2015/2016 Books Read

Well, it’s been a while since I posted about books I’ve read recently, and so I made an effort this morning to try and remember what I’ve read since my last post.  I’m sure I’ve missed a good handful of books and this is a huge list so I won’t be writing much about most of them, but here goes…

Rise To Greatness: A History of Canada from the Vikings to the Present, by Conrad Black: What a tome!  One of Conrad Black’s many book projects since his ignominious exit from the media business is this magisterial history of white people in Canada.  A history as told from the perspective of the great men who have governed and shaped Canada, it is meticulously researched, well written, filled with colourful language, and loaded with a wealth of anecdotes from his personal communications and experience.  Although it is almost comically lacking in its exclusion of the history and treatment of the First Nations, it is well worth reading.

Better, by Atul Gawande: Wonderfully named, “Better” is both about healing and making patients better as well as about the personal ambition to always improve and better oneself.  Gawande’s stories from around the world of doctors and surgeons going above and beyond to do the best for their patients are engaging and interesting and although I’m not in the same profession, I take much the same attitude towards my career as he does and love his call to arms midway through the book to take your life’s work seriously.  Although I am perfectly happy to accept being mediocre in most aspects of my life (for example, I’m a thoroughly middling soccer player), when it comes to my career I have always and continue to strive to be the best and to always go a step beyond what was previously believed to be possible.  A great quick read.

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande: I read this book, another by Gawande just a few weeks after reading “Better”, and although I wouldn’t say it’s quite as good, it’s still an excellent read.  “Being Mortal” is an in-depth discussion of geriatric care in America, it’s often sorry state, and is a powerful call to action to improve our treatment and care of people in their last stages of life.

Gray Mountain, by John Grisham:  Grisham has been on a roll lately, and Gray Mountain continues his trend of great easy to read fiction that is as entertaining as it is powerful.  Gray Mountain takes place in the coal country of Virginia where Big Coal is turning ever greater profits at the expense of the health and lives of the workers that it leaves in its wake.  This is the kind of novel I only read on flights, but for what it is, it’s very good.

Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham: A recent read for a short flight home from Calgary a few weeks ago, Rogue Lawyer is the weakest Grisham book I’ve read in a long time.  Essentially three short stories that tie together at the end, the characters are built up expertly, but the climax fizzles and the book ends just as its getting started.  Grisham is at his best when he’s driven by a moral calling and that is lacking here.

My Idea of Fun, by Will Self: Reading this book was not my idea of fun.  Sure, Will Self uses plenty of interesting language, but the story and ideas simply didn’t grab me at all.  Not recommended at all.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins:  Yet another unreliable narrator novel, The Girl on the Train was recommended to me by a bookstore operator in Toronto Pearson airport.  It was enjoyable enough, but the whole way through I felt like I was just reading Gillian Flynn Lite.  Nothing bad, okay, so-so, whatever you want to call it, it’s fine but nothing special.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz: The three novels in Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published “Millennium” trilogy were both a global phenomenon as well as a lot of fun to read, with the first and the third particularly excellent.  A decade later, David Lagercrantz was authorized to continue the series with a work of his own and well, it’s simply not as good.  Whereas Larsson’s novels were a fun mix of intrigue, hacking, sex, and some truly dark and disturbing material, this book is simply bland.  The initial set up is good enough, but it feels like Lagercrantz doesn’t know what to do with Salander once she finally appears.  I’m sure this will be popular given its pedigree, but I’d just stick with the original trilogy.

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn: I knew of Gillian Flynn already from “Gone Girl”, and in a short span of just a few weeks I read both this book as well as Dark Places on consecutive flights out of Vancouver on business.  Sharp Objects it the story of a young journalist with a history of cutting herself who returns to her hometown to investigate a series of murders.  Although Flynn’s debut work, it already showcases her trademark style, and while not fantastic, it is dark, sarcastic, and gripping right to the end.

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn:  I read this only a few weeks after reading Sharp Objects, and although dealing with a completely different subject, stylistically it is unmistakably Flynn.  It’s a dark, twister, gripping tale touching on the hysteria over the 1980s supposed heavy metal Satanic cults that lead youth astray, wrong convictions, and unreliable memories.

Alan Turing: The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges: A gift from a few of my aunts for Christmas 2014, this is a wonderful biography.  Turing was an undeniably brilliant man who lived with a complicated yet brief life.  His contribution to the theory of computability will live on forever, and although you may have become familiar with his story through the Hollywood movie, The Imitation Game, I highly recommend reading Hodges’ book as the true story is arguably even more fascinating than the Hollywood revision.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Enagement for a Complex World, by Gen. Stanley McChrystal:  Team of teams was a pleasant surprise.  I started reading it expecting that it would be another book where the whole book was the title, but McChrystal has interesting insights about what a team is (the largest group of people that together thinks that everyone else sucks), and the importance of building an organization of teams where every member of each team has a friend (someone who they could call in the middle of the night if needed) on each other team.  This book has surprisingly relevant insights for the software industry.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell:  One of the more boring business books I’ve read.  Apparently this is a classic, but I found the advice to be largely obvious.  It’s not that it’s awful, just bland.  Go read something by Robert Greene for better anecdotes, or Jo Owen for better leadership advice.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert:  This is a fantastic pop science book that I’ve since been able to loan to a number of man-made climate change deniers and convince them to change their minds.  Kolbert walks the reader through dozens of examples of anthropocenic extinctions from recent memory that are indubitably man made.  Engaging and well written.

The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side, by Marco Fontani and Mariagrazia Costa: This book is marketed as a pop science book, but really is not at all.  The historical details that led scientists down the wrong paths to imagine elements that were not in fact elements is interesting, but this book is written more like a research paper.  It is thorough, detailed, and unfortunately dry.

The Third Reich in History and Memory, by Richard J. Evans: I love this kind of historical analysis because I think that books like this ask one of the most interesting questions.  Evans doesn’t just ask “what happened” during the Third Reich, but looks also at how historians and commentators viewed the Third Reich as it was developing, and how our thoughts about the Third Reich have evolved in the decades since it ended.  For example, at times during the 20th century, it was argued that the Third Reich was a natural outcome of the age of imperialism.   On the other hand, at times historians argued that the Third Reich subjugated the German people whereas it is now believed that the Nazis actually had the widespread popular support of the German people.  Highly recommended.

The Gap: The Science of What Separates us from Other Animals, by Thomas Suddendorf: From the dust jacket I had high hopes for this book.  What I got though was a fairly basic history of primate evolution and summary of research showing what other primates are capable of as compared to humans.  The book is well researched and well founded, but there are better alternatives out there.

