Saturday, March 31, 2018

Training and Hiking in Powell River

Teresa wanted to visit her parents, so we packed up the car, and our little dog and made the 20+ hour drive up the west coast of North America to her home town of Powell River.

Welcome to Powell River
 Powell River is located north of Vancouver, and although its on the mainland is separated from Vancouver by 2 ferry rides. There is no road connecting the town to the mainland because of large inlets and the rugged coast range. 

That is a long drive....
 Our drive up the I5 was uneventful, and we made a single non-stop 19 hour push all the way to the town of Gibson, north of Vancouver. We could not make all the way to Powell River in a single day because of the Ferry schedule. 

The next day we loaded up onto the final ferry and made our way.

Powell River ferry pulls into the dock
 In addition to the typical family visiting, I managed to get in some Denali training. Right out of my in-laws back-yard is access to a section of the Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) which includes a small and rugged hill called Scout Mountain. This made for some nice trail runs!

Powell Lake from the summit of Scout "mountain"
Summit bench overlooking the town of Powell River
My nieces and brother/sister in-law came up for a visit mid-week, the kids are growing fast. I was of course a bad-influence on them, getting them highly over-stimulated.

Trouble makers
 Teresa and Penny joined me on some hikes in the region. The higher elevations were still holding snow, and things were very wet, but we had a great time hiking around on sections of SCT.

Hiking old logging roads in the BC rainforest
Adventure dog prepares for a creek crossing
Log crossing
On one of the sunnier days, I decided to give one of the local coast range mountains a crack - Mt. Freda, one of the taller mountains in the range, but sitting at only 6500' above sea level. I thought it was going to be easy, but I was mistaken!

Summit bowl of Mt. Freda
I woke up bright and early, navigating 20 miles of active logging roads. The spur I was supposed to drive up off the main-line was buried in snow, so I had to park an extra few miles back from the trailhead. Good thing I packed the snow shoes!
Parked, packed up, ready to go.
Road is snowed in!
On the snow shoes went! I easily located the trail head and started up the very steep, timbered slopes. The going was very slow. The snow was deep and fairly unconsolidated, so I was sinking even in snow shoes. I got lost several times in the woods. The route winds its way up a steep, densely forested slope, before reaching a mellow, increasingly lightly forested ridge. Once on the ridge, the snow was even deeper and more powdery, making things even slower than back in the forest!

traveling in deep snow. The summit of Mr. Freda above

Looking back on the mellow ridge

Eventually I popped above the treeline, finally reaching the base of the actual summit climb.

I was unsure the best route, as the main face looked prone to avalanches, so I wandered around a bit, before finally settling on heading towards a corniced ridge off the main face.

Where did I come from?
 I was about 800 feet from the top when I reached the base of the corniced ridge line. It look somewhat dubious, and was intermittently going into a white-out. That combined with the lateness of the day (I was going to be late for diner with the family!) I decided to head back down, - summitless. It has taken WAY longer than I was expecting, 7 hours to climb 4000' -  sheesh! So I turned around and retraced my steps back down

Views on the descent.
I made it back to the car in 3 hours, and just barely made it back for diner!

A fun little trip, one of these days I need to spend more time in Powell River, but in the summer, so I can better explore the excellent alpine terrain, and the many rock climbing opportunities!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Owens Peak (8453')

I really like the very southern terminus of the Sierra Nevada range, its a very interesting landscape. The mountain range merges with high desert, creating resulting in a dry and hilly terrain that is covered with Joshua Trees, cacti and even some trees. With a recent snow deluge in the High Sierra, I made my way back down to Walker Pass, to hike up another mountain in this part of the range. 

Walker Pass -- Pacific Crest Trail head
 I set my sights on Owens Peak, which is a nice 20 mile round trip hike. Most of it on the PCT, so despite the length its pretty easy. I drove up from Fresno in the morning, and set out. As usual out of Walker Pass, I was the only one around.

The trail had some fresh snow, a bit of a novelty for a desert hike

Desert Hike

Local flora
 Eventually I could see Owen's Peak off in the distance. Its not a particularly aesthetic peak, just a bump on a ridge.

Owen's Peak in the back
 Eventually I made it to the Owen's saddle (8.5 miles from the TH) and from there, its cross-country up the south-west ridge of the peak. Its some sand, then boulder hoping and some easy scrambling. The path was well worn, and there were ducks everywhere marking the way.

PCT marker rght before going off trail

 After a while, and some surprisingly fun scrambling I reached the base of a head-wall covered in rime ice.

