Seattle Glacier School 2011, rope, ice, rock and snow climbing

Seattle Glacier School 2011, rope, ice, rock and snow climbing

News of our recent expedition: Seattle Glacier School

Trip Summary: Each year SummitClimb and SummitTrek offer a free, no cost in the 4,500 metre / 14,000 foot high mountains near Seattle (the most glaciated peaks in the continental usa) for men and women of all ages from around the world. It's an opportunity to meet expedition leaders and climb together with friends new and old, while practicing climbing techniques used in ascending the high peaks of the world, such as , , , , and on .

By the way, SummitClimb and SummitTrek also offer a European mountain school in prepararation for Everest, in the French Alps each February and March at , so please join us for that free of cost, no charge climbing camp as well.

At 4,500 metres / 14,000 feet the largest glaciated mountains in the continental usa stand near Seattle and rise dramatically out of the ocean.

The last week in July brings a mixture of weather including mist and brilliant sunshine to these icy slopes and our successful group enjoyed all of it. Our diverse team of women and men of all ages from around the world met in a small town near Seattle to participate in the glacier school.

Experienced climbers shared their knowledge and beginners tried out mountaineering and met new climbing friends. After camping on the snow for 4 days, our members put their skills into practice by climbing to the summit of the peak on an exciting clear sunny day.

The group started in a small town near Seattle, where everyone broke out their gear on one of SummitClimb's leaders lawns, then went to one of Seattle's excellent inexpensive equipment stores to buy, rent, and hire the clothing, tools, and supplies needed for the climb.

Scott Patch, Bill Dwyer, Stewart Wolfe, and Dan Mazur worked together to lead the Seattle Glacier School. They coordinated the group through building snow anchors, walking on a rope team, ascending out of a crevasse, and self arresting. The group camped together cooking meals and sharing stories while enjoying incredible mountain scenery. Leaders and members swapped knowledge on equipment, climbing, and glacier travel techniques through open discussion and classes giving everyone an opportunity to learn.

The team finished the school by climbing the moderate glacier climb to the summit of an icy volcano near Seattle. This volcano is not extremely difficult to ascend, but it is considered to be the most glaciated mountain in the continental usa, and is excellent preparation for higher mountainsd such as Aconcagua and great training for Everest and the Himalaya.

Throughout the glacier school, members learned and perfected their mountaineering and snow camping techniques, then were able to apply their new skills as they helped one another to the summit.

Alpenglow covers participants as they ascend above the clouds during a terrific sunrise (Allen Smith).


A crisp breeze was blowing as Erika Schreder, a mother and scientist from Seattle, started to top out the icy crater rim at 14,000 ft / 4,400 metres. Even though conditions might have been windy, she was laughing with her friend, Stephanie, as she walked. Erika stood firm on the high mountain, physically fit, and mentally determined, sure to have a good time. As the mountain fell away below her, she got her first views into the crater of giant glaciated volcano. back to top

“When my friend Stephanie asked me last winter if I wanted to climb the big mountains, of course I said yes.” Stephanie had met a former glacier school member, Martha, through a group of friends and Martha encouraged her to apply. “I was at work one day when I received an email from Stephanie with the subject line ‘red hot lead,’ which I opened right away.” She had found the Seattle Glacier School, a free week-long programme run by Summitclimb on the mountains near Seattle that included building glacier travel and crevasse rescue skills and culminated in a summit attempt. “It sounded too good to be true, but soon we were in touch with course administrator Stewart Wolfe and accepted in the school.”

As she summated volcano, Erika realized she had come a long way since then. The large cirque, blanketed by white stood strong and silent as the wind swirled throughout it. Erika had climbed mountains before, but none as large or technical as this.

She was not alone on top though, in fact the group, united by a rope, was extremely diverse. Another member, Abhi Anchliya, who is originally from tropical West Bengal India and now lives in Houston Texas, arrived off the plane in Seattle, with very little equipment and only a small idea what he was getting into, but a fully packed positive attitude. He had never been in the snow before and now he was successfully climbing a glacier with Erika.

