Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hangin' Out on a Glacier

This past weekend we went on a field trip with the Bellingham Mountaineers to the Coleman Glacier of Mt Baker to learn how to do a crevasse rescue.

This meant hiking with heavy packs in the snow, then climbing up onto a glacier, finding a crevasse, and then jumping (or carefully sliding) into a crevasse. The picture below shows many cracks and crevasses in the glacier.

Those cracks are dangerous and potentially deadly. Therefore, when you travel on a glacier you travel on a rope team so that if someone were to fall into a crevasse your team could arrest and use the rope to either allow you to prusik yourself out on the rope or to haul you out. 

It was terrifying yet exhilarating; I don't plan on ever being in a crevasse for the rest of my life. This is probably my only chance (because if I'm ever in one again it is because something went wrong). So I gave it a go. 

Thankfully it was gloriously sunny for our crevasse rescue practice! During our run through the day previous it was raining. Rain is the WORST on snow. 

Glacier travel and snow camping - while wicked awesome - is just not my cup of tea. Don't let the thumbs up fool you. I definitely prefer vertical rock and warmer temperatures. The worst thing about snow camping is that everything. gets. soaking. wet. Which adds not only a significant amount of weight to your pack - but also means that you are cold and wet. Maybe if I went later in the season with less snow and warmer temps it would be more enjoyable.

When we were ready to practice I walked to the edge of the crevasse - petrified - and then slid in trusting my teammates to arrest and hold me. They did a wonderful job! 

The view in a crevasse. 

Looking down from where I was hanging. 

Joe, another student, hanging in the crevasse. He was in a really tough (yet very real) situation - his rope became entrenched in the snow on the lip of the crevasse, and it took his team nearly 2 hours to get him out! It really makes you think about how serious you have to take glacier travel. People die in crevasses every year.  

Looking to my left. It was very cold yet oddly peaceful hanging down in there for a while. It was somewhat magical - every once in a while you would hear it creak and moan. The glacier is alive and always moving. 

Ross' student team working through the rescue. 

We found a nice bare bit of basalt to hang out on after our practice, which was glorious because it was so much warmer than to snow and gave my chance to warm up after standing on the snow for so long. 

My domestic partner, Lauren. (We went in on a Costco membership recently.) 

Our tent. A friend of ours loaned us a 3-person 4-season tent for the trip and boy was it a fancy upgrade from our simple 2-person tent! I kind of looks like a hat, no?

It was a long and exhausting trip, and at one point I managed to mess up my knee, which made for a painful hike out. It was pretty swollen, though being able to ice it right in the snow helped a little. It was the first time I've really had to use my first aid kid - though I always carry it. Firstly, because it's smart, secondly, it's the Wilderness First Responder in me. 

I though I would share a little bit about backcountry eating with you as well  since we're on the topic. Backpacking and mountaineering are times to eat (almost) whatever you want - you need the calories! I didn't take pictures of all our food because my battery was dying and I thought it more important to take pictures in the crevasse. 

When planning food for the backcountry consider foods that are still good even if smashed in your pack. We always pack trail mix, bars, and I love bring along dried apples, pineapple and mangoes to munch on. Sometimes you're working so hard you don't feel hungry, or the elevation can get to you, so it is a good idea to bring things that are really appetizing to you. 

I loved beef jerky when I was a kid, though I gave it up when I was vegetarian for a long time in college. I kinda missed it, however, so I tried this soy jerky I found at our Food Coop - and I really liked it! It went great with some hard smoked cheddar cheese and crackers. 

We've tried the Mountain House freeze-dried meals in a bag but haven't been the biggest fans at all. They don't taste all that great and they are quite expensive, though very lightweight and they won't go bad. 

On a recommendation from Lauren we picked this up as well from the Coop - it runs $1.12 a package and we enjoyed this hot soup tremendously after the cold, wet and rainy day. The flavor was great and I loved that it didn't have MSG in the ingredients list. 

Of course Clif bars, or any sort of bars, are great for backpacking; these especially pack a lot of calories in a bar. The chocolate chip is a great flavor - though I like the banana nut the best. 

This is our usual dessert while backpacking - Justin's Nut Butter in the single serving packages (while I normally swear off anything single serving, but in the backcountry these are the way to go!) 

Would you ever want to summit mountains that involved glacier travel? 

What's your favorite hiking/camping food?


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Props to you for enduring a camping trip in the snow and cold!!

Krystal said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh man, you are amazing Jenn. I admire you so much!