Where to Go for Snow?

I realized that the seasonal average precipitation, but above average temperatures, have given us one silver lining to this winter. Roads that are normally snowed in for the winter are snow free. This means that Mt Baker and Mt Adams are easily reachable. The southside of Mt Baker is particularly interesting - the absence of snow at the trailhead has prevented snowmobilers from accessing one of their most popular areas. With a little bit of hiking, there is a direct 6000' ski descent from the summit.

Cascade River Road is open too, but gated at the Eldorado trailhead. This means that ski tours in Boston Basin as well as the Forbidden Tour are reachable, although it may be too cold to be really fun. Its also possible to drive to the Hidden Lakes trailhead, but expect a 30 minute hike before reaching suitable snow there too. 

My attention is drawn south - I've learned that the road to access Mt Adams is open and gated at Clear Creek, which adds a few miles to trailhead and makes the Southwest Chutes a BIG day or a more reasonable day-and-a-half. And Mt Hood, by all reports, is in great shape for ski mountaineering.

Bottom line? There is great terrain to ski at higher elevations, and the lack of snow lower down means the roads are open to reach it. If you're interested in skiing with me, contact me!

Check out my Ski page for more ideas and details. A particularly great resource is the guidebook, Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Washington.

Top 5 Reasons to Ski in Japan

5. Trains. OK, maybe its the 10 year-old boy in me, but I love having a public transit system that is well-connected. It you wish, you can land in Tokyo, and set foot on three or four trains from the airport all the way to Niseko. Although it will take you a couple of days. Alternatively, you can fly into Sapporo and take one train all the way to Niseko - it takes 30-45 minutes longer than the bus, but it moves through beautiful terrain. Either way, if you choose to take some time in Tokyo, don't be afraid to use the subway or the light rail.

4. Onsens. These aren't hot tubs - onsens are public baths that are preceded by an indoor, seated shower, traditionally geothermal. This is an amazing way to end a day! Several of my favorite ski tours end on the other side of Moiwa, and nothing is more fun than skiing up to the onsen, getting cleaned up, and then having a short, silent, 15-minute tour up to the final ski run and down to dinner.

3. Food. Japanese food is fantastic. Even from the 7-11 - seriously, don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself. And Woodpecker Lodge feeds us breakfast and dinner, featuring fresh, local ingredients delivered to the lodge and emphasizing Hokkaido regional specialties. When you want a break, you can easily get into the village and experience local restaurants. Japan restaurants have received more Michelin Guide stars than the rest of the world - combined!

2. People. I found the culture in Japan to be amazing, which shouldn't be surprising, since its been settled for 32,000 years or so. Greater Tokyo is the largest metropolitan city in the world, and I've spent a week just scratching the surface (and getting really comfortable with public transportation - see #5). The people are incredibly warm and friendly - if you make the effort and show polite behavior, they will often go to great lengths to help you.

The island of Hokkaido is the least populated, despite being the second largest island. And in my experience, the backcountry wasn't crowded at all. I wasn't competing for lines or racing to reach a summit before the non-existent hordes caught me. I've spent some days skiing solo and not seeing another person.

1. Snow. Psst. I don't think the "greatest snow on earth" is really in Utah - its in Japan. These incredibly cold fronts come off of Siberia, pick up moisture from the sea, then slam into the Japanese Alps and the Hokkaido mountains. One of the cities on the west coast of Honshu (the main island) apparently holds the record for the greatest snowfall in an urban zone. On Hokkaido its common in the middle of winter to not see the sun directly for an entire month, and for snow to fall daily. That has certainly been my experience.

Hokkaido is far enough north that the alpine zone is quiet low and the trees become perfectly spaced to ski through. While its not necessarily "technical" skiing terrain, the rolling mountains and deep forests make navigating a careful skill in order to have a full, rewarding day skiing. The snowpack is cold maritime in nature, and surprisingly one thing Japan lacks is an avalanche forecasting and hazard system like that we're used to in North America or Europe. In Niseko, the local ski areas do have one avalanche forecaster who gives advisements on opening the sidecountry gates - and he happens to be the owner of the lodge I stay in! But this means that personal avalanche forecasting and observations are critical to a team's safety.

