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iron
getting old



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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 2:35 pm 
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this trip was a long time in the making.

a long time in the dreaming.

we were fortunate enough to get a chance this summer to attempt to make it a reality.

alas, we did not accomplish what we set out to do, but it was not for a lack of effort.

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the almost-entirety of my background of exploring the mountains of WA are documented here on this site. i had the good (mis)fortune of first meeting our now-great friend hollywood (aka b00) on a random trip up dickerman in 2007. this was truly a pivotal moment in my life.

he was out with his usual cadre of friends, chatting it up. i was solo, still not knowledgeable enough to realize that november (typically) = snow in the mountains. as i worked feverishly to catch the group of old men in front of me, hollywood, as he's occasionally known to do, started chatting with me. of course, he didn't let me pass or anything like that, even in spite of the apparent speed difference. smile.gif

but, it was all good. hollywood and i were like forrest gump and his peas and carrots. the connection was instant. we, along with fastfeet and the med, spent the next 30 minutes enjoying the summit on a bluebird day of the finest quality. i had no idea what the peaks were around me, but man did they look impressive.

we hiked together on the way down back to the cars. i gave him my contact info and he gave me his. i told him that if he ever needed another person to fill that empty car seat, to give me call. he did.

over the next year, he got me out to 31 unique new summits, not to mention about 50 repeats of some i-90 peaks which seemed cool at the time...


on silver peak, the group taught me ice axe arrest.

as summer took over, off trail navigation took hold.

and my first scramble was in the teanaway on bean peak.

which quickly accelerated into more serious stuff like sahale via the 5.0 route. on this trip, i remember telling hollywood, that i didn't think i'd feel comfortable to climb boston peak with modern and jb. he just laughed and said "there's no f### way i'm letting you do that." point noted.


all these trips with these old guys, generally conservative in nature, formed the backbone of my experience. their wisdom and routines and methods for going about being in the mountains really helped to temper my energy level that would have otherwise led me to attempting bigger, harder things much more quickly. this post clearly shows my former enthusiasm and inexperience better than anything i could elaborate upon.

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fast forward a year to 2009. i'm enrolled in the mountaineers basic climbing course. hollywood, a co-group leader, 'trades' to get me into his group. pivotal adult life moment #2. why? this group, it turns out. holds my future wife, hotpantz. at first, she was put off by me, mainly because hollywood held me in such high regard in front of the group that it made me seem like some elite d-bag. eventually, through trips and coursework, we connected more and more and she realized that i was less of a d-bag.

it was awesome to incorporate hotpantz into the group of guys that had taught me so much. i vividly recall her nervousness on iron peak (hwy 2) as you crest up the ridgeline of snow and it seems like it leads to nothingness.

meanwhile, my group of hiking friends was rapidly increasing thanks to nwhikers. folks including dicey, yana, franklin, cartman, matt, baddog, martin, mike collins, justus, tom_sjolseth, dave_creeden, stefan, r3h, and many others. this expansion of friends and types of trips and getting out virtually every weekend of the year was the pinnacle of my excitement for the mountains. when every place you go is new and amazing, it's hard to top that. after you become a grizzled veteran of the mountains, areas that were once the most beautiful thing you'd ever seen, are now less special, less unique. you already have a good feel for what you're about to see.

that excitement was cut off in a blink of an eye when i was hit by a truck on my daily bike commute to work. one fractured hip later and that part of me was no more. it was an immensely difficult emotional period for me while i was on the DL, but it reinforced my love for the mountains and provided more than ample motivation to rehab and recover as quickly as possible.

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with the recovery more or less complete (had a second surgery in 2012 to remove the hardware which helped immensely with pain and strength), hotpantz and i started to explore more and more and do bigger, more challenging trips. it wasn't until our sonny ptarmigan traverse that we really found our passion - high alpine traverses.

it was at this point that i soon started dreaming of more, bigger, longer trips. i was smitten.

shortly after returning, i began reading and learning more and investigating what kind of trip we could someday do. i came across don and natala's grand tour, which is the benchmark for extended high traverses in WA. my interest was piqued.

the next year in 2011, we attempted to string together a trip combining the isolation, inspiration, ptarmigan, and buckindy traverses. it would be similar to don and natala's trip, but without the pickets, which at the time i thought we were grossly under-experienced to tackle. unfortunately, 2011 was the summer that didn't start until august and we had started in july to squeeze in the trip before our wedding. we ended up getting weathered out after a few days stuck in the tent, in rain, with a forecast for lots more rain. booo...

in 2012, our big trip was the hanging gardens. it wasn't technically challenging or terribly physically taxing. just kind of an enjoyable, easy trip. still very beautiful and the first time i found a spot that compelled me to say that i would like to have my ashes placed there.

