Mount Hood Speed Record

A couple weeks ago I climbed Mount Hood via the South Side route to try and see how fast I could climb the route.  To my surprise I came within 6 minutes of the official foot summit record!  Once down I realized that I didn’t give it my all, and there is a good chance Id be able to climb the route faster. After a few weeks of climbing other mountains, I decided to give the speed record a go.  I figured that having spent a month climbing above 10,000 feet 1 to 2 times a week probably had me in good aerobic shape.  I had also spent the last couple weeks perfecting my fast and light concept using a Salomon trail running vest to carry my mountaineering axe and crampons along with my hydration, clothes and food.

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Bare hiking trail for the first thousand feet or so.

 

A few days before my trip I asked a mountaineering group on Facebook if anyone had first hand knowledge or photos of the route from the last couple days.  A few people responded with very helpful information and photos that helped me understand that the conditions were significantly different than when I was up there two weeks earlier.  I also received one of the “you might die” posts telling me not to climb the pearly gates.  This is exactly why I usually keep to myself and not ask other peoples advice and why I specifically only asked for recent first hand experience.  This post really bothered me and had me thinking really hard about my plan.  In the end I decided to stick with my plan and make a split second decision on route as to whether I was going to do the Pearly Gates or the Old Chute.  The Pearly Gates is faster and more direct to the summit with potential for rock fall, and the Old Chute is slower with more opportunity to dodge rocks and falling people.  All of the previous speed records have used the Pearly Gates.

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Starting out at the start of the hiking trail.  The more standard snow start point was not in good shape so I opted for the longer route starting at the hiking trail.

 

On summit day I woke up around 3:15 skipped breakfast and started up the mountain at 4:06 am.  I started off on a maintenance road that was decent gravel with not too much volcanic sand.  Then maybe half way to the Silcox Hut I moved onto a foot path that was a little slower going.  Eventually I made it onto some snow and put on my micro spikes.  It was my first time ever using micro spikes and I was loving them!  I made it to the top of the ski are in 00:50’35.  I was hoping for 45 minutes, but I was just going to have to deal with it!

About 20 minutes before the Devils Kitchen I passed my first climber.  He was on his way down.  While continuing to move I asked him how it went and if he had seen any rock fall.  He had not summited as he felt it was too steep for him and he said that he had seen some rock fall on the right.  After this interaction I realized I had been able to carry on a conversation and continue moving!  this was exciting because that last two time on hood I had not been able to converse well moving and even struggled to drink.  My time at altitude was helping!

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Looking up towards Devils Kitchen and the Summit.  Photo taken on the descent.

 

When I got to the Devils Kitchen there were two parties, one two person party and a three person party roping up.  There was also a party or two in the Old Chute.  I asked the party of three if they had heard and seen any rock fall.  The responded saying that they had only seen rock fall on the cliffs to the right and that they saw no rock fall on the Pearly Gates.  This was decision time!  I only had a few minutes before I was going to have to make my choice.  As I moved up to the Hogsback I watched the Pearly Gates intently and paid attention to the hardness of the snow.

At the Hogsback I tightened my shoes, put my crampons on and left behind my trekking pole and microspikes.  I had decided upon the Pearly Gates.  I had seen no rock fall, the snow was still very firm and it was before sunsrise!  I made my way up to the Bergschrund, traversed under it and then climbed in and around some small crevasses that will eventually connect to the bergschrund.  I accessed the snow slope above the Bergschrund and used a combination of walking and front pointing using my mountaineering axe and whippet.  Once out of the Pearly Gates I still had another 50 feet or so of open slope to ascend towards the summit.  The whole time on this slope I was looking up at the bare rock on the summit thinking about how I didn’t want to walk on the rocks with my aluminum crampons, but I realized that I just needed to do it since it was a speed ascent.

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I stepped onto the summit after 2:51’51.  I beat the official foot record!  I took a few photos on top and then started descending the Pearly Gates.  Once out of the gates and under the Bergschrund I was able to run across the snow slope down towards my equipment on the Hogsback.  The snow was perfect and my crampons were gripping beautifully.  I put took my crampons off and replaced them with microspikes and continued on my way down.  At the Devils Kitchen I saw the party of two from earlier and asked them to take a picture of me and then continued running down.  On the way down I was able to link more snow fields and spend a little less time on the hiking trails.  I made it to the parking lot with a round trip time of 2:55’09 beating the previous foot record of 3:07’45!

