Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow Caves and Back Country Skiing

A few more pics (here) and (here)

This past weekend was the second field trip with the back country ski class I am taking.  The plan was to get in some skiing, dig snow caves and sleep in them.  It was a success...

At 4:30am Saturday morning much to the delight of Natalie my alarm started going off.  Ross and I were scheduled to be on the road headed to Mt Baker by 5am.  Anyone who knows me knows I was less than excited to be up so early but after a Red Bull and some cereal (breakfast of champions) I was feeling better.

Skinning up
We pulled into the Baker parking lot at 7:45, got dressed and met up with the rest of the class.  There were about 20ish people total on the trip including instructors.  After breaking up into two groups we headed for Artist Point which was about a mile and a half away.

After a few hours of skiing we rolled into camp and chose our sites to dig our cave for the night.  Ross and I lucked out and got a primo spot in a large berm of snow.  This cave was going to be awesome!

It took just under two hours and lots of sweat but we built a sweet cave.  We had room to fit all of our gear and lay down comfortably.  The pictures make the ceiling look low but we could easily sit up with room to spare.  The only tight spot was getting in and out of the cave as you had to go down under the wall through a narrow cave area.  You can see Ross digging out that part in the picture down below.

About 3pm everyone was wrapping up their construction so we decided to get in a quick ski down the Swift Creek drainage right behind camp.  The snow was pretty nasty and had a crust on top that kept even the best skiers on their toes.  It was nice to be out and good to warm up on the climb back to camp.

Digging in
The night was spent melting snow for our water the next day, cooking dinner, and then a good group get together to go over the plan for the next day.  In the end due to the weather report not being great for the next day the plan was that there was no plan.  We all headed back to our caves and tucked in for the night hoping to wake up to powder on the ground and no rain falling from the sky.

Cozy in the cave
Sunday morning brought clouds and snow.  The visability was terrible so we did a little navigation practice to deal with whiteout conditions and then called it a trip.  It was sad to not get in the tour I was hoping for but it was the right call given the weather.  We all had an interesting ski back to the car with full
backpacks.  Once you get 30+ pounds of camping equipment moving it does not want to stop.  We did a quick debrief at the parking lot and headed back to Seattle.

The next trip is at the end of the month and I have my fingers crossed for better weather that time around.  All in all sleeping in a snow cave was a complete success!

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