Thursday, July 30, 2009

Panorama Point, Mt Rainier

Panorama Point, Mt. Rainier July 19, 2009

We got down to Mt. Rainier National Park right after the sunset and headed to Cougar Rock Campground. Upon arriving we saw the full sign but decided to check out if it really was full. In fact every place had someone in it or a reserved sign. We tried to reserve but it wouldn’t let us (must have been filled already). We decided to ask the camp hosts just in case. They confirmed our fears, it was 110% and the next closest campground was about 30miles back where we came from. Dejected we made the loop around to leave only to be stopped by the host standing in the middle of the road. Her husband just informed her that two sites had just opened up because the people staying there got sick. Excited, we followed the husband over to pick our site. Setting up camp was fun at 10pm with headlamps. Ok, I admit it; I used a redneck hat that was camouflage with lights in the brim instead of my headlamp. Once we got settled it was off to bed. The only problem was a new group was coming in tomorrow so we would have to try to move again. So right after breakfast Saturday morning Scott headed out with Natalie (using a 18month old for sympathy) to find us a new spot. I suggested Amy, being almost 8 months pregnant, go with Natalie but Scott was successful. We threw everything in and on the Xterra and headed to our next home. Due to all this moving we decided to wait until Sunday for our hike. This was a good choice because Saturday was a zoo being a National Park Fee Free Weekend. I will do everything possible not to go to another park on a fee free weekend again. Just pay the entry fee. Of course we had no choice, this is when I was out there. We decided to get up Sunday at 6am and head out to hopefully beat the masses if they came out again.

We had no problem finding a parking spot at Paradise. Our initial plan was to go to Paradise Glacier so we headed out on the Skyline Trail in the counterclockwise direction. The beginning of the trail is paved for all the tourists. Soon enough we were on a path. Pretty soon the path lead to snow. I had my Yaktrax with me so I decided to put them on after slipping around a little. Scott didn’t have any but was very happy he decided to bring his friends poles. The first real time on snow was up a short but steeper section. I believe when we got to the top we were on Mazama Ridge. There was more snow then dirt ground at this point but the trail was easy to follow since there were little markers poking out. At one point we heard a noise and tried to figure out what it was. Turns out it was a ptarmigan. I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t something bigger. The view was fabulous along the ridge. You could see up to Rainier or down into a valley and were surrounded by peaks all around. When we got to the Stevens/Van Trump Memorial we decided to head toward Panorama Point instead of Paradise Glacier.

We kept following the Skyline Trail, which was pretty much all snow now. I wish I had known, there was an awesome place to sled. It would have been easy to bring an inner tube along and blow it up when we got there. Due to all the snow we didn’t see as many flowers as expected, I guess we were a little too early. Along the way we did get to see two marmots that were only about 10feet away. I now felt a little better about seeing some different animals. (Where are those mountain goats people spotted yesterday?) There were more patches of dirt trail along with snow that was still deeper then me. Along the way up we met a skier who had just done a run and was planning his next. Up we went to Panorama Point. From there we could see through the haze and just over the neighboring peaks Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams.

Behind us of course looming above was Mt. Rainer. Talk about a tease, we had to turn around and head back. Amy and Natalie were waiting down at the campsite. We headed back down via Golden Gate Trail. As we were heading down we saw the skier making a run down where we were headed. We passed two groups of Rainier Mountaineering heading up the trail. I was jealous of them. Their thoughts were on the summit, a place I would like to go. Soon enough we were back to the paved path and encountering the tourists looking for the waterfalls.

A fox (picture taken from in a car)

Thoughts: GO BACK! GO HIGHER! Summit!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mt. St. Helens!

