Climbing the face of 1,000-foot ice sheets and camping in raging snowstorms might not be a dream summer vacation for some, but don't tell that to Martinez resident Peter Newlin.
While many of his classmates spent their summer breaks relaxing at the beach, Newlin, a junior at the College of Charleston, spent 30 days hiking, climbing and camping on the treacherous glaciers capping the Chugach Mountain Range, 50 miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska. The 2005 Augusta Preparatory Day School grad, who works for an outdoors store, took part in a National Outdoor Leadership School mountaineering course in June and July to learn how to safely cross some of the most dangerous terrain in North America.
"Everybody watches movies about climbing big mountains, and it's always been a dream (of mine) to summit big mountains around the world," Newlin said.
During the expedition, Newlin and seven other students learned how to cross glaciers covered in snow concealing deep crevasses that are hundreds of feet deep. The group, which was isolated at elevations of more than 11,000 feet, also had to be wary of summer snowstorms and avalanches.
The students were roped together in teams of three to four about 60 feet apart. If one were to fall into a crevasse, Newlin said the other members would drop to the ice to prevent the entire team from falling into the deep, icy caverns.
Newlin said each hiker probed the snow every step to detect crevasses. Some mornings, the snow would be too soft, making it difficult to maneuver, so the group would hike at night.
"It's always light up there (in summer), so you can hike late at night," he said.
The students and their three instructors each carried 70- to 80-pound packs with rations for as long as seven days and they melted snow for drinking water, Newlin said. Each week, the group was resupplied by a National Outdoor Leadership School aircraft.
Each hiker had the opportunity to lead his group to a summit, said Newlin, who led his group up a rock face on his 21st birthday.
"It's hard to get into mountaineering. You can't just train yourself," he said. "You have to have special teachers because it is a dangerous thing to do."
Newlin said his goal is to climb larger mountains around the world.
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