Mt Hood NF – Right Gully

I climbed the right gully on the  on Thursday Feb 25th with Anastasia. This was my 1st time on the route and I was pretty stoked to get the route in such good conditions.


We left Tilly Jane trail head just after midnight and made decent time given the deep snow pack and winter conditions. We arrived at the base of the route on top of the Eliot glacier at sunrise and crossed the bergschrund via a sketchy snow bridge that proved to be solid. After crossing the schrund I was really wishing I still had my splitboard on as the post-holing was taxing.

The route was in great conditions and we saw very little rockfall and icefall after the 1st step. The 2nd ice step was pretty fat and very fun to climb.

We simul-climbed after the 2nd ice step and I led up to the summit via the most direct route I could find that looked climbable. I have to say that the final ~500 feet of climbing to the summit was rad. A little excavating of the summit cornice allowed me to happily plopp myself onto the true summit just before sunset.

We descended the south side and I was lucky enough to have my beautiful wife Carmen pick us up at Timberline lodge with hot tea and food smile emoticon
Carmen shuttled me back to the Tilly Jane trail head to pick up my vehicle. Thank you babe!

It was a long and adventuress day and I am stoked to have had the experience.

Protection used:
60m rope, 8 ice screws, 2 pickets, screamers, and our climbing ability











ISPO Show Review

ISPO, the huge international sports show in Munich, Germany has always been on my must-see list. I finally got the chance to attend this monster show, with 80,000 other attendees, two weeks ago. Located at the east end of the main east/west bahn line, in a remodeled former airport, Messe Munchen is well-organized and efficiently German. But a plan must be in order to cover the complex in two and a half days. Since my focus, at OMCgear and ISPO, is snowsports and footwear, I hit those halls first.


Recognizable North American and international big hitters were all exhibiting in large open booths, and it tended to be their European distributors that were in charge of management. Unlike similar outdoor and snowsports shows in the US, no one was excluded from booths and full access was the norm.

The Head booth had a Jumbotron of live racing at the Hahnenkamm race from Austria





Alpine touring, with its European roots and expansion in the US, has many innovations and expansion into lighter, more expensive and better skiing products. Refinement in avalanche airbag packs, touring boots, tech bindings, ski weight v. ski ability were all displayed with proper opulence in the great hall. I’m pretty sure Patagonia isn’t going to build skis anytime soon, however, those skis look cool!


There were interesting brands, from Scandinavia, at ISPO. Many aren’t distributed in the US. Kavat is a cool shoe manufacturer from Sweden. Lundhags, also from Sweden, makes function footwear and clothing that is timeless and worthy. Tretorn is probably recognizable from old Bjorn Borg tennis days, but this Swedish brand does a great job with rugged footwear too.

Pyua is a sustainable brand from Germany that uses recycled and recyclable polyester fabrics for outerwear and insulation.
OK, Bogner is just Bogner. An LED lite suit for night skiing?


Munich is a fun and comfortable city for this amazing international show, and also only 3 hours from the Austria Arlberg (or GnArlberg as some refer to it) and as much skiing as you can handle.

Reid Headwall Trip Report


Reid Headwall Trip Report and Reflection- November 30th 2015

One day after Oleg and Alex’s Reid climb, and one day before I heard about the ice avy they narrowly escaped, the death on Mt Jefferson and the death of my good friend Adam in the Washington Cascades, my wife and I climbed the Reid Headwall, left side.

Follow the rope. This is one thought that was repeated again and again as the weather worsened and we continued to climb higher through the rime towers that make up the left side variation of the Reid Glacier Headwall. The only way down was to go up. My climbing partner, my best friend and my wife was following on the other end of the fully stretched, 60m life line. I did my best to keep two decent pieces of pro in between us the entire time. This was her first winter alpine ice climb and she trusted me fully.

We had been planning the trip for a few days or so, hoping the weather would hold for us on November 30th. The preceding weekend was beautiful and cold. The forecast for Monday November 30th was a little touch and go but it looked like good cold climbing weather might hold for the duration of the day.

