Friday, 24 June 2016

Rockyview Hotel - Cochrane

As we approached Cochrane, Andrew got out his phone and started searching for a place for us to stay. We always try to look for "something different" in choosing hotels and have had good luck with historic renovations. 

The Rockyview Hotel had a couple positive and recent reviews but Andrew couldn't see how to book online or to check availability. We decided to go have a look in person. 

As we approached the front door, a young woman came out and asked if we wanted to see how the renovations were coming along. She explained that the hotel was built in 1904, she'd purchased the building in October and is in the middle of renovation, working on one room, one floor at a time. Each of the rooms will have a "Pioneer" theme. She talked pretty much non-stop and gave us a tour of the entire building, showing us the look of the rooms before and after renovation.

The small front entrance has an old fashioned "bank teller" type of window. A door on the left hides the unfinished stairwell leading up to the next levels. The hallways have sawdust and tools on the carpet and wooden boards leaning up against the walls. 

But the rooms on the first floor are mostly finished and provide a great overall impression of what the entire place will look like when finished. We got the "trapper's room" and, while the one small animal hide hanging over the lamp and the horns on the dresser were not really our thing, the collection of antiques (some of which she's refinishing herself) and the effort being made to save and re-use the old woodwork that had been covered up by drywall is impressive. 

The ground level houses the Texas Gate Saloon, a busy restaurant and bar. Humorously, the owner assured us that, with our room being at the front of the hotel, we shouldn't be too bothered by the ladies night crowd who come out for the male strippers. (We weren't. And no, I didn't go!) 

This is a fun and unique place that I would highly recommend. I hope the new owner is successful in her venture. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Leavenworth Climbing

Our next stop was Leavenworth, WA. It's been quite a few years since we've climbed here so we were looking forward to a return trip, combined with some paragliding. Unfortunately the logistics of flying (plus weather) didn't work out but we got in a couple more good days of climbing.

We did trad routes one day and sport routes another day. Unlike at Smith Rock, the climbing is quite spread out and it's often a bit challenging just to follow the guidebook directions to get to the climbs. We scouted the approaches to both locations the afternoon we arrived and then had both completely to ourselves for climbing which was really nice!

At the top of one of the three-pitch trad climbs. Great views of the Wenatchee River.
Wenatchee River and the highway to Seattle.

Andrew and his yellow helmet can barely be seen at the bottom of the climb.
A "selfie"
Waiting to rappel.
Between climbing days there was a day of pouring rain! We spent the afternoon at Silvara Vineyards where singer/songwriter/guitarist David Flett was playing. He was very good and it's a lovely location -- a large airy building with patio overlooking the valley and lots of wildflowers blooming.
At Silvera Winery
Sport climbing in the Icicle River valley.
A fun layback at the start of the climb.

Now we are back in Canada with another few days of holidays left, checking the weather and trying to decide what to do and where to go.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Climbing at Smith Rocks

Our last morning in Jacksonville, we headed back to Woodrat, hoping to get in a short flight or two before heading north. It was a bit cloudy and, on the drive out, we wondered if it would be flyable. I always hate the uncertainty. It makes me nervous. It is ok? Isn't it? I like it clear cut. Either conditions are good and it's good time and day to fly or it isn't. As we got closer, the clouds quickly got darker and it started to rain. Decision making was suddenly easy! 

In addition to rain, there was a bit of snow as we crossed over a high pass on the way Bend, Oregon. Knowing that we'd be driving right by Smith Rocks State Park the next day, we stopped in at the REI store and purchased a guidebook to see what there might be in the range of our skill level. Smith Rocks is well known in climbing circles for several very difficult routes. 

Seeing it now, I have no idea why we have never been here before. It is a gorgeous location! 

The climbing was really good but very busy even mid-week. Luckily we got there early and managed to get in the first few climbs without waiting for other people to finish a route or other people waiting for us to finish a route. 

We would definitely come back here again. If too busy for climbing, hiking or trail running would also be fantastic.
Such a beautiful place!

Getting gear ready.
Just one bridge to get across to the side with all the climbing.
Andrew rappelling at top right of photo. We were some of only a few who were wearing helmets (which I never quite understand!).
Walking along the river to the next climbs.

They've done some really good trail maintenance to prevent erosion where it's the busiest.
Looking down from the first pitch of a climb. Three routes on the go and people waiting.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Redwoods

"One of my most unforgettable memories of the past year is walking through 
the Redwoods last November -- seeing the lovely shafts of light filtering though the trees 
so far above, feeling the majesty and silence of that forest, and watching a salmon 
rise in one of those swift streams -- all our problems seemed to fall into 
perspective and I think every one of us walked out more serene and happier." 
Lady Bird Johnson
July 30, 1969

After our attempt at climbing Mount Shasta, we took a couple days to rest our sore legs and did some short hikes and a driving loop through the scenic Shasta-Trinity National Forest and out to the coast before heading back to Jacksonville and the hope for more paragliding. 

