What a way to celebrate your 60th birthday! This is a story about how my brother-in-law celebrated his, here in his own words.
Hello Friends and Family,
It’s been a few days since my return from Mt. Rainier and my body, spirit, and mind have all aligned enough to recount the adventure. I want to start by saying that all my toes, fingers, and others parts are still attached to me and that at no time was there ever a possibility of frostbite or hypothermia.
Second, I want to assure all that while my journey didn’t culminate at the summit of Mt Rainier, I feel no less successful having learned a great deal about myself and begun to understand deeper the overwhelming beauty of a mountain so massive as Rainier – all in all an adventure worth living and a challenge worthy of returning to. I’ll provide a quick summary of the trip and I hope to have more time with all of you to go into more detail.
Day One: A five hour hike up the Muir snowfield to camp Muir, we started in heavy fog and for the next 4 hours all I saw was the back of the person in front of me and the snow crunching under my steps.
At about hour 4 with 4,000 ft. of elevation behind us, the fog began to lift and I got the first image of how large and high Mt. Rainier is. We arrived at Muir, picked out our bunks, and I was able to take a few pictures of the tops of Mt. Adams, Hood, and St. Helen’s along with the blanket of clouds that covered Western WA.
Day Two: Easy day with a lot of rest and practicing mountain skills. Mid-day we left for high camp traveling always up, but now roped in with crampons and crevasses all around. We camped under the clearest, most perfect blue sky looking out on Mt. Tahoma and toward the Yakima Valley. I ate like a king and slept well inside a warm bag. If you’ve never spent your 60th birthday in a high camp under clear blue skies I highly recommend it!
Day Two & Day Three: Midnight, 10 degrees with 20 knot winds and it’s time to wiggle out of my bag and into my climbing gear. Quick instant oatmeal packet and tea then onto the rope to begin the ascent. It’s completely dark, so the 10 yards of light from my head lamp becomes my world.
Off we go (off maybe sounds a bit hurried, it’s more like huff puff huff puff we go) up the mountain. Amazing to start your 60th year in this earth stepping up onto something as massive as that mountain and in the dark no less.
Cutting the story short at this point…Rainier is up, up, and then up some more…at some point in the dark, my body, my breathing, my body temperature, and my will all collided. At the top of Disappointment Cleaver (yes, it is called that) I decided this adventure was going to need to be put on hold for next time.
The trip back to high camp was probably the most beautiful part of the journey. The sun began to rise and cover the world with a warm pink glow, the Ingrahm Glacier took on a pale flat gray surface, the light from Yakima was still visible.
However, in the light of the morning, the downhill pitch was so frightening, it felt like every stretch led directly to a drop then the blue ice of a crevasse. When the trail moved away from crevasses it was covered by ice chunks and rockfall. I’m not sure that I would have gone up if I had seen this in the day light, but once I’m here there really isn’t an alternative but to keep going down.
Back to high camp, I picked up the rest of my gear and continued down the mountain retracing the steps to paradise. About a 1/4 mile from the parking lot I spotted Melany and her amazing, loving smile sitting there waiting for me to descend. The rest of the evening is still a bit of a blur with family and friends, dinner and celebration, and finally, SLEEP!
Thanks for all the good thoughts you sent my way. Knowing you all were routing for me helped me up the mountain. Finally though, “I really want to go back!”