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The conditions I had for my speed ascent were quite bad.  I think that the route was significantly slower than it had been a few weeks earlier when it was completely covered in snow and the Bergschrund was not an issue.  I think that the current and old foot records are quite slow for good conditions.  In good conditions someone should be able to easily make the summit in 1:30 and round trip from the Timberline Parking lot in less than 2:20 on foot.  The current fastest legal means time is 1:44′ held by Jason Dorias on skis.

As far as official and unofficial times, I am not a fan of official times.  There is basically only one person in the PNW doing official times.  Every round trip speed record on Rainier has been unofficial.  With GPS watches and GPS enabled cameras, I don’t think we currently need officials to vouch for times.  Maybe this will change, but I hope not.

My GPS track is located here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move166832808

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Everything I brought with me

 

 

 

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Mt. Baker North Ridge

My partner Alex had July 10th and 11th off, so we had been planning on climbing something during those two days.  We spent Saturday texting back and forth trying to figure out what our objective should be.  It was between the North Ridge of Baker and Liberty Ridge on Rainier.  We decided that since we knew the North Ridge was in good shape and we only had two days, we decided on the North Ridge of Mt. Baker. Sunday night we drove to and camped in the Heliotrope Ridge parking lot. On Monday morning we slowly woke up and packed our bags.  I had a new Arcteryx Bora 63 that I hadn’t used and never done the big backpack thing for mountaineering, so we loaded up extra stuff we didn’t really need including a books, a shovel, lots of yogurt and blueberries. About 2.5 miles of beautiful forests and streams took us to the Hogsback camp where there were lots of tents and people packing up after a successful day.  We decided to rope up and continue up the snow to a campsite on rocks at about 2100m.  It took us 3 hours with heavy packs to get to our camp.

On the way to our camp we were looking at potential routes for crossing the Coleman Glacier towards the North Ridge.  Being new to glacier travel, I thought all the routes looked challenging and did not see where the route went that was labeled on our Green map.

In the morning we woke up and saw a party of two crossing the Coleman glacier towards the North Ridge much lower than the listed route on our map.  This party had been camping a couple hundred feet from us, so we decided to give that lower route a go.  After a  while we started to notice the occasional old footprint which reassured us that this was the way.  The route finding was much less complex than we thought based on the views from our camp.  Fortunately there was no obvious footpath and I had to choose my own way around the crevasses with the occasional confirming crampon print from the party above us. A little before we arrived at the base of the North Ridge, a party of 4 AAI employees arrived below us.  It looked like they had camped lower down near the 6,500 foot level and took a more direct bath than us towards the North Ridge.  We opted for the Hour Glass start on the west side of the ridge as it was in the shade.  It was quite easy snow at a reasonable angle.  There was a bergscrund at the base which required a little bit of thought and care.  Once on the ridge it was just a typical slog to the base of the ice cliff.  To me there were three obvious routes up the ice cliff.  One to the right which went up a scrambly rock section and then a very short and low angle section of ice, one of various steep lines up the center, or a low angle 30m looking section to the left where I believe most parties go.  Being an ice climbing and not a mountaineer I decided to try for one of the steeper WI4 lines.  In many sections the ice looked sun affected, but I thought Id be able to scrape off the top layer and find quality ice underneath.  I got two good screws in and then about 50-60 feet up I tried to put in a screw and had to dig about 6 inches before I found some not good ice.  I did not trust the screw at all.  I moved over to the left and tried to get in another screw at a slightly different level, but I experienced the same thing.  Above me the ice looked the same.  Slightly over hanging and hard to protect.  I decided that given our remote alpine environment backing off would be the best idea.  There was no way I could get a quality V thread in the ice, and it was still too hard for a picket, so I left three screws with the hope that Id be able to lower in from the top and retrieved them.  We started with 7 screws and I left behind three, so we had a total of 4 screws to use for the ice pitch.  No problem.  We headed over to the easier section of ice on the left hand side where it looks like most parties climb up.  We started exchanging gear and Alex dropped a screw.  We watched it tumble down the snow slope towards a large crevasse 90m below us.  The whole time I was just hoping it would catch on a snow divet.  Finally it caught and Alex quickly down climbed the 55m to the screw and back up.  The ice section when quick and easy.  The nice flat ledge I was hoping for on top of the ice cliff was a steep and doming snow slope spattered with baby crevasses near the cliff edge.  I guessed on a location of my ice screws, made an anchor and had Alex lower me down to the cliff edge.  I peered over the edge and to my surprise I saw the ice screws 10 feet to my left.  I lowered down, retrieved the screws and climbed backup the steep, challenging and bulging ice.

