked for apples, it had to be air borne. Thus became the Apple Battle of ’06. Some fell into the water. This necessitated apple rescue, and later, foolishly, the other state (Lahoul) gave their used ammo (apple cores) back to us, for us to use later that day as weapons against them, once again. They also, foolishly asked for the peanut butter jar after lunch was over, which to their dismay was empty except for some undesirable peanut butter water. To add insult to injury, it whacked a rafter in the head to their dissatisfaction. That day we also encountered the White Horse and Buckskin Mary rapids. Our only freshman, Sam Bishop was the first to volunteer to go down Buckskin Mary with only his lifejacket, and no raft. Several people followed suit, enjoying the terrifying waves of piercing cold water while others climbed up a steep hill. The rafting was more difficult this day, with more thrill and technique. We were unable to make camp near the legendary Dant so we went down river more and set up camp. The sun was starting to set as most people finished putting up their tents, so some of the rafters made their way up a vast hillside, which one could only imagine had the most beautiful view at the top that made it worth the trek. That night was a windy one, and we worried about rain but there was none - to our satisfaction - and we enjoyed a moon in a blue sky that early morning as we set off. Peter Green had said the night before that “We’ll be on the water before the sun hits it.” This is exactly what happened. It became a race to the sunnier parts of the river. This being the final day, the rapids became more treacherous and exciting. Larger splashes in the face of the front rafters. We got to enjoy the scenery and rapids at the same time. But lunch time was everyone’s favorite. Because we were ahead of time, we pulled off to let some people explore and others relax. One lunch boat became a mess of jelly that will forever be embedded into the cooler top. After leaving we came across some fun mini-rapids to ride the bull on, and even one rapid called “Swimmers Rapid” which a few students went on, a tamer version of Buckskin Mary but still the same thrill. There was little more to lose since everyone was wet and knew the bus sat waiting with warm dry clothes. As we reached our final destination, we were sad that we had to leave the natural environment we had been growing accustomed to and knew we’d be returning to our world of studies. But those days and nights will be a memory not soon forgotten. Except maybe for the few hit in the head with apple cores.
Twin Lakes on Mt. Hood was the destination for this group of five families on their first backpacking trip. We made the easy two mile hike in to Lower Twin Lake and set up camp right next to the Lake. Most of the afternoon was spent exploring and playing. After a filling dinner of spaghetti we made smores and sat around the campfire exchanging stories. The stars were spectacular, and we were able to see their reflections in the perfectly still lake.
In the morning we had pancakes for breakfast and hiked up the hill to Upper Twin Lake. The backpack out to the bus was mostly downhill and went quite quickly. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time on this memorable weekend.
Mountaineering in the Canadian Purcell Range: July 2006
Catlin Gabel Canadian Expedition
July 17-24, 2006
By Greg Junior
Pre-trip excitement began during a parents meeting a few days before the trip, where the students and their protective mothers were told of the risks of the trip, including driving, bears, river crossings, lightning, and death falls off of high objects, all dangers inherent to city life as well as mountaineering. The drive began on Monday morning at 6 oclock in the theater parking lot, where we loaded the Catlin van with gear and the rented suburban with children, and then headed north (not before a lengthy vehicle check, most necessary). We took a short stop in north Portland to pick up Olivia. As we were leaving, Olivia’s mother was seen to be yelling at us from her car, but we couldn’t make out what she was saying with the windows closed.
“What did she say?” Peter asked.
“I don’t know, but I think she said ‘Do you want some fox meat?’ Ian replied, with a furrowed forehead.
Peter rolled down the window to get confirmation, and she yelled more clearly this time: “Do you want to follow me?”
We did and then struck north toward the wilds of eastern Washington. Nothing especially exciting happened on this bit of the trip, except everyone got maybe thirty or forty pages farther into their books. We stopped again in Spokane at Mikes house to pick up some chicken wire to wrap around the car at the trailhead (Porcupines seem to be fond of chewing on the tasty yet lethal antifreeze and brake tubes underneath your car). We made it across the border with surprisingly little cheek from a restrained Peter while he talked to the surly middle-aged Canadian border guard-ess. Again we headed north, now through the lands of Beautiful British Columbia (it says so on their license plates). Instead of making it all the way to the trailhead that night we stopped early due to driver fatigue in the wonderland of Dutch Creek Campground eh. Some members of the team pitched tents while the other prepared dinner, which we then consumed and went to bed.
