Saturday, September 23, 2023

Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm (North Cascades)

For a number of years now, when I go on the hunt for beautiful scenic nature wallpapers I would inevitably be directed to shots from the Sahale Arm in the North Cascades of Washington. This was especially true if I was searching for fall colors and I would be enamored by the reds, yellows, greens, and mountain scenery of the Sahale Arm. It seemed like a pipe dream to somehow find a way there in the fall when my person and family calendars are always so busy. So it was quite fortuitous when my brother invited me to join him in Washington after he was finishing with a conference. It would be late September and there was hope that we might hit the colors and scenery just right.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Camp Muir (Mount Rainier)

For most American mountaineers, to summit Mount Rainier is a high and worthy objective. In the Lower 48, it probably is the premier mountaineering objective. You would have to journey up to the Alaskan peaks, like Denali, to find something bigger and greater. My father, brother, and I spent 24 years climbing the highest peaks in Colorado and we would readily admit none of them are in the class of Rainier. For my brother and I, it remains on the possible future objectives list if and when we feel the time is right.

For now, we just wanted to wet our appetite. A climb up to Camp Muir is special in its own right. It is a bit of a halfway point to the summit of Rainier and also an overnight basecamp for those intending to summit. It also happens to be a popular dayhike objective for many tourists and hikers alike who make the trip to the National Park. Generally speaking, it is a fairly accessible route to get up to Camp Muir with most hikers of average experience being able to do it safely. One should be prepared with reasonable skills for snow travel and also understand the perils of mountain weather and terrain. There is nothing strictly technical about the route in terms of rock climbing, rock scrambling, or glacier travel.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Mount Adams (Washington Volcano)

To climb a volcano in Washington state is quite an endeavor. Most people from out of state generally only know about Mount Rainier as the big mountain climb. Many others are aware of Mt. St. Helens but few think of it as a mountain climb and rather a tourist destination. Mount Adams exists in the middle of it all with little outside attention. Its the 2nd highest peak in the state and from afar looks every bit as imposing as Rainier. It has sides that are glaciated like any of the other big volcanoes in the state. It has a massive prominence that adds to its grandeur. But it also has something that some of the other big mountains do not: a non-technical approach.

My brother and I are arguably seasoned mountaineers now and we have a ton of experience on Colorado peaks and others. We have finished the Colorado 14ers. We've handled our fair share of class 3 and 4 mountain terrain. The one thing we haven't done: glaciers and crevasse training. Maybe someday. Without these necessary skills for a safe summit right now peaks like Rainier and even Washington's Mt. Baker remain outside of our comfort zone. Adams, though, fits right in. The South Climb approach to Adams can be done without glacier travel and many people do it every summer. There are through much of the year persistent snowfields but they can be safely traveled with the very skills we have honed in Colorado. The biggest challenge for Adams is simply the length of the approach. It is a long day and maybe will tackle it over two days to lighten the load.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mount St. Helens

Picture taken from Coldwater Ridge in July 2023, 
not taken during our Sept. '23 hike.

What a special mountain. It is unlike any other mountain in our nation, possibly in the world. The geology, the history, the beauty is fascinating. A mountain without a top and a mountain with side blown wide open. A volcano.

I've long been fascinated with learning about the story of Mt. St. Helens and what we have learned from it in the 43 years since. I can date myself with this mountain as it erupted the year I was born.

I couldn't possibly wait to see its summit and the view into the crater as well as the desolation of a landscape all around it. This would be my first adventure onto any volcano. What would the rocks be like? How would it differ from other mountains?

Friday, September 8, 2023

Does God Care?

[Originally published in the Monroe News on September 8, 2023]

Is there such a thing as a stupid question?  I’ve heard there is some debate over this idea.  Perhaps we could even get philosophical debating the question about questions.  Those that say no would argue that so long as we are asking questions, any questions, we are rightly and actively trying to understand this world and that is good.  Those that would say yes, there are stupid questions, are simply realists.  You know stupidity when you hear it.

Parents might have their own answer to this question.  When you’ve been endlessly peppered with questions by a toddler you’ll have a few thoughts on the validity of every question.  A classic is when your eyes get pried open at 3am by your 5-year old only to have them ask you the question “Mom/Dad, are you awake?”  But its not just our little ones.  We do it too.  Did you have a neighbor catch you doing yard work on Labor Day in the 90 degree heat and ask “hot enough for you?”  Yea, thanks for asking.  Or perhaps it will be on a snowy sub-zero day in February when the same neighbor stops to ask “I just love winter. Don’t you?” So maybe there are a few foolish and stupid questions out there, you decide for yourself.

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