“Christ it’s fucking early” I said as I looked at my watch. 2:34 am time to get up and try to stand on top of this mother fucker. I feel around for my head lamp and turn it on once it’s on my head. “Sorry Zuck” I said to my tent mate. Zuckerman, a Jewish kid from Pennsylvania, asked “is the weather clear” “yep” I responded “alright, alright, alright” he said. A half a liter of coffee later with crampons on our feet we started up the snow covered moraine. We’re Psyched! Staring up at the mountain crowned by the Milky Way galaxy yet still lit by the almost full moon. We reached the glacier and tied in. I’m on the NOLS alumni Mt. Baker expedition.
Five days before I was driving to Conway Washington after a few days of cragging and seeing old friends in Bend Oregon. As I drove parallel the Cascades I was blown away by these massive volcanoes: Jefferson, Hood, Rainier, Adams all these glaciated peaks cry out to be climbed. The proud stand alone nature of these mountains is a sight to behold and that can not be described. Meeting up with my course mates and instructors was a bit unnerving: will we get along, will they carry there own weight, will I be able to keep up with them, Jesus can they cook are some of the thoughts running through my head. The count was two instructors, two students, an architect, a CEO, a doctor, a machinist, and me a dirtbag with the teams ages ranging as widely as our experience. The next day we sorted gear, packed up and headed to the trailhead. NOLS courses are strange because you meet a couple of people and then you’re assigned to cook and sleep with them for the next week. My tent mates were Zuckerman and Will. Zuck as I mentioned before is from Pennsylvania and Will (A.K.A. Gloves) is from New Hampshire by way of Florida. We got along well, although Will got mad at us a few times for eating more than our fair share of the malt balls and fig bars. We were ecstatic hiking up the hill in spite of the ridiculous expedition weight packs. We set up camp looking forward to learning crevasse rescue techniques and attempting to climb Mt. Baker.
The North Cascades are a seriously fucked up place! It seems whenever I don’t need good weather I get bluebird skies and a calming breeze; also when I’m planning on hiking or climbing or whatever the weather goes to shit. For the next two days we had rain, sleet, snow, and fog. Not so bad comparatively, I have friends who have spent two weeks in a tent on Denali. Also it gave us the opportunity to learn and practice glacial traveling techniques; not to mention it gave us time to get to know one another and start working as a team.
“Let’s go to the top and have our high fives and take some summit pictures” our instructor Roger said. We’re psyched! Standing on top of that volcano was incredible. Looking out at Glacier Peak, Mount Shuksan, Mount Rainier, and the entirety of North Cascades National Park is breathtaking. The early-morning, the smell of sulfur, the shitting in a plastic bag while being tied in, and that overweight backpack was so worth it. Standing on top of the summit was as good of a feeling as clipping the chains on my project, catching the perfect barrel, or skiing that perfect pillow line. I’m not an Alpine climber, I don’t know if I’m willing to be that cold and that scared for that long; but god damn I want to be.
When I was sixteen years old I found a NOLS catalog from 1991 the cover had three or four people on it wearing short shorts and gaiters drinking coffee and eating breakfast; I remember thinking I want to be like them. I want to be a badass outdoor enthusiast. Little did I know that my decision to go on a NOLS course would lead me all over the country trying really hard at a bunch of sports no one cares about, living in squalor! And being so grateful for an amazing life. I’ve done one regular course, one WFR course, three WFR recents, and one Alumni course. Being able to go into the Mt. Baker trip with a beginners mind and being excited to learn everything that I could was the best experience I’ve had yet. My instructors Jared and Roger were pros and not condescending or patronizing. My course mates Anne, David, Papa John, Gloves, Phil, and Zuck were amazing. Cooking with everyone and hearing their stories is an experience that I will cherish forever. I’m sure my mother never expected her son’s life would turn out like this when she agreed to pay for the salmon backpacking and rafting course; I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for that gift.
It’s a really special thing to go out into the backcountry and struggle, learn, grow, and experience life. Not everyone has the opportunity to do what we outdoor enthusiasts get to do. If you want to help someone have a life changing expierence and get into the outdoors please cotribute whatever you can to the NOLS scholarship fund at http://www.nols.edu/donate; I hope you will and stay dirty.

1 Comment

  1. This sounds amazing my man. I loved the little time I got to spend with you in life where we did and I would love to do something like this one day. Youve come a long way and Im proud of ya.

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