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Thin Ice on the North
Couloir Direct Thin Ice on the North Couloir Direct  by thatnissanguy

It's 10:45 PM. I'm slumped in a booth at a restaurant in Buena Vista, opposite my friend Kirill, while a half eaten Supreme pizza occupies the territory in between us. There's absolutely terrible music playing over the restaurant's PA system. It's one of those settings that blurs the line between success and failure. Yeah, we climbed the route, but isn't this a different kind of low? I can't decide. Completely brain dead, for the last 15 minutes we've both been staring straight off into space. With a faint flicker of cognition, I realize I have been examining the intricacies of a Coca-Cola drink cooler. I am interrupted by Kirill ruminating about the consequences of our taking up residence in the restaurant's "party room." This prompts me to launch into a story about sleeping in a Subway one night while hitch hiking through West Texas. We both come to the same conclusion almost simultaneously. We're not going to be able to drive any further, safely. We spend the next 3 hours parked behind the building, crashed out in the front seats of a car that neither of us own. We're sleeping off the days activities, just another "fun" day in the mountains.

Mountain Bushwhack via Chapel Pond Slab: 2014 May 4 Round Mountain Bushwhack via Chapel Pond Slab: 2014 May 4  by MudRat

Hmmmm…what to do when you don’t have a full day to devote to a big outing and want a moderate challenge at an elevation where winter has lost its grip? How about Round Mountain? Just don’t use the trail and take a rope (or not). This little trip developed some time ago after reading a trip report about the mountain’s summit—open with a great panorama; a visit seemed like it might be a nice diversion with low mileage. Combining it with a climb of Chapel Pond Slab seemed like the perfect fit.

the Pemi Loop Extending the Pemi Loop  by nartreb

Along with a few other SPers, I'd been planning a Devil's Path {Catskills} traverse for months. Puma Concolor and I eventually settled on the date of July 14th, even though that meant WalksWithBlackFlies and MudRat would have to miss it because they'd be doing their ADK Ultramarathon during that time. Then Puma's work schedule went all moebius-shaped and I found myself with a gap in my calendar.

In order to prepare / test myself for Sufferfest 2007, I needed to do a big hike in early July. Something with lots of distance and lots of elevation gain, preferably a loop so I could do it without any logistical support, and ideally something within an easy drive of Boston. As of July 1st, I had in mind some kind of loop involving most or all the northern Presidentials and the Great Gulf trail. By way of preparation, I went for an eight-mile run on the morning of the Fourth. Then on Thursday the fifth, about the time I was failing to spot the fact that I had written $h->{MtgMinutes} when I meant $h->{MtngMinutes}, I had the kind of dubious inspiration worthy of the original Devil's Path plan: why not do the loop: the Pemigewasset Loop? At only two hours from home, I could even sleep in my own bed if I woke up really early in the morning.

The Ragged Edge The Ragged Edge  by LukeJennings

Always read the fine print! It is as true of climbing beta as it is of signing a contract. This thought crossed my mind as I clung to the damp, lichen covered north face of Vesper Peak. I was stuck halfway across the sheer fifth pitch traverse of the new "Ragged Edge" route. Just a few feet below me the face of Vesper Peak abruptly dropped away leaving nothing but air between the edge and granite slabs lying hundreds of feet below. Struggling to maintain my footing on damp lichen covered slab and set cams in shallow flared cracks I thought, this is a 5.7 climb? Then I remembered the fine print—the route setter had put a disclaimer in his climb description stating that, "The ratings...are potentially soft.

" Why was I there? It is a question I often ask myself on climbing trips. It was the first Sunday of October and by that time the year before the weather had turned; rain in Seattle, snow falling in the Cascades, and me sleeping in on the weekends. Based on that expectation I had stowed my alpine gear for the season instead of leaving it in a pile in my living room like usual for the whole summer when it gets used every weekend. The answer is that it was a post on Cliff Mass' popular weather blog that sent me running to the mountains where I was sneaking in one more alpine climb for the "summer" season—six harder-than-expected pitches on Vesper Peak's Ragged Edge route.

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to
Rim Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim  by Diesel

In 2011, I hiked a Rim to River to Rim (down South Kaibab up Bright Angel) in a very casual manner, in a total time of 9 hour and 15 minutes, with an actual hiking time of 7:30 minutes. That is a distance of 16.5 miles. When we popped up at Bright Angel around 5:15 PM I said toward my two beautiful hiking partners (wife & cousin) that I'd never hike Grand Canyon again, that it was stupid, ridiculous and pointless.

In 2013, I hiked Rim to Rim (down North Kaibab up Bright Angel), against everything I said the previous year. That goes to show what a "consistent" to my philosophy individual I am ... not. However, for this hike I trained well and I completed the 23.5 mile in 7:45 minutes non stop hiking. Solo hike this time. Again, when I finished I said that Rim to Rim to Rim is the stupidest idea especially that 28 miles of the hike are being done back and forth on North Kaibab trail. I said there is no variety, no diversity no fun. Whoever does it, doesn't have a life, or anything else better to hike. Little did I know what I was going to do a year from then!

