Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mission Improbable: Guye Peak’s West Face

Hollywood gets it right again.

The tape starts…

“Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to climb the Improbable Traverse route on the west face of Guye Peak. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds…”

But that’s messed up, it’s the middle of winter. Why would anyone want to try and sketch their way up all that loose rock and then across a slab when it might be covered in snow?

“Well, it’s mission improbable, Dr. Miller – not mission difficult.”

Fast forward…

Which is why Chris and I found ourselves gearing up at a turnout below Guye Peak at 7am on Sunday morning.

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Free US Maps and Viewer Software

So I was playing around with my maps thinking about a trip for next year and it reminded me of a bunch of things I figured out for viewing maps of North America…

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Getting to the Wrangle-Elias Range

Several people have asked me about options for getting to the southern end of the Kluane Park and the peaks around Mount Kennedy, Vancouver and Augusta.

You could drive from Seattle. I’ve always thought it would be a pretty interesting trip. Last time we took the ferry back from Haines to Skagway and that was really cool . It’s about 1600 miles from Seattle to Haines (you can’t drive to Yakutat). So I guess it depends if you want to trade time for money. I’ve left Seattle on the morning flight and been on the glacier the same evening! – flying Alaskan Airlines to Yakutat and then to the glacier from there. Even with Paul Swanstrom flying up from Haines you could still arrive in Yakutat and get him to fly you in that afternoon or the next morning, weather permitting. Pilots tend to prefer flying early when the snow is harder as takeoff is easier.

As for air services the only ones I’ve ever considered are:

Andy Newton out of White Horse (is this “Icefields Discovery”?). I’ve never used him but lots of people do. The minus about flying from White Horse is that it’s on the east side of the range and it seems like it’s easier to get stuck there waiting for weather.

Paul Swanstrom out of Haines. I’ve used him once and my buddy Paul has used him a couple of times. He’s very solid and pretty conservative about what’s possible – a good trait in a pilot in my opinion. Haines is about the same distance as White Horse but on the west side. I’d have him meet me in Yakutat – we didn’t do this last time because we didn’t ask the right questions. If you were a party of four doing two trips this would be a lot cheaper as you’d only pay for the Haines-Yakutat leg once with a light plane. To me the only minus of this approach is you get to hang out in Yakutat not Haines (Haines is much nicer).

Flying into Haines is expensive. The puddle jumper flights aren’t cheap and they really make you pay for baggage so that killed us because at that point we had all our food. I would try and avoid additional air taxi flights for this reason alone. Haines has a couple of OK supermarkets but you’d have less choice and the prices are higher than Seattle. You could fly to Haines and buy all your food their just about but direct from Seattle to Yakutat is simpler.

Paul Claus from Ultima Thule. This is a much better option for the University, Bona end of the range. It involves a lot more agro to get to the airstrip and he’s at the wrong end of the range for Kennedy so it’s a longer flight. I considered using him for a trip to the University-Bona area – which is very close to his lodge. He also flies a much bigger plane I think – so it might work out for you economically with a bigger party. His lodge is a really up market affair and not on the road – I seem to remember we would have had to fly in there. Dave Burdick has flown with him, you can read his report on their trip.

If I were doing it again I’d either fly directly to Yakutat and have Paul Swanstrom meet me there and fly in the same day or the following morning weather permitting – spend money save time. Or drive to Haines or White Horse and fly from there – interesting drive save cash.

Note: You pay twice for the aircraft landing in the Kluane Park – once in and once out.

Accidents Don’t Just Happen


Doh. Don’t drive your truck into a snowdrift on the side of Steven’s pass. It’ll look all bent like mine does. Not that I’m really complaining my passenger and I got to walk – or drive – away from this unscathed, plus the truck is fixable.

The moral of this tail is… accidents don’t just happen and there’s rarely one root cause. I mean it’s not like I was driving along and suddenly decided to take a hard left across oncoming traffic and into the barrier. Suffice to say it all started with not getting enough sleep and ended with choosing to pass a slow truck as we neared the summit and included several other mis-steps in between.

