Freedom of the Hills

Since I last wrote about our Boealps class we have had two more outings.  At the end of March we spent Saturday at Baker learning how to make snow anchors, a number of different belaying techniques and how to self arrest.  Last weekend we climbed Guye Peak in Snoqualmie pass with our team, made much more pleasant by Washington’s recent decision to have a super late winter.  Here is a little trip report complete with pictures and videos of both outings!

Mt Baker Snow Skills Trip:

Schreiber’s Meadow Trailhead
Starting Elevation: 3,364 Ft

So the plan for Baker was to start at the Schreiber Meadow Trailhead and, using the Railroad Grade trail and some off trail route finding, make our way up to around 5,500 Ft, near the tip of the Easton Glacier.  Of course things don’t always go as planned and around .8 miles we had a bit of a kerfuffle.  At .8 miles on the Railroad Grade trail you have to cross two streams.  Stream one (actually more of a boulder field than a stream) was simple enough despite the bridge being washed out.  Right before reaching stream number two we encountered a sign.  It said Hiker Trail with an arrow pointing North and then below that it said Horse Ford with, what used to be an arrow pointing West on it, but the West arrow had been scratched off and an arrow pointing North had been added.  So we went North.  Once we popped out of the trees and were next to the stream we saw a couple of cairns dotting their way North up the rubble of the steam bed and so we followed them.  This was our fatal mistake.  Despite knowing that the trail picked back up somewhere on the West side of the stream we continued up-stream for quite some time… and when it was clear we were not going to find the trail again instead of going back we decided to try to cut straight west and meet back up with the trail where our route would intersect it.  This resulted in an hour of us wandering through the woods, running into obstacles, cliffs, gullies, having to go down around, back up, FINALLY reconnecting with the trail after an hour detour.  Oh, did I mention that it was POURING rain this whole time?

So, we finally reconnected with the trail and headed up to around 4,600 ft where there was enough snow for us to practice our snow skills.  Although this stopped short of our goal we had lost too much time to make it all the way to 5,500 ft.  Despite a rough start in the morning and some seriously miserable weather everyone had maintained high spirits and we were rewarded later in the day when the sun came out, the clouds broke, and we had incredible views of the summit, seemingly so close, but realistically so far away.  We started by learning how to make deadman anchors out of pickets and anything else we could imagine (we actually make one using a glove), anchors using pickets, and snow bollards.  We then practiced our boot belay and hip belay skills before heading up a little higher to find a steep slope for self arrest practice.  Learning to self arrest was by far my favorite part of the day.  Obviously something that you only do in a dire situation shouldn’t be “fun” but it was so fun.  We learned how to arrest from four different positions: face down head uphill, face down head downhill, face up head uphill, and my personal favorite, face up head downhill.  After successful arrests were had by all we enjoyed “summit” treats (we summited our goals) and headed back to the cars.

(Here is a little video of some self arresting practice.  Sorry if it’s shaky, still figuring out how to take video with the go pro on my head!)

On the way out we were a little dismayed to discover that the section of trail we missed while on our hour detour was only about five minutes of hiking long and when we got back to the stream we found it connected us back to the original horse ford crossing on the sign, the one that would have been to the west.  SO word of caution to anyone heading up the Railroad Grade trail, do not follow cairns or old signs… just use your map and your head instead.

Guye Peak Trip:

Old PCT Trail
Starting Elevation: 3,000 Ft
Final Elevation: 5,168 Ft

Our Guye Peak climb was much more straight forward than the trip to Baker.  Goal: Get to the top of Guye Peak, summit all three peaks if possible, get down.  Our plan was to head up the East gully until reaching the saddle between Guye Peak and Snoqualmie Mountain and then head south along the ridge line until we reached the summit.  In order to get all three summits there was going to be some technical rope work involved, a rappel and then two fixed lines to achieve the middle and south summits.  The first part of the trip when very smoothly.  We navigated our way to the saddle easily, aided by a previous set of tracks.  We then picked our way up some steep terrain and icy rocks until we reached the North Summit, which we were able to throw a fixed line up and summit, no problem.   However, from the North Summit you could see the middle summit, which was clearly a huge slab of steep rock with about six inches of snow on it.  Just from looking at it I knew our chances of summiting were non-existent.  Without enough snow to kick steps in or plant an ice ax in it was clearly a very technical climb, above the skill level of a bunch of students.

Despite only reaching the North Summit it was a marvelous day, complete with incredible
views of Snoqualmie Mountain, Lundin Peak, Red Mountain, and Kendal Peak.  We had snow flurries and sun breaks, snacked on white cheddar and homemade dear sausage, and all went out for a beer afterwards.  Oh, and we got to “glissade” through the trees, although due to a lack of snow it probably isn’t fair to call it glissading.  Stick-ssading would be more accurate.

This weekend (tomorrow!) we head to Gothic Basin for our overnight trip.  As a team we came up with a plan to climb Del Campo and Gothic Peak, both of which have some technical rope work and are going to be a lot of fun!  Stay tuned for how things turn out!

PS If you love maps, or love to hike, climb, ski, anything outdoors and are always looking for good maps online you should check out this website: CalTopo.  It is incredible.  You can search peaks, over lay different maps and grades, take bearings, measure distances, plot routes… anything you can imagine.  And it is totally free.  We are obsessed with this website and you should be too.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

4 thoughts on “Freedom of the Hills

    1. Thanks, my boyfriend is instrumental in that, we both take pictures but he considers himself the photographer and he is a wizard with retouching in photoshop.

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