Fall 2016

Fall 2016

Monday, July 25, 2011

Climbing Mnt Rainier in Washington

This post has taken me a long time to write because my camera quit working and so I had to wait for others photos. But also, because I was still angry about the trip. And I didnt' want to think about not summiting this mountain after all my effort. So here it is.

This is the only time I got to see the top of Mnt Rainier. We are driving away from the mountain at this point. ... we never made it to top, but we gave it a really good effort.
This post is a lot just for me. I am so unhappy about the outcome of this trip. Hopefully writing it out will help me feel better.

I carpooled up to Washington with a great group of people. Wayne and Jennifer Pullman, Aaron and Ang. This picture was taken on Wednesday. Mnt Rainier is behind us, in the clouds.
We listened to an amazing book on the way up and back from Washington. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. This plane at the airplane museum in Odgen now has new meaning.
This is why I feel so rotten about the trip. This picture was taken on Friday- our rest day. The day we should have hiked up to the top but didn't. No clouds in the sky.
So this is our trip.

Group of 10- A great group. But any group can only move as fast as their slowest person, so 10 people didn't move quite as fast as we really needed too.
We slept at White River Campground (4,400 feet) on Wed night. Then started up 3.3 miles to Glacier Basin.
The trail is beyond beautiful. So carrying a 50+ pound pack didnt' seem too bad.

We finally arrived at the Glacier Basin. The clouds were everywhere. We couldn't see anything in front of us.

We ate lunch, filtered some water from the stream and started up this slope ahead of us. It was actually kind of nice to not see the top. It was a ways up there.
Here we are. Hiking up. In the clouds. I am the second one in line. This one went on for hours and hours. (later we would glissade down this, it only took 45 minutes to slide down in)
When we got to the top of the 2,000 vertical foot climb up, we had to hike along the ridge for another hour and a half.
The sun came out for a few minutes. We saw Little Tahoma's peak.
It was our first view of hundreds of crevasses.
Finally time to rope and cross over the crevesses so we can reach our camp, Camp Schurman (9,460 feet)
After hiking for 9.5 hours, 5.2 miles, gaining 5,000+ feet of elevation -we made it to base camp.
This is our wonderful outhouse. I wont write details, but it sure was smelly!

This is Little Tahoma behind us. Ang and I were happy to be there, and eager to get to bed.
This is the view facing Seattle. We were well above the clouds, and occasionally we would see peaks poking through the top of the clouds.
There is a little one room house on the mountain. 2 people are on duty every day. It was a pretty cool spot, but I am sure it gets lonely since they have to work for one week on then one week off. We finally get to bed at 11:30 pm. We had to set up tents, melt water, eat food, and try to get settled.
Friday- This is such a bitter sweet day. This was our day to acclimate. We rested, melted more water, ate more food and then practiced falling into crevasses. This is an amazing shot of my friend Andy pulling himself (prussiking) out of a crevasse.
I dont have a picture pointing down into the crevasse, but it just goes down and down and down.
We had to jump over this one.
I am on the right. I didn't go very far down into the crevasse because I was hungry, and ready to get back to camp.
But it was cool to look down into it. We had to practice saving people. This was good. In retrospect we should have been hiking up the mnt if we really wanted to summit. Although- I am grateful I learned the skills I did on Friday. None of us suspected after such a lovely day of lathering ourselves with sunscreen... that a huge blizzard would roll in in a few hours.
So we ate dinner, I put in my ear plugs and covered my eyes with a nice eye patch cover to make it dark and fell asleep from 6:30 to 11:30 pm. Poor Ang didn't sleep at all, just laid there for hours.