The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day, by David J. Hand: I dunno, but perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for this book.  I have an undergraduate degree in Math and Computing Science, a research based graduate degree in Computing Science, and work in the field of analytics (which requires statistical thinking).  I found this short book to be extremely obvious, but perhaps for an audience with a less mathematical background it would be useful to read.

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely: A birthday gift from an employee of mine (a message, perhaps?), Ariely walks readers through the gamut of cognitive biases that affect how we interact and behave in our lives.  Covering much the same ground as Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, but aimed at a more popular audience and written clearly and succinctly, this is worth reading for everyone.

The Origins of Political Order, by Francis Fukuyama: The first of two volumes by Fukuyama charting the development of political order from prehistory to the present, this book rises above its peers by taking a global view of political development.  Most political history books focus on the Anglo-American path, regarding that as the natural end of political development, but Fukuyama casts his net wider and shows that not all countries develop alike and that long ago differences in paths to political development have led to deep seated effects in the political environments of different countries today.

The Morning After, by Chantal Hebert and Jean Lapierre: This is a great idea for a book.  Hebert and Lapierre are two well regarded and well connected journalists who travelled to meet the key players from both sides of the 1995 Quebec referendum to learn about their plans for the morning after the referendum had the voters voted “yes” instead of “no”.  Some of the politicians interviewed little, but there are many great insights to be found, such as that the unified front presented by Parizeau, Bouchard, and Dumont was essentially a facade and that even between them there was little agreement on what a “yes” vote would have meant.

The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by Robert J. Gordon: I read this while on a recent road trip to Montana and Wyoming and was probably the perfect choice to read while exploring the declining fly over country that is America’s interior.  Gordon’s thesis is twofold: first, that America’s growth and rise in living standards was far greater in the centry following 1876 than is evident in official GDP statistics, and second, that the remarkable growth seen during that period is unlikely to ever be replicated.  Economic inequality and climate change are the two principal social issues that we have to face in the coming decades, and Gordon makes a compelling argument that we have to seek solutions to our problems outside of a belief that a magic formula would bring great economic growth that could make our problems disappear.

SPQR, by Mary Beard: SQPR is a fantastic history of Rome’s rise to its greatest period and relevant for our world today.  Beard has an original style of presenting history, writing fluently and speaking to today’s world while narrating the past.  Her central thesis is compelling: that Rome rose to greatness by continually expanding its right of citizenship, bringing the world into its fold, rather than by shutting its borders and pushing its neighbours away.

The Emperor’s Handbook, by Marcus Aurelius: A fancy name for a new translation of Aurelius’ Meditations, this book had been on my list to read for as long as I can remember.  This is obviously not as relevant to today’s problems as a modern book on leadership or life, but it is fascinating to read the inner thoughts and contemplations of an emperor living nearly two millenniums ago.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain:  I’d heard a lot about this book before I picked it up, but I’d always been skeptical of it because it sounds a lot like a book where the whole point is contained in the title.  Introverts = important.  The book turned out to be more interesting than that, and I learned about some areas of research that I was previously unfamiliar such as the work described on high reactive babies.  Nonetheless, despite many interesting anecdotes, the book is longer than it needs to be to get its point across.  One thought that I couldn’t get out of my mind as I read it: are introversion and extroversion really innate character traits or can they be learned, or perhaps even be dependent on environment or situation?  I’m not so sure that the spectrum is as black and white as Cain makes it sound.

The Mindset of Success, by Jo Owen: Jo Owen’s “How to Lead” has long been one of my favourite books on leadership and it’s one that I return to every few weeks to refresh myself on another few nuggets of insight, and this appreciation for his work led me to pick up “The Mindset of Success” last summer.  I in particular have always been drawn to Owen’s view that leadership is a practice, not an innate character trait.  More focussed and simpler in scope than his other books, Owen uses the book to dive into the mindset needed to succeed in career, life, and other endeavour.  Not quite as good as his other books, but still worthwhile.

How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg: I loved the title of this book before reading it, and after reading it I think it’s a great idea for a book.  Ellenberg does a fantastic job at explaining the value of learning mathematics and how its tools can be used to understand the world and its complexities.

Zermelo’s Axiom of Choice: Its Origins, Development, and Influence, by Gregory H. Moore:  There’s a review for this book on Amazon that calls it a “truly thrilling history” of the axiom of choice.  I really don’t know that that would ever be possible.  The Axiom of Choice is a fascinating topic of study, both because of its independence from the other axioms of ZF set theory, and because how its needed to prove many useful parts of mathematics while at the same time leading to seeming absurdities like the Banach-Tarsky paradox.  Well researched, interesting, but also very dry reading and not for a popular audience.  Note that my copy had some printing errors (misaligned pages, for example).

Fearless Symmetry, by Avner Ash and Robert Gross:  Let’s get it out of the way: this is not a book for a true layman.  Even with a thorough understanding of undergraduate mathematics and a good knowledge of some parts of graduate mathematics (not number theory, mind you), this book required effort to get through and understand.  At the same time, it was totally worth it.  Ash and Gross do a great job of building up the mathematics and especially the motivation behind the mathematics needed to understand reciprocity laws, Galois groups, and the tools that would eventually be used to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem.  Fearless Symmetry does a better job of explaining the wonder and complexity of the Galois group better than any source I’ve previously encountered.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein: This is probably Klein’s weakest work, not standing up to the greatness of her previous books.  Whereas I loved No Logo and enjoyed the Shock Doctrine, it’s not entirely clear who the intended audience is for this book.  The majority of details presented are already known by those who care, but the writing and anecdotes are too bland to appeal to those who still need to be convinced that man made climate change is the principal issue of our era.  This Changes Everything is noble, but regrettably not great.

The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers, by Robert C. MartinEvery programmer should have to read this book, plain and simple.  While the latter half largely focusses on TDD, the first few chapters are essential.  So many developers enter the workforce unaware of what it truly means to be a professional programmer, what it means to write quality code, when to say yes, and when to say no.  Some people are put off by Uncle Bob’s opinionated nature, but I love this book and wish I could get all of my new developers to read it.

Just Enough Software Architecture: A Risk-Driven Approach, by George Fairbanks: Software architecture is an interesting term because on one hand, everyone in the industry knows what architecture refers to (“those parts of a system that are hard to change”), but at the same time, most people including many architects don’t know how one should go about defining architecture.  Fairbanks explains how to define architecture by identifying the risks affecting a piece of software being developed and using the right set of models to model what the architecture should be.  This is knowledge that every architect or senior developer should have.

Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management, by Johanna Rothman and Esther Derby:  This is an interesting book in that it’s essentially a series of dialogs of a new manager engaging in one on ones with a new team.  It’s a small book, but I’ve bought a copy for each of my managers to read because I think too many mangers jump into doing one on ones without really thinking about what their goals are and what they want to accomplish.

