This image gallery documents a 13-day Mountaineering course that I took in the summer of 1998. Brian Connell and Andree Plouffe joined me for this course, although Brian was only able to take the first week of the course. We chose a well-reviewed mountain school out of Seattle called Alpine Ascents International. This was my first exposure to 'real' mountaineering, and I learned quite a lot on this course. This is also where I was first exposed to the beauty of the North Cascades - a truly marvelous range of mountains!
we arrived at the downtown headquarters of AAI at the appointed time. There were six of us: myself, Andree, Brian, two teenagers from Texas, and a dentist named Greg from Eugene, Oregon. We had two guides assigned to us, Tom and Alan.
We were packed into two of AAI's vans and we headed to the Cascade Pass area of the North Cascades. We were kind of hoping that we'd be climbing Mount Baker, one of the more famous peaks in the area, but the guides decided that we'd instead be spending our first week learning snow and glacier mountaineering skills in the Boston Basin / Sahale Peak area.
The hike into the Boston Basin is a very steep non-official path that leads up from the Cascade Pass Road (which is a dirt access road). We had a slightly longer hike in due to a road closure partway up. We'd all rented double-plastic mountaineering boots, and Brian's delicate feet were not dealing with them well. This would be the start of an agonizing hike up for Brian. In fact, not far up the road, where the herdpath up to the Boston Basin starts, the guides had to get Brian to take off his boots and apply a full-dose of mountain blister therapy to Brian's feet.
Brian's feet are a problem!
The hike up to Boston basin was on a very steep, non-official footpath. This was my first time carrying a 50 to 60 lb pack, and I found it quite a challenge (mentally especially, as well as physically). Still, eventually we ground our way up to just around treeline, and I was greeted with my first real North Cascades mountains view. Truly breathtaking!
The next day, we started our course in earnest, learning how to properly walk on snow slopes, how to use an ice ax, and self-arrest. We moved on to anchors of all sorts, thoroughly learning how to place and test snow pickets, flukes, and snow bollards. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and I dearly hoped it would continue this way all the way up to our summit day at the end of the snow and ice section.
Brian practising snow travel
Alan, one of the instructors
After our initial snow training, we moved on to training for glacier travel and crevasse rescue. We started off with the [now familiar] process of prussicking up a rope in a tree. We then moved onto the Queen Sabe Glacier (one of the glaciers on the north aspect of Sahale Peak), and learned about roped travel and crevasse rescue. And, at the end of the day, in what I've now found is a rarity among mountaineering courses, our guides set up a live crevasse rescue scenario where they lowered us into a real crevasse on the Queen Sabe glacier, and had us simulate an actual crevasse self-resuce. I found this to be a very, very useful exercise.
Another beautiful morning
Under continuing beautiful weather, we started another day, this time focusing on ice work. Our guides took us up to a broken-up portion of the Queen Sabe glacier that had some small seracs, and we spent the day learning about cramponing, ice climbing, and ice protection. Towards the end of the day, though, high cloud started to move in. Was our good weather about to end?