Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mt. Rainier 2014

I am super excited to announce that this Labor Day weekend, on September 2, 2014, I will take on my next biggest mountaineering goal, Mt. Rainier, with a guided attempt with RMI Expeditions.  Mt. Rainier, which stands at 14,410 feet above sea level, is the most glaciated mountain in the lower United States.  Located in the Cascade Range within Washington State, Mt. Rainier is also the most prominent peak in the lower United States and the 21st most prominent peak in the world - which means that it is massive, and one of the best.  In addition to that, its an active volcano with frequent earthquake tremors, but has not erupted since 1894.

This plan has been in place for a few months now (I'm very very sneaky), and I've been getting ready for the next biggest adventure of my life.  As with any cross-country adventure, and high-altitude climb, a lot of planning and training is necessary.  Adventure planning is sort of my thing, and climbing, well that sort of is too...I've climbed almost 200,000 feet of elevation, over 120 mountains (above 4,000 feet) since January (8 months), and completed some lengthy endurance hikes in that time, along with bagging every New England 4,000-footer last winter.  Will it be enough to help me attempt Rainier? I hope so, but you never know until you're there.

I will be joining a guided team for RMI's 4-day program, and 2-day summit attempt via the Disappointment Cleaver or Ingraham Glacier route.  This depends on the conditions and the decision of the guides/team which will be made from Camp Muir at 10,060'.  The climb is approximately 15 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 9,000 ft.  Per the plan, I will be leaving Camp Muir for the summit around midnight on September 3, 2014.

You will be able to track the progress of my climb via my Spot Messenger, by clicking on the link or right here on my blog home page.  Tracking will be active September 2-3, 2014. Bookmark it!

RMI will also post a couple of dispatches on their blog regarding the team's progress and status on the mountain.  CLICK HERE to bookmark the blog dispatches for all RMI teams on Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainier Weather
Here are some links to check out the weather and current conditions on Mt. Rainier, including two webcams.

Camp Muir Webcam

Mt. Rainier Pack List
CLICK HERE to see my entire gear list, and what I'm bringing! You'll also see how I tweaked it to make sure I have all of the required items.

My Complete Rainier Adventure Plan & Itinerary

Air Transportation by Jet Blue

Aug 29
Depart Boston at 7:05am Friday, arrive in Portland at 10:13am (Portland time)

Sep 4
Depart Seattle at 10:50pm, arrive in Boston at 7:00am Friday

Rental Car

Enterprise Car Rental
August 29-September 5
Intermediate SUV

Accommodations in Ashford

Whittaker’s Bunkhouse
August 29, 2014 - September 1, 2014
& September 3, 2014

RMI Pre-Trip Checklist
Purchase travel insurance - Did not Purchase
Return the Registration Packet to the RMI Office. - Completed
Arrange Lodging in Ashford. - Confirmed
Arrange Transportation to Ashford - Confirmed
Reserve rental equipment. - TBD

Detailed Trip Itinerary
(*Includes specific details directly from RMI's website)

August 29, 2014

6:00am                  Arrive at Logan
7:05am                  Depart Boston
10:00am (local)      Arrive in Portland at PDX
10:00am-12:00pm Retrieve luggage, pick-up rental car
12:00pm-4:00pm   Drive 2hr 15 min to Ashford, WA My Driving Directions
3:00pm-11:00pm   Check in at Whittaker’s Bunkhouse & Free Time

August 30, 2014:

Free day near Ashford, WA - We'll see what happens!

August 31, 2014

3:00pm - 6:00pm   Pre-Trip Orientation

We will meet at 3:00 p.m. at Rainier BaseCamp in Ashford, WA. Please dress casually and bring your climbing equipment and clothing.
*Note: Whittaker Mountaineering Rental Equipment is available for pickup after 12 p.m.

We begin our Pre-Trip Orientation with a welcome and introduction of team members and guides. The afternoon is spent providing a focused introduction to a variety of topics and preparing climbers for the ascent. This includes a detailed personal equipment discussion and gear check; an introduction to safety practices including use of helmets, harnesses, and avalanche transceivers; and instruction regarding Leave No Trace practices and environmental considerations.