I grew up in India and moved to Texas so I never had a chance to see so much snow in my life. My first experience climbing this huge mountain, and living in the vastness of white is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The team crossed the final crater to the true summit. The sun had been up for only a few hours, but it had yet to break the icy chill of the long night that settled in their bones.  As they passed the steam vents in the ice and broke out of the breeze, their crampons crunched across the flat volcano top. Erika knew, after hours of walking, she was going to make it to the top, and the heat of excitement began to thaw out her bones. back to top

Ulyana and Ania wave flags on a breezy summit day (Charlie Roberts).

Erika looked down at the rest of her team waiting in the crater. Jennifer, a tall acupuncturist with curly brown hair from Myrtle Beach South Carolina, a couple, Dale, a 60 year old investment manager from Alberta Canada, and Ulyana, a young glaciology student from Boulder Colorado, the various members of the team united by a rope and working together like a machine.  One week ago none of them knew each other, nor had stepped on a glacier, and none of them realized that they would be summitting the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states by the end of the week.

Erika and Abhi, along with the rest of the group (half men half women about half from the U.S. and half from other countries), arrived last Saturday for the Seattle Glacier School, a free instructional course provided by Summitclimb, ready to push their limits and learn skills of mountaineering. Summitclimb along with Summittrek lead trips around the globe up Aconcagua, Ama Dablam, and Everest as well as treks to Everest Base Camp, and now, after practicing skills throughout the week, they were having fun climbing near Seattle. As the wind sparked the sugar-like snow across the summit, they looked out over the entire Cascade Range with warm smiles.  They were an international group of men and women of all ages, strangers at the start of the school, and now friends united by a rope and a mountain. back to top

The massive glaciers stretch out below the summit as the members of the Seattle Glacier School descend the ridge back to high camp (Scott Patch).

Day One: The Onslaught of Houseguests; Climbers Arrive in Seattle and Go through Equipment back to top

Expedition leader Dan Mazur gives advice as he goes through personal equipment with participants. Jen and Tracy look on (Rick Eng).

Tucked below the hustle of Seattle and the aroma of Tacoma, lies the often overlooked capitol of Washington State, Olympia.  Sitting beside the ocean is a small cottage with white wooden trim. The decor of the house reflects the eclectic personality and adventurous history of the people that pass through it. Tibetan tapestries cover doorways, a topographic map of Everest National Park hangs in the living room, and piles of mountain equipment line the basement walls.

“I don’t spend a lot of time here. It is a great place, but I am away half the year. Except there is no place in I would rather be in the summer than here, its beautiful here” says expedition leader Dan Mazur. He comes through town to help set up the glacier school, but between Himalayan adventures, and lets participants of the school stay in his backyard, but there isn’t a lot of time for relaxing on the beach. Dan has to duck when he walks through the doorways of the cottage, he keeps to himself, but his humble demeanor contrasts characteristics of a man who has done technical routes up K2 and summitted Everest.

On Day One of the school, life is anything but relaxing for this ocean-side cottage.  Multi-colored tents are perched overlooking the beach backyard. Carpools line the curb out front. The tinkling of climbing equipment and sounds of chatter turn the house into a beehive of activity. The group came from backgrounds as diverse as, Maryana, a hairdresser from California, Allen, a real-estate agent in Southern Florida, Sonya, a college professor who teaches American sign language, to Jeff, a schoolteacher in the Northwest Territories of Canada. All of them have collided on this cottage and put together their climbing gear on the front lawn to be checked in preparation for their adventure. back to top

Heather gets the car ready for the caravan to the mountain (Heather Jennings).

Sonya, a Deaf climber, with a great positive attitude, came from California to try mountaineering on the ice and added a rich diversity to the team, teaching everyone some sign language. Tracy came from Yakima Washington as a mother and an American Sign Language instructor for hearing students and was invited to join the group to interpret for the whole team. Tracy viewed the mountain school with some apprehension at first. She arrived at the house early in the morning for the group meeting. “I picked up Sonya at the airport, and it was great to get to meet her after our flurry of emails, texts, and videochats getting introduced and deciding to do this thing together! All was quiet when we went to the cottage, but I was impressed by the warm welcome we received!” back to top

Leaders from Summitclimb, started the day by going through the each member’s equipment list (that they got on on the front lawn.

