Tag Archives: climbing

Skywalker TR: Squamish, BC

The phone rang on Sunday afternoon. It was Anne Tarver, calling to ask how my week was looking.

“I have to work. Trying to squeeze in a client before this other job starts,” I said.

“Have you seen the forecast? It’s supposed to hit the 70s this week. We could go to Squamish and climb Skywalker,” responded Anne, a self-described leisure consultant, ignoring my talk of work.

She was referring to the 5.8 multi-pitch line, near Shannon Falls, put up by Jeremy Frimer in 2011. We tried to climb Skywalker that year, but news and topos spread quickly on the Internet and several parties beat our lazy asses to the start. Put off by the wait, we aborted. For Anne, a crack connoisseur, visions of climbing Skywalker never ceased.

The invitation was attractive, but I paused. One must have a mind devoid of winter to dwell on up instead of down. The resident devil on my shoulder whispered tantalizing things about granite cracks, sunny belay perches and handsome coastal views. I turned to the angel and the angel said unto me: “Fuck work. Go climb.” Devil on both shoulders, clearly.

We left Wednesday morning sometime before 10am. The little Honda Civic was stuffed. Anne, the maximalist, appeared to be moving to Canada. Just when I thought we had reached capacity, she squeezed Rummikub behind the driver’s seat.

It was 2pm when we pulled into the Shannon Falls parking lot. The plan was to climb Klahanie Crack and perhaps something else before setting up camp at Paradise Valley further north. Skywalker was on Thursday’s agenda. Not surprisingly, there was a party on Klahanie, so Anne suggested we take a peek at Skywalker. We had spied climbers on the scenic traverse before we entered the forest trail. By a stroke of luck, not a single party was waiting. It was close to 3pm. The opportunity took us by surprise and now we had to decide whether warming up on a multi-pitch was a good idea. Both of us were coming off the couch. There was a rap station in case of retreat, Anne noted. I stuffed a headlamp into my Bermudas, clipped a jacket to my harness, slung the El Cap rack over my shoulders and tied in.

I puzzled a bit over how to start. The finger-sized fissure, notoriously rheumy and lachrymose, offered only wet jamming. I took the dry option of face, eventually moving into the crack. The line continued right, a traverse protected by two bolts, to a debris-filled crack leading to the belay. Anne led pitch two, the so-called Flume, a left-facing corner crack. Again, the challenge of getting into the corner without getting wet presented itself. Anne drew on gymnastic opposition to avoid wet rock and moved steadily upward. The lead swung back to me for pitch three over a few stumps to a ramp, then to a crack with a cruxy move before the belay. Embarking on the penultimate pitch, Anne smiled as she romped across the low-angle slab traverse in a very considerate, second-friendly manner, lacing the underling. The finish was short work, easy slab protected by several bolts.

We topped out a little before 7pm, an ascent time of just under four hours, leaving us an ample ration of light for a headlamp-free descent. We took the recommended side trip to Shannon Pools and ogled the raging flows until the spray chilled us to the bone. Later in the season, these pools might make a welcome après-climb swimming hole.

The warm, sunny weather held on Thursday. After an unhurried morning at camp–breakfast and coffee and a one-looney shower–we made our way over to the Chief. We schlepped our heavy climbing packs up to South Peak and and rapped down to Raven’s Castle, perched on the nose of the Chief. The climbing there is more about the setting than the climbing–we witnessed multiple paragliders hurling themselves off the summit towards Howe Sound just as we finished the dogleg line, Talking Crack.

Our last day, Friday, brought rain, but not until we climbed at the car park crags at Smoke Bluffs. The thirty-second approach bore stark contrast to the quad-busting staircase up to South Peak. What’s more, the view of the Smoke Bluffs’ parking lot was a gob-smacker. (Though High Mountain Woody is on my tick list, I figured given the dodgy weather, it was not the day to climb at the more atmospheric Malamute.) Happy to belay, Anne bundled up in layers. I gave her my Nano Puff which she improvised as leggings. Happy to take the sharp end, I led the 5.9 finger crack, Cold Comfort. We rapped down, coiled the rope and felt the first drops of liquid sunshine as the weather window snapped shut.

