Monthly Archives: October 2021

Getting some outdoor leads in!


Saturday, 25-Sept-2021

The Beacon, Washington State

Man… with the exception of my Devil’s Tower climbing adventure, I can’t really remember the last time I just went out to climb with friends in the great outdoors. Ehh, okay. That’s a bit hyperbolic – It was last November, or maybe October, climbing at Ozone / FarSide with Bri and Lizzie. I had to trundle a huge boulder out of the route when it nearly fell out.

Fun times.

But… distant times, you know?

When Imogen expressed interest in climbing outdoors… well, I jumped on it. I was psyched, and came up with a few ideas of where we could go – she’s a newer climber, so I didn’t want to overwhelm her just yet… so just some shorter and cleaner pitches to get the blood flowing, you know?

In other words, The Beacon called.

It’s not an easy area, but there are a few very well travelled, very clean, very moderate routes that I’ve gotten to know pretty well. Not so much that I could climb them blindfolded… but the “with one arm tied behind my back” phrase does come to mind.

I packed up the car, picked her up in Portland, and we made our way toward adventure!

What did we climb?

SE Corner, 5.6, Trad – I got to lead!

We also explored quite a bit around the base of the Beacon… I feel like I’ve explored these before, but I can’t quite remember any specific instances… so we crawled into caves, stared up at huge walls, and appreciated the open air and cool fall breezes.

It was a simple and fun day – we got one solid pitch in, but… I’ll admit, I underestimated just how intimidating outdoor climbing can be, in comparison to gym climbing… especially when you get an amazing view of the Columbia River Gorge. Great views are a double-edged sword, right? They’re awesome and beautiful… but they’re also intimidating if you’re not accustomed to them.

Which leads me to the real meat and potatoes of this post – Climbing today, I was reminded just how deeply immersed I am in my element. It doesn’t really fall into one of the four natural elements… but instead I’m just exceptionally comfortable outdoors. Which… I’m just going to say it, I’m really exceptionally proud of.

It’s neat to think of, you know? I’d been camping when I was younger, a few times, but I’d never really considered myself into the outdoors until I got to college and had a chance to really stretch into my own wings.

But once I did… I’ve learned a lot, and experienced such a huge bounty of amazing trips, places, and… well, let’s be honest here. Quite a few mistakes along the way as well.

But… It’s been at least 16 years that I’ve been doing this. 16 solid years of trips, adventures, mistakes, memories, and excitement. Highs and lows, great summiting and rappelling in the rain.

It’s good to step back and recognize just how awesome we really are, every once in a while. To look at ourselves from the outside, and see just how many experiences we’ve lived, and how comfortable we’ve become in our elements – be it work, adventure, hobbies, or what have you.

To quite a wise (if short) old master: “Luminous beings are we”

One does not simply walk into Mordor… 17&18-Sept-2021, walking through Mordor


Friday and Saturday, 17-Sept-2021 and 18-Sept-2021

“One does not simply walk into Mordor”, Boromir said to the council.

“The Lord of Gondor speaks truly”, said Ben, “But one can walk through it, if one is quick and keeps their wits about them”

“Ohh.”, Boromir responded.

I’m not saying that’s 100% how it happened… but that’s probably exactly how it happened.

How what happened? Ohh, how Laurel and I walked through Mordor, of course!

We’d spent the week checking the weather and debating different hikes to try. Originally we’d planned on spending three days hiking into Green Lakes, in the Sisters Wilderness, before we’d realized that permits stopped being required the next month, and not that month. Then, we looked at a few hikes in Washington… but they had rain all weekend long.

The weather out in the Pacific Northwest is fickle though, so we kept our wits about us and kept checking the forecast, ’till we finally found a spot with available permits and a clear-ish weather window: the Western edge of the Sisters Wilderness, across the ridgeline from our original goal!

We cut the trip down to two days, thanks to the rain, but aside from that we kept the plan similar – meet up early on Friday (I’d have pancakes ready and waiting, of course), and then hike into camp before sundown on Friday. Then enjoy the sound of rain on the tent Saturday morning, before hiking out as the rain started in earnest.

The plan went as… well, as planned. Chocolate Chip pancakes with Bacon, some coffee, and a relatively normal 3hr drive brought us to the trailhead. Good conversations were had both in the car and on the path, though the trail did put a bit of a damper on conversation as we got into the burnt area of the wilderness.

Did I mention that part? The online trail description mentioned that there were a few miles in the middle that had been part of a wildfire, but… as can be expected, the trail description didn’t quite convey just how burnt this was. We’re not talking “lightly singed” trees, here. We’re talking scorched earth, blackened deadwood. The forest had been regrowing over the past two years, of course, but it was still noticeably dusty and devastated… a fact which added quite a bit of solemnity to the hike.

We persevered, though.

Walking through the burn was a good meditation aid, but I’ll freely admit that I was quite thankful to get through and back to living forests. Both Laurel and I had a rough time of it; burning through our water much more quickly than expected, between us and making sure Biscuit had enough to drink… the sun was warm, and the trail was dusty, and the views seemed to sap our energy as we continued through…

Until, finally, we came through Mordor to the other side… our destination, Husband Lake

It’s interesting – I’ve hiked in the Sisters Wilderness many times before, but I’d never heard of a mountain called “The Husband” before. It’s nestled to the West of the main Three Sisters, in a parallel valley to the Green Lakes valley. There’s a series of small lakes, and the PCT even goes through the valley a little ways to the East.

