Mt. Stuart via Ice Cliffs Glacier (aka Go Get A [excessive expletives] PLB)


The cornice at the top. At least 20′ tall

“Maybe I should have renewed that SPOT subscription.” “I mean we’ve only been talking about it for the past 5 weeks right?” “Yeah… it would be nice to have right now.” “I’ll take a space heater, a hot shower, and a down comforter with my beacon please. And a foot massage.” And there we were, in a nice ice ledge/snow cave we had dug halfway down the Sherpa glacier, staring at the snow lit up by the moon and wondering how fucked we’d be when I wouldn’t show up to work at 9am and no one would know why. How did we get to this point, you ask? Let’s find out. Climbed 5/6-5/8.

  • Distance: ~20mi round trip
  • Elevation: 7200ft gain (9,416ft highest point)
  • Weather: 30’s and sunny? Random snow squalls
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:30
  • Did I Trip: Many, many postholes. And shattered dreams.

Come on it’s hilarious. Especially when you ring the bell.

We got to the trailhead at 7pm. Well I did, JT showed up at 10 and insisted on doing the approach. Nope, it’s like a 6 hour approach without the road, with plenty of creek crossings and no trail and I figured it’d be easier in the morning. We had time. JT begged but I was committed, I needed sleep. Call me lame.


First glimpse!

We got moving at 6am. JT had brought a hilarious electric fatbike, so we strapped our packs to the bike and he started to take them up. Don’t worry, the bike has a bell you can ring in case you need to pass anyone at your top speed of 3mph. We figured we’d leapfrog and take turns with the bike, which if it didn’t save us much time at least provided comic relief for the four miles of dry, easily driveable road. I left my trail runners on for the 2 miles of Colchuck trail we needed to follow, no traction or anything. When we branched off onto the Stuart Lake trail it started getting a little more postholey, and when we finally started the cross country trek, it got real postholey. We were hoping someone else would have broken trail but of course not. We came along an old skin track that we followed on and off, but all of the creek crossings were different. Many logs, not many good access points. The snowbanks made it awkward, since youd’ have to drop down two feet of snow and hope to land your ass on the log. Lots of shimmying. It was a lot more fun when you’re a kid, and not carrying 50lbs with skis attached to your park. I clotheslined my skis at one point because I was so worried that when I sat on the shimmy log they’d stick in the snow behind me and tip me forward and thus off the log, leading to my untimely and mildly embarrassing demise.


Route on the left, JT ready to ski!

But we survived the river crossings and honestly that was probably the hardest part of the approach. We camped just above the trees at the base of the route. We skinned up to check it out, figuring if it looked too intimidating we’d do Sherpa instead. But Ice Cliffs looked dope, and well within our abilities, so we decided to go for it. We made some turns on the way back to camp, perfect mellow green run for baby skiiers like me. Look at those S’s baby. Someone’s learning.

That’s a 5 star bivvy. Best night of sleep in months.

We dug out our bivvy spots back at camp. I walked up to some avvy debris piles to collect branches as ground insulation, because we had time and I wanted to be warm and have everything smell like Christmas. We left tracks all over that basin (this was problematic later). We melted water, watched a climber get plucked off the North Buttress Couloir on Colchuck, and went to sleep as the sun set.

We got up around 5 and started up to the couloir. There was avvy debris mixed with chunks of glacial ice from the icefall at the base of the route, frozen solid, like a talus field except snow and ice. Soon enough, the steep snow starter. We knew if we stayed left of the icefall there would be a nice snowy couloir that would lead us up to the mellow, flat section above the falls. From that section, it would be steep snow to the cornice, and…. well, we’d deal with that when we got there.

Baby turns!


