Saturday, July 9, 2011

Days 265-269 - Summit Adventure!

WE DID IT!!!!!  On July 4, 2011 around 6:30 AM, my dad and I summitted (not sure that's a word) Mt. Rainier!  It was one hell of an experience (not one I'm eager to repeat) and I am so proud that we made it!  Here's a quick day-by-day recap of the adventure:

DAY 1 - Headquarters

After a 6 hour drive across the state and one very poor decision not to make use of the last rest stop, I arrived at IMG headquarters a little on the cranky side.  The drive afforded me the opportunity to reflect (dwell) on the final exams I took the day before.  Then as I got closer to the mountain, I had plenty of time to consider how much training I did NOT do to prepare to make it up this giant slab of rock and ice.  The thing looked MASSIVE and it got bigger and bigger with each mile.

Once we got started at headquarters, it was 100% business.  We had a short powerpoint presentation about what the weekend would look like and then went through gear check.  This was the equivalent of mountaineering show-and-tell.  Our lead guide, Josh Tapp, would say "show me your sleeping bag" and we would all hold up our sleeping bags.  We did this with every piece of clothing and equipment we would take up the mountain.  Anything he didn't call out, wasn't supposed to go in our pack.  Some people had all their junk in a giant heap or spread out all over the place.  I, on the other hand, had everything folded and organized in category specific areas for easy identification and access.  To Josh, this was anal retentive.  He asked me if I was in med school and I was happy to retort that I was in law school.  Either way, he had me pegged as a type A obsessive compulsive control freak.   I could tell he and I were going to get along great...  

At the end of the check list, Josh told us to show him our food.  I planned to bring peanut butter and honey sandwiches, but hadn't had the time to make them yet.  Josh looked down at my Safeway bag, up at me, back down at the bag, shook his head, and slowly looked back up to me and said in his cute little southern drawl "you know you can't take up that jar of peanut butter, right?"  Oh Josh.  This is going to be a long trip, isn't it...  Of course I sweetly told him that I would make my sandwiches that night and leave the jar at home.

After a short period of panic (when did we all become so dependent on cell phone service?!) Charlie found the hotel I was staying at for the night and took me out to dinner.  I hadn't seen him in about 3 weeks, so it was great to have some time together before making my way up the "hill."  After he headed back to Gig Harbor, it was time for final gear check and bed.  

DAY 2:  Camp Muir

Day 2 started back at Headquarters.  After snapping a few "Look At Me and My Pack" pictures, we met the rest of our guides.  We'd be hiking with our lead guide Josh Tapp (who we were supposed to call Tapp, but that wasn't going to happen), Josh McDowell (who asked us to call him Mc-D, which also didn't take), Nick (who went nick-nameless) and Dan.  The other members of our hiking group included two of my Dad's co-workers (Doug and Jim), two manly men dudes from Wisconsin (Jeff and Brad), a cute gal from Boston who attempted to summit the year before but was turned around because she got too cold (Rebecca), and a surgeon who turned out to be one of the most awesome people I've ever met (Ingrid). 
After the brief round of introductions, we packed our stuff into a trailer, climbed in a 15 passenger van (note to self: NEVER volunteer to sit in the back row...) and made our way up to Paradise.  For those of you who aren't from WA, Paradise is the highest point on the Mountain that you can drive to.  It has a nice visitor's center and is a fun place to spend a day.  At 5,400 feet, Paradise is where we started our climb to the top.

It took approximately 15 min of climbing for me to realize that I didn't want to climb this mountain after all.  It became immediately apparent that this was going to be A LOT of work.  I have a tendency to shy away from activities that don't come naturally to me, so I have no idea how I got talked into going up this beast! 
The guides wasted no time before showing us the proper way to walk up hill.  Instead of taking a natural rolling from your heal to your toe type step, we learned to use a rest step.  This method puts most of the weight on your skeletal system instead of wearing out your muscles too quickly.   

The climb to Camp Muir took about 5 hours, with a 10 min. break about every hour.  I learned quickly, that I would not be required to think for myself during this trip.  Our guides told us when and where to sit down, drink, eat, put on a layer, take off a layer and how far we could go to use the bathroom.

