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.

Time Lapse: 1,200 miles in the tracks of a lone wolf

With over half a year gone by since we completed the OR7 Expedition, our team has been busy working on the educational products which were a key motivator to take on the expedition to begin with. We have been delivering slideshows up and down the west coast and abroad (for a list of upcoming events I am speaking at click here, and for a complete list of all events by all our team members click here).

Reflections on the journey

The fact that OR7 found a mate and has produced a litter of pups in southwestern Oregon, well over 200 miles from the closest know breeding population of wolves demonstrates the amazing capacity for wolves to reestablish themselves in areas they have been absent from for decades. It also speaks to the excellent habitat condition for wolves which currently exist across much of the west including large sections of northern California. As has been made clear, in studies from around the globe, that large terrestrial carnivores play important roles ecologically in the natural systems they inhabit--especially in concert with each other. The re-establishment of wolves in parts of California, alongside the existing recovered populations of mountain lions and black bears in the state, would be a very real step forward towards creating more diverse, resilient, and self-regulating wildlife populations and biological communities in parts of California where humans have significantly altered the landscape through removal of some species and heavy management of others.

Wildlife and wild land conservation in the 21st century

The world is a very different place now than it was in the early 1900's when the last wolves were being extirpated from the west coast. Human populations have shifted away from rural areas towards urban centers. Even in the last 50 years, since our society adopted the concept of protecting wild landscapes in the form of Wilderness, the world has shifted greatly. OR7 shows the scale at which we need to think about conservation and co-existance. Wolves speak to the very real limitations of Wilderness preservation. As we have begun to understand how interconnected ecological processes are we have learned about the vulnerability and ineffectiveness of islands of protected Wilderness. Conservation in the 21st century must look at protecting and restoring broad connected landscapes. With such a broad perspective on the types of lands that need to be incorporated into conservation planning, its impossible to consider removing human uses from all these areas. Because of this, modern conservation needs to take a hard look at the human-nature dichotomy which was enshrined in the Wilderness Act and move towards an appreciation that humans and human uses are part of the natural world. Rather than isolation of our impacts from nature and maintaining space for wild things like wolves in places far from where most people live, the way forward must be one of intermingled uses. A modern wolf like OR7 has learned to deal with a landscape covered with roads, high speed traffic, industrial scale agriculture and forestry. Similarly modern humans need to learn how to share the landscape once again with large carnivores, wild rivers, unmanaged forests, and landscapes with both the capacity to feed us, and preserve the diversity of life on which we as a species ultimately depend.

Expedition Time Lapse Video

Here is a time lapse of the entire Wolf OR7 Expedition created by my team member Jay Simpson and set to an original poem of another team member Galeo Saintz. Enjoy!

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.

OR7 Expedition: Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!

Just a few days ago I my team and I stepped off the trail, at the end of over a month of biking and hiking at the southern end of wolf OR7's current home range. Over the weeks prior we traversed over 1000 miles on foot and bike, retracing the route this wolf took dispersing from where it was born in the Wallawa mountains of northeastern Oregon to northern California and back up into southwestern Oregon. Along the way we met numerous fascinating people whom live, work, and play in the landscapes OR7 traversed, observed bountiful wildlife, slept out under the stars and tried to experience the lands we passed through as the wolf might have.

Sunrise over the Zumwalt Prairie in Wallawa County Oregon, part of the home range of OR7's natal pack.
Sunrise over the Zumwalt Prairie in Wallawa County Oregon, part of the home range of OR7's natal pack.
Huricanne creek and Sacajawea Peak in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallawa Mountains, Oregon.
Huricanne creek and Sacajawea Peak in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallawa Mountains, Oregon.
Crossing the upper Imnaha river on a log jam in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.
Crossing the upper Imnaha river on a log jam in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.
Tracks of a lone wolf in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.
Tracks of a lone wolf in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.
Galeo Saintz pedels towards the sunset on a quite road in northeastern Oregon.
Galeo Saintz pedels towards the sunset on a quite road in northeastern Oregon.
Rachael and Jay rolling through the pine forests of northern California.
Rachael and Jay rolling through the pine forests of northern California.
Stars over Mount Mcloughlin, in the southern Oregon Cascades.
Stars over Mount Mcloughlin, in the southern Oregon Cascades.
Sunrise on Mount Shasta.
Sunrise on Mount Shasta.
Jay Simpson nears to top of a pass in the Oregon Cascades.
Jay Simpson nears to top of a pass in the Oregon Cascades.
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Sunrise over Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Sunrise over Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
lava flow in Modoc National forest, California.
lava flow in Modoc National forest, California.
Stars fill the night sky in sparsely populated northeastern Oregon.
Stars fill the night sky in sparsely populated northeastern Oregon.
The expedition crew a few days before the end of the route.

