Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mount Baker Easton Glacier Spring Ascent (Attempt #2 of 3)

Well.  Last year we tried to climb Mount Baker.  For a lot of reasons, it did not go well.  It barely went at all, really.  This year we tried to learn from all those lessons:

- ascend in the spring, so less snow issues, crevasses are still full, and tons of daylight
- make sure the access road is drivable before you leave the house
- allow a lot of extra time so that you can adapt to weather and other unforseen issues

We did all that.  We were feeling great.  Really prepared.

Then, the weather forecast lied.  3 times.  The border crossing took hours and hours. The access road washed out and was undrivable 3 days before we got there.  The same rain that washed out our planned access road also washed most of the snow off of the secondary access road....except for a big, deep, undrivable patch 2 km before we could start skiing.  We finally made a break for the summit when the fog lifted, only to discover that the forecast had been wrong yet again, it was much colder than we expected, and we no longer had appropriate gear to ascend safely.

So next year, I guess.

A more formal trip report:

Maps: National Geographic 1:100,000 "North Cascades" (MEC) and USGS 1:24,000 "Mount Baker" (shows complete Heliotrope ridge route, does not show the complete Easton Glacier route)

Access:  Heliotrope ridge access road is shut within 1km of the main highway.  Totally impassable, and the locals do not estimate a quick fix.  Look here for updates (#39, Glacier Creek road).  We ended up using the Easton Glacier route, access is just past Baker Lake (FSR's #12 and #13 off of Baker Lake road).  At this point this season, the road was almost drivable right to the trailhead.  If we had been 5 days earlier, we would have parked 3km away and skinned the whole way.  As it was, we parked 3km away and had to walk 2 of them due to lack of snow.

We followed the well used snowmobile route up to the easton glacier moraine.  Protip:  bring a case of beer to bribe a snowmobiler for a lift.  This section is long, boring, and full of snowmobiles.  Try to avoid melting snow for water from here, unless you like motor oil aftertaste.

We camped in the moraine at about 853975 (truncated UTM: see section 3 here for details).

We were planning on getting to high camp the next day, but barely made it out of the moraine before soupy fog rolled in. With zero visibility and crevasses on the mind, we spent the rest of the day in the tent.

The next day started at around 4am. The Easton glacier is very straightforward, with a huge, nearly unbroken highway right up to the summit cone.  At this point this season, the crevasses were either non-existent or almost completely filled in.  While we ascended with ropes on, another party did not and we were very confident to ski down unroped. On this day it was much colder than expected, and the previous days mush had turned to ice.  Without crampons, we ended up turning around at ~2600m - the final route up the summit cone was significantly steeper than the rest of the glacier and the icefall below did not look like a fun place to slide into.  We made it out the same day without difficulty, although as soon as we were back in the moraine the temperature raised by about 30 degrees.

Baker Spring Attempt
First (unexpected) major obstacle:  getting off the bridge across the creek.

Baker Spring Attempt
Finally out of the moraine.

Baker Spring Attempt
After a day in the tent, the clouds cleared on Sunday night.

Baker Spring Attempt
Early morning start, but the sun was up at 4am.

Baker Spring Attempt
Skis and skins not much use: ski crampons would have been useful.

Baker Spring Attempt
Heading up the Easton highway.  Our final route would have been to the right side of the summit cone.

Baker Spring Attempt

Baker Spring Attempt

Baker Spring Attempt
Not a bad backdrop.

Full set here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stride Analysis

We were back in Ontario for Easter.  With no bikes on hand, but access to a brand new track and Mike, we figured this would be a good time to do some stride analysis on our running to try and identify any major issues.

Stride Analysis

I won't bore you with the full 20 minute slow motion video from multiple angles - but here is a short version so see what we were up to.

Also it was snowing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Slim Creek

In short: the "North Trip" of ski touring trips.  It was a lot of fun.  I think in future "vacation" type trips, we would make some changes:

- go when it is warmer
- allow more days for rest (or snowstorms)
- do a more in depth cost analysis of helicopter access versus two days of your life and being able to say you did it under your own steam

Slim Creek 2013

The drive to Lillooet was spectacular, if a little long.  Also not sure it would be something I would want to do  with snow on the roads, but our conditions were fine.

Slim Creek 2013

Our sleds.  These worked out pretty well.  Overall travel speed with the sleds was slower than I expected, but our total weight was not carryable, so we didn't have much choice.  When hauling a sled I felt like I was working hard, but wasn't uncomfortable like an 80 pound pack would have been.  Changes for next time will be a better harness system, and probably the use of some sort of duffel bag - this would be lighter than using packs, and would also allow easier access to contents during the day.  Depending on the trip, being able to ditch the backpack and haul just a sled would be way more comfortable.

Slim Creek 2013

First sunset of the trip, still with a few hours left to haul.  We had a a few stretches of skinning in the dark on this trip.

Slim Creek 2013

Day 2 of the trip, still hauling our sleds in.  At this point we had already decided to change the trip plan, from an extended loop to an out and back.  The idea was to have more time to explore in the alpine without sleds, but even with the reroute we were still looking at another day past this one.  Almost the entire access was along a logging road.

