California Thirteeners List
Vulgarian Ramblers
Summer 2003 Tour

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Schmed (the web site guru) wasn’t able to participate in the 2003 tour, due to problems with his arthritic knee. He hoped to return for the 2004 Summer Tour, but that didn’t happen either. Once everyone heard that Schmed wasn’t going to make it, the Vulgarians started climbing out of the woodwork to participate (just kidding), and the main trip to the Rainier massif included 12 climbers!

Here’s Mike Bromberg’s trip report:

I headed out to Colorado on the bike on June 10, met Don Fenton in Bellefonte, PA and rode with him as far as Illinois. Being on bikes, we were able to extricate ourselves from a massive Interstate 80 traffic jam caused by a fallen crane. Don left for Milwaukee and I continued on through Nebraska to Denver. In Colorado I bagged a peak, Mt. Tweto, and met up with Duane. Alan Taylor joined us for an attempt on Sayres Benchmark, but we were blocked by high water and hiked to a ski cabin in the valley instead. Duane and I continued to Seattle in the Jeep.

We reached Ibby’s on June 19, but bad weather made it clear that we weren’t going to climb Little Tahoma as scheduled. We substituted an attempt on Silver Star Mtn. and had a rowdy campsite, but low clouds and fog made routefinding tough and it was all we could do to all make it to Burgundy Col.

But the weather did clear dramatically in time for our Rainier trip. We wisely asked for and received an extra day on the permit, which allowed us to split the long approach hike into two parts. We spent the first night in Glacier Basin, then did the long and tedious trek up to Camp Schurman where we were able to set up most of the tents on the rocks. We were greeted with a great view of Little Tahoma, but alas not enough time to climb it this time.

We actually got a very un-Vulgarian predawn start on Wednesday June 25 in three roped teams of four, and got a superb view of sunrise from on the glacier. Our climbing route was easy to find, marked by footprints and traces of many previous parties (a few of us needed to use blue bags to avoid leaving such traces ourselves). All three teams successfully reached the summit, but not at the same time. Our route took us past many impressive crevasses and natural snow sculptures, but we all got back to camp safely in time for a few folks to leave early. The rest of us stayed in camp one more night. We got plenty of opportunity for fast glissading on the way out, and even some self-arrest practice.

We then found our way to the base of St. Helens. Cell phones and spotty reception were instrumental here in allowing the party to split apart and then have great difficulty getting back together, even though we were waiting for each other less than 100 feet apart on opposite sides of Jack’s Restaurant! In general, cell phones were partially successful in helping to recover from the problems they caused. Oh, for the good old days when people had to commit in advance and couldn’t try to change plans at the last minute using a cell phone!

Tad and Jimi went for a fruitless search for a rock climbing area, while Dave, Duane, and the two Mikes climbed Mt. St. Helens (photos of an alpine garden and the summit cornice). On Saturday, June 28 everyone headed out of Seattle. I thought I had time for an ascent of SE Polemonium, the last marginal 13,8er in California, so I drove the Jeep to Bishop and got a permit. I managed to hike in all the way to Thunderbolt Pass on Monday, but it took all day, leading to a late start Tuesday. I reached the ridge to SE Polemonium, but it was way too rough for the direct ascent I had planned, and I didn’t have time for another attempt by the longer Polemonium Glacier, so I had to hike out empty-handed. Next time I’ll allow two days to get into camp at Potluck Pass, which should allow enough time to get SE Polemonium by the glacier in one day (assuming it’s possible to climb it from there!).

I had an uneventful drive back to Denver, and met the Rocky Mountaineers at the Triangle on July 5; they are recovering from their lean years and there is a good chance of a Golden Fleece Run next year. I then went on a circle tour of Colorado peaks, climbing ten more peaks on the Bicentennial list, most of which are named UN13-something because they lack official names. I had one week of perfect dry weather, and one week of standard Colorado monsoons, as I climbed peaks ranging from easy walkups in the Sawatch, to lengthy backpacks in the Lake City range, to tough, dangerous climbs in the Elks. I unexpectedly rode a loose air-conditioner-sized boulder a couple of feet down that “killer couloir” on UN13722 before I managed to hop off on a ledge where I was pelted by falling rocks. But I survived, and I don’t have to go up that couloir ever again. The whole two weeks in Colorado were sublime, because I didn’t have to meet any deadlines or do anything on predetermined dates. I was able to read the weather, split tough trips into smaller easier ones, take it easy when I felt like it, clear out my head, and basically had a great relaxing time. Isn’t that what a vacation is all about?