Please make your own arrangements to stay in the Ashford area this evening.

September 1, 2014

8:15am                Mountaineering Day School

Meet at 8:15 a.m. at Rainier BaseCamp. Course runs to 5:00pm. Please arrive dressed for hiking, packed with your Mountaineering Day School gear.

The Mountaineering Day School is spent training on the lower slopes of Mt. Rainier. Climbers are introduced to a number of skills, from the foundational techniques of efficient mountain travel (rest-stepping and pressure breathing) through cramponing, roped travel, and ice axe arrest practices. The training is a great introduction to mountaineering for novice climbers as well as refresher for those with previous experience, ensuring that all climbers have the basic skills to climb safely and comfortably together on the mountain.

Please make your own arrangements for the day’s meals and a place to stay in the Ashford area this evening.

September 2, 2014

8:15am                Start of Climb

Meet at 8:15 a.m. at Rainier BaseCamp. After a short team meeting, a shuttle takes our group to the trail head at Paradise. The hike from Paradise (5,400') to Camp Muir (10,060') is nearly 4.5 miles and takes most of the day. Once at Camp Muir, the guides will address the specifics regarding the climb, including route conditions, food, equipment, clothing recommendations, and any further questions you might have. Accommodations at Muir consist of a small mountain hut with bunks and sleeping pads. After dinner we retire to our sleeping bags to rest for the upcoming summit attempt.

September 3, 2014

12:00am-1:30am Summit Day

On summit day we don ropes, crampons, helmets, and grab our ice axes. The route begins with a rising traverse across the Cowlitz Glacier and ascends the pumiced switchbacks of Cathedral Gap. From here, we gain the Ingraham Glacier and ascend either the Ingraham Glacier or Disappointment Cleaver routes; the actual route choice is determined by many factors and is left to the professional discretion of your guides. The steeper section of the Ingraham Headwall or Disappointment Cleaver is the physical crux of the route. After reach the upper mountain, we ascend the higher slopes of Mt. Rainier, navigating the crevassed glaciers to reach the summit.

At 14,410 feet, Mt. Rainier is the highest point in Washington. The summit is spectacular with panoramic views from the Pacific to the eastern side of the Cascades when the weather is clear. A large crater dominates the summit, with steam rising out of the cavernous summit vents and the bare ground near the summit is often warm to the touch.

After reaching the summit, we descend back to Camp Muir. The descent typically requires half the amount of time of the ascent but requires significant effort as we retrace our route down the mountain. The duration of the climb depends on many variables including snow conditions, the time of the year, the route conditions, the weather, and temperature among others. Once back at Camp Muir, we gather our gear and descend back to Paradise. At Paradise, a shuttle takes the team down to Rainier BaseCamp. In Ashford we gather as a team to celebrate our adventure.

The duration of the climb depends on many variables including snow conditions, the time of year, the route conditions, the weather during our climb, the temperature, etc. Those variables often affect our arrival time to Ashford, which might vary dramatically from climb to climb. For this reason we do not recommend scheduling an airline flight before midnight on the last day of your program.

6:00pm-11:00pm Return to Whittaker’s Bunkhouse

September 4, 2014

11:00am              Check out of Whittaker’s Bunkhouse
11:00am-4:00pm Drive to Seattle Airport Driving Directions
8:00pm                Be at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
10:50pm              Depart Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

September 5, 2014

7:00am                Arrival at Logan Airport, Boston

Important Contact Information

RMI Expeditions (Rainier Mountaineering, Inc) (Website)
Phone: 1-888-89-CLIMB (1-888-892-5462) or Local: 360-569-2227
Physical Address:
30027 SR 706 East
Ashford, WA 98304


Whittaker’s Bunkhouse Hotel (Website)

Physical Address:
30205 State Route 706 East
Ashford, WA 98304

Phone: 360-569-2439

Mount Rainier National Park (Website)

Physical Address:
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

By Phone: 360-569-2211 or 360-569-2177 TDD (Park Headquarters)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hancocks for Sunset - 8/1/14

With July behind us, it was time to see what peaks were needed for August.  This summer has been loaded with family outings, more so than the last few years.  That's been totally awesome, and it's only allowed for hiking on different days, rather than both days every weekend.  With a party for Saturday to attend, my brother and I set out sights on a Friday night sunset hike for the first of August.  Our peak selection was the Hancock's. 

