Life in Base Camp with Sweetgrass Productions

Posted By: The Ski Channel on April 25, 2012 3:38 am

<p>Before we can ski, we needed to set up camp.  For the next eighteen days everything that is normally done at home or in town would happen at this base.   We would eat, sleep, bath, crap, maintain gear, and relax here.  Down time is a huge part of the Alaska experience, so the importance of a comfortable, livable space is not to be taken lightly. </p>

The Morse Glacier is a smaller glacier, just east of the immense Carroll Glacier, in Glacier Bay National Park.  As a small glacier, it only takes about thirty minutes to cross from one side to the other, rather than the hour or so that is typical of the big glaciers.  Steep buttresses that tower a couple thousand feet over our heads separate these gigantic rivers of snow.  Alaska has had a record setting season for snow.  The crevasses and bergshrunds were filled in more than usual, and the peaks were spined and fluted nicely for this time of year. 

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-82936″ title=”Morse / Carroll Glaciers” src=”×225.jpg” alt=”" width=”300″ height=”225″ /> Glacier Bay National Park is spectacular! This would be home for more than two weeks.<p>We set up base camp in the middle of the glacier.  We had four tents for sleeping in pairs, and one, large dome that would function as the group tent for cooking and passing time during down days.  Observing life in base camp is a fascinating study on its own.  Each person’s personality and comfort level is clearly displayed by the manner in which they approach this part of the experience.  It’s a lot like condensing the population of the world down to eight people – everyone’s idiosyncrasies are visible twenty-four hours a day.  I tend to be like the mother hen, constantly picking up trash, organizing things, and worrying about everyone else.  On the other end of the spectrum was Ben, whom we likened to a bear as he would basically stubble around camp grunting and crashing into things. </p>
<p>Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies out here as well, and before we can ski and make movies, we have to be able to eat.  As would be expected with eight young men, there was a range of skill in this department also.  The time in the kitchen proved to be a source of constant entertainment as stoves flared (hair was singed); pots of water were spilled onto down booties (cold feet for you); strange forms were found floating in the water bottles (how did that get there?); treats were discovered (chocolate covered anything); and ingredients were greatly out of proportion (of course there should be more meat and hot sauce than pasta. Duh!).    </p>
<img class=”size-medium wp-image-82940″ title=”Life in the Tent” src=”×225.jpg” alt=”" width=”300″ height=”225″ /> We would spend a lot of time in this dome. It was pretty entertaining.<p>Time in the tent would also allow us to get to know each other better.  Some of us were meeting for the first time.  Eight dudes getting to know each other in a confined space might be one of the more entertaining things on the planet.  There were times when we would be crying from laughter.  Again, the difference in personalities and upbringings makes for a lot of moments of total exasperation.  Among our group we had: been brought up by a minister; grown up on a ranch in Idaho, raised in a small; hippy community in the mountains, a few suburban, hipster white kids; and a kid of Finnish decent who is basically too smart and constantly testing boundaries.  We ranged in age from twenty-four at the youngest, to thirty-seven at the oldest.  And sophomoric humor does not every go away.  This is where the content for Austin Powers, Jackass, and Tosh.0 is born.  It’s fart jokes taken up several notches. </p>

Sure, we came to Alaska to ski big lines.  But you can’t ski all the time – especially in Alaska.  There’s always mornings and evenings in camp.  And the storms can last for days.  If you trap eight young, male athletes in a tent for forty-eight hours you better expect some silliness.  We definitely had our fare share! 

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-82939″ title=”Skinning Up a Glacier in GBNP” src=”×225.jpg” alt=”" width=”300″ height=”225″ /> Working our way up for another great descent.<p><em>Independent Descents is written by Donny Roth, who is passionate about sharing the human-powered skiing experience.  The blog series focuses on sharing trip reports from around the globe as he connects with people and mountains in destinations near and far.  As an athlete, guide, and writer he can be found in a lot of places, check out his website - <a href=””></a> - to see all the ways you can share in the experience. </em></p>