Summerlin Half Marathon 2014

Go Audrey

Go Audrey!! photo by Luke Humphrey

This is my first half marathon and I give the Las Vegas Summerlin course two thumbs up! When I said I was training for a half and people would ask me which one, when I said Summerlin the response was always the same: “hilly” and they would smile sometimes chuckle at me.

I thought from all of the hiking I had been doing, and now with all of the trail running I was doing, that the hills wouldn’t be a problem. But, their remarks left an impression and I made sure to run the course once before the actual race. Turns out, they were right. Nearly 7 miles of sustained incline, which is over half of the race. The last mile of uphill feels unbearable, but at least at race time, I knew what to expect and was prepared for the mental battle.

enjoying the race

Enjoying the race. Photo by Luke Humphrey

Now, most of my long runs had been in Seattle, where I was spending a lot time due to work and my boyfriend. The last month of training had been tough. Luke, my boyfriend, had this idea to get his VO2 max tested. I had done this with Polar some years ago, and found it reasonably helpful. I already know what my cardiovascular weakness is and I had been training it until I started training distance. While I was trying to keep up my intervals but make them longer and longer, I simply didn’t have the time to commit to a distance (say 1200 or 2000m) and work to actually succeed at a set with a sustained heart rate or higher. It became an exercise in making the distance, period, albeit at a pace faster than I might otherwise have attempted. Maybe this contributed to my ‘weak heart’ syndrome?

BMR test

Luke trying to relax in preparation for his BMR test.

We did our best to follow the program in the “Run Less, Run Faster” book, but I never did keep up with the intervals. 10 x 400′s, yeah, right. I couldn’t even sprint a 2000m, though I did manage several 800s over time. Anyway, I bring this up because when we took the VO2max test, they did an overall assessment of my body fat percentage, resting heart rate, VO2max, aerobic and anaerobic thresholds as well as my basal metabolic rate. In essence, I left feeling fat and cardiovascularly unfit despite all of my training. They even said my heart was weak, even though my daytime resting heart rate can go as low as mid-40′s. I’ve tracked my resting heart rate to as low as 38. So, with a heart rate that slow, but supposedly meaning I have a strong heart, how is it that all of these numbers say I have a weak heart?

(If you want to learn more about this test and what my numbers told me and how you can learn about your own fitness, contact me.)

Not only was the message hard to receive, but Luke by this point started having knee trouble that didn’t let up and led him to bail on the half. His first half marathon was the Seattle half last December. I had gotten really ill and was unable to run with him at that time. Now, as this half approached, he was less and less able to run with me. His Denali trip in May is a priority and bad knees with running making them ache worse was not a good sign. Therefore, all of my training in support of his desire to eventually do a marathon and an ironman, meant that I would be running the half marathon by myself. :/

Several weeks before the half, he and I set off to run the course. By mile 3, he called it and I ran the rest of the course without him. He went back to get the car and find me, which never happened. I took a wrong turn and exited the green space a bit early around mile 10, which confused me but meant he was never going to find me where I was. Night was setting in and I pushed myself as hard as I could to at least get back on course hoping he would pass me. He nearly didn’t, not before I was within striking distance of the parking lot did my jeep appear beside me. I was never happier to see him than when he pulled up at that moment. My legs were dead, it was dark, I was worried he was out on the road and I’d be sitting in the parking lot and how would we find each other? It all worked out in the end and bonus, it was my first long run not in the pouring cold rain! I was psyched.

Race day came and though I was not keen to race by myself, it was encouraging to see Luke at the halfway point taking pictures and cheering me on. I managed to do my best pace and since I knew the course, I was prepared for all of the hills and dug deep to push through to the end where he was waiting to greet me. I have to say, it was a grueling course, but I still had fun. We’ll see how his knees hold up to see if I keep training at these distances. Meanwhile, my elbow is doing better despite the ligament tear so I’m starting to climb more, which has my spirits up, too.