Hancock Notch Trail
A high squirrel doesn't give a sh*t about us
We got there in good time after work, being prepared the night before, as usual.  Bill was excited to get out again after another stint of not hiking much.  For this one, we each brought a beer to enjoy at sunset.  I've been stashing whatever I can to add weight to my packs lately anyways for training purposes so no problem with that.  Immediately after starting up the trail, I nearly stepped on a squirrel that didn't move as it ate something.  You know when you're watching the person's feet in front of you? Well Bill almost saw the squirrel get squished. After we both passed, it moved off the trail in a stumble.  We found that it didn't want to leave the mushroom it was snacking on.  Perhaps it was a funky mushroom. After the funny squirrel, we pushed it up the trail,  because we needed to move to make sunset.

The stream at the bottom of the dip on the North loop
Hancock Loop junction with nice colors
We decided on doing North Hancock first.  It was the best shot at actually seeing the sunset, as South Hancock outlook faces the east.   We kept up the effort up the steep trail, as time was fading to make sunset.

Arrow Slide from the loop trail
Hancock Loop to North Peak
With literally only two minutes before actual sunset we arrived at the summit of North Hancock.  The sky was a nice color.  The clouds seemed to reflect and have some color to them.  The orange ball of the sunset was just visible for a couple of minutes through the trees.  The temperature was nice, it was good, and we cracked open one of the pints and toasted to a nice sunset summit of North Hancock.

View from the North Hancock outlook
Sunset from North Hancock
Have some Mo

Feeling rejuvenated and ready to go, we set off across the ridge.  It was just a perfect weather night, and no one around.  We checked out possible spots to enter from the Captain, since we're headed out there soon, and maybe this winter.  It had just about gotten fully darkas we approached South Hancock, and somewhat thick cloud cover contributed to that.  We went to the lookout, and could see the lights on Route 302, which was a new sight.  In the day,  you don't see any civilization.  We busted out the second pint and enjoyed another 4,000 footer summit.

South Hancock

The hike down was nice and smooth, just like the beer we drank.  What a nice Friday night hike.   It was my 6th time to the Hancock's,  3rd time for my brother and his first time without snow.  We then got a good night sleep before having a great time with cousins and friends at the party on Saturday.

Hike Stats
Trails: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop
Distance: 9.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,713 ft.
Actual Book Time: 6:30
GPS Track: Garmin Adventures

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mt. Moosilauke & South Peak for Sunset - 7/30/14

This little adventure here is another one of my recent mid-week night jaunts up above 4,000 feet.  This time, it was the convenient Mt. Moosilauke on Wednesday, July 30th, and I had a date with sunset on the summit.  I'm hardly ever late for anything except work, but either way my goal for this one was to work hard, stay on point, focused, and push myself to guarantee my arrival for sunset....and then, of course, enjoy it!  With it being 6:15pm and just the Glencliff Trail ahead, I know that it wouldn't be a problem, as I've done this whole hike in 3.5 hours before.
The field before the start of the Glencliff Trail
Glencliff Trail to Moosilauke 
TIP: An evening hike up the Glencliff Trail is always nice because
you have the setting sun for longer on the West side of the Mountain
Indeed it was not a problem.  I made it to the Carriage road, three miles up in one hour flat at 7:10pm, which meant I had plenty of time to visit South Peak before sunset at 8:14pm.  I had not been to South Peak since April of 2012, so I was excited to be up here with such great evening weather and an awesome view of the Moose. 
South Peak spur, with the sun shining through the trees 
Moosilauke, South Peak with the main peak being the tallest
Panorama from South Peak  
After a few short minutes, I dipped back down the spur to the Carriage Trail and started up the last .6 miles to summit.  I arrived at 8:06pm, just a few minutes under two hours from my start, and 8 minutes early for my date with sunset.  This was my 9th time to the summit of Moosilauke, and my 90th 4,000 footer in 2014.  After pushing it up the mountain at nearly 3mph, I took a lengthy break up on top, about 40 minutes enjoying the beautiful night.  The moon was out with the sunset, and it was clear and the most calm ever on Moosilauke. I did not see a single person the entire time, which really made this hike and summit special because its rare, even if it was a Wednesday night.
Sunset from the summit of Moosilauke 
My 9th Moosilauke summit 