We left Timberline parking lot at 3:55am which seemed like an early start for the cold winter conditions, but the days are short this time of year and we wanted to beat the weather and nightfall. Without our normal winter splitboard mountaineering gear, travel was different than our typical winter approach. We were perhaps a little slower in some parts, but due to the cold and icy conditions, we were able to move quickly and actually passed a few uphill skiers. We arrived at I-Rock about 7am. Between sorting out gear, layers and trying to make a quick cup of hot tea with my MSR Reactor stove (I played soccer with the stove when the fuel canister nearly went up in flames) we burned nearly an hour of time. We didn’t head out from the saddle and start down toward the Reid glacier until 8:30am. The slope from the I-Rock saddle down to the glacier was a little steep and icy. I put my partner on belay and she started down across the slope towards the base of the route. After a few easy pitches across the hazards of the Reid glacier that included snow covered crevasses and ice fall from the headwall above, I was stoked to have finally made it to the base of the route. We had made the decision to simu-climb the route as it seemed the most logical solution that lay between full, pitched out belaying and soloing the route with no pro. The climbing is fairly easy and rated about WI2-3, but the alpine environment is harsh and unforgiving.

The first hour or so went by quickly and the climbing was fun. Beautiful, cold weather and low wind on the route. There was only a small amount of ice fall we had to dodge and we quickly gained the second gully system on the left side of route. The conditions were variable and included soft powder, ice in the gullys and some soft snow covered by a hard rain crust that was unstable and insecure to climb on.

About 20 minutes later, I ran out of pro and belayed my partner up. I collected the screws and pickets back from my loved one and I started heading up again, I looked west to access the incoming weather. I saw low clouds pushing east from the the coastal range and I made a mental note that it seemed the weather was acting as predicted; a few clouds with a small chance of snow after 2pm. It looked like the weather was going to cooperate with our plans. Twenty minutes later, it felt like we were instantly inside a cloud, another twenty minutes later visibility worsened. I could barely see 20 feet around me. I climbed faster and placed less pro. I had somehow forgot that Hood has it’s own weather and the weather often comes from the South, which was out of view from our point on the route.

The climbing was still fun and it didn’t seem like we were making bad time. Soon the wind died completely and it started to snow. The falling snow was peaceful and created a winter wonderland of sorts.

Soon though, I encountered deep and seemingly bottomless sugar snow. I was swimming uphill and barely making progress at times. A lot of effort and progress was slow. Pitch after pitch, things seemed to take longer and longer and I realized we would not be off the mountain before dark. I reset my expectations and hoped that perhaps we would approaching the Palmer lift house by dark, or at least we would make it back to devil’s kitchen before dark.

As we continued up with our slow progress I reset my expectation again. Now I just wanted to find the old chute for our down climb descent before dark set in.

As we finally approached the summit ridge, high winds and very, very low visibility set in. The conditions made for some hard alpine times. Everything is harder when you can barely feel your fingers and see around you. I had my partner place a picket and put me on belay, as I wasn’t sure if I was going to easily find the old chute and our route down. After climbing over a few rime towers and accessing what I could see with my headlamp in white out conditions, I found the old chute. I felt a huge amount of relief and we down climbed and (barely) navigated our way to the hogs back at 10,500ft. We slowly made our way down from the crater rim and navigated our back to ski area in a white out using my altimeter and instinct. I did not want to end up on the White Water glacier or in the Zig Zag canyon. We eventually made it back down to Timberline at 10pm.

The climb almost qualified as epic. I wish we had more photos to share. My phone had a major hardware failure and had to be replaced a few days later. The condition of the climb was very different than it was last March when I climbed it. Lots of soft and deep sugar snow made slow going when combined with very bad visibility made for slow climbing.

Upon returning to Timberline Lodge, my partner Carmen went straight for the historic and giant fireplace to warm up. While I walked to the car to drop off our gear and change into some comfier shoes, I was met by the Clackamas county sheriff who was beginning to organize a SAR effort. Our phones were not working high on the mountain so we could not connect with our emergency contacts and let them know our situation and that we were ok but running behind. The sheriff informed me the media had been informed that we were missing and wanted to know if the sheriff could release our names and if I would do an interview with our local news. I respectfully declined.

Sorry for the terrible picture, but we had no camera functioning while on route. The pictures were taken a few minutes after returning to the Timberline lodge.

The jaw-dropping benefits of cross-country skiing


Researchers in Sweden and at Ball State University, in Indiana, assembled two remarkable groups of octogenarian men. All of the volunteers were healthy, lived independently and were capable of completing a vigorous exercise test to exhaustion. The difference was that one group was composed of lifelong cross-country skiers who trained four to six times a week, while the other group didn’t do any formal exercise beyond the activities of daily living.