2013 we stepped it up a notch, despite hotpantz' hips starting to give out. she had hip dysplasia, a degenerative condition of the hips resulting from poorly fitting joints. by 2013, she was bone on bone in one of the hips, and not much better in the other hip. her ability to get through the northern pickets with heavy packs and challenging terrain on hips in that condition is a feat i may, and hope to, never see again. while the pickets were super cool, our other trips that year were no slouches: jack via nohokomeen, inspiration traverse, boundary trail, canadian rockies.

to start off 2014, hotpantz had a double hip replacement in late march. by july, she was crushing it again, starting out with a trip to the gardners, then another one to ruth and icy and olympus. devils tongue was the best trip of the year for us without question. these are not easy trips, so for me to see her kicking butt again, without pain, was happiness and excitement like i hadn't had in quite some time.

it was at this point that i knew the plan for the big trip was a possibility again. not only a possibility, but damned near a forgone conclusion in my head. it was only at the end of 2013 that i was devastated by knowing that her hiking abilities were disappearing so rapidly resulting from her hip pain. walking a flat sidewalk or trail or whatever was excruciating for her. one year later, she, and we, had new life, a new opportunity. one last chance before hopefully "settling down" to start a family - a different kind of life that would not offer up the kind of opportunities we had enjoyed for our first 6 years together.

the planning began.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 6421 | TRs
Location: kenmore
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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 2:35 pm 
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2015 marked what i consider to be the optimization of our knowledge, comfort and strength.

our knowledge is still peaking, and will likely stay steady or grow over the upcoming years depending on how often we get out.

both of us identify our peak strength years as age 28-30, which took place in 2008-2010. my strength dropoff is probably 30-35% from peak, whereas hotpantz believe hers to be around 60% before her hip replacements and has regained to a point that she believes she's now at a 25% dropoff. i'm sure we could still do similar duration days, and probably comparable total gain for a day trip, but we'd be hurting more now than 5 years ago where we would feel virtually zero effects from a 20 mile, 8000' day. we're also slower.
peak fitness?
peak fitness?

comfort is something i would define as how one feels in challenging terrain. i think i peaked in 2012 in terms of overall comfort, but there were pockets in 2013 and 2014 that probably reached higher comfort levels, but only for shorter durations. this is likely a product of frequency of getting out (if you're out for 100 days a year, it's easy to be in that groove, whereas 50 days a year it's harder to find the groove). hotpantz believes she peaked around 2009-2010. she was robbed of her ability to feel comfortable as a product of her hip pain. i know for the 3 year period post-broken hip for me, pain was a serious detractor from comfort, so i can only imagine what she went through mentally as easy things became scary things.

i know that i our strength will continue to decline. neither one of us is what you'd call a natural athlete. rather, we're both people that are very passionate about exercise and have/had maximized what we were given to work with.

my fitness started with weightlifting in high school. in college, competitive canoeing took me up to the next level. by my mid 20s, an ironman and biking across the country served to bolster my endurance.

for hotpantz, she started with XC in middle school (first, but undetected, signs of hip issues), then was a natural pick for crew with her height where she transformed into an all american rower. in her 20s, she expanded aerobically similar to me with hiking, biking, and running.

i can only presume that after a 20 year period of parenting (crossing fingers), we will still be hardworkers, but limited significantly compared to where we are today. will it be a 50% reduction in strength compared to our already reduced strength levels? who knows? what i do know is that it was time to capitalize.

plans started hatching. which routes to combine? when should we go? it was fun to dream. special thanks to r3h with whom i bounced many ideas off of while we hiked up countless dumpster dives --- he has a steel trap of a mind and has most of the areas of the cascades memorized even if he has never been there.

the plan?
- chilliwacks to sublime ridge
- classic pickets traverse
- ragged ridge
- spectacular ridge to stehekin
- rimrock ridge to alternate ptarmigan traverse
- lime ridge, over glacier peak, and painted traverse

months of dialing in the route converged with two key sessions:
1. a trip to the oracle's house for a 1 on 1 tour of his slides from his many years pioneering new peaks and routes through the heart of the north cascades. we also got to witness his legendary collection of leather mountaineering boots - enough to span a lifetime and 1000s of peaks.
2. a beta party at our place involving the likes of: the oracle, matt, stefan, don_b, tom_sjolseth, dan_sjolseth, dicey, hollywood, r3h. easily 10,000 WA peaks of knowledge with boots on the ground in all regions we were looking to travel.

we got the time off from work, started on food and gear prep, and lined up resupply volunteers at 4 separate locations and were all set. departure date: june 24.

unfortunately, this date was about 1 month later than it should've been in this historically dry, hot summer following a crap winter. this would ultimately derail us in the long term.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 6421 | TRs
Location: kenmore
iron
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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 2:36 pm 
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segment 1


day 1 - depot creek TH to ouzel lake
joining us to start this segment was hollywood and hotpantz' brother, bropantz. wood and bro would join us for the first five days before setting us free. hotpantz and i had 10 days of food.

one of the drawbacks to our plan was that we needed to coordinate resupplies long ahead of time to ensure they and we would be there when planned; this resulted in extra built in days to account for weather and unplanned incidents which also resulted in very heavy packs!

hiking along depot creek was quite beautiful. classic north cascades with ample water, big trees, and lots of green. this is a place all hikers should visit, at least up to the waterfalls.

the waterfalls were amazing. once you get there, it feels like they are all around you. the terrain steepens. it seems so unlikely that one could get through. the beauty and rawness of it is surreal. i struggle to imagine what the area was like 150 years ago at the end of the little ice age with huge volumes of water rushing everywhere from big glaciers and ginormous snowpacks.

after more steep trail, the land of beautiful expanse is reached.

hollywood kept us on track through the pockets of alder through the boulder fields. i appreciated not having to think for this part of the trip so i could just soak in the immense beauty.

