Celebration of Life 2011


Another year passes and we remember Big Jeff

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Big Jeff died of cancer at 43. We honor him and his wishes with our annual Celebration of Life. Here's an explanation of what that means.

Past years

  • 2000 St. Helens and Adams
  • 2002 "Peak Week", 8 peaks
  • 2003 Elephant's Perch
  • 2005 Mt. Hood
  • 2006 Adams- St. Helens traverse
  • 2007 Warbonnet Peak
  • 2008 Around Mt. St. Helens
  • 2009 Big Basin Peak, Grand Teton, and Huh's Horn
  • 2010 Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker, and 60 @ 60

When Big Jeff was going through chemo, he fought his cancer with irreverent humor. Like many folks, cancer scared even Big Jeff. Here's how he showed his fear, a button he wore in the hospital. If you offend easily, please don't click the pic (sorry for the family un-friendly content, but ya gotta laugh- especially if like me you know the scare).

The silver vial holds a bit of Jeff's ashes. This was shot on the summit of Rainier a few days later...



But first, Brian and I had wanted to climb Mt. Shuksan last year, but had postponed our visit. This year, we arrived only to find the road to the trailhead closed due to snow. In August!

So we were a little late arriving to our camp. As we got to this point, the fog/marine layer was obscuring the peak, so we set up camp in the snow. So much for our planned approach in running shoes.

Camas Prairie

The next morning dawned clear, but not terribly cold. This is about 4600'.


We rolled out at about 5:30 for Lake Anne with 4500' to still climb. That flat area is allegedly Lake Anne. Shortcut
From near Lake Anne, you can see much of the Fisher Chimneys route. But not the chimneys. Camas Prairie

Normally you can follow a trail and cairns. With all this snow, neither of those was visible. So we instead followed some footprints. They didn't look quite right, but we followed them anyway.

After a tough little scramble, we traversed into a ledge system. As the grade of rock quickly moved past the 3rd class in the guide book to some very exposed 5th class (and us in crampons) we knew we were off route. Looking back, the traverse looked a horror. So after a rappel over an overhang into a waterfall grotto that tried to trap us under a hanging snowfield, we escaped by doing a reverse-chimney move onto a steep snow ramp.

Here's looking up the steep snow ramp we were backing down piolet panne. It might have been nice to have two tools. Camas Prairie
We think we figured out where the real chimneys might be, but by then the clock was winding and the temperature rising. Time to call it a day. If the weather had been better it might have been an OK hike back to the car. That's Mount Baker. Camas Prairie


So we retreated back to Bellingham for dinner and a much-needed rest.

The next morning we picked up Tom at SeaTac and headed for Mt. Rainier. By the time we got there, it was bake o'clock on the glacier so we instead found a shady camp site in the park and organized gear.

Camas Prairie

The next morning we got our passes and found a scenic place to park. We were on our feet at a little after 7.

The line on the left is our climb of the Kautz Glacier, and we came down near the right shoulder on the Disappointment Cleaver route. We wanted to show Tom the whole mountain.

Camas Prairie

From near the dropoff point from the standard route, this is the Kautz Glacier route, more or less.

Upper mountain

First you drop a couple hundred feet and cross the Nisqually Glacier. Then you climb a broad triangle called the Fan.

Mariel cranks some turns
For the most part, it was very warm with only light wind. We were glad it was not yet noon. Even an intermittent marine layer didn't really cool things down until the wind came up. Mariel cranks some turns
Above the Fan, you follow a broad ridgeline to the big upper snowfield called the Turtle. Because it is so slow. It is also somewhat steep. Mariel cranks some turns
We had first spotted the guided group from above the Fan. They had spent their first night near there.We got to the top of the Turtle just as they were setting up their camp. Mariel cranks some turns
We settled in just upslope from them at about 10,800' with a very impressive vantage of the Kautz Ice Cliffs. This is after climbing about 6000' above the car. With full packs. We were tired, especially me. Mariel cranks some turns
Our bivy spot was easy to keep clean.We also found running water nearby, a huge bonus. Mariel cranks some turns
The next morning the guided group left at around 3am. We started about 30 minutes behind them so that they could clear the rappel line, which was about 10 minutes above our camp. The rappel is even more awkward than it looks, especially in crampons. The picture looks a little weird because Tom is about 30 feet above the dirty snow below him. Mariel cranks some turns
When you get down onto the Kautz Glacier proper, you climb steeply up the chutes, varying from somewhere around 35° to close to 50°. For us, it was starting to form penitentes. With all the little steps and spikes, it didn't seem that steep in the dark unless you looked down. Mariel cranks some turns
Once above the chutes, the angle eases and the sun comes up. Then it's time to play run-around (and jump) the crevasses. But first, time to rope up.
Mariel cranks some turns

It's getting brighter. And higher, as we head straight up.

From there, the route varies with the snow conditions and season. For us, we crossed east over the upper Kautz onto a cleaver (ridge separating two glaciers) where we took a rest.

Mariel cranks some turns
Moving off the cleaver onto the Nisqually/Upper Wilson glaciers, we immediately encountered a small crevasse maze. Here's Brian and Tom threading the needle. Mariel cranks some turns

And Brian's view looking back at Tom and I.

A little higher, a meeting of three huge crevasses blocked our path. Fortunately for us, the guides had been just far enough ahead to figure out the run-around, so we hopped in behind them without really breaking stride.

Mariel cranks some turns
On the next open area, they let us pass.
Mariel cranks some turns
And we were off like race horses (not) to slog up the last 700' to the crater rim. Mariel cranks some turns

We dropped our packs in the crater and walked to the summit, arriving just before 9am.

Too bad the weather wasn't better.

Mariel cranks some turns

It was extra work carrying all our gear up and over, but it was pretty cool to see more than just one side of this huge mountain. From the crater rim, we peered down at our car almost two full miles below us.


Mariel cranks some turns
After you get off the eponymous Disappoiintment Cleaver (far right), you traverse across to Ingraham Flats at about 10,800. That's the tents behind us.
Mariel cranks some turns
From there, we walked down the DC route to Camp Muir, then finally got back to the car at about 3. As this was my third time hiking down from Muir and I seem to keep doing it, please remind me not to do this slog ever again. Mariel cranks some turns
We finished the week off by visiting Brian's new digs in Redmond and a fabulous meal with the lovely proprietor of Three Creeks Brewing Company in Sisters before a pre-dawn drive across eastern Oregon and returning to the rat race. Mariel cranks some turns

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