Winter Mountaineering? Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak

 Dragon tail Peak in the moonlight. The Triple Couloirs route starts in the obvious snow gully around the center of the face. Note the headlamps on the right side of the face. From our camp on the lake we watched a party retreat off of the face via multiple rappels in the dark.

Dragon tail Peak in the moonlight. The Triple Couloirs route starts in the obvious snow gully around the center of the face. Note the headlamps on the right side of the face. From our camp on the lake we watched a party retreat off of the face via multiple rappels in the dark.

The Pacific Northwest's mild winter has created early spring conditions in the mountains--a more stable snowpack up high and little snow at lower elevations making access to the high country easier. This weekend Cam Alford and I trekked into the edge of the Enchantment range in Washington's North Cascades to take a crack at the classic alpine mountaineering route Triple Couloirs. The route is one of several that ascends the northwest face of Dragontail Peak.

 Cam Alford making his bed for our brief evening at Colchuck Lake, using our climbing rope as part of his mattress.

Cam Alford making his bed for our brief evening at Colchuck Lake, using our climbing rope as part of his mattress.

 Inspecting equipment for our early morning start.

Inspecting equipment for our early morning start.

 In the moonlight, Cam makes coffee for our pre-dawn start.

In the moonlight, Cam makes coffee for our pre-dawn start.

 After we left camp at 5 am, unfortunately, my camera stayed tucked in my pack until high up on the route as we navigated three pitches of ice and the first two couloirs. After safely navigating into the third couloir, with all of the significant technical obstacles behind us I snapped a few shots. Here Cam ascends steep snow towards the bottom of the third couloir.

After we left camp at 5 am, unfortunately, my camera stayed tucked in my pack until high up on the route as we navigated three pitches of ice and the first two couloirs. After safely navigating into the third couloir, with all of the significant technical obstacles behind us I snapped a few shots. Here Cam ascends steep snow towards the bottom of the third couloir.

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 Close to the summit of the Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak, Cam Alford looks out over the snow covered North Cascades.

Close to the summit of the Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak, Cam Alford looks out over the snow covered North Cascades.

A strait forward descent around the backside of the mountain brought us back to our camp and several grueling hours of hiking on a very icy trail and gated road got us back to our car and the end of 14 hours of almost continuous movement. Beers and burgers in Leavenworth shortly there after--sorry no photos of that either.

Back to where it all began...Alpine climbing in the Alps

I have been lucky enough to spend the end of August climbing in the French Alps out of the town of Chamonix with my friends Erin Smart and Forest McBrian, owners and guides for Borealis Mountain Guides. Erin, who has been skiing and climbing in the French Alps since she was a teenager provided me with a brilliant introduction to the climbing culture of the area. Having known Forest for many years and his love of all things related to the art of Alpinism and most things French, it was a pleasure to finally experience the mountains which I had heard about from his stories--mountains which have inspired generations of world class alpinists including Forest (whose exploits include first ascent mountaineering routes and first descent ski mountaineering routes, as well as a burgeoning writing career including a recent article in Alpinist on the famed Pickets Range in the North Cascades).

Mountaineering, European Style

Having come of age in the mountains of western North America, reading about the exploits of John Muir and Fred Becky, I always assumed that suffering through long approaches, doing battle with dense brush, brutal mosquitoes, crossing raging snowmelt filled creeks was part of the entrance fees for access to the splendor of the high mountains. Here in Europe, there is a bit of different sensibility. Approaches are manicured, ladders and footholds are added to the landscape to expedite travel, cable cars provide access from the valley bottom to the heart of the glacier in minutes, beautiful helicopter serviced mountain huts await with wine or tea to be had on the deck at the end of a day of climbing followed by 3 course dinners and a cozy place to spend the night. And just beyond the hut, or the exit from the lift, lays some of the most stunning mountain scenery and stellar alpine climbing routes of anywhere in the world.

 Erin Smart heads out on the snow arete leading away from the Aguille du Midi. Amazingly enough this photo was taken just a few meters from where the lift drops tourists, climbers and skiers off, leaving right from the town of Chamonix. One minute I was on the street eating a fresh pastry from a local bakery and 15 minutes later I found myself in some of the most stunning alpine terrain I have traversed in my life.

