Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dabbling in Poetry

I've written a couple of poems recently, one from a prompt and one for a friendly contest (one that I didn't win, mind you). My skills as a poet need improvement, but I'll publish them below for your amusement.

I lose myself in patterns.
The shrillness of my alarm
   wakens me to a world of light.
A desire for food moves me to
   break my night long fast.
Off to work in attempts to
   produce for my boss.
Home means dinner, relaxation,
   some time alone.
My pillow brings me dreams of
   someday breaking free from repetition.
Yet I lose myself in the patterns which
   tie me to a comfortable life.

Very often I find myself
   Poised at the edge of a cliff.
The desire to fly, falling through
   Nothing, feeling the wind in my face is overpowering.
Why do I long to castoff from the
   Rock that supports my feet?
I seek things that i do not understand,
   Enjoyments and pleasures that do me harm.
It hurts others when I jump from the
   Cliff over and over again.
I can see the pain in his eyes now.
All too often I find myself
   Creeping to the edge of a cliff
   Holding a parachute filled with holes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

College Friend Visit

I got one of my best Christmas presents early this year. Over the course of the Fall I had been trying to plan my winter break vacation time with four goals in mind: 1) ski and ice climb as much as possible, 2) enjoy a family reunion in Colorado, 3) visit college friends in Wyoming and CO, and 4) catch up with friends and family back in Kalispell. The first was a struggle as the winter across the contingent states has thus refused to cooperate very well for powder snow pursuits and I lacked a consistent climbing partner. Numbers 2 and 4 went as well as I could have hoped, seeing a good number of friends while home and enjoying the company of my family in Colorado almost too much (particularly the food prepared!).

The third goal was potentially going to fall through the cracks based on limited time and money on my end, until the Pickles suggested they come up carpooling with my Wyoming buddy Alex and visit me in Bozeman. Needless to say I was overjoyed, both at the opportunity to see them and to share my beloved home.
Getting the uphill ride at Moonlight Basin.
Sarah surprising us all with a splash of snow during a
self-timer group photo.
Two Pickles in front of the Pickle Barrel with ice cream
filling home-made waffle cones!

Alex "planking" the 45th Parallel. Bravely done, my friend.

They arrived on a Friday night for some hangout time at a friend's house in town. Saturday saw us up and out of the house early for a beautiful ski day at Moonlight Basin. We went to church on Sunday morning and tromped around in the snow in Hyalite Canyon during the afternoon followed by sampling the local flavor of Bozeman: Colombo's Pizza and Pickle Barrel ice cream. On Monday, we made an excursion down to Yellowstone National Park to view animals, play in the snow, experience some of the thermal features, and bathe in the Boiling River hot springs. The hot springs were something else! I have never experienced something like that before and I will surely do it again it was so wonderful. Our evening time was filled with a game Nathan and Sarah brought called Cosmic Encounters. Many a boisterous guffaw were spent and friendly grudges kept in a Risk-like game of alliances, devious strategies, and the mysterious powers of strange alien races.

An attempt at being artsy, BW photo of Mammoth Terraces.

Is that excitement or terror on their faces? Can't tell.
Nathan and Sarah pre-dip at the Boiling River. 
A little capt'n in all of us eh? Here is the group after a
wonderful soak in the Boiling River. 

I cannot express the ecstasy and the love and joy that filled my heart with their visit. I feel fortunate to have such amazing friends and my hope is that we will have many more such memories in the future!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

End of Summer Hiking in Glacier

Since this is really the only place that I post pictures (unless specifically requested by friends...) I feel the need to do some "back-posting" now that I have some free time away from school work. 

