Monday, August 31, 2009

Help me support Stephanie!

I'm running this year in honor of Stephanie Butz, the wife of friend and co-worker, Jay. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery over the summer.

My fund-raising goal is $500 - and ANY AMOUNT you can donate will help!!!! Just click HERE to visit my page ( and give.

As always, THANK YOU for your support!
-Liz :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Back in the saddle again

So I finally got the call Monday. My job has been restored! But it's not exactly my old job. I'll be spending a small portion of the day with CE2. The rest of the time I'll be heading up an online credit-recovery program for students who have failed a class and need to make up the credit. All different subjects. Freshmen through seniors.

I spent two days in training to learn the brand-new-to-Tigard-schools software. The next two days were spent planning the new computer lab from scratch (no desks, no computers, no wall decorations).

It's quite a change from last year's CE2 duties. And I will definitely miss the deep connections I was able to make by spending all day with those students. But I'm looking forward to the new challenge. Now if we can just get some computers in that computer lab......


Monday, August 24, 2009

Hardest Summit in Oregon - 8/22/09

Mount Jefferson is the second-highest peak in Oregon and has a reputation for being the most-difficult summit in the state. Certainly there are harder routes, but the easiest route on Jefferson is arguably more difficult than the easiest route on any of Oregon’s other volcanoes.

On Saturday I had the privilege of sitting on top of this prominent peak with views to the north of Hood, Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens. To the south we could see the three sisters, Broken Top, Mount Washington, Bachelor and Three-Fingered Jack.
Me on the summit

We set out Friday morning to hike into Shale Lake (el 5883’) where we set up camp prior to climbing the mountain on Saturday. The hike in from the Pamelia Lake trailhead was enjoyable in cool weather. The clouds burned off as we made our way up the 7.5-mile approach trail with an occasional light breeze to keep us cool.
Jefferson from our camp at Shale Lake

There was a lot of nervous energy around camp on Friday evening in anticipation of the long day ahead and the notoriously intimidating snow traverse that would be required to reach the summit block.

We heard from another Mazamas group that had climbed this route the weekend before that the traverse was in an exceptionally difficult condition. After hearing this I was mentally preparing myself to bail if the traverse looked too dangerous. This would have been a very difficult decision for me after so much work to get there, but I was determined to return home safe even if it meant not summiting.

We left camp at 1:45 a.m. to begin the tedious slog up the South Ridge. It was a moonless night, but the stars were out as we made our way up the ridge by headlamp. I saw several shooting stars and wished for favorable conditions that would lead to a safe summit and return trip.

Thanks to our trip leader Hugh’s amazing route finding in near total darkness we reached the notch adjacent to Red Saddle (el 10,200’) in 5 hours of climbing. Many of you have climbed St. Helen’s with us on Liz’s annual trip. The South Ridge of Jefferson is very similar to the boulder section on St. Helens, only it’s much longer and there’s no trail or markers to define the easiest path through. Most of this must be ascended in the dark to reach the traverse while the snow is firm enough to climb and protect well. Add to that the challenge of climbing at altitude with a pack full of heavy technical climbing gear and you can begin to get a feel for this portion of the route.

Upon reaching the notch we got our first view of the dreaded traverse. After sizing up the route and determining it was doable I felt greatly relieved to realize I actually had a chance at summiting!

Our group headed over to Red Saddle to get ready while Hugh scrambled over to the snow to figure out the best way to safely navigate the steep snow. I joined him along with our assistant leader Greg to start setting up the anchors and put together a game plan. After getting an anchor setup I scrambled back to Red Saddle where I could wait safely out of the rock-fall zone while Hugh led the traverse and Greg belayed.
Hugh leading the traverse

Hugh completed the traverse and affixed the rope to a large boulder on the other side. With 6 pickets in between we had a fixed line that allowed the remainder of our party to cross the slope with reasonable protection.

One at a time we walked down from Red Saddle, put on crampons, attached ourselves to the rope with prusiks (short lengths of cord), and began the traverse. We opted to take a low line on the snow, which allowed us a shorter traverse before ascending straight up the steep snow to gain the ridge on the far side.

Water that melted during the day and ran off the snow field had frozen and turned to ice on the rocks below. This meant that our feet were on ice while our hands used an ice axe on the snow above. We used a climbing technique called front-pointing, which is best described as standing on your tippy toes and balancing on the front two points of your crampons.
Mark finishing the traverse

As I started across this portion of the traverse I regretted bringing my aluminum crampons which are not nearly as sharp as steel ones. This meant I had to balance more on ledges and stick my points into cracks instead of simply kicking them into the ice. I also longed for the security of an ice-tool in addition to my ice axe, which would have provided another secure point of contact if my feet slipped off. I’ve learned from my experience in climbing that wishing for things you don’t have is a waste of energy, so I tried to push those thoughts out of my head and focus on the task at hand as I made my way across.
Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, and Three Sisters in the distance

Soon all 6 of us were safely across and ready for the rock on the summit block. Though the climbing there is easy, the rock is loose and the exposure is great, so Hugh again setup a fixed line to protect the single rock pitch to the summit. Somehow we managed to get all 6 of our party on the tiny summit and record our names in the summit register, which we were surprised to find was chock-full of lady bugs!
An unlikely home

We then down climbed back to the traverse for round 2. By this time the sun was on the face so the snow was softer, but fortunately it was not yet too soft. There’s a fine line between snow that’s firm enough to provide purchase for crampons, ice axe and pickets and slush that’s impossible to navigate safely, so we wanted to get back across before it got too soft.