Erin Smart heads out on the snow arete leading away from the Aguille du Midi. Amazingly enough this photo was taken just a few meters from where the lift drops tourists, climbers and skiers off, leaving right from the town of Chamonix. One minute I was on the street eating a fresh pastry from a local bakery and 15 minutes later I found myself in some of the most stunning alpine terrain I have traversed in my life.

 Erin navigating fresh snow on the Cosmiques arete, a classic climbing route on the west side of the Aguille du Midi.

Erin navigating fresh snow on the Cosmiques arete, a classic climbing route on the west side of the Aguille du Midi.

 Erin smart leading out on mixed terrain.

Erin smart leading out on mixed terrain.

 At 4810 meters (15,781 feet), Mount Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps. Clouds stream off of the lee side of the heavily glaciered peak.

At 4810 meters (15,781 feet), Mount Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps. Clouds stream off of the lee side of the heavily glaciered peak.

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 The Mere de Glace glacier flows down off of Mount Blanc and the surrounding peaks. While still miles long, the thickness of the glacier has shrunk dramatically over recent decades…an example of the shifting climate in the region.

The Mere de Glace glacier flows down off of Mount Blanc and the surrounding peaks. While still miles long, the thickness of the glacier has shrunk dramatically over recent decades…an example of the shifting climate in the region.

 Erin Smart on the trail into the Envers Hut, situated above the Mere du Glace.

Erin Smart on the trail into the Envers Hut, situated above the Mere du Glace.

 Situated in an almost fairy tale like setting, the Envers des Aguilles Hut, managed by the French Alpine club provides lodging and food for climbers.

Situated in an almost fairy tale like setting, the Envers des Aguilles Hut, managed by the French Alpine club provides lodging and food for climbers.

 Mountain guide   Miles Smart  at a belay on a route above the Envers hut.

Mountain guide  Miles Smart at a belay on a route above the Envers hut.

 Forest McBrian examines the Eperon des Cosmiques route before our ascent.

Forest McBrian examines the Eperon des Cosmiques route before our ascent.

 Forest McBrian leading out on a traversing pitch lower on the route.

Forest McBrian leading out on a traversing pitch lower on the route.

 Erin getting into the crux moves of the route, a series of cracks leading through a large roof.

Erin getting into the crux moves of the route, a series of cracks leading through a large roof.

 Erin pulling over another thoughtful move on the same crux pitch of the route.

Erin pulling over another thoughtful move on the same crux pitch of the route.

 Forest wandering up through a series of cracks in beautiful granite towards the top of the route.

Forest wandering up through a series of cracks in beautiful granite towards the top of the route.

 The view from a belay stance on the route. Mount Blanc in the background.

The view from a belay stance on the route. Mount Blanc in the background.

Mountaineering, Glaciers and Climate Change in the North Cascades

 Darcy Ottey on the approach to the Colonial Glacier cirque. Colonial Creek falls off to the left with Colonial Peak above it.

Darcy Ottey on the approach to the Colonial Glacier cirque. Colonial Creek falls off to the left with Colonial Peak above it.

In August, Darcy Ottey and I went to explore a corner of the North Cascades we had never been to: the high peaks and glaciers just above the the south end Diablo reservoir, off of the North Cascades Scenic Highway in northern Washington State. After years of seeing Colonial Peak from the Highway when driving through, we picked what turned out to be a stormy summer week to venture into the area.

An arduous approach

Hours of grinding up a steep but established climbers route through lower and mid elevation forests eventually popped us out above treeline on glacier carved slabs along a ridgeline leading towards Pyramid Peak. From hear a short traverse across talus and old avalanche debris got us to the entrance to a glaciated citadel of mountains—the upper Colonial Creek cirque.

 Camp on the edge of the recently formed lake at the terminous of the Colonial glacier.

Camp on the edge of the recently formed lake at the terminous of the Colonial glacier.

 A blanket of clouds cover lower elevations in the North Cascades with high peaks sitting like islands in the sea at sunrise. The image is similar to how these mountains often appeared during the ice age when glaciers often covered lower elevations in much the same way.

