Adventure

Big Chiwaukum summit attempt

To prepare myself for the upcoming Mt Baker climb and for a sense of adventure, I signed up for Michael’s Big Chiwaukum hike. It was a long hike, so we left Seattle at 5 AM and started our hike at 7:30 AM. We followed the WhitePine creek trail for first two miles and things got interesting from there on. We were supposed to be on Wildhorse creek trail but we we got away from the trail sometimes un-wantingly and sometimes to find shortcuts.  We were using maps and GPS for navigation. It was a slight and unpleasant bushwhacking where we all did our best to stay away from Devil’s club. There were multiple stream crossings and it was fun to balance on the logs. Even though we joined the trail after some distance, we steered away towards east to avoid the long trail in an attempt to reach the ridge. I had forgotten my cap but the weather was kind enough to cover the sky in thin clouds with a hint of Sun for the warmth. The snow here was soft and wasn’t difficult to break in. Soon we reached another ridge which connected to the main Chiwaukum ridge. We could see the mighty and stunning three peaks of Chiwaukum. It looked much further in distance, hard to reach and time was running out. The clouds were above, it was warm enough to be only in a layer or two and not windy. From this point we had around 270 deg panoramic views and the snow covered peaks all around looked beautiful. It was funny when Kaka said ‘Now I know why I came to this hike’ and I resonated. Things got even more interesting from here on. We saw baby avalanches in the north side. Michael aimed for at-least the saddle beside the peaks and so he kept his pace and moved on. It was a difficult scramble on this ridge with loose rocks, snow and enough exposure to get injured. We helped each other to move ahead safely and it took a lot of time. I wasn’t scared for my life but very much for injuries. I moved very slowly assessing every step because there was almost no margin for error. This was one of the scariest things I have done. Views kept getting better since we moved higher. Michael had taken snow path below this ridge later on but the person who was following him missed it and we followed that guy instead to a dead end. We waited until Michael returned and since it was the turn around time (3 PM), we started our descent. I was glad to know that we weren’t taking the scramble route back but was wary of the steep descent on snow below the ridge. Fortunately, this route didn’t provide much surprises and we had fun glissading multiple times. Michael had a short glissading class too and I practiced arresting while glissading head first. My feet were wet since snow got through but I wasn’t feeling cold since the weather was just perfect. We made a speedy descent and reached the trailhead around 7 PM. I was glad to be safely back.

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Activity Overview

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Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | 1 Comment

Weekend in Whiteout Whistler

A month earlier, I had gone skiing near Seattle for the first time this season to get in shape for the trip to Whistler. On that beautiful clear day, I came down on a blue line few times and it had been the most successful ski day yet for me. As expected, it had prepared me well for the upcoming ski in Whistler where I had to ski beside cliffs in whiteout conditions.

My friend from Minnesota, Chaitanya wanted to ski near Seattle and we had decided to visit Whistler, Canada on a weekend of his convenience. The forecast for the weekend was pretty bad and I hadn’t booked anything other than the stay. We went ahead with the plans and left Seattle on friday afternoon. Chaitanya was getting excited looking at the colorful spring, so I decided to show him the Tulip garden at the Tulip festival in Mt Vernon. It was a huge field and was nice to see the rows of colorful flowers.

We then waited for around 25 mins at the border to enter Canada and made our next stop at Apna chat house in Surrey. I had heard that Surrey had one of the best chats in North America and I had selected the place for batting. My lunch included 12 pani-puris(the best I have had outside India), 2 vada pavs, 1 alu tikki(amazing well) and pieces of Paneer chilli. Chats being my favorite dishes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided for a second round while returning. We then drove through greater Vancouver to get on Highway 99 which lined the eastern coast of Howe Sound. It was a beautiful drive on the winding roads overlooking the expanse of waters and mountains rising from it. The forecast for the next two days was rainy, so I had made sure that we reach Whistler that evening to leave us with ample daylight.

