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 Post subject: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:39 am 
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Jason has started posting some adventures on TGR so I thought I would bring them over here. These are his thoughts and pics from some of our adventures. I hope you enjoy.


Part 1 Fernow, North Face via the In-Fernow Couloir
April 15 , 2011

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My check engine light was on and my driver’s door handle had broken that morning. It refused to open as I left for Holden Village. Not a problem; I came in through the passenger side and crawled into the driver's seat. While turning the key and hearing the engine roar (or is that meow) to life, I grinned. Two years ago I was a financial adviser managing millions of dollars. Now I'm a photographer. While, obviously, I don’t have a nice car, what I do have is a lot of time to do whatever strikes my fancy.

A few months before, Kyle Miller had proposed a trip to Holden Village after my previous adventure there (Bonanza, NW Buttress). Hourly studies of the forecasts did little to keep the weathermen honest. After weeks of this, it was decided that the-forecast-be-damned, we were going to the mountains anyway!

While backing out of the driveway at 4:30 a.m., with an empty gas tank, I drove to the nearest station. After which, as I turned onto 30th street, I noticed my interior lights wouldn’t shut off. I pulled over to re-close all the doors. No luck – they were still on. My earlier grin turned to a smirk, “Now it's confirmed, I've become an honest to god, bona fide dirtbag”. Beat-up car: CHECK.

Normally I wouldn't mention stopping at Kyle's parents house in Kent, but in this case the moment would be of consequence. While Kyle finished packing his stuff, I talked to his Mom while his Dad stood framed in the doorway. We didn’t know it then, of course, but this would be the last time Kyle would ever see his father alive. He closed the door and his mother walked back into the house a short time later. Paths had diverged. As we drove onto Highway 18, we headed east for Lake Chelan unaware of the future. The ferry would leave Field's Point Landing at 10:45; we would arrive an hour early.

After catching the 'Lady of the Lake' and the 'Jubilee' bus to Holden Village, Kyle and I would settle into a quaint room. The following day we would get to work. At the time, big snowflakes were falling, dancing down gravity's elevator. Next to flames, falling snowflakes are the most mesmerizing to me. But on that first night, as I drifted off to sleep, I was equally cursing and cooing those snowflakes. I couldn't make up my mind whether I loved or hated them.

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Our first attempt was fraught with failure. Perfect skies deteriorated and it began to snow only a few hours into our day up Copper Creek. At perhaps 7000-ft on an unnamed glacier on the side of Fernow, in a cloud of swirling fog and snow, we called it off. Another day, we knew. For good measure and as a offering to the weather gods (and a token of my good faith), I decided to leave my tripod on the side of the mountain, a several hundred dollar offering! But, the question is, would she even notice it and would the following day live up to expectation. Only time could answer that (or for any and all armchair ski mountaineers, instead of time...just a few sentences, but be forewarned...bring a coat...oh, and sun glasses...err goggles; you may need them to weather the storm in the paragraphs ahead).

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[COLOR="#800000"]
A Climb and Ski of Mount Fernow
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Sometimes I wake up and forget where I am. This wasn't one of those times. First of all the bed was comfy and there wasn't any cars motoring by as there would be if I were sleeping at home. Lastly, there was an owl hooting; it did every morning. Besides which, it was perfectly silent. That is until Kyle and I began sorting and packing gear. Ice axes - yes. Rope - no. Beacon, probe and shovel - yes. So on.

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It appeared that the offering of my tripod to the snow gods the day before had worked, at least at first (cue sunglasses). Overhead, I couldn't help but smile as brightly as the afternoon sun I had dreamt about. But, and I hate to say it, "BUT" like a broken record or like my broken down car, our good weather was overrun by clouds (cue goggles). With their infiltrations came big flakes of snow, millions of which would shift in one direction and then, as suddenly, in another direction. Given the calm, but erratic wind, it was easy for me to be caught up by the show, to find myself staring as I mentioned I'm apt to do. Every time it'd take me a moment to remember where I was and what I was doing. "Oh, climbing. Yes, I'd better go."

Eventually we passed our high point from the previous day. As much as it was satisfying, going beyond was made more interesting by the conditions and terrain. Even as I climbed onto the glacier, I had a hard time telling up from down in the fog. I flicked the snow using the basket of my ski pole to make heads or tails of what lay ahead. Every hundred feet or so I would push into the snow with my ski pole as hard as I could. Each time it would go all the way down. While the sun and blue sky coupled with it's warm rays were missed, it really was a godsend for us to only have had glances because the strong spring radiation would've made avalanche conditions very high, especially off the slippery rain crusts. As it was, we stayed far apart on the slope and continued to reassess the snow every few hundred feet.

