Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rattlesnake Ledge, WA (~2040')

My friend and I did eventually make it out to Rattlesnake Ledge, and it was exactly what you'd expect of the North Cascades in late autumn: foggy, wet, and covered in moss.

The trail began in Rattlesnake Lake State Park, 45 minutes southwest of Redmond and just off I-90. There was no obvious hiker parking, so we followed the loop road through the park and wound up in a boat trailer spot. It was cool, though; the place was practically deserted, despite it being a Saturday.

From there we moseyed down to the lakeshore to get our bearings:

and got our first look at the Ledge.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adventures in Moisture Management, or How Not to Store Your Gear

So the friend I stayed with up in Redmond has a nifty little place by the shores of Lake Sammamish:

It's in a pretty nice neighborhood (if a bit crowded for my tastes), and there's a huge park a mile or so up the road with just about everything one could ask for: playgrounds, sports fields, historic buildings, a birdwatching trail, a leash-free area for dogs (they briefly coincide, which leads to some interesting interactions), a velodrome, and even a climbing wall:

Which I... erm... can't quite get up in my sneakers. Yeah. That's it. Totally the shoes' fault.

All in all, the place was quite lovely for my first month and a half there:

But as September drew to a close, the days grew overcast. To the east, the Cascade Range hid itself in a heavy haze. Clouds rolled in from the Pacific, clustering above us like schoolchildren after a summer apart.

And then, at the stroke of midnight on October 1, the rain began.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy Holidays!

And a special thanks to all of you who've shared my work with others, whether they be friends, family, climbing buddies, coworkers, students, strangers on the street, aliens with whom you've made first contact, travel editors with big budgets... you get the picture. When I started this blog last April, I never would have guessed it'd run any longer than a summer's worth of highpointing, but if you all are still getting a kick out of it, I can certainly keep going.

In fact, I've been sitting on three or four posts' worth of material for a while now. I'll get those written up for you just as soon as the holidays slow down and let me off. Check back in a couple weeks for more Larvitar shenanigans!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains

Remember that huge anti-Smokies rant I posted back in May? I'm sure it sounded like I wanted Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville to go up in flames--and in the moment I just might have--but now that it's actually happening, I've entirely reconsidered.

When a friend of mine in Chattanooga informed me of the fire there this morning, I was surprised. Wildfires in November? Shouldn't those hills be covered in snow? But it turns out that the Smokies are at the center of a severe drought afflicting the entire Southeast. As my Chattanoogan friend said, "[L]ast night was the first rain of measure here for something like a hundred days." Wildfires have blazed throughout the Blue Ridge for the past month, including this particularly nasty one near the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The fire began on Chimney Top Mountain:

Monday, October 31, 2016

Post-Trip Highpoint Difficulty Rankings

And now it's time to do something I've wanted to do ever since I arrived in Seattle: rank the high points by difficulty!

I'd come across the Martin Classification of state high point difficulty while planning my trip, but it didn't quite satisfy me. For one, it only considers the easiest route to a high point's summit, which leads to sizeable mountains like North Carolina's Mt. Mitchell and New Hampshire's Mt. Washington being ranked in the easiest class. While technically correct, in that those summits can both be accessed by walking less than 0.2 miles, such a ranking is useless to one who intends to hike those high points from their base. What's more, both those mountains have "standard approach" trails that could easily be incorporated into the ranking alongside the drive-up routes.

And second, Martin's classification takes little account of the technical difficulty of a route; instead, it relies almost exclusively on elevation gain and trail length. This also leads to some odd rankings, in my opinion (for instance, the gentle stroll up Black Mesa, OK is ranked a class above the rough, rocky trails on Mt. Frissell, CT and Mt. Mansfield, VT). While an experienced mountaineer considering the glaciated Western high points might not care whether the approach is Class 1 or Class 2 terrain, the distinction matters to casual hikers, not to mention those with mobility issues, acrophobia, and/or small children in tow. And regardless of ability, many people would find a 7-mile hike easier than a 4-mile scramble of equal elevation gain (just ask anyone who's done both Mt. Marcy and Katahdin's Knife-Edge which was harder).

Thus, I've put together my own ranking of the highpoints I've climbed, available here as a list and on my homepage (where I control the backend code) as a sortable table. The standard route up each high point (as selected by me) is listed below, as are any alternate routes of sufficiently different character (again, my judgement call). Starred routes are featured in this blog. I intend to complete this ranking as I continue highpointing, so check back for additions.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Post-Trip Gear Post! (and Trip Stats)

A couple of you have asked about the gear I used this trip, so here's the lowdown:

The two most important pieces were definitely my tent and my day-hike pack. The tent was a 1-person Big Agnes model designed for backpacking (but conveniently light and compact even for lazy car-campers like me). It was quick to set up and plenty spacious for my needs. At first I used the raincover even on clear nights, but after that mosquito mess in Ogema I started leaving it off--and what do you know, half of those weird, rustley, potential-bear noises that had kept me up at night went away.

My pack, a 28 L Osprey (that link isn't quite it, but it's the closest model I could find in their current product line), was thrust upon me by the employees of the Eastern Mountain Sports in North Conway when I showed up for their mountaineering course without one. Though designed for snowboarding, it served my day-hiking needs just fine. It has way more pockets and features than anyone could conceivably use, like all modern hiking packs. I stuck to the two main pockets (it's reassuring to be able to segregate one's spare clothes from one's water bottle), a medium-sized pouch where I kept small things I hoped I wouldn't need (bandages, headlamps, a compass, water-filtration tablets, matches, emergency cash, etc.), and the pockets on the hip belt (where the Lars and my phone rode).

Friday, October 28, 2016

Epilogue: Atlantic to Pacific

On my way home from Mt. Washington in February, I detoured through Maine so that I could say I'd been there (not knowing I'd return in the summer). I didn't go far, just across the Piscataqua River to a town called Kittery. The town was nice enough (in a cramped, steep-roofed, narrow-streeted New England way), but what I really wanted was to see the sea.

And I did, at a local park called Fort McClary Memorial:

Quite the contrast it was from the ice-coated slopes of Mt. Washington. I dipped my fingers in the water, then sat down on the grassy bank to bask in the warm sun.