The Unpredictable Alpine

By Jewell Lund “Should we take bivy gear?” I peered up at the dauntingly sheer granite face of Mt. Huntington, the scale of which overwhelms base camp on the Tokositna Glacier. Standing so close to the mountain, I knew the colossal face was foreshortened. Traversing the systems all the way across the West Face could take a few hours, or more than a day. Who knew? “Um. Bivy gear could be nice?” This conversation has actually started via email a year ago. A friend had connected Chantel Astorga and me, knowing our mutual interest in alpine climbing. Pictures and ideas were bandied about regarding Mt. Huntington in the Alaska Range. We’d heard rumors of stellar rock quality and nightmarish corniced ridges, and most importantly promises of adventure. In November 2013,…

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Off-Belay: Colombia Climbing

Climbing in the digital age presents a philosophical dilemma. With an abundance of information on the web regarding peaks, routes, and beta – the present day adventurer has a decision to make. On one hand, climbers can take advantage of resources such as SummitPost, MountainProject and other sites that offer full trip reports. Those who choose this path will be well-armed with pertinent information. Information which undoubtedly increases their likelihood of success during the outing. However, it’s not unreasonable to raise the consideration that extensive research detracts from the purity of a climb. It’s easy for online beta to spoil a summit view with a photo from the same vista (always taken on a day with perfect weather), or to suggest you crimp with your left and flag right before…

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Ode to the Shoulder Season—Skiing and Rock Climbing at Washington Pass

Photos and Story By Leif Whittaker By the middle of May, when winter’s final curtains of snow are pelting the North Cascades and warm afternoons are growing longer each day, we in the Northwest are aching for the full brunt of summer. It has been eight months since we last wore boardshorts and flip-flops. All the ski resorts are closed, but the trailheads and crags are still buried in a thick layer of winter’s residue and it will be another month or two before the highest arêtes and dihedrals are completely dried out. For many of us, the shoulder season is a frustrating interlude between two joyous extremes—deep powder and hot rock. However, as I discovered during a recent trip up Liberty Bell, the shoulder season is not a mere…

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First Tooth: The Pain and the Glory of New Routes in Indian Creek

by Luke Mehall Photos by Braden Gunem Perhaps more than any other climbing destination in the United States, Indian Creek will leave its mark on you. The stout, often painful cracks, rarely allow their suitors to escape without a cut, scrape, or bruise; proof of the struggle, a badge of glory to return home with. This battle often becomes addictive. After one returns from The Creek, he is either determined to never return again, or return as soon as possible. There’s a certain kind of magic is this masochistic pursuit. The addiction now affects hundreds, maybe thousands of crack addicts. At first it was a small number; now they even come from all the way across the pond, Europeans, desperate to get a hit, a shot at crack climbing glory. And…

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Off-Belay Americas: Climbing in Joshua Tree

As climbers, our path has led us from one crag to the next while we continue to push south to Patagonia. Two weeks in our route brought us to the community of Joshua Tree, California. I say “community” because Joshua is not simply a National Park or popular crag, but a winter season gathering place for dirt-baggers, weekend climbers, and nature enthusiasts alike. Eleven months had passed since our first visit to the lunar landscape of granite mounds in this unique place and we were stoked to be back.

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Leif Whittaker on the Privilege of Climbing Mountains

Photos and story by Leif Whittaker The view from the barren promontory above Namche Bazaar in Nepal looked out on a windswept hunk of the Himalaya where the sunrise struck, bathing the world’s highest mountain in flattering gold light. Dad and Mom stood next to me, their breath white in the frigid morning. The alpine air was redolent with juniper. We talked about climbing, a favorite subject of the guides, Sherpa, and photographers who clustered around us. I listened intently to Dad’s stories about his ascent of Mount Everest in 1963 and Mom’s stories about the 1978 K2 expedition. Though they spoke of daring, superhuman feats—like descending from 29,035 feet half blind and without bottled oxygen—I heard a conspicuous tone of humility in their voices, as if they acknowledged how lucky…

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Photo Essay: Bailey Range Traverse

Story and photos by Aili Farquhar Mike Natucci and guide Aili Farquhar headed out on the sunny morning of July 20th to traverse the Bailey Range, a remote interior sub-range of the Olympic Mountains. The Baileys are known for intricate glaciated terrain, rotten rock, and abundant vegetation, all of which the team encountered during their nine-day crossing of the range. When Mike and Aili arrived at the High Divide at 5,000 feet elevation they were pleasantly surprised.  The five feet of snow the ranger had warned them about had melted out and left in its wake waving fields of white glacier lilies with bright yellow centers. In the cool of the morning the team climbed over the shoulder of Stephen Peak onto the rocky ridge above Cream Lake Basin. The…

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On A Recce: Exploring New Terrain in the Waddington Range

Story and Photos By Ben Kunz rec·ce: (noun) a slang word for reconnaissance, reconnoitre Climbing the McNerthney Pillar was the primary objective for our trip to the Waddington Range, but when we returned down the Bravo Glacier route to Sunny Knob, the ensuing days continued to bring excellent weather. During our one and only rest day, we took turns man-handling the guidebook and staring at the walls, piecing together known climbs and potentially unclimbed crack systems on the incredible west faces of the spires of the Stilletto Group. We didn’t settle on any particular formation or climb, we just knew we were psyched to get up there and explore, and if the stars aligned, go for a first ascent. And what better way to seize the opportunity than to head out…

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Pained and Pampered in Chamonix

Story And Photos By Chris Garren In Colorado, I wake every day to a scenic mountain panorama. Still, my jaw dropped when I first saw the Alps in Chamonix. Endless peaks shot up from crevassed glaciers and sunny hills. Mont Blanc was a commanding presence above the valley. A climber’s dreamscape! Drinking questionable amounts of coffee to get the better of my jet lag, I gazed at routes I’d been reading about for years. I was in the heart of the alpine climbing world; the stage for legendary first ascents and home to the best long, moderate routes anywhere. Once a pursuit strictly for the elegantly clad upper class, climbing is now written into the DNA of Chamonix. Gear shops, huts, cable cars — a vast infrastructure supports vertical endeavors….

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