After finishing this one, I drove back to MA, arriving home at midnight.  Its totally awesome that certain days I can leave work, drive to NH, bag a 4,000-footer, and get home by midnight.  I need to get these mid-week jaunts on a more strict schedule with myself.  However, I can promise that there will be a couple of these in the next two weeks, as I get ready for an upcoming adventure.  Thanks for reading! 
Hike Stats
Trails: Glencliff Trail, Moosilauke Carriage Road
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,731 ft.
Actual Book Time: 4:45

Bushwhack to Bear Pond, Redrock Ravine - 8/9/14

This adventure has been my list for some time, and a few months ago, my brother and I set the date in stone.  Lots of lead up discussion as we prepared.  I have all sorts of ideas lately, with a few upcoming trips that are recons for a possible winter adventure, including this hike.  I was hoping we'd get a chance at West Bond from the pond, with a bushwhack descent down the west ridge, but it didn't happen this time.  However we were excited to make it here, and it was an awesome new adventure in a place I love.

It's always fun when there's an opportunity for nights out in the wilderness.  We had our big packs with us for this one, with hammocks and tarps and lots of food...a bit of weight compared to my day treks, but you'll see why in short time that its just helping me prepare for my next adventures...after all, this year's Cross Pemi Bushwhack (we also call it the big pack bushwhack) is just a couple of months away.  This was a nice little practice run for that.
Ready to rock it!
Friday afternoons are hell now if you're trying to get home and get going to the White Mountains, so by the time we were heading up Lincoln Woods Trail it was about 7:30pm.  Either way, we knew we'd be camping the night before making it to the start of the bushwhack.  We made it to the Pemi bridge in about an hour, where we were just minutes from losing daylight.

At about 10:15pm, we arrived to Hellgate Brook on Franconia Brook Trail, where we pre-planned to stop in this situation of a slightly later start.  Turns out, there are others camping in the same areas which we've passed before.  We looped back between the trail and Lincoln Brook, and found a previously used spot, and set up quickly.  Once set-up, the next objective was to hang our food, which we did about 250 feet towards Lincoln Brook - a problem though, a quick torrent of a downpour came, and we had not put up the tarps because it looked like we were going to avoid any rain, given how late it was now.  We ran back as fast as possible through the thicket, and secured camp before our down bags got soaked.  We then went back to the bag to secure the ends, and hoist it up.  By then it was almost 11:30pm and there was no more rain, but a headlamp starts coming towards our set-up.  I hop out, to greet the person, who was looking for birch bark, and he informed me he was expecting others.  Lo and behold, its now almost 1:00am, and headlamps are slowly creeping towards our camp.  You've got to be kidding me! Almost 6 miles from the trail head, and I've got people approaching my hammock at 1:00am.  I wasn't expecting that, but I guess it's getting tougher to find true wilderness in the White Mountains.  They got close enough to realize we weren't the party they were looking for, and backed off, but they did wake us up.    
Ready to get up to Bear Pond
Nice morning walk
After getting some additional zzz's in, we got going up the Franconia Brook Trail sometime around 9:00am on Saturday morning, where we met a fellow Jim who was heading to 13 Falls.  It was a nice day, and I could feel us wanting to get up there, so we moved right along one mile up to the crossing of Redrock Brook.  Here, Jim was not too far behind, and we engaged in some interesting conversation as we took a break.  My brother and I were crafting the next segment of the route to get to Redrock Ravine.  One can follow Redrock Brook by staying to the left on all forks to get to Redrock Ravine.  We learned through other trip reports that it may be helpful to find an old railroad grade that meets the FBT just a bit further up from the crossing of the Redrock Brook.  After the chat, and actually switching to shorts (because it was heating up), we set off, passing the brook to go a bit further before heading in on the bushwhack.   
Redrock Brook geological survey marker 
Redrock Brook at the Franconia Brook Trail
We walked for about 10 minutes at pretty quick pace, and sure enough we started to see what we were looking for, which was a grade coming down from the right to meet the trail.  There are hand-drawn maps we researched that show the old logging camps and suspected railroad paths of the old system.  We took our best guess and started to the right off the FBT.  Within five minutes, we were on an obvious former railroad grade.  It then seemed to swoop closely to the river.  At times on the way up we noticed the grade would disappear, but then reappear slightly higher up, likely due to varying erosion along the way over the last 200 years.  Sometimes it appeared to be a herd path.  First thought to our head was that animals also take the easiest route.  As we continued further along, it seemed easier to stay with the grade, but it was getting slightly tougher because there is some elevation gain further up, and bushwhacking is a lot of extra effort.
A log creates a waterfall in Redrock Brook, about .2mi up-brook from LBT 
Well over a mile into our bushwhack, I spotted some rusty materials on the ground just in front of us.  As we looked down, we observed what appeared to be a dismantled stove, presumably from Logging Camp 14 back in the late 1800s.  Stove No. 30, it was, and it appeared to be a former stand-up stove, with a base, and probably a tall back with cupboards given all of the doors and sides.  Along with that, there were a couple of saw blades.  I have to say this was wicked exciting to see! We were making choo-choo sounds, imagining the workers working along the grade, and shipping out the wood.  Another fun find was a deflated Mini Mouse balloon, which likely landed who knows when after some poor child probably let it go from you wonder where?  I took it with us to carry out.    
Remnants of an old stove we found along the bushwhack
Lots of stove-top pieces, sides, doors, and what appeared to be a base
Saw blades
NO 30 is displayed on one door of the stove
***Please note that these items are artifacts, and it is illegal to remove them from the national forest.

