Sunday, 24-Feb-2019 – Hiking to Angels Rest, Columbia River Gorge

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Sunday, 24-Feb-2019

 

Sarah and I have been having rather amazingly relaxing weekends – getting things done around the house, decompressing from the weeks, and trying to keep calm amid the swirling chaos of my new job and Sarah’s art fair deadlines.

For the most part, we’re doing well and staying sane.

But… it’s not easy, and sometimes what we need is an escape into the mountains.  Or, in this case, the cliffs of the gorge.

 

This weekend was kind of rough, starting out… we knew that we wanted to go on some sort of adventure, but couldn’t decide what to do or where to go.  The mountains of the Pacific Northwest had gotten hit pretty hard the previous week with snow, so all the major peaks were under avalanche warning – those weren’t an option.  Long drives were possible… but we honestly couldn’t see ourselves sitting in the car for four hours after the craziness of the week.

We ended up cutting ourselves some slack, and taking it easy: The Columbia River Gorge is right in our back yard, after all, so why not take advantage of that?  Especially when it’s being blanketed in a new coat of light snow!

 

We packed the night before, poured a thermos of coffee that morning, and drove in.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about the hike.  It was simple, it was beautiful, and it was easy.  It was, with all of those, exactly what we needed.  A chance to get into the woods, to feel the wind and the snow, and to enjoy the stillness of the winter air.  Or, the stillness of the air being broken by the sound of Ollie sprinting up and down the trail, loving every second of being able to play in the snow.

It was a good hike.

 

Sunday, 27-Jan-2019 – Cross Country Skiing at Pocket Creek, on Mt. Hood!

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Sunday, 27-Jan-2019

Pocket Creek trail.

Mount Hood.

Oregon.

United States of America.

This day and location shall live on in legend, as the first day that Ben and Sarah put on skiis after breaking their respective knees. The first time that they, either individually or together, faced the fear of re-injury and got back into something similar to a saddle. The first time, since each suffered through healing and recovery, that Sarah and Ben skiied up a mountain.

I mean, it’s sort of a mountain, right?

Okay, fine, we weren’t ON Mt. Hood. We were across the road, in the Mt. Hood national park. In a small, lightly graded snowpark.

Know what? Being safe is important, and discretion is the better part of valor, and live to fight another day, and fifteen different other idioms that mean we made a good decision and were safe, and had a great time with excellent views. And, just as important, the trail was dog friendly (but not snowmobile friendly), so Ollie could come along too, and help pull us up the steep bits.

We drove out, geared up, and headed in. Sarah had her alpine touring kit, complete with skins, and I had my cross country kit – complete with gifted skiis, consignment boots, and hiking poles. I’m still scared of skiing, okay? I don’t want to buy a nice kit before being confident that I’d be willing to ski again.  Both options worked, too!  Sarah’s was a bit more efficient, especially on the downhill parts (I took off my skiis and walked, after my first attempt as downhill cross country ended in white-knuckled terror), but both our setups were pleasant and carried us through.

There really isn’t that much more to say, to be honest.  It was fun, and we had a good time.  Look at the pretty pictures!

From 2018 into 2019 – An Australian Adventure: The Blue Mountains, and the end of the trip

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Friday and Saturday, 04-Jan & 05-Jan-2019

As is tradition, Sarah and I spent Christmas and New Years on an international adventure of epic proportions.  This year, the Lydecker clan (including myself and Henry’s girlfriend Leah) met up in the land down under, the magical land of Australia…

 

This last adventure was a bit focused on Sarah and I – You see, we like rock climbing.  It’s a bit of a hobby of ours, if you hadn’t heard, and when packing for our trip we’d included a few pieces of climbing gear… just in case we could escape the city and get a bit of climbing in.

Also please note, and give praise for the fact that… These climbs were Sarah’s first outdoor rock climbs since injuring her leg!!!  Major milestone to recovery!!!

In fact, that was part of the plan – Pack up a car, drive into the Blues, and get ourselves on some rocks.

So that’s what happened.  Please be warned – this section will have some rather specific details about the routes that we did.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the extreme specifics.

 

Friday, 04-Jan

Let me start by saying that, while inflatable mattresses are excellent… They can have some downsides.  Such as when they pop in the middle of the night. Then we end up escaping and sleeping on the couch.

But that’s A-Okay, because then, once we wake up… well, then we pack up and get on the road!  Roadtrip with Henry and Leah!!!

