I wrote this soon after our trip and it is interesting to read what my perspective was on it then compaired to now as it was my first big mountain. I don't pretend to be much of a writer so I hope you enjoy!
Mount Rainer: 7/21/02-7/24/02
Colin Coulson, Thomas Haines, Joe Leonhard, Krister Sorensen.
By Krister Sorensen
7/21: We woke up in Paradise after a full day of driving the day before. We got our first clear view of the massive 14,411 foot peat and it was an eye full. We went to the ranger station where we bought our climbing permits. We went to the Visitors Station to buy a topographic map because we didn’t want to bring a whole book. By 10:00 a.m. we started on the trail.
From Paradise all the trails are paved up to Panorama Point. We turned off these paved trails well before Panorama Pont and dropped down to the Nisqually Glacier. Before crossing the Nisqually we roped up into our teams because of crevasse danger. I was roped up with Colin, and Thomas was with Joe. The glacier was about a quarter mile wide and filled with crevasses. At some points you would have to walk over a sliver of snow between two crevasses each over one hundred feet deep. After the glacier we had to go up a snow shoot to get onto the Wilson Glacier. At the top of the shoot there was a trash can for blue bags. Blue bags are what you have to carry your poop in so it wasn’t left up on the mountain. We continued up the Wilson Glacier until our first camp. We set up camp with plenty of day light left. Our camp was set up in a rock platform on top of a ridge.
There was a crevasse right next to our camp that was not very deep but split open very wide. We could walk right into it. Inside the crevasse there was water running off the snow that we used for dinner and filled our water bottles with. Dinner was rice with chicken and pineapple with a sweet and sour sauce which we didn’t have enough of, so it was very under flavored but edible. After dinner, Thomas and I climbed back into the crevasse and used our ice axes and crampons to climb up the walls of the crevasse. Before we went to bed, Colin took a long, narrow rock and balanced it upright on top of a big boulder. It was only seconds later that Thomas, Joe and I learned how to do it too. By sunset there were over twenty rocks balancing around our camp. Soon after sunset we went to bed.
7/22: We woke up late because we knew we had a light day of climbing ahead of us. Our first camp was at about 9,000 feet and our high camp was at 11,000 feet, so we only had about 2,000 feet to climb that day. We had to climb up what is called the “Turtle.” It is an elevated snow field about 200 meters wide with cliffs on each side. This section was a little steeper then the first day. When we arrived at our high camp there was no one else up there with us. During the first two days of climbing we passed twenty-five people descending our route. Of those twenty-five people only two made it to the top. The other twenty-three had reasons of not enough time, too weak, injured, or the route was too technical to make it. The two that made it were the last ones to come down. They told us that it wasn’t a big deal and they gave us a short cut through the ice cliff. After twenty-three people passed us that didn’t make it I was starting to get worried but once those two guys passed us I knew we were going to make it.
Our high camp was called “Safer Bivy” because it was safer then Camp Hazard which was about a quarter mile up. Hazard is placed right underneath the Ice Cliff where there are huge ice pillars that can fall at any moment. Obviously Hazard is not a very safe place to sleep. Its name alone should be a warning; however, that is not why Hazard has its name. It was named after the man who first attempted the route; his last name was Hazard.
Anyway, the “Safer Bivy” was well out of danger from the Ice Cliff. Thomas and Colin left to go fix a rope on the first pitch of the Ice Shoot next to the Ice cliff to save some time the next morning, or should I say later that night. They said if they weren’t back by five then we should go and look for them. Five o’clock rolled by with no sign of them. The whole time they were gone rocks were falling all over the place. The mountain is a pile of rotten rocks that is falling apart. Joe and I are thinking the worst has happened so we packed our bags and left for a rescue mission. After only ten minutes of hiking I spotted them descending with a great sigh of relief.
At about 6:30 that night a huge piece of ice about the size of a Suburban broke off the Ice Cliff and shattered on the rocks below. All four of us were amazed because we had heard that a few weeks ago pieces the size of cars were breaking off. The piece left an indent in the Cliff that looked like a bell. Not ten minutes later the whole chunk of ice that had the bell shaed piece on it broke off. This piece was about the size of a house. It crashed on the rocks below but it didn’t stop. It caused a very wet, slow moving avalanche that broke off down two separate gullies. The smaller half of the avalanche came right down the middle of the Turtle and stopped on a sloped out section half way down the Turtle. There were huge chunks of ice moving with the avalanche about the size of a VW that rolled all the way down the turtle and crashed into rocks about one hundred meters away from a groups camp. The avalanche rolled by our camp about fifty meters away and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I’m almost sure that before night fall, the camp at the bottom of the turtle moved to a different spot.
That night we had Mac and Cheese and the cheese was way too strong but we were starving and we needed the energy so we ate it all anyways. We didn’t bother to set up the tent because it was so warm and it was going to be more of a nap then a night’s sleep. We went to bed at 8:00 p.m. when the sun was still up. We woke up at 11:00 p.m. and started to get ready. We broke down camp and took only what we would need to summit.
7/23: 12:00 a.m. We started hiking with the moon to light our way. The moon was one night away from being full so it was very bright. For most of the climb we didn’t even need to turn on our head lamps. Colin had lost his “third tool” when descending the day before so we were looking for that. When we passed through the Ice Cliff he found it on the ground.
