Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mt. Rainier 2015 2.0 Summit Report

We did it! I've wanted to climb Mt. Rainier for seriously a decade. The three previous times I have been out to Washington in the last nine years there was not time, resources, or good weather to summit. This time everything fell into place! It's only my second actual attempt on the mountain and you all probably read about the first attempt back in May.

Well, we left work early on Wednesday, drove to Cedar Rapids, flew to Portland, and drove to Morton where we slept on really comfortable beds at the Seasons Motel! I'm serious, hotel beds aren't usually that comfortable, just the right firmness.

We woke up well before the sun was up to make coffee, pack our bags, and drive the next 75 minutes to Paradise, where this monster awaited us.
How do you describe 9,000 vertical feet of ascent?
We started hiking around 8 or 8:30 AM and made it to camp Muir around 12:30. That's pretty standard for it to take around 4 hours, I think it was 4:30 hiking time for us Thursday.
Eating and Resting
Then we made food and rested around the cabin. We were surprised it was so empty, back in May there were something like 16 people there, Thursday night there were only four. Steve and I and then D and J, and it was J's first time climbing a mountain like this. That's it, four private climbers when there were probably 15-20 guides and guided people that summited Friday.

Our plan was to wake up at 1:30 AM, make one pot of water (about 1 liter total), and get going. And that is just what we did. It took about an hour to get going in the morning, which is not fast or efficient, but then again the weather was so amazing we weren't in a huge rush, and I wanted to slowly sip my coffee instead of take a whole thermos of the stuff. Around 2:30 AM we started walking.
The picture above really gets me, I took it twice because the Moon and Venus were blurry in the first one. It just strikes me as so raw. It's so perfect. The line between the Earth and the sky stretches across the image without ambiguity. The sun's rays dash into the sky to present all of the colors of the rainbow, yet the darkness of night still remains where the suns rays haven't quite reached yet. The moon and what is most likely Venus shine brilliantly against a background that has lit up enough to hide all of the other stars. You're not going to get this picture from very many places in the world, like you do from 12,000 feet on the side of Mt. Rainier.

View South from the Summit Crater (With Steve)
I tracked via GPS our climb on Friday uploaded it to Strava so you can see the details of how slow or fast we went depending on your point of view. We crossed several ladders in the dark and zig zagged around numerous crevasses. The route seemed significantly easier in these fine weather conditions than it was back in May. The last 1000 vertical feet involved a fair amount of suffering. I would walk for a bit and then stop for 15 seconds and Steve would say, "You don't have to stop for me." I wouldn't say anything at the time but I told him later, "I was stopping for myself!" We went from sea level to the 14,400 ft. summit in only 34 hours, and the last 12,000 feet in 26 hours. Just above 13,000 feet, around 6 AM the guided groups were coming down and we passed each other. It was surprising to me how maybe 80% of the people summiting were guided on September 11th in such great weather. I would have expected more Seattlites to take a day or two vacation.
Summit Selfie looking Northwest with Steve, J and D
We reached the summit crater shortly before 8 AM and then walked the 150 feet uphill, and .2 miles or so to get to the actual summit just after 8 AM. We were generally ahead of D and J on the ascent although we started a little behind them. We took more breaks on the descent and they were faster on the descent.
View of Steve, 11,600 ft. Camp, and Little Tahoma Peak from 12,000 ft. on Disappointment Cleaver
The descent was eventful. Just wait until I get a video edited from this! Oh it's good! One of us, not me, took a fall near the edge of a huge drop off, and I have it on my GoPro. We crossed ladders, we listened to the melting of the glacier go drip drip drip... We stayed safe the whole time, took our time, and now understand why people summit at dawn. The snow was very soft by 10 AM. A short video is to come in the next few weeks with much of the descent.

After a 90 minute stop at Camp Muir to make some hot food and water we trekked 2.5 hours down to the parking lot. Every time I looked back up I was stunned to have stood on top of this huge mountain just hours before. How blessed am I! We drove to Portland, went to the Olive Garden and then passed out before waking up at 4 AM to climb Mt. Hood, which is a story for another day.

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