Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Ski Lake tour

Yesterday afternoon Eric, Jill and I went for a short ski tour to Ski Lake. The snowpack is still too shallow -- 26" at 9300' --  for me to want to do any turns. You can see the weeds sticking up through the snow in the picture, the snowpack here at 8700' was maybe 12-16" on the south-facing slopes, with many bare spots remaining.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jenny Lake flat, again

Nothing much has changed snow-wise in the past week. I did another tour into Jenny Lake yesterday. The lake looks to have frozen over completely. There were some ice-skater tracks in the snow on the lake at the very south end.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jenny Lake flat

We haven't had any significant new snow in the past week. I went for a sunny afternoon tour into Jenny Lake from the Taggart parking lot. The touring conditions were fine; there was an existing track, and the snow conditions were soft enough that making your own track was easy enough. I was expecting a very firm base, but was pleasantly surprised. Jenny Lake still has about 20% open water.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

First ski tour of the season

Wow, December 1st already and I have yet to get out on skis. The 28" snowpack might have something to do with that. It's a bluebird day, and the winds have calmed down after yesterday's storm system moved through.

I went for a fishscale tour up Phillips Ridge to the crest at the antenna towers. Conditions were 1-2" of new snow on top of a firm base, except for the places where the base wasn't firm, like collapsing through tall bunches of grass or shrubs. There were a few other tracks; looking up higher on the Pass towards Glory Peak the mountain was practically skied out. Still lots of stumps and rocks poking up through the snow. In the picture, the tails of my skis are on the ground, so figure about 24" depth.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A placid black bear

Just south of Jackson Lake Dam, I watched this small black bear for almost an hour total. It spent quite a bit of time right on and along the road, which didn't make for very interesting photographs. I went on about my way, came back 45 minutes later and it had taken up residence on the hillside about 75 yards from the road. I assume it was a yearling, but it was possibly a cub of the year; didn't see any sign of mama though. The video is about 4 minutes long.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tanzania safari pictures

Pictures and video from our 2-day safari in Tanzania are online in my Picasa Web album

After taking a rest day to recuperate from our Kilimanjaro climb, Jill, Karla, and I went on a 2-day safari from Arusha. The first day was spent in Tarangire National Park. We camped overnight in a commercial campground in Karatu, outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area but at a lower elevation so it was warmer. The second day we spent the morning in the Ngorongoro Crater, and then in the afternoon drove back to Arusha (about 4 hours of driving). The Ngorongoro area is east of the Serengeti; we would have needed another day or two to see the Serengeti National Park.

The wildlife viewing was spectacular: lions, elephants, wildebeest, zebras, hyenas, warthogs, giraffes, gazelles, impalas, waterbok, steenbok, velvet monkeys, hippopotami, water buffalo, lots of different birds... We also saw a black rhinoceros, although it was a long distance away. Our guide, Ernest, was very knowledgeable about all the animals we saw; I learned quite a lot.

I probably would have enjoyed the trip even more if I hadn't had food poisoning on the first day :( But it was still an amazing place.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kilimanjaro pictures and prose

Just wanna see pictures?  Cut to the chase at my Kilimanjaro photo album on PicasaWeb

We got back home in Jackson on Friday afternoon. The laundry is all done, some of the gear is put away, we've read some of the mail, and I've been able to organize all the pictures we took. Whew! Click on any of the pictures below to see larger versions...
In the beginning... There we are looking fit and well-rested at the trailhead. We started planning this trip last November, when our friend Karla invited us to join her and some friends. Jill has long had Kilimanjaro on her wish list, so she said yes immediately, and told Karla that I'll go too. No problem! We ended up with a group of eight people.

Kilimanjaro hikers are required to use a guide service; we picked Team Kilimanjaro, a UK-based company. There are many guiding companies to choose from, ranging from high-end hyperexpensive to bare-bones just-the-basics, and many in between. Kilimanjaro is a non-technical peak, an easy "walk-up" in climbers' parlance. The main issue is the altitude, as most Kilimanjaro trips gain altitude far faster than the human body can normally acclimate. What we particularly liked about TK was their route customization to try to leverage what few opportunities exist for altitude acclimation. During the trip planning stages we had a few communications hiccups involving transatlantic time zone differences and such. But once we arrived in Tanzania, TK's operations ran like clockwork; I was very impressed, and would definitely recommend Team Kilimanjaro to other climbers.

