Amber and I went to Washginton this summer. We hung out in Seattle for a few days, went kayaking off of San Juan, and then took Alpinism 2 from the guides at the American Alpine Institute (AAI). Alpinism 2 is the second part of AAI's Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership 1.

Whilst in Seattle we went to the Seattle Bouldering Project which is neat primarily because of the routesetting.

We did some sea kayaking off of San Jaun before heading up to the Cascades. We didn't see any orcas but apparently that is pretty common. We did see some bald eagles (which apparently battle it out with peregrine falcons) and some bay seals (which have amazing camouflage).

After leaving the AAI office in Bellingham, we headed to Mazama.

Fun Rock, Mazama

We spent two (non-consecutive, the first and third) days cragging at Fun Rock. The routes in the area were nice, especially if you like techy face climbing. Amber did very well, especially considering she hasn't climbed in around a year thanks to that damn foot injury, which had her climbing in my (oversized) approach shoes (below is Amber on Drive by Nose Job (5.8) and me on Psychological Crutch (5.10b)).

Liberty Group, North Cascades

After the cragging we split the group (there were 8 of us on the trip in total) in two.

On the second day my group climbed the Becky Route on the Liberty Bell (not my picture of the Liberty Bell (the formation on the left), but the rest are mine/Amber's).

Amber's group climbed the South Arete on the South Early Winters Spire (below is the view of the North (left) and South (right) Early Winters Spire from the top of the Liberty Bell).

Being early in the season we approached on snowshoes for the first hour or so, and then were in crampons for around an hour in around 40-50 degree snow. Both routes are moderate trad routes (the Becky Route is 5.7- and the South Arete is 5.5). Pitches 3 (the chimney) and 4 of the Becky Route were my favorites (below is Britt leading the last pitch).

Our van got robbed (tweakers) while we were climbing... The back window of our van was smashed in and it looks like they just threw out the big bags sitting in the back. They left a very expensive tent, ice tools, etc., but took several people's backpacks, all of one person's food, wallet, etc.

Goat Wall, Mazama

Due to weather we had to abort a second day of alpine climbing (there was a storm on the way down and more weather predicted for the next day). Instead, on the third day, we did some multipitch sport routes on the Goat Wall at Mazama. The approach to the Goat Wall was a 2.5 mile climb up a very loose scree field. Amber's group started up Prime Rib of Goat but were forced to bail after pitch 4 because of the rain (wamp wamp). My group topped out on Methow Inspiration just as it started raining (below is Amber on Prime Rib of Goat).

Silver Star, North Cascades

The last two days we spent climbing Silver Star, a glaciated peak not far from the Liberty Group. From the highway it is around a 3,000 ft. climb to bench camp in around 3 miles (below is Amber on the approach).

The next day we left at 3am and headed for the Burgandy Col. The gully up to the Burgandy Col was steep and rocky. We climbed in snowshoes but stayed in them longer than was safe. From the Burgandy Col we descended and traversed to the pocket glacier on the north side of the Wine Spires (the Burgandy Col is the notch on the left side of the below picture; this is right where the glacier starts).

If the weather had been nice some of us would have broken off to climb the East Face of the Chablis Spire but it snowed a good bit before our approach. After traversing and going up the glacier there was some steep snow and 4th class scrambling to the summit (the below picture shows the start of the 4th class bit).

The day ended up being pretty long: around 12 and a half hours from leaving camp to getting back to the highway (including around an hour of breaking down camp). The descent was a bit more hairy than the ascent.

The little bit of the Cascades we saw was pretty fantastic. AAI is also pretty sweet. If I had the money and time I'd be taking AMTL 2, 3 (Bugaboos!), and 4 as well, but a more organic progression will serve. An interesting feature of our group was that several of the students wanted to be guides.