A blanket of clouds cover lower elevations in the North Cascades with high peaks sitting like islands in the sea at sunrise. The image is similar to how these mountains often appeared during the ice age when glaciers often covered lower elevations in much the same way.

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A dynamic landscape

Not surprisingly, when we reached where the map noted the snout of the Colonial glacier should be we found no ice. The glacier, like most glaciers in the North Cascades (and indeed across the planet), has receded significantly. Nearly a quarter mile up stream we found the new terminus of the glacier, where it ends in a newly exposed lake, in a depression carved out by the glacier and now filled with melt water and icebergs—detached chunks of the crumbling glacier. Thunderstorms roiled a we elected to avoid campsites on the exposed rock prow above the lake, instead choosing to set up camp on the only flat spot we could find adjacent to the lake.

 Receeding glaciers leave behind moonscapes of scoured bedrock covered with piles of rubble and rock flour.

Receeding glaciers leave behind moonscapes of scoured bedrock covered with piles of rubble and rock flour.

 Glacial ice exposed at the very top of the Colonial glacier (upper left of this photo) suggests that this glacier no longer has an accumulation zone. Under current conditions, it is just a matter of time before the glacier disappears completeley–perhaps within the next several decades.

Glacial ice exposed at the very top of the Colonial glacier (upper left of this photo) suggests that this glacier no longer has an accumulation zone. Under current conditions, it is just a matter of time before the glacier disappears completeley–perhaps within the next several decades.

 Current maps show glacial ice extending much further down then where the actual terminous of the glacier is now. The retreat of the glacier has created this newly formed lake. Chunks of glacial ice still float in the lake, demonstrating how quickly this landscape is changing due to shifts in the climate.

Current maps show glacial ice extending much further down then where the actual terminous of the glacier is now. The retreat of the glacier has created this newly formed lake. Chunks of glacial ice still float in the lake, demonstrating how quickly this landscape is changing due to shifts in the climate.

 Glacial lakes such as this one are filled with large amounts of ground rock powder giving the water a dark milky green appearance.

Glacial lakes such as this one are filled with large amounts of ground rock powder giving the water a dark milky green appearance.

 Earth, sky and water merge with a heavy fog sitting over the snow and ice choked glacial lake.

Earth, sky and water merge with a heavy fog sitting over the snow and ice choked glacial lake.

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 Inclement weather dashed our plans for several peak climbs but did not deter us from venturing further south, over the Colonial glacier and onto the Neve glacier.

Inclement weather dashed our plans for several peak climbs but did not deter us from venturing further south, over the Colonial glacier and onto the Neve glacier.

Inclement weather dashed our plans for several peak climbs but did not deter us from venturing further south, over the Colonial glacier and onto the Neve glacier.

 The vast exapanse of one of the largest glaciers in the North Cascades, the Neve Glacier with Snowfield Peak sitting at its head, on the left side of the frame. Seen from the Neve-Colonial glaicer col.

The vast exapanse of one of the largest glaciers in the North Cascades, the Neve Glacier with Snowfield Peak sitting at its head, on the left side of the frame. Seen from the Neve-Colonial glaicer col.

Darcy Ottey descending onto the Neve Glacier as a cloud rols over the glacier.
Darcy Ottey descending onto the Neve Glacier as a cloud rols over the glacier.
Heading into a cloud on the glacier.
Heading into a cloud on the glacier.
 On the broad expanse of the glacier, the peaks and landmarks disappear leaving an eerie world with land and sky blending together into a world of white.

On the broad expanse of the glacier, the peaks and landmarks disappear leaving an eerie world with land and sky blending together into a world of white.

 Paul Bunyon’s Stump, Pinnicle, and Pyramid peaks from Colonial-Neve glacier col.

Paul Bunyon’s Stump, Pinnicle, and Pyramid peaks from Colonial-Neve glacier col.

 Looking north from the area into the upper Skagit river valley. Ross Lake, a large reservoir built to provide hydro-electric power for the city of Seattle is a more obvious sign of our species quest for energy then the retreating glaciers of the region but both reflect the long reach of modern human’s influence on even the most wild and rugged landscapes in the world.

