In August 2016, my friend Julie Parker and I blocked off a couple of days to go alpine climbing near our homes in Seattle, Washington.
We were feeling inspired by Blake Herrington’s new guidebook, so we decided to stay in the Cascades and focused our efforts on Vesper Peak. Roughly 18 miles south of the tiny town of Darrington, Washington, the 6,220′ mountain is nestled in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in the North Cascades. The area is chock full of moderate alpine climbs, and — best of all — it’s less than a two-hour drive from Seattle when accessed via the Mountain Loop Highway.
We had a blast. We fought through a rainstorm, we ate cheese and sausage, we slept under the stars. We also wrote about our adventures for the MSR blog, which is called The Summit Register. Our three posts are Tips For Your First Alpine Climbing Trip, Bivy in Style: Five Tips for a More Comfortable Night in the Alpine, and Smarter Snacking: Fueling for Long Days in the Mountains.
From our post Tips For Your First Alpine Climbing Trip:
A few simple calculations will help you create a timetable to plan your day and track your progress while climbing. Start by estimating the approach. A rough calculation for hiking with a loaded pack is 30 minutes per mile plus an additional 30 minutes for every 1000 feet of elevation gain. Next, consider the length of the route, grade, type of protection, and number of pitches to determine how many hours you expect to be climbing. Then check out the descent—is it a walk-off or rappel? How long do you expect it to take? Reference past trip reports, a good guidebook and local topographical maps to get the lay of the land. Also, write down the times of sunrise and sunset.
Once you’ve estimated the amount of time you’ll be moving, count backwards. Decide when to leave the car, when you expect to begin climbing, an absolute turn-around time, and an estimate of when you should be back at your car. If it seems like you’ll be cutting it close and could get caught out in the dark then consider a bivy the night before—either at the trailhead or near the base of the route—to get an even earlier start and buy more time. [Read more.]
What kind of terrain will you be in? What temperatures do you expect? Is a detailed weather forecast available? Will you be camping on grass, rock, sand, or ice? You’ll be able to save weight and reduce your pack size by precisely packing the appropriate gear.
Once you’ve gleaned as much beta as you can, tailor your kit to match the conditions. In the summer, for example, you can sleep comfortably with a lightweight inflatable pad. But in the winter months, you might want to add a closed-cell foam layer to your sleep system. If there’s precipitation in the forecast, you’ll want to roll with a tent and rainfly, but if the forecast is clear, consider sleeping under the stars. [Read more.]
When you’re packing your snacks, think about variety. You never know what’s going to taste good when you’re working hard in the mountains, and it’s nice to be able to choose between salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. Sometimes beef jerky hits the spot; other times you might be craving trail mix — and if you’ve got options to choose from, you’re more likely to actually consume the calories you need.
In addition to choosing a variety of flavors, choose snacks with different glycemic indexes. For slower endurance activities you’ll want longer-burning energy sources like fat and protein, but for the summit push you’ll want some fast power from sugar and caffeine. If you stock your snack bag with different options, you can choose what you want when you need it. [Read more.]
Thanks to MSR for letting us contribute to their blog, and to Julie for an awesome partnership. To read more of Julie’s work, check out her website. Photo credit is shared between the two of us — we shot with my Nikon d750 and her Olympus.