Hello great readers! I’m super excited to report that I successfully summited Mt. Rainer on August 12, 2011 approximately at 6AM. It was really fantastic!
The previous 4 days were spent learning crevasse rescue techniques with the RMI school. The three instructors, Adam, Andy, & Timmy were wonderful, very knowledgeable, and complimented each other. There was a lot to learn, and they packed it in a digestible way. Key take away: don’t fall into a crevasse.
After we played on the Cowlitz glacier at 7200 & 9100 feet those 3 days, Day 4 was spent hiking up to 10,000 feet at Camp Muir. Camp Muir was an entirely different experience. While it was awesome to be out of a tent with 3 other smelly dudes, and in a tent with just one other smelly dude ( I was the only female on the trip with 7 other guys), it was kind of a zoo at Camp Muir. Summit climbers were arriving & leaving at all hours of the day, it seemed. The 2 other guide companies that have permits to lead climbs were up there also with their groups. Stone huts were everywhere, and included a bunkhouse, which I forgot to visit.
One bonus was the “comfort station”, a solar outhouse. The waste was caught in large solar bags underneath the toilet seats, and the sun dried the waste for composting. Not sure how this works, but that’s what the sign said. This was also the place where we all learned about the Cascade Mountain Fox, who “lived here first!”. Apparently there are only 2 small groups of foxes in the world now. We made sure to “leave no trace”.
Sadly, I attempted to eat a Mountain House freeze dried meal the night before the summit which just destroyed my stomach. I already have a sensitive belly anyway, but whether it was nerves or bad ingredients, I was pretty wrecked by our return.
That being said, the climb itself was awesome! The worst part was the rocks. Yes, we had to climb over several steep exposed rock areas with our crampons on. This was no fun in a big way, and I tripped over the rope at one point, and banged my knees on some rocks. Boo.
But the non-rocky bits were really great! Some areas were extremely steep, so we just took it steady & slow. Breathing-wise, I had no troubles until about 13,700 feet. As we were a few hundred feet from the summit, it became difficult for me to breathe, even while using the techniques taught us in class. I thought I wouldn’t make it, because I simply couldn’t catch my breath. Also the guide was keeping us at a good clip, so we could get to the top, get our photos, sign the log book, etc., etc., and get down at a reasonable hour.
But, I did! I made it & had an amazing time. The views were unbelievable, and the sunrise on the way up was exquisite. Now I understand why my brother was a fan of this climbing. The views and exhilaration are like no other.
Honestly, THEN came the really hard part. Going down. The first few hours were fine, as the adrenaline that kept me going up, was still coursing through my veins. But, after the 2nd rest stop, I was so exhausted, had to poop so badly, stomach churning, rubbery legs, and just plain wiped.
That was just to Camp Muir, 10,000 feet.
After that, we had an hour & a half to rest, eat, deal with blisters, poop, etc. Well, like I mentioned, I spent almost half that time going to, in, and leaving the “comfort station”. Ugh.
Needless to say, I was so lethargic, I waited til the last minute to pack up, eat, etc., and so was not properly fueled or rested before leaving for Paradise, the village at 5500 feet where we would get back on the bus.
Having to don a heavy pack again was a huge challenge. My legs just couldn’t handle it. Being severely underslept having been awake since 10:30PM the previous night, I had no energy. It was an emotional day, having cried at the summit while placing Mickey’s Memorial. I was just completely, fully, and utterly depleted.
I went slow on the glacier, fearful of slipping & falling. It was 1PM by then, and the sun had melted the top layers into mush. Adam, our lead guide, said to just boot slide down, etc. But, I couldn’t. Meanwhile, the bottoms of my feet became so raw with blisters, every step felt like walking on broken glass shards that were heated up in a fire. I fell once, managed to get up, then quickly fell again. Tears flooded my cheeks, as I struggled to push myself up. It took 10 minutes to stand up.
Soon after this, another guide came down. He had to do stuff at Camp Muir and was going to catch up with us later. He said I was about 45 minutes behind the group. I blubbered some emotional whatever, and he quickly asked for my pack, and we began down again. He kept pushing me forward, albeit kindly, knowing that the clock was ticking.
Eventually others suffered blistery hell, and pretty soon we were all scattered across the glacier on the way down. One member had to take off his plastic outer boots to walk in his inner boots, because the blisters & pain were so bad. He sent the team a gruesome photo when he arrived back home, that I will spare you.
Much celebration & cameraderie was had at “basecamp” in Ashford that evening. Many people went on to their destinations, but two super cool fellows from Ohio & I stayed on, having fun. They let me use their shower in their lodge room. They are champs.
There’s so much more to say, but I’ll follow up in another post. For now, thanks to Adam, Andy, & Timmy at RMI as well as our awesome team on the mountain for an unforgettable experience!