Class in the Cascades: Introduction to Mountaineering
Have you ever looked at a mountain and wondered, “How do I get up there?”
Over the weekend, Jacob Oram and I co-taught an Introduction to Mountaineering course that included a summit of Ruth Mountain in the North Cascades near Mount Baker. Our students came away from the two-day course with some of the foundational skills and a better idea for what it’s like to get out there and up there.
Colin, one of our students, at the summit of Ruth Mountain; Mount Shuksan looms in the background.
Day one, we hiked out to Hannegan Pass and established our camp in the snow. Instruction began with the basics of moving on snow in balance, and usage of tools like crampons and ice axes. Then, we covered the most frequently used knots you might employ in the mountains. We discussed our objective, prepped our equipment, and got to bed for an early summit push the following morning.
Jacob teaches basic mountaineering knots and hitches.
On day two, we woke and ate breakfast before sunrise. As we were walking, we discussed glaciology, practiced some of the techniques from the previous day’s lesson and got to experience roped glacier travel. Sunrise on nearby Mount Shuksan and the valley below was gorgeous.
Our team steadily making progress toward the summit using the skills learned the day before.
On the whole, we covered a lot of material and succeeded in climbing our objective. Jacob and I had a great time working with everyone, and hope to see everyone again in one of our Glacier Mountaineering Courses, Crevasse Rescue Courses or beginner summit climbs of Mount Baker, Shuksan or beyond.
~Words and photos, MM Guide Mallorie Estenson