“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:

compass1Suunto MC-2 Global
printed topo maps w/ Ziploc
Garmin inReach1Garmin inReach Explorer+
Emergency Bivy
Mylar blanket
Sleeping Bag1REI Igneo 20d
Sleeping Pad1Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
pack cover1Osprey UltraLight Rain Cover
1 L bottle2Nalgene
Aquamira drops1Aquamira
Stove1SOTO Windmaster
Fuel Can Stabilizer1Jetboil
Knife1Gerber LST Ultralite
1.4L pot1Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium cookset
utensils (individual)Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Sun protection
Sunglasses – with case1Dragon Alliance MountaineerX
hat1OR Active Ice Cap
buff/bandana1UV insect shield Buff
Tools/Repair kit/Emergency
Hiking polespairREI Co-op Carbon Composite Powerlock
Headlamp1Black Diamond Spot
Repair KitPCord, Extra SD cards, pen, super glue, tenacious tape, snow baskets
Watch1Suunto Core Multifunction Watch
Carabiner1BD Positron Screwgate
Mountaineering Boots1La Sportiva Spantik
Gaiters1REI Mountain Gaiters
Midweight Wool Socks2Smartwool PhD
Synthetic Underwear2Duluth Trading Buck Naked boxers
Base Layer – Top1Patagonia Capilene Midweight
Base Layer – Bottom1Under Armour ColdGear 2.0
Softshell Pants1Outdoor Research Cirque Pants
Hardshell Jacket1Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid
Hardshell Pants1REI Tallusphere Rain Pants
Softshell Jacket1Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Jacket
Midweight Layer1Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Beanie / Skull Cap1
Microfiber Towel1REI Multitowel Mini
Heavyweight Gloves1Black Diamond Guide
Lightweight Gloves1TNF Etip
Climbing Gear
Ice Axe1Black Diamond Raven Pro
Crampons1Black Diamond Sabertooth Crampon
Helmet1Black Diamond Vector
Harness1Black Diamond Momentum
Sling – 4 ft.1Black Diamond Nylon Runner
Locking Carabiners3Black Diamond RockLock
Non-Locking Carabiners2Black Diamond WireGate
Harness Prussik6 ft.New England Rope
Leg Prussik12 ft.New England Rope
Trekking Poles1Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Toothbrush1GUM Travel Toothbrush
Toothpaste1Dr. Bronners
Toilet Paper1Cotton Buds Tissue-to-Go (75 sheets)
Purell12 oz per mini-bottle
DermatoneDermatone Mini Tin SPF 23
Gold BondGold Bond Travel Size
SunscreenCera Ve
Dr. Bronners SoapDr. Bronners Castile Soap Travel Size
Miscellaneous (NEED TO UPDATE)
Backpack1Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Camera1Nikon D60 with 18-200 lens
GoPro1GoPro Hero5 Black
Phone1iPhone SE
Electronics Bag1Charging Cables: GoPro, Garmin, PowerBank, iPhone, Olympus, headphones, extra batteries
Pen1Fisher Space Pen – Military Pen
PolarPro GoPro mount1https://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.