The expedition crew a few days before the end of the route.

More Stories to Come!

With the expedition complete the team is now turning its attention to production of a wide variety of educational materials to help share the stories from our trip and create a forum for community dialogue around coexistence with large carnivores. Read more about the details of our trip and forthcoming materials at or7expedition.org.

Thanks to our many supporters, and sponsors including Xplore and Sculpt the Future Foundation. Learn about all the many people and organizations that helped make this expedition a success here.

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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Hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kauai's Napali Coast

This March I met Darcy Ottey on the island of Kauai to hike the famous Kalalau trail on the island's rugged Napali coast. A pleasant hike, amazing scenery, cool wildlife, warm water, and excellent company made for an amazing trip.

Waves role in on Kalalau Beach, reached by an 11 mile trail.

Waves role in on Kalalau Beach, reached by an 11 mile trail.

Stunning views highlight much of the Kalalau trail on Kauai’s Napali Coast.

Stunning views highlight much of the Kalalau trail on Kauai’s Napali Coast.

Another ocean view from the trail.

Another ocean view from the trail.

The trail crosses several lovely streams cloaked in tropical forests including this one were we made our dinner and breakfast at our first camp during the hike in.

The trail crosses several lovely streams cloaked in tropical forests including this one were we made our dinner and breakfast at our first camp during the hike in.

A craggy peak juts out of the forest above the warm waters of another one of the streams along the Kalalau trail.

A craggy peak juts out of the forest above the warm waters of another one of the streams along the Kalalau trail.

The Kalalau trail is known for being a bit treacherous in parts. We found it far milder than expected given all the hype. However attention to where you step is definitely required in places such as here where the trail winds through a particularly precipitous cliffy area.

Hikers on the Kalalau trail, dwarfed by the cliffs and ocean beyond.

Hikers on the Kalalau trail, dwarfed by the cliffs and ocean beyond.

Sign along the trail into Kalalau beach.

Sign along the trail into Kalalau beach.

On the final decent to Kalalau beach.

On the final decent to Kalalau beach.

Sunset on Kalalau beach.

Sunset on Kalalau beach.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal hauled out of the ocean for an afternoon. Kalalau Beach, Kauai.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal hauled out of the ocean for an afternoon. Kalalau Beach, Kauai.

Hawaiian monk seal returning to the ocean as the sun begins to set.

Hawaiian monk seal returning to the ocean as the sun begins to set.

Evening light on the peaks and coastline. Napali Coast, Kauai

Evening light on the peaks and coastline. Napali Coast, Kauai

Darcy Ottey taking in the evening light from an ocean side perch.

Darcy Ottey taking in the evening light from an ocean side perch.

Like what you saw here? Check out more of David's Adventure and Expeditionary Photography here!

The Making of Land: Where Kilauea Volcano Meets the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii

During my recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii I had the amazing opportunity to hike with Darcy Ottey out to where the active volcano on the island, Kilauea, is currently releasing lava which is flowing into the Pacific Ocean. A 2 mile hike by starlight over basalt from earlier lava flows brought us to a primordial setting. Following an eerie orange glow we arrived at what truly could be described as the edge of the earth--a landscape made up of stars and sky, the pounding waves of the ocean and glowing lava pouring over 60 foot basalt cliffs into the sea, releasing plums of steam as it met the water. Before our eyes we watched flowing lava harden into rock and the coastline expand ever so slightly. As daylight came intermittent rain squalls, driven by a warm off shore wind brought a spectacular rainbow seemingly rising out of the glowing cliffs. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.

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 Lava from the Kilauea Volcano on the big isalnd of Hawaii pours over cliffs into the Pacific Ocean.
 Lava from the Kilauea Volcano on the big isalnd of Hawaii pours over cliffs into the Pacific Ocean.
 Lava from the Kilauea Volcano on the big isalnd of Hawaii pours over cliffs into the Pacific Ocean.
Darcy Ottey poses with the newest rocks on the planet. We watched the still slightly glowing pile of basalt to her left ooze out of a crack in the rocks and harden.

