Thursday, February 28, 2013

Broken Top: attempt 2/Crook Glacier

Sunday I got a late start and drove up towards Mt. Bachelor to give Broken Top another try. For my first try see my Ball Butte entry. I left my car in the Mt. Bachelor parking lot around 10:30 and made good time. I linked the XC ski trails to Flagline and followed the snow mobile access road from there. I hitched a ride with a friendly snow mobiler named Jerry, who dropped me at the base of Ball Butte and saved me well over a mile of flat skinning. From here I dropped down into the valley beneath Broken Top and headed up to the Crook Glacier cirque.
Approaching the Crook Glacier cirque on a really warm Sunday.
The forecast had called for a high of 28F but obviously the weather men at NOAA were wrong. Temps were very high, especially in the direct sun on the south side of the mountain. I made slow progress climbing up to the glacier in the heat, and lost a lot of water to sweat.
Obviously I'm picking the wrong days to play in the snow this winter.
I stopped under the last tree to take a drink and study the south face. As I watched, an avalanche rolled over a 300ft cliff and set off a very large slab avalanche on the slopes below. I didn't comprehend what I was seeing at first because there was no noise. A couple seconds later I heard the roar as the sound waves reverberated down the valley. Obviously 60+F temps on south facing slopes, with 18 inches of fresh snow on top of an old ice layer, make for unstable conditions. Needless to say I had no intention of climbing or skiing the south face of Broken Top after this.
First avalanche rolled off the cliff at the top and set off the slab below.
Not wanting to waste the 10+ miles of skinning I proceeded onto the glacier to scope out future climbing and skiing lines. The Crook Glacier is surrounded by three peaks that form a south facing U. There are many couloirs, cliff bands, and spires. Most of the rock looks very loose but some appears to be relatively solid for Oregon Cascades. I think in the right conditions this bowl could provide amazing skiing and ice climbing.
Amazing skiing and climbing? If only this were granite/frozen solid/stable pow.
As I headed up the glacier I saw a NE facing ramp on the west peak. It was covered in snow and ended in a steep couloir that appeared to top out. It was shaded and showed no signs of avalanche activity. After considering the risks I approached carefully and skinned up to the beginning of the ramp. Here it got too steep and narrow to skin effectively. I tucked in under a rock buttress and took off my skis with the intention of climbing up higher. The shaded ramp turned out to have loose, unconsolidated snow that was very deep. After floundering around in snow up to my chest I gave up, put my skis back on and enjoyed a short but steep run back to the glacier. Although I was loath to leave so soon there was little else I could do. I headed back and got to my car just after sunset.
The ramp I approached. Again, amazing potential here but lousy conditions.
Amazing rock strata near the base of the ramp.
Looking out of the bowl from my high point before dropping in. You can see my skin track leaving the shade below.
I now feel comfortable with the long route between the road and Broken Top. Next time I will try in colder weather even if that means low visibility. Hopefully that will provide better snow and ice conditions and I can actually do something interesting.
My tracks entering and leaving the bowl.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter at Smith Rock

After a super cold December and January the weather has gotten pretty warm and sunny here for the past few weeks. As a result I've been going out to Smith to go rock climbing a lot more than expected. This has been great for my climbing. I haven't been getting out skiing and alpine climbing as much as I would like, but who can say "no" to basking in desert sunshine mid-winter?

I've been climbing with a whole range of people, but my most consistent partner has been Caitlin, my girlfriend. She is also pretty stoked to climb right now, and has been improving by leaps and bounds. Together we have been checking off many of the highly recommended, moderate-difficulty trad routes at Smith. This has been great for my climbing to-do list (and that means great for my OCD, type-A self). It's also nice because I get to lead everything and forces me to adopt a "guide-mode" mind-set.

This past Saturday Caitlin and I went out with a large group of friends... Mike, Joe, Kristin, Dirk and Faith. It was a little windy but absolutely beautiful. We hiked over Asterisk Pass and climbed various cracks and bulges on Spiderman's Butt... ress. (A rock buttress! I wasn't being dirty at all!) Mike, using his new camera, made another awesome video (the man is a natural videographer! mad props!) so check it out...

Climbing at Smith Rock from Mike Arrera on Vimeo.

Routes we climbed that day:
Squashed Spider, 5.7 sport, 1 pitch
First Ascent Crack, 5.4 trad, 1 pitch
Out of Harm's Way, 5.8 mixed, 1 pitch (check mark! short dihedral to vertical face climbing, very fun!)
Spiderman, 5.7 trad, 2 pitches (check mark! slab, dihedral, splitter crack and overhang all in 200ft!)

Other great routes Caitlin and I have climbed in the past month:
Western Chimney, 5.5R trad, 1 pitch (strenuous and complicated for 5.5, don't go up it expecting a cruise)
Bookworm, 5.7 mixed, 2 pitches (off-width crack to a bolted slab)
Lion's Jaw, 5.8 trad, 1 pitch (awesome dihedral)
Moonshine Dihedral, 5.9 trad, 1 pitch (same as Lion's Jaw but steeper and longer)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ball Butte... a typical day in the Oregon Backcountry

My buddy Mike and I set out early Saturday to try climb/ski Broken Top. This is one of the more picturesque peaks just outside of Bend with three craggy summits surrounding a small glacial cirque.

Mike approaching Broken Top in the predawn.
Sunrise on the approach, car dashboard said 7 degrees... mmm, mmm TOASTY!
Unfortunately it is an 11 mile round trip skin on flat ground to reach the base of this mountain. Of course in typical Oregon Cascades style the weather completely socked in the moment we got close and cleared out the moment we headed home. Mike's knee was flaring up from his new running regimen too, so we opted to go up Ball Butte instead which involves a 1,000 ft less vertical and a couple miles less of ski travel.

Mike on Ball Butte? Ball Butter? Buttery Ball?
On the way back I shredded some sweet gnar... radical overstatement dude! Overall it was a fun day but gosh darn did my feet hurt after that 5.5 mile skin out!
Mike being serious, or maybe understandbly grumpy, as we watch the clouds part.

As soon as we're a mile back towards the car the weather totally clears... WTF!? Ball Butte on the right.

Check out Mike's awesome video clip from the day... Mike, YOU are my hero! Ok that may have been too corny... whatever... watch the video!!!

Ball Butte Climb from Mike Arrera on Vimeo.