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Up some more steep snow and through a visually interesting ice fall area brought us to the summit where we ate summit yogurt and took in the sites.

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A quite long and uneventful trip down the Coleman Demming route brought us back to camp and then the car.

If I were to do the North Ridge of Baker again I would revert to my normal style and do the route car to car with a small pack.  The route is totally doable in a day for an efficient party.  I would also consider trying to pass through the Coleman Glacier lower down than we did.

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MT Baker North Ridge GPS Track 7112017

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move165982627

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move165982287

 

Mt Hood Speed

 

Last week I climbed Mt. Hood as my first true mountaineering route. I had a fairly successful ascent via the Hogsback and the Old Chute getting to the summit in 3 hours and 28 minutes.   Considering that it was supposed to be my acclimatization route, I was fairly happy.

This past Wednesday I decided to return and see how much faster I can do it now that I have been in the mountains for a week and a half.  I decided to use a paired down version of my Mt. Jefferson kit and carry everything in my Salomon running vest.

I started from the Timberline Lodge parking lot at 5:41 am. The snow was quite firm and I wondered if I should have brought something like a micro spike, but I made it work with the slightly stiff soles of my mountaineering shoes.  I made it to the cat track at the top of the ski area in about 52 minutes.  Eleven minutes faster than my time last week! I was hoping for 45 minutes to the top of the ski area, but I was still happy with my pace.

Just above the ski area I stopped briefly to put on my crampons.  When I lifted up my toes to put the crampon on I noticed that my foot was shaking uncontrollably.  I thought it was interesting as I have never had this happen before outside of awkward social interactions or vertical climbing.  I just assumed it was a combination of pushing my limit aerobically and my slight apprehension since I have never tried mountaineering at this speed before.

I passed a few parties on the way to Devil’s Kitchen and along the way I was trying to decide which route to take.  The Old Chute like I did last week or the Pearly Gates.  Last week I had thought the Pearly Gates looked steep and scary, but today they were looking much more mellow.  I decided upon the Pearly Gates since there were no other parties on it and that it has a more direct path to the summit.

Walking up towards the bergschrund I made a mental note to myself that I needed to consciously balance my speed and safety.  I made an effort to get a handle on my breathing and heart rate before the steeps while still maintaining a reasonable speed. I also noticed my elapsed time and decided that there still might be a small chance that I could match or meet the official speed record of 1:56:39.  The Pearly Gates were much easier than I expected  and went smoothly.  There was a fairly good boot pack that was occasionally missing a foot placement.  Occasionally I had a foot slip if my placement wasn’t perfect since the anti snow plates on my aluminum crampons can sometimes be slick on snow.

Once through the Pearly Gates I realized that I still had 50 plus feet to go to the summit! Even though I was on a low angle snow slope I was still in a more cautious mode with a consistent fast walking pace.  In hindsite I should have sped it up a little here.

There was one person on the summit, and I found a little bit of energy in my reserves to run the last 20 feet to the summit for a time of 2:01:02. Just 5 minutes short of the official foot record, but I was still happy with my time and had a huge smile on my face. The other gentleman and I conversed a little bit between my gasps for air, took summit photos for each other and then I set off back down the Pearly Gates to try and set a record round trip foot time. I was already way past the ski round trip time, but I figured a foot record should be added to the list.

I made it down to the Devil’s Kitchen where I took off my crampons and continued down.  The snow was still too firm to glissade, so I ran/walked down firm snow which was fairly miserable.  Once I hit the flatter section down by the Silcox hut the snow was much softer and I was able to take long running strides, digging my heels into the soft snow with each step. 3:07:45 had me back at the parking lot and the white pole that I started at.

I didn’t beat the official foot record, but I was still quite happy since my goal had only been to beat my own time and see how fast I could do it!  I was quite happy how everything went and there are only a few things I would change.  The Salomon S/Lab X Alp Carbon 2.0 mountaineering shoes and Petzl Leopard crampons worked as expected.  The shoes were great on snow, and the crampon shoe combination worked ok on the steeper terrain in the Pearly Gates. The 6.8 oz Rock and Ice Idol mountaineering axe worked perfectly and I couldn’t notice it while on my back.  The Salomon ADV Skin 12 trail running vest worked perfectly.  I was able to access everything including my crampons and axe without taking the vest off. I was even able to take off my Arcteryx running wind breaker without stopping or taking the vest off.  This tactic was due to Samantha’s comment that she was able to remove her jacket without taking off the vest during a recent 50K race.  Remembering this comment I spent the previous evening running in circles in the Trilium Lake parking lot practicing taking my jacket on and off without taking off the vest.  I never thought I would be practicing my transitions for a mountaineering route!

