A Reckoning Experience on Mount Rainier

A Reckoning Experience on Mount Rainier

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 46.83634°N / 121.73407°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 18, 2009
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so” –Mark Twain

"High Adventure does not come without great price when taking a chance" -A Hard Lesson Learned

"Is this for real?"

This was the worse mountaineering experience I have ever had. During this time of my life I felt a great deal of betrayal by my friends, by my family, and the climbing community. This time it really did feel like my friends were going to befriend me, almost all of them!
It all started when I was invited to climb Mount Rainier from a guy named Chris. I spoke it over with my friend Mark and soon enough he was joining in the trip as well. I thought to myself "This is my redemption! I'll show the world that I am not just some kid who is inexperienced in the arts of mountaineering!" Unfortunatley I was dead wrong, it created just the opposite reaction...

"So Josh, you ready to go camping?" Sean asked me expecting me to say yes. I told him "Well, sorry Sean but I recently got invited to climb Rainier". A few days earlier I had agreed to go camping with my friend Sean, but when I was offered to climb Mount Rainier there is no way I could pass it up. I mean how could I? (at the time when I was crazy for mountains) On July 17 Mark's mom drove us to Tacoma which was might nice of her. From here we headed on out for the climb. When Rainier was in site I was so excited, I could hardly hold my excitement in.

A Classic View of Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier on the Way

When we got to the parking lot it was so crowded we had to walk an entire extra mile. Starting out we went at a speedier pace, although I kept up just fine. Eventually I got hungry and such which I took a few stops but was putting out a good effort, unfortunately I fell a few minutes behind. But I did happen to be carrying the tent and such which I believe had an effect on this. As I was traveling I knew keeping up with them was important, but what I did not know was I would later be very much judged by this. Soon we were at Camp Muir.

Mount Rainier Panorama
Mount Rainier Panorama

Tatoosh Range Panorama
The Tatoosh Range

Mount Rainier on the Way Up
Mount Rainer on the Way Up

Hiking Up
Hiking Up

It was then that I received the bad news. "Josh, I don't think you are going to summit tomorrow". I attempted to defend my case, but it was no good. Funny how I came into camp feeling fine while they were tired, and as a result they thought I was "being overly optimistic". As everyone went to bed, I felt a terrible bitterness, after a while as rest started to settle in I whispered to myself "everythings going to be alright" ... or at least that's what I had hoped. I woke up at 1 a.m. and heard many climbers leaving, I woke up again at around 2 a.m. (can't say for sure what time it was, it might have been later than this, but certainly no earlier). I asked Matt if I could proceed, then he replied "Josh, I don't think you should go..." which I wished them good luck and walked off. Mark was invited to continue but he did not because I did not. So off they went as a two person rope team. Soon after I walked over to a flat section on the ice, lied down, and wept.

Night on Rainier
Night at Camp Muir

As I layed there on the ice, it was the first time that I did not care what happened to me, I knew I had lost, and that there would be people unpleased with this trip. I also felt bad because I betrayed my friend Sean by ditching his camping trip, for what? A failed trip on Rainier. Most the time I don't look at attempts as failures, but this time it was diffrent. I kept thinking to myself "If only you had pretended you were not tired" "If only you pushed yourself a little harder" or "If only you spoke less" or "If you were less adventurous you would have more support". But then I also outraged about things leading up to this. It was one of the worst nights I have ever had, never again I hoped, never again like this. "It's not fair! It's not fair! I was so close... to be so close to having a big victory, and it all turned on itself". Looking out towards the moon the atmosphere of the place was incredible. I saw that it was now becoming morning (I had been laying out there for many hours) and was very cold by this point. I decided the best thing for now was for me to forget about what was going on, and get some rest.

The View to the South
The View to the South

I woke up to the buzzing of hover flies in our tent at first having me in a slight panic. Waking up was not any better, although the bitterness had worn off, I was told some things I did wrong. This made me once again feel even more horrible than before, I tried to hide it by laughing. Through out the day I was left in constant suspense by what had happened, and what was I going to say when I got home. I some how wished I could tell Mark how I felt, but I figured he would never understand.

Camp Muir Panorama
The View from our Camp

Goat Rocks Wilderness
Goat Rocks Wilderness

Later on the partners return and we headed on down. Mark told me not to post what happened as a trip report, I should have listened. When we got down to the car I was feeling quite dehydrated. On the way back to Tacoma the guys bough us some drinks which was mighty decent of them to do so, they also did not charge us for the car ride.

A Wonderous Mountain
Mount Rainier Looking Interesting

Garden on Mount Rainier
Garden on Mount Rainier

Water Falls Near Paradise
Water Falls near Paradise

Goat Enjoying Flowers
A Goat Enjoying Flowers

Success Cleaver
Success Cleaver on the Way Home

In Tacoma Mark's dad came to pick up Mark, he had not expected me to rely on him as well. Mark's dad decided to charge me $15 for the car ride (which now looking back on it was pretty fair) but at the time I was disapointed, I did not summit Rainier, I wasted money for the trip, my friends are now unpleased with me, and now I am in dept! On the car ride home it was nearing sunset and for some reason it sticks out sharply in my mind looking outside at the orange horizon feeling bitter not knowing what was to come. It turns out that it was worse than I had feared... "When we were up there and you said us not summiting was my fault did you mean it?" before I asked this he said it was the climbers, but after asking the question told me partly which I concluded he did not want to hurt my feelings on the mountain.