After many steps and moments of doubt, we FINALLY made it to Camp Muir at 10,080 feet.  That's almost 5,000 feet climbed!!!  We had dinner together in the weather tent, had some time to wander around and take pictures and then got settled in for the night.  Most of us were in our sleeping bags by 7PM.  We were told that we would be woken up at 7 AM the next morning and would need to be ready to go by 7:30.  I knew there was no chance that I would sleep for 12 hours, but I wasn't sure what else to do at that point.  I wrote a quick blog entry.  I've chosen to include it in italics below so that you can assess my mental state at that point:

Well, we made it to Camp Muir after a long day of hiking. I feel like I can pretty confidently say that hiking/climbing/general mountaineering is pretty much my very least favorite thing. I made it, but did not enjoy it.

My body is tired, but nothing hurts too badly besides my right eye. The combo of sweat and sunscreen that poured into it throughout the day has left it stinging pretty badly and constantly tearing. I sure hope it feels better by morning when I have to put my contacts back in.

We get to sleep in a bunkhouse tonight, so I'm hoping I can get a decent nights sleep. Starting... Now. 

Fortunately, I did get a fairly decent night's sleep (despite my snoring father and friends).

Here are a few shots from around camp:
Camp Muir Building
Dad and I with view from Muir

Inside the weather tent where we ate our meals

On top the the "Verizon" table at Muir.  
*Fun Fact about the Verizon Table: I have named it this because if you are sitting on the table, you have cell service from Verizon.  If you are standing next to the table, you do not.
Privy at Muir.  The smell emanating from this monster will haunt me for the rest of my life.
*Fun fact about the Privy: underneath the toilet is a bucket sitting in open air.  The wind at Muir can blow REALLY hard.  When the wind does blow, it goes right through the bucket, up the toilet and into your rear.  Fun times.
Gambu?  Might be Gamba...  Either way, it's where we slept
Inside the Gamba
*Fun Fact about the Gamba:  I slept on the second level along with two snorers.  There was a third snorer beneath me on the first level.  It's a good thing I was physically exhausted and really needed the sleep!

View of Mt. Adams from Muir

View of Mt. St. Helens from Muir
DAY 3: High Camp
This was BY FAR my favorite day.  It started with an amazing breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon.  Shortly after that, we started snow school.  Let's just say, I got straight A's.  During snow school, we learned how to use our equipment.  We practiced walking in crampons and using our ice ax to rescue ourselves should we find ourselves sliding down the mountain.  Although it took some pretty serious thought and practice, we all eventually became masters at the technique that we hoped to never need to use.

After we graduated, we put our packs on and made our way to high camp.  To get from Muir to the Ingraham Flats, we had to cross a glacier.  This meant crampons, helmets and being tied into a rope line.  For the most part, this was a fairly easy hike.  The new equipment took some getting used to, but otherwise it was a fairly short jaunt up to 11,100 feet.

Once at high camp, we were told to get off our feet and relax.  Done and done.  Dad and I crawled in our tent and played a trivia game off of my iphone.  Eventually Jim and Doug joined in and we had a full on high camp game show complete with trash talk and heckling.  The game got cut short when we were called for dinner around 3PM.  We scarfed down a delicious meal of roast beef and mashed potatoes.  YUM!  Then, around 5PM it was time for bed.

We had been warned that the altitude may hit us at anytime in a variety of ways.  Unfortunately for me, it came after dinner in the form of a head ache.  Because they had been baking in the sun all day, our tents were sauna hot and the sun was still up so it was super bright.  Not great conditions for sleeping off a head ache.  We were told that drinking lots of water would help with the symptoms of the higher altitude.  For me, all it meant was getting to take my boots on and off many times to hike down the hill to hang my bare rear end out to tinkle over and over.  Once back in the tent, I begged myself to please, please, PLEASE fall asleep.  I knew that if I was going to have any shot at making it to the top of the mountain (let alone back down), that I would need to sleep.  Eventually, I must have dozed off because I woke up in the dark, shivering in a puddle of drool.  God bless the warmth of those sleeping bags.  I zippered mine up around me and drifted back to sleep.

Day 4
Day 4 technically started at 11:30PM on Day 3.  This is when we were woken up to begin preparing our gear for the summit bid.  This is not an easy task in the dark.  Fortunately, dad and I were smart and put our headlamps on our helmets the night before so we could quickly find them in the dark.  We were told to eat some breakfast, so we did as we were told (although none of us wanted to).  Then it was time to rope up and start making our way to the top.

During the first 10 minutes, I was completely panicked and certain I wasn't going to make it.  I had forgotten to use the "rest step" and was fatiguing myself quickly.  After being reminded of the proper technique, I was back in business and ready to go.

