Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cascade Mountains

Last Thursday I left Missoula and headed for Mount Rainer. The plan was to meet up with my good friends Brandon and his wife Katie to climb and then ski Rainer. After a little confusion trying to rendezvous, we ended up camping on the south side of the mountain.

A creek in the campground

Colcchuck Lake and glacier
Friday morning brought rain and with it, a bad forecast. Brandon, Katie, and I drove to the White river ranger station to meet a few others from Kalispel and to figure out a game plan. The forecast was for more precipitation and cold temps. After about an hour of himming and hawing, we decided just to go for a day ski on Rainer. Once at the trail head though, the rain was worse and Brandon, Katie, and I decided to tuck tail and head for better weather. The others stayed to ski.


Boot packing

The three of us drove to Leavenworth where we knew the skies would be blue and temps warm. We planned on climbing the Snow creek wall, but when we got to the trail head, there were closure signs due to peregrine falcon nesting. Skunked again! So we headed into town and waited for another climb to be in the shade before returning to the canyon. We finished the day climbing a nice short four pitch route followed with a great dinner.

Brandon and Katie

Colchuck summit

The next day we decided to hike into Colchuck lake and ski the Colchuck glacier. It is a nice 2,000 foot couloir between Dragon's Tail and Colchuck peak. The temps were great and travel went fast. Brandon is on the US Worlds ski mountaineering team and Katie is in incredible shape herself, so I did my best to keep up. It took us about 4 and a half hours car to summit (5 miles and 6,000ft vertical).
Representing Montana (western flare)

Brandon descending

Katie skiing to Brandon

The ski descent was a blast. The snow was firm and sun-cupped, but still very fun. We took turns leap-frogging our way down taking pictures and enjoying our position. We finished the ski and headed down the trail making it back to town in time for dinner!

The local at Colchuck

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Patrick and Cynthia Wed

Last weekend two of my best friend got married. It was a beautiful setting on Swan Lake two hours North of Missoula. They stood on the banks of the lake with snow capped peaks setting the background. The ceremony was short and simple. We spent most of the weekend visiting old friend and partying (aka lots of drinking and dancing).

Patrick and Cynthia

The dance party

Evening ambiance

Lake side partying


Petty Creek Route

Last Wednesday Karl, Brian, and I were looking to go flying. The forecast was calling for a very light NE (wrong direction), but Karl thought by the afternoon, the westward valley flows should overtake the regional wind direction. Since the winds were forecasted to be light up to about 25,000 ft, Karl and Brian thought Alberton would be the place to go.

Once on launch, we found the East wind to be present still. Since it was early and we were still optimistic, we decided to do some work on launch and set up the gliders. After about two hours the East wind was still slightly there, but launchable cycles were coming from the West. That would have to do.

Karl stood on launch for a while since conditions weren't optimal. Eventually he got what he was looking for and launched cleanly. I was next. There was a slight right cross leading me to believe the wind was from the North. After standing on launch for a while, I started contemplating bagging it. I didn't like the launch conditions. Suddenly the wind indicators pointed up the hill. I didn't hesitate and launched.

Immediately I found strong lift and knew it would take me to cloud base. After climbing for a few minutes at 800-1000 ft/min I was at 13,000ft. I looked down Petty Creek and knew I had to try for the crossing.

Jeff and I had talked about crossing the mountains from Alberton to the Bitterroot valley many times. It had yet to be done, but we knew it was possible. We knew it could only be done under certain condition since the few small landing options were in a tight canyon.

At 13,000ft with almost zero drift in the air, I knew these were the conditions that Jeff and I had talked about. Besides, I knew at this altitude, if I didn't try, Brian and Karl would kick my ass! I pulled full rope and went on glide. The temp was around -4c and with nothing more than biking gloves on, my hands froze quickly. 8 miles later I was over some landing zones and at 9,800ft. My hands started to painfully rewarm and when I could feel again climbed back up to 12,000ft. I could now see my next landing option 11 miles away. I again pulled rope and went on glide. At first I wasn't sure if I would make, but the air was buoyant and I eventually found my self over Elk Meadows at 8,000ft.

I was now over route 12 near Lolo but too low to make it to the main valley. With no lift I sank to 7500ft when I found a thermal. I focus hard knowing this thermal could get me high enough to make the main valley. At 8500ft I decided to shoot for Lolo uncertain if I would make it. I headed to the North aspect of the canyon where I hoped I would find lifting air. Bingo! On glide and at zero sink, I knew I could "cut the corner" and make it into the Bitterroot valley. With landing options everywhere, I headed down wind towards the town of Florence.

Landing in a field just short of Florence I had completed the goal. Immediately I was on the phone with Jeff and waiting for a ride. Moments later Brian landed in the same field having made the same crossing. We broke down while Jeff, Jeff, and Karl congratulated us on the new route.

White line indicates the route. (32 miles)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ninepipes Wildlife Management Area

Headed to Kalispel the other day and decided to stop at the Ninepipes Wildlife Management area along the way.

McDonald Peak

The Mission Mtns