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April Newsletter

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I was rock climbing last Tuesday but skiing powder on Saturday - it must be Spring! Welcome to the April edition.


Before we talk about anything else, we should talk about next month. I've been booked to be in Bend, Oregon, on 17 May. This means I can add alpine climbs and ski mountaineering descents of Mt Hood and rock climbing days at Smith Rock State Park the week before or after that day (so, 9-16 May or 18-23 May), and offer a reduced rate.
Mt Hood Alpine Climbing and Mountaineering: At this late date, classic climbing ascents utilizing snowcat reservations to reach the top of the ski area (and climbing 2500' in 30 minutes) are likely not available. If you'd still like to try, please let me know! But if you're interested in an overnight ascent, or climbing one of the more challenging routes like the Cooper Spur, Sandy Headwall or Luethold Couloir, then this is the perfect opportunity! Maximum ratio for overnight climbs on the classic south-side routes are 3:1 and start at $720/climber; all other routes are a maximum of 2:1 and start at $820/climber.
Mt Hood Ski/Splitboard Mountaineering: I'm obviously biased, but I think that Mt Hood may be the best introduction to technical ski mountaineering in the northwest. Being able to ride first chair at Timberline Lodge saves hours of time and 2500' of elevation gain; mild and straighforward glacier travel into the crater and Hogsback; a headwall requiring the use of crampons, ice axe, and rope to ascend to the summit. Then a +5000' descent with a heads-up +35° start along the summit crater rim back to the car. All in one day! Prior backcountry experience and solid advanced riding skills required. Depending on your prior experience with ice axe, crampons, and roped travel, I may also request a half-day beforehand for tools and skills familiarization for both of our safety. Maximum ratio is 3:1, prices start at $455/climber and include a one-trip lift ticket to the top of the Timberline ski area.
Smith Rock Climbing: Still one of my favorite places to go, Smith Rock was historically the "birthplace" of American sport climbing. There is a ton of good trad climbing in the Upper Gorge as well, and recently there has been a surge of new route development to help disperse the crowds focused on the front-side. What I like the most about Smith are the adventurous multi-pitch routes on the rock towers, watching the eagles and falcons fly alongside you why river otters swim below in the Deschutes. Accommodations range from camping within walking distance to a hotels in Bend. Climbing here is a great way to kick-start your summer climbing season. Keep the ratio at 2:1 maximum for multi-pitch options, starting at $200/climber/day.
What else is going on? I'm back home in the Cascades, and the roads are opening up to the big tours - I'm starting to scout them out weekly to make sure. I'm also madly working on a series of videos to go up on Vimeo and Gear Lists for various trips, and Route Profiles of my favorite climbs and skis - all three of which will also be appearing and promoted on my website's Notebook page. I'm also starting again this week to work on rebolting the first cliff in Washington that featured protection bolts placed with battery powered drills in the early 1980's - and most of those bolts are still there! #terrifyingtotrust! Last year I fixed rope up what will naturally be the most popular line on the cliff, and another climber replaced the anchor bolts and 1/2 of the protection bolts. I'm going back this year to replace the remaining protection bolts on this 6-pitch 5.10- route, then get to work on its neighbor, another 6-pitch line that features a bit more gear and a bit more solid 5.10. There is documentation of a 5.8-5.9 gear route to the left, and four more bolted/gear routes on a second aspect further right. That's a lot of bolting to replace - so contact me if you'd like details, and if you'd like to help with donations for ropes or hardware. 


I'm excited to announce an awesome collaboration with Ascent Outdoors for my guests. Guests will now be able to receive 20% off new and used gear and 15% gear rentals. Ascent Outdoors has been a cornerstone in the Seattle climbing and backcountry skiing community for over 20 years. Details will go out with trip registrations. Special thanks to Sam and Andrew over at Ascent Outdoors for immediately reaching out when they heard that I had "gone independent"!


