Friday, July 1, 2011

Mt. Rainier

Adventure beckoned. I needed a wilderness adventure. The goal was to summit Mt. Rainier, the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range. Mt. Rainier is a stratovolcanoe with permanent snowfields and glaciers. It is considered a difficult climb due to traversing large glaciers and the potential for severe weather, rock and ice fall, and avalanches. Mt. Rainier seemed like a logical choice for experiential learning and thrill seeking. So, my wife and I contacted RMI Expeditions to reserve a spot for me on one of their rope teams. Let the fun begin!

The adventure to the summit of Mt. Rainier commenced on June 28, 2011 from the Paradise Visitor's Center located in Mt. Rainier National Park. The route selected was entitled, "The Disappointment Clever Route." Our team of eight climbers trekked up the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir at 10,030 feet. Despite the fact that two previous teams didn't make the summit; one due to a climber falling into a crevasse and breaking both legs resulting in a high altitude mountain rescue and the other due to severe weather, our spirits were optimistic.

The first three pictures were taken from the Muir Snowfield. Amazing views tend to foster my introspective side. It is wonderful what God created.

After five plus hours of climbing, our team reached Camp Muir. We were tired and joyful--a neat combination. The next few hours consisted of eating, drinking water, and organizing gear for the summit attempt. Upon going to sleep at 6:00 p.m, the mountain was blanketed in clouds and intense winds. Laying in bed I prayed for a window of opportunity to climb the mountain. When I woke up at 8:00 p.m. to go to the bathroom, the view from camp eluded to clear skies despite the weather forcast and guide predictions...

The mountain guide woke the team up at 1:00 a.m. to begin the summit climb. I still recall his words,"The clouds have lifted and the stars are out. It's very windy, but we are going to climb." It's hard to be happy at 1:00 in the morning, but this was great. I made the sign of the cross, got out of my sleeping bag, and rode the adrenaline rush. 

The first several hours of climbing the Cowlitz Glacier, Cathedral Gap, and The "Flat" was dark and inviting. Our cavalcade of head lamps strung out in the darkness was inspiring. I wish my camera worked at night! While the dark slowly turned to light, our rope team climbed up the steep Disappointment Cleaver. As the sun was rising, we stood on top of the clever at 12,300 feet. Standing above the clouds and watching the sun rise had to be one of the most spiritual and aesthetic moments I've experienced in a long time. 

The climb from the Cleaver continued up to "High Break" at 13,800. At this point my lungs and legs were screaming, but I knew the summit was close. I've never been at this altitude before, so my mountain database had no beta to reconcile my mental and physical state. Nevertheless, the only option was to endure and succeed. At 7:50 a.m. on June 29, 2011, our team summited Mt. Rainier!

The sun was bright, but the winds were strong. The clouds appeared to be rolling back in to the mountain. We quickly ate, drank, and packed up our gear for the long descent. I was so happy to be on Rainier!

Somewhere around 13,000', our team happened upon a few independent climbers who flagged us down. One of their fellow climbers fell into a crevasse. Our guide rescued the person from the abyss. Scary! I suppose that could have been anyone of us.

This picture is taken looking back towards the summit. You can clearly see the winds whipping across the top.

Break time! It's hard to eat and drink at high altitude, but very important for maintaining and sustaining. Even my yummy candy bars didn't taste so good.

Our team back at Camp Muir preparing for the final descent to the Paradise Visitor Center.

The Cowlitz Glacier as seen from Camp Muir.

The final self-pose before cranking down the last 5,000 plus feet. What this picture doesn't show are the thick clouds just below Camp Muir. I will leave you with a bright sunny picture and not the dark, cold, and sideways blowing rain we experienced the entire descent to the Visitor's Center. God, you answered my prayers. Thank you!

Another Spiritual Wilderness Adventure!