Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mt. Baker

On my way home from Alaska, I made a stop in Seattle for some family time.  In the past couple years it has been hard to get our whole family together at the same time so we wanted to make sure it happened this summer.  Eben and Elsa both live in Seattle , it was an easy place to convene.  After a hard training camp in Alaska, this was supposed to be my recovery week but I knew that was likely to be the case.  Since nobody in our family is very good at sitting still, family vacations have always been filled with lots of hiking, biking, skiing, canoeing, and other adventures.  My mom’s fears of skin cancer limited our time spent lying on a beach and this timewas instead replaced by finding another mountain to climb.  This vacation was no different and the highlight of the trip was climbing Mt. Baker in the North Cascades.
Here’s the family at the start of the hike.  We did the trip in three days instead of the normal two which allowed for a more leisurely hike and more time at the campsite.  This also made for very heavy packs at the start as we were going to be camping in style with lots of very delicious food and drink.
Eben was an awesome guide for the hike!  He does a lot of mountaineering and climbing so it was great to see him in his element.
Hiking to Camp
The Cascades are still really snowy at this time of the year so we hit the snow very early into the hike and had the ice axes out before we reached camp the first day.  Here we are approaching our campsite and Sherman Peak is in the background.  Mt. Baker is hidden from view at this point behind Sherman but you can see part of our route on the left side of the peak.
Elsa and her boyfriend Linden found a flat spot on some heather to pitch a tent.
Blaze stands watch over the camp.  A family friend, Gary Schillhammer, joined us as well for the hike.  His dog, Blaze, was amazing and probably covered enough ground to have summitted three or four times over the course of our hike.
The sibling time was great!  Eben and Elsa spend a lot of time together and send me pictures of the trips like this one, which they do together almost every weekend so I was excited to be able to join for once!
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My new MSR tent and a slightly staged photograph
This was my first time sleeping out on the snow and the first time sleeping on a glacier.   But I slept amazingly while wearing lots of clothes (including a down jacket) inside my sleeping bag.
Eben used his MSR fry-bake to make blueberry muffins and lemon poppyseed cake for breakfast.  That with lots of coffee got us going for the big day.
Morning clouds burned off for clear skies for the climb.
We roped in and navigated around the crevasses on the Squawk and Easton glaciers.
Linden with a sea of clouds below
Eben and I stopped to checking out some of the interesting volcanic rock formations
My mom, the courageous photographer, got quite close to the edge for some of these pictures.  She really enjoyed being roped as close as possible to Eben for this trip.
My dad had his sights set on the summit of Mt. Baker for quite some time so thanks to Eben for making this trip happen!
P8060202My big sis was very impressive and helped me along during a tough point in the Roman Wall, a steep face where my fear of heights kicked in.  As my best friend and role model we are usually very similar and she always knows what to say to make me feel better.  But at that moment when I was trying not to freak out and just take another little step, I knew we were different people when she said, “Isn’t this more fun than intervals?”
Looking down on Sherman peak which from the campsite had looked so high and far away
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Getting organized for the final push to the summit
It actually flattened at the top and was actually an easy stroll for the last few hundred meters.
The Sargents on top!  It was very windy and cold so we only hung out long enough to snap a good Christmas picture.
And then it was back down the same route towards camp
Awesome trip and looking forward to the next mountain!

