Thursday, December 16, 2010

Skiing in a Storm


I was super psyched to get a new pair of sunglasses and goggles from Julbo a couple weeks ago and have been wearing my new glasses around town. They are definitely fashionable enough for the city but I knew I needed to test them out in the mountains. Fortunately, both Jonathon and I had an open day in our schedules for skiing on Tuesday.

After a two hour drive out of Seattle, through the crazy traffic associated with the urban jungle, we finally made it to the Alpental backcountry trailhead. It was snowing lightly and forecasters were calling for heavy snow and high winds later in the day. It had rained 5 inches in the mountains a couple days prior, so we might have been pushing our luck thinking we could fit in a day of skiing.


We put on our skis and started skinning towards Pineapple Pass. My new sunglasses are just the right color for the flat light associated with snowy weather and I was glad to have them for the uphill portion of the day. Since the snow had melted so much from the recent rain event, many of the streams were now open, making for some sketchy crossings. The recent avalanche debris from the massive rain event had blanketed the skin track. We continued up, getting a little wet from all the snow but not too concerned about the storm. As we started to get higher and move out of the trees, the snow and wind started to pick up. It must have been snowing 2 inches an hour and the wind was starting to blow the snow sideways so that the exposed skin on my face started to sting. It was a good time to put my new goggles. They did not fog up and the lens color is ideal for bright and flat light. Jonathon observed some cracking on the snow surface and we decided to call it a day. We skied down and started to make our way back to the car.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Early Season Skiing

I went skiing!

This is not a miraculous accomplishment but it felt special to strap on skis for the first time in a couple years and not be in pain! Skiing use to be a big part of my identity. I grew up in Maine skiing the icy slopes with the family and moved to Utah entirely based on the skiing. Since moving to Washington I haven't been able to enjoy the skiing here due to injuries and lack of time and money. There was the winter that my leg was crushed by a boulder and I was literally on my back for three months. The following winter I attempted to ski with about a pound of metal in my leg and every time my shin pressed on my boot, the metal pressed against my muscles, tendons and nerves in the most uncomfortable way possible. Last winter I had surgery to get all the metal out of my leg. I don't think I have quite solved the lack of time and money issue but I don't think I can use the "I'm injured" excuse anymore! I feel so grateful and lucky to have made this type of recovery and I'm so stoked to get back to skiing.

Baker backcountry with Mt. Baker in the distance

I had a mellow day of backcountry skiing near Mt. Baker. I have to admit, I actually felt nervous about making that first turn down the low angle slope. What if it hurt? What if I fell and embarrassed myself? I forced myself to point my skis downhill and what do you know....skiing is still fun and I kind of remember how to ski! My technique is rusty and my legs are out of shape, but it doesn't matter. I am having fun and feeling psyched to be back at it!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nursing School

The office: Where the magic takes place

Life has been crazy busy for me; which isn't all that uncommon. But these days the lack of time is related to school and academics. I finally began a nursing program and it has been an overwhelming lifestyle change. The program has been rigorous and full of high expectations. I've had to fully immerse myself back into school and have had to push myself academically. I am excited to be that much closer to the goal of becoming a nurse. In the meantime, I've had to put some of my athletic goals aside. I still work out and make it to the climbing gym a couple times a week but can't take off to Patagonia or elsewhere this winter. This has been a difficult adjustment for me but I realize this is a short term change in exchange for a better lifestyle in the long run. Fortunately there are a couple long breaks from school and I already have trips planned for those times! Summer vacation will include a trip to Alaska, Europe, the Bugaboos and of course rock climbing all over the Northwest. Pre-planning for trips helps motivate me to train and it also motivates me to successfully get through school.


In an ideal world, I would like to have a career I am passionate about that is separate from my love of the mountains and adventures. I realize that it takes work to get to this place and I'm willing to make sacrifices to get there. My hope is that my attitude stays positive and my goals remain tangible throughout this journey.

Dreams of Fitz Roy keep me motivated!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The "Proj"



Gotta have a good knot

After many attempts, I finally completed my first 5.12a redpoint of this really fun 1 pitch sport climb at Little Si in WA. The name of the climb is rainy day women and I've heard it's the most projected line in Washington. I can definitely understand why! No move is too ridiculously hard, it is steep and there are lots of bolts. It is just long (about 90ft), very sequential, and lots of enduro-power moves, at least for me!

