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Monday, June 27, 2011

Mount Adams

It was the last weekend before our attempt on Mt Rainier - Scott, Eric, Jediah, Matt, Anders, Chris, and myself decided to spend it on Mount Adams. At 12,276 ft, Mount Adams is the second highest mountain in Washington. It does not get the traffic of Mt St Helens to the west, or Mt Hood to the south, but it offered us a chance to get more valuable climb and camping experience before next weekend. We decided to take the South Spur Route, which is the most commonly climbed route on the mountain. It typically begins at the Cold Springs Campground at about 5,600 ft, but due to high snowfall this year, the campground is currently under 8 feet of snow, and the road is blocked. We got to hike in an extra ~3 miles, and 1,000 vertical feet! Luckily we were blessed with wonderful sunny and warm weather for the weekend.
We departed the cars in the early afternoon and hiked along the road over snow and fallen trees. When we reached the campground, all we could see was the tops of the structures that were buried in snow. A few hours later, we reached a nice spot at about 7,500 ft where we could make camp. Some got working on boiling water, while others set up the tents. We had an amazing view while the sunset over the ridge to the west of us. We watched the sky light up over the peaks of Hood and Helens while we ate our freeze dried dinners and ramen noodles.
We left camp at 4:30 am, and started our climb guided by our headlamps, the snow hard from the freeze over night. Shortly after we started, the sun began to peak over the east edge of the mountain. One of the really cool sights was the triangular shadow of Mount Adams cast onto the floor of the valley below us.
At approximately 9,500 ft we came upon a large open slope we would be climbing 2,000 ft to the "false summit" at Pikers Peak. We took a brief rest, took in some great views, then continued on up to the summit at 12,276. From there, we could see many of the large peaks in the Cascades, as far as Mt Baker in the north and the Three Sisters in the south.
The most memorable part of the descent back to camp was the slope from Pikers Peak. Enough people have gone down that there was a well worn glissade path all set for us. What we had was basically a 2,000 ft bobsled run to shoot ourselves down. If the hike up didn't take so long, and if my legs weren't so tired, I would have loved to do that part again. We returned to camp, packed up, and hiked the rest of the way out, returning to the cars mid-afternoon.
Altogether the seven of us had a great time. It gave us more valuable experience climbing and camping, as well as a heck of a weekend of training. Now we have 5 days to recover and relax before our attempt on Mt Rainier.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hiking Granite Mountain

On the 9th of June, 2011, three brave souls from the Foster School of Business set out to conquer Granite Mountain, 5,629 feet of jagged rock forged by the Gods to intimidate mortals from ascending to the heavens. Despite this fact, we departed the warm bosom of our beds at 6 AM and headed east towards Granite Mountain.

We arrived at the parking lot and started our ascent at 1,829 feet. After roughly 1,827 feet of elevation gain, we encountered a fork in the trail where we could continue on taking the summer trail and risk being emasculated by other climbers, or we could climb the much steeper snow gully and test out how comprehensive our student health coverage. We chose the latter, and strapped on our crampons and grabbed our ice axes to forge our way to the top.

We traversed from the snow gulley to Granite’s steep outer ridge, climbing up over terrain with over 40 degrees of slope (for serious). But at long last, we reached the summit of Granite two hours after we started. Upon our arrival, Anders cried out “Holy $h!t” as he was the first to discover that the Gods rewarded our hard work by lowering the cloud level enough to reveal a breathtaking vista of Mount Rainier and several peaks of the Cascade mountains.

We descended Granite soon after, glissading down the ridge and snow gulley in minutes, sharing our tale of heroism with other hikers who were foolish enough to follow in our footsteps. It was one of the most challenging hikes I have ever been on, yet one of the most rewarding as well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mt Hood

Scott and I decided to sacrifice Saturday to finish our exam, and declared Sunday Fares Boulos Day Off! We drove down to Mt Hood on Saturday evening, and departed the car at 2AM Sunday.

The climb starts at an altitude of about 5,800 ft, climbing along the edge of the Timberline Lodge ski area. The first few hours are in total darkness. We could see only by the light of our headlamps. I couldn't see the top of the mountain, but I could see the tiny white dots of others headlamps in a curving line up the path, for a long way. It was pretty awesome to see how many people were climbing. Hiking in the dark was actually pretty nice. It's quiet, it's not too hot (though it was probably in the 50s, much warmer than expected) and you can't see how far you still have to go, so you just keep going.

We hiked with our skis and ski boots on our back. It made the way up a lot harder having all that extra weight, but the way down would be much quicker and more enjoyable. I dropped my skis off on the side of the trail after a couple hours of hiking, Scott a little after that. After dropping the weight, the pace felt much more comfortable. It was a couple hours into the hike when there was just enough sunlight to see outline of the peak. It was a pretty sweet sight. We reached the glaciated portion of the hike, and eventually put on our crampons. Since the weather had been pretty warm, the snow even near the top was softer than I expected, but crampons and an ice axe were still needed for a safe ascent. About 1,000 feet from the summit there are several open volcanic vents. It is an interesting sight, but the extremely strong sulfer smell was somewhat nausiating. It gave me motivation to not rest too long and keep going, even with how tired I was.

We reached the summit of 11,250 ft at about 7:30AM. The view was pretty amazing. It was a sense of accomplishment that I had reached the top, and relief that I didn't have to keep climbing. We relaxed at the top for a little while, taking in the sights, and snapping some photos, then proceeded back down. The top section was fairly steep, so climbing down we had to take some careful steps. After that, it was smooth sailing down to our skis. The snow was soft, and it was nice to get a little June skiing in. We were back at the car at 10AM.

It was a great experience. Climbing to a peak that high gave me a taste of what things will be like when we climb Mt Rainier next month. It was a somewhat humbling experience - It was more challenging than I thought it would be. Climbing on almost no sleep did not make it any easier (less than an hour in the car). The altitude seemed to make the biggest difference between the training climbs I've done. It was exhausting. At times I could get in a groove and move pretty good for a little while, but then the altitude and fatigue would get to me, and it would take a minute to catch my breath. I've got a month to get some final training in.