Trip Report - 8/10-12/19 - Backpacking Tapto Lakes & Copper Ridge

Overall trip - 44 miles, 12,700 ft of gain, and 24 hrs of hiking (in 2.5 days).

Just finished a 3 day backpacking trip to Tapto Lakes, Whatcom Pass, and Copper Ridge. The clouds hung low during the entire trip, so views were sparse, but Marc and I pushed hard on the mileage and did some big days. Hopefully I can get back out here someday and see some of the peaks!

The bases of Whatcom Peak and Challenger in the clouds

The bases of Whatcom Peak and Challenger in the clouds

Tapto Lakes!

Tapto Lakes!

Hiking through the clouds

Hiking through the clouds

Finally some sun!

Finally some sun!

Copper Lake

Copper Lake

Hiking Copper Ridge in the clouds

Hiking Copper Ridge in the clouds

Trip Report - Mt. Baker (Easton Route) - 7/7-8/19

After years of dreaming about the big Washington volcanoes, I finally felt like I had the experience to make an attempt on Mt. Baker. And early on Monday morning, we were the first party to reach the summit. We got super lucky on the weather, and I feel really grateful to my amazing team (Becky, Marc, and Kate) for how well it all went. Here are some photos!

Trip Report - Trapper's Peak - 6/1/19

10.8 miles, ~3,500 ft of gain, 7.5 hrs

I’ve had Trapper’s Peak on my list for years, mainly so I could get a view of the Picket Range up close (which was absolutely worth it). But the climb was beautiful by itself too - a wonderful ramble through the forest up to the Thornton Lake notch, then up along the ridge to the summit knob. There was intermittent snow, starting around 3.5 miles in, and the ridge alternated between snow-covered and fully melted out. For the final push up to the summit, we had the option between chossy looking rock + heather and steep snow, so we chose the snow and then enjoyed the view!

TR - Twin Sisters Traverse - 8/27/18

I've got a huge backlog of trips to write reports on, but here's one from yesterday!  Here's just a bunch of photos, I put together a full TR on Cascade Climbers.


16.2 miles, ~7000 ft of elevation, and an incredible amount of scrambling

Twin Sisters Traverse.jpg



Twin Sisters Traverse.jpg


Detail Maps

Detail Twin Sisters Traverse.jpg





TRIP REPORT - Hex Mountain - 1/29/18


It's always worth it to get out, even if the forecast looks gross

"The Bottom Line: Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended as very large and destructive avalanches are expected. Rain falling on previously dry snow will lead to dangerous conditions on Monday. Identify and avoid traveling through areas with avalanche paths overhead." - NWAC, the night before

With NWAC forecasting high avalanche danger for all of Washington, heavy rainfall predicted for the entire state, and generally sloppy conditions expected, Becky and I did our now-familiar Sunday night scramble: "Where exactly are we going?"

We wanted to avoid the rain (as much as possible), avoid avalanche terrain, and stand on top of something (if at all possible).  Hex Mountain looked perfect (and it was).

Hex Mountain

Trail stats - 8.2 miles and 2775' of elevation

- great option for a first snowshoeing peak or in high avalanche danger

The yellow, red, and purple shading show the slope angle (and specifically avalanche terrain).  GPX available at the bottom of the report

We drove through the Seattle morning traffic, crossed Snoqualmie Pass through low-hanging clouds and dropped down to Cle Elum lake and the trailhead (which is across the road from the fire station and unmarked). 


Getting geared up at the road


We walked alongside the road for a few hundred feet before coming to the turnoff and putting our snowshoes on.  The snow was so wet and heavy (and the trail was relatively well packed) that we didn't necessarily need them, but they definitely helped with traction and we were happy to have them on the whole time.

We began in the fog and clouds, but slowly the sun began to shine through, and we had a few hours of unexpected sunshine and views, even as we could see the storm hanging over the Cascade Crest.

The joys of being east of the crest (look at that dark cloud on the right)

The joys of being east of the crest (look at that dark cloud on the right)

Much of the trail goes through a burn zone, which was eerie in the quiet as the ash stained the snow beneath our snowshoes.


Burnt trees tower over the final slope to the summit


After winding our way along forest service roads (which were totally snowed over), we followed the corniced ridge to the summit, where we could just see Stuart and the Enchantments peeking through the clouds.  No views of Rainier, but we hadn't expected any views.

Stoked on the summit!

Just after leaving the summit, it began to rain.  I dug a snowpit to check on the snowpack, and the rain gradually picked up.


Compression test!


The way down ended up being pretty uncomfortable, as the rain gradually turned into a deluge.  The snow underfoot turned into sloppy concrete, and we tripped and slipped our way back down.


Smiling through the pouring rain


On our way back down the ridge, we passed a slide, where it looked like the cornice had fallen and triggered a wet slab.  We were happy not to be on any avy terrain.