Looking north from the area into the upper Skagit river valley. Ross Lake, a large reservoir built to provide hydro-electric power for the city of Seattle is a more obvious sign of our species quest for energy then the retreating glaciers of the region but both reflect the long reach of modern human’s influence on even the most wild and rugged landscapes in the world.

 Descending into the clouds from the glacial cirque back into the forests of the North Cascades.

Descending into the clouds from the glacial cirque back into the forests of the North Cascades.

 Sections of forests on the western slope of the North Cascades get enough precipitation to qualify as temperate rainforest. Only 10,000 years ago these slopes likely appeared much like the higher elevations do now, having just been released from retreating glaicers which filled the mountains and flowed down into the ocean. Climate models predict these mountains to get warmer and wetter in the decades to come. Glaciers will retreat and forests will advance unslope in an ongoing advance of forests through these mountains which began millenia ago.

Sections of forests on the western slope of the North Cascades get enough precipitation to qualify as temperate rainforest. Only 10,000 years ago these slopes likely appeared much like the higher elevations do now, having just been released from retreating glaicers which filled the mountains and flowed down into the ocean. Climate models predict these mountains to get warmer and wetter in the decades to come. Glaciers will retreat and forests will advance unslope in an ongoing advance of forests through these mountains which began millenia ago.

A week at home in the Methow Valley.

With a bit more than a week at home between expeditions this June, besides catching up on emails and the odds and ends of keeping "the rest of my life" rolling, I managed to get a few outings done in my backyard here in the Methow Valley. These included a day of climbing with friends, a solo traverse of some of the local high country, retrieving remote camera's I had out for a bit over a month while I was gone, and an evening in a makeshift blind at a local beaver pond close to the Methow River. Here are a few of the images from my week....

Wildlife

 A brief pause for a very flighty creature.

A brief pause for a very flighty creature.

 Supper on the water.

Supper on the water.

 Female and cub black bears inspecting a well traveled game trail.

Female and cub black bears inspecting a well traveled game trail.

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 A wolf investigating along a lightly traveled forest road.

A wolf investigating along a lightly traveled forest road.

 Some one doesn’t need any notification that the Saskatoon berries are coming on here in the valley!

Some one doesn’t need any notification that the Saskatoon berries are coming on here in the valley!

Wandering and Climbing in the North Cascades

 Vasiliki Ridge, Silver Star Peak, and Snagtooth Ridge as seen from the base of the base of Big Kangaroo Mountain…one of my favorite parts of the North Cascades.

Vasiliki Ridge, Silver Star Peak, and Snagtooth Ridge as seen from the base of the base of Big Kangaroo Mountain…one of my favorite parts of the North Cascades.

 Looking down into the upper stretch of Cedar Creek and towards the peaks of the northern Sawtooth range on the eastern edge of the North Cascades, Washington.

Looking down into the upper stretch of Cedar Creek and towards the peaks of the northern Sawtooth range on the eastern edge of the North Cascades, Washington.

 Ryan Audett taped up and racked up for a pitch on First Ammendment on the formation known as “Le Petite Cheval” in the Early Winters Creek Drainage.

Ryan Audett taped up and racked up for a pitch on First Ammendment on the formation known as “Le Petite Cheval” in the Early Winters Creek Drainage.

 Josh Cole reviews the route description as Ryan sets off on another pitch of the route. Liberty Bell and the road cut of the North Cascades Scenic Highway can be seen in the distance.

Josh Cole reviews the route description as Ryan sets off on another pitch of the route. Liberty Bell and the road cut of the North Cascades Scenic Highway can be seen in the distance.

 Ryan peers around the corner sorting out the best line on a route none of us had done previously.

Ryan peers around the corner sorting out the best line on a route none of us had done previously.

 Looking down the Willow Creek Basin towards Early Winters Creek and the North Cascades Scenic Highway, framed by Kangaroo Ridge and the Silver Star Massif beyond.

Looking down the Willow Creek Basin towards Early Winters Creek and the North Cascades Scenic Highway, framed by Kangaroo Ridge and the Silver Star Massif beyond.

