On August 17th, SheJumps Wild Skills and RMI combined forces for a unique mountaineering school for girls ages 10-14. Throughout the day-long course, the team used Mt. Rainier’s lower slopes to learn and practice various techniques and skills necessary for climbing in glaciated terrain. RMI’s experienced guides, Gloria and Julie Anne, facilitated the instruction of key skills in mountaineering and showed participants the wonder of being in the mountains.
As girls arrived at base camp in Ashford, we checked in with the gear shop for the rental items needed for the day. Each girl was outfitted with mountaineering boots (yes, the real deal plastic ones!), ice axe, crampons, harness, gaiters, helmet, avalanche transceiver and 1 triple-action locking carabiner. After everyone had the right gear we headed to RMI’s Mountain House for the morning meeting.
The course officially began with a morning meeting including instruction from our guides – Gloria & Julie Ann, 10 Essentials and Leave No Trace lesson from our Wild Skills Director – Christy Pelland and Peter Whittaker – who started guiding at age 16 and recently completed his 250th summit of Rainier this July. Peter’s father, Lou Whittaker, co-founded RMI in 1969 with the vision of establishing a guide service that was dedicated to teaching as well as leading climbers. Today, Peter carries on the 45 year legacy by growing the company’s impact by supporting organizations such as SheJumps.
After the meeting, the team did a gear check, loaded up and headed to Paradise at 5,400 ft elevation inside Mt. Rainier National Park – a 45 minute drive from the base camp area in Ashford. Upon arrival, the team put on Mountaineering boots and packed up all their gear, most packs weighing — lbs. After a lesson in how to properly carry an ice axe, we hit the Skyline trail heading up toward Golden Gate.
If you’ve ever walked on pavement in mountaineering boots – you know what these girls were experiencing for the first part of the trek. They’re a bit awkward and definitely take some getting used to. Our team took the new experience in stride but admittedly just walking in the boots was most girl’s thorn of the day.
The snow level was sitting right at 6400 ft which made for a long approach into a spot with enough snow coverage for us to play. At around noon, we reached our destination at Golden Gate situated between the Nisqually and Paradise Glaciers.
The first part of the course was practicing proper techniques for traveling in snow. How to maintain balance, choosing the right step, reading the mountain and other skills needed to successfully travel in this terrain.
Next the group worked on techniques for traveling uphill and then downhill. The guides made this even more fun by playing games such as Red light, Green light.
Hands down the favorite part of the day was glissading! Glissading is the act of sliding down a steep slope of snow or ice with the support of an ice axe. We practiced many variations of falls which made for priceless entertainment and lots of laughs.
This program took place thanks to a generous donation from Peter Whittaker and his partners at RMI. They support the work SheJumps does to get more girls and women into the mountains. We look forward to many more adventures with this team of talented adventurers!