Blog: More Than A Summit

Mount Rainier Kautz Single-Push Trip Report

August 10th, 2018

On June 16, a group of climbers attempted a summit of Mt. Rainier via Kautz Glacier in a single-push. Due to changing weather conditions and timing, the team was unable to summit. However, three of the climbers reconvened a few weeks later to have a second attempt at the Kautz Glacier, successfully making summit in a single push! Read the story below, as told by one of the climbers!

Story captured by Robert Combs

Photo Credit: Robert Combs

Planning

Our original schedule called for a Saturday night start. At the pre-climb meeting, we weighed the less-than-ideal forecast against that schedule. Do we chance it? Reschedule? Cancel altogether? We agreed to sleep on it and make the final decision by Friday 10 am. This gave each of us time to choose between battling potential thunderstorms and 30-40mph wind, or trying to get Monday off of work. We unanimously decided to start Sunday night.

Paradise

At Paradise, we made some quick final adjustments to our packs and changed into the mountaineering boots that we planned to be in for the next 16 hours. Ten up, six down. With the sun just beginning to dip below the horizon, we marched off in high spirits.

Photo Credit: Forrest Barker

Up to Glacier Vista

The only difficulty getting to Glacier Vista was in resisting the temptation to stare at the incredible display of sunset to our backs. Each in our turn would stop for a quick photo, then do the “hey-guys-wait-for-me” shuffle to catch back up. Pace. It was important we maintain our pace.

Photo Credit: Forrest Barker

Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers

From below Glacier Vista, we used the last bit of twilight to assess the route across Nisqually and Wilson glaciers. It looked great. The moon rising now, we roped up and continued onward, pocket snacks at the ready.

With only a few exceptions the crevasses were minor and the going easy. Yet the pace we wanted seemed just out of reach for the team as a whole. On the far side of Wilson, we stopped for a quick breather. The sky was an impressive display of stars and that arm of the Milky Way. This was enough to distract, at least this author, from the wind that was becoming steadily stronger. Okay get moving, we’re already behind schedule!

Turtle Snowfield

Stepping out onto the Turtle Snowfield was much like sticking your head out a window on the freeway. Immediate and strong wind. This stronger than forecasted wind didn’t help with our speed. The pace continued to slow as we were sandblasted (snowblasted?) head-on.

Turnaround

At about 3am, we found ourselves taking shelter behind the rocks a few hundred feet below the ice chute. Behind schedule, wind-beaten, and without a bivy option in worsening weather, the team decided to call it here. We turned around and got ourselves safely back to the parking lot.

Photo Credit: Robert Combs

Reboot

Three members of this team planned a second attempt and made it back to the mountain a few weeks later. Leaving at 7pm on 7/21, eating and drinking on the go, limiting breaks (maybe 2 or 3 total), and maintaining a solid pace, we pushed up this route in some of the best weather Mt Rainier has ever given her visitors. A lot had melted since the first attempt, but a few (or dozen…) endarounds just makes it interesting! We topped out of the ice chute as the first twinkles of daylight appeared. From there a bit of zigzagging around fairly open crevasse conditions cost a bit more time than anticipated, but as we sat on the summit at 8am on 7/22, the high-fives and smiles were plentiful.

Photo Credit: Robert Combs

Here's to Climbing for More Than A Summit!


Have you purchased your tickets for the Peaks of Life Mountain Gala?

Ticket prices go up on August 15 (less than a week away), so please visit our website here to purchase your ticket prices today because "The Cascades are Calling." There will be a silent auction, Sasquatch hunt, prize wheel, and more! Seating is limited. Please contact us for more information at info@peaksoflife.org

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Mount Shuksan Trip Report

August 3rd, 2018

Story captured by Kristen Connolly

On July 7-8, a team of five climbers headed up the Fisher Chimneys route on Mount Shuksan in the North Cascades. Artemiza, Amber, and Kristen were led by Forrest and Eve on one of the most beautiful mountains and climbs in the Pacific Northwest. According to Fred Beckey:

Mt. Shuksan epitomizes the jagged alpine peak like no other massif in the North Cascades.

Standing at 9,131 feet, Mt. Shuksan has it all: rock (greenschist to be exact!), hanging glaciers, snow, and ice. With four faces and five ridges, there's a variety of routes to explore on Shuksan. It's also the only non-volcanic peak whose summit is >3,000 feet above timberline!

