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January Mountaineering- Perfect Conditions

Winter Mountaineering in the San Juans
January 17, 2011
Introduction to Ice Climbing Ouray style.
February 4, 2011
Allen, Doug and Steve happy on the summit of Engineer.

Allen, Doug and Steve happy on the summit of Engineer.

Family and friends came together from all over the country to participate in one of SWAG’s winter mountaineering courses over the last weekend of January. We spent the first day at Cascade Canyon ice climbing, rappelling, and building ice anchors. Day 2 was spent hiking into our base camp on Engineer Mountain at 11,500 ft and setting up camp. We dug an excellent cook tent as well as eating area. We then taught some new knots and in the end everyone was able to tie every knot known to man. Allen even brought Quint from Jaws to the table while remembering the bowline. Temperatures throughout the day were an amazing 40 degrees F and a minimal 12 degree F low that night. Very comfortable for us all.

Full packs and big smiles. Ready to hike to our base camp on Engineer.

Full packs and big smiles. Ready to hike to our base camp on Engineer.

Lisa and Todd above our dining room.

Lisa and Todd above our dining room.

On day 3 we hiked 20 minutes from camp to above tree line on Engineer’s eastern plateau and went over many new skills. First Ben taught avalanche awareness and beacon searches. Doug and Lisa made exceptional time finding two buried beacons, while everyone else dug them out immediately. Good work everyone! Next I taught travel technique and ice axe use. This led to everyone taking turns throwing themselves down a steep icy slope perfecting their ice axe arrests. Snow anchors were next on the itinerayr and the conditions were so varied we were able to place everything from in-line redundant deadmen to vertically oriented pickets. Last ly, we dug a snow pit in order to analyze the snow-pack. Steve demonstrated perfect wrist, elbow and shoulder techniques while performing his snow stability test. Ben and I capped the long day with warm drinks and chili and burritos.

On day 4 the wether held out just long enough for us to climb Engineer. Route conditions were perfect and the teams made great time pushing to the almost 13,000 foot summit. I know it was a day to remember for everyone. To wrap it up, Everyone learned a lot and did an excellent job applying their new skills throughout the four days. We hope to see everyone in the future!

Lisa rappelling into Cascade Canyon

Lisa rappelling into Cascade Canyon

Doug demonstrating great technique

Doug demonstrating great technique

Ben talking about circular probing to pinpoint a buried subject

Ben talking about circular probing to pinpoint a buried subject

Allen going for the headfirst ice axe arrest. Well done!

Allen going for the headfirst ice axe arrest. Well done!

Doug and Steve on the NE ridge of Engineer

Doug and Steve on the NE ridge of Engineer

MSP