Management 3.0: Leader Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders, by Jurgen Appelo: Management 3.0 is a weird book.  It’s kind of a brain dump of all of the models and ideas that Appelo has run into in his quest to become a good Agile development manager.  It’s interesting to pass through, but not essential reading.

The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year, by Mitch Lacey: Another book on Scrum that I read while running a large software development project, this is pretty good, but I’d jump straight to Cohn’s book generally.

Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash, by Mary and Tom Poppendieck: “Lean” software development is a bit of an odd idea because it’s a set of principles and not a process.  The reason I say that it’s odd is because I don’t know that anyone could ever disagree with the principles, such as to “eliminate waste” or “build quality in”.  Perhaps the only really controversial principal is to “defer committment”.  Nonetheless, this book is a good read, and Chapter 2, on the principles of lean software development should be required reading for any software development manager.

Succeeding Using Agile: Software Development Using Scrum, by Mike Cohn: My favourite book on Scrum.  Cohn is a great author and does a great job at explaining how to practically implement Scrum and put it to use.  I wish I could get all of my scrum masters to read this.

Computability: Turing, Godel, Church, and Beyond, edited by B. Jack Copeland, Carl J. Posy, Oron Shagrir: A great collection of papers by some great minds.  A few of the papers are perhaps overly specific, but there are many of interest to anyone with an interest in the theory of computability, such as Aaronson’s paper on whether philosophers should care about computational complexity.  Recommended.

 

 

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Date: Aug 25-28

Participants: Max Bitel, Craig Follett, Greg Lindstrom, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 4 to 5.6

Report: When my daughter was born early this year I thought that my alpine climbing career would be put on a very extended hiatus, but while my total number of days in the backcountry has been significantly decreased compared to the last few trips, I’ve still found the opportunity for some stellar trips.  This time the opportunity came in the form of Greg’s bachelor party, for which after a good number of ideas were bounced back and forth we settled on a 4 day trip to the Conrad Kain hut in the Bugaboos with the goal to bag a couple of the spires.  The weather in the interior had been cold and wet all summer, and our backup plan was to go biking in the Chilcotins, but as the dates for the trip neared it became apparent that there was likely to be a narrow weather of good weather for us to get in, climb, and get out before the next system hit.

Max and I started our drive up Wednesday night and camped on a logging road just outside of Malakwa, and the next morning had a leisurely stop in Revelstoke to eat breakfast and buy groceries.  We had planned to meet Greg and Craig at the Bugaboos parking lot at 1:30, and on the map I had at home, the Bugaboos looked like they were close to Golden so I thought we had plenty of time.  In retrospect this was a mistake as to get to the Bugaboos you have to drive 45km up a logging road that starts in Brisco, which is itself quite far from Golden.  In the end we were quite late, pulling into the Bugaboos parking lot around 2:15 and having to scramble to get chicken wire up around our truck and do a final packing job for our bags.

Note on chicken wire: There is TONS of chicken wire just waiting to be used at the Bugaboos parking lot, no need to bring your own.  If you were to arrive and there was not any chicken wire there for you to use, that would mean that there are hundreds of people ahead of you and you’re best off backtracking, climbing somewhere else and returning to the Bugaboos some other time.

We finally got going from the parking lot just past 3pm, and mosied our way up to the Conrad Kain hut.  You can see the hut from the parking lot but it actually takes a few hours to get up there.  The trail is in great shape and has lots of safety features installed so that even a confident kid would be able to make it up to the hut (and indeed there were some kids in the hut).   The ascent was uneventful except for an incident whereby at around 4:45 we had just reached the top of the ladder on the trail and a party with lighter packs passed us and asked if one of us had lost a boot.  Apparently another hiker had found Greg’s boot lying on the trail, and not knowing what to do had elected to carry it down to the parking lot and leave it there!  Lucky for Greg, Max volunteered to play the hero, dropped his bag, and headed down to catch up to the hiker carrying down Greg’s boot.  Unluckily for Max, that hiker was fast and Max only caught up to him metres from the parking lot and so essentially, he had to make the ascent to the hut twice.  The rest of us, however, were lounging about in the luxurious Kain hut by 5:45.

Note on luxury: The Kain hut has pots, pans, cutlery, cups, electric stove, electric heat, gas stove, running cold water, running hot water, and printed weather reports twice a day.  You only need to bring your own food, nothing else.

Friday morning we arose at about 4am and after a hot breakfast, set out towards Pigeon Spire just a bit before 5am.  The Bugaboo-Snowpatch (B-S) col was reported to be in poor condition and very loose (one of my dad’s friend’s girlfriends was killed in the col some years ago due to rockfall), and so rather than head through the B-S col, we ascended to Pigeon via the Bugaboo glacier.  The glacier was in fine condition, dry until the flat area below the Pigeon-Snowpatch col, and snow up above but with the main crevasses obvious and easily avoided.  It was at the flats below the Pigeon-Snowpatch col that Craig realized that he’d left his helmet in the hut.  While Max and I were climbing on our own, Craig and Greg were climbing with a guide (Paul), and given the lack of helmet, the 3 of them elected to return to the hut and climb something else while Max and I continued on to climb Pigeon.  We reached the base of the West Ridge at around 8:20am, well before the crowds arrived.  Here we stopped to eat and trade our glacier gear to get set to climb the ridge, which we commenced at about a quarter to 9.

The West Ridge of Pigeon is a really phenomenal route.  It’s rated at 5.4, PD, in the guidebook, but it’s not entirely clear to me where the 5.4 climbing is.  Rather, it’s a super exposed 4th/low-5th class scramble on near perfect rock featuring .  Max and I simulclimbed the route with about 15m of rope between us, and this felt like the best way to go.  If you were to pitch out the route it would take forever, but the difficulty and exposure are beyond what I consider reasonable without a rope.

We reached the first subsummit at 9:45, and from here it looks like there’s a really difficult climb coming up to reach the second subsummit, but it turns out that it’s just the angles playing tricks on your eyes, as it continues at about the same difficulty as before.  Probably the most iconic photo of the Bugaboos is found just before the second subsummit where there is a 15m section of flat ridge where you can walk right along the crest with the South Howser Tower looming large in the background.  The second subsummit was reached at about 10:15, and after another quick water break, we made a very short rappel into the notch between the subsummit and the main subsummit (rap could be avoided to the north, as we found on the way back).  From this notch, we scrambled around on ledges on the north side of the main summit until we found a fairly obvious chimney feature.  Above this, the guidebook description was very confusing for us, but we found that what it meant was to ascend up on easy ground and to literally go behind a large block and scramble out of it to climber’s left and from there to scramble up and easy gully (largely snow filled) up to the summit proper, which was reached at 11:15.

