Mt. Si - Organizers Guide


For our first Road Trip this year we have a “shakedown” hike to the top of Mt. Si. This will give the students a chance to test the usefulness of their newly collected gear and to do a reality check on their level of conditioning. Once atop Mt. Si, they will practice knots, map & compass skills, and learn the art of the “bivy.”

When you arrive:

Don't park in the first row where it will be crowded early, park a few rows back and have a marker to put on top of your car for people to find you.

Pack Check:

We have asked the students to be packed and ready to go at 8:00 a.m. sharp. The pack check starts at 7:15. This is to make sure they have everything together and repacked before we depart. The pack check is not only to make sure they have enough gear for safety’s sake, but is also an opportunity for the student to pick up some valuable information on the quality, quantity, and proper use of the gear they have chosen. It is important for us to be good role models of what we are trying to teach the students. We should not only have a complete pack and be able to show it as an example; but we should also be aware that we will be watched throughout the trip for clues on everything from when to change, drink water, eat, rest, and on what clothes to wear. Each of us is sure to have some valuable hints and suggestions for the students but we must remember that they are only suggestions and that ultimately experience is the best teacher. If you do see a problem with a student's pack that you feel should keep them from going, notify one of the designated leaders for the final judgment call. It is not required for instructors to bring their harness. Finally, ask each student if they have signed in; if not, direct them to the person with the sign-in sheet.

On the Trail:

Have a rabbit team and a sweep team. Rabbit team (4-6 people) will do set up of knots and map & compass stations as well as one person who will be recording times of the students as they get to the top (make sure this person has an accurate start time for the group). Sweep team (4-5 people) needs to have at least two radios in case there is an issue and some need to turn around with a student. Watch the students to make sure they are eating and drinking enough and are alert and feeling well. Encourage students that may be having trouble. Offer suggestions on rest step and breathing techniques. Keep an eye out and warn students of icy trail conditions. Take the opportunity to get to know the students - socialize.

At the Top:

Be observant of the general condition of the students. There are usually one or two who have had a hard time making it in the time allowed. Make sure these people eat, drink, and stay warm enough. Report serious problems to the organizers or co-chairs. If you are not assigned to a teaching station, help the leaders keep the students moving to their assigned places. Give advanced warning of rotations. Feel free to sit in on any stations you want and pick up pointers on how to teach the different stations.

Going Down:

Still need a sweep team, needs to be strong and have the first aid kit as they will be dealing with any trouble that comes up.

At the Bottom:

No one is to leave unless signed out and approved by one of the leaders.


Three weeks prior:

Week of the trip:

    • Make announcement to the students at the Tuesday night class before the field trip

Day before the trip:

    • Arrange for food with the restaurant

Map & Driving Directions:

Take 1-90 East to Exit 32.

Turn Left onto 436th Ave SE.

Turn Left onto SE North Bend Way.

Take 1st Right onto SE Mt. Si Rd.

Continue onto 452nd Ave SE.

Continue onto SE. Mt. Si Rd.

Destination will be on left.


Optional Gear


Sit Pad


Small Towel


2 Old Half-Ropes (These are for knots station set-up)

Topo Maps of Mt. Si (For Map & Compass Station)

All radios

Additional Instructor Gear

Instructors please bring extra gear; radios, first aid kits, stoves, clothes, food, etc in case of emergencies.

Group leaders bring watch and tarp to stay on time and check gear


Map and Compass Station:

Instructors, ensure that all group leaders can find your station.

Keep an eye on students, do not lose them!

Insert additional notes on station set-up as well as skills overview

Knots Station:

Instructors set up knots area with ropes tied at waist height for friction knot practice.

Guide students through all WAC class knots (checklist in table below, bonus for mule hitches).

Insert additional notes on station set-up as well as skills overview

Bivy Station:

Build staying-alive-through-a-long-cold-night skills.

Insert additional notes on station set-up as well as skills overview



On-Trail Roles / Responsibilities:

  1. Rabbit Team Members:

    • Leaves early

    • Part of set-up crew

    • Typically do map & compass station

  2. "Mingler" Team Members:

    • Middle of the pack, observant of student progress

  3. Sweep Team Members:

    • Back of the pack

    • Ensures everyone is OK and doesn't get left behind

    • Helps address gear issues, blisters

Station / Group Leader Responsibilities:

  1. Map & Compass:

    • Set up navigational exercises. Do not lose students.

    • From Tom Alphin ( who has led the navigation station at Si the last few years:

      • I am planning to attend the map & compass student lecture. In the past, it has been helpful to have extra instructors to float around the classroom and answer questions, so I encourage all of the folks who are helping at MT Si to attend the lecture if you are able. Please bring your compass to class that day if you come. I think it is important that we make sure there is a common thread between the classroom and outdoor instruction.

          • I have led the Mt Si compass station 3 of the last 4 years. In broad strokes, the purpose of the Mt Si weekend is to land three topics with students:

            1. Teaching students that their brain is the most important navigational tool of all. They should be paying attention to landmarks as they travel, keep track of the approximate direction they are heading, and where they came from. (ex: You shouldn't need to get out a compass to know which way is north.)

              1. Teaching students how to use compass with precision. The core exercise is a navigational course where we give students a heading, and tell them to find a tree with a flag on it in that orientation with a letter on it. Once they reach that point, they take the next bearing which takes them to a second tree and so on. (The letters spell out "RAINIER", "MTADAMS", "STEVENS", etc...)