Here is the mini mouse we saw
After the exciting find, we continued up in elevation, staying to the left at each fork (especially if you stay close to the river).  We could see that we were almost there, but just as we started to get close, it got a bit thicker. For the first time, we got to the right side of the dry stream bed, where we could see the opening on the other side.  We bee-lined it through the thick scrub to the opening.   
Last push to Bear Pond, we proceeded just to the right of the riverbed
So close I can taste it! 
Wait a minute....where's the pond? Oh, its behind the tall grass
When you step into a special spot, you know it and you feel it.  That's what we felt as we stepped into Redrock Ravine, about 9 miles from the nearest road, and 2.5 miles from Lincoln Brook Trail.  We followed an apparent animal path over to the right, where we hoped to find a suitable place to set-up our camp.  There is basically one open area under the trees for a camp spot, and its not completely flat, but perfect for our hammocks.  It was about 3:00pm then, and we focused on getting set-up so that we'd have some time to poke around and relax after a rather unrelaxing first night.
Two hammocks, one tarp, awesome set-up
The talus slope from the camp spot
Bill filters water for dinner from Bear Pond before we go explore
After getting everything situated, we set out for our recon of this majestic and remote place.  Bear Pond is a glacial tarn, and Redrock Ravine is sometimes called a glacial cirque, where long ago, massive glaciers carved this amazing place (as well as the rest of the White Mountains).  The prominent talus field visible lies on the southern slope of Southwest Twin.  The Twinway Slide rises to the Twinway Trail, with its tail an apparent chute leading to the ravine floor.  A most unique view of West Bond lies to the southwest.  The Pond sits high up in the ravine, and from the talus slope, the view down and out into the Pemi Wilderness was just incredible.  Nice breezes made the surface of the pond appear as if it were dancing in the wind.
Talus slope of Southwest Twin 
The Twinway slide 
The setting sun reflects off Guyot, and West Bond sits in the shade 
Thanks to Bill for capturing many of these great shots 

West Bond and its western ridge over Bear Pond  

We circumnavigated the pond....slowly, which has only small animal paths here and there. Pretty purple flowers, as well as others, surrounded the pond, as tons of monarch butterflies blanketed and fluttered about them.  The dragonflies were bigger than any I've ever seen, and we captured photos of them with their reflections in the glass water of Bear Pond.

