Mt Rainier seen from Paradise
Summit For Someone is a non-profit program where climbers raise money for “at-risk inner city youth” to take them on backpacking trips. There are three steps in being involved with “Big City Mountaineers” (the actual Non-Profit Summit For Someone Supports): donate money, donate a week of your time and go on a backpacking trip with inner city youth, or sign up for a climb and raise a grip of money! Typically you do it in the reverse order, go on your climb one year, then the next year, see where your money went and take kids out on a trip. Being that I grew up in a great home, when I heard of this program I was all about it. I have wanted to get up to Mt. Rainier for a while and was confident in my own abilities, but figured this was a great program and it will give me an opportunity to go with RMI, a large guiding service in the USA that guides predominately on Rainier, but all over the world.
I would highly encourage you to visit both of their websites:
I would also encourage you to sign up for the Summit For Someone program. There are a variety of different peaks to choose from and you’ll be making a significant impact on the lives of at-risk children.
Also, check out RMI, as you’ll read below, our experience with them was solid and they have a very efficient program running out of Ashford.
With that being said, it all started when…………….
…………..I was still working as a headhunter in the engineering and construction industry. A client of mine was also a local SAR volunteer. We were having lunch one day and he was telling me about his trip to Mt. Rainier, a dream of mine for a while now. He started telling me about the Summit For Someone Program. I was very intreagued, especially about the fact that you got a grip of free gear! I spoke with my wife about it and she supported it, so bam, DONE DEAL. It was still very early on before sign ups for the following season, (I think it was March of ’08.) I was already on the “prelist” and as soon as October rolled around, I was one of the first people on day one to sign up. I did have to put a $1,000 deposit down, and you get that back after you raise your total funds. The Mt. Rainier trip is $4,000. I believe the most expensive trip is to Ixta and Orizaba, with a total of raising $7,500. However, I did get an $800 gift card to www.mountaingear.com and the Mexico trip I think is like $1,200.
Now it was just a matter of training and waiting for a year. I was very stoked!
Day 1: Washington, Here We Come
So months and months went by. I was consistently hitting the weights hard at the gym and lots of cardio. I was able to do some good training trips including a trip up the Swiss Arete with my buddy Mike Otsby. So time kept marching on and finally August rolled around. I remember driving one day and it hit me like a brick that I was leaving in 7days for something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time. (I can only imagine how I’d feel if/when I ever leave for Denali or something else significant).
24 hours before we were supposed to take off I got a call from our new buddy Ryan, a climber from Sacramento who’d be picking us up at the airport. He was a participant of the trip and was staying with us at the Bunkhouse in Ashford. The poor guy broke his ribs two weeks prior and there was no way RMI was going to let him on the mountain. Therefore, we had to find a rental car. It set us back another $300 but we didn’t really care at this point. The flight from Ontario to Seatac was smooth, our duffle bags of gear made it through and before we knew it we had our car and were driving to Ashford. The drive took us about 1:30 hours. It’s a beautiful drive once you get out into the country side. Ashford is a huge town, it took us about 10seconds to drive through its entirety! Haha
We got checked in and met up with our guide around 3:30pm. Mike Walter is one of the senior guides at RMI. He was rad and really made the experience a good one. We did the orientation thing and checked gear. Then dinner and off to catch some sleep before “Snow School.”
Day 2: Snow School
Hanging out where we did our self arest practice
For the “Snow School” portion of the trip, you meet out by the bar/grill at 8:15am. You get bussed up to Paradise which takes about 45min. From there we hiked about 2miles to a snowfield on the lower mountain. We spent the entire day going over a variety of different things. 90% of the things I was already familiar with and comfortable with, however I did learn a few new things =)
The highlight of the day was being able to practice self arresting down a huge hill. It turned into more of a sledding fun time instead of real practice. It was super hot, the snow was soft, and it was a blast!
We started hiking out around 3:00pm and were back at the Bunkhouse by 5:15ish. Had some dinner, (I think we had Pizza every night, the pizza at the bar/grill there was real good). Then repacked our bags for our real trip up the mountain. Tomorrows agenda, get to Camp Muir and feel good.