we camped above ouzel lake which i a truly sublime setting. cascading waterfalls with hanging glaciers and polished granite. swimming in ouzel lake was one of the colder experiences we've had.

a fine sunset capped off the evening. the only thing that went wrong this day, aside from a horribly fitting last-minute-purchased pack, was a mouse in the tent. ah, nature.

day 2 - solitude, spickard
one of the goals of the trip was to climb as many of the peaks in the surrounding area as we could, but, also to not burn out in the process. so instead of having big, long days every day, our goal was moderation.

blue skies and goldilocks snow welcomed us up towards the silver pass vicinity, cutting off around EL6600. it was sad to see the glaciers already so broken up this early in the year and fears of issues later on in the trip weighed on me more heavily than they had before.

reaching the saddle between spickard and solitude, i explored a wraparound route up solitude. it might have worked, but it turned out that the ridge was just fine and very enjoyable. some minor rockfall management is needed, but that's true of most peaks.

like with every peak or high bump in this area, there truly is no bad, poor, average, or good view. they are all excellent.

we descended the route and then headed over to spickard, each taking somewhat different routes.

i had wanted to tag a lesser known summit to the north of spickard, but ultimately decided to head back to camp for a relatively early camp where we could enjoy another ice cold swim.

again, a mouse in the tent capped off the evening. at least there were zero bugs, a theme of the year.


day 3 - rahm with custer attempt
rinse and repeat. blue skies. great temps. head up to silver pass. this time we headed for rahm. walking the shores of silver lake was as magical as i'd thought it would be. best lake in the state, without question.

traversing up to the rahm gully was enjoyable. the gully itself was not bad either. in fact, the only hard part of rahm was staying comfortable on the summit with 90* heat and swarms of ladybugs. i needed off that summit asap despite some of the best views possible in the range.

managing the gully on the way down was more challenging for sure. but, we stayed close and did fine. bropantz and hotpantz and i headed off to do custer. we opted for the below-the-ridge traverse to gain the south ridge. tedious for sure without snow cover. once on the ridge and close to the summit, things narrowed up quite a bit and got more exposed than the group was comfortable with. looks like this one will be saved for another day. instead, we salvaged the afternoon by swimming in silver lake --- notably colder than ouzel lake, if that's possible.


day 4 - moving mountain
this day called for rain later in the afternoon. hollywood wanted to split, but we overpowered him and convinced him to stay one more day so we could spend some extra time with he and bropantz. the day started out clear as could be. we brought some extra gear up to stash for the next day's camp and planned to spend one more night at ouzel lake to enjoy the ambiance of the surroundings and company of our group.

we roped up for the redoubt glacier and passed through the notch south of redoubt to get to the NW side of moving mtn.

from here we traversed to a ledge and ascended the NW slopes which had stacks and stacks and stacks of loose rock. this is a deceptively dangerous peak, but one that offered a decent amount of room side to side for a group to spread out.

the weather was deteriorating, so we didn't linger. fortunately, it held off until we were long back at camp and tucked away in the tents. that night it unleashed a torrent of rain that would cause quite a change in "scenery" for hollywood and bropantz on their journey back down through the waterfall zone. the slabs below the redoubt glacier are way cool and thoroughly enjoyable to travel through. many awesome campsites and running water and tarns everywhere.

day 5 - move to mox peaks W saddle camp
it was a sad morning as we watched our partners leave us as they headed out. it was a weird sense of sudden isolation that we normally haven't felt before, probably because if you start out a trip with just 2 people, and hike in, that feels "normal", but when the group size decreases, it's something entirely different even if you still have 2 people in the end. regardless, we broke camp and headed up to the higher camp with the intention of climbing redoubt.

weather was not cooperating and we certainly didn't want to be caught out in something nasty on something like redoubt, so we holed up early.


it was a fine enough camp, but not nearly of the quality of ouzel.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 2:36 pm 
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day 6 - redoubt to bear lake
happy weather returned to greet us. the snow had firmed up with the cooler temps from the system that moved through, so as we ascended towards redoubt from its saddle, attention was needed on some of the steeper sections.

we took the cannonhole approach which i can say is not 3rd or 4th class, but since it's only 2 "moves", whatever. call it 5.0 or something. getting to it, there is a host of descriptions one can find. we ignored most of those descriptions and just followed our noses. basically, head up. fine views from redoubt, especially down into the depot creek valley.

we did 2 raps down since we brought the rope. then returned to camp to pack up and move on out of the chilliwacks. our beta said to traverse along the SE side of moving mountain, but after having seen the terrain below redoubt leading to bear lake, i assure you that the best way to go to bear lake is directly down the S slopes of redoubt. instead, we were treated with much tedious talus. as a consolation prize, we did see what i believe to be the largest clump of heather on the planet.


getting down to bear lake is what dreams are made of. if there's any portion of this segment that gives it the name "sublime ridge", bear lake is it.

swimming was exquisite, especially compared to the glacial waters of the previous two lakes. and, for anyone interested, there are indeed still fish in this lake. apparently the national park has not nuked them yet.

day 7 - cave mtn and rusted ridge
the north face of bear is a sight unlike any other in the cascades. it is stark. we had planned to a do traverse below it to get to a notch to the ridge to climb it, but our day 4/5 strategy plus a lack of snow and surplus of talus made us feel inclined to mosey on along.

