This was quite the interesting trip which I learned a few important things along the way. The weather on Mount Rainier was not looking ideal, in the Seattle area it was very misty and raining in the National Park. Rain or shine, we planning on at least giving it a try. Considering that Bentley and his family came all the way across the country for this, we were not going to back down so easy. But at the same time during this adventure we had a few complications that each one could have made a summit bid impossible.
We had been planning this trip since September of 2010 who I met Bentley from CascadeClimbers. We sent many emails back and forth figuring out what each of us should bring and getting to know each other. I had no way of getting to Rainier which I told him that my plan was to take some buses and bike as close as I could to the mountain. Bentley at first thought I was joking and then thought I was nutty for having such a commitment for a trip. When adventure calls, you gotta do what you gotta do to cease the opportunity. Bentley generously offered to pick me up from my house making the trip much easier. But easier doesn't mean easy.
A Not so Ideal BeginingOn the car ride to Rainier it was raining on the windows which made me all the more thankful that I did not have to ride my bike. With weather not looking so great I was not optimistic about us making the summit. We stopped at the Whittaker place on the way to pick up the retail gear for Bentley and the kids. An hour later we were at the Paradise parking lot ready for the climb.
We started out hiking in snow with mist in the air. Travel was at a easy pace, but with heavy backpacks. As we got to Panorama Point the winds were picking up and I could see a dangerous reality forming. Everyone's gloves were getting soaked as well as the rest of the gear we were gearing. I decided to go gloveless to preserve them for later, but unfortunately they got soaked anyways from the water getting in the pack. As we travel on, for at least a few minutes I remember seeing some flakes of snow in the air making me believe it got down to the freezing level. Bentley I consider a trip hero because he was carrying more than his share of gear which was his families. Our pace slows down as the slope get steeper and the atmosphere around us gets darker. Suddenly we hear a roaring of an avalanche coming down the Nisqually Ice Fall which was very constant and massive. Thank goodness the Muir Snow Field is out of harms way.
Bentley begins to look extremely tired which you could see the look in his face that he was both determined and exhausted. He told me he fell asleep for a few seconds which I offered to carry his 4 season tent. At first he was hesitant, but eventually he gave in knowing that this was for the good of the team for me to take it. After many hours of snow slogging we finally reach Camp Muir. No one else was in the climbers cabin which was very nice to have the entire place to ourselves. We all disassemble our packs which all my gear was soaked, outside it was quite cold. I knew that good weather was our only hope of making it. Before I went to bed I looked outside and to my amazement the clouds cleared and we were above the clouds. Now I could see that there was hope for us making it. But even if we didn't make it, I got what I came for which was for a fun adventure experience.
A Day of Preparations and WaitingIn the morning after Bentley made breakfast for the kids, he realized that we were in a bit of a situation. At the beginning of only day 2 we were starting to run out of fuel for the stove. So Bentley and I had to come up with a solution for this problem. I thought of the idea of wrapping a water bottle around something that was black to collect as much warmth as possible to melt snow. Bentley took my idea a step further by using a trash bag, filling it with snow, popping a hole in the edge, and putting it in a bucket that Camp Muir had. This was a very long process that took most of the day to melt 4-5 liters of water, but it very much helped out by cutting the time needed to boil the water by half.
I remember being quite thirsty that day, the ranger recommended that I have around a gallon of water per day. I had only a quarter of the recommended amount because we didn't have enough fuel. I sat in the sun on rocks while waiting for my gear to dry out, taking a nap from time to time. The kids finally wanted to do something fun and climb to the top of the rock pile near Camp Muir which was a fun little scramble.
Mean while for most of the day Bentley spent most of the day preparing for the climb the next morning. My brother back at home later told me that it was raining in Lynnwood which I found amusing because it was sunny on the mountain. Although we could see the cloud deck rising a little.
After spending most of my money from the many climbs I had in July, most of the food I had on this trip was Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. Once you get to the 3rd and 4th one it starts to make you feel a little bit sick feeling. But at least it was the best of my options of what to bring for having a low budget. That night I make some Mac and Cheese which I found out that it doesn't go so well just pouring hot water into your nalegine bottle. This made my water "flavored" for the rest of the trip. After this we tried to get some rest for the climb coming up in a few hours.
The Crampon "Incident"We woke up before most of the guides which we figured we had a head start for the climb. Unfortunately there was one factor that created a bit of drama. When Bentley was putting on Gordon's crampons it turns out that they did not actually fit! His climbing boots were a size 14 which was 1/2 an inch too long for the crampons on fully extended mode. "Oh ****" Bentley yelled in anger. I took a look and knew that it was impossible. We spent a good hour and a half trying to get them on, my crampons on the fullest extended mode "fit" his boot, but the bar would not go over the crampon. Bentley finally decided to try his crampons, after much forcing and pounding, yelling, and sounds of pain he got them on Gordon's feet. Looking over at Bentley I could see that his hands were bleeding from all the pounding and crampon touching. He said it was very painful which he tried to clean his hands as fast as possible and get on with the climb. Bentley said that he had gotten it on last winter but perhaps did not have it on right back when he thought it fit. I guess the lesson of the incident is make sure not only to see if it fits, but make sure it fits on right and test it out.
Making an AttemptSo then we all went outside to rope up and be ready to go. Now we were way behind schedule, but I couldn't help but have the feeling like we escaped the odds so far on the trip. We started out at a nice pace crossing the glacier. As we were walking I could feel the sharp pains of the crampon bars against my blistered heels which made me feel very uncomfortable. A moment later my headlamp fell off my head. And a few seconds later the light bulb fell out! Agggggggg, why does this stuff always happen to me? The headlamp was a donation from someone, but unfortunately the straps are broken which made it so I had to use the headlamp as a hand held flash light. It worked, but felt a little rigged.
After passing the Cathedral Rocks we arrive at Ingraham Flats were we had to pass between two crevasses on a snow bridge. Looking East the atmosphere of the night was nearly perfect with the moon shining brightly as it rose above Little Tahoma. A little ways later Gordon announces that he feels too sick to continue. I could see signs earlier on where it looked like he was pushing himself. I admit I was proud of Gordon making this responsible choice here. So without hesitation we all decided to turn around. We decided to wait at Ingraham Flats for the sunrise for safe travel back down. The winds were picking up making it a bit cold. But at the same time the sunrise was absolutely brilliant with many colors, layers, and different lightings.
Going Back DownOnce the sun rose, we started the descent down towards Camp Muir. Every time I looked out at the clouds the layers seemed almost infinite, too many for one to count. The hike back down to Camp Muir was decent.
Once we got back to Camp Muir we had a last snack and got ready for the descent down to Paradise. On the way down one of the kids let me use there trash bag to glissade which made it 10 times better and faster. We saw a few interesting sights on the way down like a rock fall above the Nisqually Ice Fall, a very cute chipmunk, and a dark atmosphere as we went back into the clouds.
When we finally arrived at the trailhead, Bentley's wife had been waiting there of a while excited to see us. As I opened up the car I noticed my doughnut was gone. "Where's my donut?" I asked in disappointment. "Oh it was getting old in the car. But don't worry, dinner is coming soon" I was told. We had more fun talks as we enjoyed dinner at Ashford. The Wall family did a nice thing of driving me all the way back home. Very much appreciated. We all learned a few things during this journey up Mount Rainier and had some fun experiences together. In less than 2 days I was back doing what I do best. Going on yet another big adventure.