Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The Mountain"

This week a friend (my boss, actually) and I took a few other guys from work on a climb up Mount Rainier (or simply "The Mountain", as locals refer to it).  He and I were the only ones with mountaineering experience, so we spent an extra "rest day" instructing our team on climbing skills up at Camp Muir.  The weather was dramatic with rain, snow, wind, and lightning, but it did give us a short window to summit.  

After a stormy first night at 10,000 foot Camp Muir, we did some training and headed up to our high camp on the Ingraham Glacier Flats.  On the second night, at 1am, we woke up, roped up, and headed up.  It was hard going - the storm had dropped a fresh foot of snow, covering the well-worn path up the snow slopes.  Five hours later, above 13,000 feet, a couple of our team-mates were feeling the effects of the early start, the hard climb, and the high altitude, and couldn't continue.  We made the decision that I would lead them back down the mountain while the rest of the team continued to the summit.  It was a tough call to make, but the right one - leaving them there at altitude or sending them down to negotiate the dangerous crevassed terrain alone would have been irresponsible.  

Despite my failure to summit, it was an amazing experience in one of the most breathtaking places I've ever been.  I plan on going back again soon.

Because we were taking several inexperienced climbers, I chose to leave the big camera at home so that I could dedicate my full attention to helping them up the mountain safely.  It was the perfect opportunity to bring my helmet-mounted GoPro camera.  Below are some pics and videos from the climb.

Camp Muir Selfie
Camp Muir 360

At Camp Muir

Looking down on Camp Muir.

Heading up the Cowlitz Glacier to our high camp on the Ingraham Glacier.
Climbing the Ingraham Glacier

Melting snow for drinking water at high camp.  A room with a view!

Up we go on summit morning

Taking a break at sunrise.  A herd of guide-led climbers are coming up behind us.

Breaking trail up the Emmons Glacier

Approaching 13,000 feet.

Negotiating the rocky Disappointment Cleaver in ominous weather.
 Crossing a snow bridge - BIG crevasses on Rainier!

Crossing a ladder over a crevasse.  This ladder was half the reason I brought my GoPro and the battery died after the first step!  Boo! 

A clear, cold, windy August morning at Camp Muir