we said our goodbyes to bear lake. as awesome as the ouzel lake area was, bear was better.

again, loads of talus slowed our travels below the ridgeline connecting redoubt and cave ridge. more snow would've been nice. at least it wasn't too long of a stretch.

cave lake was frozen, mostly, save for a spot at the outlet. this would be the only lake we saw during the summer months that we could say this. keep in mind, it's still june. from up high, it did not appear to have good camping down low, so we instead stayed on the ridge and selected a primo campsite just E of cave mtn. tremendous views of the ridge of gendarmes and pickets.

a short ridge walk and scramble took us to the summit of cave mtn. there is a rather sharp north face in this part of the world.

we backtracked past camp and dropped off the ridge to ascend slabs and ramps to the summit of rusted ridge. thoughts of climbing tradition peak evaporated when we saw the snow-free loose terrain with significant loss and gain ahead.

instead, we decided to drop down to the outlet of the lake and make a loop back to camp. a little exploration on this very hot day.

no trip to a lake is complete without a swim, or so i'm told.

we headed back up to camp, refreshed and immediately warm. it was a scorcher of a summer.

day 8 - passover & taps mtns, middle lakes
this day drained on me. it was brutally hot. my pack was killing me. and my attitude was poor because of the lack of snow.

we traversed talus and steep heather from cave lake to attain the ridge W of pass creek.

energy was being sapped, but eventually we gained the ridge and enjoyed the alpine terrain.

the ridge up to passover was steep, but littered with game and climber's trails. i was beat by the top. the heat was crushing me and water was sparse. i gazed at the black swifts dancing overhead with envy, but knew that they weren't going to be carrying my pack any time soon, so it was time to suck it up.

the ridge naturally takes you over taps mtn, at which point we dropped into middle lakes on the worst kind of scree/talus possible. at least the lakes were most excellent.

middle lake is awesome. untrammeled. up close views of challenger. and for us, very warm water to swim in.

day 9 - indian mtn, tapto lakes
by now, we could clearly see that our intended route into the pickets via the whatcom glacier was out - at least out for us with a 12 day supply of food following our upcoming resupply. using our inreach, we coordinated the resupply to be at the chilliwack crossing so we could get to perfect pass via easy ridge. far far more work, but we felt we had no choice at this point in time. the north ridge of whatcom looked plenty scary, especially with that much weight. maybe with 6-8 days of stuff, but not with 12. at least whatcom is a majestic mountain, so we couldn't be mad at it for too long.

we eventually picked up the trail to tapto lakes. this is incredible terrain, let me tell you.

the cool part about tapto was that each lake was a different color. one was blue, one was green. another orangish. it was pretty neat.

we found a fine spot for a tent and headed off to do indian. it took awhile. and was hot. but, we found shade and comfort in the moat of a cornice beyond the summit.

it was highly discouraging to me along the ridge to indian to look across the valley and see easy ridge and know that we would need to be up there by this time tomorrow. big ass drop into the valley, reload with heavy stuff, climb back up. it was like so close i could touch that ridgeline! stupid snow year...

back at the lakes, there were now more people up there as i think it was a weekend. the best part of long trips is losing track of days.

day 10 - easy ridge
we said goodbye to the alpine - something that's always hard to do, but at this point, following the incredible heat, getting down low and into the shade sounded like a fine option, even if the humidity would spike once in the brushy valley of brush creek.

the trail from whatcom pass down to the chilliwack ford was nice enough. painful with mountaineering boots. we were about 15 minutes late at our resupply, which isn't too bad i guess in the grand scheme of things. waiting for us were josh and michael lewis and baddog. these guys hauled in our 60lbs of gear and took out our trash. serious props to you all - this was the most daunting and committing of the resupplies and you all came through! also waiting there was r3h who would join us on the pickets segment. fully loaded, and seriously uncomfortable (for me), we headed down to the chilliwack to begin segment 2.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 6421 | TRs
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iron
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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 3:27 pm 
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segment 2

day 10 - continued
crossing the river and finding the trail was the same as last time. a few more blowdowns to negotiate this year, but the flies were definitely not as bad as 2013. i was worked by this point as we ground out the almost 4k of gain in hot afternoon temps.

when we finally hit the ridge, i was saddened to see most of the tarns completely dry with little-to-no floral life. what a dramatic shift from what we saw 2 years earlier and a month later in the season.

that night, the course of the trip changed permanently.

around 2am, a strong warm wind came rushing in from the NE. it was constant, like someone put a 40 mph box fan at the base of our tent. it was so strong that we had to take down our tent so that things were quiet enough to sleep. little did we know...


day 11 - perfect pass
when we woke up, it became clear this was no ordinary wind. with it, came smoke. lots of smoke. the early season BC fires were the culprit. it was thick right away, and if a lack of water or flora or snow wasn't enough to kill one's spirit, this did.

it didn't seem bad during the day when we weren't on the ridgeline, but it was still there, seeping into our lungs.

we did the crossing of perfect impasse. we used a route that was a few feet higher than last time as it had more secure holds, though slightly more exposure. with the heavier weight of the packs, a better hold made sense. once across, we continued across a significantly parched landscape up towards perfect pass.

at least there were enough monkey flowers to act like a monkey.

perfect pass still had running water, and tarns to wash off in. but, the smoke was thicker, or at least more visible, here.