We parked the car and decided to explore the town first. I loved the feel of the town. The architecture, huge snow covered mountains, creeks, bridges, lights, the moon and the laid-back attitude came together in a beautiful symphony to make the experience magical. We retired for the night and were excited for the skiing.

Skiing

The next morning, we were ready with rented gear by 10 AM to take the lift to the Blackcomb mountain. Since we were late in the season, half of the mountain was closed and only one lift took us to the upper half of the mountain. The higher we went, the worse the visibility got. We did a warm up run by taking a green line and reached at the base of another lift which took us to Hortsmans’s hut, the highest point of the day. We were above the clouds and the view was quite good. We couldn’t see anything much other than the parts of the mountain. We started to descend and this is where the ordeal started. Soon the visibility got so low that we could only see few feet in distance. Since both were kind of amateurs, we had difficulty in navigating and assessing the slopes. We were scared especially due to the exposed sections the runs had. I might have hiked only once or twice in such conditions and I was a bit uncomfortable since skiing was not my forte. I fell few times but tried my best to stand and figure the way down. I kept looking at the markings on either side of the runs and ensured that I didn’t ski past them. I lead my friend for most of the route and waited for him whenever I got ahead enough that I couldn’t see him. With the help of flag markers and other skiiers path, we managed to come out in clear and then took a blue line down to the same ski lift. I checked the map and I realized that this was in a loop due to the closures. There was no way out from here, so we had to go back to Hortsman’s hut again and come down a different route. The visibility got even worse by now and the route which we had to take had even more exposed section. A fellow skier lead us for two narrow turns and then we were left again by ourselves in whiteout conditions.

Even though it was a blue line, I got quite adept in the conditions and started skiing fearlessly. I used to look at a marker, go way from it and find the marker on the other side and then repeat the exercise while skiing the slopes. I couldn’t even assess the immediate slope and sometimes mind tricked to assume the angle. I realized that the conditions and the urge to get out safely was actually helping me learn to ski efficiently. So I started enjoying the experience since it brought a sense adventure along with the sport. Finally after traversing few narrow sections and skiing for sometime we came into opening and took a blue line called Zig-Zag all the way to download gondola. Chaitanya decided to call it a day but I took the lift up for another run and throughly enjoyed coming down the Zig-Zag line. While coming down the gondola, a lady who frequented the mountain told that this was the worst weather she had skied in on the mountain and the first time that she had to ski with the help of markers. I was ok since I had enjoyed the experience but I couldn’t exactly experience the hugeness of the ski trails and the views. Nonetheless, it was quite an adventure. We didn’t do anything much for the day other than the visit to nearby Alexander falls and a bungee jumping bridge.

It was raining quite heavily the next morning and we left the town without doing much. The drive back was much more beautiful due to the hovering clouds and the richer greenery. We made a stop at Shannon falls and I loved the views of both the falls we visited. We then drove through Vancouver downtown and reached Apna chat house. I had Pani-puri, Chole kulche and tikki chat this time. The wait at the border was quite longer this time and we made it to Seattle by 6:30 PM. I think I will be visiting Whistler often as long as I am in PNW.

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Hike to Mt Storm King and Marymere Falls

Another long time bucket list hike. I was waiting for snow to be cleared and finally found a clear Sunday with the help of flowx app which my colleague recently introduced. 4 of us agreed to make the hike and I was quite excited especially since I had heard about the usage of ropes for the steep sections of the hike. We took the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and enjoyed the snow covered Olympic mountains in the morning light. We then drove to the trailhead which is at Mt Storm King ranger station near Lake Crescent. It’s a short but steep trail and the views start appearing halfway through. We saw the board ‘End of maintained trail’ and we got ready with our gloves to make the final push to the summit. There were totally 4 rope sections which helped us hike on the narrow exposed trail. It was fun using the rope and I was enjoying my time. We reached the summit which was exposed too and waited for our turn to go to the edges which provided unobstructed view of most of Lake Crescent. Amidst the mountains with different shades of blue on the banks, the lake looked stunning. We spent time clicking pictures and got back to a viewing spot to have our lunch. The trail was much more exposed and dangerous than I had expected. We then went to Marymere falls passing multiple bridges on creeks and it was beautiful too. The moss on the surrounding trees were a treat to watch. Since we would finish the hike quite early, I asked a fellow hiker about stuff do around and was recommended a visit to Devil’s punch basin. So we took the Ira Spring trail to reach that spot which was basically a deep basin for cliff jumping and swimming. We had to take the ferry back and I wanted it to overlap on sunset time, so we left for Bainbridge island. Fortunately, we got the Sunset ferry and I got an opportunity to watch the orange sun setting over the Olympic Mountains. It was a day of variety.