Eagle Ribs and Mt. Despair
After the weekend of my Lookout to Lookout run, Dad and I drove over to the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park to climb with fellow members of the Glacier Mountaineering Society. The climb, led by our good friend Dell, was to summit both Eagle Ribs and Mt. Despair. Both names led to puns aplenty, let me assure you. 
Fellow climbers in the foreground, Eagle Ribs in the
background on the right. 
We set off early from the Two Medicine parking area, with high hopes of summitting two peaks by the end of the day. About a third of the trip was on maintained trail with the rest following goat trails, not trail, or snow. Our first objective was soon in sight and the summit gained easily. Then we faced a difficult route-finding mission between the two peaks, scrambling among several cliff bands and avoiding steep patches of snow as much as possible. Making our way around the summit block of Eagle Ribs was likely the "crux" of the day and many times we thought we'd have to turn around. Thankfully the feelings of the group was always "try one more approach", "go around the next corner", and "let's see how far we can get".
Scrambling around while route-finding. 
We finally made it through the saddle and onto the snow field our group which had been cause for concern since we had first seen it earlier that morning. The route turned out to be fairly straight forward and the snow not nearly as steep as initially anticipated. We summitted the peak with ease, despairing no more that we would not achieve our two mountain objective.
Summit photo on Despair, our crew no longer despairing
yet still mindful of the long trek back to the vehicles.
We merely reversed our tracks out the way we had come, moving much faster through the saddle and around the summit block of Eagle Ribs than we had that morning. The weather held wonderfully and we made it back to our vehicles right as it got dark to be welcomed back to civilization with chips and salsa! Our leader, Dell, was keeping track of vertical and mileage and it was over 7000 feet gained over 20+ miles if I remember correctly; the second weekend in a row of big miles and lots of vert for me.
Descending the largest snowfield on the return from
Despair. Remember this is July 30th, and we're using
crampons and ice axes.
Mad Wolf Circuit
Gordan Edwards book A Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park has several descriptions of traverses, circuits, and peak link-ups that are worthy challenges for the aspiring mountaineer. In the Cut Bank drainage on the East side of Glacier Park, the Mad Wolf circuit summits three peaks within view of the campground starting point: Mad Wolf, Eagle Plume, and Bad Marriage. The climb begins along the Triple Divide pass trail before jumping off and crossing the Cut Bank Creek along an old Park trail that is no longer maintained (it does happen to be on most topo maps of the area however). We left our sandals in a tree to avoid varmints using them for some mid-morning munchies and bucked the brush periodically while following the old trail. We were rewarded as we left the treeline with a sighting of a group of wild horses mentioned in Edwards climbing guide and a small bull moose! The route to the summit of Mad Wolf was a straight forward scramble and beautiful ridge walk. Though the sun was shining it didn't take long for everyone to pull out their jackets due to the strong winds as can be seen in the summit photo below.
Summit photo with climbing crew on Mad Wolf. 
Our climbing crew, then walked the ridge toward Eagle Plume, ascending the class three scramble to the top in short order. It always amazes me how much ground you can cover by keeping a solid pace, putting one foot in front of the other; particularly surprising on a gorgeous day where you can see for miles and miles. Dropping off the back side of Eagle Plume was not the most enjoyable decent I've ever experienced: a shallow layer of scree on rocks isn't conducive to speed or comfort. We followed a sort of climber's/goat trail once reaching the rock field below that led us to the summit of Bad Marriage. We relaxed on the top for a while enjoying the sunshine and the success of the trip thus far.
Third peak of the day! Lounging in the sunshine on
Bad Marriage. 
The crux of this circuit follows the enjoyable views of ridge walking and peak bagging. We traversed along the cliffs and scree fields on the east face of Bad Marriage and made our way to the stream at the bottom of the cirque. Topographic maps indicate a water fall at the edge of the cirque, thus we knew we'd have to negotiate some cliffs to get back to the trail we came in on. We stopped at a picturesque pool between between some of the falls to filter some water for the rest of the trip.
Filtering water near a beautiful water fall, Eagle Plume
in the distance. 
There is really only one way through the cliff band and down to the valley below. If you cross the stream at a narrow point right above the biggest falls, angle up and to the right heading toward what appears to be the only way around the steep cliffs. If I remember correctly we had to skirt some small trees and scramble down some wet rocks and soil. Don't split up your group without being able to contact each other via radio or cell phone. We got separated and one member of our group did a lot more climbing and walking than necessary. It was also very helpful to have a GPS to log the route on the way in: we followed it's direction and hit the trail again fairly easily.
Ever seen a sandal tree?
We found our sandals again, waded across the creek, and stumbled back to the truck tired from the day but feeling elated and fortunate. The trek was beautiful and a challenge worth facing. The Summit Post article on the climb discourages climbers from attempting the whole three peak circuit because the views from Bad Marriage are the same as Eagle Plume and the trip off Bad Marriage was hairy enough for him not to get back to his vehicle until 1:30 in the morning. Thankfully this was not our experience. I feel like the third peak was well worth the extra effort and with the help of maps and a GPS, route finding back to the campground wasn't extremely difficult.
Alpenglow on the completed circuit. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Parent Weekend

My parents came down to visit on a weekend that turned out to be MSU's parent weekend. They were kind enough to bring me some of my things I hadn't been able to bring down in August including a box spring (and then they bought me a bed frame!). We got to spend some quality time together chatting it up over several good meals, watching a new movie at the theater, attending a prayer meeting with me, and going for a hike in Hyalite Canyon. We had some beautiful weather as you can see from the photos below. 
Awwww... Family photo in front of Palisade Falls.
Goofing off at the Falls.
I cannot be grateful enough for my wonderful family, particularly my loving parents to whom I owe everything. How do you pay someone back for instilling in you good values and changing your diapers? Thank you Mom and Dad!

