By Jessi Loerch
“I climbed a mountain.”
That’s what I’ve been telling everyone when they asked me what I did this weekend.
It was far from the biggest mountain around these parts, but I’m still rather pleased with myself.
I spent Saturday scrambling up Guye Peak near Snoqualmie Pass. Guye is impressive, it really looks like a real mountain. It’s one of those pointy peaks you can see while driving on I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass.
This was our final class trip of the year for the Everett Mountaineers scrambling course. Our job as students was to get to the top. Preferably without getting lost, and definitely without getting anyone hurt. We made it. We didn’t get lost, although we did backtrack a few times – par for the course while scrambling. We all made the peak, and we all made it back safely. And despite some gloomy weather forecasts, it only rained on us a little.
We started off by examining our maps and planning routes. For this trip, our instructors were just along for the ride. They would keep us from walking off a cliff, but otherwise it was our job to find a route. So, we did.
We headed up, paying attention to what landmarks we could see and using the map and our best guesses to plot a route. We went through a lot of snow and lot of wet bracken. Down low, where there was less snow, the going was surprisingly harder. I hadn’t expected that. Where the ground was bare it was wet, and often slick. We spent a lot of time using what our trip leader called “veggie belays,” a handful of carefully chosen branches or whatever was handy to help you up the slope.
They don’t call it scrambling for nothing. We scrambled up rock, mud, snow. I felt like a kid again, clambering around in the woods.
After a few hours, we made it up to the top of Guye Peak. The final approach was the most challenging for me. I’m still working to get comfortable on steep areas. I went slow, listened to the trip leaders’ tips, and made it to the top without incident.
Well, one thing. I stopped to admire the view. And once I could see the view, I could see how far down the slope went. And I got a little dizzy.
Right. Noted. Don’t admire the view on a steep slope. I think that, with more experience, that will get better. Even since the last trip two weeks ago, I feel more confident.
Once we made it up the final, snowy slope to the peak, it was just a quick rock scramble to the tip top. The clouds were rolling in, but the view was still impressive. We ate lunch, and felt accomplished.
Most of the thanks for my growing confidence goes to the trip leaders. All of them are volunteering their time, and they’re fabulous.
Our main trip leader on this trip was a woman, as are a number of the other volunteers. I appreciate seeing the strong female role models. Those women provide their own perspective, and it makes it really easy to feel welcome in the group when there’s so much diversity. Also, it’s motivating to see someone close to your own size (for me, that means short) moving so confidently through the mountains.
I picked up a number of great tips for traveling on steep snow slopes from all of the instructors — male and female. On the way down, they patiently offered me and the other students advice and never rushed us. Going down is, at least for me, much more challenging than going up.
I did slip once, and I was pleased to discover that I didn’t even have to think about it before flipping myself around and using my ice ax to stop. Apparently all that work we did on our last trip to build muscle memory worked.
We scrambled down on a different route than we came up, which I love. New ground is always more fun than backtracking. We crossed a few streams, which were breathtakingly beautiful in the snow.
By the end of the day, we’d covered about 5 1/2 miles and gone up the equivalent of 160 flights of stairs, according to one of the instructors’ nifty gadget.
As far as course work, I’m done. Well, unless you count the potluck, and I’m pretty sure if I can climb a mountain, I can manage a potluck.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Mountaineers, check out their website.