Tomorrow I set off for the mountain i’ve been training six months to climb. I’m flying out to Washington to take on Mt. Rainier, the queen of the Cascades. At 14,400 ft she is the highest mountain in the Pacific Northwest and the 4th highest peak in the lower 48 states. It’s the culmination of a dream i’ve had since I was a child, to test my strength and my will on a major peak, and with hopes that it is only the beginning of a bigger adventure.
It’ll be a three day climb that will test everything i’ve learned as a climber and I couldn’t be prouder to take part in this climb.
Tomorrow I am setting out for Seattle where upon landing I will be taken to the RMI camp in Ashford, just two hours out and at the edge of Mt. Rainier National Park. Our first day will consist of orientation, route planning, conditioning, and checking our gear. Getting the right equipment has been essential, and as part of my pack I am taking several short and long sleeved base layers, a lightweight parka, hard and soft shell jackets to repel wind rain and snow, an insulation layer and a mid-layer. Along with my cold weather wear I am also being outfitted with plastic climbing boots, crampons (spikes that attach to my boots to keep me stable on the snow) an ice ax, and fitting it all in a 70 liter climbing pack. I’m documenting my trip via my Sony Cybershot camera, and RMI has generously allowed me to borrow a GoPro (a small video camera that attaches to my helmet) so I can document the climb from a first person point of view.
After getting settled into training, we will begin our first day of mountaineering and skills school. Hiking up to the edge of the Rainier glacier, we will learn the skills that we’ll be using on the mountain such as traveling in a roped group, using our crampons, and most importantly using our ice ax, including self arrest, where we learn to stop ourselves in the event that we slide down a slope. Along with the technical aspect, we will learn how to step, control our breaths, and make the most of our motions at high altitude.
On day three, we begin our climb. The first day will take us from Paradise (5,400 ft) to Camp Muir (10,060 ft) along Rainier’s glaciated edge and the Muir snowfield, named for the conservationist who climbed the peak in 1888. Along the way we will have to put our skills to use, including kicking steps in the snow, traveling together in perfect unison, and pacing our strength to make the best of it. We will spend the night in the wooden huts at Camp Muir which will serve as our base camp for the summit attempt.
Day four will be a rest, acclimatization, and training day from the camp, and we will use this day to travel briefly to a higher altitude to be more in sync with the thin mountain air above 10,000 ft. Our group will review our skills, lay out our equipment for our summit attempt, and then get to bed early to start our climb at midnight.
Our push for the summit will come in the early hours of day five. Since the snow is frozen and compact at night than during the day, leaving in the dark gives us an advantage then stepping on soft slushy ice in the sun. We will be traveling via headlamp and our route will zigzag it’s way first through a rising traverse via the Cowlitz Glacier and then gliding between the crevasses of the Ingraham Glacier or Disappointment Cleaver, where we will navigate several switchbacks before making a final push for the top.
Depending on weather conditions and other factors, we will hopefully make the summit just after sunrise and spend time upon it’s peak to explore the volcanic vents and ridges. After a successful attempt, we will make our way back down towards Camp Muir, and then all the way back to Paradise and the safety of the RMI camp.
I couldn’t be more proud to be taking part in this climb and I will be consistently updating via my Facebook and Twitter feed and invite you to follow me for the latest updates. I will publish a full report when I return.