Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Years at Mt Rainier

I have been pretty slack on the blog lately.  Certainly not due to lack of time out.  It has been a great season so far with lots of playing in the snow and exploring our city.  Natalie and I made another attempt to get out into the Baker backcountry again and once again failed.  The weather was crystal clear when we got up to the parking lot and then as soon as we skied out of the parking lot a huge cloud bank came over Shuksan and we were soon socked in.  One day I will get her out there but it might be a while after that last failure.  I have been up to Baker a few more time helping out with a Mountaineers Level 1 Avalanche class and that has been a lot of fun.
But more recently Natalie and I headed out of town for new years.  This year we decided to do something nice and peaceful.  A good friend of ours has a family cabin just inside Mt Rainier National Park.  The cabin is out of cell coverage, has no running water, but does have a great fireplace and electricity.  We headed out right after work on Friday.   

Fondue Time
We got there Friday night about 10pm, and would have been there earlier, but we were stopped on Snoqualmie Pass for about an hour while road crews cleared a wreck.  There was so much snow they were turning you around (after an hour wait) if you did not have 4wd or chains.  Luckily we had both so we motored on past.  Had no trouble finding the house (we both sort of remembered its whereabouts from a previous trip) and began the weekend with cold beer we picked up from UBER on our way out of town.  Had two beers each and headed to bed.  The heated blanket on the bed was amazing!!!!  All weekend, it was a lifesaver as it was pretty chilly.

Saturday we slept late, drank coffee, had a late breakfast and got in an afternoon snowshoe.  Came back about 4:30pm, chopped firewood, stoked up the Kerosene heater, built a fire and settled in.  Natalie made cheese fondue, a fun treat, and cracked open a bottle (maybe two?!?) of wine.  We ended up drinking, talking and talking; next thing we knew the new year was upon us.  We rang in the New Year and were asleep before 12:30pm. Perfect.

Sunday, we got up earlier, had breakfast (bagels and eggs), and packed up for our cross country ski adventure.  We drove about 15 miles to Chinook Pass, where the road was closed, and hopped on the closed road.  It was a great, gradual climb and there was sunshine (for those of you who live in Seattle that is a large bright object in the sky that even shines in the winter)!  We went about 2 miles, had a snack of apples, raisins, chocolate and hot tea(!), and skiied down.  About 4 miles total and a great break with some fresh air and sun.  The snow was really soft up there. Came back, and snacked the rest of the evening as we sat in front of the fireplace for, literally, six hours reading books, chatting and eating.  So relaxing.

Monday, we slept until 9am, got up, lazily made coffee and breakfast, then proceeded to wash a weekends worth of dishes, pack the car and clean up.  We left about 1:30pm and arrived home 4:45pm.  A great weekend and we cannot wait to get back up there.

The road to Chinook pass
View off of the side of the road

Monday, December 5, 2011

On a roll getting to the mountains this winter

Happy Dog
Sunday I was once again up at 5:30 (aarrgghh) and moving in the car by 6.  Baker was supposed to have sun, perfect visibility, and low avalanche danger according to the forecast and it did not disappoint.  We had a full house this trip with Ross and I in my car and Stephanie and their friend Tony in a car following with his two dogs as well as Ross and Stephanie's dog.

We pulled into the Baker parking lot about 9 and were shortly on the mountain.  We did a great loop that I have wanted to do for a long time which is a circumnavigation of Table mountain.  It was a beautiful loop and the mountains were out in all their glory the whole time.

We have not gotten any snow in the last week so I expected the conditions to be terrible but figured it would be worth it for the sun.  The snow was great!  Most of the slopes had about 8 inches of powder on top of a firm crust.

We were sidetracked a bit when Ross's front straps on both bindings decided to blow out.  We had spare parts but one of the screws stripped out which made for an exciting hour of swearing mixed with actual fixing of bindings.  In the end we got him back up and running and we finished the loop.