The Fisher Chimneys route was perfect for the first-time alpine climbers on the route (Amber, Artemiza, and Kristen). The route is described by Fred Beckey as:

A series of complex gullies, rock chimneys, ramps, and ledges on the S flank of Shuksan Arm, then crosses to the upper edge of White Salmon Glacier before continuing to Upper Curtis Glacier, then to Sulphide Glacier. It is a clever and tortuous route, not technically difficult, yet involving stimulating route finding.

I think most members of the team would agree with the 'stimulating' affect of this peak. The following photo shows a beautiful outline of the glaciers en route to the summit:

Mount Shuksan from southwest; photo from Fred Beckey's Cascade Alpine Guide

Of important note, there are discrepancies in various maps representing the Fisher Chimneys route. As Eve describes in her blog:

Many of the sections on this route are labeled incorrectly on the USGS map. And caltopo. Interestingly, the GAIA app seems to have it right. Here’s a link to a caltopo route of Fisher Chimneys (the northern route, the southern one is Sulphide) with labeled sections. Winnie’s Slide is southwest, you hit it right after a short walk along the White Salmon glacier after topping out of the chimneys. The Hourglass (not labeled) is the first snow ramp up to the first dip just southwest of the summit pyramid, it will not be continuous snow besides early season. Hell’s Highway is the obvious ramp that connects to the Sulphide at the south end of the Upper Curtis. 

Nitty gritty route descriptions aside, it's time to climb! Our Peaks of Life team met at 8AM on Saturday morning to snag permits from the Glacier Public Service Center. There, we found out there were 17 other climbers already on the route. We hoped today's rainy/misty weather would keep some of the crowds away, but 17 people sounded like misery on a route where rockfall is frequent. Regardless, we headed to the Lake Ann trailhead and geared up for the climb.

There was snow at the trailhead, and not many views to start. The trail almost immediately lost elevation and led us to a section strewn with rivers and swamps, lending to some challenging navigation.

Photo Credit: Kristen's iPhone

En route to Lake Ann, we waved goodbye to a group of five climbers heading back to the parking lot due to weather. (Our hopes and dreams were coming true! 12 people on the route now!)

At 12PM, we dropped our packs for a snack above Lake Ann, after gaining back most of our lost elevation from the start of the trail. We bumped into friends from Seattle Mountain Rescue friends from Seattle whom we played leapfrog with until the chimneys. We were met dramatic views of low-hanging clouds, jagged rocks, and the Lower Curtis Glacier.

Photo Credit: Kristen's Camera

Here, Forrest marveled at the potential for a more technical route, and made fart noises at the clouds in effort to get grandeur views.

Our team continued the trail on a talus field mostly filled with snow until meeting the first scrambled up a class 4, mossy, waterfall section of rock. Eve stood beneath the falls, getting water up her goretex sleeves, and Kristen leaned across the rock in the perfect position to soak her feet and put her camera at risk. Amber and Artemiza accepted a belay up the rock after Eve found the first rap station. Our Seattle Mountain Rescue friends scurried ahead of us, and we "rapped up" our first belay at 2PM.

Photo Credit: Kristen's iPhone

Once across a snow field below the Shuksan Arm and White Salmon Glacier, we were at the base of the Fisher Chimneys. This included a slow walk up a questionable snow finger.

Photo Credit: Eve

Then the real class 3-4 scrambling began! As there are rap stations set up throughout the chimneys, we set up multiple belays to add comfort to the steep, exposed 4th-class rock. We shimmied past "Fat Man's Misery" on the catwalk, and scrambled climbed our way to the top of the Shuksan Arm. With rappel stations available above each section of 4th-class rock, it was easy to set up belay stations with 30m rope (thanks to Eve and Forrest!).

Photo Credit: Kristen's iPhone

Photo Credit: Forrest

We climbed a bit of steeper snow in the chimneys (above), walked across more rock, and then climbed the last bit of White Salmon Glacier to camp (below). We made it up the last climb to camp at the base of Winnie's Slide at 5:30PM, with enough time to set up tents on perfectly melted spots. Our team seamlessly split into camp tasks, and everyone was enjoying backcountry meals and tea by 6:45PM, then tucked into bed by 7:30PM.

Photo Credit: Kristen's camera; last climb to camp!

Photo Credit: Kristen's camera; view from camp with dissipating clouds

We awoke at 3:30AM to clear skies, as we prepped our packs, donned our crampons, and tied into our rope teams: Eve & Amber on one; Forrest, Artemiza, and Kristen on the other. We were on the move by  4:30AM (later than our 4AM plan).