After cutting through the Ice Cliff we were in the Ice Shoot. The Ice Shoot is a wide colure filled with snow and alpine ice. The snow is settled on the less steep sections and the alpine ice is on the step sections. When we popped out of the Ice Cliff we were on the snow, but above us was the crux of the climb; a sixty meter long section of fifty degree alpine ice. Because the first pitch had the fixed rope set the day before it went really fast. We ascended the rope using prussic slings. Thomas led up the second pitch and fixed the rope again and we all followed. He was about to do a third pitch until we decided we could climb it in our rope teams.
From this point we were actually on the Kautz Glacier and we were only on it for a short time so I don’t know why our route was named after it. We crossed through another ice cliff that was much smaller and safer than the Kautz Ice Cliff and we were then on the top of the Nisqually Glacier for the last half mile to the top. By this time the sun started to rise. The snow was a glowing orange and the sky was all sorts of colors. A bunch of fog and clouds had conjugated in the valleys below to give an “above the clouds” feeling. It was so beautiful. Colin has been leading since the top of the ice shoot and we are both moving strong; Thomas and Joe are quite a ways back moving slowly. Colin and I walked side by side to the summit around 7:00 a.m.
There to join us was about fifteen other people from the Muir snowfield route. We took pictures and waited about twenty minutes for Thomas and Joe but Colin and I started to get really cold before they made it. As we start walking down two minutes from the summit we see them. We started to walk towards them when my left leg falls into a small, covered up crevasse. My right leg kept above the snow and was stuck behind my back, and from Colin’s point of view I looked like a stump that had fallen waist deep. Most of the snow that covered the crevasse fell so I could see down it. It was about ten feet deep and just wide enough for my body to fall all the way down but I wouldn’t have been hurt and I could have easily climbed out. Because my right leg stayed above the snow I didn’t fall in. Colin and I descended down to the smaller ice cliff where the Nisqually and Kautz Glaciers meet to wait for Joe and Thomas. We both fell asleep waiting for them which was a much needed rest. Once Thomas and Joe came by we started down the rest of the mountain.
Thomas was sick and he was having a hard time breathing which was the reason why he and Joe weren’t moving very fast. The snow was much softer now and we were able to slowly pick our way down much of what we climbed up with the fixed rope in the ice shoot. We got to a place where the ice was too hard and too steep to walk down so we set up a fixed rope to rappel down from. I was the first to rappel down, and to my surprise, the fifty meter rope was only short by about twenty feet! So at the end of the rope I was able to down climb the rest of the way. Joe was the next to come down, then Thomas. When Thomas came down he set ice screws into the ice about every fifteen feet and clipped the rope into quick draws that were attached to the screws. This was so Colin could pull the fixed rope and down climb the ice. Thomas didn’t want to belay him so I climbed back up to the bottom of the rope and set two ice screws for anchors. Colin down climbed the ice pulling the screws as he came to them, and when he got to me I simply belayed him down to the snow, then I down climbed to the snow again.
At the bottom of the ice shoot where we cut through the Ice Cliff there was a fixed rope that dropped down the rest of the shoot. You could tell it had been there for awhile because the snow picket was melted half way out. It was 8mm rope and halfway down the rope there was another snow picket that came out with the tug of the rope, so we pulled it and took it with us. Thomas and Joe had already taken off down the mountain and Colin and I met back up with them at Camp Hazard. We took off our crampons and glissaded down to our high camp. I wanted to climb the rest of the way down that day but Thomas needed rest to catch his breath so we stayed at high camp that night.
Dinner was pasta with butter and crushed red peppers. I wasn’t very hungry and it wasn’t very good so I didn’t eat much. We all went to bed very early, around 5:00 p.m., when the sun still had a few hours before going down but we all crashed hard. We still didn’t pitch the tent and it started hailing on us so we pitched it as fast as we could. By the time the tent was up it stopped hailing and the skies were clearing; typical. We were still all alone at the high camp but we could see tents on our route below us. After the tent was up it didn’t take long for us to fall asleep again.
7/24: We woke up, broke down camp, and started down the hill. We passed about fifteen people on their way up. We told them all about the short cut through the Ice Cliff to help them out. It took only three hours to glissade down to Paradise which was so much fun to slide down almost the whole mountain.
After we crossed the Nisqually Glacier there were rangers that were roping up to go pick up blue bags at the top of the shoot. They asked us if there was a fixed rope on the first pitch of the ice shoot. I said that there was and we pulled it. One of the rangers asked to see a snow picket. I thought they were going to take it from us and I was afraid we might be in trouble. Then they told us that RMI, a guiding company, left the rope up there and the rangers were telling them for weeks to pull it. The ranger wanted to see the snow picket to see if it was the same ones RMI uses and it was, so RMI probably got in a bit of trouble. The rangers thanked us for pulling it and we said it was our pleasure because we got to keep it.
We got a lot of cool stuff from the whole climb. I found a Nalgene, Colin found a sleeping pad that was probably twenty years old, and the coolest stuff was the rope and two snow pickets in good condition. It was a great time to climb and we went up a great route, but the next time I’m at Rainer I want to take a harder route when I have more experience.