Friday, January 23, 2009

Forget Cape Horn, let's hike the Clackamas River Trail

Two years ago, Paul Steger and I ditched our plans to to climb the Bailey Traverse in the Olympic Mountains when the weather went south.  We ended up fleeing east for four days of scrambling in Mount Rainier National Park.  It was a great example of having a viable alternative plan.  Last weekend I played the Plan B card again, when high winds were blasting the Columbia River Gorge.  Initially I wanted to stick with my plans to hike at Cape Horn on the Washington State side of the Gorge.  However, the winds at our assembly point at Gateway Transit Center in Portland were just brutal.  I figured they could only be worse in the gorge, so I suggested the Clackamas River Trail as an alternative.

Although it was a longer drive to the trailhead, the mileage and elevation gain were about the same.  My guess that the winds would be gentler was right on, but I was not aware that a previous wind storm had wrecked havoc with the trail.  There were countless trees that had fallen across the trail.  There was snow, but thankfully it was solid and our steps were not sinking down.

Our progress was slow - I think we hiked about 2.5 miles in two hours.  We did not make it to Pup Falls for a lunch spot, but it was still a pleasant day to be outside with good company.  I learned something valuable about alternative plans as well.  Ideally the alternative is similar to the original plan, deeper snow could have made our hike even shorter. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Provisional Climb Leader

Thursday evening I learned that the Mazamas had promoted me to Provisional Climb Leader.  Getting to this point was one of my main goals in 2008 and it has been a fun ride.  Granted, I would have been doing many of these activities anyway, like helping out with the basic and intermediate climbing classes, and serving as an Assistant Climb Leader.  What was different was that Climb Leadership Development gave me focus.  It put me in the position to step out a little more and benefit from the experience.  Also important for me was to enjoy the process and not to fixate myself on its completion.  This was helpful when I experienced a couple of setbacks. 

I received notice of my promotion just before getting together for a beer with Paul Steger, who was the first of the Mazamas Climb Leaders to give me the chance to serve as their Assistant Climb Leader.  It just felt right to have Paul be the first to tell the good news.

The next step is that I have to lead three climbs in the capacity of a probationary leader.   That means I have to plan and lead the climbs, while a full fledged climb leader will serve as my assistant and then evaluate me.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter Weekend 2009

Last month when I attended the SnoBall at Mazama Lodge I was leaning towards not attending the Adventurous Young Mazamas Winter Weekend.  As it turned out, I was very happy to be up at the lodge that weekend.  So upon my return home I signed up for the 10th Annual Winter Weekend.

So Friday evening I joined approximately 65 folks at Mazama Lodge.  I arrived just before dinner - who says timing isn't everything.  Outside my fellow Mazamas had built an igloo, inside people were socializing and playing various games.

Games are serious business at Winter Weekend

Saturday I loaded up my snowshoes and led a hike to Mirror Lake and then up to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.  Unfortunately the trailhead was closed so we had to park at the Ski Bowl parking lot and hike a mile to the trailhead.  This outing was an excellent opportunity to practice some of the skills that I had learned at the Avalanche Skills class that I took last February.  At one point I pulled out my clinometer to measure the slope of a slope that the trail crossed.  After arriving at Mirror Lake we headed towards the ridge that would provide access to our goal.  I avoided the snowshoe tracks that would have led us across the open leeward facing open slopes, possibly loaded with wind blown snow.  

Here we are at Mirror Lake.  Our high point is on the ridge, directly above my head

Instead we made our way up through the trees to the ridge.  At the top of the ridge I saw a dark front of clouds moving our direction.  With the wind picking up, I opted to enjoy our lunch on the ridge rather than the summit.  Taking everything in account, it seemed the best course of action.  After we descended the clouds did move in, but precipitation did not fall.  It is so easy to second guess myself, but I've been learning to make peace with the decisions that I make, no matter how they turn out.  

View of Mt Hood from our ridge high point

Dinner at the Lodge brought back some old memories of my childhood adventures.  One of the organizers of this weekend wanted to have the same dinner that has been served at the Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch for decades:  beef stew, cornbread, green salad, and brownies.  Our family hiked down the Bright Angel trail in in 80s and spent the night at Phantom Ranch, but I could not remember what we had for dinner.  Later my folks reminded me that we had brought down our own dinner.  Anyways, just to be reminded of that great hike our family took was just a tasty as the spicy beef stew that was served at the lodge Saturday night.

It was rainy Sunday and I was tired from a long game of Settlers of Catan, so stayed indoors.   It was nice to take it easy for a change and enjoy the fellowship.