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Mt. Baker Skills Climb by Alasdair Turner

I just spent 3 days on the north side of Mount Baker doing a basic skills and summit climb.  This is a course offered by American Alpine Institute.  More information on the course can be found at their website here.

Due to a questionable weather report for the summit day (typically the third morning) we decided to climb on day 2.  We got quite a late start for the summit but given that the evening temperatures have not been dropping below freezing and generally good glacier conditions this did not make much of a difference.  This was my first summit of the season and it was nice to stand atop the mountain I have summited more than any other once again.  

Below is a time-lapse and a few photos from the trip.  


American Alpine Institute Denali Prep Course by Alasdair Turner

I just returned from teaching a six day Denali Prep course on Mount Baker with American Alpine Institute.  To learn more about the course click the link below.

http://www.alpineinstitute.com/catalog/denali-prep-course/

Denali from the west.  This print can be purchased at  http://alasdairturner.com/order-prints/

Denali from the west.

This print can be purchased at http://alasdairturner.com/order-prints/

The conditions we had on this course were perfect preparation for a group planning on spending time on North Americas highest Mountain.  We managed to get good weather for the first two days allowing us to hike in and build our first camp under sunny skys, and then walk through the technical skills needed to climb.  We covered techniques for hauling sleds, roping up on the massive glaciers of Denali and crevasse rescue techniques.  

On day three of the trip we packed up camp and moved to a camp higher on Mount Baker.  The weather had started to deteriorate as we were walking to the camp, so we had some practice building a camp in less than perfect weather.  This included building a snow wall prior to putting the tents up.  Over night the weather deteriorated more and the next day was spent in camp digging out, eating in the cook tent and discussing conditions likely to be encountered on Denali.  We also covered traveling on fixed lines and some other technical skills needed for the mountain.  

That night the weather deteriorated more still, requiring digging out of the tents at 2am (perfect training for Denali).  Continued winds and heavy snow helped us make the decision to hike out the next day and head for Mount Eire on our final day of the course to cover crevasse rescue in more detail.  Here we covered the complexities of what really happens when a person falls in a crevasse with a 60lb pack and a 60lb sled.  This is a much more complex scenario than most people think, and makes getting out of a crevasse much more difficult.  If you are going to Denali and have not thought about these issues then you should probably spend some time training before you leave!

Denali from the west showing most of the West Buttress route.    This print can be purchased at  http://alasdairturner.com/order-prints/

Denali from the west showing most of the West Buttress route.  

This print can be purchased at http://alasdairturner.com/order-prints/

Overall this was a great course and we covered a huge amount of information in addition to the  regular course curriculum including menus, strategies for climbing the mountain, altitude preparation and illnesses, and tips and techniques for making tent living more enjoyable.  We even threw some photography and camera tips in.  For more on cold weather photography click here.

Avalanche Course at Mount Baker with American Alpine Institute by Alasdair Turner

I spend last weekend teaching an avalanche course in the Mount Baker backcountry.  We had some great conditions for teaching an avalanche course with many unstable layers and lots of new snow.  The avalanche problems included storm slabs, wind slabs and a deep persistent slab layer.  The touring day made for some of the best skiing I have done yet this year.  Some amazingly deep snow that stayed light despite some warming temperatures.  

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American Alpine Institute Avalanche Course by Alasdair Turner

The last couple of weekends have been spent teaching avalanche courses for the American Alpine Institute.  Although the snow pack has been a little boring, the weather has been great and it has made for some great courses.  Below are a few photos of the last two trips.   

Early morning skiing in some nice light.

Early morning skiing in some nice light.

Route finding and some wet surface conditions.

Route finding and some wet surface conditions.

Although most of the snow was pretty solid,  Small areas of instability were found.  Here we conduct compression tests on the snow.  

Although most of the snow was pretty solid,  Small areas of instability were found.  Here we conduct compression tests on the snow.  

Failure layers in the first 20cm.

Failure layers in the first 20cm.

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Time to ski. 

Time to ski. 

A little route finding practice.  

A little route finding practice.  

South slopes with lots of sun showed evidence of recent slides.   

South slopes with lots of sun showed evidence of recent slides.   

Mount Baker in the distance.  

Mount Baker in the distance.  

Skinning to find good snow.  

Skinning to find good snow.  

Good snow had been located.  

Good snow had been located.