Day 3: Paradise to Camp Muir
Ontop of the clouds
We were all very excited to get going on Day 3. Same deal with the bus ride up to Paradise. Once there, people checked the gear one last time and we were on the road. We hiked in the clouds for the first 1.75miles. Once to about Pebble Creek we were out of the clouds and the mountain was looking great. I was amazed at how many day hikers there were. In particular, there was this one “crazy dad” that was marching his wife and 8yr old son up the mountain. He kept running past our group only to get winded and would have to take a break. It got annoying because his son kept yelling after him to slow down and he would ignore his 8yr old! You could tell his wife was pissed off but she kept walking. Thankfully they turned around at Muir!
We took two breaks along the Muir Snowfield. The snow was soft and easy hiking conditions. Once we were just below Muir we discovered lots of mini crevasses in the snow. Some we could walk around, most we could jump over. I had no idea that these were nothing compared to what was coming the next day.
We made it to camp by 3ish. We got settled in the bunkhouse, changed and drank a lot of water. We got some dinner then reviewed the next days events with the guide. Basically they said go to sleep by 6pm and we will wake you up when we are ready, depending on weather. Probably around 1-2am. I headed to bed and slept actually pretty well. Our packs were light since we didn’t have to lug any stoves, sleeping pads, tents, etc.
At 11:30pm, that same night, we were woken up. They said, get ready, weather looks great and we are leaving in an hour! Slightly groggy and not fully rested, I started getting changed. They kept talking about how warm it was outside! My body naturally runs cold, especially my fingertips and hands so I was like whatever, I’ll give there way a shot but I might get real uncomfortable real quick.
By 12:30am, off we went!
Day 4: Muir to Summit and Summit to Paradise
wake up call
Our group started off as 7people, 5 climbers and two guides from Paradise. One person bailed on the first day so today we had two roped teams of 3. My buddy Jeff who I do lots of adventures with was with me and the lead guide Mike, the second team was the assistant guide Eric and this girl Jean and this guy Greg. We made our way across the Kowlitz Glacier and up over Cathedral Gap to Ingraham Flats in less than an hour. Every break we took I realized how cold it really was! There were a lot of people camped out at the flats and were just awaking as we were getting there. They started off about 30min after we left so we could see little headlamps far off in the distance following us. It made it cool because it was so dark we had no perspective on where we were and how far we had come.
After the flats we made our way over to the base of Disappointment Cleaver. We had to weave in and out of some very large crevasses. We started making our way up. It really helped our movement since Jeff and I are A) rock climbers, used to exposure and comfortable with it. B) We’ve done a lot of Sierra Scrambles on loose rock and dirt ridgelines. This totally reminded me of it. Unfortuantely about 2/3rds of the way up the Cleaver our guide got radioed from our team below and Jean was having a ton of trouble on the loose slopes and she was going to turn around. They made it up to us, we tied Greg into our line and off we went. We took another break on top of the Cleaver. The wind was blowing now! BURRRRRRRRR
Next was the traverse across the Emmons Glacier to the switchbacks. We had two 8ft ladders to cross over crevasses, exposed sections with hand lines, but for the most part it was mellow. RMI, Alpine Assents and one more guide outfit (cant remember) take good care of the route. It has wands all over it and the lines/ladders were decent for the most part. We made it across and started the 40degree switchbacks. We took another break around 13,500ft. Once we were back up the sky started to turn color and the sun would be coming out soon! I couldn’t wait! It was cold! Back and forth we went on the switchbacks. I was definitively getting tired but still moving. The sun finally rose and hit my back as we were close to the summit. About 50ft from the summit we suddenly stopped. I looked ahead to see my buddy Jeff keeled over and puking, but nothing was coming out, just dry puking! Haha
Just over the Rim
Last 50feet were no bid deal; we hit the rim and dropped down into the crater. We walked over into the sun, tossed the packs down and celebrated! The wind was going nuts on the rim so we stayed in the crater most of our time on the summit. About an hour of relaxing it was time to head back down to Disappointment Cleaver. I later joked with Mike that he lead the “death march” down the mountain. I swore that the next step I would either break one ankle, break them both, or tear something in my knees. It was super painful and he was practically in a light jog down the mountain. No, I never broke anything, but it did take a week for my quads to go back to normal.
Paradise as seen from Muir
We had a safe, uneventful decent that took about half the time as going up. Below Muir we were able to glissade quite a bit. By the time we reached Paradise we were all tired and that pizza back at the bar/grill sounded real good. 4 out of our team of 7 made the summit. It was truly a great experience and again as I said above, I highly recommend checking out RMI. Mike Walter leads a group up Denali and I hope to go with him in 2011. Also look into Summit For Someone. The program is amazing and you’ll be impacting the lives of kids that really need it in this day in age.