Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mount Rainier Summit Attempt of 3 June 2010 - A Triumph Over Adversity

Day 1: On Tuesday, 6/1/2010, as a member of our IMG guided eight-man team, I began climbing Mount Rainier with summit fever, an emotion which would soon be overcome by one of more significance; a desire to survive the summit attempt.

Our climb began at Paradise, a small village in Mount Rainier National Park, and it proceeded up toward the base camp, Camp Muir. While climbing the steep, snow-laden mountain slope toward Camp Muir we could see a rapidly approaching storm. As the storm struck we found ourselves climbing in a whiteout, visibility was very low, the snowfall becoming heavier, and winds significantly increasing.

Upon reaching Camp Muir we entered a “rustic”, rodent infested shelter (called the “Gombu”) which would become our home for the next two days. Just as we began unloading gear from our backpacks the storm intensified with a surprising ferocity. As we were settling down and thinking only of resting, curiosity struck – how ferocious had the storm become? We opened the shelter’s door to peer outside and were greeted with a stinging, howling blast of wind, snow, and ice pellets which roared through our wooden shack. We slammed the door shut.

Although the outhouse was a mere 20 feet beyond the shelter’s door, no one considered venturing outside for ANY reason; traveling those 20 feet seemed far too risky.

Actually, the shack’s dilapidated door, the outhouse, and the “wind tunnel” separating the two became major points of interest (for obvious reasons) as we hunkered-down with thoughts only of surviving the storm. Reaching the summit no longer seemed as enticing as it once had been; getting to the cook tent was the immediate challenge.

During Day 2 of our odyssey we remained within the shelter while attempting to stay dry and safe. Only basic needs would lead us outside and even then for only brief periods of time. For safety sake, anyone venturing outside ensured others knew of their destination and reason for leaving. As the day progressed with no relief from the storm we became aware of the extreme avalanche danger developing along our proposed route to the summit. Indeed on this morning another climbing team had aborted their summit attempt, traversed back toward our shelter and, before reaching it were caught in a slab avalanche which swept them 60 feet downhill. No one was injured and all made it back to our shelter; they were shaken and fatigued but also in good spirits.

Day 2 became one of training for crevasse rescues. Our guides set up ropes and slings within the shelter, devising various rigging systems designed for the rescue of climbers fallen into glacier crevasses. As we practiced assembling these systems I noticed the other team, those recovering from the avalanche had become very quiet. My guess is that a few were sleeping soundly and others were keenly observing us.

Now it was Day 3 and it was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. We were originally scheduled to summit in the early hours of this day. We were to climb from Camp Muir across the Cowlitz Glacier to Cathedral Gap. From there we would proceed to Ingraham Flatts and take the Ingraham Direct route to the summit. Even though the day was a beautiful one and the storm had temporarily passed, avalanche conditions continued to present dangerous risks. We aborted our summit attempt in favor of continuing on a traverse across the Cowlitz Glacier to Cathedral Gap. At Cathedral Gap we were rewarded with spectacular views of surrounding peaks, snow-capped mountain ranges, volcanoes, and blue skies.

This was a triumph over adversity. I now savor the triumph as well as the adversity and hope my future climbs will be as rewarding. Of course, good weather would be nice.

Mt Adams (view from Camp Muir)

AAI Weatherport Cook Tent

Preparing to rope-up for Cowlitz Glacier Traverse

Traversing the steep Cowlitz Glacier

Climbing team at Cathedral Gap

Little Tahoma

Mount Adams (View from Cathedral Gap)

Paul at Cathedral Gap

Paul at Cathedral Gap

The Climbing Team

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Climbing Mt Rainier to Camp Muir Base Camp

Today we extended our training for our upcoming Mt Rainier summit attempt by hiking up to Camp Muir (3050 m/ 10,000 ft in elevation) carrying full  overnight backpacks.

Most often, a climb to the top of Mt Rainier requires two or three days.

Day 1:  Hikers climb to Camp Muir, pitch tents, and quickly go to sleep.

Day 2: Hikers wake up at 0100 in the morning and begin climbing to the mountain's summit while roped to other members of the climbing team. training hike today was like Day 1 of an actual summit attempt.  I can describe today's hike very succinctly. 

It was a beautiful sunny day.
It was a grueling, strenuous climb to Camp Muir.
It was a mind-numbing slog back down the mountain through deep, soft snow.
The scenery was gorgeous - absolutely spectacular. 

I wish photographs could capture the sights and silences I experienced on the mountain, they can't.  Still, please enjoy my photo slideshow below.  

The view I have from here is beyond description.  Behind me is the Muir snow field; mid-picture is the Tatoosh mountain range; and in the distant background, below the coal blue sky is Mount Adams - another volcano (it's tiny image is on the right). 

Little Tahoma Peak juts up behind me as I stand at Camp Muir.  Little Tahoma is the third highest peak in Washington state - Mt Rainier is the highest.