Butterflies of Bear Pond
Dragonflies of Bear Pond
Once back to our spot, we established our bear-bag spot, which was at the end of the open area we were in.  We cooked some new AlpineAire freeze-dried meals we brought to try, and they were pretty good! After finishing, we grabbed a few snacks to keep for later, and hoisted the bag.  We've used a bear-bag almost anytime we needed to protect our food, except a canister on Whitney, so we have a good system that works, and I can do it myself fairly easily.  After that we chilled out for a little bit, making camp comfortable, and just tinkering around.

It was a beautiful night, except there were bugs.  They were manageable, and it was tough to be fully frustrated by the midges and mosquitoes. An occasional breeze pushed them away for a few, especially out in the open.  The entire time, we only heard a couple of planes, but there was no other noise except for the both of us.  Other than the flies and insects, and one darting fish I saw in Redrock Brook, there were little signs of other wildlife near the pond.
The moon reflects off the rocks, lighting up the area
Later on, well after the moon had risen over West Bond in the south, we ventured out to the talus slope to take in the beautiful full moon.  The moon was so bright, it was almost impossible for a perfect quality photo.  The entire ravine was lit up as if it were still twilight.  I've seen many full moons, but to sit on the talus slope here, and take it in... people come here...but very few, I'm sure, hang on out talus slopes in the full moon.  Even though the moon was out so brightly, it was still epic stargazing.
The best photo of the moon, stars, lightening Redrock Ravine 
The moon reflected off the talus, while stars shone brightly above SW Twin  
....and also amazingly above the Twinway
After about an hour hanging out on the talus slope, we ventured back to our spot where we enjoyed a very small morale campfire in the ring we found.  We also had some nice beverages and talked about the amazing day, the awesome-ness of being in such a cool place.  We then retreated to our hammocks for the night.  Not a sound, nada nada all night.  I slept so good, that the next morning my brother took down his entire hammock and had to shake me to wake me up. I was totally shocked, but that is why I'm better off out here than at home.  We woke, and got ourselves ready to go fairly quickly around 8:30am, as we wanted to make excellent time out of here, and get home at a reasonable hour.  The sunrise bounced off Southwest Twin and reflected its image in the water which was smooth as glass.  It was like..."Please don't go!" It's so darn hard to leave sometimes, but we did.

We pretty much followed the same path that we took in.  We came, once again, to the awesome fern patch and possible former logging Camp 14.  This time, we took some additional photos.  On the way out, we wanted to hit the log waterfall for more photos, but the old railroad grade, we found, stayed much higher than we took note of on the way in.  By following the easier grade, we found ourselves just a couple of hundred feet from the trail, covering almost .6mi in just a few minutes, taking an easier route than the first 1/2 mile on our way in.  I took note for my next time out here. 
Bill and I believe that we have natural-born navigational skills :) 
Imagine railroad workers possibly camping and working here in the 1890's 
Fern glade along the bushwhack to Redrock Ravine 
This would make a very nice winter camping spot too
Back on the FBT, we traveled at over 2.5 mph all of the way to the end, but not without enjoying the beautiful morning, passing Redrock, Hellgate, and the beaver ponds, which we passed in the dark the day before.  As with all walks along the Lincoln Woods, we felt our feet, the soreness taking over.  I was telling my brother how many times I've done at least out-and-back on this, and its somewhere around 12-15 times.  I reminded him he's done it more than a few times himself.  There is no use complaining any longer.  We crossed the bridge, and arrived back at the car safely and still happy.  The next required order of business was a nice ice cold refreshing dip in the East Branch of the Pemi to cap it off.
Franconia Brook Trail crossing of Redrock Brook 
A beaver pond along the Franconia Brook Trail 
The suspension bridge at Lincoln Woods
This is the same pool we dipped in after our first dayhike to the Bonds 
The Route
When venturing out to places such as Bear Pond, please practice leave-no-trace so that others for years to come can enjoy its beauty. Thank you.

Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Franconia Brook Trail, bushwhack
Distance: 18.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,466 ft.
Actual Book Time: 41:51