Already in heaven

Luckily, it was fucking freezing. Everything was rock solid. We placed no pro, until one spicy section I was halfway up when I realized I was hanging on by like 1cm of ice pick and 5mm of crampon frontpoints. I looked up at JT. Same deal. Oh, good, we’re on ice. With no protection. With a thousand feet of terrible runout. Well. Not much we can do now. I swallowed and wished for JT to move quickly and blanked out the consequences. 30 feet later it was soft enough to at least get an inch of boot in, and 30 feet after that I was back to walking up with some variations on french technique. There are two advantages to being horribly duck footed. Breaststroke, and climbing steep snow. I have found my calling.


For once I was thankful for clouds

We took a quick break on the flat section after some traversing (which I hate, and will always hate, because it is arguably more tedious and less comfortable than downclimbing). We placed a picket for protection just in case since the runout was a nice slide down to the icefall followed by a i-don’t-want-to-know-how-far drop. I destroyed some sour patch watermelon and some goldfish. It was a short walk to where the final steep snow slope began, and we decided to start placing running belays here just to be safe. I’m still not sure it was necessary, and we’ve rehashed it several times. It slows you down a lot, but if someone’s tired, you should probably place it. So we did. One time the rope got stuck, and we took turns whipping it to get it loose. Naturally this resulted in me singing Whip It Good for the rest of the way up. Isn’t that what you sing when you’re in the middle of nowhere slogging up snow?

And that meant the pace was slow enough I could take tons of pictures. The bummer is that my phone started this trip at 7% battery, I had left the camera in the car, and that meant I had to ration photos. Ugh, the horrors.

Living the freaking dream


I saw that #1 cam crack from 50 feet away I was so proud

We mixed pickets and some rock pro as anchors. We stayed to the right since the majority of the falling debris that passed us was on the left (I think this contradicts what summitpost says). We took a break on a sweet snowdrift next to the rock, and finally hit up the last stretch. The cornice was MASSIVE. We had been pumping ourselves up to burrow through it, but upon seeing it, we could either spend 4 hours trying to burrow or we could suck it up and test out the mixed chimney that was in the middle. Survey says? Let’s try the chimney.


JT at our last break

JT made a bomber rock anchor below the chimney. Yeah, I wasn’t leading that. Maybe if our lives had depended on it. It didn’t look bad until you were in it. I could tell he was panicking too (sorry JT) as I belayed him up. And he wasn’t sure the pickets he placed halfway up would take a fall. But 15 minutes later, he was whooping on top of the ridge, and I was throwing my entire body weight upwards on the picket trying to get the damn thing out of the snow cursing his fucking indestructible placement because this thing was $25 and I’ll be damned if I leave $25 in this god forsaken chimney (this is foreshadowing).


Final stretch!

I finally got the picket out and made the spicy mixed move to get out of the slightly overhung chimney. I looked up at JT who was laughing as I dragged my fat tired ass over the edge. We organized our gear and started walking up towards the summit, jealous of the skiiers heading down Cascade Couloir, which looked so mellow and easy and fun.

It took maybe an hour to get to the top. JT was ahead of me. More front pointing on hard snow, man I’m sick of hard snow and it’s going to be a pain in the ass to downclimb this. I look up at JT as we got close. “Fuck.”

HAHAHA ahaha haha ah no.

“What? Is it not the summit?” “It’s definitely not the summit.” “Are you sure??” “Well unless there’s a bigger, taller peak right next to us… yeah, I’m sure.” I hurried up beside him and we both just burst out laughing. The real summit of Stuart was another hundred feet higher, with more hard steep snow, which meant more frontpointing and more downclimbing that shit and random snow squalls kept happening and there was just no way either of us were going up there and we didn’t even have to say it outright, we just knew. We sat down and kept laughing at how humbling it was and had some snacks. And soon enough, started the downclimb, crossing out fingers that entry to the Sherpa couloir would be easy.


Looking out at Sherpa and Balanced Rock

And it was! I lay on the edge of the couloir moaning about how much of a pain in the ass downclimbing was going to be, until I started laughing again. Look where we are! We’re on top of the world, and I’m still finding a reason to whine. We started down, I was pretty tired and I told JT to go first and kick great steps. Great steps meant like 1″ of purchase, if that. Ugh. Damn my weak winter calves.

