June 17-21 2014 Mount Ranier, Washington
On June 15th I had driven to Bellingham, WA directly from Mount Hood to watch a friend play soccer. I was exhausted that evening from climbing through the night followed by the long drive up to Bellingham, so I opted to sleep there. On June 16 I left Bellingham after stopping at REI for some new shell pants and a base layer. The ones I wore on Hood left much to be desired and I had shredded the bottoms with my crampons (mainly due to not having worn crampons for several years and forgetting to be careful with my steps). I Drove down to Seattle but stopped en route to watch the US play its first World Cup Match vs Ghana. That evening I car camped again and then went to the airport to pick up Michael and Craig. Michael and Craig were my training partners – we had hiked up and down several Utah mountains together with rock filled backpacks and participated in glacier travel training preparing ourselves specifically for Ranier.
We headed to a cabin for a shower and cleanup and then repacked gear for our big day on the 18th. Early morning on the 18th we met rest of group in parking lot at Paradise (Mount Ranier). We filled out our permits, got to know each other a bit and then started the long climb/hike to Muir Base Camp by mid-morning. We arrived at Camp Muir very tired late that afternoon. Heavy packs, a large group (12 of us) and the heat from the sun reflecting off of the snow made for slow going and a nice long rest break about half way up to refill and purify our water bottles. It is wise to start this hike early in the day as the sun can make the bottom miserably slushy.
We made it to base camp, dug out tent sites and got all set up before resting and preparing for a practice day. On the 19th we stayed near camp practicing rope techniques and self-arrest as well as crevasse rescue. Most of the time it was very cold and windy. The weather moved in and we decided that we would not go for the summit that night. Due to the high winds we spent hours building snow walls around our tents – the wind that night was brutal but everybody held up well and got a little sleep. We awoke early the morning of the 19th to find many climbers returning from unsuccessful summit attempts. Most had been forced back by high winds and white out conditions on the route. I am not positive how many made it to the summit that morning but we did not meet any. As the day progressed the weather improved. By evening the skies were blue and the wind was much lower. We prepped our gear, ate and tried to get some sleep for an 11pm departure for the summit.
Around 11pm we awoke, dressed, geared up (harness, helmet, crampons, ice axe, proper clothing, snacks, etc.), roped up, and went for it. We had amazing weather – still winds and excellent visibility. It was nothing like my first Ranier summit several years ago during which we were fairly miserable most of the time due to winds and clouds (fog). The route passes through an area called the Disappointment Cleaver (DC) which is very steep and icy. With much effort and quite a bit of fear we made it safely up and through the DC. From the DC to the top it was also steep, icy and tiring but our entire group of 9 summited prior to sunrise (two had decided not to attempt the summit and one had been forced to stay back due to an extreme sunburn he suffered on the hike from the parking area to base camp). Getting to the summit was a challenge, but, we had prepared well with a significant amount of hiking and time spent on a stair stepper while lugging a heavy pack, so everyone in our group made the top fairly smoothly.
Once on the summit I spent some time taking pictures. I moved to the east ridge of the summit crater and got some great shots as the sun rose but as I was moving to the south I fell through the snow crust and landed very hard. It wasn’t a serious fall (I just broke through up to my waist) but I did hit my upper body and camera pretty hard when I broke through. When I crawled out I immediately checked my camera and it seemed to functioned normally. I moved to the south end of the summit crater for some shots of Adams, Hood, and St. Helens. I got some fantastic shots (or so I thought looking through my eye piece.) After this I proceeded to the true summit for the amazing sight of Ranier’s shadow on the side opposite the sunrise. I spent some more time taking pictures here as well as having Dan Christopherson (our trip leader) take pics of me with Adams in the background. I felt great about the shots. As we descended I also took pics in the daylight of the route, snow goblins, crevasses, etc.
The next day I found out that in my fall I had dislodged the memory card so all of the pictures after that were processing and showing up in my eye piece – but not being saved. I was very disappointed as I thought of the lost shots, but still very happy at having a successful summit and with the amazing shots that I got before dislodging the memory card. The down climb was exhausting (I think mainly from the fast pace we carried getting to the summit).
We arrived at base camp early afternoon, did some quick water prep, had a snack, packed up the campsite and then headed down. The descent from Camp Muir was a hoot. We glissaded (slid - either on shell pants or garbage bags) everywhere we possibly could. We arrived at the car around 4pm completely exhausted and barely able to walk from the down climb with heavy packs. Craig and I loaded up a barely standing team mate and went directly to Ranier Base Camp (Whittaker) to return some rental equipment and eat as much pizza as we could stand. The others from our group made their way to the same spot and we had a celebratory dinner together before saying our good byes and heading for our respective homes. Because we had stayed an extra day on the mountain due to the weather on our intended summit day both Craig and Michael had missed their flights. This was great for me because I got company for the long drive home to Utah.
We headed for home but exhaustion got the better of us and we grabbed an inexpensive hotel in Kennewick. The next day we drove the rest of the way. I dropped off both Craig and Michael and headed to my home for a couple hours of laundry, dinner with my daughter, repacking, and a drive to the airport to head to the east coast for a quick consulting gig I had taken on Cape Cod. I extended my stay on the east coast so I could photograph some of the east coast high points. I was soon to experience the beauty of Katahdin in Maine, Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.
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