On the main summit we could see another few parties making their way up the ridge below and didn’t linger for long, and made two rappels (both bolted) down the summit block to the ledges below from which we could scramble up to the second subsummit and stop for a proper lunch break.  From here, we simulclimbed down the route back to the base of the ridge, making just one short rappel near the bottom to bypass the first au cheval.  We were again at the base of the route around 2pm and the skies rapidly darkened as the Howsers were enraptured by fog.  The snow bridges on the upper Bugaboo glacier remained strong as we descended through a minor hailstorm, but on the flats I managed to have my legs pop into a small unexpected crevasse!  We were off the glacier just past 3:30 and down at the hut at 4:15, for a total round trip time of a bit over 11 hours.

Friday evening I was feeling tired as my lack of exercise this year caught up to me, so while Greg and Craig decided to get up early again on Saturday to head back to Pigeon Spire, Max and I would sleep in a bit and see how things looked in the morning.  In the morning, the weather looked fantastic, and so we decided to go climb Lion’s Way (5.6, PD+) on Central Crescent Tower, the same route that the other guys had climbed the day before.

On Saturday we left the hut a bit past 9am and walked up past the Appleby Dome campground, past some beautiful lakes, and towards the Crescent towers.  The final lake was a bit interesting to find the right route around and involved a bit of scrambling, but we found our way to the route and could see a couple parties ahead of us already on the route.  From the final lake we made our way directly up to the base of the route through the boulder fields and this turned out to be a big mistake.  The boulder field consisted entirely of large refrigerator sized boulders and was thoroughly unstable.  This ended up being the one part of our trip that had both of us freaked out and we were incredibly happy to reach the base of the route itself and find solid rock.  Next time around, I would walk up the edge of the glacier a bit until we hit the gully that heads up between the north and central Crescent towers and follow it up to the base of the route because the rocks in the gully are much more stable as well as much smaller.

We started climbing at 11:15, and the first few pitches were very easy although where exactly we were supposed to go to find the crux crack leading up to the ridge proper was not entirely obvious (hint: it’s further up and to the right than you might expect).  At the base of the crux we caught up to another party that was moving slowly.  The duo was comprised of a Spaniard and a Canadian guy, both from Canmore, and as best we could tell, both of these guys woke up that morning on the wrong side of bed.  The two guys were at each others’ neck for as long as we could hear them, swearing nonstop at how useless the other guy was, at how the other guy didn’t know how to climb / belay / build anchors / etc.  Even worse, one of them had started off in a huff and left his pack behind to lead the crux pitch, leaving the other to haul it below him on a tether as he seconded the pitch.  I’ve always figured it’s a good idea to stay on good terms with your climbing partner so that he doesn’t end up in a murderous mood, but here I learned that not everyone shares this view.

Max was eventually able to pass the bickering duo a pitch above the crux, where the route eases off into a long stretch of low-5th meandering (with one surprising short finger crack that was unexpected), and for most of the rest of our ascent we could hear them yelling at each other below us.  The summit was reached at 2:15, for a total ascent time of 3 hours.

There is a short steep step to downclimb to get off the summit that we belayed each other down on, and from there there is a well trod path down the gully between the central and north Crescent towers.  There is one steep step near the base of the gully but if you hunt around you can find a bolted rap station and bypass the step.  Below this, it’s just a matter of easy talus scrambling back to the gear we’d left at the bottom of the route and down to the edge of the glacier below, which we reached at 3:45.  Here we stopped for an extended break for no reason other than to enjoy the awesome environs.  Below, we stopped for Max to swim and experiment with hypothermia in the glacial lake, and then made our way down to the hut.  Total round trip time approximately 8.5 hours.  That evening we knew there was no early start coming and could sit around, try climbing the massive boulder outside the hut, and later test the scotch that Craig had hauled up to the hut, along with some plastic shot glass type vessels that lacked any seal around their bottom and steadily leaked.

Sunday morning brought the expected miserable weather, and we took our time getting ready to leave.  The rain abated somewhat by 10:15, and headed back to the vehicles, which we reached just past noon.

In conclusion, we had two fantastic days of climbing.  Although the summer was wet, we had two days of great weather and that was all we needed to bag two classic routes and wish Greg well as he enters a life of marriage.  Thanks to all of you for the great trip and especially for Craig for organizing the whole thing.

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Date: Sept 15, 2016

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, Ross Berg (guide)

Difficulty: 5.4

Report: Years ago I was promised as part of a birthday gift that Brittany and I would climb Blackcomb Buttress, but life happened and those plans fell by the wayside.  Then just earlier this week Brittany found out that she could take Thursday off work, and with the weather forecast looking gorgeous the idea came back to climb the Buttress.  There was only one complication: Brittany hadn’t been on rock since a couple months after she became pregnant and going alpine climbing by ourselves for her first rock experience in well over a year didn’t seem like a great idea.  Luckily for us, a friend recommended that we talk to Ross at Altus Mountain Guides and we were fortunate to find that he was free to guide us that day.

We all met at the base of the Whistler gondola just before the lift opened at 10, and after a quick gear check, we rode the gondola up and then took the peak 2 peak over to Blackcomb, arriving on Blackcomb just before 11.  It was a short 30 or 40 minute hike over to Lakeside Bowl, where we ate a snack, sorted out a bit more gear, and started making our way up below DOA towards the Buttress.  From below it looks like you’d have to go through some steep loose terrain to reach the Buttress, but by wandering left and right of the main gully it was possible to ascend to the base of the climb on reasonably solid rock for the most part, and reached the base of the route a bit before 1pm.

As an aside, although the forecast that morning had been for sun, the alpine high had been forecast to be around 8 or 9 degrees and I had chosen to wear a long sleeved shirt.  In reality however, the alpine temperature hovered around 20 degrees and with no breeze to speak of I was hot all day.  That said, I can’t really complain about a beautiful warm alpine day in mid September!

After another snack and gearing up to go, it was time to climb!  We chose to climb the main rib of the lower buttress (not the optional left rib mentioned in Alpine Select).  The route started out steeper than I expected.  Just a couple weeks earlier I’d climbed Pigeon Spire’s West Ridge, which like the Blackcomb Buttress is also rated at PD (5.4), but comparing the two routes shows how neither the YDS or Alpine grade can fully capture the character of a route.  Whereas Pigeon was essentially a long super-exposed scramble above glaciers, almost entirely at very moderate angle, Blackcomb Buttress is a much shorter, steeper, and significantly less exposed.  Also for comparison, while Blackcomb Buttress seemed quite stable and very few rocks were moving on us, it is still quite fractured terrain whereas Pigeon is almost Squamish quality granite.

