Creux du Van

2018: Creux du Van, Switzerland

 

Easter adventure and PCT preparation camp for the Swiss-PCT-team of 2018. Snow line at around 1.000masl and we hiked above 1.300masl most of the time in knee deep snow. First attempt to climb a narrow gorge had to be aborted due to massive ice and avalanche left-overs on the trail... But Creux du Van was worth the effort. We camped close to the rim and had a fantastic sunset and sunrise at around -6C. #ilovemountains #havetomovetoswitzerland



Walensee Switzerland - an escape into winder-wonderland…

A few impressions from my last escape into the mountains. And whoever says it’s not worth it to take the train for 7h to go there - even for a day only - just have a look at these pictures.

And another thing that is so crystal clear now. I will have to move into the mountains at some point of time. 7h is ok but it’s better to be as close as possible.

Probably some of my best photos so far. You can find the entire set of pictures here: Photo Gallery
Thanks again to the famous Dietmar for his inspiration.

#ilovemountains

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Walensee, Switzerland

2018: Walensee, Switzerland

 

A snow shoe escape from the city and an excellent photo safari.



PCT #130, 2476mi: Racing the fire, blueberry-vortex & camping on the only peak of PCT.

The fires along the remaining part of the trial made us leave Leavenworth-Bavaria earlier then we wanted. Only a short stroll through town and a stop at Safeway for our resupply was "approved". Then we went back on the road and five minutes later we had a ride back to the trail. Our plan to cruise through Washington kind of doesn't work out. Now it's just about beating the fires before they close anymore of the trail. Crushin' miles, wearin' smiles again! 🤘🏼

Today one of my favourite pieces of gear broke down on me massively. I know there are a few out there (especially Paurus 😋) who are happy that this era might end soon but don't get exited to early. I have rescue plans already!

Even though there is no more butt left it still bursted the pants 😂

For now it is Tenatious Tape which will hopefully hold it together and get me to Canada...

A lot of up, only a little bit down and more up today. And millions of blueberries again 😍😍😍 We made it 15 miles down the trail. More than we had planned originally. And an impressive number for the amount of blueberries along the trail that needed to be picked and eaten... Even though we are out of the Alpine Lakes section it still looks similarily beautiful.

On our way up the next bear encounter. We were in the middle of a blueberry field when suddenly something started moving through the bushes not even 50ft away from us. And then I saw it. A very dark coloured black bear. It stopped about 100ft away from us to turn around and look at us. We started yelling at it but it didn't really seem to be bothered. That's not good. Bears which are accustomed to humans usually get in trouble sooner or later. Very sad...

Glacier Peak is our next focus point. As so often on the trail it makes you go towards and then around and around it. Glacier Peak is the next one. We have seen it for a few days already on and off. But now it's becoming more tangible.

Well, and we made it onto Grizzly Peak. The only Peak which the PCT actually goes over and not almost or just around. So we decided to also camp up here.

 


PCT Side Trip: Climbing Mt. Rainier (14,410ft / 4,392m)

We just made it on time. Arrived at 1.30 in Ashford. That gave us 1.5h for a desperately needed shower after 10 days, a laundry run, pick up of our rental gear and some quick food before the briefing started. We were only three minutes late. 💪 Rental gear? Of course we are not prepared for anything up there with our tiny little ultra light packs for hiking. So we had to get boots, crampons, gaiters, helmets, gloves, harnesses, thick down jackets, avalanche transceivers and so on.

What brings us here? As if the day in day out walking on the PCT wasn't already enough we had signed up for a summit attempt on Mt. Rainier. Why? Well, we have seen and walked around the mountain for many days now and we just couldn't resist. Kaylee had never climbed a mountain and I am fascinated by them anyways. We had talked about it earlier already but ditched the plan for various reasons. But standing in front of it changed the plan again. And now we are here! Lucky as ...! We managed to get two more spots in an RMI trip which also solved the problem with the permits you need. Ready to Rock'n'Roll 😎

And then the briefing with Tyler started. He gave us a quick introduction of what we had to expect during the next days. A gear check later we were released for the day.
We got some funny looks during the breakfast the next morning when I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, two waffles with whipped cream and straw- and blackberries, Greek yogurt with blueberries, milk, orange juice and coffee. Well, for us it was still a "town day" which meant: eating!

We left for Paradise Valley - our playground for today. This day was dedicated to the mountaineering school. An introduction for the Padawans and a refresher for the Jedis in the group. A good session and great fun to slide around in the snow for the self-arrest training. We were also lucky of being in a fun, fit and excited group - or how Tyler called us: "gang".