So here it is. Time to summit. We started at 12:45 am. It was dark, but great weather. Notice the crevasse on the left. There are many routes people can go up. We did Emmons Glacier Route.
Then the snow started at about 2:30
Then when the sun was supposed to come- it was still dark. We were totally stuck in the clouds, in the storm, in a mess.
The clouds were so thick around us. I carried up the tall polls in my pack for the group. We started placing this polls every 75-100 feet up the trail. There were many points on the way back down the trail where we couldn't see the next poll in front of us. In this photo below we didn't know were to go. We were surrounded by crevasses. We sat down in the pelting snow and waited for a break in the storm. After 5 minutes we saw a flag quickly appear... we knew which way to go! We were grateful it had cleared for a minute so we could see the flag. There were other times you had to just start walking and then after 20-30 feet you would see the flag ahead of you.
We had to cross over several amazing crevasses. Me again, with the polls sticking out of my back. At this point people were getting cold. We couldn't move as fast. The conditions were terrible. Crossing a crevasse takes time to be sure everyone is safe. We are roped up together so no one will fall in or slide down.
Me again below. We are all getting hungry but who wants to take off their packs and get out food in the crazy weather. You cant even see the next group behind us and they are less than 100 feet behind me. Our gear was frozen, ice on everything. We all had every single piece of clothing and every layer we could have on.
This was the most exciting of our adventure. We had to jump over the crevasse on the right. Land with our ax planted in on the small island. Then stand up and jump over another large crevasse to safety.
Check out this action shot. Wayne is jumping from one side to the island. His wife Jennifer has her ax planted deep in the snow so if he misses and falls into the crevass she wont get pulled in after him. If he had fallen in, as a team we would have to set up an anchor and pull him out. No one fell. Thankfully!
So after only covering 300 feet in 1 hour, we knew we were defeated. This is our picture of our "summit". We were only at 13,000 feet. We still had 1,400 feet more to go. We had pushed on hoping the storm would pass. Hoping we would get above the mess.

The kicker...Our guide/instructors GPS had quite working. Frozen. He didn't know the trail without it. He couldn't see the crevasses until he was right on top of them. We were almost out of flags to mark our trail. Time to turn around. People were cold, hungry and exhausted. We couldn't split up the group to allow half to go on and half to go back... it wouldn't be safe.

I am third in from the left. Those who had started up on Friday had made it down safely. We had missed it. We had sat around camp--- acclimating :(
As we got lower and lower, farther and farther down- the storm was less terrible. We were able to see some of the crevasses we had walked next too. Again, it was nice to hike some of those in the dark. They were LARGE!

At this point, we were so close to base camp. We had a fresh 4-6 inches of snow that had fallen, totally covering our tracks from just a few hours earlier. It was almost a relief to see that we weren't just stuck in the clouds. To see the storm all around us, I guess was good. We had tried to fight it out for 4 of the 6 hours.
We made it back down safely. We ate a good meal, as we were all exhausted. Then packed up heading for home. It took us only 4.5 hours to hike out, compared to the 9.5 hours it had taken to hike in. A big part of it... glissading. What a wonderful thing. We sat on our tail ends and slid down over 2,000 feet of wonderful snow. My friends GPS said his max speed sliding was 11 mph. It was crazy fun.

We got a hamburger and shake in the first town we came too. Found a campsite WITH A SHOWER, and finally fell into bed/our tent at 11:30 pm. Woke at 6:30- and headed for home.

The angry part of me wants to say:
- we should have gone with a smaller group
- we should have gone up on Friday- REPEAT THIS 100 time!!! WE SHOULD HAVE GONE UP ON FRIDAY!
- why did I train so hard and for so long- to get ready for something I didn't summit
- I had babysitters, food in the freezer, everything organized at home--- for nothing!
- I had the gear, the training to use it... for nothing!

but I guess I have to realize..
- Mountaineering is a sport of not always summiting. (even though we could have on Friday!)
- No one got hurt
- I can do it again... someday... someday...
- It WAS a good experience
- I have the skills to do it again- and I WILL!!!

so yes, I feel like I failed, I feel like I wasted my time, but I have to get over it. It WAS a good experience. I just need to finish it. Someday - soon.


Clark Family said...

do you feel any better yet...? moved on..?

Rachel said...

wow Amy. thats a great post. what an adventure. i didn't realize what it meant to "just" get to base camp. glad that you explained all the photos. you're a tough cookie (jumping over crevasses with a 50lb pack oh my)!!!!!

chloebelen said...


chloebelen said...

not chloe, katie

soybeanlover said...

You've accomplished more than the vast majority of people ever will. Kudos!!! You'll summit next time. I have a friend who tried to summit the same day as you too. Any other mountains to try?

Ang said...

It was a very real mountaineering experience at least...