I spent this last weekend attempting to summit Mount Rainier and let me just say that this year was definitely the most difficult trip yet. Crossfit definitely doesn’t prepare you for something like this, unless you do a WOD that looks something like this: 8 hours of 30 inch box jumps with a 45 pound weight vest while wearing boots and having the sun destroy your skin, 3-2-1 GO!
The hike to base camp is always the hardest, and the weather was terrible, you couldn’t see more than 50 feet in any direction and everything was white. The only thing you can do is walk UP.
The only nice about the fog is that you aren’t able to see how much farther you have to base camp. On previous trips I usually keep my head down and walk 50 paces then take a breath and see how much further I have to go, but I wasn’t able to do that this time.
Along with the blanket of fog, it was also snowing pretty consistently from the west, which added to the joy of the first days climb. By the time I arrived to base camp my beard was covered in ice and frozen to my face. I looked a little something like this:
I was met at base camp by my dad (who, by the way is a total freaking badass when it comes to anything) who went up a day earlier to set up the tent and carve a wall into the ice to protect us from the wind chill–which, if I remember correctly, brought the temperature to about -25 degrees Fahrenheit during the night.
The remainder of the day is spent in a tiny tent with my older brother and my dad while reading a book, eating peanut m&ms, or just generally feeling crappy and exhausted. The sun doesn’t set until really late at base camp, but it passes over the rocks so it is blocked from view at about 7. It gets cold really quickly and bed time occurs between 6 and 7pm. “Sleeping” on the mountain is more of a dream than an actual reality. Between the noise of other climbing teams waking up at 11:30pm to start the ascend to the top, the fact that you are sleeping on snow, and the process of acclimation, you are lucky to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep.
Unfortunately the next morning, I woke up to realize that i didn’t put on enough sunscreen the day before and my face was covered with blisters that were oozing clear liquid and even the insides of my nostrils were burned. It didn’t keep me from working on my tan though!
On the hike to the top, we realized that a 22 year old was walking across the ice bridge across the crevasse and the bridge collapsed, plunging him 30 feet down and breaking his ankle. Luckily, he called upon Odin and was able to climb out using his ice-axe and was picked up by a helicopter about 5 hours later. This accident prevented all further climbs to the top until a new route was found. During this time my dad told me about an accident that occurred 2 weeks earlier where a man was suffering from hypothermia on the way down, and his friends left him in a sleeping bag on top of a rock face while they went to get help. When the rescue team returned, all they found was his sleeping bag and his clothes. They also found claw marks in the snow going off the edge of a 2000 foot drop, his body still hasn’t been found. Apparently when you suffer from hypothermia all the blood is taken away from your limbs to protect your organs, but towards the end all the blood is instantly released back in your limbs, which makes the victim feel as though they are on fire from the inside.
This Avalanche occurred right next to the camp on Saturday.
After returning to base camp we debated whether or not we wanted to stay another night. We decided that it would be too dangerous if there wasn’t a new route open,and our heads weren’t really in it anymore. Plus there was a whirlwind storm on the top of the mountain. We packed up the whole campsite in about 45 minutes and got down to the car in about 2 1/2 hours–crazy considering it takes at least 7 hours to hike up!
Here are a few photos taken on the way down: