Friday, August 22, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Some Random Things I learned on Rainier

  1. Bring a pee bottle
  2. Never blue bag when you can use an outhouse, even if you have to smell of it for a while
  3. Always bring an iPod
  4. Cram and Jam
  5. Where boots extremely loose
  6. Rent boots that are too big so your toes don't look like mine at the end
  7. Mini bagels are of no use on Rainier, especially a bag of 12
  8. Use the stairs in Mt Rainier National Park to train to climb Rainier
  9. Go up and down in style
  10. Always send OK messages from your SPOT on the way down or risk the wrath of your wife and mother in law
  11. No matter what you do, you will hurt for a week after!

Day 3 - The Descent - 8/11/08

We left Columbia Crest and headed back to the crater for a quick snack and water break. Then the descent. OY!

JJs team left first and then we headed out after they were already gone. I think Stuart wanted to catch them as our pace down made our pace up look like we had been sleeping. We ran down that MOFO! We met up with JJ on top of the cleaver which we were NOT excited about descending. Luckily, Stuart realized the shoulder of the Cleaver would be much less scary so we descended that way. But, we saw EVERYTHING that we didn't see on the way up! Much scarier when you can see it!

Stuart had me lead through the Cleaver and all was fine until I made a decision but it wasn't the right one. Eventually we got back on track and Stuart took the lead. We made it through the Cleaver, ran through the Ice Fall and made it back to high camp. 20 minutes to pack our gear that we left, and we roped up and headed back over Cathedral Gap into Camp Muir and the kitchen tent. I was dripping in sweat as I had on my helmet and soft shell too. We drank a ton, said goodbye to JJ who stayed there, and started to descend the snow field. The day was incredible! Perfect blue sky, no wind.

So, the snow field. I think I hate John Muir and his f'ing snow field. It was warm and slushy, so every step became a slide and a fall with a 50 pound pack on. I fell at least 15 times, no joke. I was one of the last to the group but we met up and continued down. On the way down, Stuart saw the person who had set the speed record on Everest (10.5 hours from base camp to summit and back) who is going for the Rainier record this week. We were too tired to talk to him and just stayed where we were. Ultimately, after lots of slush, sliding and bitching, we made it to Pebble Creek (7200 feet) for our last break. Thats when the fun started. My big toes started to kill as they kept jamming into the front of the boots. From Pebble Creek down is all stairs and steep downhills to the parking lot. I felt my legs just stop. I was the last one down by a lot, but I did get down! Meaghan was a big help and walked down with me for a bit. When I got to the parking lot, it took me 5 minutes to take off my wool socks, no joke.

We took the van to longmire to check out, used the bathrooms and drank a ton of water. My butt was soaking from the falls on the snowfield, soft shell pants are NOT waterproof!

Big discussion over Whittakers vs Copper Kettle for lunch and Stuart won out and we went to Copper Kettle. Burgers and Beers were awesome, and a lot of discussion around vulcanologists, where people would climb next, and Meaghan's veggie burger with bacon and coffee and a beer. Keith had an old fashioned BlackBerry milkshake, whatever that is. We went to Whittaker to return some rental stuff and saw Ed Viestures there, pretty cool. We drove back to Seattle (which felt like it took forever) and de-issued our gear. I went with Mark to the Westin, checked in, cleaned up and had a drink with him. I ordered a pizza, ate it in bed, and passed out.

Day 3 - Summit Day - 8/11/08

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.

And now a break in the story to discuss BLUE BAGs

OK, so, Blue Bags. Since mountains are generally pristine, the goal is now to Leave No Trace and pack out whatever you pack in. Yes, that means that too. If you poop it, you bag it and pack it. Before the trip, we were given blue bags. We were instructed to use them to poop in if there were no toilets or outhouses. So, in Camp Muir, we were all obsessed with the concept of pooping as often as possible so as to not have to either poop at high camp in the "shelter", or to have to unclip from your rope and poop on a completely exposed glacier on Summit day. So, we all pooped as often as possible in the most foul outhouses ever. I almost gagged and barfed after my first trip to the out house. The best part was how the smell stayed in your clothes for hours after. Suffice it to say, I timed my poops perfectly and never had to use a blue bag. Amazingly, no one on our climb blue bagged. I wonder if thats a record?

Day 2 - Camp Muir and High Camp - 8/10/08

We woke up in the hut after a protected night from the wind and horizontally blowing snow. Some people, who shall go nameless, peed in special water bottles that are dedicated to pee so they don't have to leave their sleeping bags. I am not that smart, but I will be next time! YES, there will be a next time!

JJ woke us up around 6:30, we packed up our stuff and headed over to the kitchen tent for breakfast.

In the kitchen tent, they made us blueberry pancakes, sausages and hot drinks. This was certainly a first class climb! They also told us to poop as much as possible so we wouldn't have to blue bag it. After breakfast, and the obligatory bowel evacuation, we went to snow school to practice cramponing, ice axe, rope team and footwork routines. We ate our pre-summit meal of Pasta with Pesto, roped up, and proceeded to cross the Cowlitz Glacier en route to our high camp at Ingraham Flats at 11,100 feet. the climb across the glacier was easy although there was a threat of rockfall. After the Cowlitz, we reached Cathedral Gap, an area that was all loose stones and scree. Not fun! Very difficult to get a foot hold and we slid a lot. Little did we realize that it was a precursor of Disappointment Cleaver. We reached high camp which was incredible. Great views of the summit, Little Tahoma (3rd highest peak in Washington) and Disappointment Cleaver. We met for hot drinks in the "kitchen" and got our summit briefing after we picked our tents. Mark and I tented together. Being honest, i was nervous and went through a period where I questioned why I was doing this and if this would be my last climb. Really, the only part that got me nervous was the prospect of climbing the Cleaver in the dark at 1:30 in the morning. The team was strong with no weak links, so we went to our tents to "go horizontal" and rest at 4 expecting to be woken up at 12:30 am or so. Of course, 30 minutes into my sleeping bag and I had to pee. I held it in for almost 8 hours!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 1 - Up to Camp Muir - 8/9/08

