Training for Volcanoes

April 20-21 (Mt Baker, WA) —

I learned a few things over the last two days:  (1) I can tie knots, lots of them, especially if they are named after dead Germans; (2)  I kinda like hanging off ledges in a rock climbing harness; and 3) the only way I’m pulling David out of a crevasse is with pulleys, lots of pulleys.

We met up with John Minier, owner of Mount Baker Mountain Guides, for two days of training on how to safely cross glaciers and what to do if something goes wrong.  John is a terrific guide and teacher.   We started out learning to tie about a gazillion knots, as well as the proper use of locking and non-locking carabiners.  We then went out in the snow to travel uphill while roped together (it’s not as hard as it looks….until you try to change direction).  We also learned to build snow anchors using our skis and rope:

2013-04-18 Glacier class 005

After that, the fun started.

This required some trust.  First, I went over the ledge and dangled off the end of a seemingly thin rope while David held my weight and built a snow anchor.

2013-04-18 Glacier class 006

2013-04-19 Glacier class 2 021


Using some of the fancy knots we learned, I then hoisted myself most of the way back up to the top (and got some help at the lip to make it over):

2013-04-18 Glacier class 008

It was then my turn to catch and hold David’s fall.   I barely caught him the first time (before anyone starts to worry, John and his intern Jake kept us safe throughout with secondary ropes, etc.) but I did much better the second time.   Here’s David dangling one foot off the ground, but still smiling:

2013-04-18 Glacier class 016  I then built a snow anchor and David climbed back up:

2013-04-19 Glacier class 2 008

2013-04-19 Glacier class 2 011

2013-04-18 Glacier class 035


We also learned how to build pulley systems in order to use mechanical advantage to pull up weights heavier than ourselves.   I tried pulling up a 90 lb bag of snow…… it was HARD, even using all my bodyweight:

2013-04-19 Glacier class 2 015Overall, it was a terrific way to spend two rainy days at Mount Baker with a great teacher.   Thanks again to John and Jake for their excellent instruction, good humor, and patience.

John’s blog post and more pictures here:   Blog Post and Facebook page

Cascade volcanoes, here we come.


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