Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Volcano Extravaganza: Diamond Peak

Oregon may not have the mountains of Washington (or Montana, or Colorado, or Wyoming, or California . . .) but it has the most spectacular volcanoes.  Peter and I have a goal for this spring: to summit as many Cascade volcanoes as we can before I leave for field work.  In early May the weather was warm and amazing, but thanks to the heavy snow year there is still great coverage on the mountains.  We decided to summit and ski Diamond Peak as our first objective.  For only being 8,744 feet tall, its a large mountain volumetrically.  It's a peak who's looming presence just draws you in.

We drove to the trailhead on Saturday night and slept in the car on the cold gravel road.

Testing out the travel pillow case I made for Peter for his birthday.

We awoke to a cold, clear morning.  After breakfast and quickly packing up, we were skinning the last half mile up the road to the trailhead.  In the trees the coverage was a bit patchy.  It may have warranted booting, but we did this instead:

Before long we were gaining a long ridge leading up to the west shoulder of Diamond.  The snow was nice, just soft enough for good skinning; and the weather was warm and sunny.  We stopped for lunch just below the tree line where the winds picked up.

I think he was mid bagel when I made him take this.

We traversed below a crumbly rock band on the south side of the west shoulder where the snow was quickly softening and sluffing under our skis.  With only a few hundred feet to the summit, we packed our skis and began booting along the summit ridge.

 Peter below the false summit

We reached the summit around 12:30 and snapped the obligatory summit photos.  The snow was looking to be perfect for the decent and it was definitely over sixty degrees on the snow.  Realizing that the conditions were perfect we couldn't pass up an opportunity for the spring skiing tradition of a BN (bare naked) descent.  
Mt. Bailey, Mt. Thielsen and the Crater Lake Rim

 The summit!

We skied to just below the ridge to get out of the wind and stripped down.  I chose to stay in my skivvies as I am more prone to the sit-down fall.  We skied amazing spring corn down to the denser trees and reclothed for the rest of the decent.

We worked our way through the trees back down to the road.  In a slightly different place from the way we went up, there was much less snow and a lot more of this:

Now that we have one peak ticked off our list, we are headed for the sisters this Memorial Day Weekend!  Stay tuned for the report!

Spring at Smith Rock

We are nearing the end of May and I'm happy to say I've made it out to Smith Rock a handfull of times already.  After our frozen Crater Lake trip, Peter and I drove up highway 97 to Terrebonne, a small town in central Oregon, and then the three miles through farms to the State Park Campground.  We were meeting a small group of UO geologists and one very happy retriever.

Kayak is a man's man.

It was a bit chilly so we took it easy and over two days, got a few good pitches in.  With Peter being somewhat injured, I got a lot of early season leading in to warm up my lead head.

 Kayak loves hiking!

 The Tunnel

 What a good crag dog!

 Snuggle buddies

 Lauren leading

A few weeks later a group of us went out on a sunny weekend.  We spent the first day in the Marsupials climbing Lusty Lady (5.8) and The Opossum (5.8).

 James and Nyle getting ready to send.

 Nyle with the first lead

 James leading Death of a Raven (5.8)
First pitch of The Opossum

 At the top of The Opossum

The next day we hit up a few pitches in the Pleasure Palace area to take advantage of morning shade.  In the afternoon, it was time for me to lead my first traditional multi-pitch climb!

Moscow (5.6) is the original 3 pitch climb up the Red Wall.  The rock was good and the climbing was great for the grade, easy enough for me to run it out (maybe to an alarming degree).  Near the top of the third pitch, on a neat slab dihedral with a wide crack, I got stuck.  Very stuck.  A few feet above my last piece I sunk my right foot deep into the crack.  As I attempted to step up and cram as much arm as I could muster into the crack (a surprising amount), I realized my foot was perfectly wedged into a constriction.  Concerned, I called down to Peter that my foot was stuck, he laughed before realizing that I was not feeling very lighthearted about it.  With no solid hands I tried to wiggle free with no luck, Peter suggested I put in a piece in before freaking out (now why didn't I think of that?)  I put a 4' cam in above my head and took to examine the situation.  I tried jerking it out by the heel loop, no luck.  I tried taking my shoe off, unsuccessful.  Finally after much grunting and pulling and shoving and swearing I managed to dislodge my foot, happily overcoming the first wrench in my trad climbing experience.  The rest of the climb went down wonderfully.

The very next weekend we were back for more.  Our friends from Seattle, Rip, Sarah and Jeremy, were headed to Smith for the weekend so we met up with them.  The first day, Peter and I found another 5.6 trad route on the Red Wall for me to lead while Sarah and Rip climbed Moscow.  Super Slab (5.6) was backed up with Mazama teams taking a test.  The climbing was slow going and we ended up spending almost an hour at a single belay ledge.  Regardless, the climb was a blast and I was ready to hit up something harder.

After our respective multi-pitches we lazily climbed a few single pitches in the area.  I had the pleasure of top roping Chouinard's crack (5.9), one of the better cracks at Smith.

The next day Peter, Sarah, Rip and I climbed Spiderman (5.7) on the Spiderman Buttress. Once again we were held up by Mazama groups, but it was worth it for my favorite trad climb yet!

Sarah and I at the top of pitch 1

 Me leading the crux of pitch 2

Rip following pitch 1

Top of Spiderman Buttress

Scared away by the busy weekends, we made our next trip out on a Monday.  After skiing Diamond Peak on a Sunday (story to come), we camped at Smith on Sunday night and headed for the Marsupials to climb Thin Air (5.10).  The route is three pitches up the south arrete of Koala Rock.  One pitch of trad followed by two bolted 5.10 pitches made it challenging and super fun.  Peter led the first pitch which started as a 5.8 sinuous finger crack (for me anyway) and a short bulge/roof followed by a clean slab fist crack.  We swung the next pitches of .10a and .10b and finished with a short scramble to the top of the crag.  We simul rappelled off the back and skated down a terrible scree slope to finish it off.

Looking for a little adventure, we found a moderate mixed route to the top of the Wombat, the highest rock at Smith.  Birds in a Rut (5.7) zig-zags up the face over lichen and more sketchy flakes that I would prefer.  Every pitch had a little crack action were we could place a few pieces and was, overall easy climbing.  Pitch 5 is an amazing corner stem that I would do again in an instant.

Then it was the final pitch, mostly a scramble with a few 5.7 moves.  To top off our adventure we decided to do something ridiculous: top out the climb naked (sorry mom).

Coming soon:  Skiing Diamond Peak and why we on a naked sports kick to begin with!