Glacier Camp

14  tough female athletes
4 coaches
2 groomers
2 piston bullies
1 glacier
1 building
7.5 km of groomed trails
26 hours of skiing
3 helicopter loads of food
2 bottomless coffee makers
1 guitar
50+ trashy magazines
2 choreographed dances
These are just some of the numbers that describe my week on the glacier.  After a little over a week of dryland, we drove to Girdwood which is about 45 minutes from Anchorage and then flew by helicopter with all of our skis and luggage up to APU’s Thomas Training Center on the  Eagle Glacier which would be our home for the next week.   There was one building perched on the edge of a rocky cliff and overlooking the glacier.  Bunk rooms filled with upstairs and while the downstairs housed  a big living room, kitchen, and drying room.  We were pretty isolated but we had 7.5km of trails that twisted around the glacier and were groomed just for us twice a day so nobody was complaining.  It was the perfect location for training, eating, and sleeping which was about all we did.  Each day we skied between 3 and 5 hours usually broken up between two training sessions.  The majority of the volume was easy distance but the glacier was only at 5800′ of elevation so it was still low enough to do a few quality intensity sessions.  The morning sessions were usually skating.  It was often pretty fast when we started and then became progressively slower, softer, and slushier as the morning progressed.  Having a pair of skis with a wet grind or a lot of structure was necessary if you still wanted to be gliding by the end of the morning.  Then we classic skied in the afternoon and a thick mixture of red and universal klister was usually perfect.  We had a mix of weather with everything from some fresh snow on our first day to some really warm weather where we skied in shorts and sports bras.  The pictures show a lot of sunny weather but there were also some days where a thick fog covered the trail and visibility was probably less than 15 meters.  Since we put in A LOT of laps around that one loop, the fog sometimes came as a nice mental relief blocking the upcoming switchbacks from view.  The terrain was very hilly which was perfect for striding and V1 which can sometimes be difficult to practice on rollerskis.  The group of girls was also awesome and I really enjoyed training and spending time with everyone.  Having that many competitive women working hard together really raised the level of the camp.  It seemed like every interval we did, there was someone new chomping at the bit and pushing the pace.  During the distance sessions I also tried to ski with as many different people as possible hoping to learn from other’s technique, tempo, and pacing.   It was a really fun week and I want to thank APU for hosting all of us and organizing such an awesome camp.  They are really lucky to have such an amazing facility and to be able to ski so easily throughout the summer.
Skiing behind World Championship and Olympic medalists like Kikkan and Chandra was just one of the great experiences of he week.
I felt very lucky to be able to ski in July!
We took advantage of such a strong group with lots of skiing in a pack
On the clear days we had 360 degree panoramic views of mountains
The trail snaked back and forth across the glacier.  We were not allowed to ski off the groomed section because there were lots of cracks and crevasses but what was groomed was probed frequently and very safe
Thomas training center with the Eagle glacier in the background on the right
More views of mountains and other glaciers
Holly Brooks is someone whom I had previously only raced against so it was awesome to be able to train with her too
It was great to have some familiar faces and old teammates at the camp as well like Sophie
Jessie Diggins, Holly, and I during a L4 interval.  The tracks got softer and softer with each interval during this workout but we took turns leading and pushing the pace and were able to negative split all the intervals despite the changing conditions.
284320_10150279901949308_509374307_7436846_1921213_nIt wasn’t all training either as we also had a lot of recovery time between sessions to fill.  With such a fun group of women it was easy to keep the atmosphere light.  Here Jessie, Chandra, and Kikkan entertained us all with their amazing dance moves.

Whittier Sightseeing

We had an afternoon off during the dryland portion of the camp and it was the perfect timing for a Dartmouth reunion and sightseeing trip with Anchorage native Eric Packer.  Eric took Sophie Caldwell, Rosie Brennan, and I to the port town of Whittier.  It was about a 45 minute drive to a  6 mile one lane tunnel through a mountain, finally arriving in Whittier.  Known for its poor weather, the saying goes, “It’s always shittier in Whittier” but we lucked out and it was definitely prettier on that side of the mountain.  The town is really little but we had fun taking pictures, eating ice cream, and lounging on the docks in the sun.  Especially during camps when the training load is high and intense, it’s great to get to get away and relax the mind and the body.
IMG0792-MThe Portage Glacier
IMG0744-LVery green glacial water
IMG0785-MEric went swimming and scared some tourists
The road ends in Whittier, so any onward travel is by boat on the William Sound
We flew down from the glacier yesterday evening and everyone is back in Anchorage, resting some very tired muscles.  The skiing was awesome and pictures and stories are on the way.