The Alpine Exam was scheduled to begin on September 18, so I had some time to do some "training" routes in preparation. The first route I chose to do was the Northwest Face of Forbidden Peak (IV 5.0 50 Degree Snow). While the actual climbing on this route is trivial, the crux is getting to the start as the approach is long and routefinding difficult. We opted for a car-to-car ascent as both me and my partner have a distaste for bivys and like to travel light with less equipment. The day went great, good weather, good climbing and good times with a friend. We were round trip in 14 hours.
|AC on the West Ridge of Eldorado|
We awoke the next morning, choked down some nasty "bloatmeal" and left camp. The approach to the start of the West Ridge required us to descend almost 2500ft and pass through a col that of which the rock quality was not dissimilar to kitty litter. Pretty standard Cascadian affair. Once on route, it was classic alpine ridge climbing: sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right, up and down Gendarmes, and a few rappels. The rock was mostly good (for alpine climbing) and the position spectacular. After 2000ft of rock climbing we were on the summit and awaited our 20 minute descent via the East Ridge back to camp.
The first week of weather in the Northwest was the best I have ever experienced. Mostly clear skies, warm temps, and best of all, no precipitation. The Exam was scheduled to begin in 3 days and I took this time to rest and prepare.
The AMGA Alpine Guides Exam is notorious for poor weather, difficult objectives, as well as mental and physical exhaustion. The Alpine program is the longest in any of the AMGA certification tracks and arguably the most difficult.
Then the rain came....only for a day. We met in Bellingham and got our assignments for Mt. Baker. My team was assigned a sort of traverse that would summit 3 peaks if successfully completed with difficult glacier travel. We hiked into camp the first day then headed to the glacier for low angle ice movement skills. One of the skills involved traversing vertical ice/snow while using ice axe "bracing technique" only. A task that was not as simple as it sounds.
A 330am wake up the next morning found us traveling through the ablation zone of the glacier and onto loose dirt climbing to get our intended route. Once on the Coleman Glacier the sun came up and we were cruising for a while. Then heavily crevassed zones slowed our progress. We climbed through some complicated terrain and made it to the Baker-Colfax col and onto the summit of Colfax.
Shortly after, we heard on the radio from the other teams that a candidate was hit by spontaneous rockfall from above while on the Cockscomb Ridge. All teams then descended back the Heliotrope Ridge Camp.
We packed up camp, hiked out to the cars, and met at the Mt. Baker Ranger Station for our next assignments. Ultimately, the following day was cancelled and we debriefed a day early in Seattle. After a long and stressful yet rewarding experience in Washington I was relieved by positive debrief comments from the examiners.
|Dan on the Torment-Forbidden Traverse|