Monday, November 13, 2017

Forbidden Peak

This August I connected with my friend Calvin to do a quick climb of the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak in the North Cascades. This climb has been on my list for sometime now, I was glad to find a partner willing to do it quickly. I didn't have a lot of time to commit, so we just picked a weekend, planned to summit and descend car to car in a day and hoped for the best with the weather.

The morning of the climb we arrived at the trailhead well before light to get the approach knocked out early. The weather proved challenging early on, the glimpses we got of the route were brief as we stumbled our way to the base of a remnant glacier. Occasionally we would catch glimpses of the stunning Johannesburg Mountain to our south (noted for another day and another climb). 

Marmot also enjoying the Johannesburg view

Apparently I spend a lot of time in the clouds

Once we reached the toe of the remnant unnamed glacier (really more of a steep snow-field), we cautiously moved up towards the prominent gullies that would lead us to the ridge line.

By this point we had kind of accepted the fact that we may be climbing in the clouds all day. Once we reached "the notch" and gained the ridge proper we rewarded with clear and stunning views on the other side looking into the heart of the Cascades.

The clouds were crashing into the south side of the mountain leaving the north side rain-shadowed and lovely. The climbing from "the notch" to the summit was fun and exposed, just a good day to be on a mountain.

Snacks on the summit before descending/down-climbing the ridge and back into the clouds.

We made quick work of the descent, and the clouds began to lift some as we crossed the glacier again to find the route out. Of course we slowed briefly to snack on blueberries growing throughout the alpine meadows and admire the views. Solid day in the mountains.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

4th in the Alpine Lakes

I took advantage of the 4th of July falling on a Tuesday and added courtesy of taking the proceeding Monday off, to wander in the Alpine Lake Wilderness with Tucker. My goal was pretty simple, somehow find our way off trail to a random high lake I found on a map that looked inviting.

I drove north right after work on Friday, fought the traffic on the interstate, and slept in the back of the truck at the trailhead Friday night. The trailhead was packed for the holiday weekend. Tucker and I took off Saturday morning around 6:30am. We had done some trail runs up this trail earlier in the summer, so didn't dwell on the first few miles. We made quick work of the roughly 8.5 miles of trail to Snoqualmie Lake right as the sun started to really ascend in the sky. I had been playing leap frog with a couple of other groups of people who scrambled to grab a camp site for the holiday weekend around the lake. I was wanting to get deeper into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. A couple miles later and a few hundred feet of elevation we reached Deer Lake followed by Bear Lake. The two sit directly adjacent to each other and I had to double take at Bear to make sure it was actually a new lake. There were fewer camping spots here, but also significantly fewer people. Most parties looked like they were day hiking from Snoqualmie Lake or the next lake down trail, Dorothy, and not camping. I resisted the urge for a swim and kept moving.

We then worked our way over a ridge and descended another few miles down to Dorothy Lake. Dorothy Lake is a relatively large lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and with additional access via a trail on the opposite end, another popular holiday swimming hole. The landmark I was looking for was in the inflow stream for Dorothy, this is where Tucker and I would would leave the trail.

Instantly our progress slowed down. We reached that turnoff a little after noon having covered somewhere around 14 miles. The next 6 miles would take me until dark. It was partly my own fault, I just picked a point on a map and didn't do much research beyond that, but it was mostly due to the relentless Slide Alder. Tucker and I willed our way up and along steep slopes of extremely thick alder bushes. The higher we progressed there would be the occasional reprieve wetland where snow hand lingered longer, these turned into actual lingering snow patches a little higher still. I also took advantage whenever possible to stay close to the stream, and avoid the alder struggle bus. 

I was a bit worried about how Tucker would handle the alder march, but he would lower his nose to the ground and push through the trees stems avoiding the crowns. He would even burst forward occasionally when he would spot a vole, shrew or some other small mammal. Good pup.

Cascade Frogs in one of the wetlands with Shooting Stars blooming.