Owen's Peak headwall - look at all that rime ice!
Sometimes with these easy peaks, I don't honestly pay all that much attention to where I am going, and don't do much research. I didn't think there was any 3rd or 4th class scrambling on this peak, and the head-wall certainly had some. Oh-well, I scrambled up the headwall, following some loose- sketchy 3rd class rock reaching the top of wall. And then... of course, it was not actually the summit. So  down-climbed, and traversed along the wall, and then a few hundred more feet of easy hiking to the summit.

Actual summit - I'm not grumpy that I got lost on a easy hiking peak

Summit views - looking out into Indian Wells and the Owens valley

 Then it was a long hike back to the car. Good hike, a worthwhile place to visit in the cold winter months!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Training in March

March has been an interesting month. No big trips, but many smaller ones. I have been mostly training for Denali, which means lots of time at the gym, lots of hiking and lots of trail running. I am exercising at least 6 days week, for a minimum of 2 hours a day.

Although I have been climbing at the gym regularly, I have not been outside rock climbing much, just a trip to Kernville and to New Jack City. I am sort of putting rock climbing to the side until I get back from Alaska.

March 4th -- Cerro Alto 
 A great day trip to the coast to one of my favorite hikes, Cerro Alto. Its a great hill near Morro Bay with fantastic views from the top. Its even Penny friendly. 

My favorite people on the summit o Cerro Alto

Summit views!
 And of course the best part -- down to our favorite dog-friendly patio in Morro Bay for some lunch


March 10 - Snow Creek Trail - Yosemite

A jaunt up the Snow Creek Trail in Yosemite, I don't know why I had not been up there before. Nice views, and very few people. I'll have to go again, but bring snow shoes next time


Snow Creek Trail
 March 11 - Sport Climbing in Kernville

A break from training, a day of sport climbing in Kernville! Everywhere else was too cold and snowy, but Kernville was almost too hot!

Getting ready
Fun routes

March 17 - Trail Run - San Joaquin River Trail

I have been doing lots of trail running as part of my Denali training. I have always wanted to run the entire San Joaquin river trail, so I made it part of my training! Its the longest trail run I have done to date, about 16 miles. It was tough, but fun.

Early morning on the San Joaquin River Trail
The suffer-vest
Spring is here

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Squamish and Whistler

I spent a week in Whistler at a Keystone conference, and had the opportunity to get in a bit of outdoor activity (although not much). It was a great conference, I had never actually been to Whistler before, and it was really fun to have a meeting there!

Whistler village
 On one of the free afternoons I drove down to Squamish and did a quick hike up the Chief. It has very weird to be on that formation in the snow!

View of the Chief from Howe Sound Brewery

Heading up a snowy Chief trail!

South summit of the Chief
 I even managed to get in a day of skiing with my student. I have not been skiing in 12 years, but it came back quickly. Skiing is pretty darn easy, but its fun. Maybe I'll invest in some AT ski gear next year. Overall - fun meeting and a fun time on the BC coast.

Ski - fun

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Windy Mt. Shasta

Lesson - probably should have listened to the forecast. 

Michael and I made an attempt on Mt Shatsa, but got pummeled by hurricane force winds and did not even make it past Helen Lake.Still, we had some nice winter camping, and of course a mandatory trip to the Black Bear Diner :)

This is how good climbing trips start!
When we arrived at the parking lot, the sky was blue, but there was a conspicuous lack of cars in the parking lot. This made me immediately suspicious that the locals knew something that I didn't.

Well, we drove all this way, might as well head up the mountain.

Packing up

Blue-bird? What cold go wrong?
On the approach up we ran into a couple of guys who had been up at Helen Lake the night before, what they told us did not bode well. They had been hit by insane winds all night that collapsed their tent. They didn't even bother to try and summit in the morning because things were so bad. 

Still psyched
We decided to put our tent at Horse Camp, and then head up and see what conditions were like. Conditions turned out to deteriorate rapidly as the day wore on.

How do things look Michael?

Starting to get worse.....

And then the winds, they were so strong we could barley stand!

We made a strategic retreat, and dug our tent in for a night of winter camping

Camping - Michael likes orange a lot apparently
Crappy selfie
We then packed it up, and headed home, tail between our legs. Next time, I will actually listen to the forecast before making the 6 hour drive to Shasta!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Kaiser Peak with the family

Kaiser peak is my favorite training peak, easy access, lots of elevation gain and a short drive from Fresno -- its a peak I go back to again and again. As I train for Denali, I have made a few trips up, sometimes alone, sometimes with the dog, and sometimes all three of us go.

My lovely wife :)

Even Penny likes Kaiser peak
 The views are great, especially with some snow cover.

Looking towards the summit