Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mount Berge, Southeast Buttress, New Route, July 2011

Mount Berge, Southeast Buttress, New Route, July 2011         

     I had climbed Berge's long East Ridge in August of 2008 with Tana Beus and my old college buddy Chuck Sink.  Yes that would be the Sink of the Sink/Gerber Route on Dragontail's North Face.  When he and Eric Gerber put up the route on Dragontail, I had just arrived at WSU, and although strong and enthusiastic, I didn't know much about placing pro.  I learned a lot from Chuck and Dave Neff, and we did a number of good climbs together, including the second ascent of Mount Stuart's Northwest Face in 1972.  Here we are on the summit skinny, strong, and young; no marriages yet, hence no divorces, and none of our friends had been killed in the mountains.  Time has a way of altering all that; and Chuck and I are fast friends to this day, getting together for climbing trips every couple of years (even though he lives in Anchorage, AK).
Alan and Chuck Sink on summit Mount Stuart, 1972.   

      When we climbed Berge in 2008 it was obvious there were a couple of other unclimbed buttresses on the south side of the peak that was comprised of decent granite.  Although I had never been to the top of Berge before 2008, I was familiar with the area.  In 1967 at age 16, I joined a group on 25 Mazamas including my parents, for a week long outing at Buck Creek Pass.  I was fascinated at being in the midst of a sea of mountains, and even got to the top of Helmet Butte and Napeequa Peak with the group.  Twelve years later I led an Outward Bound patrol up and over the Louis Creek High Route to High Pass, and across the steep heather slopes of Mount Berge's west side.
Mount Berge from Buck Mountain, new route is far left buttress
      In 2008 we approached Berge from Buck Creek Pass and High Pass; virtually all good trail hiking, but a long ways.  Then last summer when my friend Matt Demey from Denver showed up, we went in the same way with plans to exit the bushwhack back down to Buck Creek at the climb's end.  With the heavy snowpackpack of 2010/2011 we encountered the white stuff over the trail before we reached Buck Creek Pass.  And that was the last week of July!  

     After a grueling ten hours of marching, the last bit on snow, we found a dry patch of ground to camp on just before the sun went down.  In the distance I could see Napeequa Peak that I climbed in 1967 with the Mazama group.  We were there in August of that summer and wildflowers carpeted the slopes and meadows, mosquitoes whined in the air, and every night we sat around a roaring campfire; back when fires were still allowed.
     Marsh Marigolds were the only blossoms popping up after the snowmelt where Matt and I placed our camp, and the tiny dentist drilling bloodsuckers were noticeably absent. We ate the largest dinner from our heavy packs, and contemplated tomorrow's route to High Pass and up around Berge.  The route to High Pass followed a trail on the east side, but that was covered in snow.  I was hoping that the crest would have some bare sections where a climber's path snaked along, saving us a lot of extra effort.
     Luck was with us next morning as we discovered that the west side of the ridgecrest was bare, and we picked our way along a narrow path up and over several humps leading to the pass.
Matt on approach to High Pass
      The remnants of cornices were draped about the ridge as the hot July sun created  rivulets of meltwater; it was going to be a long day.  Beyond High Pass we dropped into in snowy basin just north of Berge.  It was time to refill water bladders ( a half gallon gone), and for Matt do some first aid on his heels.  Rising south of the basin was the final climb of the day up snowslopes on Berge's Northwest shoulder, over the Southwest Ridge, and down into the basin where we planned to camp.  It looked to be hot so I changed into shorts before the ascent.  Westward rose Clark Mountain, the jagged summit of Tenpeak, and Glacier Peak's perfect snowy cone.  The high alpine slopes slumbered white from winter, leaving only dark ridges of rock exposed. 
Matt crosses the shoulder of Mount Berge
      The slope turned out not as bad as it looked, and we were soon off the snow and hiking up heather and scree to the ridge overlooking the basin on the south.
     It is always this point in the story of our heroes that they wish they were somewhere else, (enjoying happy hour in camp for instance), but the weight of a full rock rack, 60 meter rope, camping gear and six days of food created that bone- crushing load of reality.  Any sign or porters, sherpas or helicopters was distinctly absent from the scene.
    Once we topped out on the ridgecrest, we could look down to the southeast and see the basin of our intended campsite.  Bright green Larch trees dotted the otherwise snow-covered terrain.  We hoped to find a patch of dry ground to pitch the tent on, and in this we were not disappointed.
Matt approaches the Southeast Buttress