It’s not difficult to predict the punchline here: The skiers were in better shape than the non-skiers. But the magnitude of the differences is jaw-dropping. The results of a battery of physical tests, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, show that the skiers had approximately twice the cardiovascular and muscular fitness of the untrained group.

Plus, the study fails to explain how much fun you can have!

Full article here

To An Athlete Dying Young and Tyler Heilman

Tyler Heilman

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

(the remainder of this poem can be found here)

When I studied the A. E. Housman poem “To An Athlete Dying Young”, in college, I was about Tyler Heilman’s age. Tyler died from a rock climbing fall last Sunday on Three Fingered Jack, in Oregon’s central Cascade mountains. Tyler grew up in my Portland neighborhood, of Mt Tabor, and was a couple years older than my son in school. He was a very good athlete. I cheered him on at high school cross-country meets, youth soccer matches and played touch football, on Thanksgiving mornings, with him and his athletic parents. Housman’s poem, about the death of a young athlete was to me, at 20-something years old, a bold statement about the nobility of living fast and dying before you’re past your prime. Like Tyler, I was climbing Cascade mountains, on weekends, with my like-minded college pals. I even climbed Three Fingered Jack, which is according to Wikipedia “a deeply glaciated shield volcano and consists mainly of basaltic andesite lava”. But we called it a big pile of crappy rock, that had a South Ridge route that consisted of a scary, unprotected “crawl” traverse, and a summit block pitch that had shaky chicken heads for holds. In those heady days we were ticking off ascents as fast as we could and taking big risks, for the highest of stakes, confident that the odds were mostly in our favor.

I’m not sure why Tyler chose the Northwest ridge route to climb*, maybe only his climbing partner knows. Recently, I skied around the West Face, to camp at the NW saddle, and looked at its spine of loose rock, and can’t imagine climbing it now. I’ve had epics with loose rock climbing on Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington, and the Central Cascades can offer-up a basalt climbing horror show like nowhere else. The best part of those climbs is getting off them, and telling the tale. Tyler, sadly, didn’t get that chance. As an old climber now, I see the undercurrent of cynicism, in Housman’s poem, and realize there is no glory in dying young, there is only the tragedy and sadness left behind for family and friends.

*(Editors Note Sept. 24th 2015) I was originally using information obtained from an Oregon Live and Bend Bulletin report about the accident. Since yesterday, new information confirms that Tyler and his partner, had ascended and were descending the South Ridge route. Tyler fell below the summit rappel. This makes the story more clear, but no less sad.

Here is the Oregonian retraction:

Incorrect information was originally published Wednesday morning in a story on OregonLive. Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley, based on initial reports from the scene, first said Heilman and his partner were climbing the mountain using a northwest route. Riley said he also believed, based on reports, that Heilman was 100 feet from the summit and ascending when he fell.

Todd Shechter, Corvallis Mountain Rescue mission leader, said Heilman and his climbing partner traveled the safer south climbing route. They had reached Three Fingered Jack’s summit and had traveled down 100 feet at the time of Heilman’s fatal fall, Shechter said.


Three Fingered Jack


Dynafit offers free update for 11/12 Radical Heels

We received a press release regarding a problem with 2011/12  Dynafit bindings in the RADICAL series, including RADICAL ST, RADICAL FT, and SPEED RADICAL. Although the problem has been know about for some time, in the backcountry skiing community, and doesn’t effect the descending release ability of the heel piece, breaking the pin off is still an issue. The pin (see photo) that’s supposed to allow you to only rotate the heel unit in the clockwise direction, as indicated on top of the binding in red, can be broken when rotating counter-clockwise, in touring mode. We will be replacing these heels when we receive them from Dynafit, around the holidays.

Here is the press release:

DYNAFIT International has recently announced a service program related to the Radical 1 (v1)

binding. Research found the first generation of Radical 1 and Speed Radical bindings sold in the

2011/2012 season had an outlying number of broken heels. ALL later generations have been

reinforced with regards to housing, top metal plate and screws.

DYNAFIT NA is committed to offering the best possible service and we have decided to issue a

free service update for consumers with first generation Radical bindings. DYNAFIT NA will

exchange any pair of v1 heels with the updated v2 at no charge.

Consumers can also contact us directly at the Boulder offices to request this free update.

Replacement ST heels will be available November 1, 2015. Replacement FT heels will be

available December 15th, 2015.

