As a part of the Ueli Tour, presented by the American Alpine Club and Alpina Watches, the legendary Ueli Steck spent the evening of September 10th in Portland with a crowd of about 200 local climbers. Before the main event, a small group of people rallied at the Lucky Labrador Tap Room to meet and drink with The Swiss Machine. From there he headed to the University of Portland to present a slide show and share his experiences on his 82 Summits Challenge and other important climbs. The event was almost two hours of intense video, slideshow, Q&A, and some awesome swag raffles.
I was the volunteer event photographer with the AAC and had a blast meeting and spending the evening with one of my biggest climbing inspirations.
Friday, May 13th I drove out to the Leaping Lamb Farm Cottage in Alsea, OR as part of a photo assignment for Hipcamp. My job was to take photos of the property and upload them to the website so that other campers/vacationers could have a better understanding of this place.
The farm was beautiful and a fun place to stay. Check it out!
Route: South Side from Timberline lodge up Palmer, across the Hogsback and up through the Pearly Gates. Returned via the same route.
Weather: We started during the tail end of a pretty big spring storm. It was snowing hard as we drove up to Timberline from Government Camp. The road had several inches of fresh snow and I wasn’t sure my car would even make it to the parking lot. From 3:00am, when we began climbing until aroun 10:00am, it was below freezing, snowing, and very windy. I climbed until the Hogsback in a heavy belay parka bacause the wind chill was brutal. After 10:00am, however, the weather changed and everyting was calm and sunny. We had a beautiful, calm, 30 minutes on the summit.
Snow Conditions: With heavy snow for a few days before our climb we were postholling the whole way up. There was no bootpack. In some places we were sinking in to our knees. The snow made travel difficult and definitely doubled our time to the summit.
Mikey flew into town for a weekend of climbing. We had plans to climb Mt Hood and then head straight to Smith Rock for a day of climbing before returning home. The exact route on Hood was uncertain. We were really interested in doing the Steel Cliffs or Wy’east and the weather and conditions on the mountain leading up to our April 15th climb seemed to be cooperating with those plans.
Thursday afternoon I drove to the airport and picked up Mikey. We made a few last minute gear stops at REI and the Mountain Shop before grabbing lunch and heading out to my new place in Hillsboro.
One of the things I appreciate most about Mikey as a climbing partner is his attention to detail. My military background and slightly OCD tendencies when it comes to packing and prepping for an objective doesn’t bother him at all. Before all of our climbs we dump our gear and do a pre-climb inventory/inspection. I appreciate knowing my friends and I are all prepared for the worst and that we can find the essentials quickly if we find ourselves in an emergency situation.
One of my goals for this trip was to lighten my load. It seems like the last few adventures I have been on my pack has been getting heavier and heavier. This time I wanted to break that trend and strip things down to the essentials. I started with my Cobra 60 backpack, taking off the hip belt, the brain, and the internal frame. It was hard, but I settled on only bringing my camera and ONE lens. No extra anything. Then the unnecessary layers, food, and gear was all put back in the closet. In the end, my pack was by no means light, but it was lighter. I was ready.
After a short two hours of sleep, we woke, had a little breakfast, and jumped in the car around midnight. The weather showed that the storm that had been pounding Mt Hood would stop around 3am and things would be calm and beautiful on the mountain for the next few days after that. It began snowing on us as we approached Government Camp. The road up to Timberline Lodge was covered in several inches on fresh, unplowed snow and the storm intensity grew as we gained elevation.
We registered to climb at Timberline, helped push a fellow climber’s van back onto the road after getting stuck, and took a few minutes to gear up before actually hitting the trail at 3am. My spirits were low as we were hammered by 40mph wind and blowing snow while climbing up the lower ski slopes. The water in my hydration bladder was completely frozen over within the first 30 minutes on the mountain and I was having a hard time staying warm despite how hard I was working to keep up with Mikey.
At the top of ski lifts we sat down to take a quick break and reassess our plans. My core temperature dropped and I struggled to pull on my hardshell pants over the top of the softshell climbing pants I had been wearing. Then I pulled out the L6 belay parka and hunkered down out of the wind for a few minutes to thaw some water.
Because we had been moving much slower than expected due of the poor weather and deep snow, we decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to continue up the longer and more technical Steel Cliffs route. Once warm(ish) again we continued up the mountain.
It wasn’t long before we were approaching the Devil’s Kitchen and the sun was starting to shine on us from the East. A strong sense of relief flooded over with the morning light and calming winds. My lungs and quads burned with each step. We took turns breaking trail through the knee deep snow on the upper slopes.