     Enroute to our camp we passed the unclimbed buttress, and it looked like good clean rock.  And like the baby bear's bed that Goldilocks slept in, (not too hard or too soft) and in our case just right; not too steep and not too big.  
     Once settled in camp (on dry ground) we plunged into happy hour and fixing dinner.  Not trusting to the wonderfully lightweight Nextex material of BD's Firstlight tent, we brought a big nylon tarp to put over it in case of rain.  So much for modern technology in the Cascades.  Odd isn't it that most of those single-walled tents are manufactured in Utah or California!  But based on the weather prediction we'd brought the tarp, and it looked as though we were going to need it as high cirrus clouds moved in over Berge that evening.
     A sullen thick blanket of grey blotted out the sky on the following morning, but as Matt and I were itching to climb something, we racked up for a damp adventure.  I figured if we could even get in a couple of pitches before it rained, we could fix our one rope and make it to the ground.  And the first two leads looked blankish and wandering. 
Matt cleans the first slabby pitch
     Small Stoppers, tiny cams and a knifeblade or two helped immensely on my first pitch up out of the moat.  Regardless of how high we made it, it was a great feeling to be on the rock moving and out from under our backpacks.  I worked my way up and right to a small stance and anchored in.  A thick, dark, nasty cloud was shrouding Buck Mountain to the south, as veils of moisture began their descent into Buck Creek southeast of us.
     Matt was having troubles extricating one of my small cams from under an overlap, and all I could think of was we were going to get soaked and nowhere on the route.  But he pulled it, scurried up and we exchanged gear for his lead.  "Where to?" he asked.  "Well I think if you go up to that block, work left across that roof, and then up into that corner system, we can still reach the ground with our rope." I replied.  Moisture was imminent.  It looked as though he might beat it, but I was surely going to be cleaning the pitch in the rain.  
     At least we were not far above the ground, which is a much different feeling than being very high on a big 

Matt leads pitch two just before the storm
route when the weather goes bad.  The uncertainty of getting off, turning blue from cold or making a fatal mistake because you get in a rush are always a possibility.  On Berge we looked right across at our camp only minutes from the route's base.
     There wasn't any hot porridge or feather beds in our temporary home in the woods, but plenty of dry clothing and makings for hot drinks. 
     Matt made quick work of pitch two as the clouds grew darker, and it began to sprinkle.  A pin driven in here and there made the lead a lot safer, as I became anxious wondering whether I'd be cleaning his pitch in a waterfall.
     It was a close thing when I reached his tiny belay ledge just as the rain poured down hard.  Our single 60 meter rope just reached the ground, so we fixed it, donned raingear, rapped off, and headed for camp.  The hope was this little storm would pass on through tomorrow, and we could reascend our rope and finish the climb.  In camp there were hot drinks, books, and a cozy tent, but we hadn't brought enough food to hang for more than a couple of days.
Getting ready to rap in the rain
Camp in the Larch forest
         It rained hard that night and well into the next day.  Around 1 pm patches of blue began to appear through ragged rents in the clouds and the south-facing light-colored granite was drying quickly.  Still, we were unsure if this was a stable bit of clearing or not.  By 2 pm it was looking even better, and although it was late to try and finish the climb, I figured we only had three steep harder pitches left to go to reach the easy slopes above leading to the summit.  I said to Matt "hell with it, let's go finish this thing off before it gets dark."   We were over at the base of the route by 3 pm, and at the top of yesterday's rope by 3:30.  The sun was out as I led up good cracks and grooves.  We each carried rain jackets, water, headlamps and a couple of candy bars.
Tossing off a loose rock on pitch 4
        New routes sometimes require some tidying up, and on Matt' s next pitch he sent a few stones earthward on the otherwise perfect rock.  The climbing was not difficult, and we were following a set of crack systems that looked as though they would carry us to the top left side of the buttress.  As the sun began its slow descent in the sky, a cool breeze brushed the wall.  In one more pitch I scrabbled past a lichen-covered overhanging slot, and on up to low-angle terrain leading to the summit.                                                                                                      
Matt scrambling toward the summit

Matt near the summit
      In less than an hour we were below the final summit rocks, 
where we dumped our gear, and scurried toward the top.  I had descended this side three years before after climbing the East Ridge, and knew it was easy.  Waves of fog rolled in and out, but high above the sky was blue.  
     To the south the gigantic North Face of Buck Mountain loomed above the valley.  And although Cal Folsom and Mark Moore climbed it in 1976, they warned others away saying the face was; "extremely loose and dangerous."  I had scrambled to the top up the backside two summers before, and at one point I peeked over the north side to try and see where they might have climbed up.  For over 2,000 feet black schist dominated the scene; rubble on every ledge, teetering chunks of unstable rock, and the paucity of cracks gave the wall a creepy feel.  This was no hidden prize that climbers coveted, it was something to avoid.
     Matt and I had a couple hours of light left, and as the descent to camp was easy, we knew we'd make it back before dark.  He was excited about reaching the top since he had never done a new route before, and he liked the idea that we picked our own line, and each pitch was an adventure.