When I got home I wrote up the story of the trip titled "Mount Rainier Attempt" which to my surprise stirred up much anger. This was the beginning of what I call "The Cold Conflict". Soon after writting the story my friend Mark was told by someone about my report which is perhaps how he found out. Things got real nasty after this...

My friend soon after replied to the trip report:
"This trip proved some things to me, but the trip report said more than anything else. First of all, it shows that you pity yourself quite a lot, more than I had previously imagined. That doesn't solve anything. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and spend that effort to improve, instead. Learn your lessons instead of crying about them. Then people will be more respectful towards you.

Second of all, it shows that you cannot appreciate the things other people do for you as much as you should. My parents drove 340 miles to deliver us and pick us up, and all you can say about that is how you find it "ironic" that my dad would charge you for a quarter of the actual gas cost?! That is disrespectful. You make my father seem like a one-sided, judgmental man. That is not true at all. Remember when I was telling you about how much you depend on other people? Well, you depend on my dad a lot more than you would like to admit. Who drove you to Mt. Erie? Who gave you a job that allowed you to pay for this permit? Who took you to Mt. Adams and then made sure to take you home safe, no matter how angry we were at you?... I have better things to do than teach unappreciative people how to climb." -Mark

I was very hurt by this message in many ways. Not only was Mark and his family mad at me, but also I had been rude saying "We arrive at there house which Mark's dad picks us up and he did not expect me, and it's almost ironic that Dan charges gas money for going home, but the climbers who I did not know did not charge me". But I have to admit there was one main thing wrong on his message, I was not feeling bad for myself but it was more like I was angry with myself. I also got a few other comments like "I've lost all respect for you Josh. It's time that people stopped treating you with kidgloves. By the way - no crying with claims of how you're going to change. I don't think a whole lot of us want to hear it." and "Is this for real?" as well as others, by this point I was feeling absolutley horrible. On Cascadeclimbers I was organizing a trip to climb Rainier until it was sabataged by someone. Now I was left with much guilt and much betrayal. "I am now betrayed by my friends, by my family, and perhaps what seemed like myself!". The trip was supposed to be redemption! Not the opposite! It was the worst mountaineering experience I have ever had, and I hope never again!

I had friends by this point that were saying "I think he's going to Die soon" or others that were expecting something really bad to happen to me. So by now non of my hiking friends took me anywhere. I had wondered if this was how it was going to go down. I became quite lonely by this part of my life with all the drama that I was surrounded by. I figured by now that fixing this situation did not seem likely, and I was insanely craving adventure. I thought about leaving home, I really did. I even began to make plans on it. In a sense I started to go a little crazy being at home with only guilt and a solution seemed far from hand. Later on things got better for me, fixing my reputation and friendship was not as easy as I had hoped...


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-5 of 5

gimpilator - Mar 5, 2011 2:47 pm - Voted 10/10

A Tough Time

I remember this time period when you were struggling and the whole world seemed against you, especially NWH forums. But I never had any doubt about two things. 1) you were going to make it to the summit of Rainier and 2) you were going to learn from your mistakes and start making better decisions.

Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis - Mar 5, 2011 3:21 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: A Tough Time

And I very much appreciate that Adam. You were one of the few who went on a trip with me even after all this. One of my best friends was moving away at the time, and my other friend who lived near by me was Sean which I let down. Much was learned from this, once I recovered months later I stayed true to the "never again" part.


KevinStumpf - Mar 29, 2011 7:25 am - Voted 10/10



Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis - Mar 29, 2011 11:30 pm - Hasn't voted


Thanks Kevin! I tend to attempt to keep things in my trip report as honest as possible. No room for making myself "the hero" in trip reports, also when I admit my mistakes in my trip reports, I am hoping that others can avoid the same mistake as me. I did not fully describe how much Rainier meant to me, how much conflict that this trip created, and how miscommunication can make a mess out of friendships in the mountains. I said all the events, and tried not to have a bias story here, and it was a tough effort to make things right. I appreciate your comment!


KevinStumpf - Mar 31, 2011 6:51 am - Voted 10/10


Your welcome! I know exactly how you feel to a certain extent! Not to an extent like what you had experianced though.. Did you ever get to finish the climb up MT Rainier? When I was stationed in Korea, I planned a 4 day trip to Japan to climb MT. Fuji in the winter and got full permission from my unit.. (need permission for everything!) At the last minute my wife decided she wanted to come be with me in Korea and we needed the money for her move from the US! Unfortunatly, she never ended up coming to Korea cause I got orders to FT Campbell to Deploy with them to Afghanistan. ( where I am currently ) I really feel like I missed a once in a life time opportunity! Sometimes, it makes me angry that she changed her mind, cause all along I could have went.. (it was a solo trip) Anyways, I know how you feel in the disapointment of not accomplishing something...

Viewing: 1-5 of 5



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.

Mount RainierTrip Reports