I met Mark in the lobby of the Sheraton Seattle at 5;20 to cab over to Alpine Ascents. We met up with the rest of the group, loaded our gear into the back of the van, and headed up to Ashford, WA, kind of the gateway for Mt. Rainier National Park. We stopped for breakfast and coffee at the Whittaker Bunkhouse, a place where climbers stay started by the Whittakers, famous climbers. We had breakfast there and bonded with the group some more. I hung out with Keith (who decided that week to go climb something -- if only i was in that kind of shape!), Jay and Mark. We made sure to use the toilet as we had no idea what was waiting for us later in the day. After bathroom, last minute gear rentals, and breakfast, we headed up to the Paradise Lodge to gear up and start moving. It was pretty crowded in the lodge with climbers getting ready and tourists incredulous that climbers were getting ready! We spoke to some nice people, filled water bottles, put on boots, gators, etc and got ready. Of course, one of my trekking poles broke but luckily AA (Alpine Ascents) found me a spare.

We started our hike. I soon realized, this was ALL going to be uphill, until the summit! The hike and park are gorgeous. Wild flowers, snow fields, green meadows, glaciers, waterfalls and views of Rainier everywhere. On the way up, John the guide and I discussed the merits of Team America vs. Anchorman.

About an hour in we took our first break. We ate, drank, and learned some basic footwork tips. The break ended and we hit the Muir snowfield. Overall, the hike to Camp Muir was about 5 hours, 5,000 vertical feet and extremely monotonous. All of us had altimeter watches (all about the gear). You couldn't see anything as we were in a white out condition. The hike was literally one step after the next up the snow field. The only thing that kept us going was a peaking Rainier through the clouds once in a while and a desire for the snow field white out piece to end.

At Muir (10,000 feet), we got to stay in a hut share by RMI and AA/IMG. The weather turned while we were there. It was highly windy and even snowing for a while. When it was clear out, it was incredible. Most of the time was in the hut. We ate in it and slept in it. I slept on the second level platform between Mark and John. We ate well, chicken quesadillas, hot drinks, and some moldy brownies. Stuart joined us (another guide) and gave us tips, and outlined the following two days for us. I used the outhouse which almost made me barf. Got into my bag, got ready to sleep, joked around with Mark and Keith and of course, then had to go pee. Oh the inhumanity!

Start of the Climb - The Gear Check - 8/8/08

So, the gear check is the beginning of the climb where the guide runs through the entire equipment list, tells you whats really needed and gives tips on what to bring and what sizes to wear. For example, JJ, our lead guide, told us to get boots that were way too big so they didn't hurt your toes on the descent. Guess who ignored that one and paid the price? Hence the heinous big toes!

Mark missed his flight so wasnt there for the check. I was introduced to some of the team, Kurt, Freeman, Tim, Jay, John. The gear check lasted for about 2.5 hours and was extremely thorough and very valuable. Of course, i realized everything that I forgot as well. I picked up all of my rental gear, boots, ice axe, crampons, helmet, bag pad (which I gave back), and got my blue bags (more later) and my Alpine Ascents TShirt!

I ended up bringing way too much stuff and food so I took a lot out. The stuff I left, and I gave Mark half the food since he wouldnt be able to shop. JJ gave some great tips which were repeated throughout, power breathing, rest stepping, eating and drinking and to overall, take care of our selves. That was our primary responsibility. I went back to the hotel and watched the opening ceremonies (amazing) from the bar at the Daily Grill next to a bunch of drunk women from Alaska who were in town for craft and quilting shows.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mt. Rainier Climb Video - Stills

Video made from all my still photos of Rainier using iMovie.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Slide show of Mt. Rainier Climb

Mt. Rainier Climb Video August 2008

Video of our just completed summit of Mt. Rainier. Blog postings to come soon.

Friday, August 8, 2008

So it begins. outside alpine ascents post gear check.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ready or not, here I come

So, one week from today, I will be waking up from probably a lousy sleep at Camp Muir on Rainier. Do I care about the lousy sleep? Not at all!!!!

I am SOOOOOO excited! I have come to realize lately, that for me to truly disconnect from the world for any period of time, i need to go to remote places that focus all of my attentions on myself and my surroundings. So, does the thought of no blackberry, no cell phone, no laptop, no email, no IM, no meetings, no documents, no kids, no wife, no dogs, no house, no mortgage for 3 days sound appealing? YOU BET YOUR PATOOTIE!

I have been excersizing a fair amount between hockey, treadmill on an incline and hiking, but the only way to determine if I am really ready is to go and climb the bad boy. I am off to LA tomorrow, then on to Seattle. If all goes well, one week and one day from now I should be descending from the summit of Rainier. I am not a religious man at all, but will take all of the support that I can get on this one! Stay tuned for updates as I can send them.

Climbing Mt. Baker

Slideshow of Mt Washington Climb

Recording about the Mt. Washington and New Hampshire Trip - 2/11/07

6 Minutes of Video of the Mt Washington Climb 2-11-07

This is long but will give you a feeling for the climb on Sunday.