Photo Credit: Kristen's camera

With a magnificent sunrise and alpenglow on Mt. Baker, we climbed on the upper edge of White Salmon Glacier, to the steepest portion of Winnie's Slide -- a snow climb of about 40 degrees, which already had a staircase stomped into it. We flattened onto the rock rib at the end of Shuksan Arm, to the western edge of Upper Curtis Glacier.

Photo Credit: Eve; tents at the top of Winnie's slide, with Forrest's rope team. Amber standing on Upper Curtis Glacier.

We crossed eastward on the south edge of Upper Curtis Glacier. Forrest set up a picket for a running belay up Hell's Highway for mental health, as our teams climbed onto Sulphide Glacier.

Photo Credit: Kristen's camera; crossing onto Sulphide Glacier.

As we approached the summit block, we heard a woman yell from below, and thought we heard her exclaim a rock hit her in the head. As it turns out, the warnings are true: Rockfall is frequent on the summit block and careful steps are required. A woman was startled, but not physically harmed, by the rockfall, and therefore the team ahead of us had to descend. Forrest ran up to see if he could help the guided team. The rest of us waited about 90 minutes below the summit scramble as our shaded area turned to sun, and we socialized with other climbers. A large group of Russian climbers were below us, and we warned them to halt to allow for a smooth descent.

Photo Credit: Kristen's camera; waiting below the summit block with beautiful views!

Once the guided team was safely down, we pressed on toward the summit block. Our team made it up the summit scramble about 60 feet with one belay until we realized we'd be running too late if we continued to the summit. It was already noon, and we had to be back in Seattle that night. No complaints from our group, except for the fact that we all realized we'd have to come back another time for the summit. It's hard to see this as a downside when views like this surround you:

Photo Credit: Kristen's camera; Mount Rainier in the distance.

So began the long trek back to camp and our cars. We glissaded down Hell's Highway (doffing our crampons, of course), and down climbed Winnie's Slide (with impressive speed from Forrest) back to camp to pack up. There, we snapped a quick photo with the Peaks of Life banner, and were moving at 3:30PM (where does time go?) back toward the chimneys.

We used two 30m ropes down the snow (two rappel stations: one involving an awkward shimmy over the snow to start, second at a possible bail anchor that Forrest used), then coasted from there at each rappel station above 4th-class chimney sections. Our team got increasingly fast with the rappels, as Eve and Forrest took turns setting up rappel stations. Each person would show up to the rappel, prusik in a backup to the rope (using classic and klemheist knots) while one person was descending, then loop the rope through the belay device once the descender was off rappel. With a total of four rappels after the snow and another sketchy meeting with the snow finger, we were back on the trail.

Photo Credit: Eve; rappel down the snow

Our team cruised past Lake Ann and met back up with the official trail, marveling at all the wildflowers and swirly greenschist rocks on our path as the sun began to set.

Photo Credit: Eve; hike back to Lake Ann

We finished the trail in the dark (good thing we made our headlamps accessible at camp!), and were back to the car at 10:30PM.

These long two days were successful in more ways than a summit could ever be successful. Three people climbed their first alpine route, the skies opened for pristine views, and we raised money for children's healthcare. What could be better?

Here's to Climbing for More Than A Summit!


Want to read more personal perspectives? Check out the personal accounts of the climb written by Eve "Have Tent" Jakubowski, Amber "Snowbrained" Chang, and Kristen "Wanderlust" Connolly. Thank you, as always, for your support!

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Climbing for More Than A Summit

July 31st, 2018

The climbing season has been in full swing with Peaks of Life, and there's more to come! We are so grateful for the climbers who have joined us to climb for "More Than A Summit." As our tagline suggests, we may not always get to the summit of a mountain, but we always aim to raise money for uncompensated care for children and families receiving care at Seattle Children's.

The devoted individuals who join us on climbs pledge to raise a certain amount of money for each climb. We're lucky to meet people who are equally enthusiastic about climbing and our mission. The drive and passion behind our climbers has led to a growing support network in our community, and we're thankful for every donation received. Pushing physical limitations is often uncomfortable and challenges the psyche, so many climbers have expressed how our vision helps to keep them focused during climbs.