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Red Rock Rendezvous 2014

Day 1 Clinic attendees

Day 1 Clinic attendees

Mountain Gear put on another great Rendezvous outside of Las Vegas this past March. An enthusiastic and talented group of athletes converged on the event working in booths and teaching clinics throughout Red Rocks. I taught a really fun technique class on a classic 110′ slab called Ultraman. I had this sector in previous years and absolutely love the choice. There’s no better way to focus on footwork than to tackle slabs. J

But don’t let the slab part scare you away. Next to that classic is a shorter climb with actual hand holds. Although rated slightly harder than Ultraman, many clinic attendees think it feels easier.  J

start is hard

The start is the hardest part

The groups ranged in abilities from never having climbed outside, being pregnant, to bouldering and experienced route climbers. I had a good mix of men and women in the clinics and on the second day, with some inspiration from the first, I had a special drill to run with those brave enough to try. I, of course, would be the first guinea pig.

There is an exercise I’ve done in clinics past to help work on footwork and that is to climb a slab blindfolded. You can use two tennis balls for your hands so they can grip the balls instead of holds, but it’s not necessary. The only rule is that your hands should not grip holds or the tennis balls can not be placed on holds for leverage. This turned out to be an exciting drill to host outdoors and Ultraman was the perfect climb for the experiment. After working my own footwork over the course of those two days and demoing the blind climbing, I can’t emphasize enough how much this focus helps. The next time I climbed, I felt like my feet were more precise, quiet and better weighted.

Blindfolded climbing

Yes, she’s blindfolded!

I’m always saying one can never get enough from footwork and no matter how often I return to the basics, whether in my own training or in clinics such as these, my assertion appears to be reaffirmed. While I love the Rendezvous as a mini-reunion of friends converging on an event for a short time from all across the States and Canada, I love doing the clinics. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and helping others expand their comfort zone and try something new all while having fun in a festive environment.

A special thanks to all of my sponsors for supporting me in this event. I had fun and it seemed like my clinic attendees did as well. See you next year!

another group

Having fun after climbing Ultraman.

leaving with a smile
Everyone leaves with a smile

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blindfolded climbing

Testing out the blindfold climbing

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reflections on hardships, drugs and perseverance

I read this article today about addiction wrpt the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and there was a good phrase in there that rung out about life lessons that gave me pause. Addiction aside, I pondered the following statement and finished it differently.

“…to believe that if we try hard enough, if we care about other people enough, if we are smart enough, we can avoid…” failure, disappointment, abandonment, etc.

I’d never quite captured this perspective on myself until I read that statement and followed it with my own thoughts, including reflections on hardships, drugs and perseverance.

During my evolution as a person, I came to believe, or rather wish, that this was all it would take to prevent bad things from happening to me. This may have been a valid position to hold when I was young and probably worked for me then, too, but it is a bit of a fairytale to hold onto, now. Wishing for change, hoping for someone to save me, never worked in the past, therefore, I began putting all of my efforts into being good, the best I could be…to not give a reason for bad things to happen and yet, sometimes they still would.

As we should all have come to understand by the time we hit adulthood, the bottom line is that bad things will happen. It’s inevitable. We only wish that on that scale we don’t have to deal with really bad things like the untimely loss of a loved one, poverty, sickness, unusual cruelty, etc.

While there is a bit of luck in the draw for what comes my way, there is also a lot about my direction and mindset that can influence and even change how difficult situations are handled. I’m not talking about grief, I’m talking about the ability to differentiate a situation as not being about who I am as a person, or what I do/did, or how I am good or not good at something.

When I hear people talk about mental health, this is what I want to be talking about. The ability to recognize our contribution to our daily satisfaction in life. Followed by our ability to distinguish those aspects of life that are not about us. To tap into the root of who we are and take satisfaction in where we are in our journey of life. The weight of the world does not lie on any one person’s shoulders. :) And, perseverance is only a temporary solution to getting through tough times.

People make mistakes, get depressed, have sadness, get angry, frustrated, picky, dissatisfied, and so forth. It’s all part of the beauty of being human. But to fool ourselves into thinking we can’t be better or that these aspects of our human nature won’t be played against one another, is also a fairytale. We are never too old for introspection, reflection and change. We are capable of handling so much more than we give ourselves credit….if we allow ourselves the space, time and patience.