In addition to choosing a guide service, the other big decision is which climbing route to take up the mountain. There are four main routes (Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, and Rongai) along with a few other lesser-used routes and variations. Each route has advantages and disadvantages. We decided on the Rongai route, partly because it is a less heavily-used route and partly because Team Kilimanjaro has their own variation on this route that offers some improved altitude acclimatization options. It took our group about two months of research and email exchanges and Skype discussions to settle on Team Kilimanjaro and their 7-day Rongai route. Then came the decisions about which hotel(s) to stay at in Arusha before and after the climb, where to go on safari while we there, etc. It was early July by the time we had all the arrangements in place and we finally paid our deposits to TK.

All eight of us arrived in Tanzania on the same flight via Amsterdam. Jill and I from Jackson; Karla, Lisa, and Mary from Salt Lake City; Lisa's sister Patty and husband Frank from Los Angeles; Frank's son David from San Francisco. Our itinerary included three nights in Arusha before the climb, so that we could adjust to the jet lag, let any lost baggage catch up, etc. David was the only one who was missing bags; he had a funky departure screw-up when he left San Francisco, and his bags were still at SFO when we got to Tanzania. We stayed at the Kibo Palace Hotel in Arusha. The Kibo Palace is a very classy place, on a par with a Marriott in the US, we were all pleased with the accommodations and service. I found it a very pleasant oasis amid the crowds and grime of Arusha itself.

Day 1: Arusha to Rongai Gate to Simba Camp. The adventure began with six hours in a bus; first, from Arusha to the Marangu Gate where our guide must register our group with the park service, then on to the Rongai Gate where we will start the trek. It is Sunday, and many of the villages we drive through are lined with people walking along the road in their Sunday-best clothes going to or from church. We left the hotel at 8:30 AM; by the time we reached Rongai, unloaded the bus, had lunch, and shouldered our packs, it was 3:30 PM when we started walking. Three hours later we got to Simba Camp, and it was overflowing due to an unusually large group; our guides and porters had to hack some new tentsites out of the undergrowth.
Day 2: Simba Camp to Kikelelwa Camp. There weren't many expansive views on the first day, but today the vistas really opened up. A recurring theme while hiking Kilimanjaro is "pole, pole" (po-lay) which is Swahili for "slowly, slowly". Our chief guide, John Naiman, has done over 400 ascents of Kilimanjaro; he set a hiking pace that is even slower than most other groups. This took some adjustment for me, but I eventually got the hang of it and even led for a while. It took about eight hours to reach Kikelelwa Camp. Kikelelwa Camp is also a very busy place, with perhaps a hundred other hikers and two or three times that many porters and guides, the background hum of conversation is a constant drone like a beehive.

Day 3: Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp. This is a fairly short hike, and we reached Mawenzi Tarn by lunchtime. The clouds had rolled in, there was a light drizzle, and it was damp and chilly. After lunch and some rest time, we went for a short acclimatization hike to get a few hundred feet more altitude before returning down to camp at 14,114 feet. Most of us were feeling at least some minor altitude symptoms; I had a very slight headache that went away after two ibuprofen, others are feeling it a bit more and decide to start taking diamox.

Day 4: Mawenzi Tarn Camp to 4th camp. The normal Rongai route goes from Mawenzi Tarn Camp up to Kibo Huts, and it is a very busy trail. Team Kilimanjaro does a variation on the Rongai route that diverges from the madding crowds today. They don't want the details published, so I won't name the camp but will only say that we mostly descended today, in order to gain a day's worth of the altitude acclimatization advantages of "climb high, sleep low". We had the camp to ourselves, and the silence was a wonderful change from the din of the previous three camps.

