Outdoor Alumni Summit Alaskan Peak
Earlier this spring, three ambitious Colorado Mountain College Leadville alumni embarked on a fundraising expedition to the Alaskan Range, with the Boulder Mountain Institute. Ryan Edwards, Eric Crosby, and Michael Elges, graduates of the Outdoor Recreation Leadership program, are successfully employed in the outdoor industry. They have been climbing together as a team since they met in Leadville in 2007.
The team has climbed advanced routes in the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru, El Capitan, and other challenging terrain. The Alaskan Range proved to be another challenging and rewarding experience for the ORL graduates. The group faced threatening weather and dangerous conditions early on in the journey and made a conservative decision to wait for the storm to pass. Two and a half days were spent at camp eating, drinking tea, playing chess and eagerly awaiting their next adventure.
“We had entered into a time warp where the days just blended together,” said Ryan Edwards, Instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound school, “Through the storm we were able to see some large sloughs coming down the North Buttress of Mt Hunter, and even when we could not see them, we could still hear the large ones well.
The storm eventually cleared a few days later, the crew attempted the climb of Mt Hunter. They left camp around midnight, with the Alaskan sun high in the sky, skinning along and taking in views of the northern lights as the sunset faded. They climbed fast, as their path was threatened by seracs, giant blocks of glacial ice, looming above in the moonlight. As they approached the rock face that symbolized the end of the first day, a small avalanche occurred, delaying their progress. They strategized together and cautiously descended to the bottom of the rock face, and back to camp to wait for the warmest part of the day to pass.
The team slept on it, waking at 6am to melt snow for water and pack up camp. They continued on through two of the three massive cornices before another storm rolled in on their approach to the last cornice guarding the upper half of the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter. Ryan, Eric and Michael waited on a flat section of the ridge behind a wind lip to watch the weather for an hour or two before making the decision to descend in increasingly poor visibility. After receiving a hero’s welcome back at base camp, they decided to catch a flight with their friends to Ruth Glacier the following morning.
The Outdoor Recreation Leadership program at Colorado Mountain College prepares students through hands on leadership courses like Ice Climbing Leadership, Backcountry Winter Travel Leadership, Climbing Self Rescue, etc. Students learn how to assess danger, respond quickly to an emergency and develop their technical skills. Ryan Edwards credits CMC for teaching the team the crucial skills required to accomplish mountain expeditions. “We learned the fundamental skills necessary to our success in the mountains at Colorado Mountain College. The snow, rock, and ice climbing skills necessary for ascents like these are something that Colorado Mountain College excels at providing their students.”
The journey pressed on, and the teams caught flights to the Ruth Glacier, an area lower in elevation, to tackle a route on Mooses Tooth. They made their way up the icefall to the Canal Glacier Camp and attempted the route known as “Shaken Not Stirred” but were turned around again, due to unsafe conditions in warmer temperatures. After evaluating conditions from the glacier and discussing strategies, Ryan, Eric and Michael headed across the glacier and made a successful summit on Peak 11,300.
An incredible amount of preparation and patience go into creating an experience like an expedition to the Alaskan Range. For students in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership program or considering an ORL degree, Ryan has a few words of advice. “Colorado Mountain College can give you the skills necessary to explore every inch of this world and it’s important to be patient and keep learning.”
For more information about the Outdoor Recreation Leadership program at Colorado Mountain College visit www.ColoradoMtn.edu
Update by Lauren Swanson, Social Media Coordinator