So we kicked, or tried to, if you can call that kicking steps. After a few hundred feet there was no more kicking, just frontpoints, and laser sharp focus. Half an hour later, there was just sharp focus. An hour after that, there was blurry focus, and while my body physically felt fine, I was mentally losing it. The bottom looked so close. Maybe two rappels, if we set up an anchor and just left it? Yeah, that looked about right. JT was talking to himself as he downclimbed. “One foot now, two points in, next foot now, two more points in, now the first foot, now the second foot, just keep going, second foot, first foot, making steps.” I was singing that song that the parrot in the Lion King sings in his bone cage, somthing about I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts do do do do do do there they are all standing in a row, big ones small ones some the size of your head! I finally made a joke about bivvying.

I mean, you have to laugh a little at the situation

And that joke about bivvying basically shut us down. I hear when pregnant women make it to restrooms, they don’t always make it to the toilet. Their brains are like HEY WE’RE HERE LET’S GO! That’s how the bivvy was. My brain heard the joke and was like HELL YEAH WE’RE DONE! and I could feel myself crashing as we anchored ourselves with pickets and shoveled the biggest ledge we could after chopping through the surface ice with our tools. I put on all my layers, sat on my pack, we undid our coils and used those as ground cover too. Shivver bivvying at its finest. “Do you think there’s something fucked up in our heads?” JT asked. “No, no way. We’re normal. We’re awesome. Why?” “Because.. .we’re stuck outside and we’re exhausted and we’re spending the night here and we’re still having fun?” I mean, you have a point. I was pondering a different, slightly related, equally hilarious (to me) question. “Do you think our parents would be proud that we’re making the safe call to stop and rest here, or do you think they’d just be pissed we got ourselves here to begin with?”


Time to get moving and warm up!!

There’s not much sleeping when it’s like that. You’ll start to doze and then your body remembers you’re fucking freezing and starts to shiver and you wake yourself up again. So we watched the snow get lit up by the moon, I wondered how long it takes trenchfoot to set in and thanked the sweet baby jesus for telling me to wear ski boots instead of mountaineering boots (toasty liners), and occasionally I had some snacks. We had plenty of food and water at least.

As soon as sun rose we were moving. We had already decided to rappel off gear and just leave the gear behind. Two rappels right? No, I suck at distance judging and we all know it. 2 raps turned into six. I couldn’t get pickets in through the ice, but it was still too thin for a v thread. Snow bollards were an option but I thought they’d take too long to make since we’d have to cut through all the crust. A chunk of ice broke my helmet (not a split, just knocked a plastic piece loose, but that was enough to render it useless). Great, we’re bailing. Fuck the pickets with two flat ends, always get the ones with one sharp end. It was impossible to get the flat end ones in the snow even after I chopped a starter hole. Pound that picket in harder, Eve. What happened to your swimmer triceps and shoulders?! Bro do you even lift?!? (no. but i should.)

Somehow the snow still hadn’t softened up, here I am happily rappelling down

We finally reached the bergschrund, which was nicely covered with avvy debris. One last rap to get over it, and we were walking off! Woo! JT looked down as he was crossing. “Oh, I can get my sunglasses!” I started laughing. He had dropped them sometime on Monday, and I figured they were toast. I belayed him into the crevasse to retrieve his brand new Julbos. Small miracles!


Glacier glasses that (on their first day in the wild) were nearly abandoned in the crevasse

We walked back to the sunny soft snow where I had one of the best glissades of my life back to camp. We boiled water, had the best alpine cider ever, and started to pack. Soon we heard helicopter blades chopping through the wind. Damn, there must be another rescue! Busy weekend.

