On day one the American Alpine Institute (AAI) staff picked up the groups at the hotel and shuttled us to the AAI office. Today was the start of my 6 day Alpinism 1 course as well as another groups 12 day leadership course.
Upon arrival at the office we met our guide Kurt Hicks and the the rest of the AAI staff. We also met the other team members in our 6 day group. Our team consisted of our guide Kurt Hicks, Katie from Colorodo , Jon (SP member everydayexplorer) and myself.
Kurt and the staff went through a check list to make sure that we all had our gear and made sugestions on how we could lighten our load by removing non-essential items. This was a great help and would pay off big later during our trip.
After the grear check we headed off to beautiful Mt. Erie for a day of rock climbing. Mt. Erie sits a few miles from the ocean and with the clear skies and little wind it made for a beautiful view.
We covered anchors, belaying, foot holds, hand holds, mantleing, how to place protection, pretty much rock climbing basics. At the end of the rock climbing basics we did some top roping until about close to sunset and headed off to our camp for the night.
Day one went well and everyone was having a-lot of fun and exited about heading to Baker.
Day 2 A Major Set-Back
Day 2 began with the group waking up at around 7:00 and breaking down camp with a departure time of around 8:30. From our camp near Mt. Erie we had about a 2 plus hour drive to the Mt Baker trail head. En route to Mt. Baker we stopped off at the store to pick up some odds and ends.
This Part Really Sucks
About 2 hours later we ended up about 1 mile from the Mt.Baker trail head. This was as close as we could get because the road was snowed in. We parked next to the other AAI van and began to get ready for our 5 mile trek into our low camp. As we were pulling our gear out of the back of the van our guide Kurt said "Jon where is your back pack?" After tearing the van apart the backpack was nowhere in the van. It was definately there when we left our last camp, but it was not there now. Our only guess was that it was stolen out of the van while we were shopping. Jon's bag was on top of everyone elses and would have been the easiest to pull out. Just to be sure the AAI staff went to the campsite and the store to look for the pack, but it was nowhere to be found. Needless to say Jon was not a happy camper. Pun intended. LOL. But he took it a-lot better than I would have if I lost all of my gear.
Now we headed back to the AAI office to get Jon as much gear as we could. After our stop at AAI we had to go to REI, the grocery store and a used gear store to get Jon fully outfitted for our trip. Everyone was on the same page, we wanted to get Jon dialed in so his trip would not be ruined. I should probably mention that Jon drove to Washington from Florida. We were not about to let this ruin his trip.
After getting Jon fully outfitted we headed back to the trail head. After a long day we ended up at our low camp around 9:30 pm
Days 3&4 Intro to Mountaineering
During days 3&4 we covered basic snow travel, glacier travel, ice axe use, crampon use, self-arrest, snow anchors, ice anchors and a ton of other stuff. I have to hand it to our guide Kurt Hicks he is a very knowledgeable guide and easy to get along with. He covered everything I wanted to learn and a-lot more. If one of us mentioned a book that we had read odds were that Kurt had read it too. I would mention books that I had read regarding big mountain expeditions, Katie would mention ice and rock climbing books, Jon would refer to climbing books, and Kurt had read them all and could comment on them in detail.
On day 4 Kurt decided that we were going to head for the summit a day early with Alistairs 12 day group. The weather for our summit day was not looking good and the 2 guides thought it would be better to summit together. So after our 4th day of skills we packed up and headed to our high camp. Alistairs group left a few hours before we did and we met them up there. When we arrived at the high camp everyone was taking pictures like crazy. The weather was unreal. We had clear blue skies with beautiful clouds being blown in and out by a mild wind.
Day 4 had been a long day and we neded to go to sleep because we had to wake up at 1:00 am to start our summit push.
Alpine Start. Both groups woke up at 1:00 am and we headed for the summit at 2:00 am for what was going to be around a 12 hour round trip day. Our group was going to return and sleep at the low camp and Alistairs group was heading to the trail head to take off for the second portion of their trip.
The conditions when we left we perfect, we had perfect snow and it was cold but not too cold. Alistairs team of 6 took off first and our team our 4 was right behind them. I forgot to mention earlier that we were summitting via the Coleman-Demming route.
About 2 hours into our climb Katie said she had to use the restroom. I have to admit that she is one tough chic. Anyone who can drop a deuce while roped into 3 guys that she does not know very well is a tough chic. I don't think I would have been able to do it. When she was finished she said" Now I have lost all my dignity". Way to go Katie!!!!! LOL
I must say that prior to this trip I was not very good at using the French technique but during this trip I got pretty good. The roman wall was a sight to see. Before long we ended up at the top at what I thought was the summit. Kurt showed us that about 200 yards away was the true summit. We headed to the summit for our "Hero Pictures" as Jon likes to call them. The weather was still perfect and the view at the top was worth the trip.
From the summit we headed back down the Roman Wall and went down to our high camp the same way we came up.
En route from the high camp to our low camp Katie hurt her knee. To help her out we prussiked her pack to our rope and slid her backpack down with us. When we were off of the glacier she was able to glissade down the rest of the way.
As soon as we made it to our low camp the weather turned real ugly. It was very dark and it poured all night long. I'm glad Kurt decided to head up a day early.
Our last Day on Baker
We woke up in the morning for a few hours of skills. Visiblity was not good and it was snowing with a steady wind. If we would have waited to summit today we would not have made it.
Today we covered crevasse rescue. We actually took turns jumping into the crevasse and rescuing each other. I was real happy about this because I was originally going to take this course in the Sierras but was told by several people to go to the Cascades where there are crevasses. You can simulate in the Sierras but in the Cascades you actually navigate over and around crevasses and do rescues out of a crevasse. After our crevasse rescues we packed up and headed for the van.
Now Katies knee was really bothering her so the three of us split of the contents of her bag and headed down to the van. We were guessing that our packs on the way out weighed around 70 pounds each. Not what we were expecting on the way out.
This was an awesome trip and I'm really glad that I spent the exta money to go to Washington and learn from the best. I learned a-lot in the 6 days that I was in this course and feel a-lot more comfortable going out on a glacier. I highly recommned AAI and would definately request Kurt Hicks as a guide. I can't wait to practice my newley learned skills