Our team at Peaks of Life is busy year-round, but this time of year is truly the peak of the action. We spend many months before the climbing season in preparation for mountaineering expeditions on prominent peaks throughout the Pacific Northwest. We work hard to recruit climbers who both meet the qualifications for each climb and are committed to the fundraising objective. As our network of supporters and climbers continues to grow, we are constantly amazed by the philanthropic community in the Pacific Northwest. Words could not begin to express how humbled we are by the kindness and generosity of those connected to our cause.

Every Friday in August, we plan to publish a trip report from our recent climbs, including: Mount Rainier (Kautz Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver, and Emmons Glacier), Mount Shuksan (Fisher Chimneys), Mount Olympus, and Mount Baker (coming soon!). In the meantime, please read the following brief summaries and highlights of our year so far, There's still more to come and we can't wait to share, but please ask any burning questions in our comment section.

Climbing Season 2018: A Brief Summary

Mount Adams: May 19-20

Elevation: 12,276 feet
Route climbed: South Climb
Summit Success: Yes!
Trip Snapshot: A successful summit despite "an initial dodgy weather report for the weekend." See the full trip report here, complements of Brett Banka!

Mount Rainier, Single Push: June 16

Elevation: 14,411 feet
Route climbed: Kautz Glacier
Summit Success: Not during this climb, but three members of the team headed back on July 22nd for a second chance and successfully summited in a single push.
Trip Snapshot: Due to varied weather conditions and timing, the team could not summit on July 16. Details on the Peaks of Life climb and later successful summit are underway!

Mount Rainier, Single Push: June 24

Elevation: 14,411 feet
Route climbed: Disappointment Cleaver
Summit Success: Yes!
Trip Snapshot: Forrest and Tuan headed up to summit Rainier as a two-man team in a successful one day push. A relatively uneventful, but highly successful climb.

Mount Shuksan: July 7-8

Elevation: 9,127 feet
Route climbed: Fisher Chimneys
Summit Success: Not this time, due to a rescue happening below the summit block.
Trip Snapshot: This route has it all -- glaciers, rock, scrambling, and snow travel. Time constraints did not allow for a successful summit, but the team was graced with beautiful views at camp and when the skies cleared on day two. Looking forward to sharing the write-up this coming Friday, August 3!

Mount Rainier: July 21-22

Elevation: 14,411 feet
Route climbed: Emmons Glacier
Summit Success: Yes!
Trip Snapshot: Our ALL WOMEN'S team (including Forrest Barker in a dress) persevered through "pain, dehydration, elation, more pain, sleeplessness, 5 minute cap naps, penitentes of death," says climber Anita Gray. Can't wait to hear the write-up for this trip report and be inspired by a team of women!

Mount Olympus: July 28-30

Elevation: 7,969 feet
Route climbed: Crystal Pass
Summit Success: Yes!
Trip Snapshot: With a long approach through the Hoh rainforest, the group camped two nights and summited Olympus in a three-day climb involving glaciers and rock. Can't wait to hear how the group entertained themselves during the long trek through the Hoh once everyone recovers from the long weekend!

Mount Baker, August 11-12

Elevation: 7,969 feet
Route climbeding: Coleman Deming Glaciers
Summit Success: Pending!
Trip Snapshot: Our team is currently in the fundraising stage. Please consider donating here to help our team reach their goal!

Peaks of Life Gala

Start spreading the news! As our climbing season is quickly coming to a close, we are gearing up for our annual gala to celebrate of our climbers and community of supporters! After climbing various mountains throughout the Pacific Northwest, we are getting excited to change our mountaineering boots for heels, eat a three-course meal, hunt for Sasquatch, and connect with our community. Don't forget to buy your tickets before prices increase on August 15th. We want to offer a special thanks to Jason Reynolds, the creative mind behind Rogue Photographer, for donating this incredible photo of Mount Rainier as our event's feature image.

We'd Love to Hear From You!

Your opinion is valuable for many reasons. We climb to build community, and our community is YOU! If you have any questions about information that has not yet been released (i.e. conditions of routes), or input for our organization, we'd love to hear from you. Please consider commenting regarding the following questions and thoughts:

  • What other peaks are you interested in climbing?
  • Are there any specific routes you'd like to climb?
  • Do you have specific questions about route conditions?
  • Do you plan to attend our gala on Friday, September 21?
  • What would you expect to see/learn/experience at the gala?
  • What would you like to learn about Peaks of Life?

Here's to Climbing for More Than A Summit!

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About Our Blog

Peaks of Life climbs for 'more than a summit.' On our blog, we represent the children and families we serve at Seattle Children's Hospital, while providing valuable information for our dedicated climbers and volunteers.

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