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Umtanum Ridge Hike and Scramble

Michael, the meetup organizer had chosen a hike in the Central Washington due to the rainy weather around Seattle. We gathered at Park and Ride and it was like a get together for the hikers since there were around 40 people for the hike. It was a long drive and the snow fall en-route, rains and standing waters on the road made it an exciting one. The sky started to clear up once we were close to Ellensburg. We started our hike to the ridge and except the last part which was very steep, it was a gradual ascent. the views en-route were spectacular and the barren terrain was very different from west Washington. We reached the ridge and had our lunch. Surabhi was there and she loved the Shavige uppitu I had prepared and was curious about my cooking skills. We then attempted to form the word ‘Meetup’ with our bodies which I think didn’t work out well. We then descended enjoying the amazing scenery ahead.  Since we had reached the trailhead quite early, we went scrambling on another hill. I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling the class 3/4 routes. There was a small cave which was quite interesting. I also liked the hanging bridge next to the parking lot. The sky was quite clear and the drive in the canyon alongside the Yakima river was scenic. It was nice to be on the sunny side of the state.

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Snow Camping on frozen Colchuck Lake

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Distance: 16 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 3600 feet
Activity: Snowshoeing and Snow camping

During the Lake Ingalls outing, a fellow hiker had described the perks of camping in Washington and I was waiting for an opportunity ever since. I had bought a tent too and hadn’t used it yet. The meetup event for Colchuk lake and Sunny weather forecast coincided and I signed up for it. Also, I loved the view of Dragontail peak and the name Asgard pass which adorns the lake. I followed the checklist for snow camping and had the most of the gear except an extra pair of woolen socks. The gear including sleeping bag, mattress, tent, stove, layers, extra clothes, etc weighed around 30 pounds and I thought I would be okay with the weight. My main source of food was a rice dish which my flatmate and I had prepared the previous day and I complimented it with Phulkas, Oats, Eggs, Energy bars, Bananas, Dry fruits and Cocoa powder. Along the trip, I would mainly learn about the sacrifices one has to make for the snow camping.

