| Mt. Rainier and Beyond
My trip to Mt. Rainier began in December of 2008 when my parents presented me with a guided climb through Rainier Mountaineering Inc. for Christmas. Needless to say I was pretty excited about the opportunity to climb Rainier and a chance to explore the Pacific Northwest. My climb dates had been set at July 1st and 2nd with a day of school before the climb started. As the months of winter finally started giving way to spring I began to really hit up some of our home 14er's and 13er's. This was my training as I am not one for a gym membership, and I don't run (unless being chased by something, so climbing and hiking was the rule for me. I felt as though my health and conditioning were spot on for this climb and I never thought twice about it. Let me just say that prior to making the trip I was in the need for some gear that I didn't have or needed for the climb. For a few weeks prior to Rainier I felt like it was Christmas as I was getting new gear all the time, boy was that fun.
Finally it was the end of June, my tip was about to begin and the anticipation level was high. When I started to finalize travel arrangements I decided to drive to Rainier instead of flying. Now I have traveled extensively across the eastern United States but since moving to Colorado the furthest west I have been is, sad to say, Aspen. This was a major decision maker for me and so I was driving. After all said and done I traveled to 6 new states I hadn't been to, 2 national parks, many state parks, the Pacific, many new beers and 3,610 miles of driving.
My trip to Mt. Rainier had me going through southern Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and finally Washington. I was not sure what to expect on my road trip and I was somewhat surprised at the scenery I encountered along the way. For instance when I crossed into Washington from Oregon the Washington State sign read " The Evergreen State", well I gave that sign the finger because all I saw was brown, brown, a dust devil and more brown.
I actually did not mind the 18 hours of driving to reach my destination as everything was new to me. Finally after driving through the Yakima Valley I saw the objective that lay at hand. It was quite a sight.
After arriving in Ashford we had our first meeting with the guides to go over our gear for the climb. The next day was our school before the actual ascent of the mountain. The guides covered everything from self arrest, team arrest, roped travel and more. I also just want to say that the guides were extremely professional and a lot of fun to be around. Two of our guides had made the summit of Denali this past year and both are guiding it next year for RMI. It was also nice to hear their stories from other parts of the world they had climbed and traveled to. After the school we retired back to Ashford for some dinner.
The following day was our trip from Paradise to Camp Muir. We finalized our packing and details and headed up to Paradise from Ashford. The trip to Camp Muir was intensely hot as there was not one cloud in the sky. The sun just seemed to bake us the entire trip up. Every chance I got I put on spf 70 sunscreen and I still managed to get a fair amount of sun. The pace to Muir was slow and steady as the guides wanted everyone to stick together. This was actually pretty nice since I was mainly taking in the views the entire time. I was also pretty comfortable with my pack weight and pack to Muir. It was nice that I got everything I needed into a 44L pack, unlike some climbers with expedition size packs on. Ahh what pleasure it was not to worry about a tent or other equipment that most independent climbers needed to bring, that was a nice relief.
We made the trip to Muir and began to get settled in for the night. Everyone got their respective bunk together and started to make dinner. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying each others company outside the hut and taking in the views. I ended up falling asleep around 6:30 that night and slept pretty damn good. Most of the other climbers in the bunk house got anywhere from an hour to 4 hours of sleep. I felt pretty fortunate that I slept the entire time until we were woken up at midnight to get ready. After getting up from our bunks everyone choked down breakfast and started getting ready for the ascent. Everyone was on the trail, roped up and ready to start the climb at 1am. As we started our traverse of the Cowlitz Glacier I realized that I was the very last person in the entire group heading up. This happened to be one of my best experiences of the trip. I was able to watch 23 people ahead of me climb under a starry sky only to be seen by their headlamps making progress across the glacier. This moment has to be one of the best I have had yet in the mountains. Through the dark we arrived at Ingraham flats and took our first break before crossing the Ingraham Glacier. After a short 10 minute break we made our way to the base of Disappointment Clever. The ascent of the clever was a mix of rock and snow and made for some slow climbing. After our group got above the clever we had our next break and gazed to the east as the sun was making it own ascent for the day.
After our short break above the clever we started back to the task at hand and made our traverse to the Emmons Glacier. While on the Emmons we stopped and enjoyed the sunrise. Soon afterwards we made it to yet one more break before the final summit push. The weather was perfect with a cloudless sky and hardly any wind to speak of. Around 7am we finally made the summit crater and dropped packs. The guides asked if anyone wanted to sign the register and climb to the actual summit, my response "hell yea I do". About 9 of us walked the 10 minutes to the register and signed in amongst the rising steam from the volcano. Another 10 minutes after the register we made the summit of Columbia Crest at 14,411 and got our summit pictures.
We were on the summit for about 20 minutes with great views of Mt. Adam's, St. Helen's, and Hood to the south. The group made it back to the crater and roped up for the descent. The descent was pretty normal but it started to really heat up on us. The group took another break above disappointment clever and prepared for the final leg of the descent. After our break one group descended the shoulder of the Ingraham glacier while the other two descended the direct route down the clever. This is where I started to really enjoy myself on the descent, the dry tooling was actually enjoyable and the views were amazing. At the bottom of the clever we waited in line for our traverse across the ingraham glacier. After the final descent into Muir we were all relieved that everyone had made it down safely. The descent from Muir to Paradise was BRUTALLY hot as yet again there was not one cloud in the sky. We strolled into the paradise parking lot amongst the tourists and began to relax. We all loaded up into the bus and made our 30 minute trip back to Ashford. We arrived in Ashford and while some of our climbing partners departed some stayed behind for a few pitchers of beer together with the guides.
I made my way to Portland afterwards, found a hotel, took an hour long shower and passed out. The next few days I spent along the Oregon and California coast enjoying the ocean and the sites. This was not only a climb for me but a great life experience that I will never forget.
Eastern Washington and Oregon
Trees grow bigger up in these woods.
Following in his footsteps.
First day of school!
The guides Paul and Tyler.
The school before the climb.
Climbing from Paradise.
About halfway to Muir.
Resting with a great view.
Again great views.
The other team, we were in the passing lane.
Home sweet Home.
Resting and eating the traditional Luna (women's energy bar).
Sunrise, which would later become known as the Death Star. So Hot.
Partners Jack and Dave.
The Emmons Glacier.
Final Summit push.
Signing the register and the guide Paul.
Ahh the Pacific.
Redwoods National Park.
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