Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The South Brother
My longtime friend and climbing companion Alan Kearney generously donated several photos for this post. Check out his website and blog here.
I count Alan Kearney as one of my mentors in the mountains. Alan took me on big trips when I was a really green climber and taught me things that have kept me alive over the years. I feel lucky if I can tick off a trip with all my buddies over the course of a summer, and Alan & I have a long history of making cool trips happen year after year.
Alan, being supportive of my Front Door Adventures project agreed to drive down from Bellingham and meet me for an attempt of the Brother Traverse in the Skokomish-Duckabush Group of the Olympic Mountain Range. This double summitted peak was named by Captian George Davidson of the United States Coast Survey in honor of Arthur and Edward Fauntleroy and climbed first in 1912 (Mountaineers, 2006). History tells it that Davidson was courting the Fauntleroy's younger sisters and wished to make an impression on their older brothers.
After a Seattle-to-Bremerton Ferry ride across The Sound, I pedaled SW around the tip of Hood Canal and North again on Highway 101 to the Hamma Hamma River Road. An 8-mile climb to the trailhead found Alan, fresh off a ski descent off Mount Townsend sipping beers. "Greetings Young Matt! ", Alan called from his perch on the tailgate as I rolled to a stop and wiped the sweat from my brow. A cold beer was soon consumed, and possibly a second, but who is counting.
Favorable June weather windows in the Great Pacific NW can unfortunately be short lived. Such being the case, one wishing to climb any of the fine summits of this great state must retain a certain amount of flexibility as the weather dictates the success of any mountaineering adventure to a large extent. Over dinner & alpine mojito's Alan I discussed the impending poor weather and agreed to forgo our Brother's Traverse scheme and go light for a single push on the standard route of the South Brother. The sleeping bag called loudly as the mountain darkness crept down the valley from the west and the 65 mile approach ride sunk in to my bones.
A 4 am alarm, coffee & muffins by headlamps, the stiffness of the approach ride ebbed as we set a steady pace towards Lena Lake. The Hemlock Trees towered through the switchbacks and repelled the light of the rising eastern sun; you have to earn your views in the Olympics as few hikes start anywhere near the 5000 foot tree line. We hit steady snow at 3000 feet and avalanche paths of 24" diameter trees snapped like toothpicks a little further beyond; nature is a powerful force. Long open slopes of snow beckoned from above.
Kick a step...rest...kick a step...rest....kick a step...rest...3000 feet of steep snow climbing as menacing clouds blew in & out offering a tease of the spectacular views the surrounding mountains offer. At noon, Alan and I stood in wind jackets and stocking caps on the 6,842 Summit of the South Brother 7 hours and 6,100 feet after we began our march. We couldn't see much, but I didn't really care; I was happy to be outside and on the top of something in the company of a friend.
Back at camp we drank more whiskey. Tall tales grew taller as the bottle got emptier and afternoon waned to evening. I retired to the tent and read an article that Alan gave me about the impending doom climate change will have on civilization as we know it. Being in the mountains reminds me that we are small and our time here is short. I am going to do my best to tread lightly while I am here, but the valley I walked up today was buried in ice less-than 20,000 years ago and it will fill with ice again someday. All of these things will come to pass and I am just thankful to have spent a few days stomping around the hills with my good friend Alan.
Livin' the Dream,
On the tick list for and FDA.
I have a long way to go! Hood Canal and the Olympics Mountains in the far distance.
The word "approach" in Mountaineering usually refers to the portion of the trip where you leave pavement to the beginning of technical climbing. Front Door Adventures defines "approach" from the minute you leave your house to the beginning of technical climbing. Alan Kearney shot this photo of me at the end my 7o mile approach.
Tastes like PBR...darn good after a long ride!
and up just a little further.
Summits in June, you take what you can get!
Our successful ascent was celebrated with a couple of Hagen Alpine Mojitos...
and my backcountry specialty; salmon and vegetable couscous.
Alan! Our fearless leader!
Homeward bound with a good omen ahead.
Monkey Dick Sandwich. Don't knock it until you try it!
While brewing a coffee at Potlatch State Park, and elderly gentleman approached me and chatted me up about my bike and where I was going and what I was doing. As we departed he reached in his lapel pocket and handed me a card "This could come in useful", he said and turned to walk away. I looked down and the card and was surprised to see he had handed me his Wednesday appointment card for a colonoscopy. "Excuse me sir, ah..I think you may need this", I said as I handed him back his appointment reminder. Slightly embarrassed he rooted through is pockets and produced another card reminding me of all that Jesus has done for me. Obviously he didn't know that I am both an Ordained Minister and The Gift of God.
Knowing that the World is full of lost souls in need of direction, I stashed the card in a Geocach site I found at the Historic Dalby Waterwheel on Hood Canal.
Built in 1924 the Historic Dalby Waterwheel on Hood Canal produced electricity for the Dalby home and several cabins into the 1940s. Through a volunteer effort the wheel was restored and relocated to it's current location in 2006.
What is one to do with an hour to kill waiting for a ferry?