Monday, July 25, 2016

The Blue Blue Blue


We made a loop route today with a few miles of gentle brush crashing. It was fun to do something easy after our last few killer hikes.  We went to our secret private swimming hole.  Where is it?  Well it would not be private if I told, would it?


 6 miles with 500 feet elevation gain



The historic O'Neil trail








Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mount Adams

Looking South from the summit

This is a first draft:

Mount Adams at nearly 12,300 feet is the second tallest mountain in Washington State. Unlike most of the other tall peaks in Washington, Mount Adams can be climbed by folks with little in the way of technical climbing skills. Crampons or micro spikes and an ice axe are good to have though. When I climbed Mount Adams in 2008 I did it in running shoes with no traction devices and although I had an ice axe, I did not use it, since I could not get my trekking poles to collapse.

 My daughter and I spent a few months training for this hike by doing progressively more difficult hikes in the Olympics. My nearly sixteen mile hike to black and white lakes did wonders for my conditioning. Together we did Putvin, Mildred, Camp Pleasant and Sundown pass as our conditioning days hikes. I had hoped to do Jupiter as well.

 Once trained and presented with a good weather window and after much debate, we opted to take two days to do our climb. On a Wednesday morning we packed up and headed for Cold Springs camp. We arrived at Trout Lake to get our climbing permits at 4:00pm.

 The ranger who sold us our permits was very helpful, she was filled with good advice and she was not at all condescending. She told us that Cold Springs was no longer a campground, since the fire, nothing had been done to repair the campground and it was now dispersed camping.  With that information we opted to camp at Morrison Creek.

The Ranger also gave us plastic bags to haul our poop out in.  My daughter was determined to not have to use one of those bags. I was just glad that I had a floorless tent that would afford me the privacy I would need if I had to use the dreaded bag up at Lunch Counter.

 We took a Pokémon Go break in the town of Trout Lake before we headed up to camp. Morrison Creek was quite rough, the campground loop road was insane and the few picnic tables were scattered seemingly haphazardly around the campground. We finally found a nice enough spot near the water where we set up our tents.  My daughter was borrowing my Shires rain shadow 3 person tent and I was using my fairly new MLD Duomid.

Our car camp at Morrison Creek
Shires Rainshadow 3 on the left and MLD Duomid on the right.

 We caught a few rock type Pokémon with incense at Morrison Creek before we had dinner and went to bed. My daughter lucked out and caught a Charizard that I never even saw on my phone.

Night at Morrison Creek Camp
 The night was very bright as the moon was over half full and it reflected light off of snow covered Mount Adams just above us.

 I had to take a couple of pills to help me sleep. At 7:30 am we got up and started packing and by 9pm we were at the South Climb Trial head at Cold Springs.

 The hike up to Lunch Counter was mostly uneventful except for in one spot. There was a place where we ended up climbing up a stairway made of ice. A lot of other people went up that awful stairway too. We were both terrified of it, but we made it up. I stashed my trekking poles and used my ice axe, my daughter who had never used an ice axe said she felt safer using trekking poles. As soon as we got to the top of the ice staircase of terror, we saw two hikers with two dogs who had found a better way up on an actual trail. Upon hearing that there was a better way, we were relieved that we would not have to descend the same way.

 We were not able to find much water on the hike up, other than Morrison Creek everything was dry. Water was coming off the bottom of Crescent glacier, but I did not see it in time and did not want to go  back for it. We had to gain 4,000 feet with fully loaded overnight packs and did not want to do any backtracking.

 It was windy and uncomfortable when we  hit Lunch Counter at 6pm and we were very tired. I cooked dinner and melted snow for water in a semi-exhausted state. The wind forced both of us to hide under my Duomid while we ate and cooked.

 My daughters rainshadow tarp tent was not doing well I the wind. The spot it was in was not big enough to pitch it properly and it’s just not designed for a large wind load. After dinner the wind just kept getting stronger and I began to panic a little bit. I asked another camper about the wind forecast, he said the forecast called for for 20mph gusts.  I felt that the wind was already 20mph. My husband sent me a forecast that called for 10mph winds dying down to 6mph and a low of 13.

 Nothing was making much sense. Should we pack up and head for lower ground with just an hour to go before sunset? We opted to take down my daughter's tarp tent that was just barley standing up and cram into my Duomid. The Duomid is meant to hold two and it is build to shed wind and nasty weather of all sorts. Tucked snugly into my Duomid my daughter fell asleep instantly.

 I laid awake for awhile. I was worried that our bottomless Duomid tarp tent would blow away and leave us exposed up there. When I got up in the night I saw that clouds were moving in below us and from the Northwest. Was a snow storm coming? Were we going to die up there?