The spontaneous crack holiday merely reinforced my love of the curtailed work week and weakened my immunity to sun flu. Thanks a lot, Anne.









2013 WCN Annual Climb: Glacier Peak TR


Glacier Peak via White Pass and Disappointment Peak: July 12-15, 2013

Participants: Colleen Hinton (fearless cat herder); Diane Hennessey; Laurie Cullen; Laurel Fan; Daphne Rich; Robin Kodner; Mary Yocom; Paulina Varshavskaya; Clare Parfitt; Nancy Kim

Animal handlers: Cath Carine; Anne Tarver

Stock: Sumo the dog


With access to the North Fork Sauk road restored, Glacier Peak was the top choice for the annual climb after previous attempts stymied by poor weather or road closure. I had dismissed the objective as just another checkbox on the tick list, though others were downright giddy to bag this remote, wilderness volcano. Rightfully so.

The weather forecast was excellent, marred only by a 30 percent chance of showers on approach day. We met Friday at 6:30am in Seattle, picked up Laurie further north, drove to Darrington and arrived at the small trailhead parking lot just after 9am.

Colleen’s pack contained half a Trader Joe’s aisle and a tiny harness, consistent with her hybrid philosophy of ultra-heavy food and gram-weenie gear. DH’s kit went on a crash diet: a new McHale pack with mysteriously sourced, lightweight glacier gear. Clare’s burden was tall and listing to port.

The gang was on the North Fork Sauk River trail, elevation 2,120 ft., by 10:20am. Clouds kept us cool as we hiked a gently rolling path through old growth cedar, hemlock and silver fir, past bogs of giant skunk cabbage. At approximately five miles, we reached the Mackinaw shelter, a dilapidated affair, moss-riddled and carved with initials and an obscenity aimed at former president Bush. Sun broke through the cloud cover as we climbed the switchbacks, then contoured east. Valerian scent lingered. Penstemon, columbine, and Indian paintbrush were in bloom. A bumper crop of glacier lily carpeted open slopes in yellow.

We reached the intersection with the PCT, our rendez-vous point with Mary Yocom, a hair ahead of schedule. Mary had spent Thursday night at Mackinaw camp. We arrived at the trail crossing just before 4pm and reached White Pass shortly afterwards. The barometer was dropping as thickening storm clouds crept towards us. A ‘No Camping’ sign at the pass proper directs campers to sites in a small basin below with plenty of running water, a tree-sheltered kitchen area, and a canted privy with crappy ergonomics (pun intended) mitigated by a sublime view of Sloan Peak.

The wind kicked up; rain and hail followed. A dog barked in the distance. Must be Sumo, Anne and Cath’s low-rider, we thought. I made out a squat dog in a rain coat herding a not-too-tall figure toting a pink umbrella. Sumo, Anne and Cath dropped in for a visit as we were discussing summit plans. One team—Robin, Laurel and Paulina—would summit the following day, while Colleen, DH, Laurie, Clare and I opted to move camp to Glacier Gap. Mary intended to accompany us to the Gap. Daphne chose to remain at the pass. She had just come out of the Enchantments the day before. Sleep was appealing. Moreover, she had forgotten her boot insoles back at the car.

On Saturday, Robin, Laurel and Paulina rose at 3:30am for a 4:30am alpine start. The rest of us slept late, sipped morning coffee in the sun and broke camp at a social pace.

We pushed off around 11am, taking the Foam Creek trail just below the ridge and county line. It was good tread of alternating dirt and snow. Chubby marmots grazed, largely indifferent to our presence. When the path petered out we hopped to the other side of the ridge to reach the White Chuck Glacier where we booted our way north on soft snow, heavily cupped and runneled. Crimson pools of snow algae stood out against the whiteness.

Black bear tracks.

Black bear tracks.

At 1600-ish hours, we made high camp, elevation 7,200 ft., just as Robin, Laurel and Paulina rolled into town. As promised, we lit a stove for tea and served the happy summiteers. At 1700 hours, we bid adieu to the ladies who were White Pass-bound.


