This winter I've started some outdoor expedition and laying the trail for current and future mountaineering adventures. Between spending way too much money on gear and clothing to have a chance of doing this safely, picking up a copy of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, constant conversations with more experienced friends, and what are becoming frequent 4:00am weekend wake-up alarms, things are...interesting.
The challenges, risks, and rewards have really taken a step up this winter and I can only imagine where they'll go from here. Step one was to go snowshoeing for the first time.
Which, you know, means hiking up to approximately 4,500ft in this case, gaining approximately 3,000ft from the trailhead and adding 3.5 very icy miles on a closed road to actually reach the trailhead. The only downside, really, was everything was socked in by clouds so the views weren't as great as they could have been. Also, missing the trail on fresh snow isn't the best experience. An hour of screwing around trying to find the right part of a snow covered mountain and a friend going way too high up from where it actually was meant turning back pre-summit. Mostly because we didn't follow The Ten Essentials aka we didn't bring headlamps because of the assumption we'd be done well before the sun started setting. INCORRECT. But that picture is very representative of what we saw while we are above the snowline.
Well, okay, snowshoeing mostly went well. What do you do next? Clearly, you decide to summit Mount St. Helens. It really pays off having some friends who have reached the summit of just about all these mountains at various points in the year over the course of years, and want to take their friends up and help them develop basic mountaineering skills.
Six miles. Almost six thousand feet of elevation gain. Perfect weather. Some broken trail and a decent layer of ice above ~6,000 ft. And then you're here.
Getting up was definitely a workout and about six hours of travel time, which all things considered isn't bad for two novices and one more experienced person! Who then takes us down the wrong ridge, in which I learn that being more forceful in my opinion of us going down the wrong ridge is important. After figuring that out, traversing one gully to the correct ridge, and some nice night hiking because of that mistake, we made it back...note: the complete ten essentials were packed for this trip. Crampons were a requirement for the way down unless you wanted to be very uncomfortable plunge stepping because of the ice layer.
Anyway, weekends are for nature, and being the only people on the mountains and being much more avalanche aware, getting down some mountaineering basics, and generally exploring has been awesome. Stay tuned for an end of winter outdoors report! Plenty more to come.
Six miles, six hours and 6000' is fantastic! What were your thoughts on the descent? In some ways, that can be even more difficult. Snowshoes up and crampons down? What kind of crampons were you using?
I have a draft winter gear post I'll try to finish. What was the weather like? Wind is what I most worry about.
My philosophy on headlamps has evolved to taking one more than I expect to need. Hike planned for daylight? I take one. Fully expect to be out in the dark? I take two. Nighttime in the woods is dark.
That picture is fantastic. I've got to get out again this winter.