Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fundraising goal met for Vantage toilet!

The Washington Climbers Coalition, the American Alpine Club and The Mountaineers announced on July 18 that they have reached their fundraising goal to install a toilet at the Frenchman Coulee climbing area in central Washington. “It is going to be a great day when, after a two or three hour drive from Seattle or Spokane, there is some place to ‘go’,” said Washington Climbers Coalition president Dave Haavik. 

Climbers at Vantage's Feathers.
Photo by Brad Stracener.
Climbers have been asking for a permanent toilet facility at the popular Frenchman Coulee climbing area (often referred to as "Vantage") for 20 years.  In February 2012 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife authorized the project, saying they would built a toilet if climbers could fund it.  A fundraising goal of $50,000 was announced in March 2012.  The Washington Climbers Coalition reports that the $45,000 mark was met in June 2013 when they received a grant from the Spokane Mountaineers.  The American Alpine Club holds another grant from the Access Fund in the amount of $5,000 which is dedicated to this effort.  Virtually all of the local climbing clubs in Washington and several gyms and climbing shops, have hosted fundraising events or made significant donations to the effort. 

This project presents challenges above and beyond the simple matter of building a toilet.  State regulations required a cultural resource study to insure that no sensitive artifacts are disturbed.  The hole for the holding tank is going to have to be blasted into bedrock.  An ADA ramp will serve the entry.  But it will all be worth it: the planned facility will be a concrete vault toilet similar to those at many recreation sites across the state and it will replace porta-potties and cat-holes to provide a much more enjoyable and environmentally sustainable climbing destination.  “We are on track for an installation in the fall,” said Washington Department of Wildlife
Assistant Manager for Frenchman Coulee, Chad Eidson.

This popular climbing and hiking destination features outstanding rock climbing in a desert environment and attracts climbers from around the region.  The area includes climbs for virtually all ability levels, and hundreds of climbers can be found here on a busy weekend in the spring or fall.  Frenchman Coulee is a Northwest gem where thousands of climbers left the ground for the first time.  The construction of a toilet facility will be a big step toward taking care of this valuable recreation area.     

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Glacier Creek Road 39; Public Scoping Now Open for Your Comments

Project Vicinity Map, USFS image. 
Due to a washout that occurred on May 14th of this year Forest Service Road 39 has been damaged and is temporarily closed.  The U.S. Forest Service, Mt. Baker Ranger District is open for public comment regarding the repair of approximately 60 feet of road at Milepost 2.8.

Currently the road is closed to all motorized vehicles at Thompson Creek Bridge (MP 1.0) due to the severity of damage.

Washout at Glacier Creek Forest Service Road 39, USFS image. 

In order to meet the needs of forest users, access to the area will be restored in accordance with the goals of both the Forest Service Strategic Plan FY 2007-2012; and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (1990).

Proposed Action: The Proposed Action to repair FS Road 39 includes stabilizing the soil on the grade side with 20-80' soil nails, applying a spray concrete to any surface at any grade, and reducing subsurface seepage with a drainage system. All work will be done within the existing road prism footprint. 
Proposed Action, USFS image.

How to Comment: The Forest Service is inviting the public to provide comments on the analysis and issues for the proposed project by August 19, 2013. Comments should be in the form of specific issues raised by the action as proposed.
Comments my be written or electronic. 

Address comments to Theresa Mathis, Environmental Coordinator, Attn: Glacier Creek Road (FSR 39) Repair, Mt. Baker Ranger District, 810 State Route 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284.

Electronic comments may be sent via fax to (360) 856-1934 or email to Documents must include "Glacier Creek Road (FSR 39) Repair" in the subject line. 

For more information please contact Jim Mitchell, Project Leader, North Zone Engineering, Mt. Baker Ranger District, (360) 854-2620, or Theresa Mathis, Environmental Coordinator at (360) 854-2632. 

Current road conditions in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest can be found here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Celebrating 100 years of beautiful climbing--and the hidden surprises on Denali

A view from the top. Photo- National Park Service
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first summit on Denali (aka Mount McKinley), which is for many the ultimate image of a pristine wilderness. However, recent research by Dr. Michael Loso from Alaska Pacific University points to a very different reality. By calculating the average number of climbers who have ascended the popular West Buttress Route and the average multi-week expedition length of 18 days, Dr. Loso estimates between 152,000 and 215,000 pounds of human waste have been deposited by climbers in crevasses of the Kahiltna Glacier. In more illustrative terms, we are talking 13 adult male Asian elephants’ worth of waste in the crevasses.

While the waste may be out of sight, it is buried by snow accumulation and incorporated into a river of ice that moves 1,400 feet per year in some areas. Preliminary findings suggest the crevassed waste remains biologically active and will emerge at the Great Ice falls in the next decade (9.3 miles downstream from Basecamp). The National Park Service anticipates public health issues as well as negative impact on the visitor experience as these waste piles start emerging.

A 2007 mandate in Denali National Park requires climbers at base camp (7,200 feet) and those who ascend above the camp at 14,200 feet to pack out waste in a personal, portable canister called a Clean Mountain Can (CMC). Since implementation, conditions have greatly improved above the 17,200-foot High Camp, which had become notoriously unsanitary.

“Climbers have been really receptive to changes,” said Lead Mountaineering Ranger Coley Gentzel. “Staff has seen nothing but positive reactions towards the CMC program.” While the pack-out program has succeeded in reducing waste encountered at the high camps, climbers are still directed to deposit the contents of their CMCs into designated crevasses below the 14,200-foot camp.

The findings at the Kahiltna raise questions about the ongoing practice of crevasse disposal on Denali. Meanwhile, two popular summits closer to home—Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker—have long required that climbers pack out their waste with “blue bags” that are issued with climbing permits. Blue Bags must be disposed of in designated receptacles, not in the garbage.

What can you do to reduce your impact on other snowy summits? Commercially available products like Cleanwaste WAG Bags and Biffy Bags include a biodegradable powder that deodorizes and neutralizes solid waste so that it can be disposed of directly in the trash after your adventure.

To read more on the story please visit