Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt Rainier story

Sometime in March 2010, I started training to climb Mt Rainier, a 14000+ highly glaciated peak. I hiked on the trails covered with snow where I would never have gone before, I hiked in rainy weather, and with 30lb packs.
Finally after lots of canceled plans, we started for Mt Rainier on 4th September. Weather predictions were not good, it was going to be cloudy and windy. It was already late in the season, so we just had to make the attempt.

Day 1:
Starting from Paradise, it was already cold and cloudy, but they assured us that clouds go away once you get up to Camp Muir @10,000 ft. So we packed our bags and started. Beginning was nice and easy, it was very different landscape from our previous hike to camp Muir when everything was covered in snow. We encountered some snow just before pebble creek, but nothing difficult to navigate. We refueled at Pebble Creek and got ready to get on snow. It was softer by now, so we did not need crampons. Grade got a bit steeper and going little slow here. As promised, we got glimpses of the peak among clouds and it got clearer and clearer as we got closer to Muir. Finally Muir hut was in view, though we knew its a long way away.

At Camp Muir, we took a short break and got ready to travel on the glacier beyond to Ingraham flats. We put on all the gear, crampons, harness and roped up. The first part to Ingraham flat is flat :). Soon we got to a rocky section on Cathedral rock. This was harder to climb with crampons as there were loose rocks and steeper grade. After the rocky sections comes a bit more trickier part, steeper and icier section to get up to glacier. I was quite tired by now and was having some problems in the couple of steep icy parts. Finally, we reached Ingraham flat, a flat area where we could camp.

It was really cold by now, and my hands and everything was freezing. I was almost out of energy and had to get inside a tent to warm up a bit. I could not help much with tent setup. Once the tents were setup, I just wanted to get in my sleeping bag and sleep. So that is what I did, after some food.

Day 2:
Today was sort of rest day here. We were going to do some self-arrest etc. training and then start the climb at mid-night. But the day started late and with bad news. Weather was not getting any better and it was expected to be very high winds and low temperatures at night. It was looking like we were not going to start our climb. So around 10:30am, it was decided that 2 rope teams should attempt the summit. Some of us were going to get left behind, and being slowest member, I volunteered. So 3 of us got ready to prepare food and water of rest of the 8 who were making an attempt. We knew it was late, wind was strong and they would have to go really fast. Rest of us were going to do some training, in the hope that we can start next day. But I knew from beginning that it was not going to happen.

We spent most of the day melting water for drinking, and preparing food. We did some training, but it was just cold and windy. Finally one of the teams returned from mid-way, it was too windy to go further. They headed down to Camp Muir and we waited in tents for the second team. The finally arrived around 9:00 after a successful summit and we all went to sleep.

Day 3:
As expected, we woke up to a proper winter storm. Snow was flying everywhere and it was a whiteout. Inches of snow had fallen overnight and everything left outside was buried. It was clear that we were not going to make summit attempt and top priority was to packup and get everyone back to Muir safely. So that's what we did, geared up again, wearing everything we brought, roped up and started back. It was interesting going down with so much fresh snow. Fortunately route was still marked and we could stay on trail. I think fresh snow made it easier to get down, especially in the rocky part where snow made for a bit more traction space for crampons. Finally other side of Cathedral rock it was completely different story, clear blue skies, calm winds. We reached Camp Muir with no problems. On the way I got to see crevasses up close.

At Camp Muir, we regrouped. We had no water and everyone was just dehydrated. So we boiled some water, drank a little. It was also time to get out of snow gear, crampons, ropes and everything. Mood was good, and somewhat excited to finally go back. I was of course disappointed to not be able to make summit attempt. But there will be other mountains! Going down from Camp Muir was interesting. Snow was fresh with a ice underneath. So it was skidding and slipping. We tried to glissade many times, some successful and some just too much effort. We saw the famous Muir whiteout were it was impossible to see anything. We stuck together to not get lost. Finally Pebble Creek, were we filled water and drank our fill, finally. From there on it was easy going down to Paradise.