Sure there are some amongst us who live a more singular existence, but deep down, perhaps all of us share at least a little polyamorous love affair between the outdoors and a metropolitan area. There is an innate desire to have our cake and eat it too and choosing where to live is no exception - in essence, taking advantage of the best of both worlds. The [relative] ease of city living offers - among other things - stimulating employment options, culture, diversity, entertainment, luxuries, etc. This contrasts well with the edgy, humbling and simple existence of spending time in wilderness areas: away from the hoi polloi and hustle-and-bustle, and taking pride in the thought that you’re carving a different lifestyle closer to passions, forests and rocky spires. This isn’t an original thought or even a new angle on Thoreau's thoughts, just some observations from a novice fly on the wall of life; everyone is out there finding their balance, and some are very successful.
With the call from Seattle saying “Conditions are prime time for alpine ascents and the weather is unheralded” anyone would take note especially when that call comes from a well informed, coveted friend and climbing partner. Schedules should change to take advantage of unique opportunities – the proximity of Seattle to legitimate terrain is well known. Throw in good weather and the remnants of a very strange winter and good things will inevitably happen.
Admittedly, it’s very difficult to leave the Canadian Rockies. Prior to pondering a trip to the Emerald City, three weeks were spent based with our neighbors to the north. Lots of skiing, a little bit of ice and a bunch of reconnaissance rekindled a love affair with that region of the world I fear is only getting more intense with age. Toss in great people, and there best be a great reason(s) for departure. Good thing Jeff mentioned ‘Prime Time’ at least once.
After a work trip to KC, a quick drive from the Calgary airport back to Canmore dropped me in the heart of one of the most breathtaking mountain towns in North America. But conditions were very shoulder – not quite winter, not quite summer, and with no clear objective or climbing partner, the hunt for greener pastures was ripe, and Jeffrey’s call from the Cascades couldn’t have been better timed. After a salivating evening at the AAC’s hostel in Canmore looking over a skyline rife with exposure and fun outings as the sun set, the turbo was packed for a trip over Rogers Pass – an area of the Rockies filled with unparalleled access to heavenly backcountry ski touring. There is no doubt return trips are necessary, but Seattle beckoned with its own balance of culture, cuisine and lovely alpine lines.
Jeffrey did a wonderful job recounting what transpired over successive weekends [Colchuck, Dragontail, Eldorado, Polish Route, Ford's Theater and Klickitat], as it seemed every attempt to depart the Pacific Northwest resulted in a renewed weather forecast showcasing fantastic conditions for sending objectives throughout the range. With no formal schedule for departure, every Thursday NOAA gave us more reasons to get back into the hills, so the list of things to tackle was getting shorter and shorter and each outing getting more and more fun. Details are best covered in Mr. Hebert’s recaps, so here will be the repository of the higher level debrief.
Overnights in the mountains or at trailheads were pleasantly mixed with home-to-home marathons starting and ending in the darkness-shrouded Seattle skyline. Rather remarkably, the city never gave the claustrophobia-induced revulsions that some metropolitan areas evoke, so with seldom pressure to ‘get out’ of city limits, the pleasant company of special people or a ‘good’ night’s sleep under a proper roof never really compromised the alpine logistics. The theme ‘having your cake and eating it too’ was playing out repeatedly and in all aspects of living and recreating, regardless of rational thought philosophically implying otherwise.
Big, rustic mountain days could end with delicately crafted cocktails and cuisine, glaciated volcanos are adjacent to bare granite spires to mix up disciplines and even geography can be juxtaposed with a mere hour or two in the car. Want dry, rolling hills with basalt columns after trail-running through a fairy tail old growth thicket thick with fog? No problem. Perhaps the largest obstacle is that of your own creativity and desire, but care must be applied, as the author was reminded repeatedly how his six week stint in the area was a statistical anomaly.
What’s funny is how the theme played out over the last two weekends. For the first, why compromise between technical ice and volcanic corn skiing? Get both in the same day – a full 70m worth of near vertical ice on the newly established Ford’s Theater, followed by heroic corn turns down Mount Baker’s Coleman-Demming. For the second, don’t ignore injuries, play to them: double-dip crack climbing in Tieton with dreamy corn turns on the south face of Mount Adams. Throw in delicious beers in our country’s epicenter of hops production and fresh-off-the-tree cherries from the orchards just down the street with top-notch companionship, and Memorial Day Weekend 2015 was memorable indeed.
Editor’s note: in keeping with Colin Haley’s theme of referring to mountains by their original, native names, Baker and Adams should be called Kulshan and Klickitat, monikers that not only sound better, but whose translations are even more a reason for cartographic revision, being ‘White Sentinel’ and ‘Beyond,’ respectively. It’s depressing in a way how western explorers show up on land they know has been inhabited for ages, and yet feel the conceited need to name landmarks after their rich, white benefactors, ignorant of how the locals have been revering and discussing the features for generations. It also seems a little self-righteous to try to re-write history, but if word gets around enough [e.g. ubiquitous use of ‘Denali’], a trend can develop for the better.
If anyone sits down to think about it, we all have these experiences where we have our cake and eat it too. Sometimes the opportunities easily fall into our lap while others require looking a little harder to make them a reality, but deep down it almost seems innate to at least try to cheat the system. Perhaps it’ll only be an illusion that we can achieve such feats of advantageous duality, but it certainly is worth a shot, and what’s the worst that can happen if we at least attempt a merger? So when presented with two wonderful options, at least ponder what it takes to make them happen simultaneously, and you might be surprised at the outcome…