Day 5: 4th camp to 5th camp. Our typical day starts at 6:00am, as the porters wake us up by bringing "bed tea" -- your choice of tea, coffee, hot chocolate delivered right to you in your sleeping bag. Ten minutes later they return with bowls of hot water for washing up. Breakfast is ready in the mess tent by 6:45 or so. By 7:30 we are all packed up and ready to hike.

Our fifth camp was also part of TK's special Rongai variation, so will remain unnamed. Once again, we had the camp all to ourselves, this time at about 15,500 feet. It was noticeably colder here, and also damp in the clouds. I had a very slight headache again, but it cleared fine with some ibuprofen.

We had to make one last group decision, what time did we want to be on the summit. We all agreed that we didn't care about summiting ahead of the sunrise, and that gave us an extra hour or more of rest. Our main goal was to summit before the clouds roll in by mid-morning. Tonight we will start for the summit, so we get whatever rest we can: a couple hours nap in the afternoon, an early supper at 5:30 pm, and back to the tent to rest/doze/sleep/worry until the wake-up call at 10:00pm.

Day 6: Summit Day! Summit day began with a very alpine start: Wake up at 10:00 pm, pack our gear, eat a light breakfast of porridge, bread, and chapatis (similar to crepes), and we were ready to start hiking at 11:00 pm. It's dark of course, the skies are clear and starry, and the temperatures are comfortable (25F?) with no winds to speak of.

After 3 hours of hiking by ourselves, we joined back up with the main Rongai route and became part of the steady stream of headlamps zigzagging up the mountain in the darkness. I didn't find the hiking hard, just pole-pole along. After seven hours of hiking uphill in the dark, we reached Gilmans Point (18,763 ft) just before sunrise. Gilmans Point is a big milestone because the rest of the climb is much less steep, just easy walking along the ridge line. We rested for a bit, took some sunrise pictures, high-fived each other.... comments in our group ranged from "wow isn't this amazing!" to "that was the worst fucking night of my life".
I was in the "isn't this amazing" category, myself, feeling strong and no worries other than about the dental crown that pulled off of my tooth in a bite of Shot Block earlier in the night. Oh well... The weather was great, no clouds up high, temperatures in the low 20s, very light winds. And the views were spectacular...
A few people in our group were struggling, having altitude issues, frozen water bottles, a bit dehydrated and/or exhausted... but everybody persevered and we reached the summit of Uhuru Peak at 8:05 AM, Friday 23 September 2011.
The skies were clear, the temperature 20F, the winds about 10mph. Elevation 5895 meters (19,340 feet). Kilimanjaro is actually a very large volcanic mountain composed of three separate volcanic cones: Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo. Kibo is the one that you see in most pictures as "Kilimanjaro". When Tanganyika gained its independence in 1961, Kibo was renamed as "Uhuru Peak"; uhuru is Swahili for freedom.

What goes up must come down, or as the mountaineer Ed Viesturs says, "summiting is optional, getting down is mandatory". So after 15 minutes at the top of Africa, we started descending. We took a short break at Stella Point for snacks, then on down to Kibo Huts (15,466 ft) for a lunch stop and then further on to Horombo Huts (12,208 ft) where we will camp for the night. The descent below Gilmans Point is mostly fun, almost skiing down in the loose scree and dirt that we had switchbacked so slowly through on our way up. Below Kibo Huts, the hiking becomes much flatter on a wide, well-used trail. By the time we reached Horombo Huts it is 4:15 PM, sixteen hours after we left camp last night. 3900 feet ascended, 7100 feet descended for the day. Just after we arrived in camp, it started to rain, and kept raining fairly heavily.

