Mt Rainier

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you light up every time the mountain is out. Mt Rainier, the majestic snow-covered mountain. Beautiful, scary, mysterious and wonderful. 14410ft/4392m. It’s a long climb, a grueling climb. It’s hot at first, then cold, wet, windy, slushy and difficult. Everything you can imagine. But what a great adventure. I gave it a try with a group of friends and guides, and we started out well packed, trained and rested one early morning. The first day was for me a relatively easy climb to Camp Muir at 10,000 ft. Nothing new, it’s a long haul up the snowfield with a very heavy pack on your back. We got settled, rolled out our sleeping bags, stretched out or legs and met up with our guides for dinner. We talked about the next day and went to bed early. I woke up feeling slightly ill, with a headache and a bit dehydrated. Nothing new, altitude gets you one way or another.

We all ate breakfast together, amazing food that the two Sherpas cooked us in their little tent. We spent the rest of the morning checking gear, practicing self-arrest and trying out our crampons. It was good to refresh our minds on what we had in store, I felt comfortable and ready for what was ahead. I honestly love the snow. The weather was perfect: blue skies, white snow, a gorgeous view of Adams, Helens and Hood. It can’t get better than this.        

We roped up mid-day and started the climb over Cowlitz Glacier, the Cathedral Gap to the Ingraham Glacier. It’s a relatively short climb but for some a new experience. Suddenly you get to experience what it is going to be like to get to the top. The environment, the elements. And I think it was scary for some in our group.

We took it easy for a while, rested in our tents, hung out and chatted, organized our packs for the next climb, had dinner and went to bed early. We all tried to get some sleep but for me it was a few restless, chilly hours.   

We got the wakeup call around midnight. The sky full of stars and absolutely breathtaking. You’re on top of the world, time stops for a while. It’s an amazing feeling, it is so quiet and majestic.

This last climb is hard. We start out scrambling for a long time up Disappointment Cleaver. The terrain is interesting. It’s tough, scary, high, everything you can imagine. Loose rocks and sand, one wrong step and you fly, dragging your ropeteam with you. The rocks turn to ice and it feels easier to walk again. About 90 min in we get a few minutes rest before heading up and I feel great. It’s dark and the sky is showing off all its glory and the only thing you can hear is a bit of cracking from the ice. We are doing great on time and we all look good and rested. We keep on climbing; the guide is trying to find a route that works. We climb and climb, one step at the time, up and up. Over crevasses, over ice and snow. Steep and slippery, on the edge of the world.

It’s been a long and hot summer in the Pacific Northwest. The mountain is melting fast and the crevasses changes every day which makes it really hard to find a good route to the summit. The mountain is not in good shape, and it’s truly scary and dangerous how much the climate can change. We move forward and up until we reach a ladder placed over a deep crevasse. We wait while our guide tries to make it more secure and then we begin to crawl over, finally moving on one step at the time, up and up. After walking on a very narrow ice ridge, we reach another ladder and our guide begins to again work to make it safe. We are getting closer to the summit, at High Break. We try to keep warm, putting our parkas on and moving around but standing still since there’s no place to move really. After what feels like an hour, our two guides decide that its too dangerous to move on. Too many ice falls have occurred and the ice surrounding the ladder has begun to melt. We are ok for now, but they feel that it’s too big of a risk to climb back down if we summit. We pick up our things and begin the ascent downwards. The group becomes kind of quiet and collected. It’s a big disappointment but when you’re in that position, there’s nothing you can do. The guides make the decisions. We start to walk and climb back to camp. We move fast, without talking with just short water breaks. The sun comes up and once again the sky looks absolutely amazing.

We reach camp, take our boots off and take a short nap before packing up. We still have a long way to go to Camp Muir and then all the way down to the car. It takes most of the day, giving us plenty of time to think and process what happened.

Despite not making the summit, close but not all the way up, I felt content. I had a lot more to give and training really does pay off. But best of all, I had great company and incredible rope partners.  

Mt Rainier… next time…

 

 

 

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