The next day we made it to the trailhead deep in the Purcell Mountains by way of a brand new logging road, passing periodic clear cuts on the way in, and being treated to spectacular mountainous Canadian views and then of the Commander glacier, a crevasse-ridden monstrosity topped by Mt. Commander. We arrived at a wide spot in the road full of loggers pickups, where we parked our own equally large vehicles and packed our large backpacks. For the record, Dannys backpack weighed the most. The chicken wire we laboriously obtained in Spokane did not make it out of the back of the van for unexplained reasons. Then we headed down an old cart track filled with tree trunks thrown down the hill by the loggers, and into the wild. After passing an old collapsed log hut with cots still intact and a nice picnic table outside, we came to a roaring river that needed to be crossed. After hiking a hundred yards up it we came to the place where the river was formed by two streams, and only one of these smaller rivers needed to be crossed. We found a spot where two logs maybe five feet apart already spanned the river, and Matt scampered over and found another suitably sized log that was placed beneath the other two and created a seemingly sturdy bridge. Everyone made the crossing without incident, and then we began the bushwhack through the lowlands to get to the base of the moraine we planned to hike up to our camping spot. We reached the moraine with only one notable incident, a discovery of bear mace and the resulting test of its powers that concluded in gagging and running eyes. The moraine, instead of being a scary hike up a wide trail with a death fall onto the glacier to the right it turned out to be much less scary and fun. The glacier had receded so that there was no longer a glacier to fall two hundred feet onto, just rocks. And the trail had eroded away so that it became necessary to walk through the underbrush twenty feet down from the top on the safe side of the moraine, which suffice it to say, was not a good time. Eventually we reached the end of the moraine and cut across a fourth class rock shelf to emerge on a paradise of rock and water. Directly below the glacier a large rock shelf had formed, maybe a half-mile square that sloped slightly into the valley below and that housed thousands of waterfalls and streams coming off of the Commander glacier and another next to it. We built some rock structures for various purposes around our camp, then had dinner and went to bed.
The next day we woke up at three am to scale the glacier and then attempt Karnak and Jumbo peaks. To get to the glacier we needed to first hike about 2000 vertical feet up scree to get to the base of the ice and the glacier. This was a painful experience but not too scary or exciting. When we got to the base of the glacier, everyone put on their crampons while ducking occasional rocks and we roped up and began to walk up the glacier, passing through an area of gigantic crevasses, creaking noises and icefall, though not as bad in the morning as in the evening. We passed over the "Hickey Step" where we placed our only ice screw of the trip, and then continued upward, weaving through crevasses. The ice eventually turned to firm snow, and we hiked another two thousand vertical feet up with minimal rests or stops along the way. This first forced march brought us only to the base of Mt. Commander, and we still needed to hike another two kilometers across the glacier to get to the base of Karnak (11,000+ ft.). Everyone was burnt out from the altitude (about 10,000 feet at the Commander pass) and the long climb. With very little break we headed across the gigantic gently sloping perfectly smooth glacier and across a kind of scary traverse to get to the base of Karnak. After a painless steep snow slope we reached the rock ridge that would lead us to the top. Matt fixed a rope, and we all scrambled to the top (11,156’) to enjoy the wonderful Canadian view on a near-cloudless day. We rapped off the top back down to the snow, and then walked to flat place to have lunch. Then we walked back toward Commander, dropped out packs and took a little jaunt up to the top of snow-covered Jumbo peak (11,276 ft.), once thought of as the highest mountain in the Purcells but recently surpassed by nearby Mt. Farnham. After coming down we attempted Commander but it was getting late and we turned around early. It started to rain when we neared camp, but we made it back tired and happy, and quickly went to bed.
The next day was a rest day, and everyone dried their clothing and gear in the beautiful hot sun. In the afternoon we had a poetry reading session, marked by Robert Frosts “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”. Because we had had very little food on our first day our, we gorged ourselves and planned to take more on out attempt of Commander and the Guardsmen, small, steep rocky peaks that sit below Commander in the middle of the glacier, the next day.
