Glacier Mountaineering Trips

Natalie Berg

This piece was contributed by Henry Samson.

The Fall 2014 semester for Glacier Mountaineering students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington began with a twist. Throughout the first week of introductions to new classes and settling into living spaces, we geared up for an ice-climbing trip to Mt. Hood. For many it was the first time ice climbing and being on an alpine glacier. After preparation and summer long wondering about the course, the high mountain air on Mt. Hood hit our noses and brains.

How delightful was the view of Hood and burned forest on the sunset drive up to Cloud Cap Campground. Our minds were relaxed from readings and labs, and focus shifted to the new challenges of climbing and glacier travel.

Glacier Mountaineering class trips are led by the course instructor, and Whitman College Outdoor Program Director, Brien Sheedy. On the Mt. Hood trip he co-led with two other Mazamas, Tom Piekarz and Terry Donahe, two mountaineers well familiar with the region and willing to instruct in the backcountry. They led a crash course on techniques for proper crampon travel and using ice screws to make V-threads. Up on Mt. Hood’s Elliot Glacier we set up ice anchors and top-roped down in to and climbed up out of crevasses.

The beautiful view from the Elliot got us all excited about high places and the possibilities of mountaineering. During two long days of climbing and scrambling in plastic boots and crampons we shared fun, challenging and exciting moments. Many good laughs were had under the starry night sky over our headlamp lit picnic table kitchen.

Our second trip, two weeks later, was to Mt. Baker, Washington where we made it to the summit and back to the Climber’s camp in eight hours and forty-five minutes on our second day there! When on Baker’s nearly 10,800 ft. summit we huddled in celebration, and took photographs that captured an elated team of resilient, cooperative friends.

The Whitman College Fall 2014 Glacier Mountaineering class keeps the “stoke” high. Our learning experiences have motivated plans to revive our college’s mountaineering club, take part in Mazama courses, and set our sights on new challenges. Mt. St. Helens awaits the class in mid-October. The laughs, meals, miles, and wise words spoken from experience by our teachers will always be cherished.

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A mountaineering student ice climbs out of a crevasse in the Elliot Glacier.
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After a day of ice climbing, the class poses for a picture on top of Mt. Hood’s Elliot Glacier.