Climbing the Stuart Glacier Couloir, Mount Stuart, North Cascades

Snow, Ice, and Rock on One of the Tallest Peaks in the North Cascades

In early June, two colleagues of mine from Northwest Outward Bound School,  Trever Waage and Joel Reid,  and I set off to climb the Stuart Glacier Couloir, a classic steep snow/ice and rock route on the north side of Mount Stuart, one of the tallest non-volcanic peaks in the Cascades.

 We made our camp at the base of the Sherpa and Ice Cliff glaciers close to where our descent route would return us to at the end of the route. For the alpine start we were planning for summit day we turned in early.

We made our camp at the base of the Sherpa and Ice Cliff glaciers close to where our descent route would return us to at the end of the route. For the alpine start we were planning for summit day we turned in early.

 We crossed the Stuart Glacier in the dark, having left camp around 2 AM. Here Joel Reid navigates a crevasse on the glacier by headlamp.

We crossed the Stuart Glacier in the dark, having left camp around 2 AM. Here Joel Reid navigates a crevasse on the glacier by headlamp.

 We crossed the burgshrund on the top of the glacier at first light and ascended the lower section of the couloir, about 40-50 firm snow, which runs up the northwest face of the peak. At the narrowest section of the couloir are two steps of steeper terrain. Here Joel Reid leads out to climb a pitch of mixed rock, ice, and snow with a belay from Trever Waage. Trevor lead the next step of ice.

We crossed the burgshrund on the top of the glacier at first light and ascended the lower section of the couloir, about 40-50 firm snow, which runs up the northwest face of the peak. At the narrowest section of the couloir are two steps of steeper terrain. Here Joel Reid leads out to climb a pitch of mixed rock, ice, and snow with a belay from Trever Waage. Trevor lead the next step of ice.

 Joel and Trevor approach the top of the couloir on Mount Stuart’s west ridge.

Joel and Trevor approach the top of the couloir on Mount Stuart’s west ridge.

 The route to the summit finishes on the West ridge; beautiful granite and stunning exposure.

The route to the summit finishes on the West ridge; beautiful granite and stunning exposure.

 Trevor reaching for a good hand hold, high on the west ridge. The Stuart Glacier Couloir drops away below him.

Trevor reaching for a good hand hold, high on the west ridge. The Stuart Glacier Couloir drops away below him.

 Joel Reid tops out on the summit of Mount Stuart.

Joel Reid tops out on the summit of Mount Stuart.

 After a careful descent to the east and then down the Sherpa Glacier we made it back to our camp, greated by a family of mountain goats.   

After a careful descent to the east and then down the Sherpa Glacier we made it back to our camp, greated by a family of mountain goats.

 

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Dropping into Cove Canyon

 

While thousands of boaters float down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon every year, dozens of side canyons branching off the river receive much less attention. During my recent float trip, we explored several technical canyons. Because of the small amount of daylight in late November and December in the Canyon, side trips required an early start and several ended by headlamp in the dark. My favorite side trip was in Cove Canyon which comes into the Colorado around river mile 175. From our camp at the mouth of Cove Canyon six of us departed before first light. A bit over 12 hours later we made our way back into camp after navigating the final plunge pool and rappell via headlamp.

Alpine Skills Training at Northwest Outward Bound School

 Outward Bound Instructor Sam Ecenia dives into Alpine Skills Training on Mount Hood to start of the summer field season for Northwest Outward Bound School’s summer season.

Outward Bound Instructor Sam Ecenia dives into Alpine Skills Training on Mount Hood to start of the summer field season for Northwest Outward Bound School’s summer season.

The first staff training of the year for Northwest Outward Bound School's Odin Falls Basecamp in Central Oregon was a great success. Myself and five participants headed out to eastside of Mount Hood. Blue skies and generally excellent weather made for five very productive days from a basecamp we established on a moraine to the south of the Elliot Glacier, culminating in a summit climb via the lovely Cooper Spur Route (see photos below). We also spent a day working on rescue skills and student management on the basalt cliffs by the school's Bascamp along the Deschutes River at the end of the training.

Along with being an instructor and trainer for Northwest Outward Bound School, I recently joined the Board of Directors for the school. After months of being involved with all the many things that go on behind the scenes to help ensure that Outward Bound Instructors have the chance to deliver life changing experiences to our students in the field, spending a week in the field with this group of instructors  in the backcountry was a good reminder for me about why the work that Outward Bound does is so powerful for students and instructors alike.