Matterhorn North Face via
Schmid Route Matterhorn North Face via Schmid Route  by ilanam

For over a year now, our days have been filled with dreams of accomplishing The North Face Project. As our time in Europe is quickly approaching the end, these dreams are cultivating into obsessions. Having four of the six north faces remaining, it became an obsession we realized would likely have to be shelved for another trip to Europe in the distant future. We prioritized the remaining peaks, and knowing that one of them could only be feasibly climbed during the warm summer months, the eight hour away Piz Badile, we were on alert for a forgiving weather window for the other three - Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses and Petit Dru, in order of descending obsession.

Friday night, after 24 hours of webcam creeping and weather watching, we set off for Zermatt, Switzerland, a seven hour drive. Saturday morning, we slammed back a coffee and some bars before setting off from the posh town of Zermatt (1605m) for the Hörnlihütte (3260m), the base camp for the Matterhorn's North face routes and famous Hornli ridge. Whoof... our packs were heavy and we quickly regretted not forking out the money for the lift to cut out 950m of hiking. We made it to the Hörnlihütte some hours later, immediately followed by a group of five French guides attempting our route and then another two Swiss. I brewed some beer on the patio (how?!) of the "under construction" hut and we quickly made friends, everyone notably nervous about the coming adventure. From a descending party that had to bail from just beyond the bergschrund, due to spindrift and excessive snowfall the previous night, we learned conditions were good and everyone was excited.

International Expedition 2014 Alps International Expedition 2014  by markhallam

“Hang on Rob!” I shouted at the Dutch member of our team of three “I don’t like the look of that cloud... “

Somehow, from out of a clear sapphire blue sky the Mönch had gained an ominous looking cap. Crampons creaking on the hard rough surface of the glacier I scrambled out of yet another minor crevasse and stopped to look properly.

“Well – you’re the weather expert...“ For some reason Rob, a.k.a. rgg, a.k.a. The Peak Monster deferred to me on matters of weather predicting.

We were at around 2700m, struggling through a wilderness of chaotic and fractured ice – somewhere in the vicinity of Konkordia, a great glacial confluence miles and miles up the Grand Aletsch Glacier, in Switzerland. It had taken all the previous day to get to this point and we had just spent the night out on the ice, our little camp boxed in on all four sides by crevasses. We were now barely 300 metres away from the camp and just climbing out of about the twentieth crevasse of the morning thus far, when I called for the stop.

Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt (with my parents, 2013) Walker's Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt (with my parents, 2013)  by StephAbegg

In its entirety, the Walker's Haute route is an 188 km (give or take a few km) hike from Chamonix (France) to Zermatt (Switzerland). It is typically broken into 14 days, although it is possible to combine or skip days by foot or with the assistance of public transportation. But there is no reason to rush it, since the route is a marvelous adventure of snow-capped Alps rising out of spectacular valleys, delightful Swiss villages and remote alp hamlets, flower meadows and fragrant forests, icy streams and majestic glaciers, and much much more.

I first hiked the Walker's Haute Route in 2005, with my sister who was at the time doing a foreign exchange program in Grenoble, France. My parents, too, had become intrigued by our rich experiences on the route, and had decided that someday they too wanted to do this hike. That someday came in the summer of 2013, when my dad was scheduled to be in Europe for a conference at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. My parents invited me along as their unofficial guide, and I jumped at the opportunity for a second adventure on the Walker's Haute Route. This was probably the most memorable and enjoyable trip I've ever done with my parents.

A two-days
traverse of the Polish Karkonosze A two-days traverse of the Polish Karkonosze  by visentin

From the top of Slęża, climbed the week before, and despite the sceptical opinion of Dorota, we could distinguish the blur shape of Karkonosze, South West, in the distance. This was the destination of our next excursion. We had planned it for long. We had already planned it in November, but weather didn't allow us. Dorota had been in Samotnia the spring before, but snow prevented her to climb any further. Finally, a stop in May on the road to Prague allowed us a short hike to the Kamieńczyka waterfall and a pleasant foretaste.

Karkonosze is in Poland the most mountainous part after the Tatras, much more West, and shared with Czech Republic. However, the range is completely different. No sharp mountains there, only wide desertic granitic plateaux bordered with glaciar corries. The landscape reminds somehow of Scotland or the french Auvergne.

Climbing in
Cape Town! Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge Climbing in Cape Town! Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge  by Jaskic

The alternative to the cable car was to hike/climb to the top. There are many different trails and routes up both the front and back side of the mountain. Some are easier than others, some more gradual than others. The most popular, though, is Platteklip Gorge. Platteklip is quite literally a gorge that runs up roughly the middle of the mountain- it's the most direct route up...but not the easiest. It's the fastest route up (due to it's overall short distance), but still not the easiest. The gorge is roughly 2.5 to 3 kilometers, and climbs about 3,400 of the 3,558 feet. Run that math real quick- 2.5 kilometers to cover an elevation gain of 3,200 feet. Yeah, it was steep. About 80% of it was like climbing wide and large "stairs" (not literally) up the side of the mountain. Use of the hands was pretty ideal only about 15% of the time, but you essentially feel like a lilliputian climbing huge stone stairs up this mountain. Because of this, the exposure element is relatively high. Loss of balance climbing stairs (especially as you get tired) is pretty easy to experience, and in this case a fall backwards would send you literally tumbling down the face.

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