We dropped our packs and took another break at the Hogsback, watching two other climbers navigate their way up to the Pearly Gates. I was shocked by how different this part of the mountain looked from last time I was up here. A good winter had completely buried the bergschrund and made the Pearly Gates a fairly easy and direct route to the summit.
At the top of the Hogs back Mikey and I both pulled out our second ice axe for a little extra protection on the steep ice near the summit. I ascended the Pearly Gates first then anchored myself and took a few photos of Mikey as he followed. Once through the gates, the weather calmed and we were in heaven. The summit was almost warm enough for t-shirts. It felt like we were sitting on top of the world, looking down on the clouds in all directions. We relaxed on top for 30 minutes by ourselves before packing up and descending the way we came.
We were down in the brewery eating a late lunch at 3pm, a long but extremely rewarding 12 hours after starting up the mountain. And that evening we pitched out tent in Smith Rock. Not a bad start to the weekend!
I want to take a minute to thank Joel and the guys at Ex Novo Brewing Co in Portland for supporting me, my art, and other local artists. They display work from local artists upstairs in their dining area. I was honored to hang a collection of my photos up there from February until May. This was the first time I’ve displayed my work in public and thanks to Ex Novo, it was a very rewarding experience.
That being said, I did drop by the brewery this morning to pick up some of the extra prints. They are now boxed up and ready to mail out. If you missed seeing them in person or just forgot to order something you saw and liked at the brewery, you can check out the collection here.
And please help me show some love to Ex Novo by stopping in and grabbing a cold beer now that the sun is shining in Portland! Hope to see you there.
Hipcamp Journal: An Introduction to the Pacific Northwest
An Introduction to Hipcamp
If you’re like me and you love spending nights in the mountains and sitting around a campfire with friends, you should take a look at Hipcamp. They are a cool new company that enables outdoor adventures by helping people find and book campsites. Campers can log in and post photos and reviews of each site, which brings a fun, social, and more informative approach to planning your next trip.
Several months ago, Hipcamp reached out to me about being a Voyager. A small group of us Voyagers would help provide content for the website and social media posts while also using our networks to spread brand awareness. Last week I was featured in the Hipcamp Journal. They published a story and photos from one of my recent outings in the Pacific Northwest. Here is small preview:
After recently moving to Portland, OR, I was excited to get out on my first backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest. As I was doing my research on possible locations, trip reports about Mount Margaret Backcountry on the North side of Mount St. Helens continued to stand out. Backpacking through a forest of dead, blown over trees in the blast zone of the 1980 eruption appealed to me as an appropriate introduction to the Cascades. This unique landscape in combination with the abundant wildlife and rich fall colors seemed too good to pass up, so I immediately went online and made reservations for two nights at Dome Camp in mid October.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to take some photos of Tommy and Krista at Howl ‘n Growl in NW Portland. Howl ‘n Growl is a fun little coffee and tap house located on the corner of 17th and Front, by the Waterline Apartments. They have great coffee, bagels, sandwiches, and other snacks in the morning and then in the afternoon they reopen with beer flowing from 30 taps. Definitely check this place out if you’re in the area, or you can find them online here. I hope you enjoy the photos!
Weather: Sunny and cool with no wind at all. Temperature ranged from around 45 degrees at the trailhead to probably the 20s in the middle of the night at our 9500′ base camp.
Snow Conditions: With heavy snow a week before our climb and beautiful weather the days leading up to our climb, the mountain was in surprisingly good condition for November. The snow was deep enough to blanket the ground and make climbing easier and it was just firm enough to kick solid steps all of the way up. We even managed to glissade over 2000′ on the descent. I’m pretty sure we just got extremely lucky with conditions because this can’t be normal for Shasta in November, otherwise there would be a lot more people climbing it this time of the year. Essential Gear: Crampons, Ice Axe
After climbing Mt Adams last month, my friend Jared and I began talking about making a trip down to Mt Shasta. We recruited another friend, Chris, and then scheduled some time off and began researching routes. The Clear Creek route sounded like the safest way up the mountain in November, since most of the mountain is subject to rockfall this time of year.
A storm hit the mountain several days before our climb, dumping a lot of fresh new snow. From then on through our climb the forecast was calling for beautiful, cool, calm, and sunny conditions. Fingers were crossed that the conditions would hold.
Thursday, November 12th, at 4:00am I got the call from Chris saying he was outside. Jared and I grabbed our gear and headed out to the truck. We were leaving Portland exactly on schedule and off to a great start. Our appetites were waking up after a couple hours on the road, so we made a pit stop at Ruby’s Neighborhood Restaurant in Ashland for some breakfast burritos and hot coffee. This place did not disappoint! I had one of the best vegan burritos I’ve ever had. All three of us agreed that we had to stop here for another burrito on the way home.