Read Accidents in North American Mountaineering and you find the same thing. Many accidents have a whole list of contributing factors that start many hours or even days before the actual event; the party was too slow or started too late, they chose to climb in less than ideal conditions, they took too much or too little equipment or they made a navigation decision and were off route.

When I think back about most of the near misses I’ve had they started with a seemingly innocuous decision that turned out to be bad, which in turn led to another one. Worth thinking about…

Be Careful Out There!

My good friend and long time climbing partner Simeon had a “minor mishap” a couple of weekends back. A slip below an ice climb in New York led to a fifty foot slide and a broken femur, dislocated wrist and chipped vertibrae.

You can read all about it on his blog and think about it next time you contemplate going climbing.

John Scurlock’s Flying Visit to Waddington

John Scurlock is already famous amongst Cascade climbers for his incredible aerial photos of the Cascades in winter. Now he’s started flying further afield. Just before Christmas he paid a flying visit to the range and dispite bad weather got some great shots of some of the major peaks.

Check out his latest pictures at:

If you’ve not seen his Cascades pictures be sure to give them a look also.

Music for the Jilted Generation

Driving into Mike King’s ranch on our way into the Waddington a few weeks back with Jello Biafra’s paranoid ranting blasting out reminded me about how important music really is.

Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors” Jello Biafra and DOA
Naked” Benjamin Zephaniah
Driving to Da Wadd with Simeon. It’s a long haul to Williams Lake.

Soundclash” Renegade Soundwave
Weekends seracing on Mount Baker with the Vancouver contingent. Waiting for the snow to come.

Real Gone” Tom Waites
Climbing Joffre with Robert Nugent – the top of the “hill”.

Troublegum” Therapy?
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” The Dead Kennedys
Ice climbing in the San Juans with Simeon and driving through the “dead zone” of northern New Mexico past midnight.

Music for the Jilted Generation” The Prodigy
Driving back from Canada after climbing Slesse and getting passed by Al, who was going even faster.

Bites and Remission” Skinny Puppy
Soloing The Triple Cs on Dragontail in bad weather.

The Stone Roses” The Stone Roses
Cragging in the Peak with MoJo and the “Bristol Crew”.

Play” Moby
Climbing the Black Dyke on Canon Cliff in a snow storm with Jimbo as part of the New Hampshire Magical Mystery Tour.


Someone showed me this neat little tool the other day. It’ll let you produce World and US maps with states highlighted. For instance I used it to show the countries and US states I’ve visited (hanging out in airports doesn’t count).

create your own visited countries map
create your own visited states map

Leavenworth again

John Plotz and I climbed Outer Space and The Mary Jane Dihedral on Snow Creek Wall on Sunday. We were going to finish off with Orbit but chronic dehydration got the better of us. The nearly two gallons of water we hauled up to the base of the wall wasn’t nearly enough. By mid afternoon I’d stopped sweating – not a good sign.

Wenatchee has some photos by John, including some of the day John, Kyle and I climbed the Backbone Ridge on Dragontail Peak. Click the “Photo Gallery” link.

Best Rock Climb in the Washington State

Tim, an old friend from home, was in town on business and wanted to get out and do a bit of climbing before flying back. The UK doesn’t really have a lot of long multi-pitch routes so, dispite a marginal forecast for Leavenworth, I picked Outer Space (6 pitches, 5.9) on Snow Creek Wall.

This is the forth time I’ve done Outer Space and I’m still not tired of it. It’s fantastic! The first two pitches aren’t that exciting but can be avoided by a couple of direct start variations. Pitch three is a spicy traverse and pitches five and six follow a perfect hand crack up the headwall with huge chicken heads. It just doesn’t get much better than that. Tim was grinning like the Cheshire Cat pretty much the whole time.

Just to make life sweeter there was only one other party on the wall. They were a lot slower but were on the direct start so we avoided them lower down. The rain started just as we topped out. We hiked down the trail with a touch of shadenfreude leaving the other party finishing the now damp headwall.

Life is good.

Outer Space and other routes in Leavenworth are described in “Leavenworth Rock; Edition 2” by Victor Kramar.