Winchester

First turns of the year! Aditya and I decided to try to make it to the Winchester fire lookout, up by Mt Baker. Originally the plan was the stay the night, but we both had birthday parties to go to Saturday evening.

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I got up at 5:15am to take my housemate to the airport, came home, packed the car, and left Seattle at 7, and got skinning at 11. Those four hours of travel time included the time it took to 1) buy a sandwich 2) put on chains 3) dig the car out of snowbank. While putting on chains, we were passed by a convoy of 12 jeeps, which put me in a moral quandary: 

  1. The jeeps are loud and disturb the peaceful experience I was hoping for
  2. I want to respect others’ choice of recreation
  3. One had a bumper sticker staying “Yeah, I’m killing the ozone!” (that’s a different environmental problem, but whatever)
  4. Me driving a normal car up here pollutes too
  5. Another had a search and rescue sticker, so I’ve gotta respect that, if one of them ends up saving my ass someday
  6. The jeeps seem like seem like so much of a better winter travel vehicle than my old Camry. I almost wanted to ask them for a ride up the road to Twin Lakes.

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Roaring Spring and South Sister

One year in the early 2000s, back home in Oregon from college in Pittsburgh, I turned on the tv and was treated to an episode of Oregon Field Guide. As I remember it, it was a special episode where the places they were going to show were so amazing and undiscovered, that they were going to keep their locations secret. I was treated to amazing footage of Roaring Spring, somewhere in the McKenzie River watershed, where an enormous waterfall spews forth from a hillside, with no aboveground river feeding it. Since it is fed by snowmelt percolating into the porous lava aquifer, its flow is relatively constant year round and by itself provides 1% of the summertime flow of the Willamette River. I vowed to myself that I’d someday go there, and the mystery over its location only increased my curiosity.

Well, over time, I eventually googled and found some research papers and articles about these falls (maybe people weren’t as quick to google back then?). These papers had photos of the falls and a hydrogeological map of the springs. I overlaid the map onto Google Earth and voila, I had my coordinates.

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 6.32.54 PMFast forwards around 10 years. I planned a trip to finally go to Roaring Spring for August 3 with my friend Kyle from way back in middle school. It was a reasonable drive from Salem, with only a mile or two of gravel road. We pulled off the road and scrambled down into a dry creekbed. After descending the creekbed, we traversed and bushwhacked through thick rhododendron bushes until we heard a faint roaring noise, which got louder and louder until we got to the edge of a ridge, and we saw… Continue reading

Gothic Basin / Del Campo

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Ralph on steep snow

Have you ever felt way in over your head? Three years ago, in 2010, I went on a backpacking trip, my third ever, to the West Fork Foss River Lakes. It was in June during the summer solstice, and being fairly new to backpacking in Washington, I was surprised by the amount of snow still on the ground. My friend Ralph and I camped on a little patch of bare ground next to Copper Lake, and the next day set out on the snow to see as many of the lakes as we could. We encountered steep snow between Little Heart Lake and Big Heart lake, which we negotiated…very carefully. Another party passed us going downhill, and noticing us struggling, asked us if we carried ice axes. Now here was a piece of equipment I didn’t know about! This planted the seed for me to think about taking a climbing class later that year when I overheard a colleague talking about one. I thought to myself, “Maybe after I take this class, I’ll be more prepared to do early season hikes!”

Fast forward to now. Last Sunday (July 14, 2013), on a night-before whim, I decided to go Gothic Basin with my friend and first gym climbing partner, Joseph. Continue reading

Inter Glacier Ski

Garrett, Eric, Lauren, and I, seeing that the conditions at Ruth Mountain (by Rainier) looked good the previous weekend, headed up there and ended up skiing Inter Glacier. Here’s Garrett’s TAY writeup. The highlight was definitely seeing a chopper land next to us. Read the trip report to find out why!

I treated this trip as a trial for how well REI rental mountaineering books fit me. With two pairs of socks on, I’m happy to report that they weren’t painful, they were just  uncomfortable, especially when on bare snow-free trail. But I expected that. A little hot spot on my right inner ankle.

On a sad note, when we got back to the car, a guy came up to us and asked whether we had been down to the river. We replied that we hadn’t, and the guy told us that 15 minutes ago a kid feel into the river. There were rangers and S&R looking for him. We found out later on that it was a family from Saudi Arabia (a riverless country) and the kid didn’t make it.

Motivations

I always like to think about my motivations for doing things. Reading Your Best Vacation is Someone’s Worst Nightmare triggered me to consider my climbing and mountaineering motivations again. I’d also recommend reading this essay on the behavioral economics/psychology of mountaineering http://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/mountaineering.pdf. The author says that classical economics is premised on rational people wanting to maximize pleasure and consumption. But this model is insufficient because people climb mountains, and mountaineering “tends to be unrelenting misery from beginning to end”. (If nothing else, the essay is worth reading for pithy observations such as “mountaineering suffers from the worst possible combination of long periods of stultifying boredom punctuated by brief periods of terror”). He sets out to examine why people are motivated to climb mountains and finds four reasons:
  1. To define themselves as mountaineers and gain the pride and prestige that comes with it
  2. To achieve the summit / a goal
  3. To master a difficult skill
  4. To get a new perspective on life / to search for meaning
As a recreational climber, and not the hardcore first ascensionist that the essay focuses on, I find my motivations to be much more diverse:

  1. Mountaineering sounded like an interesting skill to learn, I wanted to improve my outdoor skills
  2. I was looking for something new to do after work
  3. Meet people
  4. Consumerism / gear (sadly)
  5. Being outdoors is better than being indoors
  6. I am in awe of big things, and mountains are pretty much the biggest thing there is
  7. Enjoy going new places
  8. Like the feeling of going to work Monday morning and thinking about the unlikely places I’d been the past two days
  9. Scenery, beauty, photography
  10. Skiing is fun
I’ve always been somewhat proud that summitting Rainier wasn’t the reason I took the basic climbing class: I’ve always favored doing things for pleasure in the moment over doing things to achieve long-term goals. Thinking about this and the rest of my motivations makes me wonder whether both my tolerance for risk and what I think of as “normal” will continue to be pushed. I hope I won’t end up like my former dentist (who, btw if you’re concerned, I didn’t know very well at all). Or maybe I’ll be forever content doing basic climbs. Time will tell!