 I put some extra rocks over the tent stakes and hoped that my tarp tent would not rip into pieces in the night. I remembered that MLD makes really high quality gear and the odds of my Duomid shredding in the wind were really low. Also, I decided if the tent did blow away I would not matter if I was awake or asleep when it happened. So I took a sleeping pill, put my earplugs in and attempted to sleep.

 Other than having to get up six or seven times and brave the cold winds so I could answer the call of nature, I slept well. My body was doing its usual high elevation trick, emergency dumping of fluid in order to thicken the blood and raise the ratio of red blood cells to plasma.

 Dirty glacier grit blew into the tent all night long and the winds never stopped.  An occasional gus would wake me up.  Everytime I woke up I noticed that all of our gear was just a little bit dirtier than the time before.

 All in all in was a pretty terrible night of camping on Lunch Counter. It was not my worse ever night of camping, but pretty close.

 At 7am I woke up to clear sunny skies and no wind! Yes, our trip was on. I woke up my daughter and said “Let’s climb this mountain”. She hopped up. We left my tent up, ate some snacks, packed for a day hike and started up the mountain.

 As soon as we reached the snow I put on my hiking crampons and my daughter put on microspikes and we began are interminable snow slog. My daughter is a little faster than me, but she prefers to follow me so I can set an all day long pace. If my daughter hikes at her pace, she is quickly winded. The only pace I seem to have is a slow all day pace, I blame it on my excessive inertia. In other words, I need to lose about twenty pounds.

 When we finally topped Piker's Peak my daughter was overwhelmed by the task that lay ahead. I reassured her that it was not as bad as it looked. Mountains mess with your sense of scale. Once you climb Pikers Peak and get your first look at the summit, it feels like you have a whole mountain left to climb, a whole different Mountain.

 In a way it’s true. Pikers Peak is the fifth highest point in the state and is a volcano in its own right. But the true summit of Mount Adams is just 800 feet higher, in spite of looking to be about 3,000 feet higher when you are so tired and confused by the mountain scenery.

 As we started our final push up the summit my daughter was very cold and miserable and feeling quite overwhelmed. I saw that she was upset and I told her we could turn back then and there and I would not be upset by it. She said that if she turned back she would hate herself for not finishing the job and she was going to push on no matter what. I fed her hard candies for the rest of the way as her mittens would not let her open the wrappers.

We reached the summit at about 1:15. The summit was windy and cold as usual and my daughter had been complaining of cold all the way up, so we did not stay on top for long. We posed for a picture on top of the summit shack. The top of the old forest service look out on the summit is the highest point of the hike.  I jogged out and tagged the true geological summit while my daughter stayed at the miners shack and took pictures.

While preparing for our long decent back to Lunch Counter, we could not get my daughters trekking poles to collapse and her hip belt would not buckle. She was getting more and more upset. I felt that she had a touch of elevation sickness and suggested that we get back down to Lunch Counter quickly.

 After all that work we only spent about 20 minutes on the summit. Our summit view was cloudy with just the tips of other volcanoes peaking out above the clouds.

We took off our crampons and microspikes, stashed our trekking poles as best we could and got out our ice axes for the descent. My daughter had never used an ice axe before, so I gave her a quick lesson on how to hold the axe, how to glissade and how to self arrest.

 The first few glissades were quite steep and it was a struggle to stay in control, we were both scared, but we never were really in any danger as we went down very, very slow. We dug our ice axes in as a brakes and as soon as that quit working we self arrested over and over and over.

 At the top of the second shoot my daughter proclaimed “I don’t like glissading” I said “I don’t either, it’s scary, but let’s get it over with” We glissaded almost the entire way back down to Lunch Counter.

 It had taken us 4 hours to climb to the summit from Lunch Counter but it only took us an hour and ten minutes to slide back down from the summit.

Back down at Lunch Counter we did not waste any time packing up for our trip back to the trailhead. I would have been okay with spending another night on Lunch Counter since the wind had died down. My daughter wanted to get back down to the trail head and other facilities below.

 We were able to do a little bit more glissading below Lunch Counter.

Our route across the Crescent Glacier on the way down.
On the way up we took a scary icy snow staircase.
 The only excitement on the way down was losing the trail while trying to avoid descending the icy staircase from hell onto crescent glacier. Some other hikers lost the trail too, but they had a friend on the other side of the Crescent Glacier who showed us the way down.

 Their friend had glissaded in a spot that the rest of us felt was too steep and he ended up on the other side of the glacier from those of us who had tried to find a trail down.

