Author Archive

Middle Palisade

September 28, 2009
Finger Lake

Finger Lake

The Northeast Face of Middle Palisade is a classic scramble of a California Fourteener within the rugged Palisades subgroup of peaks in the High sierra. The route takes you past stunning Finger Lake, with its turquoise glacial water and towering granite slabs. The route then ascends slabs and lots of loose talus on the glacier moraine. The climb itself is a fun third class scramble with superb views of the surrounding area.  The whole thing entails about 7,000 feet of vertical gain and 16 miles roundtrip. I completed the route in 7:46 roundtrip, starting at 5:45 am and finishing just after 1:30 pm. There is no FKT information for this mountain, although Hans Florine did it in 8:36 roundtrip as part of his climb of all the fourteeners in 1998. I imagine somebody has done it faster and without the  fatigue from the Stanford Loop the day before and knowledge of the route, I think a time somewhere near 6 hours flat would be possible.

Dozens of photos and more details here.

Splits and annotated photo of the route after the jump!

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The Stanford Loop

September 27, 2009
The Great Western Divide from Upper Kern Basin

The Great Western Divide from Upper Kern Basin

I designed a single large loop that entails nearly 40 miles and 14,000 feet of elevation gain with spectacular views into the heart of the Southern High Sierra. I call the route the “Stanford Loop” because it encircles 13,963 ft Mount Stanford, which is known as the “shyest” major peak in the Sierra because its position makes it only prominent from a small area. The loop includes four passes, two over the Sierra Crest (University Pass and Kearsarge Pass), and two over the Kings-Kern Divide (Forester Pass and Milly’s Foot Pass).

There is extensive off trail travel, first in the climb up and over University Pass, and second in the traverse of Upper Kern Basin to Milly’s Foot Pass and down to Lake Reflection. The travel in the second off-trail portion is particularly arduous and cumbersome with extremely loose (kitty litter) class 3 downclimbing from Milly’s Foot Pass and several thousand feet of loose talus fields to negotiate in the descent to Lake Reflection. In all, the loop took me 13 hours and 45 minutes. Despite the substantial and grueling effort that is required to complete this loop, I think it is the greatest single day tour of the Southern Sierras. Obviously, my travels in the Sierra are not thorough, but this one will be tough to beat. The route is a highlight reel and I was treated to constantly changing views, including Center Basin, Upper Kern Basin, the Kings-Kern Divide, the Great Western Divide, Lake Reflection, Kearsarge Pinnacles, the list goes on. The remote and infrequently visited Upper Kern Basin is especially memorable with close views of the Great Western Divide. This area is typically only reached after a multi-day backpack and I did not see anybody from the JMT all the way to East Lake. This route is a gem!

Complete Trip Report with dozens of photos here.

Aerial Map and splits after the jump!

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Suiattle Crest 50 Mile Loop

August 7, 2009

Colin Abercrombie and I completed a 50 mile loop in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that includes 12,500+ ft of elevation gain and passes through six passes (Little Giant Pass, High Pass, Buck Creek Pass, Suiattle Pass, Cloudy Pass, Spider Gap). The 50 mile distance was not contrived – we simply used existing trails and routes that made the most sense. We did the loop in 13:37, but our progress was often slowed by stops to photograph the amazing scenery. A large portion of this extremely aesthetic loop follows near the Cascade crest along the Suiattle River drainage, hence the name “Suiattle Crest 50 mile.” The first 16 miles are particularly challenging with steep hill climbs, thick brush, off-trail travel, and routefinding issues. The remainder of the route is more straightforward and the last 13 miles are very runnable. For splits and many more photos, check out the complete trip report on CascadeClimbers or nwhikers.