Training on the ice wall

And on the next day (of course after another gigantic breakfast) we left at 8.15am for the real journey. It was still pretty smokey and clouds on top. Not the best conditions to climb for views... Guess who we got greated by on our first days.

After about an hour of hiking up the paved sidewalks of the park we hit the snow field which would bring us up to our rest stop at Camp Muir. The pace was nice and easy. I guess Kaylee and I are also in the best shape of our life for this kind of hike - used to walking for 12-14h, carrying a more or less heavy pack and also still some altitude acclimation help a lot now!

 

Early afternoon we made it to Camp Muir. A few little shelters with bunk beds and toilets. This is where we would hang out and rest for the next few hours.

 

Getting ready for the hike - stretching.

As for most climbs in our latitude you go to bed early and rest until you start the hike in the middle of the night to get on the top for sunrise and back down before the snow gets to slushy and dangerous. So you try to sleep which usually doesn't work since you are not tired, to excited or somebody always snorres in these huts as well... Wake up call at 12am and start of the hike one hour later. We all got ready and geared up with harnesses, crampons, headlamps and our pack for the night with snacks and a few more layers. And then the adventure began. A smooth traverse over a flat glacier, through Cathedral Gap onto the Ingraham Glacier, traversing below its massive ice fall and up Disappointment Cleaver on loose rocks back into the glacier which was just an endless sea of penitentes (spiky ice formations). The smoke had almost disappeared but clouds had pushed in a bit so the view was limited. Also the drill in the climbing teams was pretty strict and no time for breaks other than the three major ones on the way up. The weather forecast had a chance of rain and thunderstorms in the early afternoon so especially the guides wanted to get up and down as fast as they could. So no Fotos on the way up besides a few during the break. Mountain artwork 😉

 

Close to the top on the crater rim the ice disappeared and it flattened out a bit. Safe to take the camera out.

As you can see - you can't see anything 😂 We were in the middle of ancloud which had formed on the peak. Not the nicest thing after working hard to get up here. But it is what it is. The wind was chilly on the rim so we dropped down in the crater to put a layer on, take a break and celebrate a bit. The obligatory peak photo (yes, this could have also been taken somewhere on sea level in a backyard 😂)

 

Our rope team: Flo, Jules the guide & Kaylee. Notice - the pink shorts are going everywhere 🤘🏼

It was so wet and cold in the cloud that my face-marmot got a bit of a frost bite...

At 7.15 we left the peak again after we had spent maybe 10 minutes up there. No reason to stay longer with 0 visibility. So down again on the same route. Only difference was that we could see a bit more now. Luckily the cloud only covered the top but a few hundred feet lower the visibility improved.

One of the trickier parts in the steep and crevassed section of the glacier. A fixed ladder had been installed to cross the crevasse safely.

Through the huge field of penitentes.

Beautiful penitentes

 

Down Disappointment Cleaver and back onto the Ingraham Glacier.

 

 

One of the more dangerous sections on the route - the ice fall. The glacier is pretty steep here and the ice is broken up pretty heavily leading to overhanging ice formations. The worst accident in Mt Rainiers climbing history had hapened right here when an ice avalance burried several climbers. The warmer it gets and the more the ice is moving the higher the risk of ice falling out of "place". So something you want to leave behind you as quick as possible and look at it from a distance...

Our guiding dream team at our last break before we started the last section back to Camp Muir.

Hannah, Tyler & Jules

In day and sun light we could finally see the entire beauty of the glaciers and crevasses. So beautiful. Now with almost no snow left you the bare ice sticking out almost everywhere.


Back in the camp at 11am - 10h after we left in the middle of the night. We packed our stuff, ate and drank a bit and set off for the last 2.5 hours down over the snow field. Sliding, glissading down the hill is soooo much fun. And again we were proven wrong. Did Kaylee and I think that Sonora Pass was the last glissade of the PCT we had to learn better.

The further we did get down the better the weather turned. Blue sky above us, no more clouds or smoke. Apparently this is where we stood on top of a few hours ago 😳

Final photo of the climbing crew - happy and tired.

A few more steps down to the toad where we got picked up again. What a trip. I know I am repeating myself. But it is what it is. I love mountains and everything connected to them. Not that it was my most challenging climb so for nor that the weather was great on the top but just being on a mountain just feels good. Every time.

Kallie, one of our climbing partners coincidentally lives 10 minutes away from my friends Jeremy & Anna who we will spend the weekend with now in Seattle. So she gave us a lift and dropped us off. Time to celebrate 🍻


PCT #90, 2144mi: Arriving in Cascade Locks. Oregon ✔️and exactly 1000 miles left to Canada...

