Friday, August 21, 2009

Some times you just need to get away...

After a late night of track racing, Chris and I headed up last Saturday to the Methow Valley for some outdoor adventures. My legs were rocked - and the first day we just hiked up to Blue Lake and check out the scene. I had never been - only up the trail to the climbing area. I don't know why they call it blue lake - it looks aquamarine to me!

Makiah was happy to come along on the first part of our adventure. On Sunday we handed her off to Kyle and Laura for the week while we were hiking the Enchantments.

Since the Blue lake trail is short, we decided to hike up to the Goat Peak Fire Lookout and visit Lightning Bill. He's been stationed at the lookout for the past 10 days and was really looking forward to having a break. For the next three weeks, the Methow is in serious fire danger - especially with thunderstorms and threats of lightning strikes. Local fire crews stomp out any fire whatsoever since the danger is so high for the entire valley to light up. As we chatted with him, his eyes kept moving around the panoramic skyline. He's quite a character and really pleasant to chat with. Turns out he had 34 visitors that day!

We started the descent from the fire lookout just at dusk and the views were stunning. Lightning Bill definitely has one of the coolest jobs out there!

The next day we were fixed upon doing the SW Rib of the South Early Winter Spire. The route serpentine's the southern aspect of the spire and has a nice range of climbing - from cracks, to crimps to massive slab sketchy run outs. Someone got a little spooked on the 5.6+ - I won't mention any names but let's just say I almost feel asleep when the rope didn't move for 20 minutes! Turns out my next door neighbor is a guide and mentioned that pitch spooks her out too! (And threatens to bolt the damn thing!)

And who did we see on the approach and summit? Mr. Bryan Burdo. You can see him just behind my left shoulder - belaying his partner up.

This is a great shot of the spire from the approach/descent trail. You can descend in the gully between the spires or come down the arete, like we did. That night we hustled ass to get back into town before 9 - to no avail. Luckily the brew pub in Twisp still had some tasty soups and salads - even though it was a 30 mile drive from the pass with serious dusk-deer-crossing threats.

On Monday afternoon we met up with Johnny and Chleo in Leavenworth to grab our back country permit for 4 nights in the Enchantments. They stocked up on food while we made some dinner at my friend Karen's house and then around 8pm we started the 5 mile approach to Colchuck lake. Our packs weighed a meager 30 pounds - thanks to Chris's experienced mountaineering tricks. I would find out later what having such a light pack meant.

That night, when we had finally reached the lake with our head lamps guiding us, we hastily pitched our tents and settled down for the night. But about an hour later, huge gusts of winds ripped through the area - making for a short nights sleep. The next morning we made a quick pot of Joe and headed on our way - intermittently stopped by a few rain showers.

The next major hike - up and over Assguard Pass. Also known as Asshard pass. I roared up the trail - passing several descending parties who looked worse for the ware. Two separate parties said they were cutting their stay two days short because the winds and rain were too epic the night before. I can only imagine what it was like at 7,000 feet instead of our 5,000! As I climbed, being careful not to let my heart rate elevate too much - I stopped 3/4 of the way up to wait for Chris, Chleo and Johnny. I waited, and waited. And waited some more. Then I started to worry - thinking maybe they hurt themselves? And I waited some more. Then slowly, they came to my perch where we hung out for a while longer before pushing on.

The scenery at the top of the pass looks like something from another planet. Here you are perched at 7,000 feet or so and surround by huge granite mountains and beautiful snow lakes. It was certainly enchanting!

On we hiked making our way to Inspiration lake where we would set up camp for the next three nights. And back to why our packs were so light - lack of food! For the record - I wasn't absolutely starving - but we definitely were on a calorie deficit. Breakfast consisted of one instant oatmeal packet with protein powder added to the mix and a small handful of dried blueberries. Lunch was a cookie - or two if you were lucky! Yep, that's it! A cookie. Then dinner was dehydrated meals with cashews and olive oil added. That kind of food might sound nasty - but when you're starving yourself, you'll eat anything! And like it!

But with views of Prusik Peak and the surrounding mountains? Who needs food!

The next day we attempted to climb the West Ridge of Prusik Peak. Here's Johnny and Chris scouting the route.

Two pitches up we ran into some serious rain - showering down on us, making us retreat into a make shift cave, 1/2 way up the route. It poured for a good hour or so - wetting the rock and squashing our summit hopes. We arrived back at camp hungry but optimistic to try it again the next day.

Unfortunately the next day, fate would have other plans for Chris and I to make the summit this trip. While hiking up Prusik Pass, I started feeling light headed and sick. Apparently that morning's two cup of coffee wreaked havoc on my stomach and forced us to retreat from the climb. Johnny and Chleo made it up though - and had a great time on the rock!

That day the temps started to dip and the winds picked up. Our kitchen area where we had set up our stove was somewhat sheltered but it was still chilly for August! So Johnny and Chleo invited us into their tent for what turned out to be a heated game of spoons. The eventual winner? Chris aka the Badger Johns - who despite being kneed in the face from Chleo managed to win. Johnny and I sat out as we watched Chris and Chleo duke it out.

Here's Chleo later in the trip showing the Badger her teeth! Hissssss!!!!

Friday morning we woke up to snow. Yep, that white fluffy stuff. Sticking to our tent but not enough to stick to the ground. So what do you do when the weather sucks? You wait it out. And you hope your back doesn't give out on you for being horizontal for so long. And then you contemplate bring the stove inside your tent to cook some food - but just when you think you're going to start acting on that notion - it clears up! We packed up after breakfast and started the 11 mile descent through Snow Creek.

We got back to the car tired and of course hungry. But at that point my stomach had shrunk and I couldn't eat another single cookie! The guys did the car shuttle (we had left Johnny's car at the Colchuck Lake Trailhead) and we parted ways in Icicle Creek. They were headed to a wedding in Yakima and we headed to one in Plain.

A great trip - and a must do on everyone's bucket list. It left me recharged mentally and physically exhausted. I can't wait to go again! And next time, I think I'll be in charge of food. :)

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