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More than two hours later, we had climbed to a high point of the face. This is where the glacier converges with the southeast ridge. Had we been able to see, our eyes would've been held captive by the amazing north faces of Mount Maude and Seven Fingered Jack whose flutings of rock and snow lay jagged and jumbled for thousands of feet. What slight glimpses we did have had left us squinting for more, but we were denied our just rewards no matter how much we yearned for them. An excuse to return I would say. You always need to pocket as many of those as you can. Right then that's what I did.

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From the east face to the southeast ridge was spectacular climbing. As we mounted the northeast ridge an amazing couloir appeared on my left and to my right cliffs dropped three thousand feet. Leaving Kyle, I scouted ahead secretly looking for the entry to the North Face. It has a tiny couloir that appeared, from John Scurlock's amazing aerial images, to access the North Face. As I traversed the narrow ridge, I was forced to descend, before re-climbing to the ridge top, and there, just as I had hoped, was the couloir. Kazam! When I looked behind, I could see Kyle making his way over to me. Through the fog, I was sure I could see the main face. That was good enough for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:42 am 
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"Are you sure it goes," Kyle pondered out loud at me? My answer was in the affirmative, but he's learned to doubt me, especially when I say, "It's all good," or "It's cake" or any such variation. That's Jason-speak for, "Dang, I hope that goes".

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Dropping in first, I set up for a picture of Kyle as he made his first turn. After he reached me, I took the lead and found just enough snow covering the rocks. On our left hand side were massive cliffs and to our right were slopping rocks. Further down I came to a steep roll which allowed access to the main face. Above me, Kyle asked if it went which forced me to grin and respond with a "It's all good". Of course he shook his head, but it was no laughing matter, just to me and my twisted sense of humor. Meanwhile, I traversed to the left of an icy runnel and ice-coated rocks to a very steep hanging snow slope below more massive cliffs. It was there I dug a hasty pit before calling Kyle down, telling him to ski lightly. He maneuvered his way to me, eventually boarding onto the wide open, fifty degree apron we had barely seen through the fog above. All optimism aside, I knew then that it was most certainly "...all good". This was the point from which Phil Fortier skied in 2007.

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Now on the wide open face, I made several jump turns to further test the slope. Kyle then followed suit as we progressively near easier ground. Looking back up at the short but steep couloir, I came up with an appropriate name. Back in Holden Village, a local had corrected me on the pronunciation of Fernow. In order to remember it, I'd always say "Inferno" in my head, since it rhymed. Thus, the In-Fernow Couloir it was christened.

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To our left couloirs lined the valley and the dormant bones of old avalanches wound from their bases. Out in the distance the clouds briefly, if only partially cleared for views into the ice and rock faces of nearby peaks. They appeared to be floating worlds, separate and dislocated from the Earth. Of course they weren't, but nonetheless, I was captured by the view and rung out every moment of it until the clouds converged and hid them once more from sight. Skiing down the remaining 3000-ft felt like flying. In some way I think, a bird, if it had legs instead of wings would take up skiing to supplement his love of flying.

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As we dropped into the clouds snow began to fall and, eventually, we reached a tiny stream and the headwaters of Big Creek with legs screaming from the hundreds of turns we'd just made. Scooping up several liters of water helped salve the pain. We sat and drank as fast as the mind-numbingly cold water would allow us too. By then, darkness was marching in on us and we still had many miles to go down unfamiliar terrain. Since we had come up the east side of the mountain and descended the north side, our deproach would be different than our approach was.

Eventually, hours later, with our flashlights illuminating the valley bottom, we would spot the lights of Holden Village. From there 2-3 miles seperated us from comfy beds and rest. After an amazing day in the mountains in less than optimal conditions, we were thrilled to have been given the tiniest of windows in conditions just good enough to allow us to do what we had come here to accomplish. That's an awesome feeling.

Two days later we would attempt to ski the Northeast Face of Bonanza Peak, the tallest non-volcano in Washington State. And that, my friends, would push our excitement and thrill to new levels. See part II (link below).

