Sunday, April 28, 2013

Smith Rock Hike with Leo, Aaron and Jennie

On Sunday I had wanted to go on a bike ride somewhere with Leo but it was really hot out and his legs were not up for a long ride so instead Jennie, Aaron and I decided to head to Smith Rock to meet up with Holm hopefully and go on a mellow hike with Leo.  

After Jennie’s amazing homemade pesto breakfast sandwiches we headed out to Smith Rock in separate cars to find Holm and Paris who had just gotten there as well and were unpacking their climbing gear to head in to the area for the afternoon.

Aaron, Jennie and I chatted with them for a bit before heading off on a loop hike around Smith Rock with Leo.  Having never really explored Smith I wasn’t sure exactly where we were going and was utterly blown away at the route we took.  

At first it circled around the cliffs near the river where we coaxed Leo out into the water to cool off.  Soon, Monkey Face became visible as we made our way to the backside of Smith.  From there I wasn’t exactly sure which way we would be going until we began to switchback up the hill towards Monkey Face.  

It soon became apparent to me that there was a hiking trail to the top of Smith Rock... a trail that even Leo was comfortable on.  I had no idea.  I’m not a big fan of rock climbing and knowing that I can simply walk to the top of Smith doesn’t give me any more ambition to climb a vertical wall of painful rock to get there!  

Walking past Monkey Face was absolutely amazing and topping out at the cliff facing the upper caves on the rock pinnacle was incredible.  We put Leo on the leash at the top to make sure he didn’t fall off any cliffs and checked out the area.  Leo certainly doesn’t have a fear of heights as he wanted to be right by my side at the edge of every cliff.  

Aaron and Jennie took some great shots of Leo and I at the top and I got some great panoramic shots to the West of all the Oregon Cascades.  It was such a clear day that you could literally see every single volcano in Oregon from Mcloughlin all the way to the south all the way to Mt. Hood in the north.  The misery ridge trail back down to the Crooked River and the parking lot was steep and we saw many miserable youths being dragged by their outdoorsy parents up it as we made our way down past them.  

By the time we got back to the car Leo was overheated and super tired so instead of putting him in the car which had become an oven I passed on heading back down the trail to find Holm and Paris.  Instead, I said goodbye and big thanks again to Jennie and Hartz and made my way back to Highway 97 towards home with Leo who basically passed out in the back of the car.  Another great weekend in Bend!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Paulina Peak Chutes

This weekend I returned to Bend to visit Aaron and Jennie again as well as finally officially climb Paulina Peak.  The weather looked fantastic for the weekend and Aaron thankfully had the day off to go with me.  I had planned on driving over the night before but due to lack of sleep I decided to spend the night at home and then drive over with Leo at 5am on Saturday.  

Thankfully, Jennie was more than happy to watch Leo during the day as we climbed Paulina and she studied for her classes.  She even took him for a long run which was fantastic.  Aaron and I were able to pack up our gear and bikes into the Prius and head over to Paulina Peak to start our ascent around 10:45 in the morning.  

Driving up the Paulina Peak road we briefly thought that it would be open all the way to the lakes but then suddenly we found ourselves at the closed upper gate, a good, 4-5 miles below Paulina Peak.  The road had been plowed but the gate was not open for the season yet.  Thankfully, Hartz and I had our mountain bikes with us.  We packed up all our gear including ice axes, harnesses, ropes, biners, etc just in case we might need them in the chutes.  When I swung my legs over the bike frame and sat down my suspension bottomed out my pack was so heavy!

After a gentle ascent up the access road we came to the bottom of the Paulina Peak road.  We had to make the choice of whether to skin up the long road or go straight at the chutes themselves for a bootpack up them.  We chose the latter and chucked our bikes over a snowbank to hide them before heading into the woods on our skins.  

