Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Junuary Inversion

Marcel Gesmundo eyeing thousands of feet of corn on Mt. St. Helens
With sunny weather in Central Oregon and a persistent inversion in the mountains, I couldn't decide whether to climb or ski this past weekend.  Luckily, with a three day break, I could do both!  The Pacific Northwest delivered again with two days of sunny climbing at Smith Rock and a stellar day of skiing corn on Mt. St. Helens.

Saturday and Sunday, Kristin and I bathed in the winter sun of Smith Rock, climbing volcanic tuff and soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible.  Everyone was sporting sunglasses and mile wide smiles.  With the winter sun low off the horizon, the park was filled with beautiful, warm light that was cut by the shadows of the surrounding spires.
Kristin on Phone Call from Satan

Mr. Bohle on Caffeine Free
Unknown climber on the Peanut in late afternoon light
Unknown climber on the Magic Light
As we walked back to the car on Saturday afternoon, I turned and looked up the hillside and caught a glimpse of two solitary climbers on a striking arete high above the park.   Backed by a perfectly blue sky, they almost shimmered in the fading afternoon light.  A seed had been planted.

That night, we ID'd the climb in the new guidebook and agreed that we'd go check it out on Sunday.  By the time we got out of the car the next morning, I could hardly contain myself.  Hello!

Picnic Lunch Wall
  Voyage of the Cow Dog, 5.9, 3 pitches

Starting at the top of the Shipwreck Gully, Voyage of the Cow Dog climbs to an airy perch high above the front side of the park.  The first two pitches are pretty cool, but the third pitch, up a striking pillar of volcanic rock with gut churning exposure, is one of the best 5.9 pitches at Smith Rock without question. 

I was lucky enough to climb the route with three very cool women, and having led the last pitch I got some great pics in more incredible light to capture a special moment.

Kristin very excited to be right there right then

Kristin on the 3rd pitch of Voyage of the Cow Dog

Leigh Schelman leading the final pitch

An unusual view of Smith Rock and the Cascades

Moira cruising the last pitch

Exposure, sun, ice on the river, and volcanic spires in all directions - what a day for January!!  The approach takes about 30-40 minutes from the car, and the route isn't very long, but the position is absolutely incredible, and the rock quality on the third pitch is phenomenal.  The route was apparently hand drilled on lead, which must have been exciting.  If you're into this kind of thing, definitely go check it out and appreciate the fine efforts of the first ascensionists. 

Buzzing from an incredible weekend, I spent a good part of the drive home lining up partners for the final outing of the three-day weekend, hoping that the warm, sunny conditions in the mountains would hold for one more day.  After a flurry of texts, the plan was set for a 5 am departure from PDX en route to Mt. St. Helens.

We left the car around 7:45 am and topped out around 12:45 pm to absolutely incredible views, blinding sunlight, and calm winds.  In the clear winter air, we could see from Mt. Baker to the Olympics and south to the Sisters and beyond.  After gaping at volcano country, laid out before us like a map on the wall, we eventually gave into temptation and clipped into our bindings for the 5000 ft. run back to Marble Mountain Sno-Park.

I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking, but major props to Guy, Scott and Marcel for rallying and to Neve for not falling into the crater and not spending too much time on my tails.

Neve in huskie heaven
Climbers on the way down from an early morning summit with Mt. Adams behind
Scott nearing the Crater Rim

Chillaxin on the Crater Rim

Mt. Rainier, Spirit Lake and the walls of the Crater Rim

Guy topping out all smiles despite some heckling from the peanut gallery
Does it get any better that this?
Don't eat the yellow snow!
Down time!

Headed home


  1. Nice!! That Voyage.. line looks amazing!

  2. Yep - definitely worth doing, and you could combine it with several other good pitches up that way.