I know things get hard. I have definitely felt like I’d lost everything at one time, felt a lack of support and wondered why it all matters anyway. It doesn’t, matter that is, unless you want it to…and drugs and alcohol are too easy to hide behind, distorting one’s ability to think clearly. Sometimes the idea to just get up, get dressed and greet the day seems unfathomable but that is what life is about…our ability to do this. Sometimes we can be surprised at what a day can bring, in a good way.

There is light in this tunnel of life but we have to create it and nourish it with what matters to us. That is the only hope there is. That is the only strength to cling to, especially when it feels like all is lost. This is an ability we should strive to enrich and know that no matter how many times it feels like we are starting over, it’s not really from ground zero.

I guess, in parting, my final thoughts on this are that we do the best we can with what we got and sometimes it’s still not going to be good enough. That is life. If you want out, go, but this is the only shot you get to experience the myriad of pleasure and pain that comes with living.

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Holiday Reflections

Mt Rainier Dec 24, 2013

Sunset views from Mt. Rainier, Christmas Eve 2013.

Wow, it’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. I’ll try to keep this brief but so much has happened since the last post that I want to capture some highlights and share the best of

Christmas Eve Feast

The eve of Christmas feast

my moments with you starting with my first Muir attempt on Mt. Rainier Christmas Eve, which was beautiful and adventurous–the perfect way to start the Holiday.

It’s strange this year to know when to say Merry Christmas to my family. We have always celebrated on the eve of Christmas but it was my grandparent’s generation that held that tradition. Christmas Day was always for the immediate family and extended family visitation. Vigilia, a long held Eve tradition, has changed over the years as

Anne and Carol Sniezek
My grandparents, together again.

the family has grown but seemed to hold in my family as our central figure, my grandfather, towed the line. It is with sadness that earlier this month we said our farewells to our stronghold and changed our traditions forever more.

This was a rough fall for me knowing my grandfather would pass at any time and trying to spend as much time as I could with him and selfishly hoping he wouldn’t pass when I was traveling for work. The stress from everything weighed heavy on me and I got really sick, sicker than I’ve been in a long time. It was enough to give me pause to rethink where I want to focus my energy to prevent myself from reaching a breaking point. Happily, I can report, changes are underway.

SOAR audience

SOAR audience

Meanwhile, I’m impressed for what I have been able to achieve during this time. One of my primary focuses this year has been the success of the TEALS (teaching and literacy in schools) in Lee County. We have had some real progress with the program growing it to both the Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science course offerings. Increasing enrollments from 6 in Intro last year to 22 this year and 8 in the new AP class. 45% of the enrollments are girls! We have the State department of education working hard on how to take

LCHS AP Class
AP CS class, LCHS

this offering into other schools and I was invited to speak in front of some KY legislature about the program and my involvement. I m excited for the interest spawned from the talk. I want to share it with everyone so people hear the story and hopefully are inspired to do something like this in their area or help us with our initiative. You can hear the talk from an archive of the event at minute 82.

Snoqualmie tunnel
Former railroad tunnel up Snoqualmie pass in Washington State.
Photo by Luke Humphrey

While climbing is usually central to my activities, I’ve been struggling with an injury most of the fall, which has led me to explore other activities such as cycling and running. I have enjoyed road biking the Appalachian hills of Kentucky while I was there as well as reigniting my love of the NW terrain.

Another memorable moment was summiting the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.

Mt. Stuart summit

Summit of Mt. Stuart from the complete North Ridge.
Photo by Luke Humphrey

another memorable alpine adventure was Forbidden Peak and experiencing the Alpine-scape and climbing through the eyes of a photographer.

Boston Basin

Boston Basin
Photo by Luke Humphrey

During the summer I was fortunate to train a group of enthusiastic climbers. We had a lot of fun and called ourselves the Dawn Patrol for training at 6 in the morning.

Dawn Patrol

2013 Summer climbing training team Dawn Patrol

Hot air balloon ride
Bill Ramsey inside one of the hot air balloons
hot air balloon

views of Red Rocks

The hot air balloon ride over west Vegas and right over my apartment was definitely a treat and well shared with a fellow Vegas-ite.