“We needed to make sure everyone had what they needed in order to be safe up there,” says Scott Patch, a recent Everest leader who came along to help lead the mountain school. “Some of these people have never done anything like this before.” Scott, a father and ski patroller at Big Sky, drove over to Seattle from his home in Montana donating his time for a week of climbing. “I love leading these things. Meeting all the new people and climbing with them is a lot of fun.”

The group and helpers pieced through the gear on the lawn, talking about personal preferences with each other and explaining uses. The expedition leaders drew on their Himalayan knowledge as they explained what people needed to be comfortable while sleeping on glacier ice.

Even climbers like Allen Smith, a man who is quick to shake your hand and give you a smile and has climbed many mountains before this one was happy with the trip.  Allen reflected on the leaders, “I think its great that they do this for others, especially for free, with this glacier school, the service treks, and all the gracious giving they do. I would be blessed, honored, and happy to join up and go on another trip with him at some time in the future.”

Abhi, who didn’t have any equipment on arrival, went out with leaders piecing through the gear stores like bargain hunters on a mission. “Believe it or not, for me, the highlight of the school was the 'Shopping Day' in Seattle. I brought almost all my mountaineering gear there. Dan is such a great guy. He helped me picking up everything starting from my boots to the leash on the ice axe. He was more excited about my new Gore-Tex pants than me!”

Many of the arriving members started sprouting “needs lists” after looking through the equipment. As it grew they got ready for the journey up to Seattle for shopping, but not before stopping off for breakfast at a local café, sampling some of the best eggs benedict and conquering some of the largest pancakes the northwest had to offer. back to top

Brothers, Wes and Kyler, enjoy fresh baked goods while the group gears up in the parking lot (Rick Eng). Members get ready to fill the needs at one of Seattle’s great equipment stores, Second Ascent (Anna Moll).

The conversations and laughs over breakfast and coffee continued as they drove from Olympia North to Seattle. Seattle has a plethora of reasonably priced equipment stores and rental shops, making it a great location to fill in the blanks on gear lists. Piles of new and used supplies were made on the counter for the people new to the sport.  Most just needed to rent / hire some plastic boots and get some spare batteries, but were happy to help the others find what they needed. The crowd filed through Second Ascent new and used mountain equipment shop finding all kinds of used treasures, asking questions, and renting boots. What holes couldn’t be filled there were found at Recreational Equipment Incorporated shop, one of the oldest and most famous outdoor stores in the U.S.

“A large group with equipment needs makes for a lot of shopping,” Bill Dwyer said after a few hours of watching people find deals. “But everyone there had plenty of members around to help them find what they needed.” Summitclimb drew on the knowledge of many of the climbers that came along for the school getting round table discussions on gear and equipment. Bill Dwyer, a Denali guide, came down from Juneau Alaska to help lead the expedition.  “It is nice getting people excited about the sport.  I love connecting future climbers with one another too.”

By the end of the day people had gotten what was needed to ascend the mountain and met at a local German restaurant for one last tasty meal before take off. A celebration at the end of a long day of shopping was a good way to kick off the start of the climb.

Day 2: Into the Mist; The Group Drove to the Mountain and Hiked to the First Camp back to top

Starting to rock and roll! Members line up in the parking lot, ready to begin the ascent. From the left, Dan, Rick, Heather, Tracy, Stephanie, Jen, Erika, Dale, Allen, Jeff, Maryana, Charlie, Anna, Randy, Kyler, Wes, Bill, Ulyana, Vance, Stewart, Abhi, Sonya, Brian (Scott Patch).

