KAF Adventures – “Dream It. Do It”

“Dream It. Do It.” Well, I couldn’t say it much better than that.

My mom has always said that I needed “exertion.” I got cabin fever really easily when I was young (hell, I still do. . .), and if I didn’t get my daily exercise in I’d be bouncing off the walls. As I grew older I spent more and more time in the gym to get my “exertion.” The most recent evolution of this “exertion” has been through backpacking, putting in mile after mile in the Southeast, Sierra Nevada, New Zealand, and Alaska.

A fun glissade down from a mountain top in Iceland.

Recently, I have been looking to take my experience in the mountains to the next level, to get out into the alpine and further my abilities on snow and ice. I had been looking at Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, the Three Sisters as training grounds, places I could sink my boots and ice axe into as I develop my experience in the field.

Standing atop Cathedral Pass, with Cathedral Peak in the background.

But in reality, there is no substitute for local expertise when it comes to the Cascades. Especially in the early season, conditions are variable, and an extensive knowledge of the area is required for any sort of climb.

|| A Personal Feel: KAF Adventures ||

In March I connected with Joel Koester, the Managing Director of KAF Adventures. Joel and I had a conversation about my goals as an aspiring mountaineer, talked about curriculum and learning opportunities that KAF could provide, and ultimately, we began to craft a program that was perfect for my intended goals and outcomes.

My conversation with Joel, and his willingness to work with me one-on-one, is a testament to KAF’s dedication to their clients. The alpine guiding industry continues to get bigger and bigger, and much less personal; KAF Adventures, however, brings a refreshing dose of personality. Every step of the way, Joel worked with ME, to customize and strategize ways for me to maximize my time out in the North Cascades with KAF.

|| The Grand Adventure: Mt. Baker ||

In our conversation, Joel felt that Mt. Baker would be my perfect training ground to begin developing skills in glacier and snow travel. Baker’s accessibility from Seattle, only 2-3 hours away by car, makes it ideal for the somewhat condensed time schedule I am on for this trip (3 days on the mountain). Baker provides the perfect balance between having an “expedition-like feel” and being a relatively quick climb.

Climbers making their way up Mt. Baker after a fresh snowfall.

|| Getting Ready ||

One of the most exciting parts of adventure for me is the preparation process. Gear lists, itineraries, schedules, weather forecasts, etc. Once Joel and I worked out the details of the program, it was time to get to work.

I went back to my old gear list spreadsheets from previous backpacking trips, modifying for technical climbing equipment and winter apparel. Here’s an example of what a preliminary gear list looked like for me:

Item Qty Model
compass 1 Suunto MC-2 Global
printed topo maps w/ Ziploc
Garmin inReach 1 Garmin inReach Explorer+
Emergency Bivy
Mylar blanket
Sleeping Bag 1 REI Igneo 20d
Sleeping Pad 1 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
pack cover 1 Osprey UltraLight Rain Cover
1 L bottle 2 Nalgene
Aquamira drops 1 Aquamira
Stove 1 SOTO Windmaster
Fuel Can Stabilizer 1 Jetboil
Knife 1 Gerber LST Ultralite
1.4L pot 1 Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium cookset
utensils (individual) Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Sun protection
Sunglasses – with case 1 Dragon Alliance MountaineerX
hat 1 OR Active Ice Cap
buff/bandana 1 UV insect shield Buff
Tools/Repair kit/Emergency
Hiking poles pair REI Co-op Carbon Composite Powerlock
Headlamp 1 Black Diamond Spot
Repair Kit PCord, Extra SD cards, pen, super glue, tenacious tape, snow baskets
Watch 1 Suunto Core Multifunction Watch
Carabiner 1 BD Positron Screwgate
Mountaineering Boots 1 La Sportiva Spantik
Gaiters 1 REI Mountain Gaiters
Midweight Wool Socks 2 Smartwool PhD
Synthetic Underwear 2 Duluth Trading Buck Naked boxers
Base Layer – Top 1 Patagonia Capilene Midweight
Base Layer – Bottom 1 Under Armour ColdGear 2.0
Softshell Pants 1 Outdoor Research Cirque Pants
Hardshell Jacket 1 Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid
Hardshell Pants 1 REI Tallusphere Rain Pants
Softshell Jacket 1 Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Jacket
Midweight Layer 1 Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Beanie / Skull Cap 1
Microfiber Towel 1 REI Multitowel Mini
Heavyweight Gloves 1 Black Diamond Guide
Lightweight Gloves 1 TNF Etip
Climbing Gear
Ice Axe 1 Black Diamond Raven Pro
Crampons 1 Black Diamond Sabertooth Crampon
Helmet 1 Black Diamond Vector
Harness 1 Black Diamond Momentum
Sling – 4 ft. 1 Black Diamond Nylon Runner
Locking Carabiners 3 Black Diamond RockLock
Non-Locking Carabiners 2 Black Diamond WireGate
Harness Prussik 6 ft. New England Rope
Leg Prussik 12 ft. New England Rope
Trekking Poles 1 Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Toothbrush 1 GUM Travel Toothbrush
Toothpaste 1 Dr. Bronners
Toilet Paper 1 Cotton Buds Tissue-to-Go (75 sheets)
Purell 1 2 oz per mini-bottle
Dermatone Dermatone Mini Tin SPF 23
Gold Bond Gold Bond Travel Size
Sunscreen Cera Ve
Dr. Bronners Soap Dr. Bronners Castile Soap Travel Size
Miscellaneous (NEED TO UPDATE)
Backpack 1 Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Camera 1 Nikon D60 with 18-200 lens
GoPro 1 GoPro Hero5 Black
Phone 1 iPhone SE
Electronics Bag 1 Charging Cables: GoPro, Garmin, PowerBank, iPhone, Olympus, headphones, extra batteries
Pen 1 Fisher Space Pen – Military Pen
TrekMount 1 http://www.trekmount.com/
PolarPro GoPro mount 1 https://www.amazon.com/PolarPro-StrapMount-BackPack-LifeVest-SCUBA/dp/B00UJI8OVK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1496188103&sr=8-3&keywords=polar+pro

Whenever I had questions, KAF was there to help out. They sent me an impressively comprehensive gear list; both Joel and one of KAF’s guides, Andrew Archer, were available to answer any questions I had about gear for the program.

Once I had my gear list down and finalized, it was time to turn to monitoring the weather and observing mountain conditions. This can be hard too far in advance, especially in the springtime in the Pacific Northwest when rain/snowstorms are constant.

For years, my go-to weather resources have been:

  • Weather.gov – the official NOAA site for weather updates. This site provides detailed information on weather fronts, and incredibly accurate forecasts.
  • Mountain-Forecast.com – an amazing resource for weather predictions dependent upon elevation. Mountain-Forecast will give detailed descriptions of weather conditions centered on actual mountain ranges and peaks, which is incredibly useful for scouting out routes in the Cascades and elsewhere.
  • Weather Underground – my first stop for a 10-day, high-level forecast. Their system is user-friendly, easy to use and navigate, and gets me the basic information I need fast.

In talking with KAF in preparation for the program, I was excited to learn that most of their guides use the same resources, a nice confirmation that I am onto something.

|| Upcoming: The Adventure Itself ||

I am extremely excited to get out on the mountain, as time is ticking away! Stay tuned for more updates, and keep your eye out for pictures on Instagram as well, @engineeredforadventure.

My college dorm room, turned into a gear locker.