 Heading up towards our camp on Mount Hood.

Heading up towards our camp on Mount Hood.

 We set up our camp at the end of this glacial moraine above the terminus of the Elliot Glacier.

We set up our camp at the end of this glacial moraine above the terminus of the Elliot Glacier.

 Our camp on the moraine above the Elliot Glacier on Mount Hood

Our camp on the moraine above the Elliot Glacier on Mount Hood

 Six year Outward Bound veteran Jess Stuecklen practices her self arrest skills.

Six year Outward Bound veteran Jess Stuecklen practices her self arrest skills.

 Outward Bound Instructor Sam Ecenia self arrests after a face first digger. Being able to stop yourself from sliding on steep snow is a fundamental alpine climbing skill.

Outward Bound Instructor Sam Ecenia self arrests after a face first digger. Being able to stop yourself from sliding on steep snow is a fundamental alpine climbing skill.

 Outward Bound Instructor John Rudolph practicing his crevasse rescue skills–building a snow anchor and transferring the weight of a fallen climber from his harness to the anchor.

Outward Bound Instructor John Rudolph practicing his crevasse rescue skills–building a snow anchor and transferring the weight of a fallen climber from his harness to the anchor.

 Jess bounds in a snow anchor. Participants had 15 minutes to construct an anchor and transfer the “fallen climber” to it during this drill.

Jess bounds in a snow anchor. Participants had 15 minutes to construct an anchor and transfer the “fallen climber” to it during this drill.

 Outward Bound Instructor Molly Hayes relaxes in camp after a full day of skills practice.

Outward Bound Instructor Molly Hayes relaxes in camp after a full day of skills practice.

 Mount Hood as seen from our camp location.

Mount Hood as seen from our camp location.

 We left our camp at 2 am for our peak bid, arriving at the base of the steep terrain close to the summit just as the sun was about to rise   

We left our camp at 2 am for our peak bid, arriving at the base of the steep terrain close to the summit just as the sun was about to rise

 

 Hard snow up to about 55 degrees made for fun and exciting climbing conditions on the way up.

Hard snow up to about 55 degrees made for fun and exciting climbing conditions on the way up.

 Sunrise over the Columbia River as seen from about 9000′ on the Cooper Spur route

Sunrise over the Columbia River as seen from about 9000′ on the Cooper Spur route

 Laura Berglund and Sam Ecenia pause for a moment as we get into the steepest portion of the climb

Laura Berglund and Sam Ecenia pause for a moment as we get into the steepest portion of the climb

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 View from a belay close to the summit.

View from a belay close to the summit.

 Sam Ecenia constructing a snow anchor for the final pitch of the climb. One of the basic educational concepts of Outward Bound is to “Impell People into Value’s Forming Experiences”. In classic Outward Bound fashion participants in the training practice all of the components of the peak ascent on the days leading up to the climb and then were impelled to put the skills into use to ensure the safety and success of our team endeavor on the climb.

Sam Ecenia constructing a snow anchor for the final pitch of the climb. One of the basic educational concepts of Outward Bound is to “Impell People into Value’s Forming Experiences”. In classic Outward Bound fashion participants in the training practice all of the components of the peak ascent on the days leading up to the climb and then were impelled to put the skills into use to ensure the safety and success of our team endeavor on the climb.

 After leading the final pitch of the climb, Jess Stuecklen belays Laura Berglund as she crests the summit of Mount Hood, the tallest peak in the Oregon Cascades.

After leading the final pitch of the climb, Jess Stuecklen belays Laura Berglund as she crests the summit of Mount Hood, the tallest peak in the Oregon Cascades.

 View of the final portion of the Cooper Spur route which ascends the wind sculpted lower slopes before weaving through the bands of rocks to reach the summit.

View of the final portion of the Cooper Spur route which ascends the wind sculpted lower slopes before weaving through the bands of rocks to reach the summit.

 John Rudolph demonstrates one of Outward Bounds educational tenets–craftsmanship–in the fine meal he prepared for us at the end of our summit day. Nothing says excellence in alpine cooking like long strands of gooey melted cheese!