“The place where the wind goes”

Oh mountain angel I have seen you
In the wet, heavy fog
In the tears of dew
In the ghostly canyons behind polished river logs

Oh mountain angel I have heard you
Under the snow bent branches
Under the giggling golden grass
Under the lichen-covered boulder-strewn benches

Oh mountain angle I have smelled you
With fir needles in your hair
With frost over your heather buds
With blossoms and bees swarming the air

But it is only as I tumble down from your heavens
That, at last, our paths converge like two rivers
And like those traveling waters, I am delivered

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:23 pm 
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Well done!

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:14 pm 
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Location: Tacoma,WA
:thumpsup:

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 12:37 am 
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What an epic trip and a beautiful write up. Sorry to hear about your dad Kyle. Hope you are doing OK.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:43 am 
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liketoride wrote:
Sorry to hear about your dad Kyle. Hope you are doing OK.


Thanks man. Growing up I was not close to my father but I was fortunate that for the last few years of his life I had grown to understand and create a relationship with him.

Part 2 Bonanza, Northeast Face via the Mary Green Glacier

April 17 , 2011

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After skiing the North Face of Fernow, Kyle Miller and I set our sights on Bonanza. During my last visit there in February (link), I had seen an amazing face that appeared skiable, perhaps from the tippy top? It was difficult to tell. And, honestly, there is only one way to know and that is to go and see for yourself.

Although, as Kyle would discover, life has different plans that aren't shaped around your goals. There are realities that can descend on you in an instant. A few words can change your life forever. Words you don't want to hear. For Kyle they were told to him by the Holden Village's director and minister. He would break the news to Kyle by saying, "...your father has passed away". Earlier in the day, his mother had contacted the town (which is a Lutheran retreat purchased from the Holden Mining Company in the 1960's) to pass on the news to her son. It was a most appropriate place for him to hear the news, since she comes from a deeply-rooted Lutheran heritage.

Our moods were dampened, of course, so that night between a bottle of wine and a star-laden night's sky, stories were passed around. Being in such a peaceful place most certainly made the enduring easier, but no less painful. Even so, Kyle wasn't ready to go home. That was no place for him at the moment. Instead, he insisted, we go climbing the next morning, just as we had planned. In a way Mountain-Medicine can often be the best cure.

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A few days earlier we had met Brennan who works in Holden Village. He had told us of some skiing he'd done in the area, which excited us. Eventually, our conversation led to skiing in the days ahead. As a skier himself he eventually asked if we'd allow him to join us on a trip while we were in town. Our thoughts were that as long as he could keep up and break some trail, we'd be happy to have him along. It was only by chance that the trip happened to be Bonanza. Whether that was a more adventurous trip than he expected, I don't know? Either way, he was up for it and he'd turn out to be an awesome guy to have along!

Waking up at 4a.m. we set off up valley toward Holden Lake. We'd hoped to take a few hours to get there, but snow conditions thought otherwise. While the valley was quick and easy, the snow was too icy and steep for us to skin. Booting was reasonable for my 150lbs, but not as kind to Kyle and Brennan who broke through an inch of crust into soft snow every other step for a thousand feet. Not that I didn't bust through either, just less so. For once it felt good to be a feather weight.

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As sunrise crested clouds, mountains and valleys brightened with early morning light. Pinks and blues bloomed and withered by the time we reached Holden Lake. Until then we held out hope that the MOSTLY SUNNY forecast would hold true, but already snowflakes were falling in-between trees. The battle between cloud and sky, once again (like all previous days), was being lost.

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Skiing across Holden Lake, or any lake for that matter, is something of a thrill for me. Almost like I'm walking on a bubble that could burst at any moment. Once on the other side, you look back at the unnatural flatness and imagine the lapping waters of the lake to be, months from then, with flowers and meadow grass and with kids swimming and parents watching. How different it is now. Not a soul besides us, which is the case most of the year. To be there, or anywhere in high mountains always-always feels like a privilege. I never spurn that.

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More breakable crust and steeper terrain forced us to boot again, this time up a chute that puts us on the Mary Green Glacier. We pulled out the rope since the snow was deep and the fog thick. Between rolls we wound our way to the base of the summit pyramid. Looking upward, trying to find detail in the clouds, all I could conclude was that, indeed, it was imposing, scary and, equally, amazing. Unroping I let Kyle and Brennan continue while I leapt ahead to break trail as far as my skis and skins would take me. On a rib of snow I pulled the skis off and stepped down. I went up to my armpits!

