Here are some photos from trips to the Cascade volcanoes. I've also been winter climbing in Scotland recently; my first trip up Ben Nevis was a nice ice and snow climb up Ledge Route on the north face, arriving at the top in near-whiteout conditions.
A fingernail moon rises over Glacier Peak; we made an alpine start to arrive
at the top about dawn, and be off the glacier before the afternoon warmth.
This picture was taken as the first light of dawn arrived (31K JPEG).
Myself resting halfway up Ledge Route in a whiteout (41K JPEG).
Myself slogging up the mountain. I started using trekking poles for climbing
and hiking on the advice of my orthopaedic doctor, and find that they help
reduce the stress in the knees a lot (38K JPEG).
A broad view from the Kautz glacier (left), Nisqually ice-cliff (centre),
and Gibraltar Rock, with a part of Cathedral Rock visible (right) (41K JPEG).
A panorama from Mt. Si. The Olympic mountains are in the distance, with Seattle almost visible in front (it is on the full-size image, which is rather too large for the web page), and Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier are visible panning around. Glacier Peak may just be visible, peeking out from behind the close hills (190K JPEG).
Nick and I wanted a daybreak start, so we got up about half past 4 in the morning and started the stove. Nathan's tent had collapsed during the night, so he had just wrapped it round him and slept on the ground. After a lot of waiting and faffing trying to get Jeff up and going, Nick, Nathan and I headed off up the couloir above us. After about half an hour or and hour we saw Jeff, David and Courtney leave and start up the main route. The conditions were fine, and the climbing non-technical (I lugged a rope all the way up and down again without using it). On reaching the false summit at 11,600 feet, the wind was strong, and we put on extra thermal layers. The real summit is quite some distance beyond the false summit, rising another 800 feet above a plateau. Starting up again, we slowly trudged all the way up to the summit, the altitude making it harder going. Nick, Nathan and I spent a considerable time at the 12,400 foot summit, waiting for Jeff, David and Courtney, who turned up about an hour later. They had left their skis at the false summit for the ski down. The visibility was awesome that day; we could see all the way down the volcano chain to Mt. Bachelor, and up to the Olympics, about 150 miles in each direction.
After performing a bizarre ceremony with a cherry, I tried descending the
top section on the snow-blades, embarrassing myself by falling over a lot.
The snow conditions were a bit too icy to have any control. I decided to join
Nick in glissading down the rest of the summit section, and discovered that
snow-blades are not good to sit on either; I ended up with many bruises on my
backside. I lost a water bottle that had not been properly secured on the
summit glissade. The glissade or ski down the South Spur are the only good
reasons to use that route; Nick made it down about 3,000 feet in twenty
minutes to our camp. I was a bit slower because I was trying to ski properly
on the snow blades, and was making turns rather than heading straight down.
After making more tea and packing up camp, we headed down the main slope,
Nick and I glissading where possible, and Nathan walking down. Jeff, David and
Courtney set off skiing down ahead of us. Nick and I made the mistake of
following the fall line, and after a great glissade caught up Jeff, David and
Courtney, who had also gone the wrong way. We eventually had to traverse
around the mountain to regain the trail, arriving back at the trailhead after
Nathan. I hurt a thigh in a stupid little slide down a snow slope on this
last section, landing badly at the bottom.
On the April trip, the snow was not melted out to allow us access to the Boulder Ridge trailhead. We had to park a mile before the trailhead, and by the time we had reached the trailhead it was dark. We camped at the trailhead, and then set off early. The trail was hard to follow under the snow, and we eventually lost it. After several hours of bushwacking in sunny, hot weather, and sinking knee and thigh deep into soft snow, we reached the top of the ridge, some distance below the tree-line. The going did not get any better, and having spent about six hours getting to the point we should have got to in two, we stopped for lunch. A spectacular thunderstorm brewed up at the other side of the valley, and we decided that prudence being the better part of valour, we would retreat off the ridge. My boots were also wet inside because my old gaiters had failed, so we decided not to stay overnight, and re-traced our steps back to the car and Seattle.
Our second attempt was also on Boulder Ridge, in mid May. This time we found the right trail, and finally gained the ridge via a rotten old fixed rope. We camped overnight on the ridge, planning for an early start, but were foiled again. On opening the tent door in the morning, we discovered we were in the middle of a cloud. We had already determined we wanted decent visibility for an unknown route, so we went back to bed to wait for the clouds to lift. The clouds did not lift fully, so we made our way down out of the mist and retreated once again to Seattle, this time stopping to go fishing on the way. I hadn't slept too well that night, because as we went to bed, a flash of lightning lit up the sky. The thunder wasn't audible, but it was somewhat spooky to be lying in a thin tent on a ridge, wondering if the next lightning flash would be closer.
The third and successful attempt on the Boulder Ridge/Cleaver route was the weekend after climbing Mt. Adams. I had suffered a thigh strain trying to ski down on that trip, so had my thigh bandaged for support. Nick and I left Seattle on Friday afternoon, arriving at the trailhead with an hour or so of light. We had a short hike up to the Alpine meadow that night, and found a nice camping spot where we could get water and set up a rope to hang food out of reach of animals. We made a daybreak start, and pushed up the ridge and onto the cleaver by lunchtime, finally stopping to camp high on the cleaver at about 8,000 feet. The weather was beautiful and sunny, but the freezing levels were high, so the snow was a bit soft. We roped up for a small crevasse field at the bottom of the cleaver, and brought out the crampons near the top of the cleaver. Our high camp was on the cleaver, on a cleared spot just above a gendarme, with fanstastic views of the crevassing on the Boulder Glacier and the Park ice-fall. The summit and route was in good view, so we looked at our route for the morning, planning a daybreak start.
The wind increased at nightfall, and the sulphurous fumes from the nearby crater occasionally were a bit of a bother, but overall it was a great spot. The wind was still blowing in the morning, but it was warm enough. We found ourselves looking out over an undercast of low clouds. Just as we were preparing to climb, another party surprised us by climbing up past our camp; we were the only two climbing parties on that route on that day, which was a nice change from the melee of the previous week. Nick and I followed their footsteps for a few hundred feet, and then diverted for a more direct route up the cleaver. It turned out to be somewhat harder than the normal route, with a bergshrund to negotiate, and some rather flaky rock on the cleaver. Sunrise brought a beautiful pink glow to the mountains. Over the top of the cleaver, we ascended a 40 to 45 degree snow slope, joining the other route just before the summit.
At the summit, we found there were many other climbing parties converging from the other climbing routes. The wind was stronger at the summit, and after a short stop for photos, food, and a weird ritual involving a cherry, we followed the other Boulder Cleaver party down. The high freezing level was weakening the snow, and we were glad to be off the steep sections near the summit; our boots were causing some small surface avalanches, and there were a few places where icy layers were obvious a few inches underneath the surface, causing a little worry over slab avalanches.
At the camp, we made tea, packed up, and watched some more small
avalanches pour off the summit headwall. The route down beside the cleaver
was in good shape for glissading, so we slid as much as possible while
staying roped up, stopping only for the crevasse field at the bottom of the
cleaver. The warm temperatures had opened out some more crevasses, but it was
still easy routefinding. We could have done with placing a few more wands on
the way up. We stopped at the top of the ridge to dry out and eat lunch,
before abseiling down and hiking out along the trail. The low clouds had burned
off by this time, and we were down to our last drops of water when we reached
the car. The water we had left in the car was very hot, but that didn't
stop us from drinking as much as possible immediately.