Mt. St. Helens, Washington 7/21/09

Now if you had asked me last year if I would want to hike up a volcano, let alone the most famous on the mainland, I would have said no way. After researching more about geology and volcanoes to teach my 4th graders this past winter I learned to not be so scared of volcanoes. My students on the other hand didn’t think it was the best idea. I had to explain to them that it wasn’t going to just erupt. There are warning signs. Along the way in my research I found that you have to purchase climbing permits to go above 4500ft. Once I got my plane ticket I looked up passes and they were sold out for the Thur, Fri, Sat, and Sun I was going to be there (only 100 are sold per day). I was going to be hiking with Scott and he works during the week so I just accepted at first we weren’t going to be able to do it. About three weeks before my trip I found out Scott was going to take Tue off (Mon had sold out at that point too) so we could do it. Tue also happened to be the day I fly home on the red eye.

So Monday afternoon comes around, Scott gets home from work and we head out with my printed out receipt in hand. Luckily there was very little traffic and we get to the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar at 9:30pm to get our passes. From there we headed up to the Climbers Bivouac at the start of the Monitor Ridge Route. This was an interesting little place with two composting toilets, no running water, and some tent sites with fire pits. Some people slept in tents, some in cars, and some in sleeping bags out in the opening. I took the car route and Scott the out in the open route. As the night progressed the weather got warmer and therefore we got less sleep. The plan was to get up at 3am and head out with headlamps. I had wanted to make sure we were done with plenty of time so I could shower before spending the night on a plane. Also, the forecast was for temperatures in the 90s and I didn’t want to spend another day baking on the slopes of a mountain like the week before on South Sister.

At 3:30am we headed out with headlamps into the woods. This was my first time out in the dark and man could you see thousands of stars. The trail through the woods was smooth and only a slight incline. At one point there was an opening and we could see the lights of Portland. After a little more then an hour and 2 miles we came to timberline (interestingly there was a composting toilet right before timberline). Here things started to head up onto Monitor Ridge. The sky was also getting a bit lighter. Now we started doing rock hopping mixed in with some spots of walking on screen (think beach sand with pumice). As we started up the sun was rising in the east beyond Mt. Adams. This was another advantage of going early; being on Mt. St. Helens and watching the sun rise over Mt. Adams, amazing. At this point we started to notice the haze. I was a bit disappointed because I knew that the views wouldn’t be crystal clear but at least I would get some views. This was also about the time when Scott started to thank me for insisting on going so early. We could tell it was getting hot and we were happy to know we would be pretty high before being in the full force of the sun.

Monitor Ridge is great, rock hopping along and looking around to the south. We could see over to Lava Canyon and the volcano was casting a miles long shadow. There was another pair about thirty minutes ahead of us and we kept looking for them along the trail. We were very happy to be on the rocks for such a long time. We both feared that the screen would be lower down. Along the way we went by two GPS volcano-tracking monitors. We managed to be in the shade until about 6:30. At this point the rocks were getting smaller and less frequent. Soon enough we were on screen almost exclusively. I felt like this is what the surface of the moon must be like. That or take a beach, put it on an angle, and remove the water. Poles were very helpful at this point. Up we went. We could see the top and were very glad to see the pair in front of us standing there. Looking behind there was a group of 4 moving much quicker then us. Right before the top they caught us and we all got up there together.

At the top there is about 4-5 feet of flat before the drop off into the crater. So I am not a huge fan of heights and was a bit nervous here. I decided not to walk around the rim and just enjoyed the view from that one spot. From here through the haze we could see Mt. Hood to the south, Adams to the east, and Rainier to the north. Looking down into the crater we could see the lava dome steaming! I was not expecting this. At the same time you could hear small rock falls inside the crater. This also reaffirmed my desire to sit tight and not let the unstable rim get the best of me. It was windy and chilly at the top so I at first put my new First Ascent fleece (side note: I love my new fleece, the First Ascent line is by Eddie Bauer and will be in full release this fall, look for it). We chatted with the group we came up with. There was a lady and two men from Austria and their guide. The day before they did Hood and they were planning on doing Adams in two parts the following two days! Talk about amazing. This explains how they got up to the top 1.5hours quicker then us. I would love to be in that type of shape now and they were in their 50s.