The ice that we had on the way up had now partially melted and mixed with the rock and dirt underneath to create a red mushy mess that was only marginally better than the ice, but I found it much more enjoyable to navigate with the confidence I had gained by crossing this slope earlier in the morning.

Our descent back to camp was long and tedious. We were headed downhill, but the sun was out now and was getting quite warm. After the long climb my feet were killing me. We made it back to camp 15 hours after we’d left. I’ve never been so anxious to get my boots off. I was extremely grateful that I’d brought along a pair of Crocs to wear as camp shoes. I went to bed early after soaking my feet in the lake and eating some dinner to refuel for the hike out Sunday morning.

I got up at 4:30 a.m. and cooked a big breakfast before packing up and hiking out the 7.5 miles back to our cars. It had been a great trip that ran smoothly from start to finish. This was one of the most difficult and memorable climbs I’ve done, so this summit came with a great feeling of accomplishment.

-Brad :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hope for me yet

I heard this song on the way home tonight. It made me smile. Here are some of the lyrics:

Still wondering why I’m here
Still wrestling with my fear
But oh, He’s up to something
And the farther on I go
I’ve seen enough to know
That I’m not here for nothing
He’s up to something

There is hope for me yet
Because God won’t forget
All the plans he’s made for me
I have to wait and see
He’s not finished with me yet

"Wait and See (He’s Not Finished With Me Yet!)" - Brandon Heath

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Canning party

I've always been scared of home canning... too many things to get right and too easy to mess it up... and then you kill someone with botulism. Yikes.

But this year Brad and I decided we should give it a try with some of the wonderful produce we're getting from our
community garden. I bought cans and borrowed tools from my grandmother. Lindsey heard of our plans and asked to come learn too. Then Eryn. Pretty soon it was a full-blown canning party with five people dancing in my kitchen!
I/we made bread & butter pickles, dill pickles, Dr Pepper jelly, faux pineapple, apple butter, relish and green tomatoes. Not bad for our first try! We had a good time and aren't as scared. Hopefully we won't poison anyone :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation Day 5: Broken Top

We woke Thursday to dense fog - not a good sign if you're planning to climb a mountain. We waited a couple hours until it lessened and figured we'd give it a try. So we loaded our packs and started toward the saddle. But we stopped part way up. Brad's not just enjoying the view:
He's looking at this:
We found a nice place to hunker down when the rain hit:
But it didn't come. The system seemed to be splitting before it reached us. And the clouds on the top didn't look too bad, coming and going:
So we decided to go for it. We made it to the saddle and then up, up toward the summit block. Still, we looked for bivy spots on the route where we could take cover if need be.

We were about 500 feet from the summit when our luck ran out and we were suddenly in the clouds and rain. So we turned around and headed back to a "good" bivy spot we'd seen on the way up.
Watching the storm through the trees:
We waited 30-45 minutes and the clouds and wind didn't let up. I was getting cold, so we decided to throw in the towel and return to camp, disappointed to be so close and not summit. As we packed up, we watched the top, which remained shrouded in clouds.

Brad snapped a few photos of the lakes and the hike out:
Our reward for the effort: veggie pizza at Old Town Pizza in Bend. YUM!

It was a beautiful hike and a good climb. I'm excited to go back and try again.

It was also a great vacation. We spent one more night in Bend before heading home Friday. We were pooped, but for all good reasons. What fun it was to explore Central Oregon! And a big thanks to Sue for the use of her wonderful home!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vacation Day 4: Green Lakes

On Wednesday we packed up and hiked into Green Lakes, an area between South Sister and Broken Top. The 4.5-mile trail followed Fall Creek, a beautiful spot dotted with waterfalls. We caught occasional glimpses of Broken Top, Thursday's goal.

From camp spot 16, we could see a lake and both South Sister and Broken Top. It was a wonderful place to spend the night.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vacation Day 3: Lava Butte

Tuesday was a day to rest, which meant exploring the Newberry National Volcanic Monument south of Bend. First stop was the Lava Cast Forest. I'm not sure we were supposed to climb inside, but it didn't say not to :) Then it was on to the Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava Butte. Last stop: Lava River Cave, a mile-long lava tube that goes under Highway 97. It was very dark and cold. Caving isn't my favorite activity, but Brad enjoyed it. :)