3 of us showed up at the Eastgate Park and Ride and we drove to the start of forest road near Leavenworth which was 4 miles away from the actual trailhead. We had to hike extra 8 miles in total due to the road closure. I left my ice axe to be frugal on weight, wore a beacon which the organizer gave and started with the microspikes at around 10:20 AM. I felt the weight pretty soon and within no time, I felt tightness on my chest due to the upper belt. I struggled but kept pushing myself. I had to frequently dust off snow sticking on my spikes, we hadn’t realized that it was snowshoe area until we saw other hikers marching fast with them. To distract myself from the agony, I kept counting 1-500 steps and repeated it multiple times and figured that 4-5 sets of 1-500 would make a mile. After taking many breaks initially, I actually did 1 mile without stopping following that method of distraction. Crossing on a narrow bridge later was quite interesting where we crossed it over even narrower snow deposits balancing with the help of poles on the railings. I had my lunch there and that would be the last big meal of my day. Even after 5.5 miles of hiking, we had only gained little over half the elevation of 3600 feet. So the rest came in final 2.5 miles and 1000 feet came in the last 1 mile which basically drained most of my energy. I was following a fellow hiker and he took frequent steep shortcuts which added to the struggle. Finally, we reached the frozen lake at around 4:30 PM. The blue sky, white blanket of snow with Dragon tail Peak, Asgard pass and Colchuk glacier on the other end of the lake looked soothingly beautiful and enjoying it, I kind of forgot the tiredness. But we had to set up camp soon. The snow on the lake was tested by early hikers as we saw them camped right in the middle of the lake. We chose a spot bit closer to the shore and started setting up the camp. I got the tips for camping and did my best to follow. First, I had to flatten/harden the floor by walking/stomping on a wide area where I would pitch my tent and cook. I pitched the tent, set the air mattress and sleeping bag quite efficiently while watching the Sun’s golden rays on the surroundings. Except my feet, I wasn’t that cold and didn’t even wear an extra layer of gloves. While digging, we hit the slush and wondered a bit if we should camp a bit higher. But since the water level was around 2 feet down, we stayed put. After setting up the camp, I melted the snow for hot water and made myself a cocoa drink. I didn’t feel like eating much for the night and I lay down in the tent for rest of the night. I had carried a 2 person tent and it was spacious. So I dumped most of the things I would need for the night in the tent. I was foolish not to wear down booties in the sleeping bag. Even though, my feet felt little better, they were no close to being warm and cozy. I was also foolish to leave my backpack totally outside which looked like it had weathered a snowstorm in the morning. I didn’t come out of the tent till morning except to pee once in the night and stars looked okay in the night sky. I knew I slept because of the dreams I remembered. Even though I was not that cold, I didn’t sleep quite well. I am not sure which reason contributed more to not enjoying the experience thoroughly – tiredness, thoughts or the cold. I just let it pass and spent the night alternating between sleeping on my back and side.

There was hardly any wind throughout the night but there were was a light snowfall in the morning. I was hoping for a colorful Sunrise, but clouds had other plans. So I came out of the tent much later (around 9 AM) and made myself a hot cocoa drink again. I couldn’t see the flames on the stove and I assumed something had gone wrong. After wasting 3 matchsticks, I realized that it was just that I couldn’t see it. My feet was very cold and they had lost hopes on me that I would take care. I wore a liner and hoped to feel better. I repeatedly kept moving my toes to ensure they hadn’t frozen completely. The gaiters had turned into a papad and also the shoes had stiffened since I had left them out too. I packed everything soon and I was ready with my backpack. Sun was out and I went to explore to be in motion and enjoy the surroundings. Dragontail peak looked like a towering Gopura in-front and the jagged peaks around looked stunning in the bright light. The organizer asked me to remove the liner for better circulation and the other hiker offered me a fresh pair of socks. Even though they felt similar to the one I was wearing, I took it mainly because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and I didn’t want to look foolish if something went wrong. I actually felt better with my bare feet. We left the place around 12 PM and started our descent. The far surrounding mountains looked amazing and I felt the views were comparable to the ones I saw during Rupin pass. Again, I acknowledged and appreciated the fact that I am in Washington where the mountains are so close to the place where I live, that I was just hours away from the comfort of my bed. I hadn’t used around 40% of my gear and I didn’t feel that backpack’s weight had reduced. I was quite slow in the initial steep descent but after that I just stormed through the rest of the way. From 2.5 mile mark to the end(8 miles), I counted 14 sets of 1-500 steps which helped me keep my mind away from the tiredness. I thought I did fairly well for the first snow camping but I realized that my toes had sort of numbed and tingling sensation had developed by the time I reached home. Though it has reduced, I still have it even after 2 days at the time of writing. We stopped for food at Leavenworth and drove to Seattle to reach around 8:15 PM. I had realized about the daylight saving’s time late and was quite happy that I had to spend 1 less hour in the cold. It was a great experience with good learnings.

Tips:

  • Be very serious about the gear. Snow camping can be dangerous if un-prepared.
  • Rice worked well for 1 day camping. Carry some cocoa powder, etc for tasty hot drink.
  • I had this stove and it was very easy to manage.
  • Shoes and socks are super important and make sure you have extra sock and comfortable shoes.
  • Dumping all the heavy stuff in the bottom of the backpack might help shift the load from shoulders to hips.

Activity Overview

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Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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