Friday, June 4, 2010

Guiding on Mt. Rainier, WA

Guiding Mt. Rainier, WA

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Posted 39 minutes ago by Miles Clark

Mt. Rainier southwest face

Mt. Rainier's Southwest Face

by Miles Clark

Alas, at some point winter must come to a close…..well, not this year, but my money has certainly come to a close. Thus, it is once again time for that four letter word: work. Work can be ugly, but some of us here in Tahoe have figured out ways to contort that four letter word into something we truly enjoy.

Mt. Hunter from basecamp on McKinley

Mt. Hunter from McKinley basecamp

5 years ago, when I got sick of doing carpentry all summer, I got into mountain guiding. I now love guiding and it has taken me to some gorgeous places like Alaska, Mexico, and Patagonia. And I'm hopeing to guide in some even more exotic places soon.

Guiding on Mt. McKinley
Pure focus on McKinley

This summer I am working on Mt. Rainier (14,411 ft) in Washington state. I work for Rainier Mountaineering Inc. I’ve worked for them for a few seasons now and they treat me alright. Mt. Rainier is a big, brutish, glaciated peak that is a great training ground for higher glaciated peaks like Mt. McKinley (20,320 ft) and those of the Himalaya. For some reason, people come from all over the US of A to climb this pile of rock and ice and see if they have what it takes to charge up and down her and I have a blast showing them the way.

Guiding on RainierAttempting to look cool on Mt. Rainier

A Typical Guided Summit Climb on Mt. Rainier

From the parking lot, all that is between you and the summit is 9,000 vertical feet of rock and ice. Luckily, you only have about 30 hours to touch the top and get back down again. Clients who sign up with us participate in a day long school where we teach them the necessary skills to climb Mt. Rainier. Then the next two days are spent climbing up to the top and sloggging back down to the lot.

Summit of El Pico de Orizaba (18,701 ft) in Mexico

Summmit of El Pico de Orizaba (18,701 ft) in Mexico

On the first day of the climb we hike from the parking lot at Paradise (5,400 ft) to Camp Muir (10,100 ft). That takes from about 10am to about 4pm or so. We then bed down by 6pm and are up again anywhere from 11:30pm to 1am, depending on the time of year. Once up it’s ice axe, crampons, harnesses, helmets and ropes as we start climbing towards the summit. 3 breaks on the way up and Bam! you’re on top. An hour or less is spent on the top and we are zippin’ back downhill in the daylight. 45 minutes to pack up again at Camp Muir and we start schleppin’ down toward the parking lot. We’ll usually hit the parking lot somewhere around 3 or 4pm making round trip from lot to lot about 30 hours.

People are generally pretty spent when they get down but absolutely stoked to have done it. A b.o. heavy pizza and beer session usually follows with speeches and toasts galore. If all goes well, people get what they came for and learn a few fun mountaineering techniques along the way. Ahhhh mountain guiding, a strange world unto itself.

A few fun mountain guide jokes:

Q: How do you know if someone is a mountain guide?

A: He'll tell ya.

Q: What is the difference between a mountain guide and a large pizza?

A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.

Q: What is the diffence between a mountain guide and God?

A: God doesn't think he's a mountain guide.

Lemme know if you have any others.

Squaw Helmet Cam Ski Movie Teaser

The final segment of this video is me!

Nut Hut Studios - Exit Strategy

Check out this teaser for "Exit Strategy" from Nut Hut Studios.

Nut Hut Studios will release it’s first feature length ski film this year called “Exit Strategy”. The film documents the phenomenal 2009/2010 ski season in the North Lake Tahoe Region. Though primarily backcountry focused, the film has plenty of in bounds pow footage from Squaw Valley. It also showcases many of Squaw’s classic lines from the point of view perspective. Here’s a teaser of the Squaw Valley POV segment featuring Joshua Plack, Robb Gaffney and Unofficial Squaw Team Member Miles Clark.

Ruth Gorge, AK - Denali National Park Skiing

Alaska's Ruth Gorge

Ruth Gorge, AK from UnofficialSquaw on Vimeo.

I was lucky enough to score a ski guiding job in Denali National Park's Ruth Gorge the first week of May. The place is simply face-melting in person and goddamn impressive on paper. The gorge is plugged with ice over 3,500 feet deep and a mile wide. The granite walls that define the gorge are 4 to 5 thousand feet tall and straight up. These walls and spires can be seen 100 miles away and have earned names such as: Moose's Tooth, Bear's Tooth, Broken Tooth, and The Gargoyle. It is the deepest gorge in the world and you can feel it.

After the most incredible flight of my life, an hour long flight-see around Mt. McKinley, we landed at the Mountain House. The Mountain House is a hexagon-shaped hut located on a nunatak or rock island in the Ruth Glacier. (The hut has a very cool history Our crew consisted of 5 clients and 2 guides and we were there to ski.

During our 6 days in the gorge we only had one weather day and it was kind enough to leave us 18 inches of light, dry, stable Alaskan snow. Needless to say, the skiing was good.

Rule #1 in Alaska: Do not waste good Alaskan weather! Skiing until 9pm in full sunlight wasn't uncommon on this trip. If the weather is good, you go skiing, dammit!

We got 20 runs in during our stay, almost all of which were in pure AK powder. We did our best, but of course, we barely scratched the surface of what can be skied in the enormous Don Sheldon Amphitheater and Ruth Gorge.

My neck is still sore from rubbernecking to take in the insanity that is reality in the Alaska's fairly-tale-come-true called the Ruth Gorge.

Chimney at Squaw, & a D-Spin 720! - April 23rd, 2010!!

Squaw Gave Us The Chimney Today from UnofficialSquaw on Vimeo.

The chimney wasn't bad today and there was a big crew that was on it. Lotza good times were had and many a smile exchanged. I was also stoked to accomplish my final goal for the season, landing a d-spin 720 in the park. In the process of doing so I took my hardest fall of the season and scraped up my face! Lovely. In this vid you can see Chimney Sweep, Center Line, The Loft, Easy Street, and I almost went for Schmidiots, but thought better of it. April 23rd, 2010. Big Thanks to patrol for opening all of the Chimney for us today!