I've experienced over the head powder all over the world, but still, to this day, my favorite powder skiing has been in Japan.

I'm offering two one-week trips in February - dates later in the month are also available. We're looking for one more person to join us for 8-15 February. Contact me or Pro Guiding Service if you're interested!

Moving Forward

If the last day of the year is spent looking back, than the first day of the new year should be about the future. These are my commitments for 2015.

I'm going to move more. Figuratively and literally. Its about building momentum from moment to moment, because once something gets started in motion its easier to keep it in motion, and its easier to build on that motion.

I've given the literal aspect of this idea a name - my Circadian Momentum Project. Starting here, and maybe spinning off onto its own, is going to be my own telling, for 365 days, of the run, ski, climb, hike, bike, or yoga I did that day, and share a related thought. Its not about going big or extreme or being out for 18 hours straight. Its about getting in motion, and staying in motion, and building momentum until its simply easier to keep doing it than it is to stop.

Figuratively, I've talked a big game about several creative projects that I want to make reality. There's a book I want to write, a map I want to draw, and several stories I want to be able to tell. This is my commitment to take verifiable, concrete steps towards making those projects reality.

I'm going to travel more, and take advantage of the mandatory travel I sometimes have to do for personal opportunities. I'm not just going to fly to Denver for a week of meetings and not do something while I'm there. I'm no longer going to pass up opportunities to see someplace new just because its too much logistical trouble at home. I'm going to make the effort to make it happen.

I'm going to see my friends and family - and especially my friends who have become my surrogate family - more than ever before. You guys are fantastic, and being with you elevates me. 

I'm going to climb, ski, and run in more places, more times, than I did in 2014. I hope I get to do it with a lot of you.

That's my commitment for 2015.



Ignore that date above. For me, here in Antarctica, the New Year is about to happen tonight. Before I start making resolutions and promises and plans for next year, I'm taking a moment to look back at the last 365 days. 

The accomplishments have been few but significant. I co-authored a fantastic ski guide, Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Washington, with an incredible team of authors, skiers and guides from Pro Guiding Service. The book launch party was likely the professional high mark of last winter.

My personal high mark last winter was finally getting to take a much needed vacation with my wife, Patsy, to ski and experience the culture of Japan. It was an amazing trip, from the incredible culture packed in Tokyo to the incredible snow we found in Hokkaido. It was truly a trip of a lifetime, and I was inspired by the experience to launch a annual week-long trip (psst, yes, it is happening and yes, there is still spaces open!), but let's talk about the future tomorrow. 

The rest of the winter passed by in a blur of great ski descents and tours around the Cascades. The blur kept going into the summer - this year's route du jour was the Torment-Forbidden Traverse, a personal favorite that I ended up climbing four times - twice in one week! The most memorable trip, though, was with the Adventure Film School, who teamed up with the Sierra Club Military Outdoors to take a team of veterans up into some of the most stunning alpine terrain of the North Cascades for a week long videography and photography workshop. This was an incredible experience, and the SCMO and I are already planning 2015's project.

In the fall, I finally attended the International Snow Science Workshop, a week-long gathering of guides, ski patrollers, avalanche forecasters, and snow scientists. Presentations varied from the deeply scientific to incident case studies. I got to meet long-time personal heroes of mine in the climbing and skiing worlds, reconnect with old friends, and road trip from Seattle to Banff, Alberta.

But really, one of the most amazing moments of my life happened in September as well, when Patsy and I closed the deal on a cottage in Seattle. I'm a homeowner, for the first time in my life. Wow. Of course, the first thing I did was rip apart the basement (where else is all my stuff going to fit?) and as we speak Patsy is supervising the complete renovation of the kitchen, which should be well and truly done by the time I get home. Sorry love, I'll make it up to you when I get back.

The last highlight of the year is right here. Antarctica. Here I am, again, for the ninth time, possibly proving something that I over-heard in the bar during my first trip in 1996:

Antarctica. The first season is for the wonder of it. The second season is for the money. And if you come back for a third, its because after the first and the second you’re too !@#$%^ up to function in regular society anymore.
— Master Chief Chuck Gallagher, USN, Retired

This was also big technology for me this year. Instagram has really worked out for me and I'm digging it. The new website is running well and I'm stoked for it. Now its time to really work on some content, but that's more for tomorrow's email too.

