Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dragontail Peak, Serpentine Arete

When we arrived in Leavenworth this spring, it was the first time either Liz or myself had ever seen the town, the Stuart Range, or the Cascades.  A dry ski season had left us with strong legs, weak butts, and a voracious appetite for climbing.  With only our bicycles for transportation our appetite was indeed larger then our ability for those first few weeks.  Slowly we worked our way into the season with short trips up the Tumwater and Icicle canyons, the packs on our backs were heavily laden with gear.  Hobo's Gulch, Clem's Holler, Castle Rock, Pearly Gates, we methodically worked our way up the road, each ride a little farther, each climb a little harder.  After a while we wised up and put some slick tires on our bikes and threw down some dough for a couple of B.O.B. trailers to get the gear off our backs and save our asses some unnecessary pain.  We've come a long way since those first weeks of this human powered season, our cycling has become more efficient, faster, and more pleasurable, and our climbing has improved in the same ways.  Not only the physical nature of our trips has increased though, the mental toughness required to undertake a multi night adventure in this style is demanding.  Should either of us be hurt or otherwise compromised, we're a long walk and ride from town.  The more we've become accustomed to this risk and accepted its many challenges, physical and mental, the more successful, exciting, and purely awesome our trips have become.  On our most recent bicycle-powered excursion into the Stuart Range, we wanted to push the envelope even farther by undertaking a committing alpine climb, from town, all human power, in one day.  We aimed high, and were rewarded with one of the finest climbs, and most rewarding experiences of the summer.

Dragontail Peak's 2000 ft. Serpentine Arete.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mountains, Mobility, and The Nature of Motion

Who remembers their first time riding a bike?  Although most of my childhood memories exist as snapshots and short films in my mind, I can pretty well recall my first experiences of two wheeled ecstasy.  While my trike and training wheel days might be lost in the haze, that first time I managed to balance and pedal my way across the front lawn has stuck with me to this day.  The sheer delight of those few moments being pushed between my mother and father, and eventually learning to roam around under my own body's power are powerful memories that I'll be hard pressed to forget.

The bicycle is nothing new, and it's anything but unpopular, everyone from the homeless to the most affluent, the cyclist riding purely for transportation to that of the racer riding for physical achievement, everyone who's ever ridden a bike has experienced this ultimate, and simple, childlike happiness.

Riding a bicycle can give you the sensation you are flying, it is an experience filled with joy.

Yes, slogging up steep mountain roads in blazing heat with no wind can be an unforgiving experience, and riding alongside speeding traffic has lead to many a near-death experience, but the satisfaction of moving under your own power, and the knowledge that at some point you'll be cruising downhill with the wind on your face, trees and scenery whizzing by, is enough to keep you pushing to the top.

Not many people learn to ride a bicycle after they're 10 years old, it's something they learn to do as a kid, and it'll stick with you for life.  I haven't heard of anyone learning to ride a bicycle purely for it's efficiency and mobility, in fact, when I ask most people why they ride their bikes, the most popular answer I get is "for fun".  For many folks, the choice to ride a bicycle for commuting and transportation is less about why you want to ride your bike then about why you don't want to drive a car.  A life choice so seemingly at odds with the ease and independence of the modern world is likely to spark discussion and debate about our many different world views. For myself, as for many others, this choice came about as more of an evolution than a decision.  Today I'm writing to give some insight into what the Nature of Motion is all about, why I no longer want to own a car, and more importantly why I think the bicycle is such a simple solution and amazing means of transportation.  Basically, here are some words about why I'm so happy to forgo the car, ride a bike, and climb mountains.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Mole and The Shrew

Sounds like the beginning to a children's story, but these two peaks help form the quartet of spires that is the Rat Creek Group.  This collection of towers lies just a few short miles from Icicle Road as the crow flies, but a world away when you consider the trail less expanse of bushwhacking and blow downs separating it from would-be climbers.  For our first single day alpine attempt, town to town, human powered, we chose the Mole, the largest in this quartet of spires lying just in view from the bottom of the canyon.

Rat Creek Group.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sherpa Peak


Finding an "off the beaten track" adventure in the Stuart Mountains can be a challenging experience.  The popularity and history of this small range have worked to make for an accessible, well known group of mountains.  There are, however, a few areas that receive little attention and fewer people then the well known basins and crags of this classic alpine paradise.  The drainage of the east fork of mountaineer creek, between Argonaut and Sherpa peaks is one of these places.  Combine this with the challenge of a completely human powered approach and you've got yourself a weekend.  Liz and i set out with a few scraps of route info and headed into this lesser known corner of our backyard.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Shadows pass underneath me, move into the distance, and dissolve into darkness.  As I glide along, the street lamps pass above me, replaying this motion over and over.  Riding my bike home from a late night trip to water the garden, this dance played out around me.  I was overcome with appreciation for this simple scene, the part I played, their interconnection, and the consciousness that made it all possible.  These are the moments when the world seems to fall away, all worries, hopes and cares, all thoughts turn into a cloud that is blown away by the breeze of pure awareness.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Prusik Peak

Bike, Hike, Climb.  A short trip report from another human powered adventure into the heart of the Stuart Range.