Sky Pilot Weekend
So over the past year, a few friends and I have been “uping” our hiking game from basic hiking trails to more and more technical approaches. Our eyes are set on tackling Mt Baker in about a month, so we felt it was time to get schooled on some of the fundamentals of Mountaineering.
We connected with the folks at Altus Mountain Guides for a weekend of safety skills and adventure.
We met our guides for the “Intro Mountaineering” at the Squamish Adventure Center, signed our waivers, and joined the rest of the group to get briefed on what the next 72 hours would entail. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into, nor did I know how we would stack up against the rest of the group, but we would soon find out.
The group consisted of 7 of us and 2 guides. We were split into 2 smaller groups with a guide each. This was perfect for us as it ended up allowing myself, my brother and my cousin (a couple of my regular hiking partners) to be in a group of 3.
We split off and headed for a small bluff just off of the overflow parking area adjacent to the Adventure Center. Here we spent a number of hours in “Rope/Rock School” learning and practicing all the necessary knots and hitches required for both climbing and crevasse crossing/rescue. Afterwards, we connected with the other group and got in a bit of climbing. It was a very full day. At the end we had a quick chat with the guides to make sure everyone had the gear they needed for the next 2 days on the mountain. We picked up a couple of new articles of gear for our harnesses and made our way to the campground at the foot of “The Chief” and our home for the night.
We dropped our gear at our site, grabbed a seat on the ground and cracked a cold beer. We had made it through day 1. Now the campground itself is an interesting enough place. Filled with climbers, dirt bags, nomads, and others looking to stay somewhere on the cheap. We finished our evening cooking out of the back of my truck as the sun went down. In the distance, slack liners were practicing their craft, cars continued to roll in and out with their modified shelters on wheels, while others seemed to just flat out sleep on their drivers seats in a sleeping bag. A culture all to its own that I was slowly morphing towards myself. Through the night there was a constant flow of headlights whipping about as folks were getting back from climbs, heading out for some night bouldering, or even setting off on their own climbs before the next day’s sun fried them against the granite of “The Chief”.
We woke early(ish). We didn’t have to meet the group until 9:30am at the Sea to Sky Gondola, where we would be departing from. We packed up camp and made our way to the truck for some breakfast. The parking lot was in full tilt evacuation mode. People leaving, people coming, and with the unprecedented good weather about 5 million folks were making their way into the day use area to hike or climb for the day.
We finished up and jumped in the truck and made our way down the road to find a spot to ditch it and double back to the Gondola parking lot. We made good time.
The group had taken over the patio section and was busily packing and repacking gear for the trip ahead.
The Gondola opened and we made our way on. We set out on the trails up behind the Gondola and soon had a pretty sweet view of our upcoming playground. Up and up and finally on a saddle and a little rocky outcropping we set up base camp.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon practicing roping up as a team, self arresting, and making snow anchors. A hot day on the mountain, but everyone was in such high spirits. I don’t know if was the good weather or just simply the opportunity to spend the weekend on the mountain, but the group was pretty much ear to ear grinning the entire time. That evening we ate dinner back at base camp and went to bed just after the sun tucked in behind the mountains, this would be a short sleep as the alarm was set for 3am for the summit attempt.
Sunday Morning (Real mutha F Early!)
3:00am. The alarm goes off, the headlamps go on. We slowly but efficiently get ourselves together for a quick bite to eat and get prepared to head out for the summit push. The light from the sun was slowly illuminating the world around us, and before long the headlamps could be shut off.
We departed base camp at 4:00am, and slowly made our way up the mountainside toward the summit. It was cool out but nowhere near cold. We hit a few steep sections and the guides quickly set the ropes up. We continued onward. Then one final chimney section and the last push up to the summit. We made it! 730am and we were standing on top of Sky Pilot.
We spent about 15 minutes up there taking it all in. Then we made our way back down to one of the lower cliffs for some crevasse rescue practice. The temperature had rocketed up again and before long everyone was feeling the heat. We finished up and made our way back to break camp and make our way back down the mountain. All in all an amazing weekend out. It was a super fun and informative time. Big thanks to Klemen and Alex from Altus Mountain Guides!
As for us, we are in full on training mode for Mt Baker and are feeling much more prepared to tackle it.