I didn't really send out a great Thanksgiving thank you. So this time I will. Thanks to everyone at Pro Ski and Mountain and Pro Guiding Service, especially to Martin, Gina, Forest, Erin, Kurt, Dave, Mike, Dave and Casey. Thanks to K2 and BCA, especially Hatt, Steve, and Marksie. Thank you to my new friends in Japan: Shinya-san, Jun, Taro, and the team at K2 Japan. Thank you to Outdoor Research, Ashley and Christian especially, for continuing to support and encourage me.

Thank you to all of my guests this year. I hope you had as much fun as I did, and found your experiences in the mountains to be the challenges you had hoped for. I hope to see you again in 2015. A special shout out should go to Carlton, Jacob, Jim, Josh, and JR for heading out with me multiple times this year (wow!).

To the G410 Team, down here in Antarctica with me again. I don't want to be anywhere else right now than here with you guys: Greg, Claire, Isaac and Brent. Well, Brent got to leave early to make it back in time for classes, but we gave him a pass for it and he's here in spirit, we know!

And my family. Grandma, Mom, my sister Betsy and her husband Kyle, my nephew and niece Gabe and Josie. You guys are wonderful, supportive, and full of love even when I haven't spoken to you in forever. More about that in tomorrow's post. And to my in-law family: Mark, Meredith, Ben and Avery. The Garcia clan - Sun, Roxanne, Patrick, Natsumi, Ellie, Emina. I wish we got to see more of you. And finally the Topinka clan - thank you for adopting us!

The Seattle Mafia, The Family, The Boys. I couldn't have made it through this year without you. Day, Eddie, Justin, Matt, Nick the Aussie, Big Nick B, Truc, and Wesley. And the Wives Club. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Finally, to my incredible wife Patsy, and to Neo and Clair. This was, no doubt, the hardest year effort. Full of a LOT of struggle and strife. Thank you for staying with me through it all. I love you with all my heart - you are my moon and sun and the stars that guide me.

On to 2015.


Inspiration: Japan Powder!!

I'm offering two catered trips to Niseko, Japan this February. This is an great short film about what Japan powder skis like - then check out the trip page! LINK

Sexist Skiing: Are Women-Specific Skis really necessary?

What prompted this title - and the short essay I'm about to write - was this digital article from Backcountry Magazine, Women's Specific: Are Female Focused Skis Necessity or Preference? You might want to read it before continuing here...

OK, now back to the essay. When I worked to become a PSIA Level 2 Alpine Ski Instructor, I learned - the management and training team at Alpine Meadows was a female-majority. I learned - a lot - about how biomechanics effects the ski turn, and how women move differently from men to have the same effect on their skis. But even though a woman's biomechanics are subtly different from a man - their center of mass is lower than men's, for starters - a woman can still make a ski perform like their male counterpart.

An analogy that I'm thinking about (you know I love analogies) are cars. My wife and I are almost a foot apart in height, and I have a significantly different leg proportion. But we can still drive the same car - we just need to adjust the driver's seat and mirrors. Are ski really any different?

So, do women-specific skis really exist? And do they need to? I knew a male ski instructor at Alpine Meadows who was relatively small and light-weight, and one year preferred a women-specific ski because he liked the shorter, "softer" flex it offered. But I also know a female ski guide who prefers a "unisex" ski because it has a "stiffer" flex than its direct women-specific counterparts.

Which brings up another question for me - why do we have "women-specific" vs. "unisex"? Doesn't that really mean women vs. men? How many female customers have walked into a ski shop and not made a purchase, because they were frustrated by the smaller offering of "women-specific" skis than the unisex (aka men) models?

I do think that some women-specific skis have unique construction, but I also know of at least two models that are - quite literally - the exact same ski as the unisex, simply given a different topsheet, and have a shorter length offered. And they sell.

I talked to my wife about this. She's a solid intermediate skier. And a telemarker, but I don't hold that against her. Both of her skis are 1) unisex models and 2) too long, in my opinion, for her height and more importantly her mass.