Important milestone today! The last day of Oregon. We walked 455 miles from border to border in less than three weeks. A lot of trees and mosquitoes but also some epic spots along the way. The timing was good with flipping up - we still had enough snow for it to be challenging and fun but little enough to make good progress.

Since I am still German some intersting stats. As you know you have a lot of time during the hiking part and you have to keep yourself busy. So math games are a good thing 🤓: Our average milage for the last 900 miles since we flipped up to Northern California has been a bit more than 20 miles per day. That's including all 0-days, town stops, etc. 20 miles is 32km!

Since we left Ashland and pushed it a bit through Oregon Kaylee and I even manged to get up to 25+ miles per day - and that includes two full days off in Bend when we met Kaylee's parents. Wow... 😳 We have done quite a lot of 30+ days and more in the high 20's. Even the half days were mostly between 20 & 25. So it makes sense. But it is still incredible what your body is actually capable of.

Well, enough numbers... Since one idiot didn't put out his campfire in the Eagle Creek and with this created a forest fire and of course a closure of this area. Pretty sad! So we took an alternate recommended by one of the locals we met. He said: "If you are in for an adventure and you don't mind it being steep go through Ruckle Creek!". And how I was in to get a change from the green tunnel. And yes, it was steep! And rocky. And narrow. Definitely not the PCT-standard. Jiehaaaaa!!! Couldn't stop smiling. 3000ft in 3 miles downhill. And the middle part of it was flat respectively uphill. It was so good that I actually could feel my legs after we were done. Soooo goooood 😊

We also got our first view on the Columbia River, Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods:

 

And then we arrived at Cascade Locks. A milestone. The border to Washington. A whole state. And the Bridge of the Gods. And with this we have exactly 1000 miles left on the PCT. The Sierras & Washington.

 

After a few chores at the post office and burgers & beer at the Ale House we hitchhiked to Portland. Kaylee's friend Lacy let us stay with her - showers, laundry and a place to stay. She also took us out for dinner to a vegan restaurant. Thanks Lacy & Love for the great evening!

I don't know how my body will coop with all this healthy stuff I shuffled into myself after my "pure-candy-and-fat-diet" of the last weeks but it was good. And guess who is following me everywhere? Sweet As beer on tap... Is this a sign? 😇🇳🇿

Tomorrow we'll take a flight to LAX and a rental car back to Bishop - the fastest and cheapest way to get there. Then we will finish the 490 miles of Sierra we had "parked" due to the snow and river crossing conditions. 490 miles of mountains 😍😍😍 Can't wait!


PCT #84, 1999mi: Oregon, you are back in the game!

After a night below freezing we slowly started this morning defrosting. But what can I say - it took us 3h to go 4 miles. At 11 o'clock we only had 8 miles done. Why? It was so beautiful we stopped every five minutes for photos. It was incredibly beautiful. I was already about to give up Oregon with mainly trees, no views and mosquitoes. Highlights so far in this order:
1. Crater Lake,
2. Ashland,
3. Bend.

But circling around the three volcanos "The Three Sisters" was stunning. Again - it's the mountains. Let the photos speak...

 

 

 

Mt. Washington, Three Finger Jack (l. t. r.)

 

Flo & Mt. Washington // PC: Kaylee

Just beautiful. Harsh volcanos, life in between and endless views. Happy hiker with Mt. Washington, Three Finger Jack &  Mt. Jefferson (l. t. r.) in the background (Thanks to Green Flash for sorting out the mountains!)

Flo, Mt. Washington, Three Finger Jack & Mt. Jefferson (l. t. r.) // PC: Kaylee

The second part of the day was tough though. Crossing the lava fields for hours was tyring and hard on the new shoes as well 🙈

But we got closer to Mt. Washington which was quite a sight!

And guess what. We arrived at the Big Lake Youth Camp and who had managed to walk 0.4 miles in 8h? Out lazy hiker friends Kayla & Drew 😂 Therefore reunited again!

Unfortunately we had to hitch hike out to Sisters to buy some more food. When we got there even Subway was closed so we just went to the supermarket and ate in bed - sandwich, chicken fingers, popcorn, Doritos & cheese, ice cream, blueberries, milk, soda and guess what: Sweet As beer!!! A toast to all my Kiwis. Cheers, brews! 🤘🏼

Well, until we passed out because of exhaustment after a few minutes. 30 mile day was noticable on the body.


PCT #63, 1517mi: Getting up from two town days and getting back into the mountains. Finally! Best day of the last 2 weeks!