Except then the helo came and hovered right over us. And then it flew right over the ice cliffs route, and down the sherpa route. “They just… do you think they’re looking for us?” “Well they just flew literally right up ice cliffs and right down sherpa, so…. yes?” It was 10:30. Would my office have seriously called SAR at 9:01 sharp? I’ve been late to work after climbs before, this isn’t exactly the first time I’ve had an unplanned bivvy. I mean, maybe?
We stood by our stuff and stared at the copter, who hovered next to us for another 5 minutes before flying off. They definitely saw us, right? They’ve got to be going back to tell everyone we’re okay. I mean we’re standing on snow wearing bright orange and blue packing up our skis, there’s no way they didn’t see us.

The Shimmy

We started the trek out, which involved more postholing and somehow more log shimmying than the way in. Helicopters continued to fly around us, one flew next to us and we waved as they pointed while we crossed the swampy section right where you cut off from the Stuart Lake trail. Half an hour later, back on the Colchuck trail, we saw two more helicopters. “There’s something bigger than us going on out there,” JT said. I hoped he was right, but I was freaking the fuck out. Yeah we know we’re fine, but my office doesn’t. And if they called my family, then there’s at least 20 people who are panicking right now. But they pointed at us in the swamp, and they hovered right next to us on the snowfield. They must be looking for someone else and figured out we weren’t the ones they were looking for. But the thought was still in my head, and my body was on fire with anxiety and I was flying down the trail trying my best to not leave JT behind. He broke trail like all the way through the snow, and I had been lazy. But I had to get back to cell service before anyone called my family.


Shattered Dreams

We got to the Colchuck trailhead, which had been recently cleared of downed trees, bathrooms cleaned, and even restocked with fresh toilet paper. Best bathroom experience of my life. Plus, this must mean the road is open!! Great, JT take the bike and the packs, I’ll start walking, get the car, and meet me halfway up the road. Helicopters continued to fly over. I waved to one as I walked down the road. That one definitely didn’t see me. No one waved.

A few hours later, I hear an engine. And I see an FJ come around the corner. Woohoo, JT!! The road is open!! Except… behind him is a huge pickup truck. With a huge label on the side. In all caps. “SHERIFF.” Oh, shit. So they were looking for us. That helicopter was for us. All day, that helicopter was looking for us. JT had gotten back to our cars, each of which had a note saying “you’ve been reported as overdue, please call the sheriff.” So he drove to cell service, called the sheriff, who opened the gate to the road and let him come pick me up. You know what’s great about a having bright yellow xterra? They saw it from the sky immediately and said yep Eve’s car is here. Nothing subtle about that.

This is really getting in the way of our self rescue

In my state of mixed guilt and embarrassment and shame and humiliation I wasn’t sure what to do. How could the best route of my life and a simple overnight bivvy have caused all of this? We felt like we had everything under control 100% of the time. At no point was I concerned for our safety, or scared, or even stressed. I was more anxious about being late to work and missing EMT class than anything else. Sure the bivvy wasn’t ideal, but it was absolutely the right call. Tired, on a tedious 40+ degree slope with another 600ft to descend with only our crampon points, already late, and one misstep if we tried to push it would have resulted in a fatal fall. So we stopped, and got up a few hours later, surprisingly refreshed once we loosened up stiff frigid limbs.


Good look at Stuart over the swamp on the left

We thanked Chelan Mountain Rescue profusely. These guys dropped everything they were doing to send out a helo to look for us, and to be fair, from the air it looked pretty bad. They saw the bivvy ledge, the bail gear, the bergschrund, and a ton of avvy debris from earlier in the week. The bail gear ended just above the bergschrund, and it probably looked like either 1) we were hit by an avalanche and were nicely buried or 2) we were trying to bail and we rapped off the end of the rope or something failed and we fell into the schrund. They thought it was a recovery.

Luckily, neither of the above even came close to happening. We just left an awkward trail of bail gear. While they were changing plans from rescue to recovery, we were bitching about postholing and why did we carry skis and shit none of these logs are good for crossing the stream and can you believe that buttered popcorn jelly beans are still disgusting after 3 days of climbing? I’m like at least 2 days from starvation if those still taste like shit.

