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One Season, 28 Volcanoes: Two Women Take on the Cascades

This post is one of a series that takes a closer look at the lives of Feathered Friends Ambassadors. Written by Mandy Godwin.

Kate and Madeline together in the mountains.Kate Carothers and Madeline Dunn.

Madeline Dunn picks up the phone a few minutes after getting off a plane in Utah. She’s just flown in to meet Kate Carothers, her friend and 2018 Volcano Project climbing partner, in the Wasatch Mountains for a day of spontaneous training. After an entire season of living in different states, planning together but training separately, today marks their first day back in the mountains together—a milestone in the preparation for this summer’s ambitious ski mountaineering project.

From June to July 2018, Madeline and Kate will attempt to summit all twenty-eight major Cascade range volcanoes as fast as possible in one continuous push. The Cascade volcanoes span from Lassen Peak in Northern California to Mt. Meager in British Columbia and include some of North America’s most iconic peaks. The two women will spend the summer living out of Kate’s truck at trailheads, bivying on the mountains, and chasing the tail end of winter north from California.

“I actually grew up skiing and training on Mount Hood in the summers, so I’ve been used to year-round skiing for awhile, and I crave it,” Madeline says. Skiing the glaciers is one of the most reliable ways to lengthen the season, but the glaciers themselves are threatened by climate change, and spending time on them has heightened Madeline and Kate’s awareness of the problem. One scientist, who’s been observing the North Cascades glaciers for three decades, has seen a 25% loss of glacier volume in that time. With this in mind, Madeline and Kate have allied with Climb for Conservation to fundraise for the protection of glaciated terrain. “We decided to partner with a non-profit to make it about more than just us,” Madeline explains, “to help protect the glaciers that are melting that we love.”

Madeline in a Helios Hoody atop Mt. Adams.Madeline on top of Mount Adams.

The two met last year while Kate was working at The Mountain Shop in Portland, Oregon, and Madeline was attempting to climb as many Cascade volcanoes as fast as possible within a twenty day timeframe. Kate laughs about it now: “I was like, ‘Oh wait, you’re a chick, and you’re skiing volcanoes. Would you like to ski some volcanoes [together]?’ A week or two went by, then we reached out to each other and skied Mt. Adams together before the road opened.” They then decided to team up for this year’s project when they realized that they shared the same goals for the Cascade volcanoes and had complementary skills—Kate is a certified SPA Rock Guide and Madeline is an avalanche educator with AIARE.

“You spend a lot of time with your climbing partner and need to trust them in life or death situations,” Madeline says. Especially on the less popular, more remote routes, they may not see anyone else on the mountain, making it all the more necessary to be able to rely on one another’s technical expertise.

Weather especially can be a wild card. It’s been a low snow year across the West, which adds uncertainty to the summit conditions. Plus, climbers have to contend with the erratic ways the volcanoes themselves affect weather patterns. “Those volcanoes create their own weather clouds,” Madeline says. “I’ve been up there when there’s not a cloud in the sky, and then all of a sudden, moisture comes up from out of nowhere and socks you in. Whiteouts above treeline can be deadly if you’re not ready for it.”

Kate with her Plover sleeping bag in the Alaska Range.Kate in the Alaska Range.

In preparation, she’s taken a meteorology course and learned to read the jetstream and track weather models. Kate agrees that weather may make it difficult to link the peaks, but despite the challenges—both those they can foresee and those they can’t—she’s excited. The magnitude of the project requires a significant sacrifice of both time and money, but hearing the joy in both women’s voices as they explain what they’re most looking forward to, there’s no question of whether it’s worth it.

“If I could do anything in the world and money didn’t matter,” Madeline says, “it would be living in inclement weather: digging holes in the snow to sleep, exhausting myself, eating for calories, and just existing. That’s what I’m most excited about: to do what I love for a couple months at a time.”

“Not everyone gets to do that, to spend every day in such a free state,” Kate affirms. “You never regret it. You’re always thankful that you had the time.”


Madeline Dunn and Kate Carothers can be found on Instagram at @madelinececilia_ and @eyeofamountaingoat. Check back here for updates on their progress throughout the season. 

Climbing Mt. Rainier: Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone

By: Jose Soto

The trek to the summit of Mt. Rainier proved to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I have ever had. With Madison Mountaineering as our guide, the C4C team made it to the summit safely and had a whole of fun along the way as we literally leaped over crevasses.

Our team consisted of 9 climbers and 3 guides and the plan was to make it to the summit and back in 3 days/2 nights. We were extremely fortunate in that Mother Nature provided outstanding weather for our trip: sunny skies, minimal winds and temperatures above freezing through all 3 days. Many summit attempts are derailed due to inclement weather, but we did not have to worry about this. One minor setback that affected our trek were the forest fires burning in nearby British Columbia and the limited visibility from the top of Rainier. All things considered, this was a small trade off to pay for having picture perfect weather.