This is the massive rock that is directly behind me in the above picture. When I climb Mt Rainier, I will cross the glacier (in foreground) toward the right side of that rock, hike around and behind the rock, then climb to the left up to the summit (can't see summit from here - it is much to high).

As the sun started it's descent, so did we.  The sun cast shadows over this glacier's sculptured contours; we gazed, awe struck, wondering whether we should stay and watch or continue on down the mountain.

We continued our descent.  Along the way, as the sun continued to lower in the sky, the shadows shifted as did the landscape and I captured the images below as well.

By looking closely you may see a striated pattern of lines in the snow (mid-screen).

The well lit glacier at the top of this photo, ramping from right to left, had a shimmering, soft, mirror-like texture like none I have ever before seen.

A view of Mount St Helens (background) and the Tatoosh Mountain Range (foreground).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mount Walker 5/8/2010

Today a climbing friend and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Walker - this was a "training" hike which provided a great view of the Puget Sound when we reached the mountain top. 

Why a training hike?  Well, we donned much larger and heavier backpacks (mine had lead weights inside)  as we hiked up the relatively steep slopes of Mt Walker to prepare for our Mount Rainier summit attempt at the end of this month. 

Here are two nice pictures I shot from the top of Mt Walker.  

Puget Sound
Olympic Mountain Range Interior

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Climbing to Mailbox Peak - 01 May 2010

Across the ice
a cold wind blows.
Quiet frozen green.

This is the essence of my Mailbox Peak summit experience.

I can only add that the trail was inconceivably muddy, a very deep and dark red-brown sludge, rising 4000 feet in elevation gained over 2.5 miles.

Wind - steepness - mud.

Me at the summit

Almost total whiteout enveloped us soon after reaching the summit

Frozen tree near summit

Warning sign for steep trail

The trailhead mud

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Climbing Blue Mountain 4/25/2010

While climbing Blue Mountain with 5 others, I shot these photographs and also a short video on 25 April 2010.  Blue Mountain is in the Olympic National Park.

The hike was exhilarating!

Click on this picture!
This is our approach to Blue Mountain.  After emerging from the high mountain forest, we hiked up through swirling, rising clouds of mist crossing this high apline snow field.  In this picture, Blue Mountain can be seen in the background shrouded in mist.

These are fellow hikers climbing to the top of Blue Mountain's summit to join me. In the background looms Greywolf Ridge, another of many mountainscapes in the Olympic National Forest.


 Here I am (white spot in center of pic), posing for the camera atop a massive rock  near Blue Mountain's Summit.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Staircase Hike in Olympic National Park

Today we finally had a nice sunny (almost warm) day so I went hiking with some friends.

Hiking along the "Staircase" trail, I followed the Skokomish river, crossing it several times as the river twisted and turned its way up through the mountains and through the old-growth forest within.

Many waterfalls fed into the river and I had a nice view of Mount Lincoln.

Here are some pics and one video:

Mount Washington.  I could only see the summit as I looked way up from the river, through the tree tops, to  the mountain.  The river runs in and out around the bottom of such mountains.

Here is the Skokomish River, or at least one small portion of the river. 
Many other parts of the river were running fast and had waterfalls.

This is a fast running tributary that we crossed on a foot log
 (single log used as a bridge) spanning this gorge high above the water.

One of my favorite waterfalls of the hike.

One BIG cedar tree! There were also many others
in this ancient, old growth forest  Oh.. and just to
provide prospective, that's me paying my respects to tree.

Okay, I had to have my picture taken again,
this time in front of a waterfall :-).

This is the nice picture of that waterfall.

Waterfalls Video  - I spliced together videos I shot of all of the waterfalls
in the pictures above. It's a pretty short video, but you can hear the
waterfalls and experience the fast moving, powerful water.

I am sure to discover a Japanese poem that complements this hiking experience and, when I do, I will blog it to http:\\

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mount Washington 2/20/2010

Climbed Mount Washington today - it was cold, sunny, and a nice day to be outdoors.  Mt Washington is in the Cascade Mountain Range near Seattle. 

The trail was covered with hard, thick ice - this gave me a chance to try out my new Micro-Spikes; these are metal spikes which are strapped to the soles of my boots.

I shot the pictures below from the top of the mountain where the best views could be had.

There was a great view of the distinctive "Mc Clellan Butte" and another view of the distant, glacier covered "Glacier Peak".

Please Click on Picture Below:

Paul on top of Mt Washington - Cascade Range in Background

Mc Clellan Butte - View from Mt Washington

Near summit of Mt Washington - Cascade Range in Background

Glacier Peak (White Peak in Background)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Upper Dungeness River

Yesterday I hiked into the Olympic National Forest , climbing several thousand feet above this river. The river was flowing wildly, waterfalls were seemingly everywhere; this due to the recent heavy rains.

We hiked into a snow-bound area where post-holing discouraged us from traveling further into the interior. I was able to see into the Olympic range interior at the covered mountains within.

Here are a few pictures and a video I shot befor my camera's batteries went dead.

Please Click on Picture