The final climb up the backside of table was pretty steep which made things a little tough but the hardest thing was that the snow condition were so mixed on the face that it was tough to get your skis to stick on the climb.  In the end I took off my skis and boot packed it to the top which was completely exhausting.

We were out for seven and a half hours which included a bunch of down time for exploring, fixing bindings and being awed by the view.  A great day!  Can't wait to get back up there.  Might make it this weekend but most likely this coming weekend will be one of staying in the city and letting the car take a breather.  I might even sleep past 5:30am on Sunday.

It has been a great run so far this winter. I have been out in the back country every weekend for the last month.
Happy dog with Mt Shuksan
in the Background

View down the valley from Atist Point
Ross on the backside of table mtn with
shuksan in the background

view from the binding repair spot

Looking at the end of Table Mtn.

Looking back at Mt Baker across the lake before climbing
the saddle up to Herman

View of Herman Saddle a.k.a. the
devil hill of mixed conditions

Monday, November 28, 2011

4 Day Thanksgiving Weekend

What a great 4 days!  We managed to work in a little bit of everything.

Thursday started with our annual visit to Walter and Courtney's pumpkin waffle breakfast.  We visited for a while and then bundled up for our yearly walk around Greenlake.  

The first half of the walk was a calm stroll in the misty cool fall weather we know and love around here.  The second half of the walk the weather turned on us and we ended up using our umbrella as a shield against the blasting wind and rain.  Wow it was nasty.  That will be a walk we will think back to every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving afternoon we headed down to Dan and Laura's house.  We cooked, ate, drank and visited and before we knew it the clock said midnight.  I have no idea where that 10 hours went.  It was a great time and as always such a blast to chat and take it easy with those guys.  

Friday the plan was to not leave the house.  I was pretty excited to sit on the couch all day and read.  I now know that i am not very good at not doing anything as I was pacing the house by 2pm.  I managed to calm myself down and got in a bunch of reading which was excellent.  Looking back on the weekend I am very glad that I had Friday to just take it easy as things ramped up from there.

Me mid conversation about something
Saturday I was up at 5:30am, had all the ski gear in the car, and was on the road with Ross and his dad by 6am.  Ross's dad was coming up with us for a day of back country skiing.  His dad is a good downhill skier but had never had to work for those turns.  We got to the closed resort at about 7:30 and were on the slopes shortly after that.  We headed back up to Alpental where Natalie and I had gone last week.

Well the great snow that Natalie and I had was still there but it was hiding under about an inch of ice.  We started in the rain and started up to try to find the snowline.  It had to be up there somewhere.  Well I am sure it was up there but we certainly could not find it.  We turned around at about 4500 feet and headed down.

Ross's dad at the top of the climb
It is days like that when I am so happy I snowboard.  Ross and I were able to make the best of the terrible conditions and wring a few great turns out of the descent but Ross's poor dad had an awful time.  The snowboards let us float enough that we acted like ice breakers and were able to make turns and descend.  Skis  proved a lot more challenging though and pretty much took all the fun out of the descent.

We all arrived at the car smiling though and it was a great workout.  Amazing how much conditions can change in a week.  We will see what next week has to bring.

After I got home saturday I put up all my ski gear and got out my running gear so I would be ready Sunday morning for the Seattle 1/2 marathon.  As I was getting my things together Natalie decided she felt like running it too.  Our friend Jake had a packet that he had picked up for a friend who was not doing the race so on the spot the decision was made and Natalie was in.  I love that she can just jump off of the couch and run 13.1 miles.
Everyone at the finish line!

Sunday morning we were up at 5:30am and out the door by 6:30 headed down to the race.  We had 4 people running.  Natalie, myself, and our neighbors Jake and Stephanie.  This was Stephanie's first 1/2 ever which was exciting.  When we were walking to the start it was cloudy but dry and about 50 degrees, pretty much perfect.  Just as we started the rain started.  It poured the entire race.  That might sound terrible but it was actually great.  It felt so good to have the rain in your face, made me feel alive.  