Alan and Matt on the summit of Mt. Berge

     In no time we were back in camp, under a star-filled sky, clutching a hot drink and scheming up more new lines to climb in this range of 1100 peaks.  On the summit my friend from Colorado had gazed about and then finally said;  "I had no idea there were so many mountains out here!"      
Night sky and Mt. Berge

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mount Saint Helens Photo Seminar

Join me at Mount Saint Helens this July 9th for a fun day in the outdoors with your camera.  The seminar is $50 and sponsored by the Mount Saint Helens Institute (they handle sign ups).  We'll cover some of the main features of your cameras, whether they are point and shoots or full on SLR's with interchangeable lenses.  With a few basics under our belts (exposure, white balance, shooting modes and color) we'll move on to lighting and composition. 

Including people in your landscapes provides the viewer with a sense of scale; an individual dwarfed by the immensity of nature.  I have a fair bit of knowledge in this area, as I've written and published photos of outdoor sports for three decades.  We can model for each other, and experiment with your ideas.

I will give students a list of simple assignments to shoot while hiking about. And as there are a plethora of subjects to point ones camera at, we'll discuss closeup work and abstracting elements out of the landscape.  Later I'll give students feedback on their photo assignments.

Because the 1980 volcanic event that occurred was so significant, the often asked question arises "Where were you on that day?"  I was living in Portland and fast asleep, after driving through the night from Wyoming.  My parents however were not.  As Ham radio volunteers they witnessed the May 18 eruption from 8 miles to the west, and dad got some amazing photos that day.

Add to the fact that we as a family had been climbing to the top and skiing off the mountain, ever since my mom's first climb in 1945.  It has become a special mountain for us, as I'm sure it will for you. Below is the link to the Mount Saint Helens Institute, and the photo seminar if you want to sign up.

 http://mshinstitute.org/index.php/programs/field seminar/photography in the blast zone with alan kearney/

Hope to see you there.

Alan Kearney                

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Skiing Matier

     Gregg Cronn and I had a great two days skiing up near Pemberton.  The great snowpack this year guarantees skiing on into the summer.  And if you must go climbing later, at least the bivy ledges will have snowpatches for water.
     For the complete story go to: Skiing Matier And Vantage:  http://alankearneyphotography.blogspot.com/Skiing Matier

