Friday, October 26, 2012


The season seems to change awfully quick after the first week of October, and earlier this past week I was lucky enough to spend a day on the Mt. Hood National Forest checking out a proposed Forest Service project.  The North Side of Mt. Hood stood watch over the Hood River Valley, bathed in a fresh blanket of fall snow.  Inspiration in the making ... enjoy.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Anniversary on the Marsupial Traverse

Kristin celebrating our 8th anniversary on Brogan Spine
This year, July 4th - our 8th Anniversary - fell on a Wednesday, during a stiff period of work for the both of us, and so we hemmed and hawed a bit about what to do.  Although we have been climbing quite a bit this spring and early summer, we've been confined to the crags and haven't really spent much time off the ground.  After some back and forth, we finally decided on the Marsupial Traverse at Smith Rock, rumored to be the longest route in the park and a mini-adventure on typically variable Smith tuff.  After a reasonable 7 am departure from Portland, we managed to bag the route, enjoy a fancy anniversary dinner at Abby's pizza in Madras, and then arrive back in Portland by 10 pm.  A fine day!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Acid Baby --> SW Chutes

Saturday - Acid Baby
Sunday - Mt Adams SW Chutes

Last weekend, Jaime and I pulled off an alpine 2fer - PDX Weekend Warrioring.  We left Portland late on Friday after work, and we got back into town on Sunday evening almost exactly 48 hours later.  Saturday, we climbed Acid Baby in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness above Colchuk Lake and then drove down to Mt. Adams.  Sunday, we skied the SW Chutes and were home by 8-ish after beers in White Salmon.  Alpine rock climbing and volcano skiing - summer in the Cascades.  

Sometimes I get frustrated living in Portland, having to drive so far to get to the mountains, but then I remember what it was like growing up in Pittsburgh, where hills were called mountains and a long drive meant hours of torture on the PA turnpike.  When I start to get down on living in this city, I have to stop and remind myself of the big picture.  The Pacific Northwest is pretty much as good as it gets - at least for me.  The Cascades are wild and beautiful, and despite a few hours drive, they're basically in our backyard.  Oh yeah, and the food here in Portland is WAY better than Seattle!  Washington suckers.             

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June Recap

June was wet here in Portland - really wet - the second wettest in recorded history.  But there was still climbing to be had, mostly on the east side.  No matter how damp and dreary it gets in the Pacific Northwest, you can always find dry rock and good people who want to climb.  Here are a few quick shots from the last month . . .


Trout Creek opened after BLM confirmed the golden eagles had abandoned the nest on the Main Wall.  The salmon fly hatch was insane! And the climbing was pretty good as well.
Kristin on the approach with Mt. Jefferson and the Deschutes River in the background

Guy giving Jaime an attentive belay on Fun Soup, 5.10

More Fun Soup, 5.10

I had heard rumors of cool, steep and juggy routes at a relatively new crag called the Zoo down by Smith Rock.  We found the goods and had a great day climbing with some nice folks. 
Zac Fleischer sending A Scream Comes Across the Sky, 5.11aPhoto by Kevin Won.

Kevin Won cleaning a new project

The Tasmanian Devil

Sneaking away mid-week, I made a quick trip to the Menagerie for a site visit to discuss the Forest Service closure for nesting peregrine falcons.  We managed to get in a great pitch at the end of the day (outside the closure area).  

Panorama Point, The Rabbit Ears, Turkey Monster and the Spire (clockwise from top left)

Zachary Lesch-Huie from the Access Fund enjoying the summer solstice on Winter Sunlight, 5.9, The Hen
Guidebook author Greg Orton on Winter Sunshine, 5.9, The Hen

Friday, June 29, 2012

Merriam Peak - Direct North Buttress

The North Buttress of Merriam Peak, John Muir Wilderness
Merriam Peak
Direct North Buttress
IV, 5.10
June 23, 2012

Suffering from a severe case of early season restlessness, Jaime and I arranged for a three-day weekend of alpine rock and started to consider our options.  We could drive 7 hours to the North Cascades, which was threatened with mediocre weather, or we could stretch out the motorized approach and put in a solid 15 hours to the east side of the Sierras.  Folks around these parts are still skiing on a deep maritime snowpack, but with a lean snow year down south the alpine conditions in California were rumored to be excellent.  Crappy Cascades weather or California sun and golden granite?   