We stopped first at Castle Crags State Park which, in addition to hiking, has some great rock climbing. Sadly, the parking lot near the climbing, the high vista point and most of the hikes, is small and was completely packed on a Saturday. We ended up doing a short hike right near the park entrance but still very nice and we were the only ones on it. 

The next day we stopped at Redwood National Park and did the Lady Bird Johnson Grove hike through the old growth redwoods. Beautiful! It's only a mile and a half long but meandering and taking photos takes time! :-) 
Looking straight up at the redwoods.
A stream in Castle Crags State Park.
Castle Crags
View from our lunch stop at Shasta Lake, north of Redding, CA.
Moss in Redwood Park.
Look up . . . look waaaay up.
Funky branches and moss.
A bit of height perspective.
Just one of many lovely flowers.
Cross section of an old tree.
A piece of the sky.
The coast near Klamath, CA.
After getting back to Jacksonville, we made plans with a fellow paragliding pilot, Steven, to try Herd Peak again. Unfortunately, despite the forecast being favourable and not much wind on the ground, the winds at the launch site were quite high. Certainly more than we were comfortable with at our level of experience. Hopefully we'll get there again some day and maybe third time will be the charm.
The wind sock at the Herd Peak launch; Mount Shasta in the background.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mount Shasta

Cold, windy, zero visibility. This summarizes conditions at the high point of our climb on Mount Shasta.

We started out late Thursday afternoon and hiked into Horse Camp, about an hour from the trailhead at Bunny Flats. Even just the drive gives you a lot of elevation gain. Getting to Horse Camp put us at 7900 ft. (The summit is 14,161 ft.) The Sierra Club operates a small hut here, collects registrations for camping, maintains the composting toilets and ensures overall protection and responsible use of the area.
The Sierra Club hut at Horse Camp.
Camping at Horse Camp.
SPOT vs InReach. So far, the InReach is winning.
While shopping for food supplies, we couldn't resist getting a couple cans of this wine.
It was more like "Ridiculously okay wine in a can" but . . .   :-) 
We woke up at 2 am and were on the hike upwards by 2:45. There was no moonlight so luckily we had lots of tracks to follow in the light projected by our headlamps. We were just hoping we were following upward tracks which would take the most logical route as opposed to the downward tracks that seemed to go everywhere!
Warmed up and stowing outer layer.
After two hours over fairly steep terrain, we got to Lake Helen (which is not a lake at this time of year). The guidebook suggests that most groups camp and start from here to give them a head start on their summit attempt. But carrying heavier packs up to there didn't appeal to us and there were a few groups that hadn't even started yet when we passed by. 

It was just getting light and we put away our headlamps and put our crampons on for the even steeper, harder and icier terrain ahead. 
Looking back at the Lake Helen camping area.
The higher we got, the windier it was and visibility continued to decrease. Quite a few people were heading down and telling us it was even worse up higher where they'd backed down from. 

There was a guided group ahead of us and we figured if we could keep them in sight we wouldn't have to be too concerned with route finding. We soon caught up to them (they looked miserable!) and at this point, we decided to turn back. It was exactly 7 am and we were at 12,200 ft, just below the Red Banks ridge and we knew it would even windier at that point. (The guided group soon turned back as well.) 
The guided group just ahead of us. We turned back at this point.
The outline of another person heading down is barely visible at the top right. 
At our highpoint. Great background!
We covered over 4,000 ft of steep elevation gain in just over 4 hours which, considering we hadn't really trained at all for this climb, we were pretty happy with. It took 2 1/2 hours to get back down to Horse Camp which, in our younger days, would have been quicker but, for both Andrew and I, the old knees just ain't what they used to be! 
Heading down, still in whiteout conditions.
Starting to get a bit more visibility as we got closer to Lake Helen.
Sort of looked like rain off in the distance.
Frustratingly, a couple hours later, the skies cleared! Although whether or not the wind had diminished was questionable as the remaining clouds were moving very fast.
Almost back at Horse Camp, looking up towards the now clear mountain (summit is not visible from here).
Great views on the way down.
At Horse Camp, we packed up camp and hiked out to the car. We were back in town just in time for lunch.
From Horse Camp, looking up towards the summit.
After an afternoon nap and 11 solid hours of sleep overnight, my legs are still a bit sore but overall feeling pretty good. Planning for a relaxing day today with a short hike to get moving again.