I never thought I could become mildly obsessed with a short, little climb and it seems a little silly to be writing about....but it was a goal and it feels dam good to have accomplished it. Last spring, I started climbing at Little Si a lot. The ultimate goal was to learn how to sport climb. My friend Patrick took me under his wing and graciously put the rope up for me as a struggled up the climbs that he seemed to effortlessly float up. I didn't know how to move on overhanging terrain. I didn't know the beta for the climbs. I couldn't hold onto tiny holds. I didn't know how to fall. The first time I tried Rainy Day Women, I can't even remember how many times I hung on it. When Patrick lowered me back down, I remember saying I think I could do this someday. Maybe this will be my first "project." As a sidenote, the word "project" always made me laugh. It sounded so serious and for me climbing has mainly just been about having fun, going on adventures, while trying to get better. But I thought I would give this project thing a try. Turns out, its kinda addicting.

I tried my project a couple other times on top rope before feeling confident enough to lead it. When I got all the moves fairly wired, I felt ready to give it a go. Again, I hung so many, many times. I was afraid to fall. I kept saying take and wasn't going for it. I knew what I had to differently next time.

A couple weeks later, I came out there with Jeanna and we were both determined to send rainy day. I was feeling really good. Everything was going smoothly, even the spots that were so hard last time. Only three bolts from the top, I felt so tired and forgot what to do with my hands and feet. I still tried really hard and then was off, flying through the air for a 20 footer. It was a good fall and helped me remember that climbing ropes, quickdraws and bolts really do work! I felt like I had really made some progress. Jeanna went next and she sent it with no problem. I was inspired and motivated by her graceful performance and was ready to try it again. Again, I got to the same part and fell again. This time I was really frustrated. I felt myself comparing myself to Jeanna and just not having fun. I knew I needed a break from this climb.

A couple months went by where I climbed elsewhere and just did other things. I started nursing school and became really busy but somehow managed to find time to squeeze in a half day of climbing between all the studying. Jonathon and I drove out to Little Si and I knew it would probably be one of my last days to try it before getting swamped with school and losing my fitness. I felt like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and I felt nervous. I wasn't having any positive visualizations. We ran into my friend Kevin at the base just before he was heading up rainy day and he asked me if I wanted him to leave the draws hanging. That was all the encouragement I needed. Once I started climbing, everything went so smoothly. When I got to the part where I fell the last times, I rested for a while and planned out my moves and where I would be standing to clip the next draw. I moved through that section and had just one more hard move before the jugs to the anchor. I struggled with the last move...where do I put my foot? Is it this high? I can't reach the hold! Somehow, I stuck with it and made it to the chains. It was such a relief and I was very happy to put this "project" behind me.

Tired and Happy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sawtooth Daydream





In the August 2010 Climbing Magazine, my good friend James Q. Martin published this beautiful photo essay and article about rock climbing on the Elephant's Perch in the Sawtooths in Idaho. James and I drove out there from Seattle last September to climb and make some photos. We met up with Heidi Wirtz and local guide Marc Hanselman. It was a really fun trip with great people, a beautiful setting, and amazing alpine rock climbing. And some great photos came out of the trip! Check it out!
http://www.climbing.com/exclusive/features/sawtooth_daydeam/




Monday, August 2, 2010

Prusik Peak




On Friday, Phillippe and I climbed a route called Solid Gold (III, 5.11a) on Prusik Peak in the Enchantments. Prusik may be one of the most beautiful peaks in Washington. It has that perfect symmetrical triangular shape and is surrounded by beautiful alpine lakes. It is known to have some of the best alpine granite and we were both impressed with the rock quality. Although I still found myself dusting of the lichen and chalking up the footholds on the crucial spears and edges. We both thought the ratings were a little soft and the route could have been climbed in 3 or 4 pitches but we did it in 5 as the topo suggested. The climbing was interesting with lots of cracks and a couple techy face climbing moves as well The route tops out at the base of the west ridge, which is also a super classic moderate alpine rock ridge. It was a nice way to finish the climb.