r3h ran off and tagged whatcom while we hung out at a smokey camp.

day 12 - rest day
we needed a rest. it seemed like this would be a good day for it in a normally beautiful spot. r3h could run off and tag stuff (which he did - challenger and wiley) and we could relax. the smoke never cleared. in fact, it only got worse and was clearly irritating hotpantz' breathing as she developed a cough and started losing her voice. not good.

day 13 - hannegan pass TH
we woke up with the thoughts and hopes of moving into the real pickets. instead, we were greeted with visibility that would allow us to barely see challenger. the smoke had thickened, considerably. hotpantz was still not doing well and her cough had worsened overnight.

it was an easy decision for me.

we had to bail.

hotpantz had reservations, and while i know r3h would've continued on if he was solo, he decided to come out too.

jeopardizing my wife's health was not part of the original gameplan. all the planning, prep, and effort are all sunk costs. i did not allow them to affect my decision making process in a situation that had clear evidence of potential danger.

once we were all on the same page, we inreached our contacts to see if it was all possible to arrange a pickup that night. stefan, who works south of seattle, said he would be there at 8pm. that means, for those not familiar with the i-5 corridor, that he would have to battle traffic for hours to come save us and then get home well past midnight. it was the ultimate save.

we walked out, defeated and broken, well, at least i did. hotpantz was very low on energy because she could barely sleep with her cough waking her up. we re-crossed perfect impasse --- i did the pack shuttle thing again, which means i've now crossed that POS 13 times which is about 12 times more than i would like. then, trudged out through smoke and haze and heat.


r3h had went ahead so we could maintain a slower pace with our heavier bags. hotpantz, who had been stronger than me for the entirety of the first segment, was now annihilated. the lack of sleep, breathing difficulty, and sickness from the smoke was crushing her. i pleaded with her to give me more weight or to just leave her pack and that i would come get it later in the week. she would have none of that and kept grinding it out. it was supreme mental toughness.

we reached the trailhead just before 8:00pm after a long 13 hour day. we were both out of it for all sorts of reasons. stefan came with a cooler of beer and some pizzas he'd ordered for us. a true saint and a good guy.

and just like that, the dream was over. we returned home where hotpantz eventually got a prescription for asthmatic bronchitis which included pills and an inhaler. it took her 9 days to recover to semi-ok strength before we would rally and start hiking again. we didn't mourn the loss of the opportunity; we probably should've, but i was more focused on putting energy towards house remodeling projects. besides, we made the right call. the situation was out of our control. there really was no choice. we just happened to pick a year in which we had an historically bad snowpack with temps in the 90s by mid june. it was a multi-whammy if ever there were one.

--------------
man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



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iron
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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 3:27 pm 
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segment 4

day 14 - easy pass TH to silent lakes

after hotpantz (mostly) recovered from her smoke-induced illness, we set out again. with the trip sequencing now derailed, we decided to chunk out the segments that we thought would still be good to do taking into consideration the now raging wolverine fire. going into the trip, fires were definitely a concern of ours, especially in our segments near stehekin. concern became reality.

we parked at the easy pass TH and headed up the trial. blueberries were already at or past prime despite it now being july 17. what a strange year this was.

light(er) packs with 5 days of stuff felt much more agreeable. one lesson we learned from this summer is that 9 days is our comfort limit. i'm sure in 20 years, it'll be 2 days...  anyway, we dropped from the pass into the always scenic and wonderful fisher creek basin. there are only a handful of U-shaped valleys that compare to its beauty, and those don't have trails easily leading to those views.

we ascended the happy gully to the lakes where a resident deer took note of us. it was kind of like a big friendly dog.

the lakes were beautiful, but chilly with a cool breeze. our swim duration was short, especially for me who had forgotten to bring a puffy jacket. at least my pack was 14 oz lighter.

after several hours lounging at the lakes, stefan arrived full of energy and excitement after traveling through his favorite kind of terrain: meadows!

day 15 - fisher, arriva, indecision, indecision basin
we started the day with a fun scramble up fisher peak. this is as easy and enjoyable as it gets in the north cascades.

we packed up camp and then set out for arriva via mostly enjoyable traversing terrain.

we dropped packs and headed up the south slopes with occasional looseness, but nothing bad.

back at the packs, we now had to negotiate through a gap and then down along or in the gully of death. the oracle had told us this gully was NBD, but i beg to differ with that assessment. after the trip, he later said he might have been at the top of his game at that time in life (following his wild hair crack ascent of himmelgeisterhorn) and that his estimate of the gully might have been unconservative. umm. yeah. well, there's a route to skier's right of this gully that stefan navigated through.

a brushy, blowdowny traverse took us to the basin where glaciers once nested and larches now occupy. i suspect few have been here unless specifically climbing indecision or natal, both of which were on our agenda.

at this point, stefan served as a cheerleader and rallied us to head up indecision that evening. we were being indecisive, so it was good that he did this. stefan's mantra: sleep is for losers. yep. up we went.

the ridge offered excellent scrambling with tremendous views. sleep is for losers, indeed.

day 16 - natal, outthere, fisher creek
it was a good thing stefan pushed for summiting indecision the day before, as natal would take awhile. we hiked up to the saddle of the NW ridge and topped of the water bottles before setting out on the climb portion. it was more involved and sketchier than we had hoped for. mid 5th for sure, with a few awkward 5.7 sections. as a reward, flying ants swarmed about the summit. i left my camera back on the easy part of the ridge, so not many pics here.


