“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rainier Recap - Getting Excited

I'm sure it showed in my blogs posts before I left for Rainier, the fact that I was more scared and nervous instead of excited about the trip.  Throughout the training cycle that was true.  I kept saying to my trainer, "I can't fail this time."  I kept doing these grueling hikes.  After the last one, I celebrating "never having to do a training hike again."   I was positive that I was a one-and-done with the climb.

This climb was a REVENGE climb.  I was getting the monkey off my back, summitting Rainier, and then walking away from mountain climbing forever.  So much so, that I even refused to spend the money on a slightly bigger size of mountaineering boots because I was positive I would never need them after Rainier.  (I wound up wearing Mark's boots on the mountain once I realized his were only 1 European size bigger than mine).

My friend Wendy was so excited about this climb.  So much so, that her excitement almost annoyed me because I was so terrified of failure.  Luckily, once we found each other and embraced at the airport, for the first time, the fear cloud started to lift. We all arrived in the Seattle airport around 6pm PST on Monday August 19th.
Wendy and I at the rental house the next morning - all smiles!
There was an issue with my parents luggage getting left behind in Denver, so we all went to dinner after our flights and did some supplies shopping before returning to the Seattle airport to retrieve luggage.  From there, we were off for the 1.5 hour drive to Ashford, WA.  RMI base camp and the house we were renting for the duration of the trip were both in Ashford.  I was still on Eastern time, so if my stepmother hadn't switched seats with me to alleviate my car sickness, I probably would have fallen asleep!

Check-in with the climb team wasn't until 3pm on Tuesday, so we spent the morning getting excited about Rainier.  We drove up to Paradise (the starting point of the climb).  We didn't get to hike around this waterfall because the trail was closed, but the views there and at a couple other pull-over spots were awesome enough to snap a bunch of pictures.  Finally, these views of Rainier started to get me excited about the climb ahead.
Even without a hike, the falls were gorgeous
There she is.  The ridge where Camp Muir is located on is visible from here.
From Paradise, we went on a short hike out to a waterfall.  The idea was to get me moving a bit at a higher elevation of 5600'.  (I live at sea level, everyone else in our van lives at elevation).  The idea was that if we could get my red blood cells adjusting a day sooner, that would be awesome.  The hike was gorgeous.  This last in the season at Paradise, there are meadows of flowers.  (unlike last year when it was snowy). Plus, it was clear enough to have amazing views of Rainier herself.
Where the hike ended - what a view!
We then drove back to RMI base camp to eat lunch and browse at the Whitaker Mountaineering shop.  I was a little surprised at the complete lack of customer service at the shop.  One of my favorite things with dealing with this smaller mountaineering shop has been the excellent customer service.  I have to say, we had a pretty all around negative experience with them this time around.  Enough to make me reconsider purchasing anything from them in the future, but that is another story.

Team check-in took about 3 hours.  We met everyone on our team and our lead guide, Mike Walters. We watched a slide-show of the route, discussed some of the new parts of the route (the chutes and ladder section), and went through an equipment check.  The guide demonstrated the avalanche transceivers so that we could skip bringing them to mountaineering school the next day.  We got a list of items to bring in our pack the next day (much less than for climb day).  Then my dad, stepmother, Wendy and I went out to dinner.

When we got back to the house, the intention was to bake some pizzas so that we could carry cold pizza for lunch on the mountain.  And then the oven exploded.  No, seriously.  The circuit board in the controls of the oven popped and smoke.  The maintenance guy couldn't fix it even though he came out immediately.  We got a little inventive, and baked pizzas on the grill, half a pizza at a time.  It actually worked surprisingly well!
My Dad - demonstrating how mountaineers cook pizza
Wednesday morning.  Check-in for mountaineering school was 8:15 am.  We re-introduced the team for the additional guide that joined us that day, Thomas Greene.
Wendy and I.  We're a little silly in the morning.
Given that we were late in the climbing season and the snow was cleared at Paradise, we actually had a decent hike to get to snow fields to learn all the needed skills for the climb.
We got a glimpse of some wildlife along the way...this deer, and lots of marmots.
My team headed up to mountaineering school
We set a pretty quick pace and hiked for about 80 minutes to get to the snowfield.  We actually went right by the waterfall we visited the day before.  We were not planning on stopping prior to the snowfield, but Wendy was having major problem with her boots.  They were tearing up her heal.  I actually think she probably waited a little long to ask to adjust it.  What is the answer for blisters in mountaineering?  Duct tape.  I kid you not.
Can't complain about this view at the stop!
We also took a quick break for nutrition and water when we got to the snow field.  During this break, the guide gave us the game plan for the day on the snow field.  Wendy also re-duct taped her foot.
Not a bad view for our break, eh?
Wendy and her duct taped foot
Then we started learning things we need to know for the upper mountain.  Mountain rest step, cross-over step, duck step, plunge step, walking in crampons, walking with an ice ax, walking in a rope team, climbing a rock ridge while short-roped to your team while still wearing crampons, and ice ax arrest, which involved practicing falling.

There is a video of me doing this - that I will add here when I get it!

We also practiced climbing an almost vertical slope while body belayed, and then practiced descending the same slope.
The other rope team practicing the down climb.  It felt much steeper than it looks in this photo while doing it.
This and the rock ridge were both different from when I attended mountaineering school last year and were things tailored to what the route currently looked like.  After a full day on the snow field, we hiked back to Paradise for the shuttle back to base camp.

I feel like I learned a lot at mountaineering school.  More than last year.  I'm sure part of that is that it was my second time in mountaineering school, and part of it was that Mike did more things and explained things very well.  We ate dinner at base camp and headed back to the house to prep for the climb.  We had more pizzas to grill and packs to pack.  The goal was also to get a good night sleep because it was very unlikely we would get much sleep at all the night on the mountain.

Here ends the first installment of my recap of my trip to Rainier.  Next up - the climb to Muir and the summit attempt!


  1. Wow, so exciting! Cute duct tape even;)

  2. The views are amazing!! Wow, what an adventure :) !

  3. I'm so glad you've started this at last. It sounds like so much fun.


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