Day one camping on Mt. Baker

This morning we woke around 7, had breakfast and began practicing some crevasse rescue skills. Peter and Michael rigged up some rope to an overhead support so that we could practice tying and ascending the rope using the prussick knot. These knots are special in that we can rest our weight onto a prussick attached to our harness at the waist and then stand up into stirrups we’ve created that are attached to another prussick. I’ll post a link to a video when I’m back in wifi so it makes more sense. After practicing for a while we broke camp and headed for the trailhead into Mt. Baker.
The first segment was the most grueling, as this was the first time we were hiking with all our packs and gear while wearing the mountaineering boots (double plastic boots – they kind of feel like walking in loose snowboard/ski bindings). It’s tedious, hard going work!! We weren’t at too great of an incline yet, but our packs today are as heavy as they’ll get for the whole trip! Even though I knew I’d need all those calories, I was definitely feeling them every slow step on the way. I normally don’t travel with trekking poles but with a pack this large and unruly it’s absolutely essential. Our path took us across a river and over several areas of weakened snow where some of us plunged in the full depth of our legs and then had to crawl and scrape out (remember all of this carrying our 65lb+ packs!). My legs initially felt the most sore and tired – and I was reminded of my time spent in the gym doing squats and one-legged deadlifts. I appreciated having trained but certainly felt I would have been more stable with the pack on uneven terrain if I had trained more.
As the climb progressed I felt the strain spread more into my buttocks and lower back – which takes the brunt of the weight of the pack. It definitely wasn’t unmanageable but I certainly can’t wait to eat through more of the food I’ve got!
After traveling for a relatively short day of ~5hrs, we arrived at a nice cleared area on the snow where we decided to make camp. The guides approximate our current altitude at around 4800ft.
To make an alpine camp, we first built tent platforms using the snow shovels we packed with us. We dug out a level area and then smoothed the surface. We then constructed our tents. Unlike dirt camping where you secure the tent to the ground using stakes, we built dead man anchors. This basically entails taking a rock, ice axe or other solid object, tying the tent lines to it and then burying it in the snow. This secures the tent fly and makes sure it will stay secure even during heavy winds.

Next we dug out our camp kitchen and began the somewhat tedious exercise of melting snow. We had to refill all of our water bottles and melt water for dinner too. This process took us a couple of hours, and after we had eaten it was already 9pm (and still bright light out!). It’s now 10:20 and I’m tucked into my sleeping bag with my water bottle and most of my clothes tucked inside around me to keep them warm. It’s lightly raining and I am sore and ready to sleep 🙂
We have a long day of training ahead of us tomorrow where we’ll practice walking roped in and various techniques to handle the terrain we’re likely to encounter.
I’m off to sleep – I’ve got to store up enough sleep and energy to charge through tomorrow, which will be a longer day.

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