The first rope length was quite steep and due to Brittany being approximately 20m ahead of me on the same rope and out of sight from me, it felt a lot like free soloing with a rope only for catastrophe prevention.  That said, the moves themselves were easy, and higher up the angle kicks back as the route wanders up through blocky terrain with generous belay ledges to be found whenever needed.  We climbed the route in 5 or 6 pitches, and about 90 minutes from when we started were on the summit of Blackcomb Mountain.  The weather was perfect, as were the views.  It had been many years since I’d been on Blackcomb in the summer and it was great to see a summer view of the Spearhead range from that side of the valley, in addition to the great views of the Tantalus group, Cayley group, and Mt. James Turner area.

Following an extended summit lunch break, we set off at about 3pm to head first towards Decker, then down body bag bowl and around Blackcomb back to Lakeside bowl where we would regain the trail system.  At this time of year, the last gondola ride back to Whistler departs at 5:15 and so we had no time to dawdle.  It took us about an hour and a half to work down the talus fields to the trails, but with a bit of hustle in our step it was only 30 minutes from there back to the peak 2 peak gondola, which we reached with 10 minutes to spare!  Total gondola to gondola round trip time was just a few minutes over 6 hours.  Without a doubt this was the shortest round trip time I’ve ever had for an alpine climb.

In all, this was a fantastic day out in the mountains.  I’m super happy to have made it out alpine climbing with Brittany this year and to have found a very enjoyable route to boot.  This was certainly my least stressful alpine climbing day ever.  Many thanks as well to Ross for coming out with us, showing us the way and keeping us safe.

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Date: July 1, 2016

Participants: Steve White, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2 (hands needed for a few short steps, easy snow)

Report: A promising forecast for Canada Day led me to post a trip on the BCMC schedule and look for some company to join me on an excursion up Capilano Mountain.  I lucked out and Steve volunteered to join me, but we both ran out of luck when the forecast turned out to be dead wrong and we spent most of the day in the rain and fog.

The gate at the bottom of Phyllis Creek road is permanently locked, and so we parked in the pullout right below the gate at the edge of Furry Creek golf course, and by 8:10 we had our bikes good to go and started up towards Capilano Mountain.  The road was easier than I remembered driving years ago, and we only had to push the bikes up two short hills en route to the turnoff to Downing Creek road, which would take us to the Beth Lake trailhead.  Route notes: on Phyllis Creek road, take a right at the first fork and always follow the most well used path up to the turnoff, which is just before the 4km marker, not just past as Matt Gunn’s guidebook indicates.

About 100m after turning on to Downing Creek road, we crossed Phyllis Creek, and the road began to deteriorate as the alder encroached on the path.  A few hundred metres later we started to encounter lots of small windfall, and about 500m from the turnoff we gave up on the bikes and left them in a ditch.  This proved to be wise as the road became increasingly overgrown from this point and bikes wouldn’t have helped at on all the descent beyond this point.  As a result, we had to travel the remaining 2.5km to the old Beth Lake trailhead on foot.

The first 0.5-1km of the trail up to Beth Lake is badly overgrown with a variety of bushes, including devils club and plenty of blueberries.  Making matters worse, the skies had opened and by the time we reached the older growth above we were thoroughly soaked.  We persevered nonetheless.  At this time the trail is easy enough to follow, although it won’t be too many years until the trail becomes a challenge to hike unless someone heads up and clears the trail up to the old growth.

We reached Beth Lake at around 11:00, and as we stopped for a quick snack and drink, the clouds descended and we had our first experience with the fog that would engulf us until we reached our bikes again later in the day.  From the lake, the trail is a bit of a mess for the first 10 minutes as it traverses onto the ridge to the west of the lake, but soon improves and until we reached snow at around 1300m it was in good shape.

Above treeline the route is fairly well marked with cairns and we had little difficulty following it until near the col west of the summit (south of Gordon lake), but as the fog became even more dense, we had to check a GPS route a couple times to determine the right way to proceed.  The summit block itself was quite easy to ascend, mostly on snow except for a steep step near the summit where we moved onto the rocks and heather to the side of the gully.  We reached the summit at about 1:50 and were treated to glorious views of fog and more fog.

In the fog we started down the summit in the wrong direction, but noticed our mistake quickly and found our tracks in the snow to follow back down.  The descent down to the bikes was aided greatly by the snow and we were back down at the lake in what seemed like no time.  From the lake down to the bikes was an annoying combination of bush and logging road walking, but once we reached the bikes, all was better.  There are few experiences in life I enjoy better than coasting down a logging road on a bike at the end of a long hike, revelling in the thought that some poor souls have had to suffer the long logging road descent on foot.  The bike descent was fast and fun, and soon enough we were back at our vehicle, just in time to witness the skies begin to clear.

Thank you very much Steve for joining me on this adventure.  There were no views, and the conditions weren’t great, but at least Capilano mountain has been bagged at last.

Total ascent time: 5 hours, 40 minutes.  Total descent time: approx. 3 hours.

 

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Date: May 14, 2016

Participants: Radmila Bridges, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3 (snow to 40 degrees, some scrambling moves)

Report: Another month, another chance for an adventure.  With a baby at home I have to be more selective than I used to when it comes to getting out these days, and it gives me incentive to pick destinations closer to Vancouver to minimize travel time.  There aren’t many significant peaks near Vancouver that I haven’t climbed, but one notable exception was Mt. Hanover and so I posted a last minute trip on the BCMC schedule to try and find a couple people to head up Hanover with me.

Saturday morning we drove up to the Porteau Rd turnoff on Hwy 99 and seeing that the gate was open to the upper Deeks Creek trailhead, we drove up.  The road is in pretty bad condition in a few places with quite large loose rocks and deep grooves, but the Jeep survived the ascent and we quickly shaved off 3km of boring logging road hiking from the day.  I don’t know how much longer the road is going to be in driveable condition with a regular 4wd that has not been jacked up, but for now it goes.  We parked at the so called “upper parking area” at about 7:50, and shortly after 8, walked up the road another few hundred metres to the “upper upper parking area”, where the trail begins.  In theory someone could drive up these final few hundred metres, but I was not willing to risk in my jeep.

The trail to Deeks lake is in excellent condition, with only a couple minor pieces of deadfall to contend with and we reached the lake at 9:20am and stopped for our first break.  Deeks lake is larger than I thought it was, and there are a couple nice camping spots by the lake.  Nonetheless, we didn’t wait there long and soon turned right, crossed the logjam at the exit to the lake, and continued on the Howe Sound Crest trail around the lake and worked our way through pleasant terrain up towards Hanover Lake.  The creek was running high at the place where the trail crosses to the east side of the creek, but luckily there was a large nearby snow bridge that we used to cross.  At Hanover lake the trail gave way to snow, and above the lake we missed the place where the trail crosses back to the right side of the creek, but it was no problem because at the exit of Brunswick lake there was another logjam that was easily crossed, and just past 11am we were at the Brunswick Lake emergency shelter, where we stopped for our second break of the day.