Wet slide


We got back to the car soaking wet and huddled in the car before driving home slowly back through the storm.  It was a great day out, and the few hours of sun and views were an unexpected bonus!

GPX track + waypoints


TRIP REPORT - Keith's Hut - 1/20 through 1/22

We had three days off and the avalanche danger kept stacking up in Washington.  Marc and I had been planning on heading up to the North Cascades, but the hut we wanted to use required skinning up an avalanche chute, which seemed like a bad idea with the forecast.  We spent a few days frantically researching alternatives before calling our friend Katrina, who sorted us out.  New objective: Keith's Hut in BC.  She even gave us a guidebook.

Keith's hut has it all - big objectives (Vantage Peak, Joffre Peak and Matier Mountain) for good conditions, and solid low-angle tree skiing (lower Vantage trees, Joffre Arm, east bowl of Chief Pascal) for bad.  If you're planning a trip up here, I included a .kmz file at the end with our tracks and beta.

Depending on the source, there's room in the hut for 10 to 20 people.  We were worried there wouldn't be room, so we woke up at midnight and left at 2 am from Seattle.  6 hours  (and one Tim Horton's breakfast stop in Squamish) later, we were at the trailhead, watching the sun come up.

We brought tents in case there wasn't room in the hut, but decided not to bring them when we only saw a few cars parked at the trailhead.


Marc wishing he'd gotten less sleep


The skin up to the hut starts with a spicy creek crossing across a log.  It's not as bad as it looks...


Once we were across the log, it was only 3.5 miles up to the hut.  The track changes depending on avy and snow conditions, but it's well-traveled enough to be pretty obvious.  If it's totally gone, break your own trail - I've included our gpx track below.  It's a casual skin up, and ends up being pretty safe in high avalanche danger.  A few miles in, you'll cross the bottom of huge slide path off Vantage Ridge but it wasn't fully filled in when we passed through.

Overview from above the trailhead, looking south

Near the top of the valley (once we saw the terminal and lateral moraines) we swung right and contoured along the terminal moraine, gained the ridge, and reached the hut.  

There were 11 sleeping bags upstairs when we arrived, and it was pretty close quarters after we'd added our 3.  After lunch and a taste of whiskey, we headed out to ski Joffre Arm, which stretches north from Joffre Peak.  It's a quick 20 minute skin to a knob on Joffre Arm, from which there are a lot of options. 

View from above the hut, looking NE

You can either head back down to the hut (which is 300 vertical feet through low-angle trees) or drop off the backside (~1,200 ft of skiing) which offers open skiing for good avy conditions and nicely spaced trees when it's dangerous.  We skied two laps off the hut-side and then headed back to the hut.

Marc on top of Joffre Arm

Marc on top of Joffre Arm

Toby cutting a column test - if you look closely you can see the two rain/warm weather crusts, with over a foot of storm slab on top...

Toby cutting a column test - if you look closely you can see the two rain/warm weather crusts, with over a foot of storm slab on top...

Toby shredding down the low angle trees off Joffre Arm (hut-side)


Depending on who's in the hut, things can get pretty rowdy.  I definitely drank more than I'd expected to, but it was a Saturday night, so...

The aftermath (midway through the cleanup, and without most of the empties)...

The aftermath (midway through the cleanup, and without most of the empties)...


It'd been dumping all night and we woke to however many inches of new snow (at least a foot, and it showed no signs of stopping).  Everyone headed their separate ways, with most people skiing different parts of Joffre Arm (though lower Vantage Peak apparently offered some good options).  Toby, Marc, and I decided to head off the backside of Joffre Arm and tried to stick to the trees.  Almost immediately, we remote-triggered a small avalanche on a slightly open slope, so we chose even tighter trees for the rest of the run (which kept things interesting with the tree wells).  Once at the bottom of the run, we had some trouble getting back to the hut skin track, as Cerise Creek is just wide enough to make crossing difficult.  After following some stray skin tracks (one of which turned out to have been the faster way back up to the hut - marked in the gpx) we found a snow bridge.  

Crossing Cerise Creek could get pretty frustrating

Crossing Cerise Creek could get pretty frustrating

We got back on the hut skin track and the wind and snow had almost entirely obscured our tracks from the day before.  

You can just see Toby through the blowing snow

You can just see Toby through the blowing snow

Marc gesturing at something

Marc gesturing at something

Once back at the hut, we ate a quick lunch before heading up for two more conservative laps off the hut-side of Joffre Arm.  The snow was piling up, and another snowpit showed that things were looking pretty delicate.  


Digging a late afternoon snowpit

Let's keep it low-angle for the rest of the day...


Everyone else left, so the three of us settled into the cabin for a night of sobriety and casual cards.  The next day, we woke up to even more snow.


We packed up and again headed off the backside of Joffre Arm, this time starting lower to avoid where we'd had the slide (the day before).  The lower trees were perfectly spaced, and we found our best turns of the trip there.  