Monday, April 11, 2011

Skiing Matier And Vantage

     Here is the first of many SOS (seniors out skiing) episodes, although Gregg Cronn at 51 doesn't quite qualify for the age bracket;  myself at 59.97 years of age does.  It was "Kronnhoffers" (my nickname for Gregg when we were guides) spring break from teaching, and he wanted to ski the peaks near Joffre and stay in Keith's Hut.  Especially since the temps here in Washington were supposed to be warm, we were hoping for spring powder in the far north.  Any chance to get in some foreign travel without buying a plane ticket is fun.
     I had been to the hut 19 years before and enjoyed bony skiing, cloudy weather, and a ultra crowded cabin on New Year's eve.  Yuck!  Gregg and I chose a non-holiday, mid-week, and a good weather outlook for our two day outing.  At the Canadian border a rotund young man garnished with weapons, asked me if we were carrying any.  I said no. He said: "What will you do if you encounter a bear?"  I said: "It's winter and the bears are all asleep."  He replied: "It's not winter anymore!"  I could see I was in for a lot of tedious spadework if I had to educate him about mountain geography, elevation, spring snowpack, and meteorology.  I turned to Gregg and rolled my eyes, while the policeman tapped our passport numbers into his machine, and then handed them back with a frown.
     That night we slept at the trailhead in the back of my truck.  Up at 6 am for a quick brew of brown hot stuff, into chilly ski boots, and skinning toward the hut by 7am.  With hardly a cloud in the sky the mountains were etched in sharp relief in the dawn light.  Along the trail the many bear dens had "Do Not Disturb Until Late Spring" signs out.  Let it be said that my four and a half years spent getting a wildlife biology degree was not wasted.
    In three hours we reached the hut (the junior member of our party made in two and a half), dumped our sleeping gear, melted some snow for drinks, and headed upward.  A number of youthful skiers passed me on the climb up, and I would have broken their legs if I coulda caught up with them.
     But it was beautiful day in the mountains, and time for me to get in shape.  The reason bears are skinny after a long winter is that they don't watch videos, eat buttered popcorn, and drink beer all the time.
     The antlike shapes of Bellinghamsters and indigenous skiers were far above on the Anniversary Glacier.  A wintry wind swirled about as I stopped for a chocolate bar at the Matier/Joffre Saddle.  A bit higher Gregg was waving his ski pole and beckoning me on.
     Higher yet and gasping for air, I ditched my pack and skis, and cramponed toward the summit.  Why was everyone else carrying their skis to the top?  The skiing on the upper slope didn't look too good to me; lumpy, icy and wind blown.
      I suppose I ought to have looked at a map or confirmed with Gregg about the descent plan.  All of those skiers ahead of me had dropped off the southwest side to a col, and were skiing a fabulous powdery slope down to the glacier.  They carved graceful turns in the fluffy white stuff, yodeled and generally behaved as though they were having fun.
      But it was tough to act like a curmudgeon on such a spectacular day in the high alpine.  The horizon bristled with peaks in every direction; some covered with ice, some with snow, many with snow and ice.
     And far below the bears slumbered in their icy dens dreaming of juicy ptarmigans, ground squirrels, anthills, huckleberries, and plump border guards.  Facing a perilous descent without a weapon was unnerving.
     Once back at my skis I tightened my boots, clicked into downhill mode, sucked some water, and headed downward into the white wonderland.  Turning was effortless in the April snow, and Gregg was having so much fun, he climbed back up to meet me for a second run.
      Below the saddle we encountered even lighter six-sided ice crystals covering the glacier.
      Back in the hut the day's participants (eight others) were commenting on the quality of the snow, and gabbing about this piece of gear or that.  Huts are nice unless you just want to go to sleep.
     Gregg was up early the next morning, and soon we were skinning up towards Matier, making a left turn and heading east toward Vantage Peak, and hopefully untracked powder. The day was going to be warmer than the previous, and soon we were stripping off clothing, only to put it back on when the breeze picked up later.
     We followed the West Ridge up Vantage, glad to have ski crampons for the lumps of rime and windblown hard snow.  Traversing around the south side we were able to skin right to the top.  To the west tiny dark shapes climbed toward Matier, while far below us a second group of black dots headed southeast toward a sea of mountains.
     We had left axe, harness and crampons behind, and with a lighter pack I didn't feel nearly so breathless as the day before.  It reminded me of skiing out of Mount Hunter on a hot day in May of 1978.
     Three of us crossed a low pass in the Peters Hills and gazed down into the snowbound valley to the south.  There about a half mile away, were three grizzlies Ursus arctos, a sow and two yearlings.  Out of their den, wide awake and HUNGRY, the three carnivores were digging out ground squirrels from beneath the snow.  They scented us and took off westward up and over a 1,000 foot slope; we were lucky.

      Had they wanted us, there is little we could have done.  No trees to climb, and no weapons.  Their vision is poor, and they smelled something strange and left.  No bears on Vantage, just a beautiful morning, with the mountains and hardy trees mantled in winter's whiteness.

      From the top of the peak it was necessary to sideslip down the West Ridge a bit to avoid the summit cornice, and gain access to a fantastic untracked slope.  Although a chopper had dropped some skiers the day before below Matier's summit, hence they skied the glacier and partway up Vantage's northwest side, below us the northeast bowl was pristine.
     This was some serious fun!

     I yelled at Gregg to make a few more turns for my camera, but he just kept going on down into the valley.  It was a good climb back up, but we had to gloat over our first turns high on the slope.
      Once up and across the North Ridge, we deskinned and skied the northwest slope.  Gregg sideslipped the upper part of a narrow couloir, and then carved out the bottom, while I went down the west side and joined him in the cirque below.
      There was nothing left to do but a bunch more powder turns to the bottom, skin back up to the hut, pack up, and ski out.  Nobody got hurt, or eaten by bears.  There were just tired muscles and fine memories of a perfect trip.
                                                   On the craggy peaks high overhead.
                                                   Dawn light is finally shed.

                                                   Where ridges snake to the mountain's maw.
                                                   A weary skier stands in awe.

                                                   And in the heavens high in the sky.
                                                   I dream of the sunrise and wings to fly.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Inspiration Peak, Pickets, Northeast Buttress, New Route 1996.