From the emergency shelter, we followed the HSCT markers towards Hat pass until the terrain became open and there was an obvious location to contour to the left onto a bench and start heading towards Mt. Hanover.  Below Mt. Hanover the snow was mushy and slowed our progress, but we steadily ascending up until the notorious two gullies on the south / south east side of Hanover came into view, and we found ourselves below them at around 12:30.  In summer conditions the left gully is reportedly much easier than the right gully due to some difficult scrambling moves required to get around two chockstones in the right gully.  However, in mid May conditions, the left gully was an alternating mix of rock and snow patches with a few difficult looking gaps in the snow, whereas the right gully appeared to be snow filled completely and so we took out our ice axes and started up the right gully.

Not far up the right gully we encountered a significant moat in the snow at the first chockstone, a few metres deep, but not terribly wide, and we were able to bypass it on the right via a few easy scrambling moves on the rock.  Above this it was steady step kicking all the way up to the summit (soft enough to not need our crampons), which we reached just past 1:30.  The gully varies in steepness, but about 2/3 of the way up has a sustained section of 40 degree snow that, while not hard, was somewhat stressful due to the big hole 3/4 of the way down the gully that loomed below us.  It eases off a bit below the summit, and the gully tops out on the literally a few metres from the true summit.  We spent a few minutes taking photos on the summit, and the crossed back over the top of the gully to a nearby subsummit that was snow free and were we could sit on the rocks, eat lunch, and enjoy the views all around.  Total ascent time: 5.5 hours.

The descent down the summit gully was slow as we had to face inwards and carefully follow our steps the whole way down.  At the gap / chockstone, I misplaced one of my poles on the rock and it slipped down into the hole.  Luckily, it landed on a snow lip and I was able to get myself into a position where I was able to fish it out with my ice axe.  That left the chockstone hole unsatisfied and demanding sacrifice, and as Radmila crossed from the rock back onto the snow, she dropped one of her poles into the hole, where unlike my pole it did not land on a ledge and is now waiting to be found by another adventurer.

By 3:15 we were back on the easy snow below the summit block and put away our ice axes.  From here, we motored down nonstop, and reached the car at about 10 to 6, for a total descent time of about 3.5-3.75 hours.  Car to car time was a bit shy of 10 hours.  In all, it was a great early season trip.  I probably could’ve chosen a shorter/easier trip for my first real hiking/scrambling trip of the year, but given my lack of free time it was great to get out and knock off one of the remaining local mountains from my hit list.  Mt. Hanover is quite out of the way, and so I wouldn’t recommend tackling it until someone has already knocked off the more popular local trips (Brunswick, Harvey, Lions, etc), but it is nonetheless a worthwhile outing.  Many thanks to Radmila for accompanying me and providing great company for the day.

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Date: March 17, 2016

Participants: Rob Janousek, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3.  Easy skiing, but summit scramble sketchy in current conditions.

Report: It’s been a while since I’ve written a trip report.  A trip to Peru, the last few months of Brittany’s pregnancy, selling a condo & buying a house, renovating said house, surgery in December, and the birth of my daughter in January all conspired to limit the number of peaks ascended in recent months.  Nonetheless, a look at the forecast earlier in the week spurred me to book a vacation day and hunt for someone to go on a mid-week trip with me.  I’ve hardly done any uphill in recent months and expected to go for a short tour in the Mt. Baker ski area backcountry, but conditions were good, one thing kept leading to to another, and by early afternoon I found myself standing with Rob atop Coleman Pinnacle.

We set off in Rob’s Delica from my place in Coquitlam just past 6:20am, and after a quick stop at Tim Horton’s we crossed the border at Sumas where there was no line up to speak of and we quickly made our way to the Mt. Baker ski area.  We started skinning from the Heather Meadows base area at about 9am, and made our way up towards Artist Point.  We had been expecting soft powder but to our amazement the whole trip up to Artist Point was atop a thick crust that must have developed on the previous day due to the sun.  Our weather was perfect all day, cool (hovering around or just below zero and nary a cloud in the sky)

The crust combined with an existing track meant that the climb to Artist Point was quick (just under an hour), and from there we reached our main decision for the day, whether to descend to the bowl below us to the east and make an attempt on Mt. Ann or whether to head around Table Mountain and see where we ended up.  Due to the crust we chose the latter and hustled around Table Mountain as quickly as possible in order to minimize our time spent under the south facing avi slopes that had apparently spent their previous afternoon sloughing prolifically.  By 11 o’clock we were on the backside of Table Mountain, where after a few peeks at the map and surrounding terrain to determine that we would be able to return to the car in the evening via Herman Saddle, we decided to ski down the slopes below us and make our way up Ptarmigan Ridge.  Amazingly, behind Table Mountain there was no more crust and the snow from there on was a perfect powder on top of a good base.

The ascent of Ptarmigan ridge from the basin below Table Mountain to Coleman Pinnacle is a superb tour.  It is varied but never overly challenging, at times requiring some routefinding, such as one steep step that was avoided by ducking onto snow slopes on the right and regaining the ridge a little later by skinning up through a gap in the cornice.  A couple hours after leaving Table Mountain behind we were standing on the ridge below the pinnacle with a conundrum on our hands.  On one hand, the summit was so close, but temperatures had risen throughout the day and the direct ascent of the summit from the ridge would have required kicking steps up a snow slope of very questionable stability.  Rob saved the day by noticing a gap in the cornice that we could use to tour around the west side of the peak on steep shaded slopes, which we did, and soon ended up on the ridge just to the SW of the summit.  Here we took off our skis and stopped for lunch.

The pinnacle itself holds some significance for me because it was the destination of one of the two BCMC trips that I had to cancel when I became extremely sick in the Winter of 2013, and I was extremely pleased to be so close to its summit as we finished our lunch.  In good firm snow conditions the ascent of this SW ridge would be trivial, but for us it had a bit of excitement.  The snow to the side of the ridge crest was too sugary to be any good for step kicking and so we ascended the ridge directly on a mix of snow and rock.  Nothing too hard, but slippery enough to keep the blood flowing.  Nonetheless, after a 5 or 10 minute scramble we were standing on the summit with gorgeous views all around!  We were on the summit at around 2pm.