Once we were down, we headed towards the east side of Chief Pascal, where there was supposed to be some more tree skiing (it's also on the way out).  We pretty quickly found ourselves traversing some pretty unpleasant slopes.  Don't try to skin up the south eastern part of the ridge.

Marc does not like my skintrack (which to be fair involved some balancing on logs)

Marc does not like my skintrack (which to be fair involved some balancing on logs)


After we found the proper way to skin up, we battled through feet of powder through old growth forest (and Toby's skins failed).

Skin failure isn't a big deal when you've got 10 ski straps

Skin failure isn't a big deal when you've got 10 ski straps

NW View of low angle Chief Pascal skiing

But once we finally gained some elevation, we found some pretty sweet lines - still in the trees and low angle enough to feel good about.

By the time we finally got back to the car, we had just enough energy to dig the car out before heading home.

Toby is way too excited to be shoveling

Toby is way too excited to be shoveling

All in all, it was a perfect trip, though we're already planning to head back when there's clearer skies and safer avalanche conditions.

MAP BETA (.kmz) - use in Google Earth or Caltopo


TRIP REPORT - Skiing Great Scott Bowl - Snoqualmie Pass

Every first day of the season has to have some rough patches right?  Luckily, the day was glorious and the snow was deep, which helped me forget the bootpacking/powdercrawling... 

Bryant Peak shines through the clouds

I overnighted in my car in the parking lot at Alpental to avoid waking up early, and got to see dawn rise over the resort, before meeting up with Mike and Dimas and heading up towards Source Lake.

Alpental at dawn

It was wild to be at Source Lake in the winter - the last time I was up there I was scrambling over talus towards the Tooth, and the snow made everything way easier.  The Source Lake bowl was looking pretty thin, so we climbed up a steep skin track towards Great Scott Bowl. 

Scoping out Source Lake basin - Mike's pointing up at some avalanche debris

Halfway up, my skins decided they didn't want to hold on any longer, so I took some tumbles and finished the climb in my boots.   

This guy couldn't have been more stoked on the day - hopefully he finds this photo!

Luckily, I found Scott, whose skins were pulling the same shenanigans, and we took turns breaking trail for one another while the clouds cleared over Bryant Peak.  

My  bootpacking compadre - Scott

My skinning fiasco took up a fair while, and I didn't feel eager to get back on the bootpacking horse, so I packed it in and headed back to town for my afternoon shift.  But I can't wait to get out again!

The Warren G Hardings!

So, out of nowhere, I got to shoot my first music video yesterday!  The Warren G Hardings sounded great and were phenomenal to film.  I can't wait to get the final audio and start editing!

Here's a couple shots from behind the scenes - 

I love this shot

Heath sitting down between takes

This pretty much sums up the afternoon

Listening to the last take

Warming up

this is my favorite shot from the whole day

Settling Down?

One of my favorite parks in Colorado Springs - Stratton Open Space

Hidden Valley, Moab

I just finished moving everything I own.  3,000 miles of driving, alone, through the American West, from Colorado Springs to Seattle.  

And I didn't take the direct route, but went out of my way to visit friends and my favorite places.  There was no way I was driving through Colorado and not getting to Crested Butte, or driving through Utah and not going trail running in Moab.  Some people might think that driving solo so far, through snow and rain and long hours, would be hard and maybe even not worth it. But it's like exercising - at a certain point, after a few hours, you lose sense of time and you're just in the drive.   Hours go by and you don't notice.  The miles ticking up on the odometer and the gas gauge going down - that's the only way to tell time is passing.

I've lived on the road, out of a backpack or car, for a total of two and a half years.  Traveling is my default.  In doubt? Travel.  Happy? Travel.  Sad? Travel.  For me, the hardest part of traveling is not knowing when to stop.  After a few months of living on the road, I'll start getting jealous of my friends with stable lives.  I'll wish I had a home, a regular bed, a dog.  I'll settle down somewhere. And after I've been settled for a few weeks or months, I start getting the urge to head out again on the next trip.

When I've been traveling too long...

It's a crazy seesaw - I'm always pining after the next thing.  Now I'm in Seattle, and I'm hoping to be here a while.  Maybe I'll even sign a lease - which terrifies me! I won't stop seeing new things and going new places, but I want to adjust the scale of my adventures.  Instead of driving across the country, or flying to another continent, I want to explore the Pacific Northwest.  I want to start small. What can I find right here, near Seattle?  In between rainstorms, you can see Mt. Rainier looming on the horizon. Maybe trying to summit is a good next goal...

Only a few days away from a stable life?

So, after solo driving 2,000 miles in a week and packing all my stuff, I'm a day's drive from Seattle, and potentially settling down for a bit.  This is surreal.  Looking back over the last few days helps me calm down.

Of course, Colorado had to snow while I was cleaning my storage unit.

Duke licking his lips at all the pow

Sawyer and Moshup in Missoula!

Goodbye Pike's Peak!

A quick hike in Moab between drives