Day one started with a trek from the trailhead at Paradise to Camp Muir at 10,000ft. From the trailhead, Mt Rainier stood majestically in the distance, yet oddly enough I could not have been more calm and relaxed. Perhaps this sense of calm was because of our guides: one of them had previously climbed Rainier 190 times and I felt that we were in extremely capable and knowledgeable hands. Side note: if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you take a trip with Madison Mountaineering – these guys are the real deal. The hike to Camp Muir had us on the Skyline trail traversing alongside beautiful alpine meadows initially and then the seemingly endless Muir snowfield. The elevation gain throughout the first day was relatively steady and hazards were minimal – we still were not in crevasse or rope team territory. We arrived at Camp Muir after ~4-5 of hiking and prepared to set up camp for the night. I remember thinking that Mt Rainier had seemed so grandiose from the Paradise trailhead, but from further up close at Muir Camp, it didn’t look as daunting or intimidating. Little did I know, this mountain was not as friendly and docile as it looked.

Day two had us going from Muir Camp to high camp at the Ingraham flats. We started the morning with some basic training on rope travel, crampon usage and self arrest techniques with the ice axe. It felt great to finally figure out how to properly use the ice axe I had been carrying up the mountain since the previous day. After breaking up into three rope teams each led by a guide, we started the trek across our first glacier and up Cathedral Gap (read: rocky terrain). This was the first point of the trek where the hazards were apparent: steep cliffs just off the trail, ice/rock falls and crevasses the size of a house. While a single one of those conditions would deter most people from attempting this trek, this was ultimately what we had signed up for: a truly Mountaineering adventure in rugged terrain and Rainier did not disappoint. The trek to Ingraham Flats took us about 90 minutes and we arrived around lunch time in time to set up camp. Overall, spirits and energy levels were strong and the high alpine terrain around us was simply breathtaking.

After setting up high camp, the team got together and we discussed our options for the summit. We could attempt a sunset summit or the more traditional alpine start sunrise summit. Either way, from high camp it was ~9 hours to the summit and back; our decisions was simply when to go for it. Considering that everyone was feeling strong and confident, we opted for the sunset summit attempt which had us departing camp around 2pm. Our selected route had us going up the Disappointment Clever, traversing across the Edmunds Glacier and finally making a push for the summit.

This was the part of the trek where Rainier flexed its muscles and showed that it wouldn’t be conquered that easily. The climb up Disappointment Cleaver was challenging due to the rocky terrain and at times steep elevation gains. Upon conquering DC (as the locals call it), we came across the first (and only) ladder bridge across a crevasse. This is your run of the mill ladder that is placed horizontally across a crevasse and requires trekkers to walk across the rungs. We were fortunate that this particular ladder had wooden planks attached to it, but it was nonetheless a first for me and makes for a great story to tell afterwards. This was not the place to be if you suffered from vertigo or fear of heights. As we continued along he trail we came across smaller crevasses that simply required us to leap across from them. Did I mention how fun this was? As we entered the 4th hour of our summit attempt and as we continued to gain elevation, fatigue started to set in. This was it, the final push to summit and there was no turning back. Rainier tested not just our physical conditioning but also our mental fortitude as the summit was out of sight until the very end.

With enough determination, grit and a sprinkle of encouragement from our guides, we made it to summit just before 7pm. We celebrated, took many photos and gazed out as we stood on the tallest point of Washington state. Though we couldn’t see too much due to the clouds and the layer of smoke from the forest fires in BC, it was clear that we had just accomplished quite the feat. To this day, it all just seems like a hazy dream: a really challenging dream that pushed us to the edge of our comfort zone and showed us what lies there: a feeling of truly being alive.

Ultimately, Rainier was a mountain and we successfully climbed it. Yet, that seemingly elusive feeling of great accomplishment, personal growth and feeling alive is one that will keep me climbing for many more treks.

Climb for Conservation is very excited to announce that we will be designing and organizing a C4C Trek in Brazil for Fall 2018 in conjunction with a world renowned scientist and conservation organization for the preservation of jaguars.  This will be our first time to Brazil and an unprecedented opportunity to work on such an important species.

 

Learn more about the jaguar species here:  https://www.panthera.org/cat/jaguar.

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Photo Credit:  Jessie Halter

Climb for Conservation made the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with our guides Tusker Trails this August 2016!  Stay tuned for future trips in 2017 and 2018.

July 20th, 2016 Please Join Us for a Mt. Kilimanjaro Training Climb up Colorado’s La Plata “14er”!

 

7:00AM meet at the marked trailhead and parking lot.  Bring water, sunscreen, a hat, snacks, and comfortable hiking boots.  9.25 miles and 4,500 feet elevation!

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