We all headed down at the same time. This is when my gaiters became crucial. We were going quicker and the screen was loosening up. I would step down and my boots sunk in. The gaiters kept the screen out of my boots. At one point I lost my balance and fell down. Now screen and small pieces of pumice are not like falling at the beach. I still had my fleece on which helped my arm only get scratched a little. (My arm is sore and I have bruises on my leg 2 days later). After assessing my scrapes we moved on. There were many more people on the trail now and it was getting hot. At one point we decided to go running through the snow instead of the rocks. Scott slipped and went sliding down. If only we had a sled. After the snow we took a trail lower on the ridge. My once brown boots now appeared gray. We got down to the woods and boy was it hot. The woods were not as dense as we thought but truthfully it is probably mostly all new growth since the 1980 eruption. The melting glaciers and ash on the volcano would have wiped the original trees out. The two miles seemed to take longer going back to the car but at least it wasn’t hard.

Thoughts: All in all it took us a long 5 hours to get to the top but only 3.5 to get down. We were very happy to go early and avoid some of the heat. This time I used sock liners and a pair of First Ascent socks and my feet did better, although I think I will need boots a half size bigger if I am going to be going with thicker socks and liners. I stood atop Mt. St. Helens!!!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

South Sister, OR

South Sister - Bend, OR 7/15/09
Third highest peak in OR 10,358ft (of torture)

This hike really beings on Tuesday the 14th when I woke at 3:30am EST to get to the airport for my 6:00am EST flight to Seattle. I land in Seattle at a little after 11:00am PST, have some lunch, visit with my friend Amy, and get dropped at the train station. Next I have a 2:20pm PST train ride to Portland. Three and a half hours later I finally arrive, 5:50pm PST (8:50 EST). My friend Dawn picks me up and I throw in the towel at 8:00 and go to bed. At that point I had been up for almost 20 hours, traveled thousands of miles, and by various modes of transportation. Alas my early morning traveling was not done. Wednesday the 15th we got up at 3:00am and were out the door by 3:30 to drive the 3+ hours down to South Sister, which is just outside of Bend. Needless to say I am tired (and possibly a bit dehydrated) before I even start.

We are taking the southern route to the top so we park at the Devil’s Lake Campground, which starts around 5000ft. It looks almost like the parking lot is next to an old lava flow, kinda cool. A little after 7:30 we are finally on the trail walking through a Douglas Fir Forest. Way different from what I am use to in New England. I notice there are a lot of down, dead trees but we have no explanation to why. This portion of the trail is not difficult by saturated with mosquitoes, annoying. We took our first break next to another apparent lava flow right before the end of complete shade. We rounded the lava flow and got our first good glimpse of our destination.

Now this part of the trail seemed easy (on the way back we despised it). It was relatively flat and almost completely exposed. Earlier in the woods there was some snow, now it was becoming more frequent. We didn’t have to walk in a lot of it but it was reflecting the sun. On a cloudless, 90-degree day this is very bad. On we went taking our next break in a little shady patch. This appeared to be our last quality shade and the start of steep climbing. As we headed up we encountered more snow. Although hot, the snow crossings were not hard and we had no problem bare booting. As we went upward the exposed ground became much more loose. It was not bad at first because there were enough larger rocks around to get footing but it was becoming more of a challenge. Along the way we met a family from VT and had a brief discussion on how this weather was nothing like what it has been at home. They took off; obviously in better shape then Dawn and me who were starting to suffer more. At this point we couldn’t go every hour before break. One minute “oxygen breaks” were becoming the norm.