We pulled into the ranger station in Mt Shasta around 10:30am, purchased our $25 climbing permits, and got some information from the friendly ranger at the desk. He said they hadn’t had any climbers stop in in quite a while so he had to pull out a clean registration sheet for us. That wasn’t too surprising since November isn’t the ideal time to climb, but it did make me second guess my decision. But we had done our research and knew what we were getting into. And the weather and snow conditions seemed to be cooperating.
The ranger told us we would run into snow on the road about 2 miles before the trailhead and he was right. The drive from the Mt Shasta Ranger Station to the Clear Creek Trailhead took us about an hour with a little road construction, and the last couple miles were rough and covered in several inches of fresh snow. It was getting to the point where accessing the trailhead in a car would be very difficult, if not impossible. We had no problems in a 4×4 truck.
Before heading out on this trip I made the decision to go light on the camera gear. Often for trips like this I will pack multiple lenses, a tripod, extra batteries, and a bag full of other “essentials.” This time, however, I didn’t want to be weighed down too much. I decided to bring only one lens, my kit 18-105mm. This is by no means my favorite lens, but it has a good range for mountain shots, both wide angle and zoom. And, most importantly, it’s a lens that I don’t feel like I have to baby too much. It has treated me well in the mountains many times so I was comfortable relying on it alone this time. It was also nice having more space and a few less pounds in my pack.
Once at the trailhead, we split up the tent, stoves, fuel, and other group gear and did one final inventory. It was almost 1 pm by the time we were actually on the trail, one hour later than projected, but still feeling like we could comfortably reach our 9500′ to 10000′ camp by dark.
Less than a mile up the trail we found some blood, fur, and signs of a struggle in the fresh snow. Then, we found what appeared to be some tracks of a large cat trailing a deer. And, after a closer inspection we found where the cat had dragged the deer off the trail, over some logs, and into the thick woods. It was really cool to see, but slightly eerie. The three of us jokingly agreed that we should try to make our return trip through this area before dark the following evening just in case that guy was still hungry.
Since the Clear Creek trail was completely covered in fresh snow, navigation was harder than expected. For the most part, the trail was easy to follow, but where the trail cuts down to the left to cross the creek, we continued up the ridge for a little longer. It didn’t take long to realize we had made a mistake somewhere, so the maps came out. After cutting down across the creek with running water we found some cairns and other signs of the trail, and then followed them up the mountain.
After crossing 9000′ feet we started keeping our eyes open for a bivy site. The sun was setting fast and we were hoping to get everything set up before dark. Over to our right there was a rocky ridge so we cut over, expecting to find a built up wind shelter. As expected, there was a nice established camp site around 9500′ and we all agreed it was the spot to stop. It took a little work to dig the snow out and set up the tent, but we were all in the tent warming up as darkness settled over us at 6:00pm.
The temperatures were probably in the mid 20s outside, but with three of us plus gear inside the tent, we were cozy and warm all night. When our alarms went off at 4:15am, the morning routine started with coffee warming on the stove. It was surprisingly difficult and time consuming getting dressed and prepared for the summit push in the tight quarters. When I looked at my watch we were already past our 5:00am start time and we hadn’t even touched our boots, crampons, or stepped outside the tent. After some more coffee and a stop behind the rocks to use the wag bag, we were heading up the mountain by the light of our headlamps at 5:45am.
From camp, the route to the summit was basically a straight line with almost 5000′ elevation gain. Our pace started out strong but increasingly slowed as the air thinned. The snow was in surprisingly great shape for climbing and we enjoyed solid footing as we kick-stepped our way up the snowfields. Jared, however, had never been above 10500′ so he was really feeling the altitude. As we approached mushroom rock we were reduced to a slow shuffle, taking breaks every 5 to 10 steps.
The steep boulder scramble up Misery Hill was a welcome relief to the seemingly endless Stairmaster-like climbing on the snow slopes. Once nearing the top, though, my stomach sank as the summit came into view and it was a lot further away than expected. I took a knee and checked the elevation on my Delorme. 13500 ft! I climbed up a little higher and took a seat on some rocks to wait for Chris and Jared. As they approached I could clearly see the disappointment on their faces as well. We had a hard turnaround time of noon, since we still had to descend, break down camp, make it back to the truck, AND drive all the way to Portland. It was 11:30am. We still had a couple hundred feet to climb, including a final steep push up to the rocky summit point. Given the time constraint and Jared’s increasingly deteriorating condition, we agreed to climb up to the crater rim, a mere 300-400 ft short of the summit, and turn around.
