Throughout this season I intend on keeping one thread alive, focusing on tours, travels and general stoke. It may be a picture or two and it may be a full on trip report from the 2012/2013 season and the occasional one from last season. This way it can all be found on one easy thread and a great way to scroll through the wild and crazy life of someone who ditched the cubicle in search of a life a little bit off the beaten path. So I hope you enjoy.
A Rather Brief Introduction
I was not one for the mountains originally. My place of refuge was behind a television spending countless hours on the newest on Nintendo games this was my life for years and with a twist of fate and an event that would forever change my life I was introduced/forced into the mountains at the age of 19. A switch seemed to go of in my head and no longer did I have any interest in absorbing the illumination of the screen and now my focus was to embrace the outdoors. From day one I was in love with the mountains and felt a calling that I could never explain. My family had some background of mountaineering in the PNW in the early 1900's but it seemed to skip a generation with my parents, but here I was engulfed in a culture I knew nothing about and leaving both my life and bank account to a thing I call fate otherwise known as a ski bum.
The Mountains were my Savior
It wasn't long tell I got into ski touring as I always wanted to get off the beaten path but it took years to get into being more isolated tours. To keep myself focused I would create goals for the season. What originally was to ride on the 5 Washington Volcanos became 25 Cascadian Volcanos in the 08/09 season. Once those were done I decided to get intimate with the mountains of legend otherwise known as the North Cascades for 09/10. Those two years really changed who I was and how I thought about the mountains and everything that surrounds me. It was the North Cascades that taught me the meaning of a word sufferfest. Pain, isolation and endless beauty can be found in those valleys and the alpine for anyone willing to endure. I was in love and knew there was no turning back.
That summer I received an email from Eddie Bauer showing interest in having me transition from Dirt Bag ski bum into professional athlete.
Many people ask how I got sponsored and got there attention and the answer is from forums like this. Doing unique tours day after day and pushing both my physical and mental limits. The truth of the matter is I owe a lot to online forums such as TGR, Turns-all-year and Splitboard.com.
By the time that sponsorship came around I had already set my goals for the season. I was already intimate with the North Cascades and our beloved Washington state and I wanted to peruse riding The Ten Highest Peaks in Washington, which I loved and feared at the same time. I originally planed for the Months of April-July but a chance encounter with the Sweetgrass Crew would send me to S.A. for June and July. At first I thought there was no way I could do it in two months but I decided to go for it anyways and tick them off one by one. Well it was August when I tackled Rainier but somehow I was able to do it. Not only that but I was fortunate to be involved with two films that season. First Solitaire with Sweetgrass Productions then secondly a documentary called FreeRider which followed me around for that entire season and put my personality on screen.
The list of thanks is endless but but within the ski community I would like to thank Jason Hummel, Scott McAllister, Amar Andalkar, Dan Howell, Scott Stuglemeyer, Hannah Carrigan, Boot, John Cocci, Brennan, Snowslut, Caley George, Will Ritter, Jason Bowes, Kathy and Robert Chrestensen, Chris Willis, Chris Gallardo, The Brit, All my Greenwater Crew, Tiana, Justus and Kalela (AKA team Crystal), Jacob Hase, The Welch kids, Jessie Rowe, the million people who picked my up hitchhiking over two years and everyone else I shared the skin track with
Post subject: From Paradise to Crystal: The Traverse of the Fallen
Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:40 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 505
From Paradise to Crystal: The Traverse of the Fallen
If there is one area that I would call home it would be the Eastern side of MRNP which shares its borders with Crystal Mountain ski resort. For years I had dabbled in trips through these remote regions but had yet to link everything together. I had dreamed up a potential ski traverse that would link the terrain and connect all with a style of ups and downs riding the best lines the area had to offer. I originally named it The Traverse of the Fallen as a filler knowing that I would rename it at a later time but this never happened and it became fitting with all the casualties in the 2012 season.
If you have ever been at the Summit of Crystal Mountain Ski resort you have seen 1/3 of our route.
12 hours after putting on the PNW premiere of the FreeRider film at the Seattle Mountaineers hall we were skinning away from the Paradise parking lot, before long we were off the beaten path and breaking in our own skin track. In one sense it felt like we were retracing steps from a spring mission of an ascent of Little Tahoma from 8 months earlier but this time it was different. Instead of a single push spring day we were in the midst of winter with enough overnight gear to survive comfortably for 4 days.