Darcy Ottey poses with the newest rocks on the planet. We watched the still slightly glowing pile of basalt to her left ooze out of a crack in the rocks and harden.

The line of smoke in the distance marks the path of lava flowing down from the rift where it comes out of the earth, seen here across a vast plane of basalt from the recent flows from this rift which has been releasing lava on and off for years.

The line of smoke in the distance marks the path of lava flowing down from the rift where it comes out of the earth, seen here across a vast plane of basalt from the recent flows from this rift which has been releasing lava on and off for years.

 Basalt from recent lava flows from the eastern rift on Kiluaea. Hawaii
The fluid arcing shape in this basalt is characteristic of the slow moving lava, referred to as “pahoehoe” in Hawaiian, which it was formed from. As the cooling rock contracts cracks such as this one form in the newly formed basalt.

The fluid arcing shape in this basalt is characteristic of the slow moving lava, referred to as “pahoehoe” in Hawaiian, which it was formed from. As the cooling rock contracts cracks such as this one form in the newly formed basalt.

A young ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) tree has sprouted up and flowered in a crack from a lava flow which is just a few years old.

A young ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) tree has sprouted up and flowered in a crack from a lava flow which is just a few years old.

Kilauea's Main Crater

Miles to the west of Kilauea's eastern rift which is releasing the lava flowing into the ocean, the volcano's main crater is also a spectacular sight, perhaps most magnificent at night when the glow of the pool of lava within it illuminates the steam and smoke rising from the crater.

Morning light illuminates the eastern sky while stars still shine higher in the sky above the glowing cauldron of Kilauea’s main crater on the big island of Hawaii.

Morning light illuminates the eastern sky while stars still shine higher in the sky above the glowing cauldron of Kilauea’s main crater on the big island of Hawaii.

As the daylight grew stronger more of the moonscape surrounding the crater could be seen, the result of lava rising and pouring over the edges of the crater previously.

As the daylight grew stronger more of the moonscape surrounding the crater could be seen, the result of lava rising and pouring over the edges of the crater previously.

The current main crater of Kilauea smokes in the distance, beyond the still steaming floor of the Kiauea Iki crater, the remnants of a volcanic event from the 1950’s in which the foreground crater filled with hundreds of feet of lava.   

The current main crater of Kilauea smokes in the distance, beyond the still steaming floor of the Kiauea Iki crater, the remnants of a volcanic event from the 1950’s in which the foreground crater filled with hundreds of feet of lava.

 

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.

Making Hay in the Caucasus Mountains of the Republic of Georgia

September is harvest season for folks who live in the Sveneti Region of Georgia's Caucasus Mountains. The Caucasus Mountains are a land steeped in history and located at a geographic and cultural crossroads of Asia and Europe. Traveling through the remote villages situated among the soaring ridges and peaks of the Caucasus Mountains, felt at points like a trip back in time. This feeling was perhaps most distinct in watching the process of cutting and storing hay which was in full swing during my time in the region.

Three men from the village of Iprali work in concert cutting wild hay in a high elevation meadow in the Sveneti region of the Republic of Georgia.

Three men from the village of Iprali work in concert cutting wild hay in a high elevation meadow in the Sveneti region of the Republic of Georgia.

Careful attention to keeping you blade sharp is required for cutting hay with a scythe. Men will typically sharpen their blade after each row of hay they cut and the distinctive sound of sharpening stones against the metal blades of scythes rung out across many of the mountain valley’s we traversed during our fall travels in the region.

Careful attention to keeping you blade sharp is required for cutting hay with a scythe. Men will typically sharpen their blade after each row of hay they cut and the distinctive sound of sharpening stones against the metal blades of scythes rung out across many of the mountain valley’s we traversed during our fall travels in the region.

Often, hay is carefully collected into mounds which are left to dry before being hauled back to the village and stored for the winter.

Often, hay is carefully collected into mounds which are left to dry before being hauled back to the village and stored for the winter.

Hay mounds dotted hillsides up and down the mountainsides across much of Sveneti during the fall. Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Georgia.

Hay mounds dotted hillsides up and down the mountainsides across much of Sveneti during the fall. Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Georgia.

Hay mounds are eventually collected and loaded onto either trucks or wooden sleds pulled by cattle to be hauled into the village.

Hay mounds are eventually collected and loaded onto either trucks or wooden sleds pulled by cattle to be hauled into the village.