Twin summits of Inspiration Peak in center of photo, from Northern Pickets

     Since I never reported this route anywhere after Dana Hagin and I climbed it in July of 1996, I felt it was time I wrote it up.  Especially since there has been activity on Inspiration's north side since 1977 when Alex Bertulis and the Russians climbed the North Face.
     The rock in the Pickets is primarily Skagit Gneiss, and although cracks are not numerous, nor the rock as solid as granite, the soaring glacial-sculpted faces more than compensate.  Added to that the unpredictable weather, transient state of the small disappearing glaciers, and brushy approaches make for a true North Cascades experience.
Dana Hagin on the Goodell Creek approach with Mount Triumph in the distance
      I had scoped Inspiration's northeast side two years before when climbing the North Face of West McMillan with Bill Pilling.  Bill and I not only had a good look at the face, but figured the easiest way to it was to rap and downclimb from the Inspiration/McMillan saddle to gain a ledge that would allow one to traverse westward over to the Northeast Buttress.
Dawn light on Northeast Buttress Inspiration Peak and Mount Terror, from West McMillan
Bill Pilling descends to McMillan's North Face, Inspiration's NE Buttress is line between light & dark rock
      Then in July two years later, Dana and I trudged in the same way to Terror Creek basin in beautiful sunny weather.  Pickets maxim: "Even if there isn't a cloud in the sky, there's sure to be fog or rain the next day."  Its as though the craggy spires of the Twin Needles, Himmlehorn, Degenhardt, Pyramid, and the McMillans reach up with giant invisible hands and squeeze the moisture right out of the clouds.  Ask anyone who's been there.
Fog enters Stetattle Creek, the harbinger of more approaching moisture
      An early start on day three allowed Dana and I to reach saddle in time to witness morning light
Inspiration and Terror in morning
paint the walls, ridges, buttress, gullies, gendarmes and pinnacles.  Indeed nowhere is there such a plethora of mountain features as in this dense collection of crags.
     Naturally it is not Chamonix granite (which I can verify is pretty solid stuff).  Nor is there a tram to the top.  Both of which guarantee a crowd free experience, and adventure alpinism of the highest order.  Particularly fond of these little mountains myself, I would return with Dana in 2003 to climb McMillan's North Buttress, and in 2008 put up the DNB on the same peak with Erik Johnson. 
     As Dana readjusted the pack loaded with bivy gear for one night, clothing, water and snacks, I tossed the ropes down for our first of several long rappels.  Sporadic small stones peppered the slopes, but nothing big.  The ledge Bill and I spotted in 94 was snowy but not difficult, and by noon or so we were lacing up rock shoes on the buttress, some 500 feet above the glacier.
     With boots stowed in the one pack, the follower became the cleanup man and workhorse.  One can try various options on the bigger steep climbs on how to get the gear up the route.  The leader and follower can both carry packs, but ultimately the leader gets bogged down on harder bits and has to haul.  And as the Pickets are not granite domes close to the road, crampons and axes are a necessity.  When leading I prefer to be unencumbered, and a tiny pack with water bladder and windshirt is the most I'll carry.
Dana leading on the exposed buttress
     The climbing was not too hard being of generally the face variety with some cracks here and there.  I got one "house of cards" pitch that comprised large flakes stacked one on top another.  The idea was to not knock any on Dana or my lead rope.  In places there were streaks and swirls of quartz in the rock that added an artistic appearance to the wall.       