Back at our skis we took off at around 2:30 and we decided to make a slightly traversing descent down the bowl below the pinnacle to the west, making our way down to the basin below Table Mountain, from which we would ascend to Iceberg Lake and up to Herman Saddle.  The ski down was superb with many of the best turns I can ever remember, and with only a couple minor annoyances due to descending a bit too low at a couple points, we made quick time to our low point.  From the low point it is straightforward to ascend up to Iceberg Lake, but was extraordinarily exhausting for me because I was accumulating snow on my skins and I’d forgotten to pack skin wax.  Eventually it hit me that maybe Rob would have some and I borrowed some of his, but by that point my thighs were pumped.  From Iceberg Lake we found a skin track up to Herman Saddle (thank you!), and the route was straightforward yet slow due to my tiredness.

In good conditions, you could probably make it from Herman Saddle to the parking lot in about 5 minutes, but it took us a little longer than that because the horrible crust that we’d encountered in the morning was found once again.  The ski down to the valley bottom was simply terrible and not really any fun at all, but we made it back to the van at 5:30 sharp for a total round trip time of 8 hours, 30 minutes.   Coleman pinnacle is one of the best tours I’ve done and it was only made better by the perfect weather.  Many thanks to Rob for heading down and being great company for a mid-week adventure!

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Date: June 27, 2015

Participants: Alex Le, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3 (solid 3rd, some exposure, never exceeding 3rd)

Report: Saturday was forecast to be the hottest day of the year… what could be a better idea than to do a long day hike with plenty of elevation gain to a beautiful scramble?  Apparently we were the only people who thought this way, as the crowds that I expected to see up at Yellow Aster Butte and Tomyhoi Peak never materialized.  Tomyhoi was one of the remaining “3 star” Matt Gunn routes that I hadn’t climbed, and aside from severe water loss due to the incredible heat (I went through 5 litres of water and was still dehydrated), we had an amazing day.  Tomyhoi is a great scramble in a gorgeous area.

A few delays led us to not leave my place in New West until about 7:20am, and this meant that by the time we hit the border crossing, the line was long (45 minutes), and so we didn’t make it to the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead until nearly 10 o’clock.  Note that the Twin Lakes road has degraded somewhat from the “excellent 2wd” condition described in Gunn’s book.  It could probably be done in most 2wd vehicles, but a few rough sections could make some people being uncomfortable and I was happy to have brought my Jeep.

We set out from the trailhead at about 10 and the day was already terribly hot.  The switchbacks up the initial slope went quick enough, although we had some confusion before the turn off to yellow aster butte.  The guidebook says to “look for a trail that goes off to the left” and at one point we thought we saw a trail heading left, but it turned out to just be a minor spur to a campsite.  The actual trail to yellow aster butte is very well marked with a big sign and obvious when you get there, just minutes before the trail reaches the pass at the end of the valley.  From the turnoff, it was quick going on the traverse to yellow aster butte, and just as we crested the knoll where you see the route down to the tarns and the ridge leading to Tomyhoi itself, it was apparent how amazing the views on the trip were going to be.

From this knoll there are amazing views of Shuksan and Baker, and the ridge from here down to the tarns and up towards Tomyhoi are extremely pleasant and varied.  It took us a bit under 2 hours to the tarns where we had lunch, and from there about 2 hours to wander up the ridge (pushing the pace, really) to the subsummit (with a bit of annoying up and down along the way).  The subsummit is quite nice, but from there the true summit looks very intimidating!

We scrambled down loose ledges to the col between the subsummit and true summit to get a look, and fortunately from the bottom it doesn’t really look so bad.  There’s a groove up to the left, then one from there up to the right, and it’s only from the top of that groove to the top of the ridge (perhaps 8m total) that the going gets quite difficult with decent exposure.  Luckily, this hard part is on the most solid rock of the day and neither of us had trouble ascending it.  For comparison, I’d say that the route is comparable to Sky Pilot, although probably a little easier.  Above this crux, the summit was easy to attain and although it’s a tiny summit, the views from the top were great, with plenty to see in both the US and Canada.  Total ascent time: 4 hours, 45 minutes.  Total water consumed on ascent: 3 litres.

The descent through the scrambling part was challenging for Alex as it was his first true scramble route, but with a bit of guidance and coaching he made it down safely and without too many frayed nerves.  From the subsummit down to the tarns went quickly even though the temperature was still scorching, but a quick dip in the tarns cooled us down and from there it was a tedious and tiring descent back to the car for a total round trip time of about 8 hours, 30 minutes.

In all, Tomyhoi is a fantastic trip and well deserving of the 3 stars that Gunn gave it in his guidebook.  You spend very little time in the trees, so almost the entire ascent is through the alpine, and the trip has plenty of variety including places requiring routefinding and a really nice scramble to top it off!  Sure, I went sweated out at least 6 litres of water over the course of the day, but that just meant that we were lucky enough to be up there on a day where we could have it all to ourselves!

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Date: May 28-30, 2015

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, John Minier (guide)

Difficulty: 5 (snow and glacier ice to 70 degrees)

Report: As you drive along the Trans Canada Highway from Vancouver to Hope, when you’re passing through Abbotsford Mt. Baker dominates the horizon, and straight in the centre of your view is Mt. Baker’s North Ridge.  This frequent view, combined with both Alpine Select and Beckey’s guide to the North Cascades calling the North Ridge a classic must-do route had led me to gaze at the route for the past few years and want to climb it and return once again to Mt. Baker.

Prior to this trip, we’d only climbed with a guide once before, but given the described difficulty of the North Ridge (extensive climbing on exposed 45+ degree snow slopes and a 30-40m 70 degree ice wall) I sought out a guide to lead us up the route.  I ended up booking John Minier through Mt. Baker Mountain Guides for our wedding anniversary and we lucked out as he is a great guide!  If you’re looking to climb something in the North Cascades I highly recommend checking him and his guiding service out.  They were very helpful in arranging the trip, and he was a great guy to spend 3 days with (even cooked us delicious breakfasts and dinners!).

We began our trip meeting at 7:30 Thursday morning at the Glacier public service centre for a gear check and to divide up our group gear, and once that was done and we’d picked up a hot drink from one of Glacier’s coffee shops we headed up to the Heliotrope Ridge parking lot.  The trudge up to Hogsback was the usual one, but the trail is in good shape, and although the upper rock was already full with a large party, we found a couple nice tent platforms not far below it on a dry rib and were able to set up camp off the snow and on dry land.  Here we had a relaxed afternoon, did an hour or two of mountaineering practice (ice axe arrest, short roping technique, etc), had a tasty dinner, and headed to bed just past 7 for an early rise the next day.

