Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Heading South

It's been a while since my Washington birthday week adventures. The time has gone fast this February. I continue to wade through my online classes, though I think I am over the hump and the end is in sight. Many long drives from the north to south took me from the Canadian border to the northern tip of the Sierras. The frozen Eastern Oregon countryside made for an incredibly scenic drive, and the $1200 Suby is performing fine. I arrived in Tahoe just in time, with only partly nasty roads – that evening a regular winter storm hit and dropped a foot and a half of Utah quality snow.

The biggest event recently was the long-awaited President's Weekend Camp Highland Outdoor Science School Reunion. Thanks to the master planning by Ms. Dooley, and the hook-ups by Clay and J. Rose the gathering in Tahoe couldn't have been better. Two days of backcountry skiing started off the weekend. Each night was hot tubs, card games, and cocktails. It was amazing to see everyone back together and I caught up on so many stories.

Monday, Northstar-at-Tahoe was the first in area skiing I've done since Targhee – Clay and I rocked it from open til close, the rest of the CHOSS folks had to make flights Monday evening. Becca's big green vegi-powered truck offered support in the NorthStar parking lot and beyond. Tuesday, of course, I could barely move as my body recovered from the big vertical day. So I settled into Clay's living room to do homework and watch Olympic curling – I know what I'm gonna do when I get old. Which feels like its coming pretty fast sometimes – especially after a weekend of big ski days and late nights.

Today, got one more day of backcountry in. Clay, being the knuckle dragger he is, opted against the traversing and sent Becca and I off to climb from Incline Village by ourselves. The snow was soggy and thick but the views made up for it. Tahoe is truely a playground and I thank Clay Harvey for pointing me in the right direction and putting me in touch with folks that always have the adventure beta.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Blustery Chair Peak Attempt

My climbing partner Andrew wrote up a great report of my last adventure that can be found
here at

I have some more pictures of the climb. Thanks for checking in. ~ian

L: Andrew just below the N. Face of Chair Peak at the apex of the windstorm.

R: Defeated. Andrew decends from our high point (notice the spindrift bellowing off the summit).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Washington Winter Wallowing

Turned back by alpine snows, welcomed by desert sun

It was an eventful weekend in the Northwest for IanOutThere. Thanks to never-ending kindness of the Harvey family I was able to enjoy many adventures around Cle Elum. The rustic Harvey cabin has no running water, but it does have a great wood stove and strategic location, and was a great basecamp for a haphazard collection of weekend excursions. Michelle, recovering from an awful cold, came down from Bellingham carrying much needed gear (avalanche toys and Gore-tex). Andrew came over from Tacoma -the most useful thing he carried was a six-pack of JubelAle.

Andrew arrived late Saturday and we packed heavy bags in anticipation of an 'anything can happen' alpine adventure north of Snoqualmie pass. We had every alpine tool known to man, but we were none-the-less turned back by deep, slogging snows and intense avalanche conditions. The weather was in our favor, the route challenging in winter but do-able, a good team – wrong sport. All I could think as we took two steps forward and slid back one and half in our snowshoes: “Should've brought my skis!” Live and learn. The story of this winter for me is right time, wrong gear. You'd think I'd get it spot on by now, but the combination of winter variables will always make 'getting out there' a crap-shoot. Disheartened but not distraught Andrew and I choose the safe route: Scrabble, BBQ, and beers back at Casa de Harvey under cloudless skies.

Andrew left us for the rewarding work on lifeguarding at the YMCA, Michelle talked me into another night at the cabin and a rock climbing day at Vantage (AKA Frenchman's Coulee). I could think of worse things to be talked into. Vantage – what a cool desert climbing getaway. The temperature was damn near perfect and, while I had heard so much about the piss-poor rock quality, the climbing was still super fun and exactly what the doctor ordered. After ticking off a few steep climbs in the sun at the Feathers, we put the gear in the car and hiked out to explore the outer reaches of the Coulee as the sun set. Wide, dry canyons are framed by endless basalt columns, slight waterfalls pour from notches worn in the framework of the rock walls. The mighty Columbia looms just out of sight at the end of each drainage. This is big country.

These are some of the youngest (geologically speaking) rocks in Washington. With such abrupt countryside one can easily think back to the times when raging rivers and mighty ice sheets ruled this land. Now the desert dryness has replace the raging waters, but the ambience in still primevil.

The Sunshine wall is reached by a narrow hidden slot reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. It is high and the routes tower above you. As the sun set we walked the base of the deserted area, scoping bolted aretes, one-of-a-kind chimneys, and clean dihedrals. I can't compare the routes I stood below to any other climbing area (again, rumors of poor rock quality abound) but I'm undoubtedly putting the cams in my pack for my next trip to Vantage. See you there!