Everyone had a great run!  Natalie ran a sub 2 hour race (with no training), Jake hit his goal of just over two hours, Steph came in at her goal and checked off her first 1/2 marathon.  I was psyched to come away with my personal record of 1:52.  After not really training that much and skiing the day before I could not be happier.  We spent the rest of the day watching three movies as it poured outside.  Great finish to an excellent 4 day weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick trip to Alpental

Sunday Natalie and I got out into the snow for a really nice back country ski tour.  I recently finished a back country setup for Natalie and wanted to find somewhere close to test everything out with her before we made a real road trip somewhere.  Luckily for us Alpental ski resort, which is only an hour from the house, has not opened for the season yet.  There is pretty good snow cover everywhere but the weeds are still sticking up.

Natalie was not feeling so hot but she was a trooper and headed up anyway.  At the house the sun was shining and the sky was blue.  We were a little sad that when we made it up to the mountain the blue skies were replaced with clouds but there was very little wind and the snow was in great shape.

This was my first trip up to Alpental so we wandered around for a little while trying to find the easiest way up.  After a long traverse across the resort we headed up.  We were out for about 3 hours and got fairly high on the mountain before taking one nice long run back to the car.

It was great being out with Natalie on such a nice day.  I love that my wife is game for getting out in the cold and skiing around for the day.  I am hoping that the resort does not open for a few more weeks so maybe we can get another trip or two in up there.  Nice only driving a hour from the house rather than the normal two and a half or three to Mt Baker.

Monday, November 14, 2011

First backcountry snowboarding day of the season

Ok, I really will get the Italy posts up soon.  Until then I thought I would put up a quick post about this past weekend.

The snow has started coming down up in the mountains and it was time to go visit it.  The plan was pretty simple.  Ross and I headed out of Seattle at 6:30 Sunday morning headed to Mt Baker.  We headed up to Heliotrope ridge.  This is the same approach I used a few months ago when a group of us climbed to the top of Baker.

There was a lot more snow than I expected.  I had to not only be in 4wd to get to the trailhead but I also had to put on chains.  In November?

We hiked the first little bit and started with a sketchy river crossing but past that we split the boards and skinned up.  It took about two and a half hours to get to the toe of the glacier and we climbed for about two hours past that.  It was slow going due to the wind moving around the snow.  Some places were were knee deep super soft snow and then we would round a bend to a wind scoured face that we had to be very careful to keep an edge on.

After two hours of climbing the day was getting late and the weather started to turn on us so we put the splitboards back together and pointed them downhill.  What a blast!  We dropped 1000ft of elevation gain in no time.  The snow was fantastic and neither of us could wipe the smile off of our face at the bottom.

Only a few pictures due to the weather and high winds.  Hopefully this is another start to a great season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Still working on the post for Italy but until then...

I am way behind in my posting.  Still working on going through the 2000 photos we took in Italy and getting posts together.  Stay tuned for those and a few other trips but just to hold you over I just ran across a video a long lost friend of mine from Boone made.  Amazing stuff.  Will catch up with you one of these days Brad.....

Shoot the Trails 2011, Brad W on

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Amazing hike up Mt Tenariffe last weekend

Click for more pictures

This summer has been a blur so far.  We have been visiting family in Denver, hiking a bit, went to see Phish at the Gorge Amphitheater, I had a great weekend with the guys up in Vancouver for my buddy Dan's bachelor party, and so much more.  Summers in Seattle are pretty nuts because we try to pack a whole year into 4 months of summer.  It has been a blast but has gone by so fast.  Natalie and I are just about to head out to Italy for a belated honeymoon so stay tuned for pictures from that amazing trip.  We cannot wait.

Getting back on topic for this post though we checked off a hike recently that we have been wanting to do for quite a while.  We made a few wrong turns but in the end we made it to the top of Mt Teneriffe.  This is right next to Mt Si and Mailbox peak which we have done numerous times but I have to say this was much better.  There are far less people and the view is amazing.  All in all a great day to be out hiking.