Friday, September 9, 2016

3. Summer and Last Minute Plans

My plan for the start of summer was a road trip to Canada to climb in the Rockies and Bugaboos for two weeks. This would cap my training and I would then rest for two weeks before going to the Waddington Range. However, Chris and his partner Josh could only climb the last two weeks of July, making things a bit tight. Then a last minute plan to visit friends in Alaska and help one of them drive his car back to the lower 48 foiled that idea completely.

Still wanting to get some concentrated alpine climbing in before Waddington (I'd done some in the Oregon Cascades that winter, but not as much as I'd have liked), I emailed my friend Steph who lives in Bellingham and always has a list of climbs she is trying to tick. We both have summers off and after some indecision due to weather we ended up in the North Cascades. We did 4 days in a row of alpine rock climbing on the Mountain Loop Highway and at Washington Pass. Then weather forced us to take a couple days easy.

After that we tried to coordinate some stuff in the Stuart Range but additional partners fell through and I decided some glaciers and ice would be better prep for the Waddington. That night I drove up to Mt. Baker and, the next morning, soloed the North Ridge car-to-car. Then I drove up to Mt. Baker Ski Area and scrambled Fisher Chimneys on Shuksan the next day. Unfortunately temps were getting really high after that and time was running out so I headed back to Bend.
Approaching the ice cliff on Baker's North Ridge.

Looking at the start of the Fisher Chimneys route on Shuksan.
I repacked the car and two days later my wife and I hopped on a flight to Alaska. A week of hiking and drinking beer (but mostly drinking beer), followed by several days crammed in a full car driving the Cassiar Highway from Anchorage to Seattle left me feeling tired yet rested. I was a little concerned because almost the whole drive through interior B.C. it had been raining and everyone we talked to said that it had been a very rainy summer for them. The forecast for the Waddington, and everywhere else in Western Canada, did not look promising either.

Nick had been in the Bugaboos climbing for a couple weeks already so I hadn't heard from him. The weather didn't appear to have any breaks in it and, once again, I started to lose hope that I would get to climb anything in Canada that summer, let alone in the Wadd. For about a day, sitting in Bend checking different weather forecasts, I almost decided to pull a 180 and go to the Tetons. But the Tetons are not the big, icy mountains that I wanted. Finally I got a call from Nick, he had just hiked out of the Bugaboos. He said that the weather had been rainy, but still good enough to climb most days. The local forecast showed the Bugs looking better than anywhere else in B.C. and we figured that maybe the precipitation would mean summer alpine ice on the higher peaks in the Rockies, which aren't far from the Bugs.

I called Chris and told him the plan. In my head the Waddington was now out, it was never going to happen, but we agreed to get in touch at the end of the week, just in case the weather forecast had improved. Two days later I met Nick in the Bugaboos and we climbed 4 days in a row, despite getting rained on every day. It was great.

Nick enjoying a scenic top-out in the Bugs.
We were pretty stoked on hanging out in the Bugaboos and figured we would just stay there for at least a few more days since the weather was only improving, but we did hike down to get some email Thursday evening, just in case. When Nick opened his email he had a bunch of new messages from Chris, the weather was splitter in the Wadd, how soon could we get there? Our minds reeled from the sudden change in plans. Part of us both really wanted to stay in the Bugs, we had many friends there and it was pretty nice, but I knew that if I didn't take this opportunity I would regret it.

Nick and I packed up our camp the next morning and hiked out. We drove late into the night and crashed at a cheap motel in interior BC for a few hours. Just before noon the next day we pulled off a gravel road on the Chilcotin Plateau and drove through a cow field to a big blue metal shed, next to a beautiful lake. Out front were two helicopters, one of them would take us into the Waddington. Chris and Josh were already there packing up their stuff. I felt about as tired as I normally do after a big mission in the mountains, but we were just about to get started.

L-R myself, Nick, and Chris: all stoked to be on the chopper.