Sherpa Glacier on left, our route on right behind the center crag

If we had had a messaging beacon, we’d have been able to send out a text as soon as we set up the bivvy saying hey, we’re fine, just going to be late. If we had a true PLB maybe our friends would have felt a bit safer knowing we hadn’t hit SOS yet. Instead, no one knew what had happened. My coworkers knew my intended routes because I wouldn’t shut up about it all week, but none of my immediate climbing friends did, and that caused a bunch of confusion when they started wondering why no one had heard from me. Should we have flagged down the helicopter? Yeah, but I’m still not sure what the sign is for “hey, you’re looking for us, but we’re fine, gonna hike out!” In our heads, we were barely even overdue at that point (a few hours, we knew we’d be getting to the trailhead wicked late on Tuesday), and we definitely weren’t lost. Turns out they saw us and assumed we were hikers, not the people they were looking for. There were tracks all over the basin, they had no way of knowing which were ours (answer: all of them). And given the bail gear pattern, holy shit I’d probably have thought the same.


Colchuck Peak, the lone climber’s rescue foreshadowing our own epic

Get a beacon! One beacon could have saved all of this confusion, all of the effort on SAR/CMR’s part (god forbid someone else get injured looking for me, especially when nothing’s wrong with me to begin with), and all of the ensuing feelings that I, my friends and family, and coworkers all went through in the 12 hours I was missing. We had been discussing it for over a month and I was too cheap to buy my own. I always pictured beacons as purely “SOS” function, not the “hey everything’s fine but we’re going to be late” heads up to the real life friends and coworkers back in the city, and that’s what you’ll get with the satellite messenger beacons. You never think it’ll be you, until it’s you.

I have no idea if my office called that a vacation day, a personal/sick day, or is turning the other cheek. I was brainstorming my apologies and excuses while we were bivvying. “Call it a vacation day, call it two vacation days, I’m so sorry I’m so embarrassed” blah blah blah. I got into work and no one cared, everyone wanted to hear the story, and everyone was just relieved I was okay. Everyone had rallied and called in personal favors to anyone they knew who climbed or could stir up a rescue. That’s an awesome office right there. And there I was, back to spreadsheets. Spreadsheets never made me bivvy in a snow cave, or rap off $300 of gear, or resort to eating butter popcorn jelly beans. Tough choice between those and turds.

So proud of my bivvy branch collection. Good thing I got such good sleep on night #1

Huge, huge thanks to CMR and SAR for coming after us. As embarrassed as I was, it’s amazing knowing an entire community is ready to jump on it 90 minutes after someone calls us in as overdue. Thank you to everyone who called, everyone who pitched in with information, everyone who got up right away to put the search into effect. And huge thanks to JT for suffering through all of that with me, and thanks to Mt. Stuart for being a coy bitch, and thanks to everyone for not making me feel tooooo guilty upon my return.* And lastly, thanks to my family back in Boston who put up with my questionable hobby. I can’t apologize enough, nothing I say will change anything, just know we do our best to be safe. From here on out you’ll get the “we’re okay, just going to be late” messages at 3am. You guys are the best, don’t ever think I take you for granted.

So go get a PLB. Don’t talk to me until you have one.
*You now have permission to make jokes at my expense.