Hay being hauled out of the mountains to the village of Ushguli. Sveneti, Republic of Georgia.

Hay being hauled out of the mountains to the village of Ushguli. Sveneti, Republic of Georgia.

A wooden hay sled sits in front of a modern barn built with a traditional design, while two cows rigged for hauling it rest in the shade. Hay is stored in the top while livestock are penned below during the winter. Sveneti, Republic of Georgia.

A wooden hay sled sits in front of a modern barn built with a traditional design, while two cows rigged for hauling it rest in the shade. Hay is stored in the top while livestock are penned below during the winter. Sveneti, Republic of Georgia.

A massive and growing ravine sits on the edge of a village in Sveneti. Intensive and long term cattle and other livestock production have left many hillsides scared with with such erosion, while thistles and other weedy species that tolerate heavy grazing pressure flourish in much of the range lands in Sveneti.

A massive and growing ravine sits on the edge of a village in Sveneti. Intensive and long term cattle and other livestock production have left many hillsides scared with with such erosion, while thistles and other weedy species that tolerate heavy grazing pressure flourish in much of the range lands in Sveneti.

Part of the welcoming committee for the village of Ushguli. On our walk into the village we were also greeted by a horse, several pigs, and a very large but quite amiable dog. Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Georgia.

Part of the welcoming committee for the village of Ushguli. On our walk into the village we were also greeted by a horse, several pigs, and a very large but quite amiable dog. Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Georgia.

The abandoned village of Ghuli sits below the imposing summit of Mount Ushba. While wolves and bears are reported to still roam these mountains, during two weeks of trekking in the region I never saw sign of even a single wild hoofed mammal or any other terrestrial wildlife larger than a fox. Millennia of pastoralism have left a heavy mark on this staggeringly beautiful landscape. Sveneti, Republic of Georgia   

The abandoned village of Ghuli sits below the imposing summit of Mount Ushba. While wolves and bears are reported to still roam these mountains, during two weeks of trekking in the region I never saw sign of even a single wild hoofed mammal or any other terrestrial wildlife larger than a fox. Millennia of pastoralism have left a heavy mark on this staggeringly beautiful landscape. Sveneti, Republic of Georgia

 

Mother of Rivers: the Mountains of Georgia's Caucasus Range

The massive relief of the Caucuses Range in the the Republic of Georgia's Sveneti Region are staggering in their own right for their sheer natural beauty. Though much less well known then the Alps in western Europe, the Causcuses, straddling the southern border between Europe and Asia are the highest mountain range in Europe. During the first part of my recent trip to the region, I spent several days trekking around Mount Ushba, one of the most striking mountains I have ever encountered. Like most of the highest peaks in Georgia, it sits along the international border with Russia.

Though not the highest peak in the range, at 4,710 m (15,453 ft), Mount Ushba is a massive peak and generally considered the most challenging mountaineering objective in the range. Seen hear at sunset with a steady stream of clouds forming and streaming off of the lee side of the summit.

Though not the highest peak in the range, at 4,710 m (15,453 ft), Mount Ushba is a massive peak and generally considered the most challenging mountaineering objective in the range. Seen hear at sunset with a steady stream of clouds forming and streaming off of the lee side of the summit.

Mount Ushba (left), neighboring Mazerie Peak, and the massive rock covered lower portion of the Ushba Glacier photographed via moon and starlight.

Mount Ushba (left), neighboring Mazerie Peak, and the massive rock covered lower portion of the Ushba Glacier photographed via moon and starlight.

Murky waters pour out of the snout of the Ushba Glacier, one of the headwaters of the Inguri River, one of the largest and economically most important river in Georgia.

Murky waters pour out of the snout of the Ushba Glacier, one of the headwaters of the Inguri River, one of the largest and economically most important river in Georgia.

Intrepid traveler crossing the ragging glacial outflow several miles downstream from the snout of the Ushba glacier in the Republic of Georgia’s Sveneti region.

Intrepid traveler crossing the ragging glacial outflow several miles downstream from the snout of the Ushba glacier in the Republic of Georgia’s Sveneti region.

The torrent of water pouring over the glacier carved cliffs bellow Mount Ushba have carved out a deep ravine into the landscape. Svaneti Region, Republic of Georgia.

The torrent of water pouring over the glacier carved cliffs bellow Mount Ushba have carved out a deep ravine into the landscape. Svaneti Region, Republic of Georgia.