Day 7: Horombo Huts to Marangu Gate. The rains quit sometime during the night, we of course were all sleeping soundly after yesterday's exertions. We woke up to sunny skies, and a very heavy coating of snow up on Kibo Peak. We were all very glad that we had such good weather for our summit trip, rather than trudging uphill through a snowstorm in the dark!
Today's trail is a 6000 foot descent in 12 miles of walking; just a long, long, easy descent that maintains a fairly steady 500 feet/mile for most of the time. The Marangu Route, that we are following down, is known as the "Coca-Cola" route; partly because it is the easiest route (least steep), and partly because you can purchase a cold Coke at the Mandara Huts camp. I did, and it was tasty and refreshing.  4.5 hours after leaving camp, we arrived at Marangu Gate, the end of this journey.  We signed the park service trail register, our guide collected our summit certificates, and we piled into the bus for the journey home. First stop was in Moshi for a post-trip cheeseburger and a beer, Then it's back to Arusha and the Kibo Palace Hotel, for a long hot shower and a real bed. Yay!!
I was very impressed with our guide, John Naiman. He has done over 400 Kilimanjaro trips, and did an excellent job monitoring our group's health and progress, setting a pace that ensured everybody's success, and working problems when they needed working.

Neither Jill nor I had any particular altitude issues. We had done lots of conditioning hikes this summer, and hiked some 14ers in Colorado, but didn't really know how we'd react to the altitude. We had no problems; although we had prescription Diamox along with us, neither of us took it or felt that we needed it. On summit night we did take 4mg of dexamethasone per our travel doctor's recommendation; its primary use in this regard is as an anti-inflammatory against potential cerebral edema. I guess it worked... All things considered, the climb was a lot easier than I expected. Some of that I can take credit for, having gotten into good physical condition this summer; some of the credit goes to TK's route planning and John Naiman's careful pace-setting, so that we could acclimatize as much as possible.

Are we glad we did it, yes absolutely by all means. Do we want to do it again, no not particularly; there are so many other places to go and things to see.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Top of Africa!

We summited Kilimanjaro on Day 6. Started walking from our camp at 15,500 feet at 11pm, reached Gilmans Point at 615am just ahead of sunrise, and reached Uhuru Peak at 805am. Everybody in our group of 8 made it; it was a struggle for two people in our group but they persevered. Jill and I both felt great, no altitude issues. The views were spectacular. Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro, is at elevation 5895m.

Here is the money shot, 805am, 23 September 2011..

Friday, September 16, 2011

In Arusha

30 hours door to door, from Karla's house in Salt Lake to our hotel in Arusha. Our luggage made it but David's did not.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Static Peak

Jill and I wanted one more training mission before we head off to Kilimanjaro, and decided on Static Peak (11,303'). It is a straightforward walkup, just hike up the ridge for 15 minutes from the maintained trail at Static Peak Divide. Neither of us had been all the way there, so it was time. The weather was perfect, except for all the smoke in the air from the forest fires. Here are the obligatory summit photos...
Looking north/northwest to Buck Mountain on the left, and the Grand Teton in the distance...

Southeast over Albright Peak and the smoky Jackson Hole valley...

Timberline Lake, still frozen at 10,300'
Looking west into Alaska Basin in the distance, the lakes have finally thawed.
There was only one short snow crossing, about 15' or snow across a gully. There were good footsteps in place, though we had our ice axes along we just used our trekking poles for a teeny bit of protection.  It took us 4:45 to the summit at a leisurely pace. On top it was 55 degrees, sunny, almost calm (4mph winds!) so we hung out on top for 45 minutes. We would have stayed longer, but figured we had to get going if we didn't want to be hiking out in the dark. 3:25 back down to the car at a brisk pace. A 16 mile round trip with 5000 vertical feet, definitely a good workout.

At about 8700' on the trail above the Death Canyon patrol cabin, there were two of the largest piles of bear scat I've ever seen, easily dinner-plate sized. The one pile was fairly recent, as in last night or early this morning recent. I couldn't tell what it had been eating; with all the berries in the park I expected lots of seeds visible in the scat pile, but didn't see any. Wish I had taken a picture...

The paragliders were having a great day, we saw ten or so that had worked their way north from Rendesvous Mountain. There was a group of five, shown here as tiny dots above Buck Mountain, that worked their way further north to the Grand Teton. I expect it would be a bit annoying to have climbed the Grand and then had paragliders oohing and aahing over your head!