Cashmere via Victoria’s Secret/NW Face


Looking back at Lake Victoria

For a socked-in-by-clouds summit, this was a pretty awesome day. 4.5 miles with 6500ft of elevation gain, I mean that always has to be fun right? Simon, Sam, and I all headed out to Leavenworth on Friday night. I had no plans. Literally none. I had all of my gear in my car and figured I’d play it by ear. I tried to make that abundantly clear to everyone. I didn’t even know if I was going to go. A brutal week had left me exhausted with an abject lack of shits to give about anyone else or any sort of planning, but Sam was already in Leavenworth and Simon was somehow putting up with my bitching and still wanted to come. He was just that desperate for mountains after a month of travel and injury. Oh, did I mention I found this route up Cashmere like two hours before leaving?
  • Distance: 9 miles round trip (varies based on whether you’re a route finding idiot at the time)
  • Elevation: 6500ft gain, baby! Buns and thighs!
  • Weather: 30’s and snowing and windy, 40’s and foggy, 50’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:30 with no traffic
  • Did I Trip: To the point where I had to self arrest, so yes, yes I did. It’s been a while since I didn’t trip on an outing. I’m getting uncoordinated. Maybe don’t rope up with me.

Don’t worry it gets cloudier

I mean, the route sounded awesome. Private property, bushwack, unmaintained/abandoned trail to a lake most people haven’t heard of, with a backdoor route up Cashmere. Awesome.

I got to Leavenworth around 8, and I stopped at Safeway, where I found a cheese I had not seen since moving here from Boston: Cabot’s!! It puts Tillamook to shame. I bought 3lbs of it (Seriously sharp cheddar and habanero cheddar) and some crackers and met Sam, who was napping at a nearby park n ride. Simon was still an hour out, so I cleared my back seat and followed Sam’s lead. Naptime.

Simon showed up around 10, and we headed to the trailhead. We were planning to start up Friday night, but what… what it…. we just… didn’t? I timidly posed the idea. Sam laughed. “I had been asking myself ‘why do we choose to do this?’ earlier tonight.” We agreed to sleep and get started around 5am.

I woke up at 4am. We all did, and telepathically agreed to not get up. I was in the middle of the best night of sleep I had had in well over a week and I was getting my extra hour.


Starting up through steep forest

At 5am I dragged my well rested ass out of my sleeping bag, packed up camp, loaded the cars, and started moving. With our day packs. Day packs!! What is a day pack?! It’s a pack that’s light, and doesn’t include a tent or sleeping bag or sleeping pad or liner or dehydrated meal or stove… and it is fantastic.

We trespassed immediately onto private property (part of the fun?), and walked down the road (driveway?) until we saw a blaze off in the forest. Sweet, time to head up. I had a compass bearing, but it wasn’t necessary. Just go up until you break into the burn zone, and then go up more.


At least it was a scenic detour

We made a slight mistake as I was not checking the actual trail map at all, only the mediocre GPS app I was testing, which did not have a map of the route on it. Our biggest issue was that you should keep going up until around 5100ft, but we headed left far lower than that, because I thought the drainage we were supposed to follow was far more east than it actually was. This meant some exciting creek crossings, steep snow, no shortage of devils’ club, and an abundance of elevation gain that was was more of a pain in the ass than it would have been had we stayed in the burn zone, which was a nice walk up. Also, there’s a nice series of blazes starting around 4500ft in the burn zone, which will help you find the route very quickly. We did not have that luxury.


Fun scramble near the lake

After a few facefulls of thorny plants, some steep snowy bushwacking, and bitching on my part (I don’t like stopping, I didn’t want to be in photos, I had some frustrations to take out and they wouldn’t be beaten by taking my time and relaxing, I’m not that type) we finally got to the lake. Clouds were roiling above Cashmere, so I made sure to lower my expectations. To the ground.


Heading around Lake Victoria, Cashmere being elusive in the clouds

We started heading around the lake, as it was too melted out to cross directly. Honestly I think we were a week or two too late to get the real experience here, since the snow had melted 2,000ft up over the past ~10 days (~5200ft we hit consistent snow). It’s usually a ski trip, but I didn’t bring the skis. I knew Sam would be booting it since he hates his skins, so I figured we’d all take turns breaking trail, and I was into this whole “day pack” idea.