Moab Corona Arch exploration and rappelling in the dark was quite the experience.

corona arch

Rappelling Corona Arch at night. Photo by Luke Humphrey

The students from LCHS came to visit Microsoft, Facebook, and more. I was and continue to be really proud of these kids as they pursue further education.

Student MS visit

LCHS students visit Microsoft Corporate campus

My trip to China feels like it was another adventure in another time, far in the past, already. Still the memories will never be forgotten. That trip was an absolute one of a kind experience. Ice climbing was only a fraction of what I enjoyed there.

Ice Climbing China

2013 Ice Climbing in Western China.

The year has had many more memorable moments with family and friends. I can’t possibly highlight them all but I have appreciated what everyone has brought to my life. My KY family was the most pleasant surprise. I will miss them until I can visit again in the spring.

I love that I can connect with so many people from all over the world and I appreciate the time I spend and what I learn from them. I am looking forward to the adventures of the new year with old, new and yet to be discovered friends.

Have a wonderful Holiday, everyone, and thanks for reading this post!

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A Brave New World

This is the bravest thing I’ve come across in a long time and I nearly cried watching this (yes, I’m a softie). J

From this video I became curious about ‘because I said I would.’ The idea of keeping promises to myself and to others. I fell instantly in love with their message; it’s so simple, yet why does it feel so hard??

I believe the saying ‘what you put out (into the world) comes back to you.’ I have been contemplating big changes in my life and acknowledging some areas of neglect or areas of just plain sabotage. I was pondering how to get myself back on track (let alone pick a track) and not surprisingly I suddenly begin to see themes that could help me achieve just that.

Yesterday, for instance, a fb entry caught my attention and gave me pause. The message was clear, ‘Withdrawal is the chief form of self-sabotage. Get Support!’ I’d been feeling like I should crawl into some dark hole somewhere lately. Resisting the urge to slink away into my van and hide from the world from feeling overwhelmed with the decisions I have to make, the direction I have to choose, and my ability to make lemonade out of the lemons I’m facing daily. Sometimes, I just want to escape and pretend it will all ‘just go away.’ But, I get up, get dressed and get going every morning and while the lure of the hole lingers, I have yet to indulge. Instead, with this well-timed post catching my attention, I decided it was time to take action.

Step 1. I made a phone call.

In that phone conversation I was reminded of how important it is to take responsibility for myself and hold myself accountable. Like Mathew, who enlisted ‘because I said I would,’ maybe I shouldn’t do this alone.

Step 2. As soon as I thought, ‘maybe I don’t have to do [it] alone, I was reminded that I had a team I could connect with whose sole purpose is to help each other. I made a meeting with an old friend and started some research on re-connecting our old Advancement of Excellence group.

Achieving life goals does not have to be hard and you do not have to do it alone.‘ 

Step 3. I found ‘because I said I would’ and am pondering a set of meaningful and achievable promises I can make to myself that I would want to be held accountable for and actually see results from doing. I guess my first promise is to rethink what’s important to me. I’m hoping step 2 will help me with this.

Nothing on my list will be as life changing as Mathew’s, so if Mathew can take this huge step, then what is holding me back from taking any one of the steps in front of me? 

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Dawn Patrol, exit stage left

Where did the summer go?

I wake up and it’s no longer bright out. The rain has been pounding the pavement outside of my window and it’s been torrential all night long. I’m driving in the dark to the last morning training session at Stone Gardens (SG) in Bellevue, WA. Sunrise is nearly half past 6 and I’m wondering has summer really ended already? I can hardly believe I’ll be ending this 3 month long training class I’ve been leading.

Dawn in July

Dawn in July

My summer long stints in WA have been a mixed experience for me. Leaving my home in Las Vegas for this long means I lose touch with friends and begin to miss the many things I have come to enjoy about living there. Seattle has long been my home and with it’s familiarity comes the reminder that there are just some things I wish I could never return to–such as the epic and constant rain, the hour long congested commutes combined with the increased number of bad drivers on the road, and the short days and long nights of winter (coupled with the rain and you can see why suicide rates are so high here). Climbing in a gym takes the edge off but does not replace my desire to get outdoors. 