            2. Reinforcing map skills covered in class. In the remaining time, we look for features on a map (saddle, peak, valley, lake, etc..) and practice taking bearings from a map.

          • INSTRUCTOR NOTES for Map and Compass

          • Overview: We will do three compass activities, then spend the remaining time practicing how to read and interpret features on a topographic map. With 30 students, we will be working with 10 students at a time. Groups of 3 students are great, and groups of 2 are fine too. With ~4 instructors plus our group leaders to help, we should be able to give everyone plenty of attention.

          • Group Activity: Where’s the car?

          • To warm up, we will ask the students as a group to not get out their compasses, and instead think about which direction the car is, and about how far they think it would be. We will ask them to point that way. We will also ask about other features like the summit of Mt Si, Snoqualmie Pass, Mt Rainier, etc…

          • Learning objective– Your brain is more important than your compass, so pay attention when you travel in the backcountry!

          • Confirm compasses are correctly adjusted.

          • We will briefly remind students that magnetic north is 16.5 degrees to the "right" / east"of true north and ensure that their compasses are correctly calibrated.

          • Exercise #1: Classic "Follow the bearings" exercise:

          • In this exercise, students will be given a list of bearings and a starting point. The bearings will take the students to a series of trees. On each tree will be orange surveyors tape with a single letter. The students will write down these letters which will spell out the name of a feature in Washington.

          • Set-up goals: We will arrange the flags such that some are close and some are just out of sight. Most of the sequences will involve going to a tree, then back to the previous tree so they will get an informal introduction to back bearings. (ex: Rainier will result in returning to the "i" tree" from "n".)

          • List of 7 letter words to use: "RAINIER","MTADAMS", "STEVENS", "SHUKSAN"

          • Learning objectives: Compass is only so precise, Introduction to back bearings, Working as a group to achieve consensus, using intermediate objects.

          • Exercise #2: Taking a bearing / back bearing:

          • In this exercise, students will take a bearing to a tree they can see. After agreeing on a tree, they will take a bearing and walk to that location.

          • Learning objectives: Back bearing is 180 degrees from the original bearing. Easy to do in the field by putting "Red Fred in the opposite shed"

          • Exercise #3: Traveling a long distance without landmarks:

          • This exercise simulates travel in a whiteout. Students will be given a bearing, and will travel in that direction by using one another as intermediate landmarks.

          • Learning objectives: how to travel as a group in a whiteout. Learn that this does work, but it is slow. Reinforces back-bearing skills as well.

          • Map and Compass activities:

          • Use the time which remains for students to get additional practice with:

          • - Getting the bearing between two locations on a map.

          • - Aligning a bearing taken in the field to the map.

          • - Additional practice recognizing terrain features. (Summits, lakes, valleys, saddles, ridges etc…)

  2. Knots Practice:

    • Set-up the knots area with ropes tied at waist height for friction knot practice.

    • Guide students through all WAC class knots, bonus for mule hitches.

  3. Group leader:

    • Prior to trip:

    • Reach out to students in your group during the week prior to the trip to answer any questions they have and to ensure they have all gear necessary for the trip.

    • Day of trip: Bring a watch and tarp if you have one. Check-in their students at the parking lot. Pack-check (recruit other instructors to assist) Attach colored tape or another identifying marker to the packs. At the top, gather the students in the group together (about 15 minutes before the activities start) and take them to each activity at the assigned time. The Group Leader stays with their group throughout all 3 activities. Remember that there are 15 minutes of passing time in the schedule to get to the next station. This is to allow the Map and Compass station to complete their material. Ensure that all students in the group are back down in the parking lot and signed-out.

    • After the trip: Submit a student assessment about the students in your group. Follow up with students in your group to make sure the trip went well for them and to answer any additional questions/concerns they may have.

  4. Bivy Scenario:

    • Build staying-alive-through-a-long-cold-night skills.

    • Pat & Nadia always do this


Previous Organizers:

Use these contacts as a resource while planning the weekend. They will have advice, tips & tricks, as well and potential pitfalls to watch out for.

Permits Needed:

Discovery pass will be required for parking in the Mt. Si lot.


  • Bring wands - it really helped us mark the trail, especially to stations farther away (like the map and compass station)

  • I'd probably adjust the schedule to give more time for students to gather around before descending. Luckily we were 15 minutes ahead, so everything worked out in the end.

    • Roll call from group leaders before ascending and descending to make sure all students are accounted for was useful

    • Have someone head down first before the students start to (1) Make sure there's someone to check students out. (2) Remind students to remain in the parking lot until everyone is checked out.


Swedish Medical Center, Issaquah Campus (ER is open 24/7)

Address: 751 N.E. Blakely Dr.

Issaquah, WA 98029

Phone Number: 425-313-4000

Driving Directions:

Traveling East on I-90

Take exit 18 for E Sunset Way/Highlands Dr. — 0.6 mi

Keep left at the fork and merge onto Highlands Dr. NE — 0.9 mi

Turn left (west) at the first traffic light onto NE Discovery Dr. — 492 ft.

Turn left (south) at the next light onto 8th Ave NE — 0.2 mi

Travel down 8th Ave., until it turns into the Swedish/Issaquah main entrance

Immediately turn right to enter the underground parking garage. Parking is also available on the surface


ERP Plan:

Click here file for last years ERP. Make sure all content and contacts are up to date prior to the weekend.