after tagging the summit and doing several raps, we descended the scramble route and stefan took off for camp so he could head out that night and get to work the next day - whatever that work thing is...

hotpantz and i instead headed for outthere peak (7112) via an incredibly scenic ridge with steep-ass highly erodible gullies on its east flanks. while outpost surely has good views, outthere did as well. i thought this was the best viewpoint from this segment. it looks like the oracle and some of his friends had been there some 20-30 years prior, but that's to be expected for almost any part of the north cascades.

we took a shortcut back to camp that actually turned out to be a shortcut. i guess you get lucky 1/10 times. it was a beautiful basin that wraps below the NE buttress of pt 7135 and takes you up past the "outlet" of the indecision basin. very beautiful.

we decided to make some tracks this evening since, well, sleep is for losers. we packed up and headed down towards fisher creek under fading sunlight. it was spectacularly beautiful.

day 17 - kittling, trailhead
we packed up from our forest camp and located the fisher creek trail. it was a beautiful day and the smell of the forest was intoxicating.

we got up close to easy pass and decided to head out and tag kittling peak. i forgot to bring this part of our map since it was part of segment 3, so we forgot to do cub since we weren't sure which one it was. oh well. i also left my camera at the bag because i figured it wouldn't be all that nice being part of ragged ridge and all. i was happily wrong.

for payment of carrying the rope and tent, stefan offered us beer. okay, he would've done that anyway because there is no hike that stefan doesn't have a beer ready! he gave us very specific instructions on where he cached them in granite creek. we enjoyed them along with our potato chips!

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 3:27 pm 
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segment unplanned

days 18-19 - otter, la bohn, tank lakes
a brief system of weather came in following the silent lakes segment. so, we laid low for a few days, then had a 2 day window of good weather. nothing south of glacier peak was really on our agenda for the summer, so it was a last minute choice to head up to the tank lakes area. it was fine enough, but during this stretch, i was still dealing with the letdown of a trip that didn't go as planned. so even though i'm in the mountains in a mostly beautiful area, it was difficult to appreciate it fully.

segment 6

day 20 - white chuck basin
for this stretch, we would be reversing the original intended direction of travel. originally, we were going to be starting from the suiattle and heading up lime ridge, over glacier peak, and down to the north fork sauk area. because it was apparent the glaciers were already blue ice, the idea of doing frostbite ridge on glacier peak did not sound appealing. in the end, it probably worked out fine enough as the route leading to lime ridge is one i would never ever do going uphill.

we dropped off a car at the end of FS25 near circle creek and then drove to the north fork sauk TH. skies were overcast and we had sprinkles and a brief squall on the way up up, forcing us to take cover in the forest for about an hour while it passed.

a stiff wind kept things cool, almost wintery. we got into the white chuck basin near the mini boomerang lake and called it good. time to warm up!


day 21 - glacier gap pk, kololo
the next day was warm and blue like it should've been! spirits were lifted as we set off to head through some of the coolest open terrain in the cascades - the land of a dead glacier and many lakes.

from glacier gap, we headed uphill for a few minutes to the top of glacier gap peak. then, back down and up to kololo. kololo was interesting and sad at the same time. many dying glaciers there, which i suppose is true of everywhere on the planet, but still.

i'm sure at least someday this will be a beautiful meadowed area with heather and subalpine vegetation. of course, all the former meadows will be tree covered, so enjoy it while you can.

day 22 - white mtn, pumice creek
another excellent day found us setting out for white mtn which we had missed on the way in due to weather. while some would've tagged it in the fog and rain, that's not me. i like my good peaks in good spots to have good weather. if i wanted to see fog, i'd go find a november dumpster dive with stefan or klenke.

we headed down valley from mini boomerang lake through what i felt was the happiest, most inviting stretch of our summer.

we took a steep slope and gully from the valley leading to the E ridge of white mtn. an enjoyable ramble up to the summit provided commanding views.

we retraced our steps and headed back down to the wonderful waters of the white chuck river. what a spot.

eventually we hit the PCT and started making our way north. only 6 years prior we were walking this same stretch together all the way around glacier peak. time flies. however, in the 12 years since the october floods that decimated this area, it seemed like very little had changed.

at one time in life i really wanted to hike the whole PCT. now, i don't think i could. off trail travel has corrupted me. there is a time and place for some nice trail walking, but that time and place is no where near where i am at present.

day 23 - fire mtn, lime ridge, milk lakes
another blazing hot day was already underway as we set off early (for us). we reached fire creek pass and reflected a bit on our newness and innocence when we were here 6 years ago and swam in some of the tarns down below. we regretted not being able to camp at mica lake and swore that we would come back someday to camp there. well, this wasn't going to be that year either as our schedule wasn't jiving.

we took the ridge NW past pt 6326 before dropping down a steep vegetated slope with hardpan dirt.

the traverse over to the SW ridge of fire mtn was enjoyable, but dry. i have to imagine that most years this area has running water year round, but not this year (still july).