The large glaciated mountains towering out of the Pacific Ocean average 44 inches of rain annually, which often makes for a cloudy start.  The beginning of the trip was no exception. The group awoke in Olympia and caravanned towards the mountains ascending to the parking lot in the clouds.  On their way they stopped at a grocery store to buy their food for the week and grab a quick breakfast. The mist clung to the trees condensing on the moss as it dripped along the road. The staging area was the highest parking lot on the mountain, and due to the late winter, the cars parked next to large snow piles. With climbers from cities like London England and Los Angeles, it was a weather shock from summer temperatures.  The rain in the Pacific Northwest has a tendency to be passive aggressive, in that it never really lets it all out but still lets you know it isn’t letting you get away dry.

As Scott and Bill gathered 43 dollars from members, purchased permits, and the group sorted equipment, members made use of the dry lodge nearby, sitting by the fire while the rain outside stopped.  Leaders divided large duffels of fuel, stoves, ropes, and hardware for people to pack. The larger stronger members of the group carried some of the heavier items, and the smaller lighter members concentrated on personal gear and food. After a small standstill and rain delay, the group decided to pull the trigger, not the plug, and stepped out into the fog. back to top

Participants balance their rope teams on the snow slopes beside camp (Rick Eng).

The mist was a dramatic change from the fireside delay, but as the group filed up the slopes to camp, the exciting reality of starting the climb settled in as they laughed in the July snow.  The parking lot sits right where the towering trees of the northwest begin to shrink away and alpine tundra takes over. This year the strong spring storms kept banks of snow lining the parking lot, which appeared and disappeared in the fog like ghostly apparitions in the fog. The climb they had in front of them was hidden behind the veil, but the buzz of potential radiated through. back to top

Starting the climb off right with some of the biggest pancakes that the Northwest has to offer (Rick Eng).

New ice axes and crampons peppered throughout the group from the purchases and rentals in Seattle as they started the hike to camp. For many it was the first time they would camp on the snow. Erika, stated, “Leaders set the tone for the week with a very measured, steady pace, frequent breaks for food and drink, and kind check-ins with every participant.” Everyone gathered for a class on the use of an ice axe, and explained how to keep tension in the rope as members walked together. Although the going was steep at times, participants were able to talk and meet one another as they walked along the snow trail. While wearing crampons and using an ice-axe the group plunge-stepped on a rope team down the steep slope to the flat glacier moraine where they dug out platforms for camp, and anchored in their colourful tents and the Moraine Camp was born. back to top


  Our first camp sits in the mist and serves as an excellent location to stage our school (Anna Moll). Heather and Ulyana model their jackets outside their warm new home (Ulyana Horodyskyj). Stewart and his brother Vance, chat as they ascend to high camp with Kyler in the background (Anna Moll).

The fog had sunk into everyone’s bones on the short hike in, and as the sunset glowed behind them, the group began to thaw out with hot cups of coco and tea.  With all the members of the group settled in, the moraine resembled a small town subdivision where neighbours shoveled their driveways and chatted over nylon fences.  Twilight took hold and the participants settled into their warm bags, ready for the classes that were to come. back to top

Stephanie warms up with a hot drink while she gets ready for classes (Heather Jennings).

Day 3: Mountain 101; Climbers Practice Rope Travel, Belaying, and Snow Anchors back to top

Leaders Bill and Scott go through the hip-belay technique on a slope outside camp as Tracy looks on (Rick Eng).

Like a bridal veil, the fog lifted, revealing the beautiful face of the mountain that shone in the morning light above the camp.  It was a spying tease throughout the day, giving hints of what was to come and then bashfully hiding behind the clouds yet again.  The group that had gathered beneath emerged from their tents shook the rain and condensation from their shoulders and began taking in the immense vistas that emerged. back to top

Dan Mazur helps expedition leaders, Stewart and Patch, get ropes ready for school (Stephanie Barbee).

Over breakfast, the expedition leaders stretched ropes out onto the snow within camp, ready for some practice after a lesson on team management. Keeping a rope team balanced is something that even the most experienced climbers struggle with on expedition, but with practice, it becomes an instinctual technique.  “The big thing I took away from the school was the roped travel,” Charlie, a climber and tri-athlete from Nottingham England stated after the school. “Having practiced rope travel and used crampons in New England, I thought I understood it but it wasn't until I got onto the mountain that the understanding and fine tuning of the techniques became so important and made a huge difference.” People quickly learned that keeping tension on the rope and walking within a team required a lot of concentration, and the distractions of glacial vistas were there to tease as they walked along the moraine.

