It was our third day camped out in the headwaters of Crystal Creek. We were as close to the edge of the permit zone of the Enchantment Basin, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, as we could get. Two days ago we had left Leavenworth with 50+ pound packs, loaded with food, fuel, and enough climbing equipment to keep us busy for over a week. The awkward and oversized packs barely fit in our bicycle trailers and the thought of flat tires was a real threat on my mind. We reached the trailhead without incident, and began the slog-fest to the high peaks above. The 10+ mile approach took about 9 hours, and I was happy we made for an early start when around 5 o’clock in the evening we found a suitable spot, hidden, out of the way, and near abundant fresh water. My ass had suffered, with at least one spot rubbed raw by the oversized expedition pack I was carrying. Without a scale I’ll never know exactly how much my pack weighed, but my earlier excitement with carrying two ropes, 9 days of food, a tent, bag, and daypack had turned into happiness that I hadn’t injured myself carrying all this gear that most likely topped out at over 70 lbs, and was, hopefully, the heaviest pack I’ll ever carry.
For the last week Liz and I had a base camp high in the Enchantment Peaks. With Eastern Washington burning around us, many of the climbers and residents of Leavenworth and nearby towns have run off to seek higher ground and an escape from the smoke. For those with automobiles, escape means Washington Pass, North Cascades, Smith Rock, or a variety of other destinations. For Liz and I, not limited but bound to human power, we put our hopes on the high country of the Enchantment Peaks. With fires blocking access to some of our bigger goals, we had to re-think our plans, and make the best of a world on fire. We were rewarded with many days of clean air, some days of smoke, and one of the best times anyone could ask for. Continue reading
Fall is underway here in Leavenworth. Kids are back in school, the light is softer and the air has a chill. Liz and I are finished with work for the season and for us this means an opportunity to use the changing of the seasons as a time for personal reflection and growth. For a lot of climbers this much time off would warrant road trips or weekend visits to nearby destinations, but for Liz and I, this time is a stay-cation. We’ve been reading, catching up on the missed yoga, enjoying using our oven again, and generally enjoying life. The cooler temperatures mean we’ve been able to get back down to the crags and domes that line the canyons, the rubber on our shoes is feeling a little stickier and our palms a little less sweaty. We’ve had some visitors this week as well, my brother Taylor managed to make it our for a short visit, getting a quick tour of the area with a hike up to Stuart Lake and a lap up the tireless Castle Rock, sending the six pitches of Catapult and Midway with ease. Scotty’s back with Shakaka and has fallen right into our routine of climbing and laughing, and drinking coffee. Continue reading
When we arrived in Leavenworth this spring, it was the first time either Liz or myself had ever seen the town, the Stuart Range, or the Cascades. A dry ski season had left us with strong legs, weak butts, and a voracious appetite for climbing. With only our bicycles for transportation our appetite was indeed larger then our ability for those first few weeks. Slowly we worked our way into the season with short trips up the Tumwater and Icicle canyons, the packs on our backs were heavily laden with gear. Hobo’s Gulch, Clem’s Holler, Castle Rock, Pearly Gates, we methodically worked our way up the road, each ride a little farther, each climb a little harder. After a while we wised up and put some slick tires on our bikes and threw down some dough for a couple of B.O.B. trailers to get the gear off our backs and save our asses some unnecessary pain. We’ve come a long way since those first weeks of this human powered season, our cycling has become more efficient, faster, and more pleasurable, and our climbing has improved in the same ways. Not only the physical nature of our trips has increased though, the mental toughness required to undertake a multi night adventure in this style is demanding. Should either of us be hurt or otherwise compromised, we’re a long walk and ride from town. The more we’ve become accustomed to this risk and accepted its many challenges, physical and mental, the more successful, exciting, and purely awesome our trips have become. On our most recent bicycle-powered excursion into the Stuart Range, we wanted to push the envelope even farther by undertaking a committing alpine climb, from town, all human power, in one day. We aimed high, and were rewarded with one of the finest climbs, and most rewarding experiences of the summer. Continue reading
Sounds like the beginning to a children’s story, but these two peaks help form the quartet of spires that is the Rat Creek Group. This collection of towers lies just a few short miles from Icicle Road as the crow flies, but a world away when you consider the trail less expanse of bushwhacking and blow downs separating it from would-be climbers. For our first single day alpine attempt, town to town, human powered, we chose the Mole, the largest in this quartet of spires lying just in view from the bottom of the canyon. Continue reading
Finding an “off the beaten track” adventure in the Stuart Mountains can be a challenging experience. The popularity and history of this small range have worked to make for an accessible, well known group of mountains. There are, however, a few areas that receive little attention and fewer people then the well known basins and crags of this classic alpine paradise. The drainage of the east fork of mountaineer creek, between Argonaut and Sherpa peaks is one of these places. Combine this with the challenge of a completely human powered approach and you’ve got yourself a weekend. Liz and i set out with a few scraps of route info and headed into this lesser known corner of our backyard. Continue reading