Two important take-aways from the article for me. First - a woman may get more performance from a unisex ski simply by moving their binding forward than from picking the "women-specific" version. And second, from the comments, maybe ski manufacturers should be suggesting height/weight for a given length instead of defining them as a boy's or girl's ski. Certainly I believe more than ever that we, the customer, should be thinking that way.


And we're back!

Photo. Shamelessly nicked from the internet. 

Photo. Shamelessly nicked from the internet. 

I am so stoked that the wait and (most of) the work is over! Chris Simmons Guiding 3.0 officially launched this morning. You're looking at it right now, of course, so you know this, but it feels good to actually be saying so in the Journal. It's official!

There's a lot more to add, of course. Trips to post, journal entries that have percolating in the coffee pot of my mind all summer.

Almost all of my photos will be visible on Instagram and here, and my favorites will be shared to my Facebook page.  

I want to reinvent my old "Smash & Grab" emails into Facebook posts, featuring a climb I'm keen to do that week. I'll also be promoting bigger trips, the ones that require some advanced planning to get to incredible locations and spend a not-insignificant amount of time at, 3-6 months in advance.   

So, if you want to have an easier time seeing what I'm up to and consider if you want to join me, then you're strongly invited and encouraged to Like my Facebook Page and Follow my Instagram feed. Those buttons are easy to find in the bottom right corner of the page.  

Enough of this computer. It's time to go outside. 

Moving Day!

ChrisSimmonsGuiding.com is moving! The new 3.0 website will be launched (hopefully) by Monday. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

photo | motherearthnews.com

Construction Coming!

OK, I know I said it first in January, but now its really official. Sometime in the next week if you type in "ChrisSimmonsGuiding.com" you're not going to end up here. You'll end up at the new site, which will also be very under construction for at least another week (or two). Hopefully by mid-July we'll have everything up and running. Thanks for your patience! Chris

When a lot is too much

To Suunto, Garmin, Nike, and all you other sport watch companies: I think you're missing an easy mark here.

You're all offering some incredible pieces of modern engineering. Watches, smaller than my great-grandfather's pocket watch, capable of doing so much more than display the time - there's alarms and heart rate monitors and altimeters and ascent rates and log books and gps tracking...

But what if I want something simple?

I want a watch that:

  • Is minimalist in size and display;
  • Tells the time;
  • Tracks my routes using GPS;
  • Tracks for longer than 8 hours, preferably to 24;
  • Let's me share that data with others.
Battery life is the crux of GPS sport watches - 1 second GPS fixes is the norm - but it doesn't have to be. It would be an easy addition to allow the user to change settings from 1s, to 15, 30 or even 60 seconds - at least that seems easy to me. Switching to a 60s GPS fix would allow any of the watches on the market to have an extended battery life of 20 hours, if the 1s/60s battery ratio for the Suunto GPS Track Pod is any indicator (the only device that has this feature, and none other).

Such a simple watch would certainly be cheaper - less than the $300 Suunto Core altimeter watch I wear while guiding, or the $400 Suunto Ambit 2 HR that my wife runs with.

The closest match I've found so far is the Soleus GPS Mini or Fit watches, both for $99, but with GPS track limiting the battery to 8 hours.

Oh well - I'm still looking.

photo: etsy.com

Packing Lists: Alpine Style Car Camping

Its springtime, and with spring comes the road trips - places near and far, for a day, a night, or a week. The longer I'm gone the more elaborate my car camping gets - the shorter the simpler, especially for overnights, when I've been known simply to throw in a sleeping bag and called it good.

Somewhere along the way in our culture/community/sport/lifestyle/whatever, car camping became complicated. REI is probably complicit in this - just take a walk through and look at all the modern conveniences of the modern world re-built for the camping life.

Yes, car camping can be luxurious. But I live in a city, without off street parking, so packing means filling up a collection of plastic bins and duffels. If I'm lucky I found a parking spot on the block in front of my house and I can simply move the bins/duffels to the door, and then out the door to the car. If I'm unlucky the car is parked all the way around the block on the other side. And then I get to repeat the process when I come home, usually to the excited barking of two 50 lbs dogs who want me to wrestle while simultaneously unpacking.