The need to be in the NW for long stints is because of my job. With yet another restructuring of our team, it behooves me to be in the office regularly to get to know the new structure and people. Also, the new work I am doing encourages face time to gain rapport and build a foundation I can take with me when I leave. This is nontrivial, takes time and has been the number 1 inhibitor to my ability to get outdoors much this summer. That said, I’ve made the most of it by creating this summer training program to help keep me engaged and psyched. Now that it’s over, I’m sad to see it go.

Dawn Patrol, missing Jacob, Pawel, Marcin, Gavin, and Clare

Dawn Patrol, missing Jacob, Pawel, Marcin, Gavin, and Clare

Today was the official last day of Dawn Patrol, the name given by SG employee Jeremy Bowler when he ran the adult morning training session this past spring. As with any new program, there is usually a large uptake then a slight ebb as people’s interest wane or the morning commitment wears in. I was fortunate to have a particularly committed group of people throughout the entire 3 months of training.

Having fun

Having fun

more fun

more fun

The program was setup to take them through a strength and foundation building phase to a power then power endurance phase. I had mapped out the program from day 1 with minor tweaks along the way based on their progression and feedback. It was meant that everyone should stay the entire time but since I had no idea if that would happen, I left enrollment open to make sure the class was full. When I realized everyone was moving forward month to month, I had to take the newcomers and adjust to the larger class size but cap further enrollments. Only three people dropped due to circumstances. Even though the class size grew, the curriculum adapted and I found the forethought training plan effective in that people simply knew what they needed to do and set about it straight away. I only needed to be sure they knew what was coming and how to get that information. It worked beautifully! Further, I am impressed by the adaptability of the new comers late in the program.

Intent on the exercise

Intent on the exercise

Jumping straight into boiling water, these newcomers had to adapt quickly. They lacked the foundation work we had done prior but were able to hang in and do what they could. That’s the beauty of the training; you can get the most out of it by participating through the full cycle but you can still get gains by coming in mid or late cycle–although you probably take a beating and have to temper your ego as you watch others climb circles around you to start. By the end, I saw vast improvements in everyone no matter when they joined.

Testing skills

Testing skillz

One challenge with training is skin. Another is measuring your success. Because they had me guiding them the entire time, I was always challenging them and pushing their limits. First, that meant using gloves whenever possible to protect the skin. We’re not taking down proud sends, yet, so why waste skin on plastic or workout equipment? Gloves really helped make achieving the climbing and training mileage possible. Next was the gauge for improvements.

When training and climbing, you get tired. You feel a little more worked coming into your regular, ‘fun’ session. It’s expected but it’s also the breaking point for most people. Climbing tired is a skill that is widely overlooked. Tearing yourself down to build yourself up is a skill that is not easily attained. It feels hard, it’s hard work, and the reward is not immediate. Further, when you have someone like me always making success fleeting by changing the elements to push your limits even further, you can finish the training and wonder ‘how much have I really improved?’

Hard at work

Hard at work

The good news is that once the throttle is pulled back, all of that strength and power become available. The last piece of the puzzle is mental. Unfortunately, unlike the physical training undertaken all summer, the mental aspect varies widely from person to person. Bringing the two together is when you see the biggest gains. This means testing yourself past pre-conceived limits. As you do this and you realize what you are capable of, your confidence will improve and you will naturally begin to migrate towards these more challenging climbs. Btw, more challenging could mean climbing angles that you are not good at vs. just climbing harder grades on angles you are really good at already. Success might look like holding smaller holds with more confidence and making moves off holds that were difficult in the past. Now is the best part of the training–when you can begin to learn or refine your climbing technique, which takes you back to June—the start of the class where we started with technique and foundation building.

Keen observers

Keen observers

This is the endless spiral of training. To keep it fun one cannot and should not attempt to train back-to-back. Now is the time to put the training into practice. Have a maintenance plan but go out and climb…a lot! Test your new skills and keep the psyche high to return to training in a few months. This time your foundation will be elevated and you can begin your work from this new level. With this in mind, the ending of the class is a good thing.

