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Thursday, August 16, 2012


Here is a detailed account of our journey to the summit of Rainier...enjoy!!

Saturday August 11th - 5:15AM
We met for carpooling at the usual place, the park & ride on 65th near Greenlake.  The plan was to leave early enough to get to the White River ranger station right when they opened (7:30am) to register our climbing permits.  

After registration and a final "pit stop" we parked at the White River campground and began to load up our gear for the 5000ft hike up to Camp Sherman.  One quick group pic and then we set out on the Glacier Basin Trail,  shortly before 9am. 

No more than 20 minutes into the hike, we 
had our first glimpse of the goal.  The sight of it must have been inspiring because we were on a tear, the pace of the entire group was pretty brisk and we were making great time.  This was despite a few of us not sleeping much the night before due to nervousness, anxiety, and maybe some last minute packers.  Though I will say that with every trip, the time it took to pack my bag improved dramatically, reducing pack volume...not so much.

A little more than an hour in we reached the end of the maintained trail and shade of the trees, we took a short break to filter water and refuel.  The easy part of the hike was now over and our climb was about to begin for the day. We hiked up few hundred feet more before running into the Inter Glacier where we stopped to change footwear and prepare for the snow.

It was a long steady climb up the slope and a good warm-up for what was going to come in the following days.  We made good progress up it and before you knew it we were at 9000 feet and only a short traverse away from our base camp.  Overall we were making great time.  For the last stretch of the climb we needed to rope up as the "crevasses" were now in play for the rest of the trip.  After a quick over and around a couple crevasses we reached Camp Shurman (9500 feet), our home for the next 48 hours.  

We quickly set up camp and began melting/filtering/boiling water and settling in to our new digs on the mountain.  It was a relaxing and beautiful afternoon to be up there, the weather was perfect and the views spectacular.  Most of us called it a night pretty early and were in bed before sunset to tired to stay up and watch the Perseid meteor shower in its prime. 

Sunday August 12th
We had the luxury of sleeping in this morning to rest up for the night ahead.  I woke up wearing virtually everything I brought on the trip, throughout the night I had to keep adding more and more layers, sleeping on the snow turned out to be colder than expected and my lightweight 50 degree bag didn't cut it.  After boiling more water for a warm breakfast we lounged around camp for a bit before roping up for the crevasse rescue practice on the glaciers.   First brave volunteer of the day was Will, he stayed down there for quite some time while we tried to remember how to set up the Z-pulley rescue system, it's a little more difficult in the snow than on grass.  Eventually we got it figured out and pulled him to safety, asking ourselves why did we throw down the biggest guy on the trip.  So for practice round two we put down the smallest of the climbing party, Sarah, much easier to pull up.
How many MBA's does it take to set up a Z-Pulley system?

The afternoon was the highlight of the day with a nice friendly game of extreme alpine bocce ball.  We divided into teams creatively named Yellow, Blue, Green and Red.  The game was to 7 and dinner was to follow.  Team Yellow (Amy and Kalen), got off to a fast and furious start winning three points in a row before anyone else was on the board.  The rookie bocce ball playing duo never looked back and dominated the competition taking the gold medal with a decisive four point margin of victory and bruising Scott Heinz' ego in the process.
Team Yellow - 2012 Rainier Bocce Ball Champions

Following bocce we once again began boiling more water for dinner and to replenish our reservoirs for the upcoming night climb to the summit.  Shortly following dinner most of us headed back to our tents to organize our packs and get as much rest as possible.  Departure time was midnight so a couple hours sleep was all you could expect at best.

Monday August 12th
Departure hour was here, we woke up in the dark to a clear, star-filled sky complete with a decent meteor shower.  With our headlamps, packs and harnesses on, we rope up into three different teams got on our way.  We departed exactly on time, I think that was a first for the group.  I was ready to get moving to get warm again.  
Climbing in the dark was very surreal, with the city lights of Seattle and the suburbs to one side of the sky and streaks of meteors passing through on the other side.  The first part of the climb was slow going, being later in the season there were more crevasses to traverse around and over, the first hour we didn't gain much vertical but navigated some challenging terrain.  After that things got a bit steeper but for the most part we were making pretty good time as a group.  The next couple hours in the dark we gained a couple thousand feet and passed over and around a few more crevasses, a few of the crossing were a bit nerve-wracking, I was okay walking next to them but always nervous walking across.  With the sun beginning to rise shortly after 5am, we headed into the last part of our climb. One rope team led by Scott took a different easier route to the top (just so he could get there first) and the other two rope teams led by Erik and Anders took on the more challenging route and slower route to the top. 

I was on the steep challenging route and literally crawling up the mountain at this point cause it was too steep to stand and not fall backwards, I'm glad we did this section as it was getting light out.  This was the last "test" of the climb, the remaining couple hundred feet to the summit were well tracked and bit more gradual of an incline. 

We pushed along at a steady but not so vigorous pace and made our way to the rim of the crater. There we de-roped, removed our crampons and took a short walk up to reach the true summit for photo time. 

Our approach was on the northeast side of the crater and the true summit is located on the northwest side. We reached the summit around 6:30am.  We snapped a bunch of individual photos an then when it was time for the group shot I heard the news that we forgot the Foster MBA banner at base camp, but we did have a can of Foster beer as a back-up.  

After a short rest, we geared up and headed back down to retrace the 5000 feet we just got done climbing.  The climb down seemed to get easier the further down we went.  The warmer temps and softer snow were welcomed by me and my feet.  It was interesting to see what exactly we climbed over earlier in the dark.  
We reached base camp around 11:30am, it was so nice to unload the pack take off the shoes and lie down for an awesome nap.  A couple hours later, we packed up camp and headed off for another 5000 foot decent back down to the car.  We had to rope-up one last time, before we got rewarded with a 2000 foot glissade down the Inter Glacier, that made quick work of the last section of snow.  Next order of business was changing out of all our snow gear and back into summer hiking clothes to finish the last couple miles of the "maintained" trail.  

For some reason this section seemed to go on and on and on, I didn't recall the hike in being so long, but that seems to always be the case of return trips on hikes.  We reached the cars around 5pm and packed up to hit the road.  

We made one final stop in Enumclaw for the traditional post-climb meal.  And what else would you pick in Enumclaw than a mexican restaurant named after a city.  Mazatlan was everything you could imagine a mexican restaurant in Enumclaw would be and then some.  I recommend you never go there unless you like bad food, decor and service.  Scott, since you organized the climb you will get a pass on this one.  After a what seemed like an eternity we finally settled our tab headed back to Seattle.  We made it back to the park and ride around 10pm unpacked the cars and headed home for the best night of sleep ever.  My shower and bed never felt so good!!  

All in all it was a great weekend and a huge success.  The training and work we put in over the summer definitely paid off, everybody go up to the summit and back down safely.  This was an amazing experience and something I will remember for the rest of my life.  It was a great way to end my Foster MBA experience, definitely something unique that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do anywhere else.  Congrats to everyone on the climb! 

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