Its a pain in the arse. So instead I go without - I sit on a foam pad or stand instead of a chair. I get cold deli food from my local grocery instead of cooking. My stove is primarily to boil water for hit drinks.
So here, then, is my alpine style car camping list. I use it for a night out or a weekend.


  • Car coffee mug
  • Spoon
  • Fozzil Bowl
  • MSR Reactor Stove with a handful of half-used canisters
  • Via instant coffee or French Press with ground coffee. This really depends on the trip - if its a single overnight and alpine start, I'll go with the Starbucks. If its a longer, or more leisurely, trip then I'll use the real stuff.
  • Tea/Apple Cider for dinner
  • Pastries for breakfast
  • Fruits and bars for lunch
  • Deli sandwiches for dinner
  • Chips and salsa for appetizers
  • Adult beverage(s) of choice - I prefer something stronger than beer because it doesn't need to be refrigerated.
  • Tarp or tent. I actually prefer sleeping under a tarp - but if the fly's are bad a tent is a must.
  • Air mattress and a foam pad. My concession to comfort - and the foam pad doubles as a seat. Be warned: an air mattress and dogs do not mix well together, no matter how well behaved or intentioned the dogs are. A crash pad can be substituted if its coming along already.
  • Sleeping bag - duh! I prefer a 20 degree synthetic that I got years ago. I don't have to worry about holes, or stains, or spilled coffee.
So my Kitchen stuff (minus the coffee mug that already lives in my car), gets thrown in a bin. My tent, unstuffed sleeping bag (its going in a duffel, why bother?), pads and extra clothes get thrown in a duffel. My climbing or ski gear get thrown in a separate pack, and that's it. A weekend in three containers, I can be packed up in less than 30 minutes and a quick trip to the grocery.

One day, I'll reclaim my road trip mini-van and eliminate a lot of the packing list. Who wouldn't like a car pre-packed with the kitchen and bedroom already set up? Meanwhile, I know it can be fun to bring along the expedition dome tent, camp chairs, the big coleman stove, and an entire cooler of food.

But more often, I like this method instead:  grab your s#!^ and get going.

photo from the Model T Ford Forum, www.mtfca.com

Where the Hell Have I Been?

OK, confession time: I'm tired of blogging.

I mean, I still write. But not here - not for this. And while I want to post up inspirational trip reports and get folks excited to come out into the mountains with me, I'm tired of feeling constantly obligated to put out "content", and I don't want to just put up filler to say "hey, look!"

So I'm working with an incredible web design consultant, and long-time friend, to launch the 3.0 website. If you're relatively new, this website started as a blog about 6 years ago, called Climb.Ski.Sleep.Repeat. (v 1.0). Then I got professional-y and renamed it Chris Simmons Guiding (v 2.0), but I've kept the original title as a tag line, and it will be showing up on the new site too.

Facebook, like it or not, has become the go-to forum for quick updates and easy following - something I worked to do through my blog but lacked the convenience of easy posting and easy networking.

What I am excited about is a host of new trips I'll be offering in the next 18 months: Ski traverses in Europe, California, Canada and here at home; incredible trips to Mexico, Chile, Norway, Sweden, China and Japan. My personal goal is to travel abroad 4-6 times a year, on trips of 2-3 weeks long - I'd by stoked to have you join me.

So stand by. Wait. A little more patience. 3.0 is coming, and I'll be "journaling" instead of "blogging" - mostly about the great trips, the occasional notable great-for-a-different-reason-trip, and some odds and ends I've been thinking about (packing lists? product design work?). But more important - to me at least - it will showcase what I'm most passionate about: to Climb.Ski.Sleep.Repeat. with the occasional trail run and gym session thrown in.

See you soon.

Red Rocks and Road Trips

Red Rocks, Nevada, is some of the best beginner and moderate multi-pitch climbing in the United States. Now combine that with cheap and easy airfare to Las Vegas, a multitude of lodging options from hotels to camping, and you have a true climbing destination.
Interested in checking it out for yourself? I've got the weekend of 10-13 October available, and we can start even sooner than that if you'd like a longer trip.  $360/day for 1:1, or $215/per person/day for two guests. Offer ends 15 September!