The Shkhara massif sits south and east of Mount Ushba and includes Mount Shkhara and several other 5000+ meter peaks, the highest part of the Caucuses in Georgia. Fall temperatures had turned the mountain ash red on the alpine mountain slopes and dusted the ridgetops, peaks, and glaciers with fresh snow.

The massive bulk of Jhanga peak and Mount Shkhara from the west, drapped in ice and fresh snow, give birth to another tributary to the Inguri River. Sveneti Region, Republic of Georgia.

The massive bulk of Jhanga peak and Mount Shkhara from the west, drapped in ice and fresh snow, give birth to another tributary to the Inguri River. Sveneti Region, Republic of Georgia.

A rainbow straddles the mountain valley and snout of the valley glacier flowing off of the Shkhara massif. Georgian Caucuses Mountains.

A rainbow straddles the mountain valley and snout of the valley glacier flowing off of the Shkhara massif. Georgian Caucuses Mountains.

Mountain ash’s brilliant red-orange after the onset of fall temperatures above the glacier fed river leading down to the tiny and remote village of Adishi. Sveneti Region, Republic of Georgia.

Mountain ash’s brilliant red-orange after the onset of fall temperatures above the glacier fed river leading down to the tiny and remote village of Adishi. Sveneti Region, Republic of Georgia.

The Lamaria Church, near the town of Ushguli, with the southern face of Mount Shkhara, 5,193 m (17,040 ft), in the background.

The Lamaria Church, near the town of Ushguli, with the southern face of Mount Shkhara, 5,193 m (17,040 ft), in the background.

Downstream, the impacts of primitive sewage systems, unbelievable garbage disposal practices, unfettered livestock access, old mining activity, and a massive hydroelectric dam take their toll on the Inguri River, but here at its headwaters it flows free and beautiful off of some of the highest peaks in the world.   

Downstream, the impacts of primitive sewage systems, unbelievable garbage disposal practices, unfettered livestock access, old mining activity, and a massive hydroelectric dam take their toll on the Inguri River, but here at its headwaters it flows free and beautiful off of some of the highest peaks in the world.

 

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.

 

Northwest People

Outward Bound Instructor Jacob Anderson climbing the Horsefly couloire on Reynolds Peak, Sawtooth Range, North Cascades, Washingtion.

Outward Bound Instructor Jacob Anderson climbing the Horsefly couloire on Reynolds Peak, Sawtooth Range, North Cascades, Washingtion.

Naturalist Marcus Reynerson inspects a black bear den discovered by David Scott who looks on along with Gabe Spence and Brian McConnell. Western Washington.

Naturalist Marcus Reynerson inspects a black bear den discovered by David Scott who looks on along with Gabe Spence and Brian McConnell. Western Washington.

Climbing guide Forest McBrian shows off some stylin’ moves. Bellingham, Washington.

Climbing guide Forest McBrian shows off some stylin’ moves. Bellingham, Washington.

A taste of winter for Emily Gibson.Washington Cascades.

A taste of winter for Emily Gibson.Washington Cascades.

Casey McFarland prepares goose feathers for photographing for his forthcoming text on Bird Feathers of North America (co-author David Scott). Redmond, Washington.

Casey McFarland prepares goose feathers for photographing for his forthcoming text on Bird Feathers of North America (co-author David Scott). Redmond, Washington.

Naturalist Emily Gibson inspects a marsh wren nest she discovered. Potholes, WA

Naturalist Emily Gibson inspects a marsh wren nest she discovered. Potholes, WA

Darcy Ottey on a sunny fall day in the Cascades

Darcy Ottey on a sunny fall day in the Cascades

Rosa Levin taking a photograph,North Cascades, Washington

Rosa Levin taking a photograph,North Cascades, Washington

Mountaineer Steve Smith applies sunscreen on a bright day.Ragged Ridge, North Cascades Washington.

Mountaineer Steve Smith applies sunscreen on a bright day.Ragged Ridge, North Cascades Washington.

Forest McBrian reflects on life and love. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, Puget Sound Washington.

Forest McBrian reflects on life and love. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, Puget Sound Washington.

Bling Bling takes a well earned rest bellow High pass. Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.

Bling Bling takes a well earned rest bellow High pass. Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.

Drawing badger tracks from a plaster cast.Vashon Island, Washington.

Drawing badger tracks from a plaster cast.Vashon Island, Washington.

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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