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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who Knows?? - Mt. Sahale Climb

As one of the last main tests and challenges of our preparation for Mt. Rainier, we did a glacier climb of the Quien Sabe glacier on Mt. Sahale.   Mt. Sahale is located in the heart of cascade pass and nestle among some of the most beautiful and spactacular mountains in the North Cascades. The North Cascades is probably the most covetet mountaineering destination in the lower 48.  It doesn't have the same grandeuar as Mt. Rainier, but I would personally consider it an all around more magical place.   In my 6 years of mountaineering and leading trips I had been to the north cascades dozens of times, but never climb Mt. Sahale, so this was exciting to take the group up here.  

After settling in for the night at the trailhead, we watched the low clouds and fog settle in around us.  We left under much the same conditions at 5am.  The climbers trail follows a steep route through underbrush, and over snow melt drainage creeks.  It took about 6 hours to reach the upper basin.  By this time the fog had finally cleared, but huge fluffy clouds were threating from behind and looked poised to engulph us. 
At this point we roped up and went over some last minute details before ascending the glacier.  The views in the basin were spectacular as we watched the sunrise over the ridge and the crystal clear sky all around us.  At this point the clouds dispersed in various directions.

We ascended the glacier for the next 3 hours and covered over 2500' of gain.  This brought us to the summit ridge.  Having never been there before, I wasn't completely sure how to navigate the summit block.   After hearing some beta about the summit pinnacle, We made the decision to leave the summit for another day because the team wasn't equipped for the rappelling and additional mountaineering skills, which won't be necessary on Mt. Rainier.    We took our summit shot from the top and headed down.  At this point the clouds had rolled back in and we leaft the summit under complete white out. 

About a 1000' lower down the clouds again cleared and we were treated to more spectacular views on the way out.   This was certainly a challenging day with 5500' of gain in one day and for many, their first experience on glaciers navigating large crevasse fields.
With this last challenges every seems confident and ready for Mt. Rainier.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mt Adams

The weekend of July 7th & 8th 15 of us hiked Mt. Adams in preparation for Mt Rainier. We left Seattle at 6 a.m. Saturday, drove 4.5 hours down to the Hood River area, checked in/bought permits at the Ranger Station and then drove to the trail head. We took off around 1:30 pm from 5600' and hiked up to "Lunch Counter" to camp at about 9000'. It was a pretty good challenge as it was HOT on the exposed slopes with sun reflecting off of the snow at every angle. (But it was hard to complain about the great weather!) We made it to camp around 6pm, set up tents (although there were quite a few people up there it didn't feel too crowded because there are little rock barriers all around (we didn't have to camp in the snow on this one). We had 2 man tents so we had our own little tent city for our group! Melted snow (or dug in the snow to find water already melted, genius!), made dinner and crashed! We were lucky with a very mild night and no wind. Up at 5:00 a.m. to attempt the summit. Crampons, check! Ice Ax, check! Helmet, check! Really uncomfortable boots, check! My group summitted 12,200' in about 2.5 hours, took the obligatory pictures (braving gale force winds) and prepared for some awesome glissading down. I tried the plastic bag technique but it didn't work that well, my butt got so cold! Back to camp, quick lunch, packed up and headed down.The lower portion as we approached the trail head got a little painful (as it always does, no matter how far you are from the car) because it was another hot day and a long time in the sun but all in all, a really fun trip! Now Mt. Baker this weekend!

Here is a pic of a subset of the group on th summit!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mt. Ranier Basecamp

This year we have had a string of badluck when it comes to weather.  We had many planned trips over the course of spring or summer that had to change course due to weather.  But as always, you can't rely on the weather til July 5th around these neck of the woods.  But that hasn't always deterred our group. On july 1st a group of us were all set for a conditioner on Mt. Adams when the stormy clouds descended on Seattle.  Not wanting to drive the 5 hours to get rained out, this years group decided to get our first taste of the Mt. Rainier itself.  We arrived to Paradise to socked in weather that appeared to blanket the whole mountian. 

It appeared that it might not clear up, but after ascending into the abyss for several hours we broke out and got our first glimpse of the mountain itself.

As we ascended higher we were treated to amazing views and could see the tops off all the surrounding volcanoes.  Standing above the clouds that engulph the northwest is an experience in itself, and doing it while staring at the intimidating nisqually ice cliffs makes the whole experience surreal.

The whole group made it to Camp Muir, standing over 10'000 tall, which is the basecamp for many routes on the south side of the mountain.  In mid august we will be taking the emmons route up from the White river and seeing completely new terrain.

To get to muir you need to travel around 10 miles roundtrip and ascend almost 5000'.  This was certainly an eye opener for us all as next time we will be traveling with full overnight gear and need to conserve energy for the summit attempt.

About half of us opted to bring our skis up to enjoy some July skiing!

The weather seems to have turned and we have reschedule our Mt. Adams climb and also plan to climb Mt. Baker before the big ascent.