Sunday, January 15, 2012

Island Peak - 264 Days to Departure - Mt. Teneriffe

In the summertime when you climb nearly 4000 ft and you find yourself atop a mountain with all the views hiding in clouds, it can be a little disappointing. In the winter it is a different game altogether. The light snowflakes gently falling from the overcast sky, blanketing everything with fresh powder that then transforms the trail into a winter wonderland and crunches under one's feet, that can be a fully satisfying experience on its own.

There was a light dusting of snow on the trail when we arrived to Mt. Teneriffe trailhead around 9:00 a.m. Strapping snowshoes on our backpacks, we headed up. With the first part being an easy walk up the road, nearly flat and with good traction, we arrived to the intersection with Kamikaze Route in no time. As planned we took the more challenging (= more rewarding) route and continued on yet another old logging road.

With the distance we covered already, we started to wonder about the nearly 4000 feet of elevation gain this train promised. And the further we walked on the beautifully snow dusted yet only very gently rising road, the more obvious it was that there is a real challenge awaiting us ahead.

We arrived at our second intersection. A sign posted here directed us to Kamikaze Falls. Finally we left the road and started gaining elevation. Just as expected the gain was rather serious and it continued all the way to the summit.

About a mile after leaving the road we passed semi frozen Kamikaze Falls and while taking photographs, we witnessed a large piece of the ice tearing from its base, and with a crushing thump plummeting down the face of the waterfall. From a safe distance it was a impressive thing to watch.

The trail got more snow cover with elevation we gained and in around 3000 feet the conditions were good. The trail was covered with a layer of fresh gripping powder, as we proceeded up the ridge towards the summit... and then, all of a sudden, our ice axes slipped through the fresh layer to an abrupt stop. It was about 800 feet below the summit where an icy crust hiding below the layer of fresh snow provided us with an extra challenge.

It was slow going from there. Parts of the trail were OK, part, even with microspikes rather slippery. Exercising extreme caution, and taking few slips, we safely made it to the very cold summit with no views where we spent whopping 5 minutes, and headed back down.

After the initial 800 feet of descend, things went pretty well. There was about 3 inches of very fresh snow on the trail making it look completely different that when we were huffing and puffing our way up earlier that day, and the amount of new snow kept consistent all the way back to the trailhead with plenty more coming down.

Seems like the winter is finally here this year!

RT: 6.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,860 feet

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Island Peak - 272 Days to Departure - Arrowhead Mt.

The best gym is the one that is not enclosed in 4 walls, it's the one where a line of treadmills is replaced by a path along a bubbly creek and where instead of going from nowhere to nowhere on stair climber, after few mile of a workout one arrives at a vista with beautiful views.

The best training for a climbing expedition is to go out and hike, and scramble, and have fun while doing so.

Arrowhead Mountain offered both a good workout and an amazing day outside playing in the snow. We worked first, climbing steeply though a forest, and then, when we arrived at the ridge, the fun part started. Still uphill but now in a winter wonderland surrounded by frosted trees we made our way up in the fresh powdery snow.

The sun peeked at us for a brief moment and then soft snowflakes brought back the nice atmosphere of a winter day.

The summit was calm, with just an occasional breeze skimming by. We enjoyed a cup of a hot beverage and the partly clouded views before heading down.

Plunge-stepping in fresh snow and taking a slightly different, more scrambly, route made the descent nearly as interesting as the ascend, and was surely just as good of a workout.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Island Peak - 278 Days to Departure - New Year Day

After the forecast threatened with rain, the first day of the year turned out to be a gorgeous day here in Seattle.

And with the blue sky and sunshine out there it would be shame to stay at home, so today we opted for a walk and stair training.

The little over 500 stairs of Galer Street Staircase definitely warmed us up!