It’s beautiful, barely travelled, and… I don’t quite get why it’s not as popular. As you can see, dear reader, we may have gotten some stellar views as we unpacked, set up camp, and the sun dipped down toward the horizon.

Laurel, being the MVP that she is, had insisted on carrying my inflatable kayak. We’re heading to a lake, so clearly we needed to be able to paddle it, right? Right.

I’ve used the kayak quite a few times before, but this was my first time using it on a proper backpacking trip… and let me tell you, it was absolutely amazing. Quietly sitting on the lake as the sun sent light scattering through the clouds and smoke? Gorgeous.

Laurel set up the tent while I paddled, then she paddled off while I filtered the water and started prepping dinner… it was gloriously chill, and an amazing post-hike start to the evening.

The only one unhappy with the situation was Biscuit, I’m sorry to report. He was definitely not a fan of the humans splashing into the distance where he couldn’t check on them, and so stayed as close to the kayak as he could on the shore… after swimming for a while, of course. But it was cold, and he’s a svelt pup, so we quickly dried him off and bundled the poor dear up while we cooked dinner, drank wine, and chatted on into the night…

The next morning dawned exactly as we’d expected – to the pittering sound of rain on the tent.

There’s something gloriously relaxing about waking up on a cool morning in the rain. It wasn’t quite cold, thanks to having three people in the tent… well, two people and one dog… and the sound of the rain was just inconsistent enough that it was both soothing and interesting at the same time.

I lay, drifting in and out of sleep, for quite a while… It was lovely, and absolutely what I’d been hoping for when we talked about going backpacking. But, after a little bit, I started to feel restless… and found myself outside, braving the rain to do a bit of exploring and to make a bite of breakfast.

We’d packed coffee, instant eggs, cheese, and some tortillas… nothing too fancy, mind, but enough that it was lovely and fun, and just enough work to assemble that we had something to do in the warm dryness of the tent. I’d been tempted to just push through the rain, but Laurel insisted on waiting for a bit… I wasn’t convinced that the rain would hold off, but hanging out in the tent was fun, and she’d put up with me pushing us onward the day before… so turnabout is fair play, and we spent an hour or two just relaxing and chatting in the warm dry spot in the storm.

She was right, it turned out. The rain slowed, then stopped completely.

We headed out into the world, packed up, and got ourselves underway back toward the truck. The hike out was long, and definitely wet, but also beautiful. It was easier to chat, since the trail wasn’t quite so dusty, and the fine mist helped keep us cool… cool enough that we didn’t really want to slow down much, as we made our way down the trail.

It was lovely – a major shift in climate from the day before, but an excellent ending to an excellent hike.

Specific details:

Trail map:
Foley Ridge trailhead permit:

Distance (Expected) = 14.6 miles, plus 1mile to the lake
Distance (measured on FitBit) = 22+ miles

Elevation (expected) = 2,368 ft
Elevation (measured on Fitbit) = 2,520 ft

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 5: Returning home


Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

FSaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.

An ascent of Devil’s Tower...

Friday and Saturday, 10-Sept-2021 & 11-Sept-2021


I need to type words here… but frankly, it’s kind of hard to think up how to describe the drives home.

It’s sort of like a hike, maybe? In that a description isn’t really viable, and instead I should just skip over it as “Ben did the thing, time passed, and then he got where he was going. Here’s some pictures”?

Like the preface says, I really enjoy long drives. They give me a chance to keep the “I want to be moving!” part of my brain occupied while the “Let’s think about life!” part of my brain gets to run rampant. It’s really cool, actually… there’s been studies on “highway hypnosis”, and it’s even got a Wikipedia article written about it (Ed Note: See the link below!)… from what I can gather, it’s not dangerous… just an example of the human brain being pretty freaking amazing.

I drove.

I thought.

I kept an app open on my phone so that I could dictate notes as I thought up interesting things worth considering.

Wyoming came, and Wyoming went. Montana appeared on the horizon, and then the border passed under my wheels.

It was…

It just was. Excellent.

OHH! One thing worth noting – Missoula was still great! I had a room in a dorm this time, COVID-safe of course with tons of walls and screens, and I had BBQ again!



I planned on leaving Missoula early in the morning… around dawn, ideally. That didn’t quite happen though – I got up early, of course, but as I was putting my bags in the car I noticed something… something dangerous. Something familiar to an Oregonian.

I noticed a farmer’s market.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go to farmer’s markets that often. But I do try to when I have the chance – I don’t know how realistic this is, but I feel like veggies from a farmers market are just… healthier than ones from the store. You know?

They haven’t travelled as far, they haven’t been in storage quite as long, and… I dono, I kind of assume that the farms are smaller, so… they’re from less industrial seeds? That last one doesn’t quite make sense the more I think about it, but the rest of the ideas hold true.

So I bought some potatoes, carrots, dipping oil, and even a super-fancy dry-aged New York Strip steak. I’d still be getting home pretty early, so I figured that a nice meal would help top off the trip, you know?

One last stop on the way out of town took me to a semi-famous used book store (Ed Note: Hello again! Check out yet another link below!), though I didn’t find anything particularly interesting. A few mountaineering books that were maybe worth something, but… none of the climbing guidebooks that I’d been hoping to find. And since my apartment is already a bit overloaded with books, I held off for the time being and got back on the road.

The drives were.

Just as the day before, they simply were.

Miles passed, Montana passed, Idaho passed, and then even Washington passed.

The Columbia River grew up beside me, and the Gorge reared up around me.

Soon enough I was home, laying out the spoils of my adventure and cooking up an exceptionally stellar welcome-home meal.

It had been an excellent trip.