Other Road Trips:
Washington Pass, North Cascades. Possibly my favorite local destination, Washington Pass and Mazama has an incredible concentration of easy-to-access moderate alpine rock climbs.  Lodging options cover the whole spectrum. Awesome destination for a weekend from Seattle.

City of Rocks, Idaho.  An insane number of single-pitch routes under 5.10, this destination lives up to its name.  Camping amongst the towers and trees.  Better for a long (4 days) weekend to a week.
Smith Rock, Oregon.  The birthplace of American sport climbing, Smith also has some great trad climbing in the lower gorge and some classic multi-pitch rock routes.  Lodging can vary from hotels just 30 minutes south in Bend to the campground right in the park.  If you can get out of work early on Friday, this makes for a great weekend.

Boulder, Colorado. Special Offer, 23 October - 1 November!!
 I'll already be in Boulder, Colorado, for the AMGA Annual Meeting.  If you're in the Denver area and interested in experiencing the iconic Flatirons, contact me!

5Point Film On the Road with the AAC in Bellingham!

Loading the car up right now, to drive up to Bellingham for an evening of incredible outdoor films.  I'm MC'ing the 5 Point Film Fest in Bellingham tonight!!  Come cheer me on - or heckle, whatever your preference!  Come join us!

Smash & Grab #11

I'll be honest - it's a bit of a dice game out there right now.  Last night I canceled a personal two-day trip into Boston Basin (we were supposed to hike in today).  Here's what the weather looks like at the likely suspects this week:

Washington Pass:


Snoqualmie Pass:

The pattern is similar all over the Cascades.  Thunderstorms on the east side, moderate chances of rain on the west side.

So what can you do?  Keep expectations and commitment factor low - like Meredith is doing with me tomorrow (Tuesday).  We're heading up to Chair Peak in the morning, playing the weather "by ear".  If its as good in the morning as it was this morning, we'll go for the West Ridge of Chair Peak.  If it looks like we need to move faster, we'll try Chair's NE Buttress, and since we're local, if it completely craps out we'll try to reschedule some time in the next month.

Or keep it limited to cragging - I just spent Saturday (another 30%-chance-of-rain-day) climbing with Carlton at Exit 38.  While it threatened a few times, we got in 10 pitches without being hit by a drop!

And shoot, if we make plans and we do get rained out, we still got all of September to get 'er done!

That's the reality here - we love the deep green in the summer and the deep white in the winter, but sometimes we have to pay the piper and this week may be it.  It does look like this system is moving out at the end of the week, so I'm expecting the weekend to be much more favorable.  Still, if anyone want's my opinion I'd want to go climb day trip objectives like Guye Peak's Improbable Traverse, the East Face of the Tooth, and the West Ridge of Chair Peak.

Other stuff happening this week - the 5 Point Film Festival is coming to Bellingham on Thursday, 29 August!  From Carbondale, Colorado, the 5 Point Film Fest is a celebration of being outside - that awesome intersection of mountain and surf culture that shares so much in common.  A love for the human powered experience of the untouched world.

What makes it really special is that I'll be there - as the MC!!  That's right!  I'm so freaking psyched!  Come cheer me on - or heckle, whatever your fancy!  All sorts of things start around 5pm at the Bellingham Depot (where the weekly farmers' market is held, right across the street from the Boundary Bay Pub! Movies start up around dark-o'clock (8-ish).  One of the cooler things you could win - food and accomodations in Carbondale, CO in April for the 2014 5 Point Film Festival.  I've never been to Carbondale, but have always heard about what a great mountain town it is - now I've got an excuse to load up the Missus and the dogs and see for myself!

So, re-cap:  Stay flexible, keep the objectives low on the commitment grade but high on the adventure grade, and take an evening to visit Bellingham for good food, drinks, and the 5 Point Film Fest on Thursday night.

Hope to see you soon in the mountains!

P.S.  Check out the top-right corner!  Over there, in the side bar.  My Instagram account seems pretty cool.  At least to me, right now.  Want to keep up? Click on the button, bump over to my new account, and Follow!

Help! I've been Instagrammed!!

