I’ve kept this blog going in some form for many years, but it seems like I’ve really neglected it over the past year, which is something I’ve been lamenting recently. I’m hoping to step up my posting activity this summer and maintain it moving forward. (P.S. Thanks to Google and Microsoft for working against each other to make it so Windows Live Writer no longer works with Blogger. That wasn’t annoying at all.)
Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more into hiking and backpacking, and I’ve also found that I enjoy both as solo pursuits. I take reasonable safety precautions when going out alone, but I also knew that I was sorely lacking in knowledge in areas like navigation (obvious to anyone who reads my trip reports), which was becoming more of a blocker as more and more off-trail travel ideas found their way onto my list.
A number of my friends have taken alpine climbing classes and recommended them, but I haven’t (yet) had the desire to do anything technical. But when I saw that the Mountaineers also offered an alpine scrambling course, I started seriously considering it. After waffling over the commitment for awhile, I finally signed up for alpine scrambling through the Everett branch, which was slightly further than the Seattle branch but was recommended because of its smaller group size and closer community. As a bonus, the field trip dates all lined up so none of them fell during SIFF.
Practicing ice axe arrest skills
The course seemed like a small commitment – just 5 classes and 3 field trips – but the extra requirements made it a bigger thing. I also needed to complete basic navigation, wilderness first aid, a stewardship day, and three additional scrambles (one rock, one snow, and a third of my choice) to graduate. At this point, I’ve done everything except stewardship (which I have scheduled for later this month with a group at work) and two of the additional scrambles.
This was the first out-of-the-classroom thing I did, and I felt like I learned a lot. We first had a few hours of lecture, where we went over things that I’d already read in Freedom of the Hills, with a few paper exercises. My math brain took to all of it really well. The remainder of the class was practicing in the woods with map and compass, and it felt like an accomplishment to reach our planned destinations. I still think I lack some general intuition/common sense when it comes to where I’m going, but after this class, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to get there.
Wilderness First Aid
This was a tough one. Two full weekend days in a classroom, then an evening of scenarios practice. Good information, though, and I feel like I know some things that might be useful in an emergency situation. The tough part will be remembering everything over time, and I plan to return as a volunteer patient for future scenarios sessions to get a refresher.
Awesome leaders and fellow students at the top of Huntoon Point
We had three field trips, a rock field trip near Leavenworth, a weekend snow field trip at Mt. Baker, and an experience field trip at Alpental. All of them were fun, but the snow field trip was by far the best experience for me, both in terms of interacting with the group and gaining knowledge. I’ve always been really tentative on snow, going out of my way to active avoid running into it. After learning snow travel techniques and ice axe arrest, I feel more confident now, and I even did a few early season hiking trips where I traveled through significant amounts of snow. I really did not want to throw myself down a snow slope head first for ice axe arrest practice, though! We had sunny, gorgeous days so the views were magnificent, and staying at the Mountaineers Lodge was nice and cozy. After that trip, we felt more closer as a group, and I hope I’ll have the chance to hike or scramble with other people from the class again.
My first priority after SIFF ended was to try to get my snow scramble out of the way before too much snow melted. I joined a scramble to Buell and Barrier Peaks (near Mount Rainier) with a leader from the Tacoma branch. It was great to meet some new people and successfully summit two peaks in one trip!
Coming back from Buell & Barrier Peaks, trip report here
I’m looking forward to a summer and fall full of more hiking adventures. Stay tuned for August Hike-a-thon, when I’ll be hiking like crazy and trying to raise some money for the trails!