The one thing I would change is the amount of water I brought.  I brought 2 liters in a bladder and I only drank 500 mL.  I tried really hard to drink as much water as I could, but I had a hard time drinking while moving since it interrupts the breathing process. Next time I would bring about 750 mL of water with me.

After thinking quite a bit about my performance and what things I could change, I have decided that I am quite certain I have a faster time in me. Possibly enough to beat the official foot record, but likely not enough to beat the unofficial ski record of 1:27:46 to the summit.  Unless I find out more information I am going to go ahead and claim the FKT for a round trip on foot without sliding aids such as skis or garbage bags.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Jefferson Trip Report

 

This past week I was looking for a good mountain to solo in the Portland area.  I eventually decided upon Mt. Jefferson.  I was considering doing either the South Ridge or the Southwest Ridge, but both routes seemed a little uninteresting and the usual way of access is through the Pamelia Lakes Limited Entry Area which requires an entry fee. I decided upon the Jefferson Park Glacier since it seemed to be the most challenging and interesting of the routes on the mountain while still being easy to solo.

After picking up some groceries and things at REI I arrived at the parking lot a little before sunset on Sunday Night.  I slept in my car in the parking lot and woke up around 5:00 am and started up the trail at 6:09 am.  The trail started off through a typical PNW coniferous forest.  Around 5400′ I had to walk across my first patch of snow.  A little while later you come out onto the South side of a ridge where you have a fantastic view of the Northwest side of the mountain and the route of the Jefferson Park Glacier.

The park was mostly covered in snow with occasional wet marshy areas.  From here I continued up the rest of the way on snow.  I made my way up a drainage toward a small ridge and the Jefferson Park Glacier on the other side.  Once on the Glacier I stayed to the left hand side that was crevasse free.  There were a few exposed crevasses on the right hand side that were fairly large and exposed.  As I continued upward I was trying to notice where I would be able to cross the bergschrund to the snow slope and ridge above the Jefferson Park Glacier.  I decided to go up to the bergschrund and see if I could climb up it.  The ice on the bottom half climbed well, but about 15 feet up the ice/snow was so soft that my tools just pulled through it when I weighted them.  I then backtracked to the eastern side of the glacier where there were a few smaller crevasses.  I climbed up and around them onto a snow slope and then traversed around a small peak and then onto the ridgeline going to the summit.

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Looking up the Jefferson Park Glacier.  You can see the bergschrund in the upper right.

 

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My ascent route in red and descent route in green. Photo by Andrew Lauman
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The summit Ridge and summit

 

The whole time walking the ridge to the summit I was wondering where the rock was!  The descriptions I read online implied that there was easy rock climbing to the summit.  I did not see it.  I was quite glad I wasn’t going to have to solo some poor quality rock.  Instead, the rock was covered in a strange, wind affected ice that was some times difficult to climb with my whippet and super light mountaineering axe along with  my non ridged aluminum crampons.  Short parts of the ice section were vertical.  Once I got near the summit I was able to get onto some rock on the east side of the mountain that was free of ice and snow.  I walked this for 50 feet to the summit.  I sat on the summit for  a while, took in the sights and lathered up with sunscreen.

I was a little nervous about down climbing the ice section since I usually find it a little more difficult to climb down and that I found it a little challenging with the lightweight equipment that I had.  Fortunately the ice and snow had warmed up a little bit and the down climb wasn’t bad at all. I reversed my route except for a small section where I went straight down to the Jefferson Park Glacier instead of following my way up from the bergschrund.  The way out was quite uneventful.  I did stop and chat with one skier and two parties that were headed to Jefferson Park for some camping.  Once I hit the hiking trails I was ready to be done.  The foot pounding paths on the way out were not the most enjoyable part of the day.

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Looking back down the summit ridge.

 

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The view of Mt. Jefferson from the trail.

 

For the last two miles I ended up running.  I was so ready to be done.  I just wanted to be laying in my bed in the car eating food.  There were some really nice shady spots in the parking lot, so I moved the car into one of them and relaxed for the next couple hours.

Climbing Mt. Jefferson was one of the most enjoyable days I have had in the mountains in a long time.  It was really fun to do my first real glacier travel trip solo, have everything work well and realize that I can move fast, and even faster if I wanted to.

