The Duffey

Friends and acquaintances referred to it like a trusted, inanimate old friend.  Charming, full of the comforting familiar but also the challenging, a partner well capable of providing the raw materials for building lifetime experiences together.  The Duffey.  It's a colloquial reference to the terrain off of Duffey Lake Road around Duffey Lake Provincial Park, just north of Pemberton, B.C.  The terrain in this backcountry skiing mecca is big, open, and varied, the options appear endless, and the access to some of it is relatively straight forward.  A couple of friends made great company for exploring The Duffey for my first time.  One thing is for certain - there is plenty for which to return.  

The Spearhead Traverse

After years of planning and hoping for this ski trip, we finally managed to get the time, weather and childcare to align.  Visiting the Coast Mountains with a full, fat snowpack was a total dream.  After a day and a half of white-out conditions, we finally got some visibility and even some sun.  The snow was pretty decent too.  I'll let the photos do the rest of the story telling.

Autumn in the Cascades

Autumn has arrived in the Cascades, and with the change of seasons comes a change of activities, colors and pace.  This past weekend found us camping, hiking and hanging out by the river on the South Fork of the Stillaguamish, off the Mountain Loop Highway.   Hiking to Lake Twenty-two reminded me why I love this region so much - fall colors were beginning to peak out in the deep old-growth forest below the lake.  My two year-old is starting to get the hang of things, and led on solidly at times up the trail.  What a way to start fall. 

The little one leads the way

The Backyard

It has been months -- many, since we've visited this spot.  But it feels like my favorite jeans and hoody that have not seen the wash in while.  Comfy, familiar, effortless.  This is our alpine backyard.  

Anticipation of first turns swirl in the mind and stir butterflies all morning.  Push off.  Sinking into snow so fresh that it has fallen just seconds ago.  Weightless.  Movement.  Flow.  Breathe.  

Storm days are exciting, yet paradoxically quiet, at least externally.  Inside the swell of feeling and movement is powerful.  Sometimes it boils up and vibrates vocal cords in a yelp; whoot.  Silence surrounds you gliding through winter's medium.  If not anywhere else, I can find zen here.

Stopping, catching breath, exchanging knowing looks.  Conversation begins again after soaking in what was so desperately needed to feed the soul for the next week, until the next adventure begins.  Look back up, take another glance and catalogue that moment in the body's mind.  


The wonder of the woods, all over again

With each day, our daughter explores new territory.  Whether its the back corner of the closet in her room, or a new outdoor adventure, watching her expand her world view one moment at a time is sublime.   Her first backpacking trip to a Cascadian alpine lake tucked in amongst evergreens and autumn foliage yielded many of these.  There's always something else to discover around the next corner.  My hope is that her life journey never ceases to provide wonder about herself and the world in which we live. 

A first taste of warm soup on an autumn evening in camp

A first taste of warm soup on an autumn evening in camp

New Film Lessons

Like many others, my photographic journey began long ago with film.  That's all there was at that point.  And I had no idea how to use a camera for proper exposure, or anything else for that matter.  After setting it aside for many years, followed by a steep learning curve with digital, I have looked down in surprise to find my old film camera in my hands again every so often.  The lessons are different now, and the approach is far more focused.  The results are, hopefully, more enjoyable.  One of the joys of film is forgetting about a certain frame until the scans come back.  I had completely forgotten about this one.

Spring on Puget Sound   ~     Kodak Ektar 100

Spring on Puget Sound   ~   Kodak Ektar 100

The Pull of the Kautz

Each year, the opportunity to climb the Kautz Glacier route on Mt Rainier is an event I look forward to with much anticipation.  From the National Park Road to Paradise, where most climbs begin, the Kautz Ice Chute stands out in prominent relief from the rest of the broad, south side of the mountain.  If you’re paying attention on the drive up, this route is one of the first features you’ll see.  After you know it’s there, it is hard to let go.

 

On the way to high camp on the Kautz Glacier route

On the way to high camp on the Kautz Glacier route

Two approach days put us in position high above the crowds.  Climbers enter the ice chute at first light and the real fun begins.  Ice tools sink with satisfying security into the chute’s bare, hard surface.  Upward progress is slow, focus is directed inward and extends not much beyond arm’s length.  Until the sun lights up the valleys below, and taps you on the shoulder.  Hazy summer conditions mean layers of mountains extend forever.   Mount Adams, Hood, St. Helens.  Jefferson on a clear day.  The volcanoes southward in the Cascade chain are frosted with the pink of sunrise.  It is morning up high.  And it is good to be climbing.

  

First light and alpenglow on Mt Hood and the valleys below

First light and alpenglow on Mt Hood and the valleys below

Climbers topping out on the Kautz ice chute, with Mt Adams beyond

Climbers topping out on the Kautz ice chute, with Mt Adams beyond

Finishing the ice chute, there’s still work to be done navigating real, big glaciers before stepping foot on the summit.  Tired, sleepy, hungry, elated.  It doesn’t matter, it always seems worth it for those moments that stick around long after we’re home.  

Up above

With the summer guiding season in full swing, I've spent some wonderful mornings up above it all.  There is nothing quite like this feeling, short of gazing out the window of an airplane.  But here there are no windows.  Just the wind, the snow and the light.  The photo below was from a perfect morning on Mt Rainier.

  

On the Cover

The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) selected my photograph of a fellow guide at high camp on the Kautz Glacier route on Mt Rainier as the First Place winner in their Wilderness photo contest last fall.    The photo is on the cover of their quarterly newsletter, the GUIDE Bulletin, for Winter 2015.  

AMGA Wilderness Photo Contest Rainier Cover.jpg

 

The camp is located at 13,000 ft and overlooks the southern Cascades.   The clouds were beautiful that day, and after all the guiding chores were finished, everyone was able to relax a bit and take in the scene.  This is one of my favorite camps on the mountain, and I wanted to capture the feeling of sitting out in the sun with the vast expanses of the mountains below and the sky above.  

Around Seattle

Given the choice, I'll head to the mountains over staying in the city any day.  But Seattle is full of interesting things to see and do as well.  Here are a few recent city photos.