A collection of my favourite photos from various mountain trips.
Clint Cummins organized an informal trip for 11 people to the Lost Arrow Spire Tip on April 7. We hiked up to the rim, set up the rappel into the notch, and we had three teams leading the climb. The first team set up the Tyrolean traverse for the rest of the group to traverse across. I followed Rich up both pitches of the climb and cleaned the gear. Surprisingly, the exposure didn't bother me even though I thought it would. In all, we took about 12 hours car to car; unfortunately, only 8 out of 11 people made it across because we had a late start to the day. I also regretted leaving my nice camera at home for this trip.
Rich, Paul, Sam, and I traversed Matthes Crest on 30 Sept 2006. The Matthes Crest traverse is one of the best alpine climbs I've done so far. The climbing is easy but very enjoyable and the approach, although relatively long, is very scenic. I roped up with Rich Cannings while Paul climbed with Sam. Rich and I roped up for the initial two pitches up the crest and then for a short class 5 section in the middle; we took about 2.5 hrs to traverse to the South Summit with numerous breaks to admire the scenery. On the way out, I saw my best Sierra sunset so far, but I had unfortunately left my tripod in the car to save weight.
Ray, Scott, Paul, I and went to Mount Shasta over the 4th of July weekend in 2006. I'd never done the regular route on Shasta before and wanted to give it a go. For Scott and Ray, it was their first time mountaineering so Paul taught them some basic techniques that they practiced. Avalanche Gulch is a good first time climb because it's relatively easy and doesn't require much experience. We got a late start the first day and arrived at 50/50 camp (9400 ft) at 1915 hrs where we promptly set up camp and started preparing for the summit day. We left at 0215 hrs, headed up and were back by noon. Glissading down from the Red Banks was somewhat sketchy since the snow remained fairly icy even at mid-morning; I had to carefully control my speed because it was easy to fly out of control.
Paul, Steph, and I climbed Mount Rainier on June 17 and 18, ascending via Disappointment Cleaver and descending via Ingraham Direct. Paul and I drove up from Stanford and met Steph at the Paradise parking lot in the evening on June 16. The next morning, we woke to miserable weather --- windy and light rain. Conditions didn't look great, which is why we initially planned for a 4 day trip, potentially waiting out bad weather at Camp Muir. Fortunately at 8000 ft or so, we broke through the clouds and enjoyed bright sunny weather all the way to Camp Muir (10080 ft). Camp Muir is a pretty nice set up, with clean pit toilets and a public bunk shelter. Since we arrived around noon, we had plenty of time to set up the tent, lounge around, melt snow, and prepare our packs for the next day. Based on the excellent weather so far, we decided to try for the summit that night.
We left Camp Muir at 0245 hrs, the last group to leave camp by about 45 mins or so, and headed over Cathedral Gap towards Disappointment Cleaver. The cleaver was the steepest part of the climb, only about 40 degrees or so. Paul and I had done steeper climbs and the snow was perfect for cramponing so we didn't feel the need to use the fixed lines that were set up along the cleaver. By the time we reached the top of the cleaver at 12200 ft, we'd caught up with the guided groups that left a couple of hours before us. Paul was feeling the altitude and Steph was itching to move faster so she unroped here and shot off to the summit in 55 mins (She's a machine!); we later met her when she was descending and agreed to meet back in camp.
The summit was cold, 15 F with 30 mph winds (I checked the data from the weather station on the summit after we got back), which is effectively -5 F (It was quite amusing that just a week before this climb, I was in Cambodia sweating profusely in the 100 F and 100% humidity heat and I was now freezing in -5 F weather. This Cambodia trip was also why I had to take anti-malaria medication (has to be taken continuously for 4 weeks after leaving the country) on Mount Rainier, which obviously has no malaria problems.) We didn't stay long at the summit and headed down after taking some photos. I chatted with some RMI guides on the way up and discovered they were descending the Ingraham Direct route (runs next to Disappointment Cleaver) because it was less steep and hence easier. The only problem was that the crevasses were starting to open up this time of the year but there were still supposedly solid snow bridges across. So at the top of the cleaver, Paul and I decided to go down Ingraham Direct. We ran across some serac fall debris and out of the way of more potential serac fall areas before reaching a group of people milling around an open crevasse. I talked to a guide and discovered that they had just rescued someone who had fallen 20 feet into a crevasse when the snowbridge collapsed. Up to then, I had treated crevasses as a threat that happened to other people and had casually crossed them during the ascent; I definitely treated crossing crevasses more seriously after this. The same guide promptly handed me a picket and said, "You guys go first, feel free to use this picket to get across." Gulp. After Paul anchored into a picket and got set up to belay me, I gingerly tip-toed to the crevasse lip and nervously leaped across to safety. The other four crevasse crossings on the way down were just as nerve wracking but we made it down safely. This descent turned out be the most interesting part of the climb since it was the only part that involved some route finding and planning instead of following a well beaten trail.