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back to the Tieton

Melanie McMahon on Lava Sundae, 5.10a, Dream Wall
The mountains keep pulling at my gut, but the lowland rock climbing has been really good over the last few weeks.  With questionable weather threatening many of the usual climbing destinations from Idaho to BC, a bunch of us "settled" on some of our old stomping grounds in the Tieton Valley.  We found perfect weather, sublime light and a big 'ole party complete with a posse from Portland and a bunch of tree climbing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Return to Trout Creek!

Trout Creek
Back in the fall, sitting at my office desk in Portland, I suddenly started to get emails and messages about a potential closure of Trout Creek, one of the best crags in the Pacific Northwest.  BLM was threatening to close down this incredible gem to protect golden eagle nests in the area, and local climbers were looking for a little help interfacing with the land managers.  I had climbed at Trout a hand full of times and was more than happy to devote a little desk time to the cause if it would help.  Everyone wanted to protect the habitat and give the eagles a chance to nest, but BLM hadn't yet given climbers the opportunity to be a part of the solution.  The issue kind of languished for several weeks and then all of a sudden in January we found out the BLM was implementing an emergency closure without any advance public process.   

Working with the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund and the Mazamas, we pulled together a couple of letters, an action alert, and a quick meeting with the Prineville Office of BLM, which helped to get the agency working in cooperation with a dedicated group of local climbers, including Eric Sorenson, Jeff Wenger and Wally Fox.  Those guys did a great job taking the lead and developing a strong working relationship with the field staff, and BLM, to its credit, did a great job of involving them in decisions affecting Trout Creek.  After these initial discussions, BLM chose to implement a voluntary closure, and everyone started working on a voluntary monitoring program for the crag.  A few weeks after the closure went into effect, lo and behold a pair of goldens took up residence in the nest on the Main Wall, which validated all the efforts made by both the agency and the climbing community.  BLM staff in the Prineville office deserve a lot of credit for partnering with an important user group, and climbers followed through on their commitment to protect raptor habitat. 

For the next several months, the locals kept an eye on the nest, but by the middle of May it looked as if the birds had moved on without hatching a chick.  Working together, BLM and the local climbers checked the nest, confirmed that the eagles had left, and then decided to lift the closure.  All of a sudden, Trout Creek was open for business!   

This past weekend, a few days after the closure was lifted, I snuck in a day of fantastic climbing on the splitter cracks overlooking the Deschutes River in the Oregon High Desert.  I felt lucky just to have one day of climbing at this beautiful setting, but it's literally in my backyard - what a treat!  All the guys that put in time to steward Trout Creek deserve a huge thanks, because so many people find a little piece of what they're searching for in that moment of uncertainty above their last piece of pro.  We all deserve that chance, and places like Trout Creek and the people who take care of it make it all possible.  Pass it on!

A Trout Creek local

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spring Cragging in the Tieton Valley

Spring in the Tieton
Spring has settled over the Tieton River valley, and the climbing conditions are excellent!  Last weekend, Kristin and I spent two more beautiful days camped along the river by night, climbing by day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 4 - Tiger's Nest to the Paro Tsetschu

At the Paro Tsetschu
For more than a year, we planned our trip with Mom around the five day Druk Path trek, during which we spent three days above 13,000 feet in the foothills of the Himalayas.  After successfully finishing the walk and descending back into the relatively thick air of the Thimphu valley, we hardly had time to enjoy our sense of gratitude and satisfaction and reflect on the experience, because our trip had not yet come to an end.  Over the next two days, our itinerary would take us to the Tiger's Nest monastery, a famous holy site that draws people from around the world, as well as one of the annual festivals - the Paro Tesetschu - which often provides the main focus for many tourists who visit Bhutan.  In between, the ladies still managed to squeeze in a bit more shopping, and we stopped in to visit more of the beautiful religious sites in the Paro and Thimphu valleys.  We could sense the end of our journey approaching, but, as with the whole trip, our surroundings helped us to stay focused on the present.   

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 3 - Dochu La to the Druk Path Trek

The Views of the Himalayas from the Druk Path Trek
After visiting the beautiful farm land and religious sites of the Punakha valley, we anxiously piled back into our trusty mini-van for the drive back towards Thimphu and Paro en route to the start of the Druk Path trek.  For many months we had read about this five-day trekking route, which traverses a high ridge line between the two main valleys of Western Bhutan.  We were excited to leave the roads behind and travel on foot, but first we would have to  negotiate Dochu La one final time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 2 - Thimphu to Punakha

The Golden Buddha
After an amazing visit to the Haa Valley, Madge, Kristin and I loaded into the min-van with Chundu, our guide, and Themang, our driver, for the journey to Thimphu.  During our brief stay in the capital of Bhutan, we hooked up with a couple of local trekking guides to climb at the only developed crag in the country - the Nose!  Just a bit smaller than its namesake in Yosemite, the 100-ft Nose basically includes all 14 of Bhutan's established rock routes.  Over the course of a really fun morning, we got to sample 4 of those 14 routes before lunch.

