|The path up to the snowfield|
|Prairie flowers on the way.|
For educational purposes, Mt. Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States and stands at 14,410 feet. It is an active volcano and is listed on the Decade Volcano List. It has about a 50% success rate for climbing it with most climbers being turned back because of inclement weather or poor conditioning. On average, Mt. Rainier claims about 3 lives per year.
|The summit of Mt. Rainier. Please note, that is 6.5 miles away from this point.. This picture does not convey how big it is.|
|Sunset on the snowfield on our way to Camp Muir|
|The slog up the snowfield. This was the view that my back got the entire way.|
Around 11 pm, Ashley tried to wake me up but I was NOT feeling it. I felt like complete crap and did not want to get out of camp at this point. I was cold, stiff, and acting like a miserable cow to be honest. She let me lay there for awhile longer while she melted some more snow for water. She came back in at 12:30 with warm water bottles, and was able to coax me into life and encouraged me to get up and go climb. I'm very glad she did because anyone who knows me, knows that I lose all will power to live, let alone do physical activity when I am sleepy and have been given the opportunity to sleep.
|Getting our gear together and getting ready to go|
We are moving along, and I am out front. Well somehow I get us off route, not all that surprising considering we were on loose rock, in the dark, and both very tired. I come to a nearly vertical rock/ice face... the rating on this route is only a II... there should not have been a near vertical rock/ice face with a black abyss below it. I look up, there isn't much to hold onto with gloved hands, nor will my axe hang from anything. I start kicking my cramponed foot into the ice and I can't get my crampon to bite into the ice. I keep kicking a few more times with no luck. I tell Ashley that unless she's leading us across that, I'm not comfortable with it and think we should turn around. She agrees, so we luckily turn around and start heading back the way we came looking for clues to where we are on the route. We see headlamps from other climbers and just start heading toward them... over very loose, very steep scree. It sucked and I was wondering the entire time what the fuck I was doing up there. Around this time we hear a thunderous crash. I have never heard an avalanche. I have seen them, but I have never heard them. It sounded like thunder, and because I had not seen anything come down I actually thought it was thunder. I looked up at the sky, but everything looked clear. That is when I learned it was an avalanche.
|Sunrise around 0530|
|Sunrise with an alpine glow|
|Traffic jam at the first ladder crossing|
We head up the next ladder which is again horizontal and allowing us to cross a 4 foot wide blue crevasse. Again, the boards across the ladder are all splintered and really sketchy looking. One of the rungs on the ladder is broken, and the whole contraption is held in place by 2 pickets that someone had left in place. We make it across it easily and keep going upward. We then come to our third and last ladder. This one is vertical, covering a 2 foot wide crevasse that had icicles hanging from it. We go up the ladder, tie into the anchor and wait for the traffic jam to keep moving upward.
|The vertical ladder.|
|What the vertical ladder was being used to get over.|
We continue our long climb upward at this point with nothing exceptional or scary happening. Around 0700 we look at the time and discover that the sun is beating down on the mountain, it is entirely too warm. We ask some climbers on their way down how much longer until the summit. It was about 2 hours still and we were just under the "High Break" area which is around 13,500 feet. Only 910 vertical feet, but a 2 hour climb up still. At this point we contemplate continuing to go upward for 2 hours, which would make our total climbing time from Paradise to the summit being 12.5 hours. We made the decision that we should turn around because it was just entirely too warm, we were getting tired and unsure of how much we had left in us, and we were not sure what we were going to encounter lower on the mountain. So we start our decent. As we are descending we hear a second avalanche trigger on the other side of the mountain and this confirms our decision to turn around. The traffic jams at the ladders continued on the way down, and the snow bridges were in pretty bad shape on our way down.
|The point that we decided to turn around|
|On our way down|
|We had just made it to the bottom of this glacier.|
|My helmet and hat didn't want to work together.|
|Glissading down the snowfield|
|That is a lot of crevasses! Taken from the scree of the Disappointment Cleaver|
|Long hike back.|
|It was so warm I could take my glove off and not be cold. Weird.|
|All done. 19 hours later.|