Can you use Instagram as a verb?

In an effort to more efficiently get my photos from my phone (which is what I take my photos with these days) to my Facebook Page (where most of you look at my photos), I opened an Instagram account.  Doing this took about 30 seconds of signing up and about 3 months of whinging, hemming and hawing about if I wanted to sign up.

I tried Twitter, but I never really got into twitting.  Twittering? Tweeting. Twhatever.  When was something worth twitting about?  But not f-b'ing?  Besides, I don't want to tell about the fun I'm having - I want to show.  And tell.  Just like first grade.

My hope is, I'll be able to have a live Instagram feed on the website, as well as have my Instagrammed photos loaded immediately onto my Facebook page.  Or soon thereafter, since I don't have a cell signal in most places I take photos.

Oh!  And if you like - I know I'm assuming a lot, but you have read this far - please follow me on Instagram:  chrissimmonsguiding.


The Eldorado Icefield - An Intro to Mountaineering

Phil and Kellen signed up for Pro Guiding Service's Intro to Mountaineering in the North Cascades.  I know I'm biased, but I think this is the best-value trip of its kind offered.  This year, I started exploring a zone I'm calling the Eldorado Icefield, where the Eldorado, Inspiration, Klawatti, and McAllister Glaciers all meet to form one of the largest glacial areas not located on one of the Cascade volcanoes.  I think it offers it all - thought-provoking glacial travel and rock routes from 3rd to 5th Class, all wrapped up in a 5-day itinerary.  Plus, once you get past Eldorado Peak you can usually count the number of other climbers on one hand.

Hiking up to the Eldorado Glacier is steep, and typically take most of the day.

This time I opted for a steep-snow variation to the summit of Eldorado Peak.

The West Ridge of Eldorado Peak is a good introduction to alpinism, with low technical difficulties,
a lot of physical difficulties, and fantastic views - like this sunset from camp.

Traversing across the Inspiration Glacier.  That's Glacier Peak on the left horizon, and Eldorado Peak on the right.  We stopped just a few minutes later to spend 1/2 a day practicing crevasse rescue.

Downclimbing the Klawatti Notch on our way to Austera Peak.

On the summit of Austera, with the 3rd/4th class ridge we had to
traverse in view over his right shoulder.  That's also Forbidden Peak in
the background - check out the weather photos coming up.

A cool surprise was finding a 47 year-old register from a traverse team,
presumably on skis.  We found this on the gendarme next to the true summit.

There were for sheets of paper and a pencil.  But it was late in the day, so we
didn't have time to reverse the last 70' of climbing to place the register on the

Funny how it looks different traveling in the opposite direction, eh?  Climbing
back up the Klawatti Notch on our way to camp.

Sunset.  Our camp is just off-frame left and about 10 minutes awa

Our last day out - we tried to get on the North, and then the Southeast, Ridges of Klawatti Peak.  But big overhanging moats between the Klawatti Glacier and the rock had us stumped.  We settled for four pitches on a lower ridge tower and a fun glacial circumnavigation.

That evening we watched the weather roll in.

The dark wall was heading for us, and the thunderstorm hit right at sunset.

Crystal clear skies in the morning as we left.  That's Klawatti Peak in the background.

We descended into a marine layer just as we exited the glacier, and then 45 minutes from the car:

Trips like this are available almost anytime.  Want to spend less time on snow?  Then we'll head over to Boston Basin.  Want to increase the rock climbing difficulty - we'll climb Triad Peak, the Dorado Needle, Early Morning Spire, or the West Arete on Eldorado instead.  Our Cascade summers typically last until the end of September, so grab a few friends and email me or contact Pro Guiding Service to book a trip.

Mt Baker up the Easton Glacier

Spent an awesome three-day weekend with Ron and his daughters Maia, Milan, and Capri climbing Mt Baker.  

Hiking up through wildflowers and heather.

Looking into the crater on our summit day.

Signing the register.

That glacier is gnarly!

Hiking out on the Railroad Grade.

The Big B.
Trips like this are typically custom bookings.  The weather (and the route) are going to be great well into September - so grab a few of your friends and email me or contact Pro Guiding Service to book a Mt Baker trip for yourselves!