Archives

Written by Patrick Fink

Mississippi Head Run

It’s been damn smoky around these parts lately, with an explosive fire blooming in the Columbia River Gorge that has choked us all with air quality that makes Salt Lake City’s inversion smog seem like an eco-paradise. Thankfully, our usual Westerly winds returned a few days ago to blow the smoke to east and open up our skies and lungs again.

Mt Hood from ZigZag Canyon, guarded by the cliffs of Mississippi Head.

Taylor wanted to get in a long day of hiking on Mt Hood as training for an upcoming effort, and recruited friends Hayes and Reagan to join her shuttling a piece of the Timberline trail. I dropped them off in the foggy morning air at Top Spur trailhead on the mountain’s West side before driving myself up to Timberline Lodge to go for a run and check out a Mt Hood feature that I’ve never visited before – Mississippi Head.

Mississippi Head in detail.

Mississippi Head is best known for being a site of accidents. In recent times, it forms the bottom of the “mount hood triangle”, a terrain phenomenon that has claimed many unwary and even wary skiers and climbers. In short, if you descend with poor visibility from the summit of Mt Hood along the fall line, you won’t head back towards Timberline Lodge and your car but will instead veer Westwards towards the tall cliffs of Mississippi Head. This very error has waylaid Mt Hood’s most enthusiastic backcountry skiier, Asit Rathod, among many others. Read on →

Mt Olympus

Mt Olympus is one of the most imposing peaks on the Salt Lake City skyline, and also one of the most popular. It’s West Slabs, which face the University and downtown area, are a popular scramble that starts with 5.4 climbing before mellowing into a few thousand feet of class III-IV. This route also becomes what is perhaps the most asinine of the descents chronicled in McLean’s ski guide, The Chuting Gallery. A real collector’s piece.

While the West slabs top out the North summit of Olympus, the hiker’s trail tops out the main peak, which is a few feet higher and is divided from the North summit by the West Couloir of Olympus.

The bird hangs out on the pad, with Mt Olympus between the rotor blades.

Read on →

Mt Kessler

With Taylor back in Portland and my parents off to Iceland for a few weeks, I’m left to my own devices here in the Wasatch. Despite a pretty solid schedule of 16 ER shifts including 4 overnights as well as 4 days of lecture, I’ve still been sneaking out into the hills.

That’s the great thing about Salt Lake City. The city itself is not much to write home about– not terrible, but not amazing. I spend my time writing home about the Wasatch, the beautiful and steep range that I can be sweating my way up just half an hour after leaving the hospital. This is why people like me live here.

Looking down the aptly named ski pitch, God’s Lawnmower.

Read on →

Gobbler’s Knob and Mt Raymond

Having road biked up Guardsman’s pass and ridden horses around Silver Summit, a wanted to squeeze in another big day before she had to hop onto a flight back to Portland to return to her real job as the house breadwinner.

We’d originally planned an even bigger day, but after multiple night shifts and 4-hour naps, I was feeling pretty crushed, so we toned it back and decided to tag two peaks I’d seen often but never visited, Gobbler’s Knob and Mt Raymond.

Taylor heading through meadows towards Gobblers.

Read on →

Pfeifferhorn and White Baldy

Because she’s amazing and wonderful, my wife Taylor somehow managed to get time off from work to join me out in Utah for almost a week. As soon as she arrived, she was pressing me to fill my limited free time with as much adventure as possible. With almost a full day available (so what if I had to work overnight that night?) I decided to take her back up to the Pfeifferhorn and continue along the Little Cottonwood ridgeline to the neighboring White Baldy.

Taylor approaching Red Pine Lake

Read on →

Pfeifferhorn

I’m in Utah now for a month of emergency medicine at the University of Utah, trying to persuade them to take me as one of the nine emergency medicine residents that they accept each year.

Travel, particularly airport travel, really wears me down, but getting my feet back into the Wasatch range brought my energy right back, and I quickly made the decision to risk heart explosion and run an 11k’ peak unacclimatized.

The line at the Delta baggage drop at… 4:30 am.

 

Upper Red Pine Lake. Past two to three miles of steep roots and rocks, a small slice of alpine paradise.

Read on →

Newton Clark Headwall Ski Descent

The Spring corn cycle is in full swing now. After a warmup weekend with Tom last week, it was time to take full advantage of prolonged high pressure.  To start out the weekend, Taylor and I went back down to Rogue River, OR, where I planned to meet my friend and mentor Rodney Sofich to ski Mt McLoughlin.

Rod from da’ streets.

Rodney and I got an early start, but with hot hot heat and windless skies, we found the NE Bowl that I most wanted to ski was already too soft.

Final pitch up McLoughlin.

Read on →

Skiing the Wyeast, Fast

After a few months of playing phone tag, Tom Nelson and I finally managed to get out for some skiing this past weekend. Tom is a financial planner by day, ex-nordic skier, and strong skimo racer by night. For a guy with a wife, kids, and business, he really finds a lot of time to go run up hills.

Tom smiling above Vista top shack.

Our choice for the day was Mt Hood’s Wy’East face. I’ve skied this before, but Tom had never been. It was a good choice for our first outing together before seeking out some steeper objectives. I still think that this run is one of the crown jewels of cascades volcano skiing when it’s in good condition. Unfortunately, spring has been rocky out here, and just a week ago the mountain saw almost 30 inches of new snow.

Clouds, inversion, and cold East wind.

Read on →

Haute Route Part 2: Verbier to Arolla

Miss Part 1? Go back and check out Haute Route: Chamonix to Verbier.


Our fourth day in the Swiss Alps began with an early start from the Prafleuri hut to ski the length of the Lac des Dix before the sun would warm the snow along this exposed traverse.

Taylor reaches the street sign atop the Col de Roux. That way to Zermatt ->

Cresting the Col de Roux after just a short climb from the hut, the Lac stretched out below us as the morning light threw a glow on Mont Blanc de Chelon in the distance. Our next hut lay at its feet, some miles away.

The end of Lac des Dix trailing off into the river that leads up-valley through the Pas de Chat (Cat Pass). Light strikes Mt Blanc de Chelon to the right.

The traverse along the lake was blissfully firm, so we made good time despite being forced to cross an occasional patch of grass and one considerable pile of wet avalanche debris. Read on →

Breaking the Curse: Mt Mcloughlin Ski Descent

Mt McLoughlin is an often forgotten volcano of the Cascades chain. Hidden in southern Oregon along the highway between the modest towns of Medford and Klamath Falls, it was a feature of Taylor’s childhood. Legend has it that her mother, Cecilia, hiked Mt McLoughlin with Taylor in her womb. We all know what that does to a child.

“We all know what that does to a child.”

Taylor has hiked Mt McLoughlin four or five times in summer, but never in Winter. As an isolated cone of a mountain, it just begs to be skied, so we’ve already tried twice. But we were cursed. It was not to be.

Climbing along the upper crater rim.

Read on →