If you haven’t heard, wildfires have been taking over eastern Washington, with some half dozen different fires including the incredibly massive Carlton Complex which has torched over 215,000 acres to date. Coupled with a couple weeks of 100+ degree heat, and as my friend Scott put it best, it’s felt like a smoky oven. Needless to say, we’ve been laying low and doing our best to adapt to the situation at hand, things seem to be improving but I’m still skeptical for the future. For now, we’re enjoying a reprieve and I’m reflecting as well as looking forward to how and best balance this reality as it unfolds. Below you’ll find a few pictures from our weekend of clarity, and a few words regarding what it’s like living in a pressure cooker. If you’re into pictures or like your dose of crazy diluted as possible, remember to check us out on the Facebook and Instagram, where angry rhetoric is in short supply.
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