The next morning we woke up at 3am and again made the long slog up the glacier, where we split up the groups, one going to attempt the Guardsman, and the other to Commander (11,060 ft. also). The group attempting the Guardsmen was thwarted three times due to a lack of rock gear and rope, which had both been taken by the other team. The Guardsmen group took naps on the warm silver-black shale while Olivia explored the peaks, unsuccessfully both times. The group on Commander summited and put up three ropes as a fixed line from the bottom of the rock to the top. When the Guardsmen group arrived to climb Commander the ropes were already in place and they scampered quickly to the top while the other group baked in the sun at the base. Again the view from Commander was amazing, and you could see the Lake of the Hanging Glacier from the summit. When the groups reunited at the base of Commander we had lunch and decided to not re-attempt the Guardsmen, instead to head down so as to not get caught in the near-dark again. During the trip down the glacier there was some wand trouble and some frightening icefall, but we made it back to camp in one piece. We had a relaxing evening, and ate an excellent dinner. We also decided that we did not want to hike up the long glacier again to re-try the Guardsmen or the Cleaver (another nearby peak, though not THAT close), and instead to hike out to the cars and drive to the trailhead for the Lake of the Hanging Glacier to do the 14 mile round trip hike to see the lake.
We woke up at a reasonable hour on the hike-out day, packed our packs, and headed back down the moraine and through the underbrush. Peter lost his trekking pole in one of the small streams we had to cross, and the bridge we had made broke under Jack (oops) and he pulled off some crazy-sweet acrobatics and made it across ok. Luckily he was the second-to-last person and Matt walked across the same we he had the first time. On the drive to the lake we passed the Womens national ski team going far too fast in their vans, and listened to loud music and were happy because there would be no more heavy packs. We also had to cross a river running through the road, which caused no small amount of scraping on the undersides of the cars. Despite this, we made it to the trailhead intact and began the hike with light packs around two oclock. The hike consisted of a beautiful trail through woods and meadows and by waterfalls, and ended much more quickly than we had expected. The lake had the glacial runoff striking green color, and had a couple of small icebergs floating in it, which some people waded out to. Some snacking happened whilst we admired the lake and the glaciers around it, and we could see Mt. Commander from this new vantage. The hike down took even less time, and we arrived at the trailhead and pitched our tents just as it was getting dark. Dinner was made in the dark, and then everyone went to bed.
The next morning we packed up camp and got into the vehicles and drove to the wonderful commercialized Radium hot springs with hot showers, a pool-sized hot tub, regular swimming pool and diving board. We stayed there for a couple of hours and had lunch at their sub place, where absolutely everything has to be in English and French, even if sometimes this means only mixing up the words and adding a few accents. We then headed south in the cars, witnessing the immediate aftermath of a four head-on collisions, and eventually ended up in Spokane at Mikes house. There we had a wonderful dinner of barbequed meat, salad, hot bread, berries, fruit, ice cream and soda and told Mike our story, the fee for the meal. We watched "Rushmore", and a few of us also indulged in "Conan the Barbarian", which actually has a wonderful storyline and some very meaningful messages to offer.
In the morning we ate a tasty breakfast and played a bit of basketball in the cul-de-sac outside the house. Then we headed back to Portland, our drive interrupted by some raucous college kids to whom we gave Olivia and a few pickets in order for them to let us pass. These friends of Peter were actually headed to where we came from, and we wished them luck. Then it was back to the expectant parents in Portland and horribly dreary summer vacation.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Alaska Mountaineering Trip: July 2006
|Catlin Gabel team approaches Spearmint Peak|
MORE PHOTOS BELOW
Alaska Climbing Expedition: June 30 – July 9, 2006
Alaska Airlines provided our ticket to adventure in the north country. We first spent two days in Seattle as a way to bond the group – during which we sailed on Lake Union, played Frisbee and swam. Sunday the 2nd of July was a very long day. We got up at 3am to drive to Seatac airport to (barely) catch our flight to Anchorage. Our wonderful shuttle driver, Bob, met us at the airport and took us to a large supermarket in Palmer, where he patiently waited while we shopped for a week’s worth of food. After the supplies were loaded into the shuttle we drove to Chickaloon to leave most of the food and some of the gear with the pilot who was going to conduct the airdrop for us. We were new to this whole idea of an ‘airdrop’, but it seemed to be a common thing in Alaska, so we thought we’d give it a try. We loaded back into the shuttle and drove up toward Hatcher Pass and the Goldmint trailhead. Here we repacked our large backpacks, put on our boots, and headed off on the endless trail to the Mint Hut, just below the Mint Glacier.
