Monday, August 21, 2017

Women's Baker Skills and Climb: A Photo Essay

You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few brief minutes and then the wind blows away your footprints
-Arlene Blum

The attitude that Arlene Blum maintains in this quote is one that many mountaineers share, in some cases the summit is not attained, in others it is, in some cases you are battling the mountain to try to conquer it, in other cases you are working in sync and harmony with the mountain, letting it tell you whether today is your day. Good planning, a solid foundation of skills, and realistic expectations help with making a decision like this in the mountains. And, having an incredible group of Women venture into the wilderness together, to learn, laugh, and support one another, rain or shine, is what made this weekend on Mount Baker a memorable and meaningful trip.

Day 1: Approach to Low Camp

On Friday, June 16 we met at AAI Headquarters in Bellingham, WA. Conducted an intensive gear check to ensure everyone was set up for success with their clothing, technical gear, and camping and cooking gear. We then set off for the North Side of Mount Baker and started our approach from the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead (3600) to our base camp (6000).

Erin-Leigh's skillfully packs her food into portions for 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners, and 3 lunches
photo by Erin-Leigh Hardy

The team of ladies are ready! But first we must take an obligatory Trailhead photo.
Photo by Pete Riewald

Christie and Sara cross a Snow bridge covering a small stream (branch of the Kulshan Creek) crossing
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

Sangeeta and Jeanna extend their trekking poles in preparation for the Kulshan Creek Crossing
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo
Sara balances her way across the log at the Kulshan Creek Crossing
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo 

The team taking a snack break before working their way up the Hogsback ridge.
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

Working our way up the Hogsback Ridge, nearly to camp
Photo by Sara Jung

Sara shares her stoke for our awesome view of Mount Baker while we set up camp

Photo by Erin-Leigh Hardy

The sun begins to set after a long first day up to Hogsback Camp 

Photo by Sangeeta Sakaria

Day 2: Skills on the terminus of the Coleman Glacier 

On Saturday, we woke up at base camp, cooked breakfast while discussing topics such as glaciology, and tour planning for our objective the following day. We then set off for a tour around the terminus of the Coleman glacier, up the Hogsback Headwall while covering Snow School, roped glacier travel, and finished our day with demonstrations on Self Arrest and a two-person rope team scenario for Crevasse Rescue. We then went to sleep early for our Alpine start the following morning

AAI Guide Alejandra explains tour planning and discusses the many ways to plan and "backwards plan" for the following day.
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo 

Panorama of Hogsback camp 
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

AAI Guide Alejandra demonstrates different cramponing techniques for walking on snow
Photo by Sara Jung

The team works their way up the Hogsback Headwall to practice Roped Glacier Travel

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo
AAI Guide Alejandra and team members, Jeanna and Erin-Leigh pose for a picture while discussing snow protection in the context of pickets, and ice axes
Photo by Christie Summers

Day 3: Summit attempt of the Coleman-Deming Route on Mount Baker

The rope team takes their first break above the Hogsback headwall, having spent the last hour in hail, rain and low visibility Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo
The whiteout conditions continue.. and the team maintains good morale

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

... and psych for the objective :)
Photo by Christie Summers

After a discussion about the conditions and our planned timeline for our trip, the team collectively decided to turn back, but not before having a glacial dance party

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

There's nothing quite like Reggeaton in a whiteout at 8,500 feet
video by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

A hasty descent down the Hogsback ridge from our summit attempt after tearing down camp
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo 

At the Kulshan Creek Crossing we met Karen, who was taking her friend hiking for her first time and helping her across the precarious log crossing

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

Our Team near the trail head after an incredible weekend on Mount Baker
Photo by Karen

Upon arriving to the trail head, we quickly loaded the van, changed into a fresh set of clothes and began our drive to Bellingham. The 3 days of bonding and learning opened us up to eachother more than we realized. Sara suggested we all share three things we were most thankful for. This could extend to the trip, the day, or anything in life at that moment. The participation of everyone on the team made for a beautiful moment of positive energy, personal achievements, empowerment, self assessment,  growth and stronger bonds within the group. Watching this team of strong women push themselves, encourage each other and grow individually as mountaineers was truly an incredible thing to be a part of.

--Alejandra Garcés Pozo, AAI Instructor and Guide

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