During the rest of our stay in Thimphu, we explored the local markets, visited the Giant Golden Buddha, still under construction, and saw the National Memorial Chorten, where locals spend their days spinning the large prayer wheels and walking clockwise around this holy site for good karma.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 1 - Chelela Pass to the Haa Valley

In December of 2010, Kristin and I gave my mother Madge a golden ticket for her 70th birthday.  This golden ticket entitled her to a trip anywhere in the world she chose to go.  After a few weeks of research, Madge decided on Bhutan and our preparations began. 

In March of this year, after many long months of planning, the three of us traveled to Bhutan for a two-week tour of the western and central portions of this tiny country.  At approximately 18,000 square miles, Bhutan is roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, but this Himalayan kingdom retains a rich and unique cultural and religious heritage all of its own.

The images below tell the story from the first leg of our trip, in which we drove over Chelela Pass, the highest road in the country at close to 13,000 feet, and then descended into the Haa Valley.

Isolated to the west of the main cities of the country, fewer than 10% of the tourists that visit Bhutan venture into this area.  We began our trip with a hike to a tiny, cliff-side monastery, a visit to a local farmhouse for lunch, and a memorable drive down a deeply incised river valley choked with old-growth trees.

if you click on any of the images below, you can view a gallery where you can easily scan through the photos.

You can also see a slide show of these same images set to some local music here: VIMEO slide show.  (Be sure to watch the HD version.)

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll publish shots from the rest of the trip, including the five-day Druk Path trek, a visit to the famed Tiger's Nest monastery, and the annual religious festival in Paro. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sin or Salvation? Skiing Mt. Rainier National Park - The Nisqually and the Tatoosh

The Mighty Mt. Rainier
Home from Bhutan just over a week, I drove down Interstate 5 on Friday morning after a mid-week meeting in Seattle.  Following a month of constant travel, I silently debated whether I should go skiing or simply stay at home and tend to the every day details that had fallen by the wayside.  Laundry, unpacking, work, even processing the 5,000 photos from my trip - I had plenty of excuses to remain in town and slow down.

For a few minutes, the classic debate between the angel and devil, both perched on opposing shoulders, played out in my mind.  But then I turned a corner on the highway and saw the mighty Mt. Rainier rising up off the horizon in clear, morning skies.  The mountain was covered in a deep blanket of snow that had fallen almost constantly since I left for Asia in March.  I couldn't deny the strong temptation presented by a weekend of chores, the lure of yard work and organizing the basement.  But having assumed the form of a majestic mountain temple, the angel on my shoulder reminded me that these sinful pleasures just lead to further moral degradation.  In a split second, she squashed that puny devil and illuminated the path.  Let's go skiing!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Idaho Ski Junket

Earlier in February, I was lucky to tag along on a ski trip to the Idaho Selkirks with a bunch of guys who had been making this trip an annual pilgrimage for the last several years.  Just outside of Sandpoint, nestled in the mountains, an amazing log home sits on a butte at about 5000'.  One side looks out over the valley and other looks up at the surrounding ski terrain.  The friendly proprietor sleds in the food, the clothes, and the keg while the everyone else enjoys a leisurely 6-mile skin up a forest road.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stretching the Legs

The conditions over the last two weeks have been kind of strange here in Oregon.  Heavy snows were followed by warm temps and rain, and then the following weekend clear skies dawned over Mt. Hood only to be joined by gale force winds.  Kristin and I made the best of it and took the skis ... and the camera .. for a couple of walks up on "the mountain."  Despite the weirdness, we enjoyed some fresh snow and a beautiful sunrise on Mt. Hood.  Oh yeah, and some killer parking lot french fries.  It ain't so bad . . .
Jaime and Anna under a rising sun

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scratchin' the Itch

Kim Crihfield on Taiwan On, 5.10c, Fourth Horseman, Smith Rock
This past weekend hopefully marked the end of the freakishly warm and dry winter conditions in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  Pretty much everyone I knew was in the depths of powder withdrawal - a horrible affliction that causes irritability, anxiety and constant weather channel web surfing.  There are few known cures, most of which involve long car rides, airfare, or very large doses of self-prescribed medication.  Even with proper treatment, a patient's prognosis is uncertain until the very end.