We decided to camp up on the high ridge for both scenery purposes and to take the most advantage of the sunlight at both sunrise and sunse. As the sun sunk below the horizon we bared witness to a light show only nature could create with Rainiers shadow darkening our final destination a mere 20 miles away.
Day 2: Whitman Ridge to Governors Ridge
That morning we watched the alpenglow light up Rainiers SE face as we consumed food and absorbed the warmth on our cold bodies.
This day was going to be the crux of the whole trip and we knew we would have to climb at a fast pace so we cooked the mandatory oatmeal and were on our way.
By 9:00 we were making our first big descent of the trip dropping over a huge roller and riding in a landscape that didn't seem earthly.
From here on I was familiar with the landscape so we followed the perfect route of working with passes and the contours of the Eastern ridge of Rainier.
Before long we were standing on a high plateau known as Banshee peak and celebrating how smoothly the tour had gone so far and the descents we were in store for.
I had been in this area numerous times and had noticed an enticing couloir that broke through the massive cliff bands. When designing the tour I made sure to incorporate the line and before long we were dropping to the Sarvant Glacier.
My main intention was to make it to and do a winter descent of a 2500 foot Couloir know as the Cowlitz Chimney which we descended and found over a foot of fresh in.
By now it was a race against the sunlight and we had two more ridges we had to ascend so we hastily made our way up to Governors Ridge and watched yet again another amazing light show and fell asleep under a full moon.
Our line through the Banshee Cirque can be seen on the left side.
Day 3: Governors Ridge to Crystal Mountain ski resort
Both Jason and I were excited at the prospect of not spending another night in the tent as we descended Governors ridge towards Cayuse Pass from there on out our hope were that it would be smooth sailing.
We hoped onto 410 a highway abandoned during the winter then skinned up to the high basin of Yakima peak and for the one and only time in the whole trip we were forced to boot pack. Looking back it was overwhelming seeing all the distance we had traveled and the style in which we had traveled.
2 ridges and 2 snowboard descents later we reached our first sign of other people, a single skin track heading towards the Southern Backcountry of Crystal which quickly merged into numerous tracks. It wasn't long before we were standing on the ridge that bordered the ski resort and the though of warm food was on our minds. I hastily packed my gear and rode into the basin with Jason following, I had plans that he was unaware of. We made it back to the main ski resort at 3:55 conveniently 5 minutes before the resort closed so we hopped on the Forest Queens chairlift and did one final descent back to the base. Where we thumbed our way down to Greenwater, funniest part of all my single pair of shoes were in Tacoma so I had to hitch yet again the next day to retrieve them.
The trip was amazing and while called a traverse there is more then enough descents to make it worth wild. If anyone ever gets the chance I highly recommend this tour.
Since I'm on the subject of Rainier Traverses.....
The Sourdough Traverse June 17th 2012
3 years ago I was attempting to do a traverse in the Sourdough range and I found myself ill prepared for inclement weather. The crux being a long night shivering in a 30 degree down bag while the dirt around me became saturated and turned to mud, long story short hypothermia caused me to abort. Out of all the miserable experiences I have had this this trip was easily in the top three. Knowing all to well that I barely dodged a bullet and I wanted to see what I had learned and if I could do it. Here is a link to the ridiculous trip
What is the Sourdough Traverse If you have even been on the summit of Crystal Mountain on a sunny day there is a good chance the Sourdoughs have caught your eyes. Across the valley from 410 lies a small range of ski worthy peaks that I had wanted and planned on riding for years but for one reason or another plans never seemed to pan out.