During one of these we stopped and watched as some people running down. Running, on loose screen. We marveled at how they could do that so confidently. At this point, all shade was pretty much gone except maybe a little behind a rock. We were eating, we were drinking, and boy were we hurtin. Right before 9000ft we took a break and the rock I sat on faced down. I felt miserable and then looking down a steep slope, I really didn’t think I was going to make it. Popping some Advil I told myself that I came all this way I had to get to the top. It was mind over matter. I told myself I was struggling because I was so tired from all my traveling. I also figured altitude had something to do with how I was feeling. Although looking down was a bad idea it was hard not to because there appeared to be another large lava flow and dome. It looked so cool. We pushed on to up over a small lip to the base of Lewis Glacier. The small lake that had formed sure looked nice for a swim but it was too far down. We had no extra energy to waste.

Now we came to the part that was all loose screen from here up. Over 1300ft of it. Everyone around, include us were taking about 5-10 steps and then stopping. I kept checking the altitude on the GPS as a way of seeing how much we had left to go. We gave a little cheer when it hit 10,000ft but we still had over 300more to go. Finally we made it, but not really. We had reached the south side of the crater but couldn’t see anything to the north because the north side is higher. Following some other people we headed left. Bad idea, it doesn’t connect. We got a picture and then headed around. At one point the trail brought us down onto the glacier sitting in the crater. Now at the start of the trail I had some issues with mosquitoes, the next section I had bees following me and my bright yellow LiveSTRONG shirt, and now we were being swarmed by thousands upon thousands of butterflies. Here we are standing on a volcano, a symbol of fire and destruction, and surrounded by beautiful butterflies. There are so many I am afraid I might accidentally hurt one as I walk. We managed to make it over to the true summit without knowingly hurting any butterflies. Now we can see north. We have a great view of Middle and North Sister. Although a bit hazy we can see Mt. Jefferson and way off in the distance Mt. Hood.

After spending some time on top we headed down. The screen is even looser now with all the people who have been coming up and down before us. This means we have to go slower then anticipated. We also realize we still feel miserable and are getting quite low on water. Oh, and the day is getting hotter. I ask Dawn if she will ever listen to a hiking suggestion of mine and without hesitating she says no. We find a little shade from some rocks around 8000ft and take a short break. We are afraid if we sit too long we won’t be able to get up and moving again so the break really is short. The trail is sort of difficult to follow as there are no posts or cairns but this isn’t really a problem, just an occasional nuisance. I can’t tell if I hated the snow at this point because it was so hot and slippery or liked it because I was getting it in my boots and cooling my legs a little. At this point Dawn has gone through 3 32oz Nalgenes. I give her mine, which is half full because I had a 100oz Camelbak. We hit the flat and feel like we are doing ok. That is until I take the last sip of my Camelbak water and all we have left is 10oz of my other Nalgene. The flat took forever now, we hated it. All we could think about was shade. How desperately we needed shade. We were approaching 8 hours of strenuous activity in the sun. I don’t know if I have made myself feel so miserable before. Finally, we reached the shaded woods. At first I was so relieved to not be in the sun but I was practically attached by mosquitoes. I was way too tired to stop and but bug spray on. I wanted out. I wanted the car. It was like adding insult to injury. About half way through the woods I needed to have some of the water. Dawn managed to make it back without having any more. I don’t know if I was ever so happy to see a car. I tried to clean off the ash/screen that had collected on my legs but some just wouldn’t come off. Truthfully I didn’t care. I also didn’t care that we had a 3+ hour drive. I cared that I was sitting and that once we stopped for gas I was going to have some nice, cold chocolate milk.

