Fun in SeattleThe Mount Rainier climb was for me combined with a family vacation in Seattle. We took maximum advantage of our time in Seattle, checking out all the local sights - taking a tour of the sound, going up the needle, going to the fish market - experiencing the city;
ParadiseAfter a few days in Seattle - it was time to head up to Paradise, the staging area for our climb. This is at 5000 feet and is (usually) a beautiful drive. Unfortunately it was mostly rainy and foggy and we really could not see much on the drive. Here are some pictures from after the climb after it was sunny.
TrainingOnce we got to Paradise the teams needed to train for alpine and glacial conditions. Besides learning how to work on a rope team we also got to toss ourselves down a steep snowfield and stop ourselves with an ice axe. There are 4 different ways to plunge down the ice field - head first, feet first, belly up, and belly down. The most disconcerting is to throw yourself backward (facing uphill jump backwards head first) - it is also the most fun. We practiced them all on and off rope, by the time we finished on the snow field I felt comfortable with our team ready for the climb.
Climbing to Muir CampThe plan was to climb to Camp Muir (10,000 ft) and then summit (14,400 ft) the next day. We all underestimated the climb to the camp (nearly 1 mile up) - it was very UP.We trudged through the fog for about 5-6 hours and by the time we saw the camp we were ready to be done. Jeff and I found places in the bunk house at Muir Camp.
Climbing DayThe next morning teams started heading up the mountain at 10 PM, we finally got started up the mountain at 1 AM. Crossing the Cowlitz Glacier was pretty easy and the first real obstacle was Cathedral Rocks. These were just challenging wearing Crampons as there was some technical climbing in the rocks. After the Cathedral Rocks we crossed the Ingraham Glacier where we got our first look at some of the deep Crevasses, though we only had to go over one small one (we avoided the others). At the end of the Ingraham Glacier we started up the most intense part of the climb - Disappointment Cleaver. This mixture of rock and ice is very steep - and goes up for over 1000 feet. It was on the Cleaver I started feeling sick - though I concentrated extremely hard on keeping the progress up the cleaver moving - knowing that there is really no alternative.
At the top of the cleaver I knew I had Acute Mountain Sickness (and so did David - who had me bagged and tagged) - stuffed inside a bivy and tied down to a rock with a member from another team who was also suffering from AMS. This was some time between 4-5 AM.
I stayed there until I started feeling better after the sub came up and then ventured from the Bivy and talked with climbers passing through in both directions (the top of the Cleaver was pretty much grand central station of climbing). Around 10 AM I saw my team heading back down from the summit - there is really no technical climbing after the Cleaver - just snow field - so I could see them a long way out.
The trip back down the Cleaver was quite exciting - down is much more dangerous than up, and we could see the sheer drops and crevasses we did not see in the dark. We also took a slightly exciting route - with a glisade down a hand rope that nearly gave Jeff and Dave a heart attack.
It was still a long way down (hours) - but the more altitude I lost, the better I felt. After reaching Muir - the Muir snow field was a lot of fun going down and we slid on our butts for much of it. I would say Glisade, but that assumes you are under control.
We finally finished and had a large dinner and reminisced about the climb and the adventure. And of course - started planning the next one.