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Friday, February 10, 2017

Climbing Mount Rainier

I've been meaning to share pictures from previous adventures so I've searched through my hard drives and found these gems from a really stellar climbing adventure with great friends.

Mount Rainier is an iconic 14,411-foot (4,392 m) composite volcano with a conical shape and made up of numerous layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and ash. It is the highest point in the Cascade range and hosts more than 25 glaciers as well as waterfalls, meadows and old growth forest.

The amount of snow on the mountain is impressive and allows the initial climb in shorts when coming from the Paradise visitor center. You still need to bring your cold weather gear because a big mountain can become enveloped in massive storms before you can return from the heights. We started late in the day around 6 PM.

As we ascended the slopes of Rainier the peak of the mighty Mount Adams came into view.

At 10,000' is the climbers' shelter named after John Muir. On a previous ascent there was a really bad storm hammering the slopes and my climbing partner and I slept in the shelter one night rather than attempt to deploy our tent in the winds. On that trip the shelter was almost buried in the snow.

After camping overnight the rest of our party joined us and we traversed around the Cowlitz Glacier and pushed through Cadaver Gap.  


  Approaching Ingraham Flats

 These large pieces of the glacier were part of the crevasse to the right of our path.

At 11,100' and well clear of rockfall near the cliffs I set up my trusty mountaineering tent, the same one I used at Denali which I've chronicled on this blog.The Mountain Hardwear Annapurna tent is really bombproof. Sad to say this model was discontinued.

Our plan was to get ahead of the crowds coming out of Camp Muir by leaving an hour or two after midnight, making our summit push and then make our descent as the other climbers were still slogging up the mountain.

We launched on time and enjoyed a fairly quick ascent of the 3,000 feet to the lip of Rainier's summit crater. Here we are grabbing a quick break before traversing the crater to the true summit.

After making the quick trek across the snowfield this is a view back across the crater to where we had paused to rest.

I was happy to summit Rainier again but sitting on top of a big volcano can make you feel a bit somber!

A better view of Mount Adams

Now we can see Mount Saint Helens to the south of us.

Pretty soon it was time to scamper down the mountain, return to camp, pack up and blitz all the way down to the Paradise visitor center. With the bright sunlight we had nothing but great views on the way down.

Some climber dropped a water bottle into the gap, Not good for them.

Making steady progress

I can now see my bright orange tent far below us!

Long lines of climbers were coming upwards through a difficult section so we took a break and enjoyed the views while people passed us. They could not believe that we had already summited. Nothing like executing on a great plan!

As we pushed down the loose terrain while still wearing our crampons the enormous crevasses of Ingraham Glacier cam into view.

Before long we had reached camp and packed up, starting our descent. Soon Camp Muir was in coming into view on the other side of the Cowlitz Glacier.

Before we knew it, the great adventure was over and we were parting ways as we looked back up at the majesty of what locals simply call The Mountain. Knowing that we had stood on top and safely come back brought smiles to our faces.

I hope that this climb brought a smile to you and I hope to take you on another climb very soon!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Reflections on the Barker-Bighorn Dam

The return of rain to California's vast lands has brought more than just relief from the drought. We are now able to enjoy the quiet places where earth and the sky meet at the water's edge. On a recent desert trip to search for a lost mine I stopped by an early 1900's water reservoir just before sunset. 

First constructed to reach a height of 9 feet by cattleman C.O. Barker in 1900 the dam was extended upwards another 6 feet in 1949 by rancher William F. Keys. It is situated between Queen Valley and the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tee National Park and for a short while int eh 1950's it supported Key's efforts to make a living in the harsh desert land. 

The Barker-Bighorn Dam is once again filled and served as a natural mirror for the setting sun during my short visit to this special place.


Thanks for going with me on this rewarding hike to a great getaway in the Mojave Desert. Now it is time to follow old mining roads that head up the remote canyons and see what else awaits us in the Mojave Desert..