August 25, 2007

Climbing Rainier – Part Way

Filed under: General — mmrobins @ 12:53 pm

My little brother Nathan and I tried to summit Mount Rainier. Unfortunately I got sick the morning of the ascent, so we didn’t end up doing it. It was still a lot of of fun and I learned some of the basics of mountaineering and got to spend some good time with my bro. I was fortunate not to have to rent any gear since Brian let me borrow a bunch of his (thanks Brian!) since I had already packed up all my winter gear and stored it at my parents’.

We started out Wednesday night from Seattle and drove to the park. We went to the Paradise Visitors Center and picked up permits and Nathan’s girlfriend Katie planned a route for herself to do while Nathan and I went up the mountain. The route had changed slightly since Nathan climbed it in July with Katie. The new route added about an hour to the ascent time which I wasn’t too pleased about since I wanted as easy an ascent as possible. Katie started hiking that night and Nathan and I camped out. We spent some time going over how to setup rescues if the other person fell into a crevasse.

Thursday morning we hiked up to Camp Muir which is a little above 10,000ft. Nathan hikes fast! It took him a little over 3 hours and me a little under 5 hours. It’s definitely the hardest 4 mile hike I’ve done. I’m not used to massive elevation gains over such a short period. Most of the hike is through snow fields. It was a warm sunny day. I got up to Muir around noon and Nathan had already set up the tent. After a little rest we practiced setting up anchors with the ice axe and picked and some self arrest techniques. Other than that it was mostly resting and acclimatizing to the altitude which I wasn’t noticeably having a problem with. We also drank lots of water from melting snow, which is what I’m guessing made me feel sick the next day since we just warmed it and didn’t boil it. Nathan probably has a lot more immunities to stuff in bad water than I do. I went to sleep around 6PM since we were waking up at 2:30AM to start the climb to the summit.

I slept pretty much straight through to 2:30 except for being awakened by the noise of the guided groups leaving earlier. I woke up to go and realized something wasn’t quite right with my stomach. Nathan and I got roped and geared up after going to the bathroom (which an amazing thing to have at 10,000ft in a little camp) and started up the mountain with Nathan leading. For the most part the trail was like a hiking trail through snow so it was pretty easy. We had been going for about 15 minutes and my stomach wasn’t improving. We reached some scree before heading out onto the Ingram Glacier and I was sweating profusely and chilled. The sweat was just pouring down my face and it wasn’t from exertion or altitude since we hadn’t even ascended 1000ft yet. At that point I knew we’d have to turn back. We hiked up a little farther just to see the glacier, even though there wasn’t much to see in the dark. The sky was clear as could be and you could see the line of the milky way and all the stars very clearly in the sky.

We got back down to camp pretty quickly, arriving around 4:30, and I went straight back to sleep until about 9:30 when the sun made it a bit too hot to sleep. I must have slept 12 hours at Camp Muir which wasn’t surprising considering I was tired and sick, but I was surprised that Nathan slept about the same amount even though he’s in much better shape and wasn’t feeling sick. We woke up and enjoyed the view a little while before booking it back to Paradise. Fortunately Katie finished her hike a little earlier than planned so we didn’t have to wait another night before heading out.

It’s the day after getting back now and I’m sore, but not nearly so sore as I would have been had I made it to the summit. I think summiting Rainier is definitely something that most people in decent shape could do with a little bit of training. It’s something I hope to try again in the near future. After seeing some of the people in the guided groups who made it to the top I’m sure I’ll be able to as long as I don’t get sick and the weather cooperates. Now I have to continue packing all my belongings up in preparation for Peru!

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