Monday, February 29, 2016

Real Winter, Real Fun!

After seven months of recovery, stationary bike sessions, and gym workouts, I'm finally starting to get after it again. I'm not 100% by any means, but I'm getting closer. Of course, not being able to climb and ski has reinforced a strong appreciation for the opportunity to dedicate my life to the mountains (by this I mean the freedom of health and first-world privilege most of us enjoy). That said, my lifestyle is not guaranteed. It didn't come with a warranty. Being rad means nothing. Being able means everything.

My recent time in the outdoors has been purposely undefinable. No grades. No plans. I'm trying to take an organic approach to every mission. Rather than forcing my way through the mountains, I'm following the paths gifted to me. A twisting, moonlit descent from high in the Entiat Mountains that leads to my front door. A skinny ice pillar that wasn't touching down a week ago, but finally formed enough to dance up its crystalline tube. Surfing Stuart Range velvet as my home peaks cut into the desolate winter sky. Chimneying up an ice groove more akin to a slot in Yosemite than a winter climb in Leavenworth. I never expected any of these moments, but they keep happening.

The past few months I've skinned at least a couple hundred miles. I've woken up well before dark three or four days a week. I've climbed incredible ice and slashed through more powder than I can even remember. It's all becoming a blur. I'm definitely drunk on the real winter we are having in the northwest. Below is a serious of photos I took from late December to early February. I've attached a few words to each picture. I hope you enjoy it!
Above my backyard pear orchard lies the southern tip of the Entiat Mountains. In late December and early January I skinned A LOT of miles through the gentle, but lonely territory. The terrain was accepting of my healing body. There were many long days of powder that began and ended at my cabin.
An acquaintance recently saw me at work and exclaimed, "I didn't know you had a job. I thought all you did was climb!" The reality is that Icicle Ridge Winery is a major part of my life! We all have bills to pay :) I'm not afraid to wake up before dawn day after day after day...I love coming into work with a good ski tour under my belt.
Rather than chasing goals and grades, I've been hunting sunrises and good snow. Feeling the warm rays smother the cold night is always an energizing moment. In this photo dawn is creeping up on a powder day in the Entiats.
The Entiats are filled with ponderosa pines. There is something about those tiger orange trees that strike a chord in me. Skiing through their hallways is unique and inspiring.
One last shot taken in the Entiats. I've had many awesome days out in the last couple months, but some of the best have been right out my backdoor. That my return to sport coincided with a unique window to ski low elevation tours was truly a gift. I cannot describe how much fun I had exploring my backyard terrain.
I had several awesome days in the Blewett Pass environs. My first tour was sun soaked. Lounging on the solar rocks made me feel like I was on a beach in Hawaii. A few minutes later, I pointed my skis north. Within minutes I was shredding light, boot top powder in the gnarly arms of a burned forest.
A few days later I was back on Tronson Ridge with one of my best friends, Ryan Paulsness. Out of the 20 or so days I've skied the past few months, this mission might have been the best. The snow was unreal. All day we hooped and hollered with joy. Too much fun!!
Cashmere Mountain is a bulky, prominent peak on the southern border of the Stuart Range. I've spent several days on it's flanks this winter and can't wait for more. It is a rad ski zone.

One of the best parts of touring on the southern flanks of Cashmere are the views. The main, rugged core of the Stuart Range stands cold in the north facing shadowlands.
Off with their heads! The snow in the Stuart Range is remarkably light. In this photo I'm skiing a January storm. It was good. Very good.

To compliment the skiing, we stumbled on some quality ice up Mountaineers Creek. This was a relief as I was up against an ice climbing trip to China with a group of crushers from Canmore and Colorado. I hadn't done any climbing in nearly six months and didn't want to be a total joke. In this photo, Blake Herrington stems up the good 'ol classic, Mr. Seattle.
It was odd to have such quality ice to climb when the rest of Leavenworth had absolutely no ice at all. Whatever was happening up Mountaineers Creek was working. We chalked it up to cold winds that rush out of the Stuart Range and settle in the valley bottom. This route is a nice 30 meter pillar called Last Rites, one of 6 routes we climbed at this crag alone. There were upwards of 25 routes in the general area. 
 On my final day before China, I sunk a bolt and a pin into some really nice granite and accessed a hanging dagger. 
Another shot of the route shown above, which I called the Daggerba System. If you're a WA climber the name might mean something to you. Or maybe it won't :) I'm actually really excited to climb in this area next season. The king line is still waiting to be done!