We met up with Steph at camp, rested for a few hours while deciding whether to descend, and finally decided to descend at 1700 hrs. Packed up our stuff, including the now redundant 3 extra days of food and fuel, and left at 1800 hrs, enjoying very slippery and slushy snow with heavy packs on the way down; I was unexpectedly creative in finding new ways of falling over; the silver lining on this cloud was that at least we got to use the snowshoes we lugged all the way up to Camp Muir. We reached the parking lot at 2030 hrs, unloaded our stuff, and drove off.
From what I'd read and heard from my friends, I expected the climb to be a lot more physically and technically difficult than the snow walk that we experienced; on the other hand, we had fantastic weather, which makes the most difference. I didn't take many photos because 1) having just returned from an amazing trip to Cambodia, I didn't feel as motivated as I normally do about photography, and 2) my hands got very cold after taking them out of my mittens for a few seconds; I used 3 pairs of handwarmers on summit day, attempting to warm them up enough to make taking photos bearable but it wasn't enough. In all, a fun trip with great people plus we summited so I can't ask for more.
Paul and I attempted Casaval Ridge again on May 5 - 6. Conditions were fantastic on the day we started out --- snow was firm and weather looked great. We had a late start around 0900 hrs and after a leisurely climb, we arrived at our high camp at 11200 ft at 1600 hrs. We found a flat spot and had the time to dig two fairly large trenches into the ridge. Melted all the water we needed and prepared for an early night. I even called home to check the weather forecast for the next day and it seemed perfect; there's no way we can't make it the next day!
We started the next day at 0200 hrs, weather looked ok. Just as we crossed over to the West Face near 12000 ft or so, I noticed clouds moving in rapidly from Shastina. Ooops. Before long, we were caught in a whiteout with decent winds. We decided to climb up for a while longer in the hopes that it was a local cloud and would soon move away. At 13500 ft, visibility had decreased to less than 20 feet. We couldn't figure out which of the gullies to take to hit the plateau at 13800 ft while avoiding the Whitney glacier, so we decided to wait out the weather. After hunkering down next to some rocks for an hour, we descended 20 feet to a flat area in the snow, took off our crampons, and went into our bivy sacks for another bout of waiting. I called a friend to check the weather and he swore that the weather radar was totally clear and things were looking good! Uh huh. At about 1100 hrs, we had enough of waiting in the cold and decided to descend. It took another 5 or 6 hours of slow descent, first past sketchy steep icy bits, and then postholing into super slushy slopes (in particular, 200 feet of a 60 degree slushy slope that was somewhat sketchy) plus some unnecessary route-finding detours to get to the parking lot. All the photos on this trip are from the first day; the bad weather on the second day precluded any photography.
Paul and I went to Mount Shasta in the middle of July 2005 to attempt the Casaval Ridge route. Casaval Ridge is normally a winter-spring route but because of El Nino this year, it stayed in condition for much longer than usual. Unfortunately, despite reports to the contrary, it was already mostly out of condition when we attempted it. Of course, we didn't know this until well into the second day when it was too late to either pick another route or to turn back. The snow conditions on both the lower and upper parts of Casaval Ridge was quite poor, and we felt it necessary to set up running belays for about 2000 feet of the climb from around 10500 to 12500 feet. It didn't help that we missed our intended route about 2/3 of the way up and instead followed a more difficult variation that hugged the ridge till it topped out on the summit plateau.
On the first day, just before we reached our intended campsite, Paul set off a point avalanche that turned out to be slow but reasonably large; we could still see the avalanche debris even after climbing a few thousand feet above the campsite.
On the second day, we started off at about 5 in the morning. Because of the poor route condition and the running belays, we were moving very slowly and didn't top out of Casaval till about 1830 hrs, by which time we were caught in a whiteout with winds of roughly around 40 mph. At some point during the day, we realised we wouldn't reach the plateau till the evening but we thought that it would be safer and easier to hit the summit plateau and descend through Avalanche Gulch. Of course, we didn't count on being caught in a whiteout since the weather had been good for the past few days and all seemed well for most of second day till around 1600 (when we saw clouds moving in rapidly).
We knew that we couldn't safely descend in the whiteout, so we headed towards the Red Banks, hoping to set up a shelter near the trade route where we would be assured of meeting people the next day. We followed the edge of the summit plateau toward where we thought the Red Banks were, trying to stay as close to the edge as possible to avoid the glacier. Once we thought we were reasonably close to the standard route, we dug a trench at 13300 feet (we found out the next day that it was a few hundred feet above the Red Banks). It didn't help that my shovel had fallen out of my pack on the steeper section of Casaval.
Because I was getting very cold and the winds were picking up, we threw down my borrowed bivy sack (we didn't bring tents) and spent a long night sharing a sleeping bag in that bivy. Unfortunately, my Prolite 4 sleeping pad sprung a leak that night as well. When we got up the next day, everything outside the trench was iced over with a couple of inches of windblown ice. Unfortunately, that included our boots because in our rush to get out of the cold, we didn't manage to put them in the trench. so we had to chip away most of the ice and wait for the rest to thaw out. We were out of food and water but some nice people on the way up to the summit gave us powerbars and granola bars. The descent was uneventful and we glissaded a fair distace down the standard Avalanche Gulch route. Even though it was an eventful trip, I still had a great deal of fun and learnt a lot on the way.