The only drawback is that it is a 10 mile walk and 6000 feet of elevation gain, ONE WAY!!! We did it car to car in about 16 hours and by the last 2000 feet of the descent the balls of my feet hurt so much! My legs were very sore the next day! Treking poles were a must. I'm still not sure if it is worth it to hike that much for so little climbing, relatively speaking but nonetheless, it is an amazing alpine playground. Unfortunately my camera broke so I don't have any climbing photos :(


This is the topo that we used that I found on CascadeClimbers.com

Saturday, July 24, 2010

North Cascade Guiding



Washington's North Cascades

After I came back from Alaska, I jumped right into the Cascade guiding season in full swing. I've been cutting back on the amount of guiding I've been doing for various reasons but the ten days of work I had in the Cascades were a refreshing reminder of why guiding was so attractive to me. I met some great people and love helping people accomplish their goals. But in the end, I know that I am going to be more happy wearing out my body on my terms rather than on work terms because those backpacks are heavy!!

On Mt. Shukson, Jonathon and I helped a father/daughter team get to the summit. I love helping other women in the mountains. I think it is inspiring. We climbed the southeast ridge and had some of the worst weather I had ever experienced but we all made it up and down safely.

The southeast ridge is the right skyline. It was one of the more technical routes I have guided and definitely kept me interested!

Me leading us towards the summit. The weather only got worse.

On Baker, we had a fun group of clients and again not so great weather until we got above 8000 feet and were above the clouds. But 7 out of 8 folks reached the summit!


Hanging out at the crater rim.

On Mt. Rainier we had glorious weather and a really funny group of climbers. Again 7 out of 8 climbers reached the top.


Summit!!
Here we are descending

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sick climbing video

Check out this video I made from my trip to Alaska!

video

Denali


Approaching Camp 2 at 11,000 feet


From May 30 to June 20, I was on Denali working a trip for Alpine Ascents International. This was my first trip on the mountain and a trip that I have wanted to do since I first started guiding in 2003 in Southeast Alaska. A lot of guides have a love/hate relationship with Denali, i.e they say they hate it but keep coming back to work more trips. I found the trip to be a lot harder than I expected. I felt physically prepared but I definitely felt tired at the end of the day. The altitude and the heavy loads were tough for me in addition to all the cooking, shoveling and putting on a happy face. We had a lot of bad weather and ended up spending 6 days at the high camp at 17,000 feet waiting out weather. There were high winds and really cold temperatures. In the end we left without a summit but we did leave with all of our toes and fingers. Here are some photos from the trip. Thanks to Steve Tambosso for sharing all of these images.

Climbing on the lower mountain with heavy loads


Such pretty views and weather


Heading up in a storm
Climbers on the upper West Buttress Ridge


Looking out at Mt. Foraker from the diving board at high camp at 17,000 ft

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Alaska Range

Sometimes climbing trips go exactly as planned; most of the time, however, there are a variety of mishaps that always seem to make the climbing trip more than memorable. That was the case for this trip to Alaska. After planning and training for this trip for over 6 months, it was inevitable that things wouldn't go as planned. In the end though, it was a great learning experience and a fun trip.
Jonathan and I flew into Kahiltna Base Camp on May 19 with hopes to climb the southwest ridge of Mt. Frances and the west ridge of Mt. Hunter. After socializing with fellow climbers, we learned that the snowpack in the range had been a little funky this year. Not willing to go completely on hearsay, we still opted to give Mt. Frances a try. We woke up at midnight due to warm conditions and started up the ridge. The climbing was fun and the cruxes were pretty easy and straightforward. After climbing above the third tower, with only one more tower to go, the struggles began. Since Alaska had a pretty light snowpack this season, what was normally straightforward neve was scary, facets on top of unprotected slabs. I lead out for 200 feet through scary mixed climbing, sparse protection, and thin snow. The next pitch brought more of the same, although this time there was no gear for protection. Although disappointed, both Jonathan and I opted to retreat. We descended the route and made our way back to camp.

The next day brought more sunshine but Jonathan woke up sicker than ever with some sort of lung infection. It didn't look like he was going to be able to climb for awhile and I couldn't help but feel a little irritated and frustrated, while also feeling sympathy for my friend being sick on the glacier. We rested for several days and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to work on my tan (hehe) and go rock climbing on the base of Mt. Frances.
On Monday, we teamed up with Loren, a solid Montana alpinist to climb a newer route called Bacon and Eggs, also dubbed the mini-mini moonflower. It is always nice to climb an alpine route with three people, where you have two people at belays sharing the work, socializing, taking photos and hanging out. We started up with the attitude of just being psyched to climb and not caring how far we got on the route. Nine pitches later, we were at the top of the route and super impressed with the quality of the climbing. The climbing was characterized by continuous alpine ice 3 to 4 up a narrow chimney system. Seven v-threads later, we were back on the ground and ready for the ski back to camp.