Monitoring our progress on the map and watching the sun get lower in the sky, I realized I wasn't going to actually make it to my original objective in one day. Just too far and the Slide Alder really slowed us down. The higher we got the quicker our progress was though, as the alder wasn't as thick, there were more snow patch clearings and the terrain wasn't quite as steep. Still, I identified on the map some flatter spots along the stream that looked like it might have some reasonable places for a tent. We reached a nice spot in time to set up a tent, take a dip in the stream, examine the ultralight wreckage on the bank, and make some dinner before dark.

We might need a bigger tent

Somewhere in the middle of the night, Tucker got cold and nose dived into my sleeping bag. We might need a bigger sleeping bag too.

The next morning, I first noticed that my camp spot was pretty darn scenic, then debated and ultimately decided to day hike to the lake as opposed to packing up everything. So we grabbed some lunch, water, and other essentials and again embraced the alders.

It actually didn't take too long before the alders let up and the bush whacking was much easier and enjoyable. The headwaters of the drainage was a branching network of streams, some on the map, others not. I only brought the map along on this trip so I made a guess on which ridge line to ascend and started climbing. I was aiming for treeline and a prominent col that appeared to support a lake, hopefully my lake.

 Waterfall break before starting up the ridge.

The col I was aiming for

Once I reached the top I realized my mistake. Yes, there was a lake on the other side, only about 200 feet down a cliff below me, and not the lake I was shooting for. I quickly looked back and saw the ridge line and lake I should have navigated to.

The look you get when you climb 2,000 feet only to have ascended the wrong ridge line. You can see the lake in the distance.

So we stopped and ate some food before descending back to the basin. One obstacle we had to cross twice was a snowbridge crossing one of the head water creeks. By the fourth of July weekend it was plenty warm, and the snow was extremely soft. On the way up we gingerly and nervously made it across without incident. With the sun even higher now, I was wary to have to cross it again.

The braided stream and snowbridge crossing.

It was hard to tell other than by sound where the stream went under the snow and where a bridge might be weak. I pulled my ice axe out and probed as I went. I was starting to feel confident, when as I shifted my weight onto my front foot, I punched through. The snow bridge gave out and I was dangling my feet above about a 15 foot drop onto the rocks and meandering stream below. It wasn't a huge fall, but I definitely didn't want to fall through. Beyond being solo and having to deal with any twisted ankles etc, getting back through the snow would be extremely difficult. To add insult to injury, Tucker was still on the surface licking my face. I beached-whale crawled back onto the snow...trying to Tucker away in case he fell in too. Crisis averted I continued down then scrambled up a muddy slope to the proper lake and embraced my reward for the alder and beached-whale effort.

Kicking myself a little at the absolutely perfect campsite on a tiny peninsula pointing out into the perfect lake, I accepted the fact that I will just have to suffer my way back another time to camp there. I took a very cold dip (when in Rome) and then Tucker and I carefully worked our way down the muddy slope and back to camp. Not wanting to move camp for just one night, we packed up the next morning and retraced our steps back through the alder soup and the trail out. Once I find the fortitude to wade through the alders again, I'm sure we will make another attempt to camp along that high lake.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Baja Fishing

Before I moved to WA, I made a trip down to Baja with Chuck for Thanksgiving. While I don't think this will be my last trip to Baja, it will definitely be the last time for an easy trip since I'll be an extra 1,500 miles away next year.

In addition, this is my first trip driving myself in my own rig and Tucker's first trip to Mexico and the Beach!

We had pretty minimal expectations, we wanted to find a nice beach, do some kayaking, do some fishing, and eat some tacos. All were accomplished.

On the drive down there was a massive bike race across the the salt flats north of San Felipe, I'm going to have to remember that one. Looked like a good race! After a quick stop in San Felipe for tacos and at the traditional taco stand, we pushed south until we found our beach of choice for the trip. We arrived after dark but had a fairly calm night (wouldn't get many of those), the next day and a half were pretty much spent on the water in the mornings and when we could the first afternoon. Not much of a story to this one so here's some of the highlights:

Even with all the kayaking and fishing, still lots of time for Tucker to play on the beach and explore with me. The wind picked up on our second day which meant even more beach combing with the doggo.


Weather was taking a nose dive by day three with heavy wind, so we packed up and headed back early. Still, it's always a good trip to Baja. I'll miss the accessibility.