Radical 1 Improvements Quadrat.indd

La Sportiva Core High Gore-Tex Boot Review


They’re a little weird looking, out of the box, and the first day on your feet. Rubber galoshes or reptile skin comes to mind. But, the La Sportiva Core High GTX hiking boots are really a giant step forward in hiking boot technology. I had the pleasure of wearing them on a four day hiking and climbing trip in Oregon’s Eagle Cap wilderness, and that was without any sort of trial run. The Gore-Tex surround technology is new and I wanted to check the hype. I’m use to peeling off soggy socks at days-end, with almost any hiking boot, but with the Core Highs my socks were just humid yet tolerable.

Kind of like a self-bailing raft, the patented open structure of a spacer allows moisture and warmth to escape from below the foot through the GORE-TEX® laminate, out the spacer, then out of the shoe via side ventilation outlets, without letting water in from outside. I was skeptical that the vents would let water in, like a sewer drain, until I stood in a stream for 15 mins while filtering water. Ice cold snowmelt flowed around my boots without entering.

The Core High’s could be a little more torsionally rigid, for side-hill edging. But they weren’t so sloppy as to cause metatarsal pain at days-end.  The outsole rubber is very sticky and grippy for boulder hopping. I would recommend the High vs. the Low version of the Core, if you’re carrying a 40 lb plus backpack off-trail. The High will keep the sidehill scree from banging you in the ankle. Off-trail ridge hiking is really the best part of Wallowa mountain travel, and the La Sportiva Core High GTX hiking boot is admirable for the task.


Eagle Cap photo courtesy of Larry N. Olson Photography. Check out his amazing Oregon-based photos here:




The Way I Work: Yvon Chouinard, Excerpts from the founder of Patagonia

Patagonia’s founder still loves to blaze a trail. He takes copious time off, lets employees manage themselves, and tells customers not to buy his products.
Yvon Chouinard
Here are some excerpts we enjoyed from Yvon’s chat with Inc.

I spend very little time working on the clothing lines these days. They are totally set up and running smoothly. But if I’m not creating something, I feel stagnant. I’m always working on odd side projects. My old blacksmith shop is here on campus–that’s where I made the rock-climbing pitons back when we first created the company. It’s still where I spend a lot of my time, tinkering.

These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about ways Patagonia can be even more transparent. Recently, animal-rights activists in Germany accused us of getting our down from geese that were being live plucked. We sent two people to Hungary to check it out. They said, “The good news is, we’re not live plucking geese. The bad news is, the geese are being force-fed for foie gras.” We didn’t cover that up or spin it–we told the truth and found another source of down. It doesn’t work any other way. Plus, we want other companies to be more transparent. The only way to lead is by example.

People don’t need fancy stuff–they need gear that lasts and that works well. I’ve built my company based on that.

Want the full article? You can find it here.

OMC Staff Recommends Caution in the Hills After Mt. Hood Climbing Accident

With a record low snow pack this spring season, combined with an early arrival of temperatures more reminiscent of August than mid-June, the climbing window for safe and enjoyable ascents in the High Cascades may be drawing to an early close. Deep runnels have recently been experienced in remnant snow patches from the Three Sisters in the south clear to Mt. Baker near the Canadian border. Many of the usually dormant glaciers have begun migrating downhill, and in doing so prematurely broadening crevasses weeks prior to their normal annual exposure. In addition, rockfall from the decomposing volcanic ridges and gendarmes continues unabated with infrequent freezes and rapid thawing.

As this video from local television describes, at least one person has fallen victim to an unfortunate combination of recent weather patterns and timing. KATU recently interviewed a member of the OMC staff for some basic advice on additional safety measures for climbing Mount Hood now, in what is normally the peak of Mount Hood climbing season.—climber-saw-Mt-Hood-rock-fall-307502931.html?tab=video&c=y

While there is no good time to stay indoors, there are times better than others for attempting popular routes on the region’s highest peaks. The Cascades are a sacred playground for local mountaineers as well as those traveling from far afield. In order to experience the majesty of Mount Hood and numerous other climbing objectives, we all must accept the humbling difficulty of these all too often underestimated mountains. Such a warm season (averaging 6-10 degrees above normal according to NOAA), changes the game even on commonly moderate routes.

Check out Portland Mountain Rescue’s list of tips for avoiding the need to use their friendly services this season. We here at OMC wish you a safe and successful season as you attempt to climb above the city heat.

Oregon Mountain Community