Finding just the right piece of gear

Dana at the perfect bivy
     On up the buttress we swung leads until the sun began its decline.  No decent ledge offered itself until we peeked around the corner onto the North Face.  There just off the buttress crest was perfect ledge for two, with a snowpatch for water.
     Now that guy in California that makes the pricy clothing once said this about bivouacking: "If you carry bivy gear you will bivouac."  With a few exceptions, it has been my experience that on really big routes you will bivouac anyway, but without ANY bivy gear you will be quite uncomfortable.
     There is much to be said for a mug of HOT coffee or cocoa in the early morning on the chilly northern alpine face of a big mountain.  Take your pick.  We had a double bivy sac that protected both of us, and each had an insulated jacket.  I got 5 hours of sleep, which is a lot for a bivy.  And even the most amateur photographer with a point and shoot cannot fail to capture the grandeur of the mountains in morning and evening; all of which is lost to the one day climber frantic to reach the car without switching on the headlamp.
Aiming for the cracks up higher
     On day two Dana led off up broken rock toward cleaner cracks high above.  Some pesky clouds had materialized overnight, but the climbing was exhilarating and exposed.  The pack was lighter, the rock was still dry, the troubles and confusion of the world were somewhere far away, and we were having fun.
     In places the gneissic rock had razor sharp edges from flakes and chunks that had fallen away; one had to be careful with the rope.  And there was always the uncertainty of finding the raps and descent off the top in a whiteout.  But I had climbed the South Face in 1991, so at least had an inkling of the way down.
     Up and up we climbed to where our new route on the buttress coincided with the East Ridge; not much evidence of traffic on it though.  And then the fog moved in shrouding everything in a damp opaque curtain of white.  Find a crack, get some gear in, keep going, hope it doesn't start raining.  No idea where the summit was inside that fathomless cloud.  If only we could have seen something; McMillan Cirque, Fury, Luna, Picket Pass, each other, anything!
The fog closed in
Star trails over inspiration and Terror
         And although there was no view from the top, partway down the West Ridge the fog burned away and the sun came out.  Terror Creek basin and a sea of peaks southward dotted the horizon.
       Back in camp we sprawled on the slabs in the sun, cooked a fine dinner, and that night once again watched the stars fill the sky over the black imposing silhouette of Inspiration Peak.

     There is a place where we will all go.
     But to tell the truth, where it is, I don't know.
     If I had any say about it,
     It would be on top of a craggy summit.
     Where wind and snow, would blow my bits,
     Down into those icy pits.
     And there the glacier would munch and grind,
     And of me, there would be nothing left behind. 


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Skiing Wells Creek

On a sunny March day last week I joined mountain goat biologist Tana Beus for an adventurous day in the Mount Baker backcountry.  Her mission was to check on a remote wildlife camera and place another one in hopes of getting photographs of some of our elusive Northwest animals.  The plan involved skiing up over Herman Saddle, across the Chain Lakes and then descend into the headwaters of Wells Creek.  It was an adventurous and physical day in the mountains.

For the full blog go to alankearney.com  and "Adventure Skiing In Wells Creek".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventure Skiing In Wells Creek

Tana Beus (mountain goat biologist) wanted to put in another remote wildlife camera in the Mount Baker area.  She had placed one camera beyond Herman Saddle, so we needed to check the memory card and batteries on that one,  then descend 2500 feet into Wells Creek and install a second camera.  I looked at the map and noticed that the contour lines were awfully close together in upper Wells Creek, and as usual these past years the low elevation snowpack was not very good.  A good snowpack is handy thing for hiding a myriad of pesky obstacles that make traveling with skis difficult.
Once over Herman Saddle with Shuksan glowing brilliant on a clear spring day, we descended to the Chain Lakes and beyond.  The snow was heavy and crusted a bit in the sun, but nice powder still on the shaded north slopes.
Using a Nikon D90 and a 12 - 24 Nikkor zoom in high speed burst mode, with the bracketing turned off; captured Tana's turns leaving Herman Saddle.  No one else out skiing on a March Wednesday.

Once we made adjustments to the first remote camera, we headed westerly looking for a narrow drainage leading down into Wells Creek.  Weaving in and out of trees, sideslipping steep hard terrain, dropping off overhanging snow blobs and carving an actual turn or two deposited us above the creek.
Up to this point we could kinda see a route down, but traversing the ultra steep slopes of upper wells creek to reach the road looked grim.  Snow mushrooms draping boulders about to collapse, small nasty side streams running just beneath the snow and a tight mesh of wiry little hemlocks and firs barred progress.
Two miles and four hours later we did reach the road.  Until this trip I hadn't fallen while skiing all winter, but there was no predicting what the skis would do in the sunny mush with many cavities, pockets and lurking hazards beneath.  Photos not included in this little tale (because there aren't any thankfully) are Alan upside down in a soggy mossy trickle of a stream festooned with leafless Devil's Club.  The spiny stems sprouting up through the thin snow like miniature maces wielded by equally small warriors.  At 5 pm the road at last, where even Tana (youth though she is) flopped on her pack for a sunny breather.  The toe of Lasiocarpa Ridge and the distant northeast wall of Mount Baker provided us a view better than dense dark woods.
Then it was simply a matter of placing the second remote camera somewhere in the valley, and skiing the five mile road down to Nooksack Falls just minutes before dark.  As we looked back at Koma Kulshan in the evening, wintry mists swirled across the Mazama Glacier and Cockscomb Ridge.  Early spring was here, and other journeys beckoned.