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Written by Peter Innes

Jul 30

2015

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Living, Working, and Running at 9,500′

I’ve been spending the summer living and working at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL, pronounced “rumble”) in Gothic, CO. Life is good. First of all, I get to pursue my love for ecology while being immersed in an inspiring community of scientists and students. Also, I get to run in the mountains every day. Read on →

Jul 06

2015

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Thru Hiking the High Sierra

Three weeks ago I was chasing a burnt orange sunset over Sonora Pass with my friend Andrew, trail name Sunshine. Sonora Pass marks the northern terminus of the High Sierra mountain range and mile 1017 on the Pacific Crest Trail. We had spent the evening anxiously looking up at thunderheads, and now we were looking up at the stars intermittently so as to not trip over rocks in the darkness. When we laid out our sleeping pads at 10:30 that night I had finished hiking over 400 miles since hopping on the PCT 27 days prior. Sunshine had hiked over 1050.

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May 15

2015

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Mt Hood Circumnavigation Attempt

It is true for many endeavors that mistakes are a catalyst for learning and growth. Two Sundays ago I made a mistake and broke of one of the most important ski mountaineering commandments: Thou Shalt Not Get Cliffed Out. My hope is that by sharing my story I can cement the lesson I learned and help you avoid making the same mistake.

I’ve dreamed of circumnavigating Mt Hood on skis ever since Patrick and Ethan did so in February 2013. After a season with a healthy dose of long days, steep snow climbing and avalanche terrain navigation, I finally felt confident enough to attempt the “High Orbit.” Furthermore, I saw this objective as a capstone to my three years of climbing and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, and I thought it would provide satisfying closure before graduating and moving away.

After climbing and skiing the Wy’east Face and Superbowl on Saturday with Patrick, Taylor and Hallie, my legs and spirit felt hungry for more. I began skinning from Timberline at 4:45 am and soon thereafter found myself transitioning on Illumination Saddle.

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Wy’east casts its shadow past Illumination Rock and over waves of coniferous forest.

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Apr 26

2015

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Skiing Pahto (Mt Adams)

Route: Suksdorf Ridge

TH: Cold Springs campground. Road to trailhead is unimproved. High clearance and AWD recommended.

Map: Green Trails Maps 367S. Strava track here.

Stats: Approx. 12.5mi and 6700′ vert car to car.

Gear: Entirely non technical, but crampons and ice axe/whippet recommended.


Saturday was a long day for all of us, but we were determined to rally and ski Mt. Adams (hereafter refered to as Pahto) for the first time. Shortly following a “brutal” race at the Yakima 50k, Ethan and Richard drove three hours to meet me in Trout Lake as stars began pricking through the sky.

Pahto towers over Trout Lake as a Guardian of Serenity

The guardian of serenity towers over Trout Lake.

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Apr 23

2015

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Columbia River Gorge: Angel’s Rest to Larch Mt

Spring is in full swing, and that means at least two things:

Trails across the Pacific Northwest are drying and calling out to runners weary of winter mud and wet pavement.

Volcanoes are basking under a hot sun and shine like voluminous diamonds in the eyes of climbers and skiers alike.

Running and skiing typically occupy distinct seasons, but springtime in the Northwest harbors ideal conditions for both. I took advantage of this duality last weekend with some friends of mine. The plan was to climb and ski Mt. Adams on Sunday. The only complication was that Ethan and Richard were racing the Yakima 50k on Saturday, which boasts 10,000′ of climbing. Thus, they demanded I run at least 20 miles and 4000′ on Saturday to even the exhaustion score. Despite a relative lack of fitness for long distances and vert, I consented and drove to the Columbia River Gorge for a long run amidst its new verdure.


INFO

Parking/TH: Angel’s Rest Trailhead. Oregon Gorge exit 28. No restrooms at TH. Very busy on sunny weekend days. Go during the week or early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Map: Angel’s Rest to Larch Mt USGS (trail in red). Incomplete Strava track here.

Stats: 22+ miles, 6500′ vertical. Bring water and food. Water refills available from streams/springs after Devil’s Rest (drink at your own risk).


The journey begins with a long and moderately steep climb to Angel’s Rest. The trail was incredibly crowded up to this point, and I did my best to politely weave past hikers. As a runner it’s easy to get annoyed by crowds, but it’s important to remember that the trail belongs to everyone. Plus, it was great to see so many people being active and connecting with nature. If the human race is to make any progress in preserving the integrity of the natural systems upon which we ultimately depend, I believe this is the first step.

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Pahto (Mt. Adams) shines bright on the horizon. The next day I would be standing atop her flat head.

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Mar 03

2015

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Glacier Peak In-a-day Attempt

Saturday was a flash flood that followed a week and a half of severe adventure drought. After spending all of last weekend in the library, Ethan asked me if I wanted to attempt to climb and ski Glacier Peak in a day with him and Richard Kresser the following weekend. Will Thomas, a friend of Richard’s, had attempted the route solo a week before only to turn around 2000′ below the summit. Will suggested an earlier start than his would likely put us at the top. I said yes, mostly out of blind ambition. Although I knew it was going to be a long day, at the time I didn’t consider the specifics of the suffering.

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Suffering can be beautiful.

Ethan thought a midnight start “had a nice ring to it”, so we forewent sleep and found ourselves at the North Fork Sauk Trailhead when the clock struck 12. Twenty minutes later we were jogging down the trail by headlamp with packs and skis on our back. When Richard took off down the trail, I thought he was having a laugh, employing a short-lived tactic to wake the body up, but nope, he kept jogging. Ethan shuffled in behind Richard and I kept up as best I could. A glance left or right illuminated five-hundred-year-old cedars and firs towering over us in the darkness. I thought of my friends partying in Portland and was struck by the absurdity of running through an old growth forest at night with skis on my back. Read on →

Feb 01

2015

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Winter Woes and Skiing the Wy’east Face

Peter, frosted but not frosty.

Peter, frosted but not frosty.

Editor’s Note: I’m excited to introduce you to Mountain Lessons’ newest contributor, Peter Innes. Peter and I met mountaineering in Wyoming, and after he relocated to Portland, he’s become a frequent partner on my adventures. Pete’s a collegiate cross-country runner for Lewis and Clark college, and precocious ski-mountaineering upstart. You may recognize him from photos here and on instagram (@alpenflow). Now, here’s Peter:


 

For the past month my news feeds have been rife with the woes and complaints of skiers bemoaning the disappearance of winter in the Pacific Northwest. January has become “Juneuary,” humorously summing up the recent weather and conditions of the Cascade Range. In many places the snow pack looks worse that it did last July, especially on Mt Hood. Large islands of rock restrict eager schralpers, gullies are sporting muddy guts, and from afar one cannot help but grimace at the brown shading of the snow on Mt Hood’s lower flanks. Time to ditch the skis, lube the chain of your mountain bike, and beg for a refund on your season pass, I suppose.

No! Surrendering in a mopey cloud of “throwback Thursday” instagrams of skiing powder earlier in the season surely won’t bring about the graces of Ullr, and nor will booking tickets to Japan. The way I see it the only way to improve the situation is by embracing what we have and getting creative. After all, Juneuary has its upsides, even for a skier. Avalanche danger on Mt. Hood is low as a result of over two weeks without snowfall (correct me if I’m wrong, it’s been so long I’ve lost track), and several days of melt-freeze cycles have smoothed out the icy chicken heads that previously riddled Hood’s upper slopes. If that isn’t a recipe for some good-old-fashioned Cascade ski mountaineering, I don’t know what is.

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Ethan approaches the Wy’east face amidst the morning alpenglow. The route centers in the obvious face.

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