Gerdine Glacier and Gerdine Ridge

Gerdine Glacier and Gerdine Ridge

On Sunday, the four-day team heard the 5am rooster call. We left at 6:05am and cramponed immediately from camp on good-purchase, styrofoam snow. Our route, via Gerdine Glacier, Disappointment Peak and Cool Glacier, presented no crevasse issues allowing us to travel unroped for the entire ascent. We skirted the main ridge and stayed on snow as much as possible to avoid the time suck of crampon removal and ditched glacier gear before the final stretch, a 900-foot section of pumice followed by a short snow slope to the summit of the 10, 541-foot volcano.

Laurie, Colleen and Clare on top.

Laurie, Colleen and Clare on top.

At 9:38am, we were on top. At 9:39am, Colleen was blowing up a pink flamingo and dressing up in a trollop’s costume, a 50th birthday gift from DH presented to her in Terror Basin. For the summit photo shoot, she donned the infamous red latex skirt, hemmed to porn-star specifications, and a wig ostensibly made by passing a space blanket through a paper shredder. When we sat down for lunch, she stretched out on the snow, flashed a coquettish smile and whispered hello to a young man with a wispy Jesus beard.

“Hello,” Jesus mumbled awkwardly. Perhaps he was wondering what the fuck Mary Magdalene was doing atop Glacier Peak? He scurried off with his two apostles a comfortable distance away.

I ripped open a “Pocket Shot” of bourbon and passed it around. The summit was getting seedier by the minute. (Guide to Ultralight Boozing to come.)

As we ate, a solo skier arrived, the underdressed and overly fit lad we had seen at White Pass

“That’s one helluva outfit!” he cried enthusiastically. He had bivied on Disappointment Peak and was yo-yoing runs from the top. He’s from Bellingham. Robin lives in Bellingham. Hmmm.

As we talked, a deafening sound pierced the air. Holy fuck. A nimble fighter jet grazed us from above scaring the shit out of all present.

Gazing west, we could see all the way to Puget Sound; to the north, the glaciated relief of the North Cascades; to the south, the peaks of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Glacier’s height, isolation and central vantage point from which to view all points of the compass won me over.

After a mere hour and a half of relaxing in a spot protected from the wind, we began the descent. We roped up for a short spell below the pumice track at roughly 9,500 ft. on the Cool Glacier, then coiled our ropes and removed crampons for the rest of the trip to Glacier Gap. We broke camp and hiked to White Pass where Colleen had a surprise stashed. She served frozen Margaritas which tasted divine. I pulled out a chaser of chilled vodka to share.

On Monday, we woke to sunshine. We left at 8am for the hike down to the forest where we identified flowers and plants with the aid of DH, a walking Pojar and Mackinnon guide. At Mackinaw, we stopped by the river and stared. I read the water, mimed a 10 and 2 arc, casting towards a soft pocket. As we walked the last bit of trail, our minds fixed on the usual theme of creature comforts: real food, cold beer, cotton clothes and sandals.

Glacier Peak with a fantastic group of ladies. Check.

2012 Annual Climb: Sahale via Quien Sabe Glacier TR

Participants:  Colleen “Il Duce” Hinton (trip leader)

Dawn Chapel

Diane Hennessey

Clare Parfitt

Paulina Varshavskaya

Nancy Kim

Dawn Chapel hiking into Boston Basin.

The original plan for this year’s climb was such a distant memory, I had forgotten what it was. Like a shapeshifter, that plan morphed into different animals bearing little resemblance to the original since the weather gods were about to bestow a crap sandwich upon us: shitty weather followed by a day of partial sun followed by more shitty weather.

We met on Friday, July 20 with designs on doing the approach to something in the North Cascades that day. Maybe Sibley Pass to the Triad, possibly up Eldorado Creek to Eldorado or Dorado Needle or Austera, maybe a climb further east such as Black Peak. Clearly, we all skipped our dose of Ritalin. As you may have surmised by the title of this report, we did none of the above, and sought a permit for Boston Basin instead. At the ranger station in Marblemount, we learned that all six permits were taken despite sub-optimal weather, but two were available for Saturday night. Sold. Over the next hour, after exploring the sights of greater Marblemount to the soundtrack of thunder and rain, we checked three more times to see if any parties had bailed to free up a spot in the basin. Negative. Finally accepting defeat, we drove to Mineral Park Campground where we spent the night.