There was some stress with fitting all the gear into the car, but thankfully success was had, and toward the Blue Mountains we went. The drive was pretty long, but we made it out without too much difficulty. Then Henry and Leah dropped us off, headed out into town, and Sarah and I descended into Blue Mountains climbing…

Even though the day was hot and the sun was bright, we were out of doors, and next to some beautiful rock.  It was good, and we got more than a few routes in, as shown below.  All of them were sport, with the exception of the two top-rope routes, due to the fact that we didn’t bring any trad gear along with us.  Trad is fun… but it’s also heavy.  Which is no bueno for international travel, unfortunately.

  • Captain Pugwash, Lead, 5.6 (13)
  • Three Sheets to the Wind, Lead, 5.5 (11)
  • Roger the Cabin Boy, Lead, 5.3 (9)
  • Until Death do us Part, Lead, 5.5 (12)
  • Manana, Top Rope, 5.7 (14)
  • Go Back to Switzerland, Lead, 5.5 (11)
  • I Only Eat Plankton, Top Rope, 5.8 (17)

The climbing itself was lovely, while being quite different from the States.  The rock was sandstone, and surprisingly weak – Instead of the hard sandstone that I’ve climbed before this almost felt like sand… it was gritty, but not in the same way worn granite is.

As an added challenge, not every “sport” route was open to us.  While “Sport” in the USA means that there are bolts and hangers for us to clip into, in Australia some of the sport routes simply have the bolts – you have to bring the hangers along with you.  Well, we didn’t have hangers.  So, we trusted our guidebooks, and stuck to the routes that came complete with hangers.

Also, another challenge: Australian summer.  It was hot.  Hot enough that we took a nap halfway through the day, in the shade.  We had more than enough water with us, but… yeah.  Hot sun is hot.

After climbing, we hiked all the way out to link up with Henry and Leah… in order to hike back in to watch the thunderstorms roll in from a gorgeous viewpoint above the valley.

After re-ascending (in the rain, this time… In my defense, it was Henry who said “The rain would be refreshing”, not me!) we packed into the car and got into town for dinner!

Since it was full though, we went to the pub first. Beer, calamari, garlic bread, and more beer was followed by going back to the restaurant, having a delicious pizza, and then heading to the AirBnB for some well-earned showers and some deep, deep sleep.

 

Saturday, 05-Jan

Another early morning… but that’s fairly critical when the weather hits the high 90s by noon.  And while the day before had been amazing… it had been a bit toasty, and our goal today was to get our climbing in early so that we could get back to Sydney before it got too late.

We got going, hit a cafe for some pies and coffee, and got dropped off at the trailhead again, lickity split.

Sarah and I descended in, after Henry and Leah headed out, choosing to walk along the cliff base in order to maximize our “gawking like fresh gym gumbies” time. We saw some of the routes that we’d planned on climbing mobbed by multiple groups, and so chose to keep wandering on.

As we walked, we ended up linking up with two other tourists who were heading to the same slab we were, so enjoyed some chatting / commiseration time as we walked – It was neat, chatting with another out-of-country couple who was in a similar boat to us.  They lived in China, but were visiting family in Sydney and had driven out for a few days of climbing before flying back home.  No matter where we live in the world, there’ll always be other people like us, I guess.

Anyways then we dove into the climbing!  Similar to the day before… but a little different.  These routes were more popular, and so weren’t quite as gritty as the previous ones.  They weren’t nearly as polished as climbs back in the States, but you could tell that they’d been loved.

  • Boatbuilding for Clancy, Lead, 5.7 (15)
  • Back to Back, Top Rope, 5.7 (14)
  • The Cat that Fought Back, Lead, 5.7 (14)
  • Statistical Scare Tactics, 5.10c, (20)

Quote of the day, “So the Beta for this is climb up to the crux, get tired, climb down, have a rest, then climb back up and make the move”

After burning out of Statistical Scare Tactics we hiked out via the direct-route, taking a set of fixed lines and rebar steps up the cliff side to the top. Then linked up with Henry and Leah (didn’t climb back down again, thankfully), and made the long drive back to Sydney.

Stopped at a Lebanese chicken place on the way in Palmatta, that had AMAZING chargrilled chicken, then got home to pack, relax, and chill. We didn’t quite stay in the house, though – decided to take a quick adventure down to one of the bars nearby – The Oaks! It was fun, getting a chance to just relax and have a drink in an old-school English-style pub, in the land down under. An excellent send off, from an excellent trip.