John Rudolph demonstrates one of Outward Bounds educational tenets–craftsmanship–in the fine meal he prepared for us at the end of our summit day. Nothing says excellence in alpine cooking like long strands of gooey melted cheese!

 The Northwest Outward Bound School Mission is to conduct safe, adventure-based experiences structured to inspire self discovery, self reliance, compassion for others, and care for our environment.For more information about Northwest Outward Bound School, vist  nwobs.org .

The Northwest Outward Bound School Mission is to conduct safe, adventure-based experiences structured to inspire self discovery, self reliance, compassion for others, and care for our environment.For more information about Northwest Outward Bound School, vist nwobs.org.

 The silhouettes of Mount Adams and Mount Rainer at sunrise as seen from the northeast side of Mount Hood. Northwest Outward Bound runs courses in some of the most stunning and wild places in the Pacific Northwest including mountaineering courses in the Oregon and Washington Cascades. To sign up for courses visit  outwardbound.org .

The silhouettes of Mount Adams and Mount Rainer at sunrise as seen from the northeast side of Mount Hood. Northwest Outward Bound runs courses in some of the most stunning and wild places in the Pacific Northwest including mountaineering courses in the Oregon and Washington Cascades. To sign up for courses visit outwardbound.org.

Pulling Down At Frenchman Coulee

 Mountain guide and photographer Erin Smart clips them on “Clip Em or Skip Em”, 5.8 on Sunshine Wall.

Mountain guide and photographer Erin Smart clips them on “Clip Em or Skip Em”, 5.8 on Sunshine Wall.

Thanks to Erin Smart and Forest McBrian for putting up with a lens in their direction during a beautiful couple of days  of climbing in Frenchman Coulee in Eastern Washington.

 Soaring with the cliff swallows.   

Soaring with the cliff swallows.

 

 IFMGA certified Mountain guide Forest McBrian racks up for his next climb

IFMGA certified Mountain guide Forest McBrian racks up for his next climb

 Forest Mcbrian getting started on the Vantage classic “Air Guitar”, 5.10a, on Sunshine Wall.   

Forest Mcbrian getting started on the Vantage classic “Air Guitar”, 5.10a, on Sunshine Wall.

 

Pickets Traverse

 Forest McBrian climbing into a col on the south side of Mount Fury.

Forest McBrian climbing into a col on the south side of Mount Fury.

 Whatcom Peak, the northern start of the Pickets range

Whatcom Peak, the northern start of the Pickets range

 Challanger Glacier, the largest glacier in this part of the North Cascades

Challanger Glacier, the largest glacier in this part of the North Cascades

 Forest McBrian hiking out of Luna Cirque with the massive north face of Mount Fury rising on the left and Luna lake below.

Forest McBrian hiking out of Luna Cirque with the massive north face of Mount Fury rising on the left and Luna lake below.

 Southern Pickets from the north. Left to right: East McMillian Spire, West McMillian Spire, Inspiration Peak, Mount Dagenhart, Mount Terror

Southern Pickets from the north. Left to right: East McMillian Spire, West McMillian Spire, Inspiration Peak, Mount Dagenhart, Mount Terror

 Forest McBrian traversing south along the ridge leading to Picket Pass, what Fred Beckey might refer to as “pleasant hiking”.

Forest McBrian traversing south along the ridge leading to Picket Pass, what Fred Beckey might refer to as “pleasant hiking”.

 Forest on the Mustard glacier, part of our travel route over the southern Pickets.

Forest on the Mustard glacier, part of our travel route over the southern Pickets.

 Forest making the transition from the icy glacier to the steep wet rock which lead to the col between the Ottohorn and Himelhorn peaks and our route out of the Pickets. This section of the route was the most technically challenging piece of the entire traverse in the conditions we encountered it.

Forest making the transition from the icy glacier to the steep wet rock which lead to the col between the Ottohorn and Himelhorn peaks and our route out of the Pickets. This section of the route was the most technically challenging piece of the entire traverse in the conditions we encountered it.

 Last views to the north before we dropped down and south out of probably the most wild and remote section of the North Cascades. Mount Fury and Luna Peak in the distance.

Last views to the north before we dropped down and south out of probably the most wild and remote section of the North Cascades. Mount Fury and Luna Peak in the distance.