In very little time we found ourselves at the base of the chutes.  We skinned up them in broad switchbacks until we decided it would be more efficient to just boot pack straight up the main chute.  Hartz took the lead for the first half and then I finished up to the top.  As we gained elevation with the hot sun we found ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into the slushy snow until I was sinking well over the tops of knees.  This was exhausting but the growing views of the Cascade peaks to the west as well as the amazing feeling of being in a steep, narrow chute more than made up for the trudging.

Once on top of the ridge we grabbed some quick food in windy conditions then skinned over to the true summit of Paulina so I could say I officially climbed it.  We walked around checking out the views to the west as well as the huge obsidian flow below us and the two lakes below separated by a massive landslide and lava flow in the middle of the Newberry Caldera.  I was very happy we had come up the cool chutes instead of the boring road to the summit.
From there we took off our skins, locked our heels and headed back towards the top of the ridge.  Upon arriving back where we had climbed up we found ourselves completely confused about which line to take down through the chutes.  On the way up we could see that about half of all the chutes cliffed out and were unskiable, but looking down at them from the top it was so steep we couldn’t tell which ones to safely ski!  We both assessed the area and looked back at my photos on the DSLR until we came to a decision and started heading down.  

Aaron took the lead as he is a more proficient skier and I followed.  It soon became apparent that the chute we chose ended in a cliff of unknown height.  We paused for a second while I used my higher position to scope out the area.  Luckily there was a narrow window of a large rock wall separating the chutes that we could pass through.  We carefully made our way through it to find ourselves in a different chute that ran safely out to the base of the cliffs.  

After a dozen or so more steep jump turns kicking up a decent amount of wet slough with us, we made it to the base of the chutes, totally stoked on what we had just skied.  I paused for a moment to give my legs a rest and then followed Aaron on some broad turns down to the tree line.  From there it was just a slow ski through the woods back to the road with some occasional pushing and duck climbing up some small hills along the way.  

Back at the road we put our skis back on our bags, mounted our bikes and had a really fun cruise down the road back to the car.  The wind had picked up and our skis on our packs acted like sails catching it and blowing us all over the road but managed to get down in one piece, laughing the whole way.  Back at the car we cracked a couple cold beers, at a can of King tiny tots sardines as is tradition with Hartz and I and headed back into town to meet up with Jennie at The Good Life for some beers and then a great BBQ with more beers back at their place with Leo.  What an amazing day!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Smith Rock with Leo

After leaving Ian’s 30th birthday camp out we took Leo for a leisurely stroll through the famous Smith Rock climbing area.  It was a beautiful day and there were climbers everywhere and geese flying all about the river that winds through it.  I took the Nikon with the long lens and tried to capture as many unique shots of the various climbers and birds that I could.  Leo enjoyed the sunshine and I think forgot about his minor wounds from the night before.  

To my surprise I learned about a whole network of amazing mountain bike trails in the area that we want to check out next time we come over the pass.  While we were hiking along a group of mountain bikers passed us who looked like they were having an amazing time.  Although Smith is known as one of the premiere rock climbing locations in the world, I would definitely prefer to bike fast around it then slowly and painfully climb  the walls within it, but most of my climbing friends would call me crazy upon hearing that!  We didn’t stay too long and headed back to Washington to catch an early showing of the movie Oblivian which turned out to be an amazing film!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ian Roth's 30th Birthday Camp Out at Smith

After leaving Hartz’s place we drove out to Smith Rock and had a fun time trying to follow the “tin foil path” laid out by Nicole Younger to find the camp spot far up on a forest road never intended for Prius to travel.  When we finally did find the group it was after 10pm and everyone was pretty lit.  We let Leo off leash and he ran around with the other dogs.  We didn’t realize the whole area was surrounded by barbed wire and poor Leo in the dark didn’t either, getting himself a little cut up in the legs and a chunk of fur out of his nose (nothing too severe though).  It was nice to catch up with Kalin, Kelly Rice, Cristina, Ian, Coleen, Forest, and others whom we hadn’t seen in a very long time.  Ian was destroyed and I hope he remembered us making it out there!  

