Saturday, May 29, 2010

Alaska Range

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

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

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

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

Until next time Alaska Range…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring Rock Climbing at Index

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 2, 2010


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