After almost a year of anticipation, planning and training my Rainier summit climb has come and gone. It was one of the best hiking experiences I have been on, I will forever look back on it with great fondness. The weather was perfect, the company was great, the mountain was incredible and the guides were prepared.
Last October Logan and I decided to raise $3,800 for a wonderful charity called Big City Mountaineers. In exchange for raising the money, Rainier Mountaineering, Inc (RMI) provided all of the fund-raisers with a guided tour up the mountain. This circumstance certainly contributed to the experience, I have been anticipating and working for this for almost a year.
Anyway, Logan and I took off from Spokane Wednesday morning-ish (Sept. 10) and headed to Ashford, WA- base camp for RMI where our adventure began. The afternoon was spent reciveing an orientation about the hike and doing a gear inspection with our lead guide.
The next morning we headed up to Paradise by bus (elev 5,400') and hiked up to a glacier for "Snow School". We spent the day learning the proper techniques for using crampons, self-arrest with ice axes, using avalanche beacons and the fundamentals of glacial travel.
This picture shows me all geared up, you can see Mt. Adams in the distance.
We hiked back to paradise and arrived back in Ashford in the early evening where we did our final preparations on our packs, gear, food, etc.
Friday morning we headed back up to Paradise and began the trek up to Camp Muir (elev 10,188'). There were 14 hikers in our combined group and five guides. We all made it up to Muir in the early afternoon. The hike was beautiful and relatively easy. The pace was consistent and very manageable.
The view was breathtaking as well. We had clear, amazing views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. We also could see Mt. Jefferson way out in the distance.
We went to bed around 6:30 Friday evening. The 14 of us slept in that boxcar looking shed. The bunkbeds are three levels high. Considering we were packed in there like sardines and the guy two bodies over snored like a horse I actually slept pretty well...that is until about 11:30pm.
The RMI guides woke us up at midnight to begin our ascent, I woke up about half hour prior and felt like a kid on Christmas morning. In my delirious state I thought, "when I went to bed it was light outside, now it's dark, so they should be coming anytime now, right...?" When they finally came in I was so excited to hit the trail for the summit.
With crampons on foot, ice axes in hand, helmets on and climbing teams assembled we began our quest for the summit at around 12:30 am. Despite the remarkably warm temperatures (around 40 degrees) the glaciers were nice and crunchy, perfect for glacier travel.
We took four breaks on the way to the summit. Each stretch of the journey got a little colder and windier. The travel was some of the most fun I have had hiking I can ever remember, and I was stoked to get to the top. I must have had so much adrenaline pumping because at the second break which was around 12,000' I turned to Logan and told him how much I was enjoying this climb, I was really geeking out, my brain was probably oxygen-deprived at this point.
I continued to feel remarkably strong and able until about the last 400 feet of elevation gain. The altitude hit me like a ton of bricks, the lack of oxygen made me feel really sleepy, I think at some moments I was sleep walking.
Arriving at the summit was surreal. Rainier is a volcano and sports a huge crater, after a brief rest we hiked accross the crater, signed the mountain register, and climbed to the highest point in the Northwest at 14,410'. The sun had just come up and we could see forever, the panorama was the well-earned dividend for conquering Washington's highest peak.
L to R: Me, Chad, Jake, Eric, Logan (they were our guides).
I can't thank the RMI guides enough for their professional instruction and guidance, they were superb. Before this hike I considered myself a pretty seasoned backpacker, I feel the education I recieved from them was almost as good as the climb itself. I appreciate the sharing of their wisdom, their lessons will serve me well on my future adventures.
We arrived back at Camp Muir around 11am and back to Paradise around three. It was sad for me to leave Ashford. The experience was so rich, all aspects of the trip were top notch. The weather was perfect, the mountain was massive and beautiful in it's glory, the people were awesome, and I had one of my favorite people, Logan right there sharing it with me.
Thanks to everyone who helped me raise the funds to make this trip possible and a huge thank-you to Annie for being the perfect supportive wife she always is when I want to do crazy things.
There are more pictures of our hike at this link.