Crampons kicked into the crusty snow as people practiced their technique up the snow slopes out of camp.  All the time the watchful eye of the summit peaked over the clouds down on the large group.  As they ascended, walking became easier and muscles began to remember what holding an axe, walking on points, and managing a rope was like. back to top

Members get ready for their first day of snow school by putting on sun block and having fun with their new friends (Allen Smith). 

The maritime climate of the coastal mountain means that wet snow sets in like concrete after it falls. When burying a snow anchor to catch a fall, climbers appreciate this. Using aluminum pickets and flukes provided by Summitclimb, the team practiced making snow anchors to attach themselves to the mountain for steeper slopes.  Stephanie and Erika, two local friends from the Seattle area, had fun making their snow anchor out of a chopped bollard of snow, a teardrop shaped anchor carved out of the slope.  back to top

Jeff and Allen, equipment experts, sort through their things during a break in classes (Heather Jennings). Ulyana and Anna, new friends, make each other laugh with their new equipment (Anna Moll).

Climbers laughed while practicing the different techniques for belaying one another through the buried anchors.  Heather, who leads trips on Mt. St. Helens, weaved the rope around her boot and ice axe to hold some of the heaviest members of the group with ease.  Heather, along with many others were surprised to see what kind of weight people could hold when they got the techniques right. back to top


Ulyana and Anna test their knowledge by putting their weight on the snow anchor that they built (Anna Moll). Randy works on his hip-belay technique as he helps a fellow participant climb up the slope (Anna Moll). Heather casually holds another participant with the hip belay while anchored to the snow (Rick Eng).

Day 4: Onwards and Upwards; The Participants Move to High Camp

The glacier school lines up on the moraine ascending to high camp. From the left, Rick, Heather, Jen, Bill, Maryana, Stephanie, Heather, Scott, Dale, Jeff, Allen, Abhi, Randy, Ulyana, Ania Kyler, Wes, Sonya, Tracy, Charlie, Stewart, Vance (Dan Mazur).

It might be a scientific fact that the most powerful elements of beauty converge on the Pacific Northwest when the sun comes out.  The fog hung on the hills for the start of the climb, but for the walk to high camp, the sun came out and stretched the view between horizons.  The snowy volcano cap shone above the group as the sun broke the clouds into ribbons.  Far in the distance, the icefall entertained everyone with the random sound of avalanching blocks. Participants demonstrated the practice from snow school as they broke camp and roped up as if they had been doing it all their lives. Even though many had put on new crampons only a few days ago, they showed a new confidence as they began kicking upward. back to top

Members ascend the moraine towards high camp as the veil lifts off the face of the mountain (Anna Moll).

Dan took the first steps out of camp leading his rope team.  The rope teams that followed made a conga line along the glacier that would occasionally stop to take photos of the surrounding peaks.  The distance up to high camp is about 10 kilometres / 6.5 miles gaining about 1,200 metres / 4,000 feet in elevation, which took about 5 to 7 hours.  It was the first big push for the group, but the sunny weather and laughter made the climb much easier. back to top

Stewart leads his rope team along the moraine out of camp one as the trees begin to fade away (Anna Moll). Jen and Bill take a break on the glacier moraine to put on their sun cream while they move to high camp (Heather Jennings).

Creeks bubbled beneath the snow, making music as the group rested and filled water bottles. The clouds broke, the vast expanse of the Pacific Northwest began to unfold.  The tall trees began to drop beneath the mountain and slowly rock became covered by snow. Colours began to fade away and the contrast of black rocks on white snow created a dramatic atmosphere for a climb. The Cascade Range became layered mountain sheets in shades of blue in the distance below, which stretched out to the horizon. back to top

“Sun’s out Gun’s out!” Bill, Heather, Jennifer, and Rick strike a pose on their way to high camp (Stephanie Barbee).