About to start up the gully above Lake Victoria

Simon decided to chill at the lake instead of head up to the summit. Sorry Simon, with a grand finale like you had back at the trailhead I couldn’t leave you out of the post! With most people I’d be concerned, or turn around with them, but Simon is extremely capable and I knew that for him to draw the line, something had to be bugging him (he was coming back from an injury, too, so better to play it safe). Being as self sufficient as he is, I knew he’d be fine getting down on his own. So we carried on, agreeing to meet back at the trailhead.


Kicking steps up the gully

Sam and I got to the base of the gully and took a quick break for snacks and sunscreen. It wasn’t actually that steep, maybe 45 degrees at the most. We made fairly quick work of it, except 3/4 of the way up Sam demanded a sandwich break. Okay, let’s do it, I’m hungry too. He devoured a sandwich and I sat down and cut the cheese (stop laughing) to eat with crackers, and we carried on.


On more mellow ground in the basin, sun almost breaking through

Soon enough we were in the clouds. We kept hoping they would clear, and occasionally they’d blow past for a split second, but never enough to have views or even see where we were going. We got one glimpse of the true summit for maybe ten seconds, and made a beeline for it. It took us probably another 20-30 minutes from that glimpse to get close to it. I had a hard time breaking through the icy crust, so I strapped on my crampons (in the steepest, most awkward spot I have ever had to put on crampons) figuring I’d front point the rest of the way up. Some very steep snow (steeper than the gully), a few scramble moves, and some rock-ice blends that made me appreciate my few days of dry-tooling and briefly made me wish I had brought tools rather than the axe. I was shocked that any ice was still up there.


Final push!



Sam popped up to the summit while I negotiated a different route, trying to follow a steep snow finger between rocks rather than his scramble. Wouldn’t it be funny if we were at the wrong summit? I heard Sam go “uhhh.. crap.” The clouds lightened, and we saw… the real summit. 50ft to the east, and maybe 15 feet higher than us. At one point I was trying to stop swearing (in general, in life) but this was just comical. God. Dammit. All that effort, whiteout conditions, only to suddenly realize we were sitting on the wrong damn rock.


The real summit (back right). Crap.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I wasn’t going over there, are you kidding? No views, I was cold, it was windy, we’d have to downclimb and climb back up again, and 99% of our time above the gully had been completely socked in by clouds. It just wouldn’t be worth it. Maybe we’d have ended up on the third summit ish rock, there were a few that all looked similar in the clouds. We’ll make a revenge trip someday. Sam demolished a pop tart, and we scrambled down a separate route back to steep snow where we painstakingly downclimbed backwards, more or less trust-falling into our previous steps, some of which had punched deep through the crust. Sam finally put his snowboard to use, stopping every 100ft or so to make sure we kept each other within sight. Low visibility can be problematic.


Visibility getting better on the way down (that’s Sam snowboarding)

Going down the gully I did have to do an easy self arrest after the snow changed from powder (easy to plunge step) to ice (I went for my plunge step and just wiped out) and guys, I have one tip here. Wear gloves, sleeves and pants when you’re on anything that might require self arrest. I had sleeves and pants, but my hands were torn to shit by the ice, and it hurt. Your brain doesn’t care until a few minutes later, when you’re like “why are my hands burning” and look down to see bits of gravel and ice and scrapes and who knows what was in that avvy debris all in your skin. Gross.

Another tip that I loved is one that I originally chuckled at. Most crampons nowadays have plates built in to prevent snow balling up between the teeth under your foot. Well, it doesn’t always work. I had an IMG guide over the summer make me run down a steep slope whacking snow out of my crampons with my ice axe, which both looked and felt ridiculous. But that silly technique saved me from a few more slips on the way down, and the “clink! clink!” with every step gave me a funny rhythm to maintain and I imagine notified Sam of my arrival when he couldn’t see me.

Five blazes. Actually six, but the wind blew one out of frame


As usual, going down went faster than going up. We got snowed on, rained on, sunned on, and luckily found the regular route back down quite easily thanks to Simon’s footprints (thanks for breaking all that trail!) and the 8000 blazes that mark the route assuming you find it at the top of the burn zone. It’s pretty funny that we missed it by that much. I got a picture with six blazes in it at one point, and Simon had old-school cut blazes into a few trees in case we missed any of the hot pink flags. Sam’s colorblind, which made finding blazes hilarious (but not as hilarious as watching him try to follow routes at SBP).