By any measure, a great day in the Tetons. We each had only a minor blister or two, we weren't totally dragging when we got back to the car, so I think we're ready for Kilimanjaro!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A gorgeous day on the river

It's a beautiful September day, not a cloud in the sky. Nephews and nieces are in town, and it's a great day to get out on the river. We floated Alpine Canyon and managed to time our launch just right in between the commercial groups. For such a lovely day on a holiday, and a Saturday to boot, it was almost like having the river to ourselves -- no traffic issues, the launch ramps weren't a zoo, very relaxed. And, we finally got some pictures of the new raft; here we are at the tail end of Kahuna.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Uphill in the Uintas

We spent the weekend in the Uintas doing some hiking above 10,000 feet, as part of our preparations for Kilimanjaro next month. Almost all of our Kili group converged on the Moosehorn campground -- Lisa and Mary, Karla (along with Darrell, and Max the dog), and Frank and Patty flew in from Los Angeles for the weekend. What a great group!

On Saturday we hiked the Lofty Lake loop, with an out-and-back spur most of the way to Cuberant Lake. About 6.5 miles or so, with perhaps 1000' or so of elevation gain/loss. We saw a bull and cow moose pair, up close and personal; fortunately they were very calm. The scenery is spectacular. Here is Lisa looking down to Lofty Lake.

On Sunday morning, Frank and Patty had to drive back to SLC to catch a flight home. We were all impressed with how well they were able to fly in from sea level and spend the next day hiking above 10,000 feet. Karla, Darrell, and Max also headed back to the city. Lisa, Mary, Jill, and I did a morning hike up Bald Mountain, a very popular trail. The summit elevation is 11,943, reached by 2 miles of good trail from the trailhead 1250' below.

Fortunately the weather was cooperative while we were hiking. About an hour after we finished, the thunder and lightning started. Lisa and Mary then headed back to Smog Lake. Jill and I stayed another night at the campground. It rained hard Sunday night, we stayed comfortable in the Scamp. That was our first trip into the Uintas, but it won't be our last. It is gorgeous territory, and only about 4+ hours from Jackson via Evanston.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Static Peak Divide

I originally had good intentions for Saturday, but after spending most of Friday evening/night on YouTube videos it was way too late by the time I got to bed and I hadn't called anybody to make some plans. So after sleeping in a bit late, I decided to get some elevation by going up to Static Peak in the Tetons. I had never been there, it was supposed to be easy enough for me, and the trail was reported mostly snow-free. I started hiking from the White Grass trailhead a little bit before 11am; nothing like an alpine start!

There were lots of hikers on the Death Canyon trail. Several people mentioned seeing a bear cub near the junction of the Death Canyon and Valley trails, but I didn't see one.The trail to Static Peak Divide hangs a right at the Death Canyon patrol cabin; I had not been on this stretch of trail before. The patrol cabin is at 7850' or so; it is 4 miles and some 3000' vertical from the patrol cabin up to Static Peak Divide. From the patrol cabin on up, I saw 12 other people on the trail, all headed down while I was still going uphill. Here is a view of Static Peak from the 10,200' divide just north of Albright Peak. In the full-resolution version of the photo, two people are visible on the summit.

From this point going up, there were four places where the trail was still snow-covered. Two of them were easily bypassed, and the other two were snow-filled couloirs that could not be avoided. Although there were footprints cut into the couloir traverses, the consequences of a slip would have been huge; I was very glad to have my ice axe along. Here is the view to the northeast, looking down into Stewart Draw.

I reached Static Peak Divide (10,790') about three hours and forty-five minutes after leaving the trailhead. The views are of course very nice, looking to the west-southwest...

and looking to the west-northwest at Buck Mountain. There were climbers visible on the summit of Buck.
The weather was warm, probably 70 degrees and light winds. From the divide, it is only another 500' of easy terrain in perhaps 0.5 miles on the ridge up to the summit of Static Peak. Unfortunately, there were clouds building up to the south and it wasn't clear that I had another 45 minutes before the weather might deteriorate. So, I declared victory at the divide, ate my sandwich, and started on my way back down. An hour after leaving the divide, the clouds had filled the sky and thunder was rumbling; glad I wasn't up on Static Peak racing that weather!

