|Mount Rainier - From Paradise|
Over the year leading up to the climb, getting into climbing shape becomes the priority. Throughout the year I kept to my same workout routine, and would try and get my boots on the dirt as much as could on the weekends. I have the advantage of living in Colorado at an elevation of about 5,700 feet, so my primary concern was not the elevation on the mountain, but rather the technical elements that a glacier climb presents.
We arrived in Ashford on the first of four days with RMI on Monday August 15th. On this day we met our guides and the other team members in the group. There is an overview of what will take place over the next few days, then there is a gear check to ensure each climber is adequately outfitted to climb the mountain. We found out our lead guide would be Jake in which he would have two assistant guides; Jesse and Megan. Jake was an assistant guide on my trip in 2008, so it was nice to see a familiar face. The rest of our team would be composed of the Callaway family.
Day two was mountaineering school. This was basically the introduction to techniques of mountaineering. I had been through this last time on the mountain, but it was good to get a refresher. You learn how to walk all over again, there are various walking techniques that make you more efficient on the mountain. After you have learned to walk, it’s time to learn to fall…in style as Jake would say. Learning to self-arrest is what can save your life on the upper mountain should you fall. You get a lot of practice falling in different ways. The remaining time is used working with rope travel. This shows you how to ascend and descend switchbacks and the proper length to keep between you and the climber in front of you. While you are in school you take a few 10 minute breaks throughout the day to get you prepared to manage yourself of the mountain. Time goes quickly, so you learn to eat, drink, medicate, and adjust layers and gear during these quick breaks. The climb to Muir is tomorrow, so the rest of the evening in Ashford is used re-packing bags, fueling and hydrating our bodies.
|Climbing the Muir Snowfield|
The goal of the day was to climb to Muir “in style.” This was an opportunity to work on all the techniques that we learned the previous day. The more efficient we could climb today, the easier our summit bid would be tomorrow. I’m not sure how long it took us to get to Muir, but I would guess we arrived around 2pm. We had about an hour to rest and get moved into the sleeping hut before the guides came in to give us the low-down on how the rest of the day and tomorrows climb would be played out. With temperatures being fairly warm we knew we would have an early wake-up. The warmer temperatures heat up the ice which dislodges boulders down glaciers, so this is the reason to get more of the climb done while the mountain is ‘sleeping’. After packing for the summit climb we needed to fuel/hydrate, and try to get a nap in before the early wake-up.
Most of us tried to fall asleep around 6pm figuring we would be up around 11pm for a long day. It didn’t sound like too many people got much sleep if any at all, but I felt like I got a few hours so I wasn’t feeling too bad. The guides woke us up at 11pm and we had one hour to fuel/hydrate and gear up for the day. It wasn’t too cold out, but as the night progressed we would be working into the coldest part of the night just before summiting. Jesse was guiding me and my Dad. Harsha unfortunately decided not to join us on a summit bid. He will be back at another time though. We met up with Jesse a little before midnight and soon started along the first stretch of the route.
|Camp Muir and the Upper Mountain|
|Harsha, Mark and Me|
|Sunrise from the Crater|
After an exciting hour of steep climbs, running belays and ladders we made it to high break.
High break is at about 13,500 feet on the face of the mountain. This was by far the coldest break. None of us were doing a good job of consuming calories at this point. It's difficult when you are cold and tired to force any food down so we ate what we could. I chose to leave my parka on since it was so cold.
|The Team on the Summit|
We all took in the moment and the high fives and congratulations were making it though the team. I went over to the Arkansas boys and said: “Not bad for a bunch of guys from Arkansas.” These guys are climbers, no doubt in my mind. What an accomplishment! We made our way to the true summit, which is called Columbia Crest. We signed the register as we climbed to the high point, it was neat being able to write down that this was my second summit.
The trek down the mountain seemed to go by pretty fast. We didn’t take our first break till we reached the top of the DC. With the sun out we could get a good idea of what we climbed up during the dark hours of the early morning. Some of the crevasses that had ladder crossings had views of blue ice with no end. One area we crossed under a fairly large serac, and I thought to myself about the “motivator” that Ed Viesters describes from K2. It was neat walking through this area, but I was glad to be out of what I considered an area of danger.
Once we were on the DC, we took our crampons off for the descent to make our travels more efficient. This was a pretty nasty section, must like the ascent, but in about a half hour we had made it down to the Ingram Glacier where we put our crampons back on. We followed Megan’s zig-zags through the crevasse field till we made it to our break at the Ingram Flats. This was our last rest till getting back to Muir. We were able to swallow down the last of our water since we knew we had water waiting at camp.
|Mount Adams from DC|
On our way down the Muir Snowfield we tried to ski-glissade when we could. The snow was pretty snow-cupped so it was a bit difficult to slide for too long. After a while we came across some glissade chutes, so I grabbed my garbage bag out and made a diaper out of it. This way I could cruise as far as possible down the mountain. The rest of the hike down to Paradise was more of a march. My feet and body were beat so it was all about getting off the mountain and unloading the heavy pack from my back.
It was a relief to be off the mountain, summit day is one of the more exhausting experiences I’ve had in the mountains. In all you gain near 5,000 feet and descend about 9,000 feet that day. Once we got down to Ashford our group dove into a 12-pack of beer I had waiting in the truck. A nice luke warm beer and a cheeseburger sure hit the spot. It was nice to sit and talk with the others in our group about their experiences for the day and unwind a bit before the drive back to Portland.
A few times with different people during this trip we discussed the types of mountains we enjoy climbing the most. I did enjoy climbing Rainier, and am grateful to be able to climb it twice successfully, but in the end I do not prefer this type of mountaineering compared to what I do in Colorado. Though climbs like this may be more rewarding, I feel a lot of the experience is spent looking at a rope, and not enjoying the surroundings as much as I would like. I enjoy self-reliance as opposed to group-reliance, and being able to adventure more freely. I probably will not climb Rainier again, or even do roped mountaineering travel, they are just not my cup of tea. I am perfectly content with climbing mountains in Colorado and Idaho, there are plenty of challenges I have yet to face. Get out there and climb, and If you would like come climb with me, I am always in the search for a new adventure.
Date: August 15-18, 2016
TH Elevation: 5,440 feet
Camp Muir: 10,080 feet
Mount Rainier Summit: 14,410 feet
Total Ascent: 9,352 feet
Total Distance: 12.6 miles (TH to summit back to Camp Muir)
Class: glacier climb
Moving Time: 9 hours 50 minutes (Add at least 2.5hrs for descent from Camp Muir to TH)
Stopped Time: 6 hours 41 minutes
Climbing Partners: Harsha, Mark, Mike, Andrew, Matt, Will, Amy, Neil, Jake, Jesse, Megan
RMI Guide Blog Post