The route we took required us to scale the Disappointment Cleaver.  *Fun Fact about the Disappointment Cleaver: it is called the Disappointment Cleaver because the first Americans to climb the Mountain reached the cleaver in typical Washington overcast weather.  They celebrated and made camp for the night thinking they had reached the top.  When they woke in the morning to blue skys, they were disappointed to find they were still a LONG way from the top.  Hence, the Disappointment Cleaver.  The cleaver is no joke.  There is a reason that they take you up it in the dark of night, because if you could see what you were climbing NO ONE would go.  

Apparently we were not the only ones who thought it would be awesome to summit on the 4th of July.  There were a TON of independent climbing groups using the same route that morning.  One group in particular had my guides extremely concerned.  The guides made the decision to take us off the the trail with anchored guide ropes to go around those jokers.  After assessing the situation, they determined that these climbers were a danger to us and that we needed to get above them. Yet another reason I'm glad I went with IMG.  Parts of the cleaver seemed nearly straight up and others required us to climb around large exposed rocks.  SOOOOO not my cup of tea.

Once at the top of the cleaver, we took our first break.  I was completely spent.  Although I was sweating and over heating while I was climbing, it took only about 3 minutes until I was shivering and my teeth were chattering while we sat on our packs for a break.  Good thing my guide had already instructed me to put on my puffy jacket.  The next stretch of the climb was pretty amazing.  We had an UNBELIEVABLE view of the northern lights, the stars were brilliant and the sunrise was breathtaking.

Then, it just got too damn hard.  The combination of my lack of training and the altitude left me broken and ready to quit.  I had to summon the will to take each step and felt completely dejected when I would loose my footing and slip.  It got to the point that I was seriously concerned that I was going to be a danger to myself and the other 3 people tied to the rope line.

When we reached our second break at 13,000 feet, I told Josh Mc-D that I was not interested in going any further.  He told me that I had what it took to keep climbing and that I was going to make it.  I essentially told him to F-off and that I didn't care if I reached the summit.  Apparently, I just needed to get that off my chest.  I could physically get there, but mentally I was done.  After a quick rest and some food, I sucked it up and pushed forward.  My complaint, however, did earn my rope line the ability to go at a bit of a slower pace, which turned out to work to our benefit as we were all hurting.  A little after 6:30 AM, we finally reached the summit!  14,410 feet!!!
Me inside the crater at the Summit!!!

Dad inside of crater at Summit!!!
We spent a little bit of time at the top before starting our descent.  On the way out of the crater, the unthinkable happened.  I FELL IN A CREVASSE!  The crevasse was completely covered until my foot punched a hole through the layer of snow/ice hiding it.  I thankfully already had made the step over with my other foot and got my ice ax down in front of me, so I only fell as deep as my waist before I hopped back up.  But still, I fell in a damn crevasse!  My little spill was nothing in comparison to what happened to Ingrid, however.  The poor girl fell, dislocated her shoulder, popped it back in and made her way down the rest of the mountain.  Now THAT is TOUGH!

Despite waking at 11:30PM, starting to climb by 1AM and summiting at 6:30 AM, we still had to get all the way back down the mountain in one piece.  Easier said than done.  There were parts of the Disappointment Cleaver that took several minutes to go only a foot or two.  This super awesome "Katie as Mountaineer" photo was taken at the top of the cleaver.

After the cleaver, the rest of the descent was fairly smooth sailing.  We took a decent break back at Camp Muir, where dad was on the hunt for someone to carry his pack to the bottom for him and the Macho Men from Wisconsin were busy telling anyone who would listen how easy getting to the summit was and that they were so glad it wasn't "too strenuous of a hike."  Screwballs.

From Muir back to Paradise, we got the glissade.  Glissading is my FAVORITE!!!  On the way back down from Muir, there are several bobsled-like tracks where you sit on your rear and slide down the mountain.  FUN FUN FUN!!!  It was like sledding without the sled.  Plus, it meant that instead of having to physically walk down the hill, gravity was going to do the work for us.  Somehow, I got my second wind and was practically skipping from one glissade track to the next.  Before we knew it (haha, kidding.  It still took forever), we were back to the Paradise parking lot and making our way back to IMG Headquarters.

Charlie and Tucker were waiting for me at Headquarters.  At that point, it still hadn't sunk in what I had just accomplished.  It wasn't until we were nearly back to Puyallup and I saw this view from my car window that I realized just how far I climbed physically and how hard I challenged myself mentally.

Marathon: CHECK

Mountain: CHECK


No comments:

Post a Comment