Monday, March 26, 2007

Flowers of Glass.

Looking through some old archives, I found these photos of glass flowers I made some time ago.The black color is soot. It gives a very specific dull finish (which I really like), but it is also easy to wipe off. So in order to preserve it, I put a flower in a "bottle", so it can't be touched. Just observed ;-). The "shell" also serves as a stand. It takes a long time to make a flower like that, on the order of 3 hours for a piece.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Longs Peak attempt (part 2).

Continuing with the Long's story...

After ~4 hours of hiking we got to Chasm Lake at about 7am. We took a break on the shore of the frozen lake and had some tea before starting on our main goal: Lamb's Slide. It's a long moderately steep (sustained ~40-45 degrees) couloir on the left of the Mills Glacier:This photo was taken from over Chasm Lake (Lamb's Slide is hidden by a rock buttress). A few interesting facts: Broadway is a system of sloping ledges, and Kiener's route is something that I would love to climb this summer. One needs to get to the top of Lamb's Slide, then traverse the Broadway to the base of the Notch couloir and follow further (green line). The climbing is not difficult, 5.4-5.5, but the elevation and exposure should make it a very fun undertaking. Especially considering the approach with all the gear. We'll see...

From Chasm Lake, we had to get to the base of the Lamb's Slide, and that wasn't easy. Crossing the lake was a blast, no postholing, just a walk on an ideally leveled ice powdered with a little snow. But once the lake was crossed, the angle picked up, and snow became deeper:Morgan was breaking the trail, and finally we got to the base on the couloir. Here is a photo of the Chasm Lake from the base of Lamb's Slide: Getting there wasn't particulary easy, and we had a long way to go:That's the Lamb's Slide, as viewed from its base, Mills Glacier. This couloir got his name after Reverend Elkanah J. Lamb's near-fatal tumble from it. During summer and early autumn the couloir is all iced, so it's practically impossible to self-arrest if you slip on it. One has to use running belays to safely climb it. On the other hand, there is no avalanche danger when it's one big solid piece of ice. You win some you loose some :-). In our case the snow wasn't very well consolidated making it very easy to self-arrest but difficult to climb. Before starting climbing the couloir, Morgan and I carved a ledge in snow and roped up. We hauled the rope all this way, we simply had to use it :-). If anything, it was mostly for glacier techniques practice. Once we got the rope figured out, I went ahead and started to kick steps up the Slide:I must say, that was a hard work. Especially in the lower section of the couloir, where snow was loose and I was sinking to my knees. Higher up snow got firmer, and climbing got a lot more pleasant. To give you an idea, it's like climbing a very steep staircase, but with no steps: you need to kick them in first. And the couloir just keeps going, and going, and going. Slowly, we were getting higher:The views were breathtaking. The Diamond was dominating on our side, like a huge sea of granite:Finally, we got to the top of Lamb's. At ~11-30am. It took us more than 4 hours to get there! Last 100 meters were fun, to say the least. A very good workout indeed. Here is a photo of Broadway taken from there. It looks like a really exciting traverse: We took a shot break and assessed the situation. It was almost noon, and very warm. In order to get to the Loft, we had to cross the top of the Flying Dutchman couloir:We've been hiking for about 9 hours at this point, and snow conditions were becoming unstable (we saw a really pretty loose snow avalanche going from the corner of Broadway and Chasm View Wall). We had at least 3 more hours to go to the summit, possibly even more. So the decision wasn't difficult: we had a great day, and there was no point in pushing our luck. We decided to turn around:

We glissaded down Lamb's Slide and hiked back to Chasm Lake. It took less then one hour to get down (and more than four hours to get up). We spent about an hour there resting and enjoying the scenery. Finally, it was time to go: we had to cross a snow field and hike back to the parking lot. The snow was turning into a slush, we were getting worried about wet slab avalanches, so we pushed ahead. It was interesting in spots:

Here is Longs Peak from Chasm Junction. We didn't summit this time, but it was well worth all our troubles nonetheless.It took us 13 and a half hours from car to car. Time well spent :-).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Headset modification (Altec Lansing AHS515).

In the original headset (Altec Lansing AHS515) microphone just wasn't working very well, it was positioned too far from the mouth. But since the headphones themselves are pretty good, I decided to fix the problem rather then buy a new headset. I would also hate to waste money :-).
I extended the microphone lever with a piece of 1/4'' copper tubing. Here is a modified headset:Now it works great and looks kinda funny. I like the copper tube extension (shiny!) Here is an original device:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Longs Peak attempt.

After our successful trip to Chasm Lake Morgan and I got pretty psyched about doing some more steep snow climbs. So this Monday (12th of March 2007) Morgan and I attempted to summit Longs Peak. In current near-winter conditions it was a very ambitious goal, but we decided to give it a shot. Our first priority was getting some steep snow climbing, so the route was chosen accordingly. We decided to start very early, get to the Chasm Lake, climb Lamb's Slide, get to the Loft, then turn around Longs Peak and get to the summit via Clark's Arrow route. Here is map showing the Chasm Lake Cirque with some of the names and the route we did:
We left Fort Collins at 1-10am and got to the Longs Peak trailhead around 2-30am. After gearing up we started hiking at 3-10am. The night was clear and warm, with no wind. The trail was glazed with ice and pretty slick, so after about 5 or 10 minutes of hiking we put on crampons and went on. We had a long way to go to Chasm Lake, and our most important objective lied further.

