I honestly did not think I was ever going to enjoy winter camping since I was always a cold baby. However, on Valentine’s Day (2013), Andy and I decided to spend some time alone and go snow camping. I bought what I now call my “raspberry” puffy jacket. Why did I name my jacket? Because I look like a raspberry in it. It was on super sale and a size or two larger than what I would have purchased. To work, belay (or puffy) jackets need more room to insulate your body heat, so I bought a medium size to keep me warmer!


Sasse Ridge snowshoe and winter camping trip.

Before the next Washington Alpine Club outing, we would learn basics of carrying an ice axe and why it is used. Also, to ensure everyone was prepared and ready for snow camping, the students were instructed on what is needed for winter camping.

Ice Axe

Ice axes are a life-saving tool when on the mountain. A quick introduction of the fit of an ice axe should go from your hip to your mid ankle while standing. Also, instructors helped us adjust our axe leashes to make self arresting with the axe as efficient as possible. Last, we were instructed on how to carry our axes on our backpacks. Using loops at the ends of your packs and other straps to secure the ice axe when not in use. During technical climbing, the axe can be placed between the climber and their pack or where it is accessible in case it is needed for a fall or steep terrain.

Ice Axes on Summit

Previous ice axe experience while climbing Mt. Adams. (Mine is the pretty green one.)

Winter Camping

The winter camping lesson covered the importance of gear to bring to Snow I. The weather forecast was discussed, along with how to best prepare for the potential elements mother nature had planned. Even though mother nature is a women and can change her mind, it is still a good place to start. Packing synthetic clothing is best, along with at least one extra top and bottom base layers to prevent any hypothermia or loss of body heat. Students and instructors interacted and shared what worked best since everyone is different. Stoves and other camping gear was also covered.

Snow I

The week before groups picked a random CD with a genre of music. Per the genre, groups could decide what food to cook for the instructors for the cook-off, along with costumes to wear for the dance party. I was super stoked for my group: Team Disco! Team Disco met after class to discuss food and divvy up borrowed costumes.

How did I have SO much gear packed for a one-night camping trip? Oh yeah, I had a disco costume and Afro wig to carry up, along with a fondue pot. Team Disco was ready to take down the competition!


Sadly, I had a rough night with a stomach bug but did not want to give up. I met my carpool buddy and headed to the trailhead. Still feeling sick, I called the trip as I watched my classmates go through bag checks before hitting the trail. I felt awful for not being able to carry my portion of the tent I was supposed to share and the food I supplied. Overall, I think it was for the best, but I did miss out on some great fun! Fortunately, pictures were taken!!!

Another student in my class wrote a blog post about the outing. Read about Amber’s Snow I experience and all I would have learned if I had felt better! The stations for the weekend’s festivities were: Ice Axe Arrest, Ascend/Descend, Anchors, Glacier, and Kitchen.

Here are some pictures from the trip:


Starting the climb – Photo by Brandon Adams


Snow camping – Photo by Bruce Allison


Ice axe arrest – Photo by Brandon Adams


Ascending a steep slope – Photo by Bruce Allison


Snow kitchens – Photo by Bruce Allison


Team Disco – Photo by Bruce Allison


Reflections of the day – Photo by Brandon Adams


Snow I Costumes – Photo by Brandon Adams

Snow I Make-Up

Since the skills taught in Snow I were required to continue onto the Alpine climbs the following weekends, I scheduled a make-up session with one of the co-chairs the day before my Alpine I climb. The challenge in the morning was to find a slope steep enough to glissade down to practice proper self arresting technique with my ice axe.

Snow I - Alpental

Ready to arrest. After heading to Alpental ski resort, which was closed for the season, we hiked to a steep slope and started making glissade shoots to go down. As I glissaded down, I practiced stopping myself by arresting on both sides depending on which hand I was holding the axe. The more tricky self arresting was going head first down the steep slope on my front and on my back. I also put my backpack on for practice to simulate a true fall. Sliding down the snow was fun and felt like sled riding as a kid without the use of a sled.

Snow I - Alpental

Alpental Ski Resort

Snow I - Alpental

Glissading and arresting down a slope.

Along with practicing self arresting, I was taught different snow anchors and how to belay climbers up a steep slope without a harness.

Snow I - Alpental

Climbing gear.

*A big thanks to those that supplied the photos.

Would you ever go snow camping?

Mountaineering School Series:

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