My signed shirt

My signed shirt

My time in the NW is coming to a close. I hope I had an impact on the people I’ve had the pleasure to get to know over the last few months. Their enthusiasm and commitment have been contagious and I’m proud of their hard work and excited for their progress. This class definitely made my mornings and lack of outdoor climbing more than bearable. It’s time to run free, get some sleep, get outdoors before the rain settles and daylight escapes you. I’m hoping for the same.

Farewell summer and the Dawn Patrol, a new season awaits.

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The return to Mt. Stuart, complete North Ridge

Mt Stuart summit, photo by Luke Humphrey

Mt Stuart summit, photo by Luke Humphrey

After getting shut down on the initial CNR attempt, I was skeptical and hesitant yet intrigued to sign up for a second attempt. I knew the previous retreat was circumstantial and I really wanted to experience this climb. It was, afterall, claimed to be one of the top 50 classic climbs in America (Steve Roper and Allen Steck).

Luke getting the last fill of water for the next 1.5 days

Luke getting the last fill of water for the next 1.5 days

My friend, Luke, was spearheading the effort and was completely obsessed with another opportunity. Apparently this climb was high on his list to achieve for the year. I agreed to reconsider and set two weekends as options for late August. As luck would have it, a friend from Las Vegas, Jack, was spending time in Squamish and was coming into town with a few extra days to spend climbing locally. Coincidentally, a weather window opened that same weekend and Luke was eager to arrange another attempt. I was able to persuade Jack to join me though neither of us had done anything in the Alpine at this scale before. We had, however, climbed together quite a bit and done some adventurous outings. With Jack’s trad experience and our strong rapport, the summit odds (barring anything unusual) would be near certain.

Jack on ice

Jack on ice

Our plan was to take the full weekend to summit, including spending the night there to capture photos and time lapse footage. (Luke wanted more mountain-scape footage for his movie project that he’s working on.) Despite being faster on the hike this go and getting our systems down after the lower ridge, we didn’t bivy on the summit as planned and ended up sleeping at ~7300 ft just beneath the notch leading to the upper ridge. The next day, we summited with a bit of daylight left to make it most of the way down the Cascadian Couloir before dark. Overall, we were slower than we thought we would be and therefore did not have a lot of time for pics. Still, I think Luke captured some impressive shots, see his writeup on Cascade Climbers or check out his blog.

Also on the original plan was that Jack and I would swap leads. After the first few actual pitches on the lower ridge, it was clear that to optimize for time, Jack should take the helm and lead the team for the rest of the summit attempt. Luke would bring up the middle and I would clean and come behind. This system worked well, especially on the 2nd day. There were some surprises on the route that made me grateful Jack was in the lead. He is fearless and bold whereas I’m more cautious and hesitant, esp in unfamiliar territory. Jack did an impressive job route finding, protecting the team on the simul climbs that turned into pitched out climbs and bravely tackled terrain with his backpack that I would have been terrified to lead and attempt to place gear at the same time, esp on the lower 5.9+ pitch.

On the approach, Jack for the first time experienced crampons and an ice tool to navigate some glacier ice. There was a stretch that we had to cross where rock fall had been seen periodically flying down. This was super scary because by the time the rocks made it as far down as we were, they had gained momentum and speed. We crossed the ice gingerly while trying to rapidly escape the line of fire. Fortunately, only small stones periodically hailed down around us, which turned out to be nothing serious. We escaped unscathed and that was a huge relief.

Ice Cliff glacier when we arrived at the base of the complete north ridge

Ice Cliff glacier when we arrived at the base of the complete north ridge

Navigating to the base of the start of the lower ridge took some time and while we had made good time on the approach, we lost a lot in this search. As we were making our way to what we thought was the start of the climb, we heard this large rumbling, like jets coming to pass through. All of a sudden we see this huge ice mass cascading down the ice cliff gulley. It was impressively large and seemed to run on forever. While we continued our navigation and as we continued our climb up the lower ridge, we continued to witness the ice cliff fractures in various scales avalanching beside us. The power behind these avalanches was impressive that I tried to capture some on video.

Here is an outline of what existed of the glacier when we arrived.

Here is an outline of what existed of the glacier when we arrived.

