Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mt. Stuart, Upper North Ridge

The forecast for Memorial Day was wishy-washy, with both the west slopes and the east slopes looking iffy. Dan Aylward and I decided to go try the Upper North Ridge on Stuart, and figured we could just climb the West Ridge if the weather was truly nasty. The Teanaway River Road is not totally snow-free yet, so we left the car about 6:30am, still 2.5 miles from the trailhead. I would estimate that the road will be drivable to the trailhead by next weekend.

The approach was characterized by lots of work kicking steps in the slush. Almost to the climbing, Dan traversing across the Stuart Glacier:

Dan on the partially snow-covered slab pitch:

Dan nearing the Great Gendarme:

Colin on the first pitch of the Great Gendarme, which was still a bit wet and icy. Photo by Dan Aylward:

Dan following the first pitch of the Great Gendarme:

Colin at one of the Cascade's best belay ledges. Photo by Dan Aylward:

Dan climbing above the Great Gendarme:

On the summit at about 6pm. The torrential rain, hail, and lightning didn't start until we returned to the car, at 9:30:

Dan dropped me off at the Park and Ride at midnight. In the dark, and in my tired state, I didn't notice the artwork someone left on my car until the next morning. This pastoral scene, depicting a climber's passion, is typical of the style pioneered by Bellingham ice climber, Crazy Polish Bob.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Early Winter Spires in Late "Winter"

With freezing levels dropping back down to 3,500 ft., Sunday promised to be the last day of the season with wintry conditions. So after some 3am antics due to a slept-through alarm clock, Mark Bunker, Dylan Johnson and I drove up to Washington Pass for the Early Winter Spires. From the hairpin turn we climbed the Early Winter Couloir, to the notch between North and South Spire, then up the ridge to the summit of the North Spire.

Mark on a short ice step in the Early Winter Couloir:

Wallowing was the norm for most of the couloir:

The cornice was big and overhanging. Since tunneling through snow seems to be my specialty these days, I started digging... Mark exiting the cornice tunnel:

The terrain from the notch to the summit had one spicy section of mixed slab climbing, but was otherwise pretty juggy. Dylan starting up above the notch:

Me, Mark, and Dylan on top of North Early Winter Spire.

After some down-climbing and a few rappels down to the west, the hour was still early, so we rambled up South Early Winter Spire via the SW Couloir:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rainier Skiing

Friday was forecasted to be sunny, so Dan Aylward and I headed up to Rainier for some spring skiing. From Muir we headed up the Gib Ledges route, to the base of Gibraltar Rock at 12,000 ft. We had planned to traverse from there to the top of Gib Chute for a nice steep descent, but changed plans upon seeing all the seracs that loop above Gib Chute. I'm willing to accept some serac risk for an amazing climb, but not for a little ski gully. The skiing back down the way we came was good nonetheless!