Two days later, Jonathan and I headed up the mini moonflower, another long ice climb up one of the gulleys on Mt. Hunters northeast ridge. The first pitch of the bergshrun was steep and then the climbing mellowed off to 65 degree ice for what seemed like forever. For myself, it was a serious calf burner and was not all the fun or interesting to me. For the record, I am not much of an ice climber and tend to do the majority of my ice climbing in the alpine. While more responsible individuals usually hone their technique at the crag, I have just jumped right into ice climbing when out climbing alpine routes. In fact, this is the first time I have placed screws all year! I wouldn't necessarily recommend this training method. Needless to say, we only climbed about 1200 feet before we both decided that we weren't that psyched or inspired to continue.

We skied back to camp just in time to receive a refreshing glass of lemonade from Lisa and word that we could catch a plane back to Talkeetna within a half hour. With burgers and beers already on our mind we quickly took down our camp and eagerly awaited our flight back to civilization.

Until next time Alaska Range…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring Rock Climbing at Index

The rock climbing at Index, WA may be some of the best granite, traditional cragging in the country. Amazing climbs are stacked right up next to each other; one after another. There has been a lot of sunshine in Washington the last week and I spent three days out at Index. A couple other really good things about it are: there is no walk to the crag, there are always nice people climbing there and its right next to the river, among other things. The bad parts are the trains and all the meth-heads living by the river. The climbing is definitely not for the beginner and the ratings are notoriously stout but once you get the hang of the style it is so much fun!

A third of the way up Sole Children
I miraculously made it to the top of this great climb which was something that I had been trying to do since I took about a 40 foot fall off the top of the climb about 4 years ago after running it out while climbing over confidently. I tried to lead it last summer but came down half the way up it when I couldn't get the visions of me scraping, falling and screaming down the wall out of my head. Now all I have to do is get that last move cleanly!

One of the best parts about climbing at Index is that you get to look out at Mt. Index in all its glory. This place is so pretty! I

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Training


Before moving to Seattle and embarking on a more traditional schedule (i.e 9-5 job and classes at night), I never really trained for climbing. I just climbed and went out and played in the mountains. That strategy seemed to work for my purposes at the time. Now that I have more of a routine, I actually have to get out and train for these mountain adventures. I played lots of sports as a teenager and am familiar with training and getting strong for an event but its been awhile since I actually had to set out time to train for something in particular.

I am going to Alaska in two weeks and I want my body to be ready for in. I have a nine day personal trip planned in the Ruth Gorge and a three week working trip on Denali. I am actually more concerned about being in shape for my personal trip and being prepared for the long days that alpine climbing requires. I had surgery in December to remove all the metal from my leg (which was placed there in January 2008 after a boulder crushed my shin) and then was incredible busy with school and work for the months of January and February. So I didn't really start training until March. I had some ideas about what I wanted to do and new I wanted to implement a lot of high intensity cardio workouts. I really wanted to check out the Cross Fit workouts but I decided that wouldn't be too responsible for my meager budget. Fortunately, my friend Sam introduced me to stair climbing. And I have been loyal to these stairs for the last couple months, at least once a week. It is a little boring but ultimately satisfying in that you can get such a good work out in an hour or less. I'm finding out that these stairs are somewhat cultish in Seattle. Lots of people like to run them!

I also have gotten back into running which has been really nice since I haven't been able to run much for the last two years due to my broken leg. I mainly trail run because the pavement still hurts my leg and knee and its more fun anyways. There are some great trails in the greater Seattle area. I run about 40-50 minutes about once or twice a week. Very rarely, I load my big backpack up with stuff and go for a hike. I only do this rarely because I don't really like carrying a big pack and so I only do it when it gets me to cool places. However, I do know that it is important to practice it at least once before going to these cool places. Today I went up Tiger Mountain. It was cold, wet and snowing at 2000 feet! Summer where are you?!


And of course I go rock climbing and do yoga because those things are just so fun, especially rock climbing!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Welcome


Hey everyone. Welcome to my blog about various adventures in my life. Hopefully this will become a collection of thoughts, words, stories and pictures that can provide a glimpse into the daily happenings of my world. Enjoy!