Saturday, August 1, 2009

Skiing Hayden Glacier on Middle Sister

This weekend I really wanted to go on a trip that would push my endurance to the limit after having just turned 30 and
questioning how my body is holding up still. Hartz suggested that we ski the Hayden Glacier on Middle Sister and since he hadn’t been to the summit before I suggested we go to the top as well. This seemed like a great trip to me because we were going to approach via the East Side of the Sisters rather than the West which I had done with Logan Mitchell two years prior. It was a 16 mile hike with just under 5,000 feet of elevation gain so I knew it would be a
strenuous one carrying my AT skis and boots
along. One that would challenge me going with Hartz who is always physically fit.
We drove down on Friday evening reaching the trailhead after some windy forest service roads by 11pm. We set up our bivy’s quickly and I headed right to sleep because I had only gotten about 4 hours of sleep the night before. Unfortunately for me my zero degree sleeping bag combined with Hartz snoring left me with very little sleep before rising to my iphone alarm at 4:45 in the morning. The phone
didn’t wake Hartz up so I began to pack up my stuff with my headlamp under the rising morning sun while he slept a bit longer. At about 5:15am I woke him up and we
had a quick breakfast of Mountain House goodness and espresso that Hartz brewed up for me so I wouldn’t be a walking zombie. We headed off down the trail at 6:30am with maps and GPS for guidance. I had marked with waypoints the parts of the trail where we needed to turn off, except for the one on the herdpath to the Hayden Glacier which wasn’t shown on my GPS software. It was nice approaching the volcanoes from the dry east side as it provided us with different vegetation than I saw on the wetter west side from the Obsidian Trailhead there.
We made ground quickly and soon came upon Squaw Creek which was just slightly beyond where we should have turned off for the Hayden Glacier. We backtracked
10 minutes to the last herdpath we had seen departing the trail which must have been the right one and headed off up it. Hartz stopped for a few minutes to put on some moleskin I gave him for a blister forming on his foot but just 15 minutes walk after that and we began to emerge out of the trees and could see expansive views of North Sister, Middle above us and South Sister, Bachelor behind it and Broken Top on climbers left to the south. The Hayden Glacier looked bigger than we had guessed
from below and climbing up through the rocks past some camp sites we were able to devise a way to link up left over snow fields to get as far down as we could skiing. Wildflowers were still blooming all around us.
We soon found our way onto the main Hayden Glacier and I took the lead charging up the snow without bothering to put on crampons or take out my ice axe because it looked safe enough. We passed a team of two with full gear, roped together via harness with helmets on, crampons, and ice axes out. Maybe it’s just me but it seemed a little unnecessary for the conditions and the terrain seeing that I was doing just fine in my worn out Asolo leather boots... maybe they just wanted to “look the part”. I had the gear, just didn’t feel the need to wear it yet. I found myself charging up the slope, not to show off or
try to “out climb” Hartz but to prove to myself that my body could still be pushed to where I wanted it. My legs responded well and it cheered me up that I still had decent endurance. About halfway up the glacier I came to a bulge where the glacier clearly rises up and then descends down unknown rocks below it. This caused a large crevasse to form at the apex that was about 200 feet long, 8-9 feet across and about 50-60 feet deep. There was a very secure snow bridge crossing it and I had climbed right up to it thankfully. I waited there until Hartz caught up and proclaimed to him my intentions of jumping it on the descent... he nodded too.
From there it was up a ridge of footsteps on the upper half of the Hayden Glacier to the dusty, loose rock ridge going up Middle Sister which I had climbed previously with Logan. We stashed our boots and skis on the snow just before the ridge and went up with just bags and water. The rock was crumbly and loose and in some sections felt like for every two steps you took up you slid back one. It was only about 900 feet from the ridge and since it was fairly steep we made good time, trying to step on all the solid rock we could find, making it to the summit at just a few minutes after 1pm. Thus, it had taken us about six and half ours for the climb. I was hoping to get home for Kevin and Alexa’s engagement party so we only stayed on the summit for about 20 minutes taking photos of each other and getting some video. Just like South Sister two years ago there were tons of butterflies everywhere around us. I still haven’t figured out what draws them to the top of the volcanoes...
We cruised down
the slopes of Middle Sister with our gaitors on to keep the rocks out of our boots. Hartz got some cool video of me “skiing” down the loose rubble in just my hiking boots. We put on our skis at the very top of the Hayden Glacier and got some very sweet turns down it with me linking up Hartz’s tracks into figure 8’s. The snow was perfect which surprised me for such a late date in the summer. I missed the small crevasse at the top I wanted to jump but skied right up to the big one Hartz and I had stopped at on our ascent.
I took off my skies and started digging up snow with my hands. Hartz looked a little reluctant but took off his and started tossing me snow as well. We worked quickly and in about 15-20 minutes we had a small little kicker built about 2.5 feet from the top edge of the crevasse that looked just the right size to pop us over the 9’ foot gap. It was my idea so I was to be the “guinea pig” for this experiment. I back up about 75 yards up the glacier without my backpack on, pointed my skis in a tuck and went for easily clearing the gap with a little mute grab thrown in for steeze (“style” for those not down with the new baggy pants, chain-wearing young ski crowd). Hartz then followed suit with some big air over the gap. Instead of going back for seconds we packed up our stuff, took a few photos and moved on.
We passed a group of campers just below Hayden Glacier and Hartz new one of the guys from an Avalanche II course he had taken last fall. The kids was guiding a group of people who were preparing for an attempt at
Adams later in the summer. Several of them didn’t look like they would be able to make the Adams attempt. We also passed a group of older men who asked us for some duct tape because the sole of a boot had fallen off. We didn’t have any but Hartz gave the guy his roll of medical tape to do the trick and we continued on. As we passed several more members of the Adams prep group I noticed some ominous looking clouds forming around Broken Top in the distance and the air smelled like rain. 10 minutes later with several large cracks of thunder the sky opened up on us. This didn’t bother either of us as we were tired, hot and sweaty and welcomed the cooling rain on our bodies.... but then it started to hail. Not gigantic hail, but hail about half an inch thick at it’s largest and enough to hurt our ears and fingers as it smacked us. Look closely at the last photo of this entry at the ground and you’ll see all the white specks of hail around Aaron. The hail and rain continued all the way until we got to the truck again when it stopped. We both felt bad for the team of climbers we had passed.

By the time we got back to the truck both of us were very tired and ready to head home. For some reason this 16 mile hike took a toll on us, perhaps it was the hail and rain at the end, perhaps we are just getting old.. I don’t know. On the way home we stopped at the convenience store at Black Butte for some energy drinks which got us back home just fine. It was amusing to see all the surprised faces when I carried my skis through the gate into the party at our place.

1 comment:

Jonathan Ellinger said...

Nate
Dude! Sick trip writeup. Awesome job up there. The Hayden is pretty awesome huh!?
Monday, August 10, 2009 - 01:11 PM