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Ptarmigan Traverse FKT

July 30, 2009

Colin Abercrombie and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 14:36 from the Cascade Pass parking lot to the Downey Creek trailhead, a new FKT. In 2008, Colin and I did the traverse in 18:10 so we were extremely happy to do it 3 hours and 34 minutes faster this time. The prior FKT was by Joe Stock and Andrew Wexler, who completed the traverse in 15:40 on September 4, 2004 (or 2001? or 2002?). A complete trip report with detailed splits, comparisons, and photos is here.

Alternatively, the movie can be watched on Vimeo (faster stream).

Since the upper part of Cascade River Road was closed for repairs due to a washout from severe thunderstorms we got an extra warm-up period and set out from Eldorado TH at 3 am reaching Cascade Pass TH in 55 minutes (the road should be repaired by now). We started the watches at 3:55 am at Cascade Pass TH and reached the Suiattle River Road at 6:31 pm. This was followed by an additional 8.5 mile walk along the road due to the old washout on the Suiattle River Road bringing the total mileage for the day upwards of 50 miles and nearly 13,000 ft of elevation gain. A big concern was the potential for extreme heat along the traverse and descent through Bachelor Creek. Seattle set the all time temperature record of 103 degrees the day after our traverse and it has been HOT in the lowlands. Fortunately, there was a cool breeze on all of the glaciers and cumulus clouds provided some shade as we descended Bachelor and Downey Creeks.

White Rock Lakes

White Rock Lakes

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Clark Mountain

July 23, 2009

Clark Mountain is located in the Glacier Peak wilderness of north-central WA. It is a great non-technical climb with excellent views of the Dakobed Range, Glacier Peak, and the Napeequa Valley.  The climb starts at 2,300 ft in the White River Valley (not to be confused with the White River near Mt. Rainier) and tops out at 8,502 ft. The shortest route to climb the mountain is right up from the White River Valley (~16 miles RT), but the fastest route is probably the Boulder Creek route (~23 miles RT) which utilizes trails leading all the way up to 6,000 feet. The trails also allow for more running (except in the sections where they are not brushy and overgrown). I chose the Boulder Creek route and was able to reach the summit 3:34 after beginning. After 16 minutes on top, I made the return trip in 2:54 (6:44 roundtrip). The climb entailed about 23 miles and 7,000 feet of elevation gain. See many more photos on the complete trip report!

View from Clark Mountain summit

View from Clark Mountain summit

View of Clark Mountain (center) from Fortress Mountain (August 2008)

View of Clark Mountain (center) from Fortress Mountain (August 2008)

See the complete trip report here. A couple videos after the jump!

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Mount Olympus FKT

July 18, 2009

I climbed Mount Olympus in 11 hours, 6 minutes round trip. This is the new fastest known time (FKT) on the mountain, breaking my own FKT from July 31, 2007 by 24 minutes. I went solo and the climb was unsupported. I started at 3:10 am and finished at 2:17 pm (miraculously, the same real time that I finished in 2007). Aside from a few minor differences (ladder downclimb on avalanche chute before Glacier Meadows; softer and slower snow conditions), everything from the weather to route conditions were essentially the same as in 2007. Check out the complete trip report with detailed splits, time comparisons, photos, and video clips here.

Blue Glacier and the Mount Olympus massif

Blue Glacier and the Mount Olympus massif

At 7,965 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest point in the small Olympic mountain range in Washington State. However, its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean produces a tremendous amount of annual snowfall accumulation in the winter and relatively mild summers resulting in immense glaciers. Mount Olympus is wild and remote requiring 45 miles roundtrip to climb it and over 8,000 feet of elevation gain.  The start of the climb is in the world famous Hoh Rainforest (573 ft above sea level), one of the few temperate rainforests in the world, recieving between 12 to 14 feet of rain per year!  After nearly 19 miles on the trail, the sweeping views of the Olympus massif and the Blue Glacier suddenly appear from the crest of the glacial moraine. From here, Olympus is primarily a standard glacier/snow climb with a short scrambling portion on the summit block.

Sweet shot for perspective

Sweet shot for perspective

Be sure to check out the complete trip report!