I didn't see any bears on the way back down either. It rained briefly, just hard enough for me to put on my rain shell and pack cover, but not hard enough to get the ground completely wet. The skies cleared again, and I finished the hike under mostly sunny skies. 3:45 on the way up, 3:15 on the way down, a total of about 4400' vertical including the up-and-back-down over Phelps Lake Overlook. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Browns Creek trail

Jill's friend Grace, from back in medical residency days, is vacationing in Colorado, doing some fly fishing. We managed to meet up with Grace in Salida CO for a day of hiking. Based on some quick online research, we decided on the Browns Creek trail, in the national forest about halfway between Salida and Buena Vista. That turned out to be a good choice; we were ready for a lower-key day after two days of fourteeners. The trail description mentioned some small waterfalls, I'd say this one is larger than we were expecting; that's Jill and Grace in the picture. We timed the hike perfectly, too; we turned around after about 4 miles and 1500', and by the time we were driving back into town the afternoon thunderstorms had started.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another day, another 14er (Handies Peak)

Yesterday we enjoyed hiking Uncompahgre Peak, today we are off in search of another one. We're planning to drive to Salida this evening to meet a friend of Jill's, so we wanted a relatively short hike. We chose Handies Peak, 14048'. From the 4WD trailhead it is only a 2500' 6-mile round trip, or from the regular trailhead 2800' in 7.3 miles. The creek crossing to the 4WD trailhead is a bit ugly for a long wheelbase vehicle, not worth scraping the back bumper just to save a mile of easy walking. The drive from Lake City took about an hour, the last couple miles would have been doable 2WD high clearance but it was less stressful with the gear lever in 4WD. The road is part of the Alpine Loop scenic byway, there was a vehicle every few minutes including lots of rental Jeeps and ATVs.

Handies Peak is supposed to have better than average views, as Colorado 14ers go; based on a sample size N=2 I would agree. The weather was once again almost perfect, but with 20-25 mph winds on the summit we only spent about 15 minutes there. It took us 2:35 to get to the summit, all easy walking on a good trail at a comfortable pace, and 1:45 to get back down, not counting the lunch stop at Sloan Lake (a small scenic lake at 12900').

At the summit, I was impressed by one guy we met there. He said Handies was the first peak he climbed after moving west from the flatlands at age 65 just after retiring. He hiked it every few years since then, this year he is 79, and says next year at age 80 he might hang it up. It took him two hours to summit from the upper trailhead. You gotta have role models....

It is a very busy trail, as you might guess by the relatively easy access. As we were ascending the last few hundred feet, stopping to add layers against the wind, we were passed by this guy demonstrating another way to gear up for a 14er hike -- T-shirt, headband, no water, no nothing. We overheard him say it wasn't his first time there...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My First 14er -- Uncompahgre Peak

All of the above-10000-foot hiking back home is still snowbound, and we want to do some higher elevation hiking in preparation for Kilimanjaro next month. So, with a perfect weather forecast on the horizon we headed for Lake City, Colorado to hike some 14ers in the San Juans.

First on our list was Uncompahgre Peak, 14,309 feet. The last four miles to the Nellie Creek 4WD trailhead were okay in the Ford Ranger, 4wd low range, with only two very minor undercarriage scrapes. The 4WD trailhead is at 11,300 feet so we had 3000' of elevation gain in about 4 miles. Most of it was easy walking, with one section of about 150 vertical feet of steep loose rock; the guidebook says Class 2 but I'd give it a Class 2+, I really wanted handholds whenever I could get them. It took us 2:50 to get to the summit; the weather was gorgeous with almost no wind, and we hung out up there for an hour. Then 2:35 later we were back at the truck, cold beers in hand. We saw about 15-20 other people.

This was the highest elevation I'd ever been to outside of an airplane; Jill had been at similar elevations when she was trekking in Nepal. We survived the trip with no issues, and plan to do another 14er on Wednesday.