While it would have been good to get moving on Friday, I was pleased not to be slogging up in pissing rain with an oversized sponge on my back. Let’s not lie to ourselves. Rain in the North Cascades often feels unreasonably wet. Last year on the annual climb, we did the approach to The Brothers in a downpour and my last time in Boston Basin was a tragically sodden affair.

Saturday morning was dry, pleasant conditions for breaking camp and repacking our climbing packs. At 7:25am, we were on the approach and it wasn’t long before we caught glimpses of that serotonin-spiking hue of blue. By 10am, we reached camp. Snow lingered in the basin but we scored a great campsite on bare ground, large enough for our group’s three tents. We pitched our tents and inflated a couple of pink flamingos to lend a festive air to camp while yellow-bellied marmots looked on. Several rufous hummingbirds were hovering, drawn perhaps to the pinkness of our lawn ornaments.

The sun was shining with no wind or bugs to curse. Looking north to east towards the relief of Forbidden, Sharkfin and Sahale, we watched two large groups working their way up the Quien Sabe towards Sahale. One was a Mountaineers octet going up and over, descending via Sahale Arm, while the other was a 14-member party from the UW Foster School of Business. We split into two teams of three: Colleen, Paulina and Clare on a 30- meter rope and Dawn, DH and I on the 50-meter rope.

The going was easy without crampons so we booted the whole way, leaving red  impressions of our Vibram soles in watermelon snow, also known as snow algae. It was so red it looked like iron leaching from the rock rather than the cryophilic bacteria I’ve encountered in a lighter, pinker shade.

Boot track in watermelon snow.

Pack contents: one very large lunch (enough to feed me, Cols and her tapeworm Hortense), picket, ice ax, poles, a partially burned North Cascades map, Nano Puff, shell, hat, gloves, rain pants for glissading, 1.5 liters of H20, digital camera. Left behind: summit zucchini.

What’s typically a rock scramble to the top later in the season was now a traverse on steep snow. Prematurely, we had stashed our ropes, axes and other gear needed to protect the traverse with a running belay, so we were happy to call our lower bench the summit. Skirted by snow-capped peaks, we ate and pointed to places we had been and places we have yet to explore. Clouds scudded in at times obscuring our westward view towards Eldorado. To the northeast, Logan and the Fremont Glacier sprawled out. A postprandial inertia had settled and triggered fantasies of a summit bivy.

Colleen Hinton flashing the glissader’s grin.

Eventually, we mustered the energy to descend. Once below the crevasses, we pulled out our rain paints, took a seat on the snow and pushed off, glissading nearly all the way to the basin. At camp, we chatted with Kip, a climbing ranger who had just done the West Ridge of Forbidden where he encountered a solo climber (perhaps the fellow who passed us on the approach) and two other parties. Looking over at the infamous rap gulley, we spotted two static dots. We tracked the dots throughout the evening and made several bets on whether or not the dots would make it out of the couloir, off the glacier and back to camp before the sun slipped off the horizon. Around 10pm, Dawn and DH saw two lights appear on top of Forbidden and wondered if they were UFOs. Nocturnal summiteers, most likely, one of whom I guessed was Laurel Fan.

The camp scene.

As promised, Sunday brought clouds. The drab sky appeared mildly threatening, but the weather held for our hike down to the cars. Stay tuned for the next installment of  “Trip Planning in the Cascades and other Academic Exercises.”

Nancy Kim (left) and Dawn Chapel (right) demonstrating Dawn’s new invention: ultralight camp shoes. Remove insoles from climbing boots and attach to feet with prusiks and slings or voile straps.

Fall 2007 Newsletter

Clare has put together another newsletter, with photos and trip reports from the French Alps, the Ptarmigan Traverse, and Squamish.

Click here to download (PDF)