My times were 5:16’48 to the summit and 8:29’04 for 14.7 miles and a vertical gain of 6768 feet.  I am not sure if there is a speed record, but if someone wanted to do the Jefferson Park Glacier for speed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could get a summit time of less than 4:30 and a round trip time of 7:00 or less.

While I wasn’t going for a speed ascent, I really enjoyed being able to do the route in one day with a pack under 10lbs.  For me it was much more enjoyable than hauling in overnight gear. I missed out on some experiences that can only be had with an overnight ascent, but every style has its pros and cons.

My GPS track can be found here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move163660369

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Everything I brought with me in my running vest.
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The best mountaineering shoes ever! The Salomon X ALp Carbon 2.0 GTX.

Petzl Pick and Spike Protection Review

 

The Petzl Pick and Spike Protection set is designed to protect the points of Mountaineering axes. The set consists of two pieces. One for the axe pick and one for a traditional flat mountaineering axe spike.  Both pieces are made of a soft yet durable rubber and fit the majority of ice picks, crampon front points and mountaineering axes

The pick protector has two parts that the pick is inserted into. The pick is first slid into the lock mechanism and then into the protector. If the pick protector is jostled around, it can not fbut can be used on most axe picks and front pointsIMG_0013

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The Pick Protector on the Camp Frontier mountaineering axe

IMG_0007The spike protector also has two parts to it.  One part is the toggle that goes through the hole in the spike and tethers the protector to the tool.  The other part is the spike protector itself and slides over the spike.  The spike protector is designed for use on traditional flat metal spikes.  It will not work on rounded spikes or spikes created by aluminum shafts.

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The spike protector does not fit on a large variety of mountaineering axes and ice tools

 

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The spike protector on the Givel G-1

 

Bottom Line: The pick protectors are great a variety of tools  such as technical ice tools and mountaineering axes.  The spike protector is much less useful as it works on a small percentage of tools.  For most people, buying the set will be worth it just to use the pick protector.

Pros: durable, fits most tools, protects spike and picks well.

Cons: Unable to purchase spike and pick protectors separately, spike protector only fits old flat style spikes.

MSRP: $9.95

Competitors: BD Spike Protector, BD Pick Protector, BD Ice Axe Protector, Grivel Axe Guard

Compatible Picks: BD Laser, BD Ice Pick, BD Ice + Pick, BD Alpine Pick, Petzl Ice, Petzl Dry, Petzl Pur’ice Alpix

Compatible Mountaineering Axes: Petzl Sum’tec, Givel G-1, IceRock Idol

 

 

USA Ice Climbing an Organized Effort

For quite a while, competitive ice climbing in the US has been a dysfunctional hodgepodge of efforts, from local comps to US Championships, youth competitions and athletes. Other countries have been organized for quite a while and developed organized teams and fantastic athletes. Two great examples of this are South Korea and Russia. Both countries have organized teams and a competition circuit that prepares their athletes for the upcoming World Cup circuit. Because of this organization both Korea and Russia routinely take first place on the podium.

Competitive ice climbing ha been growing in the US but has not had an organization or strong community behind. It has mainly been pushed to its current state by individuals.

This past winter while at the Ice Climbing World Cup competition in Beijing, I had several dinner conversations about the unorganized nature of US competition ice climbing. Out of these conversations came the idea of USA Ice Climbing, a non profit organization who’s goal would be to promote and grow competitive ice climbing, mixed climbing and drytooling.

After a couple months of time traveling between World Cups and working on creating USA Ice Climbing, it’s a reality! Stay tuned for big things in competitive ice climbing in the US and the 2018 North American Championships and the US Championships hosted by USA Ice Climbing!

http://www.usaiceclimbing.org

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New Mixed Route at Sandstone

Today I climbed a new mixed route at the Sandstone Ice Park in Minnesota. I cleaned the route and placed a two bolt anchor above it this past fall. I finally got the chance to head up to Sandstone for the send! The route was in great condition. It is a vertical crack in a corner that varies from a 0.3 to a number 2 cam. in the conditions I had, the crack had sections that were iced up and require precise and delicate swings.

The route is located in the in a corner on the north west side of the pit right next to the bathrooms on the way in to the main quarry. The route is leadable on trad gear and has a two bolt anchor on top with steel biners. If youd prefer not to lead the route is still a little dirty and will hopefully get cleaner as more people climb it. I believe I did more cleaning on route than I did on rappel while bolting it.

Unnamed M7 ~40 feet