GOLDEN, BC – It is still dark out when I wake to the sounds of bodies moving around the lodge. I look out the window and see the sky slowly lighten in the east, the stars above still shining brightly. I put on my headlamp and some clothes and stumble downstairs, rubbing my eyes, the glow of the lanterns too much to bear. My body is stiff from the previous days of mountaineering, from my summit of Mt. Kettle. I’m not the only one feeling this way.
At the morning guides meeting we discuss possible options for the day. The weather looks promising, so a summit attempt of Mt. La Clytte (10, 500 ft) is proposed. When the guides agree, the excitement in the room is palpable. Everyone knows the challenging day ahead. No matter. We’re all stoked.
Soon bags are packed, boots are laced, and we’re on the trail. Occasionally we pass through open slide areas where there are only bushes, and the view is awesome. It is going to be a great day.
On this day I was in the lead, definitely where I want to be. One of our guides hikes along behind me, asking questions about route selection and offering advice. It is a great thing to be out on your own leading your own adventures, but there is definitely something to be said about having the wisdom and expertise of professional guides at your disposal. I can’t help but think what a great opportunity it is to be leading a group through the backcountry, making my own decisions, but having the knowledge of the guides to draw on. The fundamentals of group management, risk management, route finding, etc, become so much more apparent being out there in real situations in the mountains.
ATBO students Kye Walker, Kim Jackson, and Miles Minichiello descending Mt Gordon on an ATBO mountaineering course.
Photo courtesy of College of the Rockies
A couple times the trail disappears altogether in steep and rocky terrain and I am forced to “billy goat” around, looking for a line. At certain points we have to help each other up a tricky section, or spot each other on an exposed scramble. Finally, we break out of the trees and scramble up a rocky moraine and into the alpine. Dramatic peaks rise up all around us, slashing into the sky with sharp rocky ridges and crevasse-filled glacial ice.
We carefully pick our way through the rocks, careful not to kick rocks down on each other. We’ve set a pretty good pace and have been working hard. Every time we pause for a short break I can’t help but sit and stare at our surroundings. I feel so lucky to be where I am and doing what I’m doing. To be here right now, in this area with this group of enthusiastic people, learning from great guides, I feel pretty lucky. We cross the creek and continue to push up the steep slope towards the bench above. The sky is broken with patches of blue sky and high clouds. It looks like the weather is holding so far, and we’ve made good time. At this pace the summit is certainly within reach.
Reaching the toe of the glacier, we are presented with a small, mostly frozen glacial lake between us and the glacier. It appears as though a solid bridge of ice spans across the lake from the glacier to where we stand on shore, but we decide to rope up just in case things get weird.
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