Its been almost 20 years since the Forbidden Tour, the Isolation Traverse, and ski descents Mt Shuksan's White Salmon or Mt Baker's Coleman-Deming were first documented. These are all great trips - I'm going to ski a Baker Bullet for fun as soon as the road opens! But how about three other, lesser talked-about ideas that are on my tick list before the 4th of July?
Spearhead Traverse: Blackcomb and Whistler ski areas lie at the entrance to a long valley, and the Spearhead Traverse is the 24-mile tour that wraps around, connecting the two. This summer construction will start on a series of Alps-styled catered huts, which will forever change the character of this tour. This may be the last year for a "wild" experience. While the tour can be cranked out in 2 or 3 days, I'd like to do it in 5 or even 6, to take a couple of side tours and tag a few summits and ski descents!
Mt Shuksan's Northwest Couloir or North Face: Both lines are expert-only ski descents that have to be done when the conditions allow. An advanced camp at the base of the face shaves a few hours off the approach in the morning. The North Face features +45° slopes above 40° and 35° degree slopes and cliffs, so "absolutely-no-falling"! The Northwest Couloir has 3000' of 40° slope into the valley, plainly visible from the Mt Baker Ski Area. If conditions conspire against you, the 6000' descent from the summit of Mt Shuksan down the White Salmon Glacier isn't a bad consolation prize!
Koma Kulshan Circumnav Tour: Koma Kulshan, or Mt Baker, is one of the most glaciated massifs in the contiguous United States. And unlike a circumnav of Mt Rainier, which can only be described as side-hilling so constant that it shortens your uphill leg and creates a perceptible limp, a tour around Baker can actually have climbs and descents. I have a tour mapped out, that I have skied variations of twice but still haven't successfully skied the intended line. Maybe this year! 
Day 1 is all about the up, as we climb as far as we can on the Colman Glacier before setting up camp. On Day 2 we climb Colfax Peak and ski the South Couloir to the Deming and Easton Glaciers. For Day 3 we climb up the Easton and Squak Glaciers to the Sherman Peak summit, descending into the crater and down the Boulder Glacier to the Boulder-Park Cleaver. On Day 4 we finally summit Mt Baker proper via the Boulder-Park Cleaver, then descend the Park Headwall and Park Glacier to the Rainbow Glacier. On the final Day 5 we climb across the Rainbow and Mazama Glaciers to ski the Roosevelt and Coleman Glaciers back to the trail, and the car. This one-of-a-kind tour touches every summit and every glacier on every side of Koma Kulshan. A true adventure!


As much as I love to ski, Spring means that rock and alpine climbing is beginning! I have a few ideas for local climbing if you're interested in getting started on the season. 
Mt Erie, Anacortes: Only an hour and half from downtown Seattle, the loudest sound at Mt Erie is a jet taking off from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The cliffs stack the south face, creating a venue that is often dry when all else is wet on a compact, edgy rock similar to that in Snoqualmie Valley only a stone's throw from the ocean with a fraction of the crowds. Possibly to book up to 4:1 for cragging days, or 2:1 for multi-pitch objectives. Also a great venue for rock rescue skills.
Alpine Rock, Snoqualmie Pass: April, May and June can be the perfect time to climb in Snoqualmie Pass. Snow covers the talus fields thickly enough to make approaches and descents straighforward and easy (sometimes even fast), but the rock itself has melted out and the south-facing climbing is a simple pleasure. The South Face of The Tooth, the North East Buttress and the Direct North East Buttress are great climbs to consider this time of year.
Darrington, NEW FOR 2018: Also an hour and half from downtown Seattle, Darrington climbing is multi-pitch granite. Domes tucked in valleys, hidden by forests, climbed 600, 800, 1600' into the sky, split by cracks and features reminiscent of the Sierras and Squamish but uniquely Cascadian. Enthusiasm for the area waned as logging roads were closed and approach hikes grew, then bolts and information aged. Recently a crew of climbers, lead by the first ascensionists of the 1980's and 1990's, started replacing those +30 year-old-bolts with new hardware. A local non-profit started assisting the Forest Service with maintaining the roads. The USFS started promoting commercial permits, wanting to help the depressed extraction-dependent local economy. And there it is - some of the best moderate multi-pitch rock climbing on the west side of the Cascades! 


I will be in Switzerland and Italy for August and September! More details to come, but I currently have the following four weeks open and available for bookings.
Zermatt - Matterhorn, Ticino, or Sud Tirol - Dolomiti: 20-25 August, 27 August - 1 September.
Ticino, Sud Tirol - Dolomiti: 10-15 September, 17-22 September.


Come skiing or climbing with me! If you have had an adventure in mind that you don't see mentioned here or on my website, please contact me and let's make it happen:
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Warm regards,
Chris Simmons
P.S. In search of Non-profit assistance: I am trying to start a non-profit to create an annual scholarship fund to help Veterans pay for guide training from the American Mountain Guide Association. I think I've gotten everything registered and ready to go, but I'm unsure what my next steps are. If you can help, or refer me to someone who can, I'd be much obliged!
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Gear - Alpine Rock Climbing, Overnight