Nicole was kind enough to let us crash with her in her massive elk tent/lodge complete with a warm stove and table.  Leo actually ended up curling up next to her on her inflatable mattress for the night (bleeding on it a little too which we felt real bad about).  In the morning we didn’t stick around too long and headed out to take Leo for a hike at Smith Rock because he had been left in Aaron’s house all day on Saturday.

Ball Butte Backcountry

This weekend Emily and I headed to Bend to finally visit our buddy Aaron Hartz and his lady Jennie.  It had been since Thanksgiving since we had seen them so it was far overdue.  I had it in my head that we were going to skin up the Paulina Lake Road and ski the chutes on Paulina Peak which would have meant a very long day of backcountry skiing.  To my delight Hartz called me on our way out of town and said that his guiding buddy Henry had borrowed their boss’s sled and was going to tow us all up the road to save us about 10 miles of round trip skinning!  Hooray!

We got to their place in Bend around 10:30pm which gave us enough time to grab a few beers together and catch up.  They were staying at Heather and Grady’s 2nd house in Bend for the time being and it was pretty luxurious with an amazing view of the Sisters and the top of Broken Top from the deck.  Hard to believe anyone our age could own a 2nd house like that but that’s what you get for being an engineer at HP I guess.  

In the morning we set off from the house after some hot panini-pressed egg sandwiches towards Paulina Peak.  Halfway Aaron got a call from Henry that the road gate was closed and the road had been plowed to the pavement.... no go.  We discussed it briefly and then all suggested we head into the Broken Top wilderness across the road from Mt. Bachelor.  Within 30 minutes we were all in the Tumalo Snow Park lot gearing up and unloading the powerful sled from the trailer.  

Henry had showed up with his friends Adam and McKenzie.  There was a trailer on skis for the snowmobile to pull and racks for all the skis.  On the way across the flats we were all able to ride in the back with McKenzie towing from a rope behind until we got to the steeper hills leading up to the base of Broken Top and the wilderness boundary.

Hartz, Jennie and I waited while the others went first up to the staging area at the wilderness boundary.  We passed the 40 minutes of waiting peeing, building a crazy snowman and hurling snowballs at each other.  Soon, Henry was back and we all made it up to the others.  After a quick debate and looking at the weather we decided to just skin into Ball Butte and do some laps on it.  I hadn’t climbed it before and I was excited for the views of Broken Top so agreed and off we went.  

We had forgotten our sunscreen in the car when we all hopped into Jennie’s and they only had a small bottle for themselves that they shared with Emily.  I didn’t want to use up all the rest of it so I passed hoping that the clouds would remain overhead enough to prevent a bad burn... nope, I was wrong.  

Soon, the clouds ahead had cleared and we had amazing views of Broken Top and back towards the top of Bachelor above the clouds.  The bowl we skied was untouched after about half a foot of fresh snow the week before and we got to ski soft spring snow all afternoon in stable avy conditions.  It is always nice backcountry skiing with two professional guides :).  

We ended up skiing 3 different runs before we were all tired and headed back towards the parking lot being towed by the snowmobile.  I jumped on the back of the sled because I’m used to riding on them and know how to properly lean around corners.  When we got back we all headed to The Good Life Brewing Company in Bend for some great beer and grub.  I got the Deschutes Black Butte XXIII and the lettuce chicken wrap to try something new and also shared a bit of the giant nachos plate Hartz and Jennie got.  When Henry showed up looking like someone had painted his face red I got worried about my own face.... 

By the time we got back to Aaron and Jennie’s place I knew my face was pretty severely burnt.  The shower certainly didn’t feel as good as holding a cold beer to my face after while watching the sunset behind the mountains on their porch.  I put a bunch of lotion on my face I found in their bathroom and we had a couple more beers before Emily and I headed out.  We had a great time skiing with them and made a few new friends with Henry, Mackenzie and Adam.  Perhaps I’ll be back next weekend to bag Paulina on a bike.