John woke us up at the unholy hour of 2am, and after choking down a few mouthfuls of oatmeal and suiting up, we were set to head out to Mt. Baker’s north ridge by 3:30am.  It took us about two and a half hours to climb up to the Coleman glacier and cross it to the start of the north ridge.  If you look at the route description for the north ridge in Alpine Select, you’ll notice that it suggests two routes: an easier route by going around the ridge to the Roosevelt Glacier and up to the ridge from there or a steeper route straight up through the “hourglass” from the Coleman Glacier, and we took neither.  The Roosevelt Glacier is currently blocked by large crevasses, and the hourglass has a large crevasse blocking all progress.  Instead, we crossed a bergschrund and ascended snowslope about 100m to the left of the hourglass and after two short pitches on steep snow, short-roped the traverse over to the top of the hourglass and from there up to the ridge proper.  On the ridge itself we took a break before ascending up moderate snow slopes to the base of the infamous ice cliff, which we reached at about a quarter to 9.

Looking up at the ice cliff from just below it, I immediately knew how happy I was to have hired a guide (John) rather than attempt the route myself.  Although the ice itself goes at an easy AI3, the exposure below is substantial and the ice itself is far more challenging (i.e. rotten) than anything I’ve previously experienced on weekend ice climbing trips to Lillooet.  The total route length from our bottom belay to a safe belay stance atop the ice cliff is probably about 65m, and if you’re willing to stretch the rope could probably be done (just) in a single long pitch, but we did it as 3 short pitches, which took us approximately 2 hours to fully ascend.

Until this point, we’d had great weather all morning, but shortly after finishing the ice cliff the weather socked in and we ended up with very limited visibility.  Luckily there were some tracks to follow and we made our way up the moderate yet very exposed snowslopes to the final serac band, eventually winding our way up to an anchor station below the final seracs.  Here the normal route trends left, but it turned out that it was a mess of serac to the left, and we ended up having to ascend the steep exposed snowslopes to the right of the seracs which led to the summit plateau across which we wandered, eventually reaching the main summit of Mt. Baker (Grant Peak) just past 2pm.  It was an exhausting but totally exhilarating climb and I was very happy that from this point back to our camp we just had to descend the easy Coleman-Deming route that we’d already done years ago.

On the descent, the Roman Wall was a complete mess of mush.  I was postholing on most steps past my knees (although one of the deeper post-holes turned out to be straight into a small crevasse high on the wall) and although it seemed like it was taking forever, we eventually reached the saddle between Mt. Baker and Colfax Peak and were greatly relieved that the snow on the Coleman Glacier was in much, much better shape for the final descent down to our camp.  We finally reached our tents a bit past 5pm, totally tired, and happy that we’d decided to stay in camp one more night and not push on to the cars.  In camp we settled down to relax, dry our soggy feet, and enjoy another great dinner and eventually headed to bed at a much more reasonable hour than the night before.

Saturday night we had a lazy morning in camp eating a delicious breakfast of pound cake and jam (try it!) and eventually set out for the cars at around 9:30.  The hike out was uneventful except for running into a number of groups of friends heading up for a day or weekend of skiing on the glacier, and a bit past 11 we were back at the cars where we sorted out the group gear again, said goodbye to John, and left Mt. Baker once again for a big meal down at the North Fork Beer Shrine!

In all, this was a fantastic trip, one that I’ll always remember.  Mt. Baker’s ridge was a much more difficult route than I expected it to be.  I always knew that the ice step would be a challenge, but I didn’t realize how full on the rest of the mountaineering would be, and in the end, it stands out as the most difficult snow/ice mountaineering route that I’ve ever done by a good margin.  To finish off this trip report, thank you once again to John and Mt. Baker Mountain Guides for their outstanding service.  We couldn’t have done this trip without you!

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Date: April 26, 2015

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 1

Report: Silverdaisy attempt #2!  We tried skiing Silverdaisy just after new years a few years ago but it had snowed heavily in the few days before our trip and we ran out of time after slogging up the old mining/logging road from Cayuse Flats.  This time we’d be much more successful ascending from the other side

We arrived at the Sumallo Grove parking lot at about 9am and 10 minutes later were on our way.  We were a bit worried about recent snowfall and whether the trail through the forest would be followable, but it turns out that the trail is well defined (generally on an old double-track path) and well marked and we had no problems following it even once we encountered deep snow at about 1400m.  The trail is a starting to get quick a bit of deadfall on it, especially lower down so if anyone wants to organize a trail clearing day this fall and is wondering where to go, keep the Silverdaisy trail in mind.

Leaving the car at 9:10, it was a bit under 20 minutes to the Silverdaisy trail turnoff.  The trail switchbacks steeply up the side of the mountain before easing off slightly as it heads into the long valley splitting Silverdaisy and Hatchethead.  It wasn’t long after entering the valley that we first encountered snow, at first a little and soon a lot.  There were a few places we had to look around to find the flagging early on, but the trail quickly reaches an old road, at which point it’s obvious where to go to ascent to the col between Silverdaisy and Claimstake mountain.  About 200m below the col the snow became extremely mushy and we put on snowshoes to ease the ascent.  Looking over at Claimstake/Hatchethead on the ascent, it looks like in the winter there could be some really nice ski lines available.

Total time to the col: 4 hours.  From the col it’s an easy broad ridge ascent through sub-alpine terrain to the summit and we had a great day for it.  Light overcast, cool, completely clear views.  Ascending the ridge took nearly exactly an hour, and at about a quarter past 2 we were on the summit, gazing at the views of Hozameen, Silvertip, Frosty, Brice and Outram.  Brice in particular looked like it’d have some fantastic winter ice lines on it for the hardcore crowd.

We didn’t linger long on the summit because the wind picked up, and headed off down the snow.  Descending the snow was no problem at all and very fast.  The trail out was a real slog once the snow ended, but easy enough, and we made it back to the parking lot right at 6 o’clock, for a total round trip time of just a bit under 9 hours.  I probably wouldn’t spend a summer day on this hike when there are more exciting ones to do, but for an early season ascent, this was a great trip!

P.S. I found out that on the same day we did Silverdaisy, another party took the same trail up but cut off of it to do a traverse of Hatchethead and Claimstake mountains, descending to the Silverdaisy-Claimstake col, and then back down to the cars… an idea for next year?

 

 

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Date: May 2, 2015

Participants: Devin Erickson, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 1/2

Report: Metal Dome is a popular mountain so I don’t need to say too much.  We started out from the cars at around 9:30, parking right next to the snowmobile cabin up Brandywine FSR.  Hit snow about 5 minutes up the snowmobile access cut from there, and proceeded easily on snow to the summit.  Amazing views, great day.  Total round trip at a very relaxed pace with lots of time on the summit of only about 5 hours.  Great trip for beginners!

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