No. 5 Denali: Two Miles above Sea Level

All smiles while traveling in a mini-blizzard from Camp 2
at 9500 feet. Those goggles are pretty photogenic, no?

Journal Entry No. 5
Location: 11,000 foot Camp, laying in the tent after a big haul from 9500 feet. We went to bed at 9500 feet with high hopes for the next day and awoke in a blizzard. But our RMI friends were moving so we felt like it was okay to move too: the weather was snowy and visibility poor but it wasn't too cold to risk frostbite or worse.

June 20th—Storm Day...kind of.
We're laying in the tent right now trying to take a nap after a big morning, but I can't sleep, so I'm reflecting. I guess I'm also sitting, not laying, in my Thermarest chair. Awesome investment by the way...

Another big day today. It snowed last night and we woke up to an obliterated trail, about two inches of fresh snow, and poor visibility. Since there wasn't going to be as much of a problem with being too hot, we slept in after seeing the conditions. I think we got up sometime around 5, broke camp, and headed out to our cache from yesterday. We dug it up without problem (pink is a very good color for wands), and continued along behind a large guided group that passed us while we were repacking our sleds.

It was really difficult to see the way to go, especially when we came to a section of trail with no wands. (Even our friend/guide Mike got lost initially until he checked his GPS). Comically we were in the process of passing a different guided group and came to the lead person right as the wands ran out. Dad was following the contour of the slope and veered right in a small radial curve and ended up going about 90 degrees off course. It was made even more dramatic since the lead guide started tending left to avoid a steeper section of trail. Then Dad wanted to follow them and I got really frustrated with the pace and didn't handle it very well. Dad graciously put up with me. He needs to carry the GPS the next time we travel in a whiteout though.

I couldn't help but laugh out loud: I'm standing there while Dad is making a dramatic turn to the right and had no idea! We got back on track and waited for the guided rope teams to pass us and then followed them. As I mentioned above, they were moving very slowly, at a pace that felt uncomfortable for me. I tried to motion to Dad that they were slow and we could move faster, but my I think all my limited sign language was able to express was some impatience. Note to self: sign language, unless agreed upon before the climb has now place in mountaineering. Bad communication and hurt feelings are a very real threat to any expedition.
Did I mention we ate well on the trip? A pancake frying
in my frybake pan. Yum!
Camp at 11,000 feet didn't come without a fight: the last hill into camp proper was a beast of a climb. Tired and hungry we built camp. By the time we melted snow and cooked “breakfast for lunch” around 1:30, morale was at a low. But what could turn it around but pepper-jack cheesed bacon and granola, walnut pancakes, and syrup. My new frybake is awesome!
Dad showing off a pretty amazing looking pancake. Much
needed nourishment after a long hard day up to camp.
When pulled into camp and began to set up, another guided group came through with Vern Tejas in the lead. Vern is crazy: a mountaineering machine, having climbed all of the Seven Summits multiple times, and has claim to the first winter solo ascent of Denali. He also comes into 11k foot camp singing a made up song at the top of his lungs. Let's think about this, I'm having trouble breathing because of the elevation and he is singing. Again, crazy

After our afternoon nap, we're going to have pasta with butter fried, smoked salmon...and pudding for dessert. We're going to have to work on camp a little too for a little evening calisthenics.
Camp at 11k feet looking at the route up Motorcycle
Hill. The weather is still fairly foggy/socked in.
Climbing roped on glacier is an interesting mix of individual and team effort. You choose to travel with partners so as to be safer in the case of a crevasse fall. But being roped 20 meters apart essentially means you are climbing by yourself with no one around to talk to. It's probably good on an expedition like this though: confined to the same tent as someone for several weeks can be trying for an introvert like me. Alone time while climbing and writing are very restful periods. On the other hand, my dad is the best partner I could ask for on this trip. There is no pressure to perform or make hasty decisions. We are also very good friends which allows conversation to go anywhere.

I still can't get over how amazing it was skiing on the glacier yesterday!

I have a note on the border of the page that says, 
"Right now, I have no doubt in my mind that we will make the summit of Denali.”
At this point in our journey, Dad and I have both gone through numerous highs and lows with regards to the success of our expedition. Our recent success of traveling through various weather and snow conditions, bolstered by our new found RMI friends, is allowing us to feel positive again, as though we might be able to pull this thing off. 
View from camp at 11,000 feet. We had some really
beautiful days up there.