Aug 30, 2012

Mt. Rainier 2012 - The Climb

About 12 years ago we had planned to climb Mt. Rainer, but had to cancel due to poor snow conditions, which can lead to cave-ins and avalanches.  Several months back my dad proposed that we give it another shot and we began making preparations months in advance.  I love that about my dad, some people are just good at making plans and getting people together.  My sister Anne went all gang busters and did a lot of the prep work along with her husband Dillon.  They spent coutless hours learning about safety, proper knots, how to tie our team into one rope, safety, fall arrest and on and on.  I was busy finishing up Nursing school several states away and was so grateful for what they learned, and benefited immensely as they were able to share with me of their new found skills.  Anne, Dillon and I climbed up to camp Muir (the halfway point at 10,080' above sea level, and a 4700' climb from the parking lot) a day early so that we could acclamate to the altitude and rest up for summiting.  My biggest goal was to practice Ice axe fall arrest and talk about what I needed to know in order to be safe. 

Here we are below looking all awesome and ready for hiking.  Phase one ended up being quite challenging, although we truly enjoyed the beauty the entire climb.

Here I am only a few hours into the hike and the views were spectacular.

Here is a clip of me learning ice axe fall arrest.  It was actually a lot of fun.

I just about froze to death that first night and all night I dreamed about heading down the mountain at first light.  Over the 12 hours I laid in my sleeping bag, I did get enough sleep cumulatively to feel rested.  There is a building with limited sleeping space that we claimed for that next night and fared much better.  The next day my dad, Heather, Tim, Ryan and Taylor climbed up to join us.  We boiled snow for drinking water, prepped the rope, enjoyed the amazing views and turned in at around 9 pm since we were getting up at midnight to start our hike.  I should note that from the beginning we had 2 experienced guides lined up to hike with us that are friends with Dillon.  Unfortunately they cancelled just a few days before the climb due to injury.  The wheels were already in motion to make the climb so we decided to go ahead and continue with our plans to summit.

Here is our crew hanging out on the mountain finalizing preparations. 

We left camp Muir at around 1:30 am.  We were one of the last groups to leave and I really loved seeing all of the rope teams at different locations along the mountain side.  We could see their headlamps zigzaging for many miles ahead of us.  With the lights, the dark sky, bright stars and moon, and the feeling of the vastness of the voids looming all around us, it was exhilarating.  I was having the time of my life.  There is something about being in a place so high up, so beautiful.  And there is a quiet that is hard to describe, but it is part of the beauty and majesty of it all.  As we hiked along in the dark, we jumped over several deep cravasses, climbed boulders, glaciers and an immense/steep feild of sliding dirt, rock and boulders.  Probably the most intense climbing came with the snow fields.  They were so steep, and often with a cliff and rocks below.  There were several moments where we felt like we were in over our heads.  We all knew that it was going to be a tough climb, but our mistake was only counting on a physical challenge.  What we found before us was a much greater hurdle, the sheer danger involved and at times the mental challenge that comes with the feeling of intense danger for long periods of time.  There were a few moments when each of us wondered if we were in over our heads.  Nevertheless, we kept on trucking up the mountian.  To be safe, we would often have our team dig in when one of us was passing a particularly dangerous part of the trail.

Now, there is something magical about holding an ice axe.  You feel really tough, you look really awesome, and no one wants to fight you.  This is a pic of Tay, Dillon and myself.  Notice we are standing there looking studly, with no one wanting to fight us. 

Dad got the beginnings of altitude sickness and layed down to rest for a bit.  We all were envious and wanted a turn laying there.  We were close to 13,000' at this point. 

It is really difficult to capture just how steep this trail is.  We are about 1000' from the top and there we no more switchbacks.  The trail just headed straight up the mountain at and insane angle.  We kept on keeping on.  

Here is what the views were like on our way up.  Amazing.

I am standing above a crevasse that was really deep.  The part on the left looked to me like an ice burg.  It was enormous and intimidating.

My mom was watching Jensen and Ellie, along with Anne's kids.  The morning of our summit she drove down the road and stopped to take a picture of the mountain.  She said she wanted to take a picture of it while we were on top climbing it.  I thought that was a really cool idea, and turned out to be a nice picture to boot.

Here is Dillon on a switchback.  Dangerous!  It doesn't look all that steep does it?

We stopped for a snack on top of the world!

The cute climbing couple.

We even had time for yoga.  Isn't this a cool shot, just above the clouds!?!

At 9:30 we were well on our way up the mountain and only needed to climb 1000' more to get to the summit.  The weather had turned really hot and we were hiking in T-shirts and really feeling the heat, but thought nothing of it and continued our trek.  The snow that was once ice, was now a slush that was 3 inches deep.  We continue on until we were told by several guides and rangers to turn back due to unsafe conditions.  We were like, "Say what!?"  With the intense heat of the day, the snow bridges over the unseen crevasses became compromised as well as the risk of avalanche and rocks breaking loose.  We were shocked at first, along with feeling disappointed.  As we turned back we became more and more grateful for sound advice.  The trail had become very slippery and we could hear rocks falling  around us all the way back to camp Muir.  We were glad that the snow bridges held up and that we didn't have to practice our crevasse rescue skills. Overall we had an amazing experience, one we will never forget.

Above is a clip giving a panoramic view.  Breathtaking.

The trip down from Muir we had a blast sliding down.  Here is a clip of Heather, me and Taylor (filming) as we slid for almost 2 minutes straight on this particular stretch!  Good times.

I threw in a pic of Dillon with our goal looming before us!  This beauty didn't disappoint!  

In summary, we ended up climbing 8,000 vertical feet.  I have to thank dad for planning this event.  It is an experience we will never forget.  I am amazed at  how you were able to climb all the way up there with us dad.  I don't think I would have otherwise attempted this fete, and I know it was a great accomplishment for all of us.  I hope I am just as able as you when I hit 64!   The love of sports and healthy living has paid off for sure.  Well, I guess we need to start planning the next family adventure!

Also, a shout out to Anne and Dillon.  We never would have made it without everything you learned about safety and proper climbing.  Thank you.

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