Dege on the left and the Palisades on the right with Fremont in the distance
Hoping that the rain shadow and marginal forecast would pan out I arrived at the White River trailhead around 4 p.m. on Saturday. Carefully chosing my gear in preparation for a consistent downpour I hiked up the Glacier Basin trail leaving the bootpack below the 3rd Burrough. After some bushwhacking the twrrain quickly broke into into alpine and with a rather aggressive skin track skinned to the all the way to the summit. From the 3rd Burrough I rode down the north side and skinned over to Skyscraper finding perfectly carvable snow on the north face all the way down to the lower basin. With the sun setting and the rain starting to drizzle I put on a rain shell and skinned SE into a lower basin then climbing directly up the west face of Fremont where I used the trail as a catchline to find the lookout shelter. Climbing steep muddy slopes in the dark rain and made it the lookout at around 10:30.Once I had shelter I switched over to dry layers, made some warm tea and layed in my Bivy bag listening to the roaring wind and feeling the lookout shaking all within the warmth of my sleeping bag, it was quite the surreal experience.
Looking down on the Emmons and Curtis Ridge from the 3rd Burrough
The next morning I watched the sunrise to the East cast alpenglow over Rainier basking in the rainshadow before finally getting some sleep. I woke up at 8 A.M. and followed the trail down to Frozen Lake where I switched to skiis and traversed all the way to Dege Peak. From here I had to options either I could bail and hike the Sunrise road 7 miles or start the traverse which acorrding to my GPS slide mountain (my exit) was 4 miles, I went for it.
Sunrise from the lookout with the Palisade in the middle and Slide Mountain on the upper left.
Looking back at Sunrise and Glacier Basin from Dege Peak
Deges was a great ski before dropping into the flat basin and skinning directly north passing numerous small lakes and small alpine peaks along the way. With time constraints I decided to focus my attention on the Palisades which held some steep colouirs that I wanted to see check out and possibly ski. I quickly found out they were some of the steeper lines I have seen in MRNP but had melted out at there cruxes. After a few scouting attempts I scurted around the east side and made my way towards Slide Mountain where Boot was waiting at the exit.
What I came to see, the Palisades!!!!!!
In total the trip was 24 miles and 14,000 feet. While it was great to finally ski these lines I wish I hadn't rushed it so much and took my time.
In Early May we had a week of uninterrupted sunshine and wanting to take advantage of it I looked at our endless options for ski descents. I had been spending quite a bit of time doing remote peaks in the North Cascades and decided I wanted to do something big with relatively easy access. I quickly decided while travel far when you have a ski mountaineering Mecca at your doorstep AKA It was time to head back to Rainier.
At this point in time I was hitching and wanted to climb Rainier solo for a descent of the Furher Finger so I posted a thread on Turns All Year looking for a one way trip up to Paradise. Within the hour I had a ride dialed and I was off on my way with someone I had never met named Kieth. That afternoon we skinned up to Muir and chatted for hours about life and our love for the mountains before he parted and I prepped for a up and over on the DC route.
The next morning I waited until 6:00 A.M. and climbed Rainier at a brisk pace making it to the summit at 9:30. My plan was to descend at noon so I sat on the summit and sun tanned for hours. When the time came around to drop in I made a decision. Since I was alone and for once there would be no photos taken along the way, I would make a full descent of the 11,000 foot run without stopping. Needless to say the next 15 minutes we a total blast and when I arrived at the Nisqually bridge I was attacked by tourist who couldn't belive I snowboarded from the summit. Within 5 minutes of putting my thumb out I was back on the road heading home.
While on the road I received a text from H who was interested in climbing Rainier the next day and with a little bit of persuasion we met at my house early the next afternoon for an ascent of the East Success Glacier Couloir and Kautz Headwall. The climb was long but quite enjoyable as we pushed on making it tell around 13,400 feet where the final rockband was a tad bit to sketchy to cross and we turned back but it was a beautiful line none the less.
Photo by Amar Andalkar
Once getting home my friend Laura was looking for a touring Partner to tour with in the Chinook Pass area and I decided to take advantage of the last bit of sun while I could so we came up with a ski traverse from Cayuse Pass to the Crystal Lakes trailhead tagging some of the more aesthetic lines along the way.
Long story short......What A Week!
Sadly Kieth died 3 weeks later on a ski descent of the Coleman Glacier Headwall on Mt. Baker
Finally returned to the mountains for a 8 day streak of riding both resort and touring after being on the injured bench for the past 5 months. While not a single shot was taken at the resort here are a few from touring. Thanks to Ben, John, Ale, Hannah Juya, Lisa and Rowen for great company.