Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mt Baker via Coleman Route

View all the pictures from the trip by clicking on the image above 

This past weekend Natalie and I headed up to climb Mt Baker with a group of 4 other folks.  We headed out with Dan, Laura, Matt (we climbed Adams with him before) and Kent (a buddy of Matt's).
We arrived at the trailhead at 9:00am and were shortly on the trail.  We wandered through the forest for a few miles and eventually popped out onto a snowfield at the edge of the tree line.  Rather than take the real trail we just started heading up the snowfield.

Around 6000 feet we took a break to rope up into our teams.  We setup as two teams of three so that one team could help the other if something were to happen.  The snow was soft from the sunny weather so we kept the crampons in the pack.

The climb was beautiful, with Baker looming over us.  It was amazing, and messed with our minds a bit, to see the summit we were headed to off in the distance.

It was a tough climb but before we knew it we reached camp at 7500 feet.  We stopped with an amazing view of Baker.  Everyone was getting pretty hungry so the first order of business was melting snow for water and getting some food going.

The plan was to wake up at midnight and start hiking at 1:00am so it was an early night.  It is tough getting to bed at 6pm with the sun still blazing away.  We had eye masks I had picked up but it still took a few hours before I was able to wind down from the hike and fall asleep.

Beep!  Beep! Beep! 12:00am showed up before we knew it.  I cannot remember falling asleep at all but the alarm beeping away woke me right up.  Well I did lay around questioning my sanity for a few minutes but manged to get myself moving.  We had put all of our summit day gear to the side the day before so Natalie and I quietly gathered our stuff and geared up.

We were roped up and moving at 1:30am.  A little late but better than Mt Adams where we slept through 4 people's alarm clocks and woke up 2 hours late.  So I call it a success.  We were the first group awake, the stars were out, and it was completely silent.  You could barely make out the darker darkness that was Mt Baker in the dim starlight.  Wow, that is a long way up.

The morning was filled with crunching ice under my crampons and the zip zip zip of the rope on the snow as we ascended.  It is amazing how we just fell into a rhythm of step step breathe, step step breathe, and gradually ticked off the feet to the top.  I think Natalie and I started to feel the climb at about the same time.  I don't know if it was the exertion, altitude, or just being a little loopy from getting up at midnight but we hit a mini wall at about 10,000 feet on, ironically, an area called The Roman Wall.  This was a 30-45 degree slope of about 1000 feet and is the final push to the summit.  We pushed on though and gradually worked our way up.  As we crested the top of the wall the sun began to rise over the north cascades and was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  We were surrounded by jagged peaks turned pink by the sun peaking over the horizon.  Just incredible....

We hit the top at about 5am, sat down and took in the show as the sun came up.

 We were on top for a bit before the cold winds drove us to pack up our gear, tie back in to the ropes, and head down.

The hike down was pretty cool because we got to see everything we had come up in the dark.  There were a few sections where we were pretty happy we did not see what we had been climbing.  Mostly though it was hard to not take in the sights on the way down.  We could see the San Juan Islands out in the middle of the sound.  Rainier was peaking out to the south, and all around us the glaciers were lit up.

It took us a few hours to get back to camp.  We all fell into our tents for a quick 45 minute nap, then packed up and headed out.  It was about 3pm when arrived back into the parking lot and all groaned with satisfaction as we dropped our packs that seemed to have gotten heavier throughout the day.

It was an incredible trip, and I have to say I am hooked.  Today I actually feel pretty good, my legs burn but are not any worse than after a 1/2 marathon.  It was certainly one of the hardest things I have ever done but was worth every step.  Rainier next year guys?  I hope so.  Hopefully I will get the chance to do Mt Adams in a day sometime in early August as well.  Can't put up the crampons just yet.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quinault Lodge Weekend

A few weekends ago my parents came into town.  We have hit most of the Seattle sights so this trip we decided to get out of the city.  We headed to the Quinault Lodge.

We left town a little later than we would have liked and after stopping over in Olympia for a little dinner we rolled into the lodge at about 11:30pm.  This was a very cool place.  I felt like I had walked onto the set for The Shining.  If I kid on a bigwheel had come around the corner it would have been extra spooky.

This lodge was built in 1926.  Franklin D Roosevelt visited in 1937 and 9 months later signed the bill creating Olympic National Park (inspiration?).  Other than the dining room addition the lodge appeared to be all original.  The fireplaces were huge and had a fire burning in them throughout our visit.  We spent quite a bit of time on the couches in front of the fire visiting and catching up.

This was the rain gauge
showing 13.5 feet for the year
We made one side trip out to the coast.  We stopped at a few roadside areas to check out the "large cedar" as the sign put it.  After a while I picked a random spot overlooking the pacific and we setup our picnic we had brought along.  As we were setting up I noticed a whale rolling along off the coast.  He went back and forth in front of where we were for almost the whole time we there.  About the time the whale show ended a peregrine falcon cruised by very slowly not caring about us at all.  All in all we could not have timed the wildlife any better.

All too quickly Sunday rolled around and we headed back to Seattle.    It was a great weekend and very nice to see my parents.