Once at the crater rim, we decided to walk around a couple hundred meters to the north west to a spot with a better view to get a group photo. I pulled out my tripod for the first time all day and set up the camera. I set it take a photo every 19 seconds for 100 photos, figuring that would be plenty of time for us to get into position and get a few shots to pick from. After starting the short I walked out to Jared and Chris and we posed for photos. We only stuck around for about 2 or three minutes before calling it a day and deciding to get off the mountain. After breaking down the tripod and starting down the mountain, spirits were high and we were all feeling pretty happy to have made it as far as we did and even happier to begin the descent.
After the first 500’ or so down the mountain we reached the first smooth snow slopes. Jared was the first one to try glissading and he made it a couple hundred feet down before coming to a stop. From then on, we glissaded in small increments almost all the way down to our tent at 9500’. The time and energy saved descending that way was huge!
Once back at the tent we immediately began boiling snow for drinking water, since the three of us were all out of water, and breaking down camp. Within an hour we had our packs on again and moving down the mountain as fast as our legs could carry us.
We crossed through the mountain lion kill zone at dusk, barely before dark as we had hoped, and reached the truck at 5:00pm. After changing clothes, cleaning up, and packing the truck we were on the road by 6:00pm. A little research revealed that Ruby’s in Ashland was going to close at 8:00pm, making it questionable whether or not we would make it. Since we were starving and didn’t want to risk missing our burritos, we pulled over in Weed, CA, and found an alternative.
It was 1:30am by the time we rolled into Portland, officially making it a very long day. If I were to do it again, I’d definitely set aside three days for this trip. Driving 14+ hours and summiting a 14er is a lot to accomplish in 2 days, but it can be done.
Backpack: The North Face Cobra 60
Sleeping Bag: Sierra Designs Ridge Runner 0 degree bag
Weather: High of 70, low of 30, Clear skies and no wind, except on the summit where there were 20mph wind gusts.
Essential Gear: Crampons, ice axe, water, food
With a few days off and in need of a good adventure, I planned a quick overnight climb of Mt Adams. Thursday, October 1st, I called the ranger station to ask about the climbing conditions and to make sure all the roads and trails were open again after being closed for the summer fires. The ranger said everything is open and the mountain was in good condition, but very dry. There had been a few inches of snow high up on the mountain in late September, but it melted off before my climb.
After dropping a friend off at the Portland airport around 1pm, I hit the road to Mt Adams. With the stop at the Ranger Station, it was 4pm when I was lacing up my boots at the Cold Springs Campground. My intentions were to hike up to Lunch Counter and set up camp for the night, but with my late start I knew that would be a stretch.
The South Climb Trail #183 starts out as a nice wide trail winding through a section of burnt out trees and gradually gaining elevation on the way up to the Round the Mountain Trail junction. The hiking was easy here but the warm temperatures were already making me regret wearing my Verto S4k mountaineering boots. A much lighter hiking boot or shoe would have been perfect here.
Before long the trail turned up and I began picking my way along a rocky trail marked by large posts. As the trail leveled out under the Crescent Glacier, I was greeted by my first mountain goat of the trip. He was eating small patches of grass next to the glacier runoff and didn’t seem at all interested in me. I dropped my pack next to a large rock and took a seat so I could do some preventative maintenance on the hot spots forming on my heels from the insulated Gore-Tex boots. For the next 15 or 20 minutes I sat with my boots off and enjoyed the mountain solitude.
When I continued on, I followed the trail traversing over and up to the ridge. A couple minutes later I rounded a corner and ran into another large mountain goat. This guy was sitting on the top of a ridge at a sweet overlook right next to the trail. Luckily I still had my camera out so I immediately lifted it to my eye and fired off a few shots as we stared at each other from an uncomfortably close distance. He stood up and slowly walked off the trail and down the hillside into the cover of some thick trees, leaving the trail open for me to pass.
With the sun slowly setting over my left shoulder and the Crescent Glacier off to my right, I slowly made my way up along the ridgeline trail. As the light faded it got harder and harder to pick out the trail among the rocks, so I eventually found myself boulder hopping and picking my way up where I thought the trail would be. Somewhere around 8500’ feet I arrived at a little plateau with several large built up wind shelters. It looked like a great place to bivy for the night but I was still much lower on the mountain than I had hoped. While deciding whether to continue up through the lava rock maze in the dark or to just stop here for the night, I sat and enjoyed the final moments of the sunset. Feeling no pressure to rush up the mountain, I took plenty of time to soak up the beauty of this mountain and make my plans for the evening.
