Kitsap Basic Alpine Course - Expanding My Reach!

After 30 years of hiking and scrambling in the Pacific Northwest, Paul decided to learn new skills with The Mountaineers and enrolled in the Kitsap Basic Alpine Course. Read all about his experience.
Paul Richards Paul Richards
Kitsap Climbing Grad
June 19, 2016

After 30 years of hiking and scrambling in the Northwest I was getting bored with the same outings. Having owned a copy of Freedom of the Hills for many years, I've ventured onto glaciers and self-trained following the safe principles laid out in this bible of mountaineering. My friends and I taught ourselves quite a bit about constructing z-pulley systems on Rainier and even making it up the mountain - at least as far as the DC. We achieved a lot, but seemed to fall a little short of our goals. With so many beautiful areas in our region I wanted to explore more of them.

Enter The Mountaineers. Generally, I am resistant to structure when it comes to things that are supposed to be fun, but my good friend Steve McCarthy nudged my friend Tom Lambright and me to enroll in the Basic Alpine Course.

Approaching UnicornSince we are all in the 50+ club I had some reservations, which I think made us take our fitness goals more seriously. Tom and I opted for the Kitsap Branch due to the at-capacity Seattle branch course, and have been thrilled to be part of a close knit group of competent, fun, and enthusiastic instructors and leaders at Kitsap.

With so many empty nesters out there, I shouldn't have been surprised with the wide range of age groups in our class. It's very encouraging to find people in their 60's still going hard!

Climbing Unicorn

The structure I resisted is what makes The Mountaineers the great organization that it is: a group that teaches sound and safe principles that are standardized. There should be no debating on how to ice axe arrest or tie in when you're on the mountain! I've  had the opportunity to participate with other branches and while there are minor debates on certain techniques (to be expected in an evolving sport) the debate is productive, and, more importantly, the foundation is set so there is no debate once you hit the trail.

My first Basic Alpine Climb up Unicorn Peak confirmed that my time and effort have been well invested (by the way, the cost is nominal when you consider the value). Finally a chance to use and reinforce techniques learned in the class and on field trips! I know I would never have topped out on Unicorn without my group. Besides a fantastic climb and bonding with my Kitsap clan, I was able to climb with people from two other branches. I also thought I hated rock climbing but found myself smiling half way up the pitch.

Whatever your outdoor goals are The Mountaineers is THE organization to help teach you how to do it safely. I know with the folks at the Kitsap Branch they add in a passion for the sport and a desire to pass that passion on to others. The leadership team is well-oiled and tight knit and when you think you can't push - they will give you that little nudge you need to stretch yourself further than you thought you would go. 

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Jerry Logan
Jerry Logan says:
Wed, Nov 30, 2016 8:05 PM

Tall Paul! Great write up and thanks for doing it. Jerry

Lonny Moore
Lonny Moore says:
Wed, Dec 28, 2016 11:17 AM

Well done Tall Paul . This year has gone by so fast and we are lucky to have a pretty full class for next year already on deck .I am looking forward to seeing you out there.