our planned route to get down to the unmapped, unnamed (as far as i know) lakes was definitely a no go. no freakin' way. that route dropped in via a northward descent from the letter "A" in "peak" on the map. too many cliffbands with loose stuff. instead, we picked a way down to the upper lake via the N ridge and W slopes of fire mtn. slabby and loose, but not too bad in the end. it didn't look good from up high, however. kind of an "oh sh##" moment.

our goal was to get to the upper lake just to get there. if our goal was to continue onto lime ridge as fast as possible, we would've stayed higher.

the lake was crystal clear and icy cold. perfect on this hot hot day, especially considering that we hadn't had water since camp due to the dry nature of the terrain this year.

the lower lake looked easy enough to get to, but we didn't feel like doing another 500' of loss and gain to explore it. probably should've, but the temperatures had beaten us down prior to getting to the upper lake. instead, we swam.

this lake was even colder than silver lake. it was unreal how fast the legs went numb here.

we packed up after a nice break and then headed back towards the ridge connecting lime ridge to fire mtn, just S of lime lake. getting over the ridge to the north side of the world is guarded by cliffs, so we were forced to climb all the way to the top of the ridgeline before picking our way down some steep slick ramps.

once on the ridge, travel speeds improved and views of the awesome collection of rivord lakes high route started to unfold.

we dropped packs at the base of lime ridge peak and headed up. this terrain reminded me a lot of skykomish peak, which is S of glacier peak, but of similar elevation with the exception of no flowers this summer.

the view of the wolverine fire was scary. one wind direction shift and we would be in a world of unpleasantness. fortunately, that did not happen until the last day of this segment.

back at the packs, we picked our way down to milk lakes. tip: error left. to the right are hidden slab cliffs buried in thick tree coverage.

the lakes were a nice temp for a swim. we chose the upper lake to maximize sunlight for swimming, but camped near the lower lake, which had nice fishing.

day 24 - lemon mtn, lime mtn, lake 5698
the terrain here was interesting. very easy with trails in some spots, steep, brushy, and very annoying in other areas. the trails were bliss; the brush was agony. there seemed to be little in between.

did i mention we went for a swim?

yeah, life was okay...

we set up camp at lake 5698, which i would agree with matt as the best camping lake in the area. pretty good for swimming too! once set up, we headed out to tag lemon and lime mtns. there's a little scramble at the end of lemon, but other than that, it's all straightforward. descending from lime, we made a loop around our camping lake so that we could explore our options for an exit the next day. when i say we, i mean hotpantz. her strength was back to a level beyond mine --- i'm only stronger than her when she's sick or at the very end of a late day (i'm a night person, she's a day person).

the day was still early by the time we got back to camp. when we swam at rivord lake, we noted tons of fish there. meanwhile, our camp lake had none, at least none that we saw. hotpantz had her fishing rod and it was only 500' gain/loss to get some fish. why not? we headed down to fisherman's cove, which is obvious when you see it. while she fished, i collected berries. again, rough times.

day 25 - the end
the wolverine fire was exploding. winds had shifted. smoke now filled our valley and as far as we could see. it worked out well that this would be our last day on this segment and on this trip as risking our health was slightly unappealing.

we broke camp and were on the move by 7am, knowing that this would probably be a long day. it was hard to say goodbye to this spot. these lakes are pretty unreal, and now that we've done all the peaks up here, there's a chance we'll never be back.

we headed up the route hotpantz scoped out. some hidden cliffs in the trees, and ridges that aren't super defined, but not all that bad.

once we got to pt 5924, the terrain really started to suck. a lot. tree spacing was about shoulder width with sharps everywhere. it was the worst off trail section i've been on - ever. had we come up this way, i think we would've turned around.

it took forever to get down to the old road, which is very overgrown and has lots of prickly things. water rationing was in full effect by that time. even the easy parts of the road were challenging in spots. hotpantz was more than ready to be done. i was too. it was a fitting conclusion to the summer that went as unplanned as possible considering the amount of effort that actually did going into planning.

our only solace at the end of this part was bathing in circle creek and knowing that we would no longer have to hike. our great passion had turned into a chore. that is the point where you need to step back and reevaluate the "why" part of the choice. seeing the wolverine fire get larger and larger sealed the deal for us, so we had already begun planning to take a bike trip from seattle to san francisco. no fires there!

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



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getting old
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 3:28 pm 
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so where does that leave us? (grabs beer) drink.gif

i don't know.

we put a lot into making this trip happen. there is a lot of physical and emotional investment into something like this. when you fail, you're left with a hole.

over time, that hole shrinks and heals, but not all the way. i know this from other first hand endeavors i've taken and failed on.
-2002 steel bridge competition - should've taken 1st in the country, but an odd penalty put us at 16th
-2003 steel bridge competition - should've taken 1st in the country, took 2nd due to a 1/1000 mistake
- a disappointing ironman performance in 2006 resulting from injury and -an extremely poor race performance (upset stomach, 2 flat tires)

these things all still eat at me. i'm pretty sure they always will on some level. maybe not every day like they used to, but they'll still be there. now i get to add this trip to the list. yes, i know, first world problem. keep perspective. it's just hiking.

i get it.

when you're as OCD as i am, and you don't reach what you set out for, it hurts a lot until you can find a replacement for the loss. well, replacement is the wrong word, but more like a temporary filler. the loss/failure will stick around for a long time, if not forever.