Our rest day in Mt. Shasta expanded to solid 2.5 day break. Why? Many reasons. On the one hand side you have a lot of chores to take care of when you are in town and secondly we were also surprisingly sore from the last stretch. Haven't been so stiff and sore on the entire trail so far. But also no clue where it came from. Maybe the last weeks of slower pace and less miles actually gnawed on my fitness level... 😳

So what did we do? Besides the normal chores of buying food and sorting that out for the next stretch...

A normal five day resupply...

... we also just hung out a bit. There was a nice park behind the post office where we chilled quite a bit. And since Mt Shasta is a full on hippie town no one really took notice of people laying around in the park. We were probably still rather on the touristy side with our hiker outfits compared to the community around us 😂🙊.

I also tried to find an alternative to my orthotics. And I found something promising. After cutting and adjusting them I do hope that they will do the same job until I find an orthotic to get me new ones...

A very sad part was to say good bye to two of my favourite pieces of gear... 😔
My Icebreaker t-shirt with the 7 summits (the best design ever made) and my grey long sleeve were way over their time of duty now. I prolonged the usage as much as I could - but now I had to face reality. They just did not do what they were originally designed for. My grey long sleeve had served me several years now. It was hard to leave them behind. It is strange but similar to the shoes you create a strong bond to your gear. It keep you warm, dry or whatever it is designed for and also serves in many other functions in the trail. They just become very important and a part of the story. That's why it's hard to leave them behind when they have given everything in their power to help you get so far... R.I.P. Thank you for being such loyal companions!

 

Not much protection left in any means...

What else? Right, the thing with the water. On the second day we had to find these signed everywhere in town. What a luck! But at least we were not drinking from the streams at the moment. I hadn't filtered my water in the last two weeks apart from a couple situations... 😳

Kaylee's and my ice axes have been lost in the US Postal Service since two weeks so we had to buy new ones! That of course sucks! Luckily the gear shop in town was so kind to sell us a couple old rental one for 35$. Still sucks since we had only used the axes for a week or so...

And then it was time to head out again. Morning chores and back on the trail per hitch hike. We got a ride in two cars at the same time. And then something beautiful happened. Guess what? We are back in the mountains. After the last two weeks mainly in the forest we came out of the trees to be in the middle of my favourite scenery - the rough and scrubby alpine terrain! I could not stop smiling! Again - here it is. The realisation how much I love the mountains. #ilovemountains

 

 

 

We climbed for over 4,000ft to find these epic views over Mt Shasta and the valleys. I guess not much I have to say though...

 

 

by Kaylee 😉

And then one of the most epic camp spots on the trail for us! We all decided to cowboy camp tonight. Can't wait for the stars...

 


PCT #50, 774mi: What an epic day! Mountains, snow, river crossings, glacading and all the fun stuff!

What an epic day! We left at five to make use of the frozen snow which is a lot easier to walk on than the slush in the afternoon. It is a cold start though. We are on 10,000ft and the nights are chilly. So it's nice when the sun actually hits you and warms you up again.

The mountains are getting bigger and higher. Jiehaaaa!!! I can't wait to finally get there!

Also one of the few wild life spottings besides a few deer - a fox this morning.

And then the first river crossing. There was a log again which was very sketchy and I couldn't resist to get my feet wet again 😊

The higher we did get the more the scenery changed - everything is covered in snow now. It looks so beautiful. Paired with the blue sky and sunshine.

When we got to the back side of one of the passes the traverse down was really steep! We all got our ice axe out and even had to go down facing the wall for a bit for safety reasons. Good practise though. And then we just sat on our butt for the very last stretch, ice axe pressed in the snow and glacaded down the hill controlling the speed with the ice axe! What a fun! And how fast!!!

The next river crossing for today was a bit harder. The snow bridges had melted already so there was no easy way over. Due to the massiv amount of snow the rivers are raging!

Everett and I tried it in a few spots but had to return or declare it to unsafe for everyone. So we ended up walking upstream for a mile before we found a spot to cross. But it was so much fun! That's why I am out here for! I first went over to check the conditions and then shuttles back and forth with the ones who didn't feel comfortable on their own. We all made it across safely and continued.

Every turn or ridge we take reveals a new view... This route is epic!

We had to fight our way back on the trail after our detour to cross the river. We split the task so that Everett is hiking in front and navigating and I am in the back making sure the group stays together and we don't lose anyone. The last pass for today before we went down in the valley to find a camp spot was just an open plateau. But it offered us a sneak preview what we had to expect the next day.

 

 

We were lucky to find dry spots to pitch the tents in the snow. They were a bit spread out but we came back together for dinner and sunset.