Many of the members took their time with the hike up to high camp in order to take in the panoramic views of the surrounding area.  Mt. Adams, St. Helens, and Mt. Hood all made an appearance on the horizon for climbers, and as the sun dropped into its orange bed, the cascade giants morphed into a changing array of colors.

As participants melted snow, members dug flat tent platforms and assembled high camp. From inside the stretched nylon tents the climbers rested tired muscles and socialized while they finished dinner. back to top

Jennifer helps Jeff and Allen get ready for the day outside their tent (Stephanie Barbee).

Day 5: Into the Belly of the Mountain; Practice With Crevasse Self Rescue and Self Arrest back to top

Heather Jennings uses her ascender to pull herself back to the surface during self rescue practice (Heather Jennings).

Ulyana, a glacial researcher from Boulder Colorado, is familiar with large glaciers. She has been studying them at University for some time. She has even traveled around the Himalaya looking at the geology of them. She even informed the members in the school about her scientific observations while on the mountain. “Glaciers are not only retreating, they are shrinking!; outcroppings can ‘grow’ larger as more snow melts, revealing the rock below,” she stated later after pointing out the features on the mountain. Never before, however, had she dangled over the edge of one and lowered inside. back to top

Leaders, Dan and Bill, enjoy scouting out a potential slope for snow school outside camp (Heather Jennings).

The group awoke and unzipped tents, dropping layers as the sun radiated heat off the glacier.  Dan, Stewart, Bill, and Patch set out into the icefall to find a location for the group to get some experience with traveling on technical terrain. Roped together, the group and zigzagged through the crevasse fields, stepping over gaps and crossing bridges until they found a small safe place to have school.  A gap opened in the glacier as it broke and flowed down a steeper part of the mountain. With a flat safe bench above the crevasse, it was the perfect location to relax and try ascending out of a crevasse.  back to top

Anna prepares to lower into a small crevasse outside high camp. While Bill Dwyer, expedition leader, looks on ready to help(Anna Moll).

Climbers, like Ulyana, were having their first experience hiking on top of a glacier this trip. Now they were slowly lowering into the interior. After a lesson on how to ascend, they lined up to try self-rescue techniques.  At the solid base of the crevasse, climbers stemmed their legs off both walls and swung their axe into the snow in front of them.  They used their mechanical ascenders and prusiks to help grip the line.  After holding on to the rope and kicking into the snow one step at a time, they pulled themselves up over the lip and back into the light. Charlie, a climber from the U.K. was beaming when he pulled himself over the lip, “Having never been on a glacier before the experience was awesome, the school started with the basics and progressed up to crevasse rescue at a pace that was comfortable for all.” After standing on the edge, he was quick to tell the leaders that he wanted to try it again. back to top

Bill Dwyer, explains the use of a mechanical ascender to Erika Schreder as she gets ready to practice in the crevasse (Stephanie Barbee).

Anna, originally from Lodz Poland, had come from Palm Springs California with plenty of rock climbing experience.  She was a strong athlete used to clinging to the sides of rocks in the California desert, but sliding down the slope out of camp with an ice axe was something new.  “I definitely advanced my climbing knowledge. It was one of the best mountain experiences I had so far in my life. I not only learned new skills of glacier climbing, but also met some amazing people and made great friends.” Climbing ropes out of crevasses and using an axe were new techniques compared to desert rock climbing, but Anna was smiling the entire time she tried. back to top

Maryana smiles as she tests her snow anchor before lowering herself into the small crevasse (Ulyana Horodyskyj).

The self-arrest technique on snow is something that climbers need to do without thinking. With practice, the act of slamming the pick of an ice axe into the snow and keeping your team from sliding down the mountain is instinctual.  For this group it was a brand new experience, but they caught on quickly. 

Members climbed the hill out of camp and threw themselves down it like children playing in the snow.  They slid through the ice and contorted their bodies so that their weight landed on the axe and they came to a controlled stop.  They gained the confidence necessary to walk on a steep slope and use the axe they had been carrying. back to top

  Heather models the safety equipment on her harness (Heather Jennings).

