Archive for June, 2013

Ski Descent of Mount Hood

Monday, June 24th, 2013
Timberline lodge

Timberline lodge

Portland, Oregon was the location for this year's CVPR conference which I was lucky enough to attend for work. Arriving on Friday afternoon and having Saturday free, I decided to go on a bit of an adventure. The most obvious objective from Portland is Mount Hood, the highest mountain in Oregon at 3,429 metres and one of the most climbed glaciated peaks in the world. It is usually climbed from the Timberline Lodge ski area. Timberline Lodge was used for the exterior shots of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining and is certainly an atmospheric place.


With no partner, the only option was to book a guide. Unfortunately, the guides for Mount Hood get booked up far in advance, especially on a Saturday. So looking for other options, I found an introduction to ski mountaineering course, also run on Mount Hood. The guy I spoke to said a descent from the summit of Mount Hood would only be possible with some experience of steep backcountry descents. When I met my guide John Mackinnon (ancestors from Skye – good stock for a mountain guide!) he was up for heading to the summit on the basis we could down climb if I didn't like the look of the descent.

Sulphur steaming out of the ground

Sulphur steaming out of the ground

After a leisurely start, we were at the top of the chairlifts for 9am. The first few hundred metres of ascent gave an opportunity to practice steep skinning technique (difficult where icy!) before we switched to crampons. Flat foot technique in ski boots is tricky but front pointing is brilliant as the boots are so rigid. Mount Hood is volcanic so once at the crater rim, sulphur spews from the ground giving a pretty grim smell. Combined with the altitude, the effect makes you pretty lightheaded!

The narrows on the final slopes to the summit

The narrows on the final slopes to the summit

From the crater, the slopes to the summit are about 45 degree snow with a short icy gully to finish (lots of other steeper options are available to the right). The views from the summit were incredible with a perfect inversion and lots of the other cascades visible including Mount Jefferson, Mount Rainier and Three Sisters. We took 3 hours from the top of the chair lift to the summit but that was in perfect weather and on skis. It felt about the same as a typical munro in winter but with the added effect of altitude and as the whole peak is glaciated, potentially crevasses. The climb is no more than Scottish grade I.

Mount Hood summit

Mount Hood summit

Now just the small matter of skiing back down! We put skis on and sideslipped the narrows at the top (I'm sure gnarlier skiers would have straight-lined it!)  As soon as the first turn was out of the way, the perfect corn snow made for brilliant skiing.

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 03.44.30

About to make the first turn on the descent

John recommended an even steeper section (around 50 degrees) leading to the zig zag glacier. After lots more side slipping and some attempts at jump turns, we emerged onto the zig zag glacier to find acres and acres of untracked perfect snow. Miles of hero turns followed with the snow holding out all the way back to the car park.

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 03.53.00

The steepest part of the descent

What a brilliant way to spend midsummers day!


We skied from the summit to the point I took this photo!

We skied from the summit to the point I took this photo!


Where pterodactyls soar….

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

eavstoneRing ring|

"Hello, its Dave , I mean Indiana, Shield. I'v got a plan you might be interested in"

"is it illegal, Dave? I mean Indy?"

"No, buts it s a bit…esoteric"

"Ah. immoral, then?"

"No, I think we should go & climb at Eavestone."

"Eavestone, Dave….Indy? But thats just a legend! A drunken story you hear told at nights round the campfires of  the High Peak! A wild rumour whispered from climber to climber in the bunkhouses of the Dales. Eavestone is dead, Dave, if it ever existed, drowned under the rains of the last three years and buried beneath the Yorkshire jungle"

"But Peri, I'v been there. With the dog. And its still there. Cut off from the rest of Yorkshire by the encroaching forest for millions of/a few years, there are 18 craglets scattered round two lakes, and some of them have some really good routes, although we might need to excavate them a bit. While fighting off the stegosaurs and pterodactyls which have survived there. Read the new gritstone guide!"

"What, the one with the incredibly fit looking climber on page 505?"

"The very same, although all I can see on that page is a fat bumbly on a Severe. The guide says : ' …In its heyday of active development, diligently cleaned by local activists, Eavestone offered scores of genuinely fine climbs. Since then the crag has fallen into neglect and is now a shadow of its former self . The routes are still there, waiting to reward those climbers with a sense of adventure and the wit to deal with the jungle….' .   I'v had a bit of a look, and the routes have become green, lichenous and mossy,  and are probably not suitable  for beginners or inexperienced leaders, but you'll be really impressed by some of the buttresses,  we could take a look …theres a lovely arete I fancy…. "

"Ok Dave, I'm in. Lets go now while the weathers good, before the summer monsoon hits and the  hordes of prehistoric midges descend. I'v heard climbers lingering there after 6pm have been carried away screaming by giant insects, and in late summer the crag is haunted by Harvest Mites that bite your sensitive bits and leave you scratching for days. I'll bring a brush and possibly a JCB"

So we went.


Hasta La Vista Baby! Tarragona climbing

Friday, June 7th, 2013

church         siurana landscape

Well, here it is, the 2013 SunRock blog, only two months late. This year we decided to check out the climbing round Tarragona in Catalunya. This area contains some of the most famous climbing areas in Spain, including Siurana and Margalef, most of which were within half an hour of our accomodation.

By comparison with some of our other visits to Spain, this area was properly mountainous and very green. Instead of the usual scrub and cacti there were pine woods and grassy meadows. There were big yellow butterflies and birdsong at the crags. When you add to all this a spectacular landscape of deep ravines cutting into the mountains and soaring limestone cliffs, wild rock formations and clifftop villages this trip really was quite special.

karl and pete at siurana  justine at siurana  wild rock formations at Siurana Karl 'resting'

The climbing was quite hard. Although most of the routes were well bolted there were few giveaway grades so egos had to take a bit of a back seat. However there was a good range of routes at all grades and conditions were perfect – any warmer would have been unclimbably hot – so the week saw a lot of climbing as well as some spectacular lobs. There were also some spectacular failures to climb. Professor Deeply Deeply Sorry missed a whole day due to an unprovoked attack by a bottle or three of wine, and Peri, Graham and Justine were victims of a sneak assault by a gang of very large vodkas one evening, next day they did more snoozing than climbing.

We stayed at Lo Refugi ( in Cornudella De Montsant, basic but cheap and good bunkhouse style accomodation in Cornudella De Montsant, about 15 minutes drive from the Siurana crags. There was a decent gear shop in the village (which was handy for retail therapy) and the village was well off the normal tourist track, so we actually had to use our spanish (thank god for Google Translate).

Guidebook: Tarragona Climbs

More pics (mine – please add links to your own too! )