An Ice Climbing Adventure From Xander Culver
By Emma Echelmeier
Typical climbing during the winter season consists of ice climbing using ice axes, ropes, crampons, and multiple other trad climbing tools. Mountaineering and alpine climbing are also excellent ways to climb in the snowy weather, and often these different styles are combined to create mixed, unique winter climbs.
Senior Xander Culver is a well-known outdoor enthusiast in the WWU community due to his position as the ASWWU Outdoors Trip head. He and his roommate, ASWWU Outdoor head Grant Hartman, had an epic, multipitch alpine climbing adventure in January at Guye Peak in Snoqualmie Pass, Washington.
Culver says that getting out in the mountains and challenging himself is very important to him. This particular adventure was something that neither he nor Hartman had done before, but it was “well within our capabilities,” according to Culver.
Culver and Hartman camped nearby and headed to the trail early Saturday morning. Despite some minor setbacks including confusion on the snow-covered trails and multiple parties in front of them, Culver and Hartman eventually started leading up from the base. The snow was more powdery than ideal, but they still felt confident and stoked for the day.
A few pitches up, Culver said a rock the size of a basketball came hurdling down the mountain towards them. He kept as close to the mountain as possible, trying to avoid it, and it bounced directly over his head! “It was a reminder that the mountains are a wilder place,” said Culver. They took a break as multiple parties tried to get through the narrow gully, and ice started falling down the mountain around the fourth pitch.
Once they began climbing again, Hartman belayed from a cave area, and they relied solely on their radios for communication. They switched their lead climbing gear, and Culver says he felt “a little spicy feeling” as he started up the next pitch. At this point, he was climbing rock with crampons and using extra caution as the climb became more difficult, but once he was up, he said he felt “super confident.” Nearing the top, they could see all of Snoqualmie Pass and the ski resorts starting to light up the darkening sky.
With one repel to the walk-off point, which they could not see, Hartman and Culver realized the perilous reality they were facing. With hundreds of feet below them and some hip belaying to try and find the walk off point, they became super tired as it was later than they had realized. They finally got to a tree to repel off, which Culver said was the steepest part of the day. They eventually saw a nice, wide trail to walk down the rest of the way on. The ski resort lights brightly lit up the trail the whole way back to the parking lot.
The day ended up being much longer than anticipated, and the descent was more strenuous than the climb up, but Culver said they were both glad they did it, even if it was “a bit more of an adventure than we signed up for.”
- Interview with Xander Culver