So, we "go horizontal" at about 4 pm to rest up for the big summit push. Mark claims I tried to snuggle but I dispute that. As mentioned in a previous post, I had to pee about 30 minutes into my bag and held it in for almost 8 hours until 12:30 am when they woke us up. I have to admit, part of me was hoping, due to the wind, that they might not let us go. I am glad they did!
We packed what we needed for the summit push and left the rest (sleeping bags, food, etc) in the tent to pick up on the descent. We had our hot drinks in the kitchen, and I had a couple of breakfast bars. It was very windy but very clear. The stars were amazing.
We roped up and started climbing. The route would take us through an ice fall first, where we sped through, and onto the dreaded Disappointment Cleaver. We made it to the Cleaver and WOW! It was the scariest thing that I have climbed. We had crampons on, and were climbing on boulders, scree, loose rocks, all in the dark with sheer drops on both sides. The climb was very solitary, no chatting at all. and thats not like me! We were short roped, 4 to a rope. I did wonder how more people don't fall or get hurt, but, amazingly, no one did. We were all thrilled when it ended, but worried about descending through it. We took a "10 minute" break, which I am convinced never lasted for 10 minutes, put our parkas on and off, and headed out again. We kept climbing up the glacier with tons of switchbacks and some pretty steep sections. One foot after the other in dark and wind. I used a lot of footwork techniques; duck walk, 12-3, cross overs and did a lot of power breathing to counteract the altitude.
My legs were fine but I started to worry about my ability to descend. At high break, I expressed my concern to Stuart. I loved the response. "You have 3 minutes (than 2, than 1) to decide if you are commiting to continue up or not." No, "you can do it, you are doing great" or any coaching, just pure, cold, facts.
I continued on. I took an espresso lovers GU pack (2X the caffeine!) and felt fine. Tons more switchbacks and steeps on the way up. My favorite piece had gaping crevasses on the right (with ladders and protection, just in case) and a 50 degree snow slope to the left that dropped off after 30 feet or so and a 2 foot wide path! Yikes! Still pretty cool though.
Around 5:30 or so, JJ on the first rope team said "Congratulations, you are about to summit Rainier". WOOO WOOOO WOOO!!!!! Amazing feeling as we came over the lip into the crater. I almost started to cry. This was 2 years in the making and I made it! The crater was bathed in the pink light of sunrise and was gorgeous! We dropped our stuff and a few of us headed across the crater to Columbia Crest, the true summit (I felt fine now). We walked across the crater and signed the register of summiteers. We then hiked up the rocks onto the snow and the ridge to the top. the wind was pretty strong but nothing would deter us. The view was incredible. Mt Adams, Hood, St. Helens and a ton of other mountains. Beautiful sunrise and we were above the clouds. We took a lot of pictures and descended the ridge back to the group and the crater.