The exciting day seemed full, even though it ended early.  Many people wanted to continue the practice late into the afternoon, but participants needed to melt snow for filling bottles, and it was not going to be long before they were waking up yet again, for what was to be a very long day.

Day 6: Through Wind and Above Clouds; Participants Use Their Skills to Climb to the Summit of the Mountain back to top

Erika and Stephanie walk on the upper glacier as the sun begins to rise (Scott Patch).

Whether it was anticipation, butterflies, or jet lag, nine o’clock in the evening came quickly and many people did not spend much time in the doldrums of sleep.  As the group rustled from the warm tents and began lashing on their crampons, few would believe that for many of them they had learned to wear these only a few days before. The sky was clear, with stars sending their crisp breath down on the team in camp. Without a cloud blanket, the night was a blessing, but with it came challenges.  The wind was gusting and the air cold.  Up here, the Summitclimb glacier school stood confident, exposed but smiling to the true mountain experience. back to top

Jeff and Allen, equipment experts, sort through their things during a break in classes (Heather Jennings). Erika and Stephanie, friends from Seattle, smile as the sun begins to rise on their summit bid (Scott Patch).

It was with a methodic beat that steps move upwards out of high camp. Crampons cross over one another and kick spikes into the frozen snow. The headlamps made a chain like Christmas lights adorning the mountain, weaving their way across the glacier flats towards the volcanic rock cleaver. As the musty dawn sun fuzzed through the barrier of the horizon, the group began to see just how much they had accomplished, and where their hard effort had taken them. back to top

Randy takes in the dramatic alpenglow as he ascends towards the summit (Ulyana Horodyskyj).

The night was crisp on the high glacier, but with the equipment they had gone through down low, the participants remained warm and comfortable.  Wind gusts made the ascent challenging, but the members tucked their faces into the hoods of their jackets and with burning legs crossed their crampons up towards the high point of one of the most glaciated peaks in America. When the team squinted through the breeze, they could see all of the coastal range beneath them, glimmering like white diamonds above the Pacific. back to top

Abhi had come a long way when he topped out the crater rim of the large volcano in the Cascade Range.  He had gone from buying brand new equipment to helping his rope team crest out one of the most technical peaks in America at a comfortable pace.  After the climb he stated with a smile, “The juice was definitely worth the squeeze.”

As the other climbers began to drop over the crater rim and onto the summit they all came to the realization of just how far they had come in one week, free of financial cost and full of fun. The skills learned will stick with them forever, and the view is something they will never forget.

Maryana, a Romanian who currently lives in California, reflected on the climb, “It is hard to describe my trip on the mountain just in a few words because it has been such a full experience and an awesome time. I didn't know what to imagine from the Glacier School but it has exceeded above and beyond my expectations. All the leaders were very professional, helpful and friendly. Everybody was included and treated important. I was very impressed to see such a big diversity in the group in culture, fitness and experience and yet everybody had a good time and reached the summit!” Whatever the expectation was that she had before the trip, Maryana, like many of the other members had the same sense of joy and accomplishment after the trip. back to top

Abhi looks out at just how far he has come on the slope leading to the summit (Heather Jennings).

Bill Dwyer, one of the leaders, explained, “I was curious to see how we would do up high, we had a lot of people going for the summit.” Bill had led trips throughout the Andes, Alaska, and Antarctica, but remained impressed by the success of so many people in just one week. “When I saw so many members coming up to the rim I just felt like dancing. I was so happy for everyone.” back to top

Participants traverse along the long snow slopes to the lower mountain after spending time on one of the most glaciated peaks in the United States (Scott Patch).