i am fortunate in that failure is a mechanism that drives me (most of the time) to really push even harder the next time. in this case, i don't think that applies, since it's not about pushing. it was about having the right conditions (weather, fire, water, time off from work, a coordinated effort from a group of friends, no commitments in life that would prevent this (i.e. kids)). we happened to get an historically bad year for a trip like this and that was that.

most disappointing of the trip is how it impacted hotpantz. i was the ring leader. my idea. my pushing. my motivation to make it happen. hotpantz worked incredibly hard to recover from her hip surgery and get mentally prepared for this trip. she is not always comfortable in the mountains in the same way i am when the terrain gets exposed. this trip would've had countless scary spots for her and she did her best to mentally prepare for that. doing that is something far more taxing than getting beta, planning segments, and things like that. if my loss is bad, hers is far worse.

that is my biggest regret from the trip. my other two regrets are not building in flexibility on the start date with work and not maintaining a positive attitude when the going got a little tougher/hotter/annoying. live and learn, i guess.

we are both very grateful for our friends who volunteered to help us out on the trip logistics. getting resupplies and coordinating back in the mainland was a huge logistical effort and a trip like this would not have been possible without it. thank you to the following resupply volunteers:
joanna haug, josh lewis, michael lewis, lindsay malone, larry neher, john wolf, forrest croce, sarah battin, tom bentzen, tom nanevicz, brad kirchner, martin bravenboer, jim dobrick, mark h, don and natala goodman, gabriel deal, steve loitz.

and to our main "quarterbacks": stefan, hollywood, and the oracle - many thanks. you were running the show back home and we knew, without question, that you had our backs no matter what.

--------
--------
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hiking and exploring the mountains of WA has given me one of the greatest gifts of my life. there is no hyperbole in that statement. pure, unbridled joy.

i know this is a cheesy movie clip, but it's true for me. (fast forward to 1:50 if you like)

there have been so many times when i'm out there in the mountains where it's so overwhelmingly beautiful it almost hurts. it is like nothing else i've experienced before.

not only did i find love of the mountains, i found love in the mountains. i am very lucky. i have no doubt of that.

i am very thankful for so much, including the community of nwhikers, and this trip, and hopefully this trip report, represents my feelings in a manner that others can relate to. it will likely be one of my last real trip reports for awhile if things go as planned on the home front, so i hope you appreciate it and the 231 other TRs on this site.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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KarlK
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PostThu Nov 26, 2015 7:56 pm 
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OK, so this is very cool. I am a hopeless romantic so I like it when two people who were meant for each other (or at least highly compatible) get lucky.

I am also convinced that bicycling is  more dangerous than climbing. Lots of idiots out there in big cars motoring along with physics that turn bicyclists into road squash all too easily.

Anyhow, my very best to the two of ya.

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Karl J Kaiyala
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 9:22 pm 
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Iron, you seem to have a lot of reservations about this report.   wink.gif   Edit: this comment was posted when iron had only the first two parts of his report posted, while all the actual trip segments were just marked "reserved")

I like how you've introduced it with the background of your increasing travel and knowledge in the Cascades, and your preparations for the trip.  Looking forward to the rest.  I just wish it wasn't like the build-up for an epic tragedy, with 2015 having been an exceptionally bad year for backcountry travel, plagued by drought and fire.

Great trip.  You completed more of the segments than I had realized.  And you sure made the most of it, especially the lakes.

Great photos and write-up as well.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Ingunn
Hiking Viking



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PostThu Nov 26, 2015 10:11 pm 
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Where will they go? What will they do? I'm at the edge of my seat!

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Magellan
Brutally Handsome



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Brutally Handsome
PostThu Nov 26, 2015 10:13 pm 
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Great start!  up.gif
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Gabigabs
Trail Breaker



Joined: 07 Nov 2007
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PostFri Nov 27, 2015 7:56 am 
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Great reading. Looking forward to the rest.

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Life is simple... Eat, Sleep, Hike!
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Distel32
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PostFri Nov 27, 2015 8:03 am 
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up.gif
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Brushbuffalo
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Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
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PostFri Nov 27, 2015 8:13 am 
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Quadruple wow!  I enjoyed the background story of how you two met and have gradually (no, make that rapidly) become titons of the North Cascades.  You exhibited physical and mental toughness that is far beyond most of us, and very wise decision- making to retreat. Bad luck about the conditions. Sometimes it's  harder to drop a big goal than to continue. I still hold to the Mounties' maxim: "Judgment should not be swayed by desire when choosing the route or when turning back." I don't know if that's  still in the club's principles for sound climbing, but it seems it served you well on your trip.

Very minor point is that I appreciate  that you use the historically correct name....Perfect Impass.....not Imperfect Pass or Imperfect Impass or Imperfect Impasse.  I was with Rowland Tabor  when he named it in 1967 and he clearly refers to it as Perfect Impass in R&R of Mt. Challenger Quadrangle. You're right, Iron, it is no pleasure,  and who doesn't  have a heavy pack and a degree of fatigue when negotiating  it!  eek.gif(it isn't a stroll even with only a day pack).However, Rowland himself told me in an email in 2010 that Imperfect Impass "makes sense" even if not historically accurate.
Enough trivia from me about a couple of letters!  Didn't  really intend to side track from Iron and Hotpantz' magnificent journey ( i know, "then why did I"?) hockeygrin.gif

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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