Slim Creek 2013

Finally.  35 kilometers and 17 hours of sled dragging later.

Slim Creek 2013

Hazards of the trail.

Slim Creek 2013

Basecamp, drying in the sun.

Slim Creek 2013

We were going to take a laid back day on day four to recover from all the sled dragging.  But after a few hours relaxing in the sun we couldn't stand not taking advantage of the nice weather anymore, and headed out.  This meant a pretty late day.

Slim Creek 2013

And this is why we should have allowed more time (and maybe taken a helicopter).  One week of dragging a sled along a logging road, with a few days in the alpine?  Pretty good.  Two weeks of pulling a sled through terrain like this, with days off to bag peaks and go skiing?  Unbeatable.

Slim Creek 2013

We were able to get to a skiiable point just five minutes before the light left.  (which meant once again finishing the day with a few hours skinning under starlight)

Slim Creek 2013

The next day we really needed a rest day.  It was also mostly cloudy and snowing, so we spent the day almost completing an igloo.  Those are hard.

Slim Creek 2013

The day out we decided to go for it.  The packs were finally carryable (for the most part).  Kick wax and desperation got us through all 35 kilometers and back to the car by 7pm.

Click here for the full album.

Slim Creek 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The North Side Isn't Always Better

It hasn't snowed in awhile around here.  In fact, it's been getting kind of warm.  So when we were talking about touring this weekend, trying to find some gorgeous powder runs wasn't even in the picture:  not only would they have been tracked out over this past week (terrible, I know), but they would be covered in sun crust and possibly experiencing some wet snow sloughs.  Instead, we decided to go tree skiing on the north side of Needle peak, where we would be in safe terrain and have snow that hadn't seen any sun.

Well.  I guess that all the snow on top of the forest sees the sun, gets heated up and mushy, then falls to the forest floor and freezes into death chunks.  Within the first 2 minutes of our skin up, it was obvious skiing was pretty much out.

Needle Peak January 19, 2013

Not to mention the surface hoar that we saw from the parking lot.

Needle Peak January 19, 2013


In any case, we had already driven all the way out there, so we went for a bit of a tour along the ridge.  Lots of ideas were generated for future trips when skiing is better.

Needle Peak January 19, 2013

Click here for the full album.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Skate Skiing at Nordic

The sun came out today, which hasn't happened in a while.  Conditions were gorgeous.

2013.01.18 Skate (5)

2013.01.18 Skate (6)

2013.01.18 Skate

Monday, January 14, 2013

Birth of the Icefield

We spent this past weekend in Vancouver - Caroline went down midweek for a work conference, and her company was good enough to pay my way as well.  We figured we could use this as a great excuse to hang out in Vancouver and, more importantly, go to MEC.

The drive down was slower than normal.  I spent 2 hours at the Coquihalla summit looking at this:

Coquihalla Summit

Notice the people who should be on the bus are standing beside the bus.  Bad crash I guess.  It was too bad I was driving alone - someone could have skiied a run or two.

In any case, I finally got to Vancouver on the Friday night.  Saturday we spent four and a half hours at MEC learning and refining our gear selection.  Which was a part in allowing us to finally kickstart planning this Icefield trip for this winter.  First step was to assign the reading:

Icefield reading list

Then we figured out our stove setup.  This has been a long time in the refining process, but I think we have it nailed.  Our next overnight we plan on boiling two pots of water, one with the full set up and one with nothing.  Maybe another with half the setup. It should be interesting.

Winter stove

It boils down to 3 components:

1) The Base Plate.  This is critical, or the stove will melt itself into the snow and fall over, which pretty much ruins your night.  There are lots of do-it-yourself systems out there with various types of foam, aluminum foil, plywood, etc.  They all seemed pretty complicated, large, and heavy.  We found this one at MEC.  I have high hopes.

2) The whatcha-ma-call-it.  To trap a lot of the escaping hot air.  This is half the weight of the setup, but I think it is very effective.  We will test.

3)  The Muffin-Top.  Light and effective.

Winter stove
We also worked on refining our route choice.  More on that later.  However, while researching various routes I found a bit of a gem in a trip report:

"Fyles and Dalgleish went on to the final, tottering pile of rock which called itself a peak, but seemed hesitant about announcing their victory. They commenced throwing rocks at the blade like crest of the ridge and triumphant shouts finally re-echoed their success in knocking over the unattainable summit. "

I like their style.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Okanagan Mountain Dog Test

We had a quick (very quick) night out in Okanagan Mountain park this weekend - the idea was to make sure the dog didn't explode spending a night out in the cold, with a very easy escape route if it looked like there was going to be trouble.

2013.01.05 - Okanagan Mtn (3)

It was a success.  I think the dog may have been more comfortable than we were - as it was only -8 degrees, and we had our full winter tent and -20/-30 bags.  Being too hot in the winter is awkward.  We also decided that sleds are an absolute must for any multiple night ski trip.  Even with the bare minimum for a single night, the weight of our packs focuses most of your attention on your shoulders, rather than where you are.

2013.01.05 - Okanagan Mtn (2)