Summitclimb’s glacier school was open to anyone to apply.  The group that assembled themselves in Olympia started out as strangers from all across the world. They had a wide range of experience, financial statuses, and ages. On this mountain, however, all the barriers that might pull people apart back in the city disappeared and this group worked together in pursuit of one common goal with the skills they learned. As they gave high fives and congratulations on the rim of the summit crater, they were a solid team that would remember this experience forever. The world spun around beneath them as they stood on the apex of that glaciated peak.  Down below the icefalls flowed into the forests that spread out towards the ocean. New friends, who one week ago were strangers from around the globe, stood together, taking in the view. back to top

Climbers stand on a sunny summit after a successful ascent. From Left to Right, Randy, Ania, Ulyana, Kyler, Abhi, Jen, Charlie, Heather, Wes (Charlie Roberts).

Editor's Note: Tracy Crowshaw would like to add the following: 

"After all the hard work, and all the help and encouragement from our great leaders, it was wonderful to have everyone who attempted the summit, achieve it!" - Tracy


Day 7: The Sweetness of it All; Climbers Depart and Head Home back to top

Wes takes in the alpine views on his descent after a successful summit (Ulyana Horodyskyj). Erika and Stephanie take a break in the morning sun on their way back down from a successful summit (Scott Patch).

After the summit photos, hugs and handshakes on the top, the beautiful descent back toward high camp, and the long walk down through the sunset to the parking lot, I slept on the back deck listening to the sound of the ocean where I found myself feeling suddenly very still. After this experience, the return to sea level makes me realize just how special these mountains are.  The sound of birds in the morning, sitting on the ocean wearing only a t-shirt, and the smell of trees are all things I learn to appreciate when I am on a mountain, and upon return, they all seem to taste twice as sweet. back to top

Ulyana and Ania wave flags on a breezy summit day (Charlie Roberts).

I know that I am not alone in this experience. Many climbers taste the sweetness and yearn to get back to the hills. Charlie, the climber from the U.K. wrote me later, stating he is, “already planning a trip with a few folks from the school.” After the practice with the glacier school I am sure that they will.

Members like Erika, remained linked to the glaciers in many ways. “When I came home, I found my two year-old had gotten in the habit of pointing to the mountain and saying ‘mama.’  I still gaze fondly at it at every opportunity. I have a terrific view from my office window, and I don’t look at it like I used to. The upper glaciers are an incredible, unique place, and my relationship with what Seattleites call ‘the mountain’ will never be the same again.

It is amazing that so many people had this experience from so many different occupations, united on top of the mountain for one week, all for the purpose of embracing adventure and fun. At times climbing mountains can seem like a paltry action, but when I see a team of strangers unite, I wonder if it might be the most important thing that we do.

I stopped by the farmers market on the way out of Olympia and bought a gigantic flat of blueberries for the long drive home.  As I looked in the rearview mirror I could see the giant hulk of the glaciated volcano sitting like Buddha on the horizon, and I knew that no matter what happened for the rest of my life nobody would ever be able to take the experience of the glacier school away from me. I smiled to myself, ate some blueberries, and turned the car North with a bit more fuel and inspiration for my next adventure. back to top

Team Roster

  • Abhi Anchliya – India / U.S.A.
  • Stephanie Barbee – U.S.A.
  • Tracy Croshaw – U.S.A.
  • Bill Dwyer – U.S.A. (leader)
  • Rick Eng – Canada / China
  • Dale Hackinen – Canada
  • Ulyana Horodyskyj – Ukraine / U.S.A.
  • Heather Jennings – U.S.A.
  • Jennifer Klich – U.S.A.
  • Dan Mazur – U.S.A./ U.K. (leader)
  • Ania Moll – Poland / U.S.A.
  • Scott Patch – U.S.A. (leader)
  • Jeff Planetta – Canada
  • Maryana Plesh – U.S.A. / Romania
  • Charles Roberts – U.K. / U.S.A.
  • Erika Schreder – U.S.A.
  • Allen Smith – U.S.A.
  • Brian Weihs – U.S.A.
  • Randy Weishaar – U.S.A.
  • Russ Willett – U.S.A.
  • Kyler Willett – U.S.A.
  • Sonya Wilson – U.S.A.
  • Stewart Wolfe – U.S.A. (leader)
  • Vance Wolfe – U.S.A. back to top