Saturday, June 03, 2017

Waddington Range Mountaineering and Dogsledding in Minnesota

It's almost summer time which means it's almost adventure time!  The quick plans, once school is done, fly myself out to Red Rocks in Colorado and back to hear my brother play with his band, Dispatch.  Then up to Maine to spend the rest of my school-teacher summer aboard my beloved boat, Daphne.  

But first a recap.  The first half of last summer was spent in British Columbia teaching a NOLS mountaineering course.  With two other instructors and 11 students, we traversed over 50 miles of glaciated, rocky and think vegetated terrain in style and with lots of laughs, and maybe a few tears.  It was an awesome experience, made more powerful with the knowledge that the first time I had been there was with my friend AJ, who was killed in a plane crash two years ago.

The days were long and the views stunning.  I used my Maine coast fog navigation skills to navigate the team many miles up a glacier, through a pass, then down a glacier to our campsite in one of my favorite days in the mountains.  Everyone who was behind me had to quietly plod along, separated by the rope lengths (in case one of them fell into a crevasse), in the cold soaking rain, while I, on the front of the first rope team, with map and compass in hand, took bearings, made marks on the map, and quietly dead-reckoned our way to camp while thinking, "I love this shit!"  When we arrived to camp, one student asked, "How the heck did you get us here?!"  Thank you to the Maine fog and my time as a sailing instructor for Outward Bound.  

We had long days and short nights.  Both in actual daylight and in hours awake.  Many days on end contained only 5 hours of sleep or less and I would often wonder, how am I still functioning.  It was a probably a combination of the good company, the responsibility of being in charge of the whole team, our stunning scenery and the fact that the terrain involved much careful thought, mitigation and planning to safely travel through it.  I will not forget coming down one glacier, looking up to see the headlights high above as they followed the little wands I had placed marking the safest route.  By midnight we were down but had no where off glacier to camp, so we had to have two people with probes probe out an area safe for us to sleep.  A long day ahead, it was only a few hours of sleep again for us instructors.  

The route out of the mountains was perhaps the most challenging part.  Jenga logs from pine-beetle kill, bushwhacking, it is indescribable to any who haven't been there.  What a feeling to emerge with our team happy and healthy, a month after entering the mountains of the Waddington Range.  

From there it was a few weeks of sailing on the Maine coast and then back to the school.  

This spring me and another on the faculty took students on a dog sledding trip in Minnesota.  We hired an outfit to lead it and it was a spectacular experience.  Sleeping in bivi sacks on the surface of a frozen lake at -10 degrees F, listening to the ice crack and looking up at the stars.  It was a little taste of the Antarctic and I felt right at home in Ely, Minnesota.  

Doing my best to look like an arctic explorer...

School is almost done!  A story of last spring's adventure flying to Houston and back to talk to NASA folks will be published in the July issue of Popular Mechanics!  Apparently over a million readers!  
That's all for now!  Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

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