5am – Mountain #1. Wake up. Sun shining into the tent. Check watch and realise it’s only 5am – another 3 hours of sleep possible and needed. Go back to sleep.
7am – Wake up. Check watch. 7am. Good, another hour of sleep. Go back to sleep.
8am – Wake up. Hear Roman and Sean stirring and decide it’s time to get up. Pack up sleeping bag and mat and throw gear from overnight into backpack. Hear the stove starting up (Sean invariably gets up first and puts the water on to boil – amazing!) and that provides more motivation for getting ready. Step out of tent to great view of amazing mountains. Breakfast of delicious granola bar and coffee. Update notes from the previous night’s collecting and finish packing up campsite.
9am – Begin walking back to car. Since we typically camp well above the snowline, this usually involves a very rapid descent down a steep, snowy slope. Graceful glissading by Sean and Roman and less graceful glissading by myself. Occasionally ends with me covered in snow. Hit trail and proceed with fast-paced walking to car.
11am to 5pm – Eat lunch, drive to mountain B. Hike up mountain #2, often involving ridiculously steep ascent. Examples so far include: 1000m in 3.7km (270m/km), 180m in 1km, (Monte Cristo) (Surprise Mountain).
5pm to 8pm – Set up camp, lie down for a few minutes, organise bag for night collecting and cook dinner. Eat dinner. Eat M&Ms. Eat cookies. Drink hot chocolate. Eat more cookies. Take photos of amazing view.
8pm to 9pm – Hike to collection site, involving bush-bashing, rock-scrambling (up or down) and/or ascent/descent of steep, snowy slope. Sight cute North American mammal: marmot, chipmunk, squirrel, pika, vole. Find good spot for collecting and sit down to wait for the sun to set.
9pm to 10:30pm – Wait for sun to set. Admire amazing sunset. Once sun has set, wait another hour for it to get dark. Try not to freeze. Eat M&Ms or cookies.
10:30pm – Dark! Yes! Time for beetle collecting. Look for beetles along the edges of talus fields (broken rocks) and streams while (a) not falling down a hole, (b) not falling off the side of the mountain and (c) not falling into a river. Also keeping an eye out for super-cool ice crawlers. Walk up and down slopes in search of beetles.
00:30am – Finish collecting and return to camp. Feelings towards snow fluctuate rapidly between cursing the snow (when it is slippery or full of holes) and praising the snow (when it allows a nice easy path across streams and through otherwise thick forest). Marvel at the stars as you go – they’re pretty spectacular. Try not to fall over while looking at the stars.
1am – Collapse into tent. It doesn’t matter if the ground is uneven, if only half the tent fits in the campsite (it’s useful to be short!), or if you’re lying on rocks. It all feels amazing. Sleep.
And that, my friends, is a roughly typical day. The Cascades are an amazing mountain range. There is so much diversity in the mountains we have been up and it’s incredible to see the abundance of insect life up in the snow. I’ve seen crickets, moths, daddy-longlegs, beetles (not just Nebria), Grylloblatta, spiders and more. Some of these are residents and others are Aeolian (blown up onto the snowfields from lowland areas and tasty food for carabids). The night-time snowfield community is like its own little world and I feel very lucky that I have a chance to study it. Now however, it’s 6pm and that means it’s nap time before another night of beetle collecting!
Some stats (because who doesn't love stats??)
Mountains/areas visited: Mt Hood (Oregon), Mt Adams, Mt Rainier, Surprise Mountain, Monte Cristo Peak, Rainy Lake, Thornton Lakes, Cascade Pass, Mt Baker, Tabletop Mountain (all Washington).
Total (approximate) elevation gain: 6000m
Number of Nebria species collected: 12 (possibly 13)
Speed record: 8.8km in 1.5 hours (descent from Thornton Lakes)
Most beetles collected in a single night: ~180 (Mt Hood attempt #2)
Least beetles collected in a single night: ~5 (Surprise Mountain)