Where Simon (I’m convinced) fell through, with an Eve shaped hole right above

We’re pretty awesome, and got down in far less time than it took us to get up. We false-summitted after about 8.5-9 hours (we spent a LOT of time in the whiteout deliberating over where we were and where we should go, not to mention our off route expedition on the way up) and were back down in 4. There was one amusing spot where I am pretty sure Simon fell through a snow bridge, because I saw a huge hole in the middle of a very thin snow bridge over a small brook and thought ‘oh, I’ll just walk next to it’ only to immediately punch through neck deep myself, laughing at my stupidity. Eventually we left snow cover, and after heading down through the burn zone we found an old logging road and some squirrely trails that got us back to the private road much faster, though we had to fight off thick ass slide alder to find the nice route. I heard dogs barking at one point, and started having paranoid thoughts about “the most dangerous game,” what if the owners of that house are avid hunters and send the dogs out thinking there’s a deer or cougar nearby? I wanted to be down by dark, and I remember several times where I was tangled in alder fighting my way through (why did I have this stupid shovel sticking off my pack!? At least it isn’t skis) imagining how miserable it’d be to be doing that, in the dark, wondering if we were about to be confronted by drooling growling dogs and angry property owners. Also, I was convinced the skin was sloughing off the bottom of my feet. I wore my like D-Team socks (A team is Darn Tough baby) and it just wasn’t working out.


Map (thanks to Summitpost &

I couldn’t believe it when we hit the road. Awesomely fast. There were fresh tire tracks, but we didn’t see anyone. They must be used to the occasional climbers using their road and schwacking through their forest. We hiked back across the bridge where Simon was loyally waiting with hot chocolate ready for us, fretting about how we had never chosen a “call search and rescue” time for him to take action. He had settled on midnight – knowing our speed and experience and having done half of the route, he logically concluded that if we weren’t back by midnight, something had gone very wrong. Yes, I’d agree. We’d have to had seriously screwed up to be up there that late.


One more pic of Sam being bad ass

I opened my trunk door. It stayed open. For anyone who’s been in my car lately, the door wouldn’t stay up and I’d prop it open with a trekking pole. I looked at Simon. “Did you do this, or is it just working?!?” He had replaced the pistons in the door of my car, which I had (stupidly) left unlocked. Holy shit! A working trunk door, and hot chocolate, and shoes that didn’t have my shitty socks, and German food, and I tried schnitzel for the first time, and the lemonade that Sam had mentioned halfway up the climb that had been on my mind for hours… wait, I was in a great mood. What is this? I hadn’t bitched about anything in hours! I hadn’t whined or moped (well, besides lamenting the clouds and lack of sun, cmon Cashmere) or been snarky or rude or irritable. And it wasn’t even sunny. But I guess there’s something refreshing about 6500ft of gain in 4.5 miles, with steep snow and ice and bushwacking and bear prints and deer prints and a false summit because it wouldn’t be climbing without the occasional oops, right?


Nearing the top of the gully

In hindsight, that was one of the most awesome trips I’ve had in a while. Even if it was cloudy with mediocre conditions, it pushed it physically, technically (kudos to Sam, because I do not know many people who would have kept going without protection once it got steep, rocky, and icy but Sam basically doesn’t have a comfort zone, everything is fair game), and it’s pretty cool to look back and realize that we did that so casually, with no rush, no alpine start, no after-dark return. And almost zero planning, though I at least had a picture of a map on my half charged phone. So I had like, 6/10 essentials. Don’t follow my example. Prepare more, and don’t be a bitch. Yours truly, Proud Owner of a Healthy Trunk Door.*


*Car, or ass? You decide.