Thoughts: If it is going to be hot and you are going to be exposed get out earlier if possible. We both drank 3.5 liters of water/Gatorade and essentially ran out. This would have been a lot more enjoyable if it wasn’t so hot out and maybe if I hadn’t flown out the day before. I got blisters again and am on a mission to figure out how not to get them (I would later have more success on Mt St Helens with this). Although this was a pretty miserable day I climbed over 10,000ft and had some great views!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

#19 Mt Adams, NH

July 6, 2009

We had initially planned on doing the “Madams” both Madison and Adams. As we were hiking we decided that just Adams was enough for the day. I had three viable reasons
my knee still hurts from when I decided on a Friday at lunch I was going to run the Niantic Bay 10K that afternoon without doing any purposeful training
there was a chance of thunderstorms after 3pm and the rate we were going this summer it meant there would at least be rain
I am heading out to Seattle/Portland for some Cascades hiking (Paradise Glacier on Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and maybe South Sister) next week and want to be fully recovered for that

So we left Waterville at 6:30am for the trailhead. We decided after reading some other peoples reports (thanks Trish and Alex) that we were going to park at Appalachia and do the Airline Trail all the way up and Valley Way down. The Airline Trail was very pleasant at first. It was a mild gain at first, which gives me a warm-up. This way the muscles, heart and lungs could get warmed up before anything really serious. After about a mile and a half we started getting A LOT of mud. You wouldn’t want to do this trail right now unless you had Gore-Tex boots. Luckily there weren’t all that many bugs considering how wet it was. After about three hours we finally hit tree line. Along the way we could hear other people behind us and I was waiting for them to catch and pass us. We didn’t actually see them until we stopped above tree line for a break. They passed us but then took a break a little way up so we ended up passing them.

Up we went, rock hoping along the way. I would say these rocks were a little smaller then Mt. Washington’s so it seemed a little more technical but not too bad. We were praying all the while that it would not rain because I could imagine they would be very slippery. When we got above tree line at first the summit was in the clouds, but just barely. As we got closer to the top those clouds lifted and so in turn did my spirits that we would have some views. Sure enough, the clouds appeared to be at 7000ft so we had our 360 degree views. It was cool seeing some snow still on Jefferson. I had also never seen Mt. Washington from this side before and therefore the Auto Road. While we were up top our “friends” as I started to call them got up there. They had done a three hour drive from Maine that morning just for the hike. (Hi Nick, Brenna, and Dennis!) They too had initially planned on doing Madison but were thinking otherwise. After a lovely lunch of Pop-Tarts Dad and I headed down.

Dad suggested going down toward the Gulf Side trail because it appeared to not be as steep. He was right. Going up we had about .6miles of steep rock hopping, going down it was only about .3. We meet up with the Gulf Side trail and headed down to visit the Madison Spring Cabin. As we were coming around the Gulf Side trail we saw our friends coming down the Airline and waved to them. The Madison hut was nice and cozy. I bought myself a Snickers and got dad some freshly baked bread. I was surprised that we could see our breath in here. It was so humid out that I did most of the hike up in shorts and a t-shirt and only had a thin Dri-Fit long sleeve shirt at the top. It turns out it was only in the 40’s at the top and maybe 50 at the cabin. Our friends followed into the cabin a few minutes later where we chatted some more. Around 2pm we decided to head back home. It didn’t take long before we started to feel raindrops. Then at 2:15 thunder, urg, that’s 45min early. There was only a little bit of thunder, maybe 15minutes worth but then it started to rain pretty good. I decided to put my raincoat on, dad decided to let the rain cool him off. The combo of rain and thunder lead me to go a lot faster down then I wanted. My knee was not so happy with this but I thought it was the safer solution. Valley Way was a much less muddy trail so I think it allowed us to go a bit quicker. It was also nice because right after leaving the hut we were below tree line and thus felt a little safer with the weather. With around a mile left the rain stopped and the sun started to come out. Around a half-mile left our friends came running up to us. They decided to run down because of the weather. They started to run ahead but then had to take a shoe-tying break. At this point they decided to walk the rest of the way to the cars with us.

Thoughts: We were all happy we decided not to do Madison because we would have been up there and exposed when the thunder came. Not the place to be in a storm. I went with what dad called the non-traditional hiking shorts, a pair of mesh, dri-fit, basketball shorts. I found these a lot easier to move in. I think I like my North Face boots better then my Asolos. I keep getting blisters in the Asolos.