 Once we were free of all the snow and the trail began to widen and feel like a normal trail, my daughter raced ahead.  At that point,  I slowed down and took pictures and reminisced about our trip. I felt really strong until about half a mile before the end of the trail, and then I started to flag. I stopped and ate some candy and drank some water and that helped a bit.

 We reunited at the trail head at about 6pm.  I dumped my gargantuan plastic bag of poop into the nearly full receptacle and we drove back down to Trout Lake for the night.

We spent the night at the county campground. We both wanted a shower but we were too tired to take one. After a long hard hike I always go for a short walk. I call it my post hike, hike. It really helps to combat the stiffness and soreness that always set in the next day. We utilized that time to search for Pokémon in the campground, but did not find many.

Next we devoured a bunch of food and crashed into our separate tents for the night.  I slept solid through the night and I never do that.  We got up at about seven the next day and we packed up and drove home

 12 miles round trip with 6,700 feet elevation gain

A note about our footwear:  We both hiked up and down in running shoes, my daughter wore microspikes over her shoes and I wore ultralight Kahtoola hiking crampons over my shoes.


The lower trail

Just above Lunch Counter

Pikers Peak

Us on the summit

Looking North from the summit

Prayer flags on the summit

Glisadding back to lunch Counter

Packing up to leave our camp at Lunch Counter after coming down from the summit



Lower trail beauty

Almost back to the trail head

Close to the car

Beargrass near the car

Pano looking South from the summit

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mildred Lakes Dayhike Plus a Rockslide






We had a terrifying experience in the mountains today, well I was terrified anyway. I have never experienced this before. We were hiking in a very narrow valley on the Mildred Lakes trail at 8:30 pm when we thought we heard thunder. Soon it became clear that it was a rock slide coming down the mountain directly above us and it was getting louder and louder and closer and closer. 

Running up or down the trail was not at option, there was no way to tell where the rock slide was going to cross the trail and it was getting louder and closer and the ground was beginning to shake a little. Since we we in such a narrow valley I decided to run straight up the valley opposite the side that the rock slide was coming from. I hoped that the rocks would stop at the valley floor and not bounce up at the bottom, or even worse fill up the bottom and reach us. We ran up the hill until we were out of breath and then stood behind a giant old growth log. The noise began to subside after we stopped, but the rocks were still coming and a few of them sounded quite close to us. We were fine, none of the rocks even reached the trail, but it was really terrifying. 

For all I knew half of the mountainside was coming down. In retrospect, it probably was not a very big rock slide at all, but it was VERY loud and it was headed straight for us. 

We started our hike at 10:10 and finished at 9:30 slower than I wanted to go, but this is a rough trail and we wanted to take pictures.  We had planned on doing Adams this weekend but the weather was not favorable.

There was a Forest Service truck parked at the trail head when we finished.  Maybe one of the hikers we passed was a ranger.  No one had a ticket on their car and they all had their passes displayed the same way that I displayed mine when I got ticketed at nearby Lena Lake.







A very rare wild chicken nest at the upper lake

Middle Mildred Lake

Upper Mildred Lake and the Sawtooths

Mount Cruiser

Algae in a tarn.

This is the trail

Our position when the rock-slide started

Google Earth images show lots of rock slide activity on the side of Mount Pershing

Entire route

Middle Mildred Lake

Mildred Lakes Dayhike Plus a Rockslide






We had a terrifying experience in the mountains today, well I was terrified anyway. I have never experienced this before. We were hiking in a very narrow valley on the Mildred Lakes trail at 8:30 pm when we thought we heard thunder. Soon it became clear that it was a rock slide coming down the mountain directly above us and it was getting louder and louder and closer and closer. 

Running up or down the trail was not at option, there was no way to tell where the rock slide was going to cross the trail and it was getting louder and closer and the ground was beginning to shake a little. Since we we in such a narrow valley I decided to run straight up the valley opposite the side that the rock slide was coming from. I hoped that the rocks would stop at the valley floor and not bounce up at the bottom, or even worse fill up the bottom and reach us. We ran up the hill until we were out of breath and then stood behind a giant old growth log. The noise began to subside after we stopped, but the rocks were still coming and a few of them sounded quite close to us. We were fine, none of the rocks even reached the trail, but it was really terrifying. 

For all I knew half of the mountainside was coming down. In retrospect, it probably was not a very big rock slide at all, but it was VERY loud and it was headed straight for us. 







A very rare wild chicken nest at the upper lake

Middle Mildred Lake

Upper Mildred Lake and the Sawtooths

Mount Cruiser

Algae in a tarn.

This is the trail

Our position when the rock-slide started

Google Earth images show lots of rock slide activity on the side of Mount Pershing

Entire route

Middle Mildred Lake