Ice Cliff Glacier remains before it went out of view

Ice Cliff Glacier remains before it went out of view

Hanging around

Hanging around

Here are two videos that show just before the large shelf goes and after the lower bit gives way.

After ascending the 5.9+ pitch the continuous run of avalanches became less audible to stopping for the night only to pick right back up by mid-morning the following day.

Back to the climbing. Everything about the preparation and actual climbing for this route went smooth. The only issue was water conservation since our last water station was on the Stuart Glacier and we’d be without it for the next day and a half. Luke, in particular, consumes a lot of water and was suffering half way down the Cascadian after having been out since prior to the summit. Fortunately (or not), I don’t consume as much and my 1.8L had enough to quench his thirst here and there and get us off the mountain where a stream could be found for a refill. Jack had also at some point finished his water source but would not drink unfiltered water from the stream until half way or more up Long’s Pass when out of desperation, he imbibed. Neither got sick from the water and both were able to hike out on their own– read: I was definitely calling for a rescue team to haul them out if they couldn’t. ;) I had a flash back to the previous hike out where I had strained my leg and the pack had pinched off the circulation around my hip. That was a long stretch  back to the car when I thought they would have to call for a rescue team or hike back up to haul me out. I was definitely better prepared on this trip and have no epic hiking tales of desperation to share. :)

Jack on the Gendarme offwidth

Jack on the Gendarme offwidth

While it was challenging to do the climb with full pack carrying gear and about 2L of water per person, I’m not sure we would change anything except try to go faster to get to the summit and get off before dehydration or heat exhaustion became an issue. Or, take more water and go slower. :) Now that we know the route and the descent it would be faster, I think, in any future attempt. Below are some notes from my perspective of the climb. For a better, more thorough take, see Luke’s blog.

Luke Gendarme first pitch
Luke Gendarme first pitch
  1. The 5.9+ pitch was said to be a finger crack. Maybe I misheard but I swear I could put my whole hand in it. Also, I had to lay back this pitch because my ability to hand jam appeared limited.
  2. The 5.8 just before the 5.9+ had an awkward section in it that I could not navigate easily with a pack on and to my disappointment had to climb the rope to get a better perch and keep forward momentum.
  3. All other pitches were great! Until I got to the Gendarme pitch. I got myself wedged in the lower to mid-section on the 2nd pitch (offwidth pitch), before the fixed piece and couldn’t figure out how to go up. I got tension on the rope that took some weight off of me and I was able to free the pitch (pack on). I was able to do everything else clean as a follower with my pack, half the rope and any gear from cleaning. I was proud of that because I was super tired after hauling myself up 30 pitches to the summit! J

    Gendarme taken from the original route (bypassing the offwidth). photo by Jason Shin

    Gendarme taken from the original route (bypassing the offwidth). photo by Jason Shin

  4. The Gendarme offwidth pitch was awkward with great exposure. We were lucky another group who had taken the original route that bypasses the Gendarme took some photos of us so you can see how exposed it is. Jack was lucky to have gear he used to aid and walk up the offwidth pitch. Everything else, he led clean.
  5. There was one super exposed (maybe campus) move that might go at 5.10 (based on second hand information from a friend who had been up there this season) and with our groups skillset, Jack thought it might be smarter to rappel down and go around the move, which added another pitch to our set. This was fine but it did contribute to more lost time on our bid for an early summit.
  6. The Cascadian at this time of year was no trouble to get down. Most of the glacier ice had melted off the bottom and sides making it easy to circumvent. Except for a part where we thought we went off route, the descent was quick and mostly straightforward.
  7. Meeting up with Long’s pass was not straightforward, however. This took a little bit of trial and error before we found the actual trail and there were no markers or signs until a little ways in that confirmed our path.

    The north ridge, looking back on our path to the summit

    The north ridge, looking back on our path to the summit

Overall, this was the most strenuous thing I’d undertaken but I’m glad I came back to appreciate the climb. Everything came together and our summit is one I am not likely to forget anytime soon. At the very least I now understand why this climb is listed in the top 50 classics. A definite must do.

down the Cascadian

down the Cascadian

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