 One last major obstacle descending south off of our last col, a steep gully (an eroded volcanic dike of which there were a number in the range which presented difficulties along the traverse) filled with large quantities of loose rocks. The light at the end of the chasm couldn’t come soon enough.

One last major obstacle descending south off of our last col, a steep gully (an eroded volcanic dike of which there were a number in the range which presented difficulties along the traverse) filled with large quantities of loose rocks. The light at the end of the chasm couldn’t come soon enough.

 Luna Peak at sunrise from the south

Luna Peak at sunrise from the south

Climbing in the North Cascades

 Samantha Goff and Matt Chalmers, filled with anticipation at the start of our trip into the Eldorado Peak high camp.

Samantha Goff and Matt Chalmers, filled with anticipation at the start of our trip into the Eldorado Peak high camp.

 Samantha and Matt on the Inspiration Glacier on the approach to the West Arete of Eldorado Peak.

Samantha and Matt on the Inspiration Glacier on the approach to the West Arete of Eldorado Peak.

 Samantha smiling at our first view of the route from the Dorado Needle Col which separates the McAlester Glacier from the Marble Creek Cirque. The climbing route is esentially the right skyline

Samantha smiling at our first view of the route from the Dorado Needle Col which separates the McAlester Glacier from the Marble Creek Cirque. The climbing route is esentially the right skyline

 Samantha at a belay ledge soon after getting on the arete, just above the layer of clouds which filled the Marble Creek drainage.

Samantha at a belay ledge soon after getting on the arete, just above the layer of clouds which filled the Marble Creek drainage.

 Happy faces after enduring an unplanned bivouac high on the west face.

Happy faces after enduring an unplanned bivouac high on the west face.

 Samantha looking up towards the summit as Matt leads the final pitch of the route. Dorado Needle and Early Morning Spire in the background.

Samantha looking up towards the summit as Matt leads the final pitch of the route. Dorado Needle and Early Morning Spire in the background.

 Looking south from the summit across a sea of clouds with only the highest peaks of the North Cascades jutting up like islands.

Looking south from the summit across a sea of clouds with only the highest peaks of the North Cascades jutting up like islands.

 Johannesburg Mountain in the foreground.

Johannesburg Mountain in the foreground.

 The south ridge of Eldorado Peak and the Eldorado Glacier.

The south ridge of Eldorado Peak and the Eldorado Glacier.

 Inspecting the descent off of the snow arete on the south ridge of Eldorado.

Inspecting the descent off of the snow arete on the south ridge of Eldorado.

 Forbidden Peak, the Forbidden Glacier and Moraine Lake with part of the Inspiration Glacier in the foreground, taken from our camp at the base of Eldorado’s east ridge.

Forbidden Peak, the Forbidden Glacier and Moraine Lake with part of the Inspiration Glacier in the foreground, taken from our camp at the base of Eldorado’s east ridge.

 Samantha leading out across the McAlester glacier towards Dorado Needle.

Samantha leading out across the McAlester glacier towards Dorado Needle.

 Samantha navigating the north ridge of Dorado Needle.

Samantha navigating the north ridge of Dorado Needle.

 Myself at a belay ledge on Dorado Needle.

Myself at a belay ledge on Dorado Needle.

 The massive west face of Eldorado Peak briefly poked out of the clouds while we were on Dorado Needle.

The massive west face of Eldorado Peak briefly poked out of the clouds while we were on Dorado Needle.

 Samantha leading out on the final pitch on Dorado Needle.

Samantha leading out on the final pitch on Dorado Needle.

 Matt nearing the summit.

Matt nearing the summit.

 Matt navigating the final piece of the ridge, a knife edge section which he is climbing “au cheval”.

Matt navigating the final piece of the ridge, a knife edge section which he is climbing “au cheval”.

 Samantha belaying from just below the summit.

Samantha belaying from just below the summit.

 Soaking wet from a long descent in pouring rain, Samantha completes a successful trip with the safe retrieval of several cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from the Cascade River.   

Soaking wet from a long descent in pouring rain, Samantha completes a successful trip with the safe retrieval of several cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from the Cascade River.

 

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