The hike was long, but beautiful. We followed the valley of the Little Susitna River to its very head. The last mile of the trail is referred to as “heartbreak hill” because it climbs the headwall up to the meadows where the Mint Hut stands. We got to the hut about 9:30 pm, just a few minutes after the airplane made its drop. “Air Strike” would have been the best term to describe the event, as every bag we had packed burst open on impact, and food exploded across the heretofore serene meadow. We spent hours gathering up elbow noodles, curry powder, pickets (some bent) and beef log from among the heather and boulders. It was late when we went to bed.
On Monday we set off on our first climb. There was no hurry getting started, as the light stayed with us for all 24 hours. The snow on the Mint Glacier was a nightmare, and seemed to stay that way regardless of when we traversed it. We laughed at the idea of using crampons in Alaska, at least at this altitude. Usually the soft snow overtopped our gators. Fortunately for us we never saw a crevasse on any glacier during the week we were there. On this first day of climbing we went up a short subpeak above the Mint Glacier. The climb was a warm-up, and the three pitches of easy rockwork and the long rappels helped get the students in the right frame of mind.
The next day we set off for the very long approach to Peppermint Peak, which forms a striking triangle against the sky to the south of camp. Williams was sick, so he and Mary stayed behind. The remainder of the group trudged up the moraine and down the adjacent moraine and across the drainage stream coming from the Mint Glacier. We then climb long snowfields leading to the aesthetic glacier below Peppermint. We set up a staging area on the right-hand col while Conrad did some exploratory climbing. He found a lodgment in the rock face about 230 feet up and we sent Riley after him with another rope. Together they contrived to get the next pitch set with a fixed line, leaving them poised just 60 feet below the summit. Conrad led the beautiful wide crack in the granite up to the summit. Each member of the team followed and soon we found that all of us had tagged the top and it was time to retreat. Two rappels put us back at the col, and we started the long snow wallow back to camp. The fog came in as we descended and we were careful to keep a close eye on our route.
Despite the meek protests of William and Mary we made the next day a rest day, and we ate food (carefully rationed to make up for what was lost in the air strike). We played bridge and an unsuccessful game of trivial pursuit.
On Thursday we set off early for our major objective: Spearmint Peak. The mountain dominates the view from the lower valley and is prominent from the Mint Glacier. Riley led us up the glacier and up a 900-foot couloir that dropped us onto a beautiful and hidden glacier on the east flanks of Spearmint. Initially we were daunted, even shocked, by the visage of the peak from this angle. Over a period of maybe half an hour with the glass, we were able to convince ourselves we could get up the snow face and onto the rock, and up the rocky ridge to the top. Conrad led up the steep snow and then cut left through some granite rocks and onto the actual ridge. The climbing on the ridge was pretty solid. Though it took many hours, we managed to get the whole gang on top. Two rappels brought us back to the hidden glacier. The descent of the couloir took a good chunk of time, as we set up an intricate belay system to ensure everyone’s safety. Our hike back down the Mint Glacier and to the hut was quick, and we arrived (inevitably) back home in daylight.
A fog descended, or more accurately, ascended, onto camp the next day, so we hung out and organized gear and cleaned camp. On Saturday we climbed up the boulders and scree to Backdoor Pass behind the hut. From here we dropped onto the Pennyroyal Glacier and crossed it quickly to have a look at the Bomber Glacier. Getting down to the Bomber Glacier seemed too difficult, so we headed west and made an ascent of Managemint Peak. It was a fun climb, without much technical difficulty. We did rope the final fourth-class climb to the top. The summit register showed only a few ascents in the last couple of years. We made a leisurely return in the fog to the top of Backdoor Pass, and down to our hut.
Sunday was to be another long day. We cleaned camp and packed up our belongings. The hike down was a bit sketchy near the top so we put in a fixed line. Beyond that it was straightforward endless backpacking with very heavy packs. Bob was there waiting for us at the parking lot. The sun was out so we did some gear sorting before heading into Palmer for a huge meal. The rest of the day was spent at the Anchorage airport enjoying the wonders it has to offer. Our flight didn’t leave until 2am the next morning, putting us into Portland at 5:30am – ready for a new week.
Photos by Riley Peck and Peter Green
|The ascent of Peppermint Peak was made along the right skyline|
|On the Penny Royal Glacier|
|Just below the summit of Managemint Peak|
|Ascending the Penny Royal Glacier from Backdoor Pass|
|Peter and Mary on the summit of Spearmint Peak|