Eventually, under the cover of a completely black sky, I continued up the mountain. The going was rough, literally. I scrambled up, over, and around rocks for about an hour with no sign of a trail, using only a compass to keep me on course. When I reached another wind shelter in the rocks next to the snowfields above Crescent Glacier, I called it a night. I would cross over to the right side of the snowfields and make my way up to Lunch Counter after a few hours of sleep.
The weather probably in the low 40s, crystal clear skies, and absolutely no winds, so I was happy to spread out my sleeping bag under the stars. As I cooked my couscous dinner I looked down off my perch on Mt Adams towards distant glowing lights of Hood River and The Dalles.
To occupy my time, I set up my tripod and took a few photos. Because the sky was so clear and the moon had not yet risen, I was able to get some great Milky Way shots. The foreground was boring and didn’t give much sense of location, so I figured out how to place myself in the shot. It took a little tinkering with my headlamp and several minutes of trial and error to dial everything in, but the end results were awesome! After getting the shots I wanted, I packed up my camera gear and crawled into my sleeping bag for the night.
Right around 5:00 am I awoke to what sounded like a gunshot and several voices in the distance. Startled, I sat up and looked out over the snow field to see what was going on. The “snow” in the snow field has been exposed and stuck in a melting and freezing cycle for months without any significant fresh snow, so this time of year it is basically all ice. Three climbers were working their way up the middle of the ice and maybe due to their weight, the temperature fluctuations over night, the pressure of gravity, or who knows what else, the ice was fracturing and setting off terrifying, loud cracks. They worked their way over to the side, closer to the rocks, and continued up the mountain.
After packing up my gear, I donned my crampons and carefully stepped out onto the ice. It was much easier moving across this hard surface than it was the volcanic rocks several hours before, but I was a little hesitant to venture out towards the middle of the cracking ice. After cautiously crossing the snowfield, I made my way up to Lunch Counter. There was a good amount of water runoff here where the snow fields butt up against the rocks, so I took advantage of this to refill all my water bottles before pushing up to the summit.
Above Lunch Counter the snow was very hard, icy, and steep. The tips of my crampons were punching in enough that I felt secure, but there was no room for a slip here or it would be a long ride before coming to a stop on the rocks below. I traversed over to Suksdorf Ridge to see if that would be a better route, but it was really loose rock and just as steep, so I felt a little better taking my time and carefully climbing the icy snowfield all the way up to the 11,657’ summit of Piker’s Peak, the false summit of Mt Adams. As I approached the top of Piker’s Peak, I passed the three other climbers on the mountain on their way back down from the summit. All three were wearing microspikes instead of crampons. Not something I would have been very comfortable wearing, but they seemed to be doing just fine.
As I walked across the top of Piker’s Peak the actual summit came into view. The final climb looked a little intimidating. I took a brief break to eat a Cliff Bar and drink a little water. My legs were feeling the burn from hauling my huge pack and camera gear up the mountain and, for some reason, I was starting to feel a little off from the altitude. For a moment I contemplated turning, but those thoughts didn’t last long. The weather was great and the path to the summit was almost completely free of snow and ice from here on up. I decided to push the tired legs a little harder and get to the summit so I wouldn’t regret a lazy decision.
It didn’t take long to cross over and start the final climb up to the summit. The temperature had dropped noticeably and the wind was starting to howl. I focused on my breathing and carefully placing one foot in front of the other and then I was at the summit. It was 10:30 am.
I had heard that there was a shack on the summit and was wondering if I would be able to step inside to boil some water and take a quick break. It turns out the shack is in terrible shape with with roof and walls caving in and the inside completely full of snow. My head was starting to hurt and I was feeling dehydrated, so I propped my camera up on a rock and took a few summit photos and start descending as soon as possible. After a short 5 minutes I was slowly dropping off the steep summit slopes.
Back at Piker’s Peak, I found the trail and began following it around to the steep snowfield descent. After a minute or two I got to the place where I believed I should be heading straight down to Lunch Counter but instead I was staring down a steep south west facing rocky chute. Something went wrong. This was the point where I remembered the Mt Adams Ranger telling me that, in order not to get lost, climbers need to head south off the top of Piker’s Peak and not follow the natural downward Southwestern flow from the summit. Luckily I caught my mistake before it was too late. Once back on the right path the descent was easy and straightforward.
Backpack: Cobra 60, The North Face
Sleeping Bag: Dark Star, 0 degree synthetic, The North Face
Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket Cookset: GSI Halulite Minimalist Jacket: Thermoball Hoodie, The North Face