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Skis on my pack, ice axe and crampons on, I set off to see if the snow was less deep elsewhere. It was. Where the sluff had come off the rocks above and when the slope steepened to 50 degrees, it became more manageable. There was one snow ridge that I had to dig out significantly to be able to pass through before reaching a point I could climb directly up to the summit ridge. From there the slope got even more steep. I'm never one to linger on this kind of terrain, so I quickly pushed up to easier ground and once arriving at the ridge top I continued higher, but in the fog, I couldn't find the true summit, so on a knife ridge top with rock on my left, above me, and a cornice on the right dropping into the Company Headwall - I stopped. My guess is that I was a few feet from the actual high point. I stepped down to snow and dug out a pit to wait for Kyle and Brennan.

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The next hour was the coldest I've ever had. Another climber who was in the Enchantments (also the eastern cascades), had told me that the wind chill was negative fifteen where they were. How cold it was I realized about 45 minutes into my wait. The combination of a lot of wind and the tiniest bit of sun would melt water on my face, then instantly refreeze it. At one point I closed my eyes and they didn't reopen - they had frozen shut. I ripped my gloves off and scrapped the ice out of my eyes. I blinked...all was good. After which, I knew it was time to put my skis on and ski out of the wind. I had hoped the clouds would clear and I could see exactly where I was, but no luck; it was time to go.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:46 am 
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The others arrived to the ridge crest and I waited for them to changeover. Brennan would down climb and Kyle would snowboard. I took the lead down the face and those first turns were wildly exhilarating. Each time I pointed the skis down the fall line it felt as if I were free-falling out of an airplane and each time I pulled up my turns it felt as if I were pulling my parachute. The release into gravity and the reconnectivity to Earth - fascinating. My heart would stall and stop, over and again, stalling and stopping until I skied over the ridge I had earlier dug through. While there, I watched Kyle come down. It put the madness of it all in perspective.

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Once together, Kyle and I swapped positions down the remainder of the face. Near the bottom where the snow has sloughed it was incredibly deep. In places over our waists. At the bottom, Kyle and I waited for Brennan who made fast work of the face. Once on lower ground, he put on his skis and came down to us. It was nearing dark by then, so we flew down the glacier in a hurry.

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At Holden Lake, I managed a high route and cruised ahead of the others. After waiting in the forest, I marched ahead again, this time pulling out my light, writing in my journal and changing cloths. By then, the others had taken a high route around me and skied down to the valley. In a race to catch them, as I could see their lights far down beneath me, I pounded turn after turn after turn. It reminded me of those special moments I treasure, the kind we stash away in our memory banks and keep forever. This was one of those instants-to-remember. Imagine a ridge glistening in the moonlight, skis edging turns and snow splashing and swooshing into the dark-shadowy depths of a river canyon. With the bright red-tinted full moon, there was something of a animalistic awesomeness in that moment that both petrified and fascinated me. When it was over and I had reached the others, I screamed out, "Did you see that moon!" They did, but it was not the same for them as it was for me. I was alone in my thrill.

Breathless, the others put on skins and I sidestepped and skied out, finding the hard snow perfect for traveling over flattish terrain. There were even moments I was able to fly between the bushes and trees at great speeds, but most of the time I wasn't. In either case, I came into Holden Village at 9 or 10 p.m., about 17 or 18 hours after we had begun.

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That night Brennan, Kyle and myself slept like the dead. The next morning Kyle and I returned to Lake Chelan on the bus and boarded the 'Lady of the Lake'. After several hours we arrived back at my beat-up, broken down dirtbag vehicle I'd mentioned at the beginning of this story. How better to end it then, than by crawling into the passenger door, over to the drivers seat to start it, only to discover that it won't turn over. The battery was dead. I looked at Kyle and we both laughed. At that point there was nothing that could surprise us.

“To Endure”

Hearts are like the flowers
Full of purple
Full of pink
Full of red
Full of the yellow
Like the sunlight they drink in

Hearts are like the moon light
Shimmering on the waves
Beating into sand and retreating
In rivulets that drain back to the source

Hearts are like the ice torn ridges high on mountains
They endure
They survive
And when the sun comes out, they shine

~by me

***Enjoy all ;-)

Sincerely,

Jason Hummel

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:53 am 
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:drool:

Good stuff Kyle.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 12:06 pm 
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I must say, Hummel was the first real photographer to get me stoked on splitboarding photography, he does a great job. His pictures and your adventures are an inspiration. Great work Kyle.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in the North Cascades as seen by Jason Hummel
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:13 pm 
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:clap: Superb.
Thanks Kyle!

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