Lake City, Colorado is a cute little tourist town, built up a lot more than I was expecting this far out of the way. We camped at the county campground (Wupperman) on Lake San Cristobal about 3 miles south of town, it was fine, there is also a Forest Service campground (Williams Creek) another 5 miles down the road.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

We're on our way to Lake City, Colorado to climb some 14ers. Along the way, we checked out another national park -- Black Canyon of the Gunnison, east of Montrose Colorado. Pretty spectacular canyon, we spent about 3 hours walking to all of the viewpoints from the scenic rim drive. Access to the bottom of the canyon is very difficult (very steep) with "unavoidable poison ivy". Oh boy. We skipped that part. Maybe another time. But the fishing is supposed to be superb, with an amazing salmonfly hatch...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mister Bill does the Main Salmon

Just finished a great Main Salmon trip with friends from Boise. The water level was really fun, the weather was perfect. Mister Bill came along and took all the abuse so we didn't have to. Pictures will have to wait until we get home in a few days. thanks to the entire Boise crew!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cascade Canyon Forks

I hadn't seen Paul and Pam since the tail end of ski season. They were planning to hike up Cascade Canyon and climb Guides Wall. The climbing part didn't interest me, but it was a good excuse to hike in with them, catch up on what they've been up to, and mingle with the crowds in Cascade Canyon on a gorgeous day in mid-July. My plan was to see how far up the South Fork I could go before the snow got annoying, and maybe do the same up the North Fork.

As usual, Cascade Canyon is looking spectacular. There is a lot of water flowing in the creek. Here's a view of the cascade coming out of Valhalla Canyon.
At the forks I turned left and headed up the South Fork. Hate to admit it, but that is the first time I've been up South Cascade. It's gorgeous, and I had the place to myself until after I had turned around and was halfway back down. Here is a look at the northwest side of the Middle Teton.

 At about 8600' the trail was completely snow-covered, so I turned around there, went back down to the forks, and headed up the North Fork.
As usual, there were a lot more hikers in the North Fork. At the bottom of the camping zone, about 8200', the trail was mostly snow-covered. I decided that was a good place to turn around for the day.

On the way out, I stopped at the moose ponds to refill my water bottle and have a snack. Paul and Pam arrived about five minutes later, we couldn't have timed it any better if we had tried. We hiked out together, and declared victory with drinks on the deck at Dornan's. Another gorgeous day in the Tetons!

Cream Puff Peak (almost)

Another classic hike that I had not done before. In her book Jackson Hole Hikes, Rebecca Woods says this is one of the nicest peak hikes in the southern end of Jackson Hole. It's a bit of a schlep, about 3700' of vertical. It is also a fairly hot hike, mostly southern exposure and not many trees. I figured it would be worth a try, perhaps melted out enough and dried out enough to get to the summit. So much of the high country is still covered in snowpack, I didn't really expect to get all the way there.

The wildflowers are spectacular below about 8500' or so, especially the balsamroot.

The skies were full of cottonwood fluff, and the ground was covered with the stuff. Considering that the nearest cottonwood trees were almost 1000' feet lower, down along the river, I thought that was pretty impressive.

There was no snow to speak of on the trail, only a few very small patches on flat sections in the shade near the top of the ridge; no ice axe required, though I did have mine along. I ended up stopping on top of a small knob about 200 yards away from the top of Cream Puff Peak proper. For some reason, the map in my GPS showed that Cream Puff Peak was a few feet lower than the peak I was on, and I couldn't see any point to going over to a lower peak. As it turns out, that map was in error; I suppose that's what I get for free software. According to the official USGS topo map, Cream Puff is actually about 20 feet higher than the bump I was on. Oh well, that gives me an excuse to go back. Here is the view of Cream Puff Peak from my perch.
The views from here are spectacular, including the Tetons to the northwest...
... and Jackson Hole.
 The Wind Rivers are in the distance to the east
 Looking to the northeast...
 And more gorgeous views along the way...