It's an eerie feeling, hiking in the middle of the night in the winter forest, with an LED headlamp as a main source of light. With LED's very white and not very powerful illumination, you have a spot of ghostly white trail in front of you surrounded with a bunch of black shadows. It is a pretty exquisite feeling (especially after having 1.5 hours of sleep ;-).

After we got above timberline, the wind picked up and it got pretty chilly. As we made our way up to the Chasm Junction, we were either postholing through the wind drifts or tripping over exposed rocks. It was still pitch black, with no indication of the sunrise, wind was blowing continuously, and I was slowly cooling down. I took off my fleece layer when we started hiking, so I had only a T-shirt and a windbreaker, which definitely wasn't enough. My hands were getting really cold without liner gloves, but there was no good place to stop and put these things on and we weren't cold enough to do it in the wind. Finally, after ~2 hours of hiking we got past the windy Chasm Junction (it's almost always windy there since it's on the ridge) and hid from the wind over a tall boulder on the shoulder of Mount Lady Washington.

There we put some additional clothes and had some food with a few sips of hot green jasmine tea. Despite the fact that thermos is heavy and caffeine is diuretic (not the best thing in the mountains, where the danger of dehydration is ever-present), it's one of the absolutely must-have items for me. Nothing lifts the spirit and shakes you up quite like it ;-). This time too, after our tea-break things were looking much better, and it wasn't that cold anymore. The east horizon was turning into a red band - it was time to move along. We put crampons on (we took them off negotiating a rocky path to the Chasm Junction), took out ice axes and went ahead.

Watching the sunrise in a place like that is amazing. The colors were quickly changing from deep-red to orange and then to gold:We were crossing snow slopes on our way to Chasm Lake, and the place could not be better for watching the whole succession of colors. It was well worth getting up in the midnight:
As you can probably tell, the sky on these last two photos is very deep-blue. This time instead of having a UV filter, I put a circular polarizer on my camera. I think it paid off :-).
When we got to the Chasm Lake the sun was pretty high up, illuminating the Diamond with golden light. Simply amazing, a Golden Diamond:To be continued...

Sunday, March 4, 2007

A few icicles.

A small one:Big ones:Both photos were taken today, on Chasm Lake trail.

Ptarmigans in winter.

I first saw ptarmigans last autumn, when I was getting down from the summit of Longs Peak. These birds have great seasonal camouflage, which makes them difficult to spot. During our autumn encounter ptarmigan had light-brown color of dirt and dry grass. Here is their winter appearance:This picture was taken today, on Longs Peak trail, above timberline.

P.S. Оказывается, эта птичка - тундровая куропатка.

Plane's inversion trail.

Today Morgan and I got to Chasm Lake. And back :-). It was a great hike, with some very fun steep snow climbing. The photos are great, but it might take some time before I can write a report. So, I decided to put up a few interesting photos which were taken on a hike but doesn't have much to do with mountaineering.

Inversion trail:
These photos were taken today from the shore of Chasm Lake.

Chasm Lake in winter.

So the third time really is the charm. Today (3rd of March 2007) Morgan and I got to Chasm Lake. And, what's really important, we also got back.

Previously (January) I wrote about Serega's and my attempt on Chasm Lake this December. We didn't reach it, but today we had a better luck. The weather was picture-perfect, practically no wind, and very warm. Snow conditions were perfect, I just can't find a better adjective to describe them. The trail was very well packed both below and above timberline, so we simply hiked to Chasm Junction. Snow is really deep there. Here is a little bridge (just before the timberline):and a buried sign:It was also very clear, no haze at all. This picture was taken quite before Chasm Junction, but the Diamond of Longs is very clear:It still took a bit over 2 hours to get to Chasm Junction (for map see here), but it was much easier than during the December hike (when it took 4 hours of VERY strenuous hiking). Incomparably easier, in fact. Once we passed Chasm Junction, we saw the main obstacle, the steep snow field. In late summer and early autumn the trail goes lower, first to the rangers cabin and then up to the lake. The distances in mountains are confusing. Here is a photo that gives a better idea of the size of the snow slope:I can't say for sure, but I think during summertime the higher route turns into a system of narrow vegetated ledges separated by rock slabs, making it practically impassable. It's a whole different story with snow - you can easily walk on snow-covered slabs (if snow conditions allow). But still you really don't want to fall. We didn't have snow axes with us, so we used snowshoes for self-belay:After traversing these snow slopes, we got to the Chasm Lake. It's just an amazing place, surrounded by rock walls. Here is a view of the Diamond, probably the most famous alpine big wall in the US:Here is Morgan standing on the lake:After a brief rest we headed back. Here is a good shot of Morgan traversing the snow. It's pretty steep, as you can see. It's a very fun traverse:Here is the a close-up of the route we took:It took us 3 hours and 40 minutes to get to the lake and a bit less than 2 hours to get back to the parking lot. All in all, it was one of the best days out ever.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

An awesome quote :-)

"I just know that no one is better than anyone and everyone is best at everything" - Principal Skinner

Two great mottos :-)

"The impossible we do every day. Miracles take a bit longer."
US Air Force 440th CSG/PERSCO Dhahran AB, Saudi Arabia

"In God we trust: All others we monitor."

US Air Force 5th Reconnaissance Squadron (RS)