September 30, 2010

Backpacking, Canoeing, and Mountaineering

About a week ago I finished instructing another NOLS course.  This time it was the Mountain Section of a Pacific Northwest Semester.  We spent 10 days backpacking in the Pasayten Wilderness (Slate Peak to Hozomeen Campground at the north end of Ross Lake), 4 days canoeing on Ross Lake (Hozomeen Campground to Colonial Creek Campground on Diablo Lake), and 11 days mountaineering on Mt. Baker.  We had a group of 7 male students and 2 instructors (3 instructors for the first two parts).

I was fortunate enough to work with the famous Kenyan instructor, KG, who has something like 550 field weeks (that's over 10 years working in the field for those who are counting).  He was great to work with, and I learned a lot of important things, like how to deal with difficult students and when you go mountaineering, bring 3 pounds of bacon.

Deer next to one of our campgrounds on Ross Lake
A side trip up Devil's Creek
One of the highlights of the course for me was getting all the students to the top of Mt. Baker on the only sunny day of our stay on the mountain.  The glacier was in much better shape than the previous year when I ran a similar course, making navigation much simpler.  This whole NOLS thing still doesn't really feel like work to me.  I still find it extremely fun and rewarding!

Climbing the final steep section before gaining the summit plateau on Mt. Baker
Descending one of the only technical sections of the route

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