I lead a charmed life. For my birthday I went to the Masters...the weekend at the Masters! And for a bit of 40th birthday adventure, I was able to spend some time in Seattle and climb Mt. Rainier! My wife is wonderful...what can I say?!
Hello there, this is Bryce, Anna's lucky husband, and I have the honor of being Anna's first guest blogger! I just returned from an incredible trip and I'm afraid I may be a bit long winded. You'll just have to bear with me...this is for posterity!
I was blessed to be on this trip with Jack, a great friend and my roommate our freshman year at Young Harris College. Jack turned 40 just after me in April and somehow we decided that climbing Mt. Rainier would be a great way to celebrate! Also, he has some wonderful family in Seattle and so we were able to see and do some great things even before heading out to Mt. Rainier.
The Public Market
The very first Starbucks
Jack's cousin took us downhill mountain biking!
Our short time in Seattle was great! One of Jack's cousins and his family hosted us on both the front and back ends of our trip to Rainier and they were wonderful hosts! Comfortable beds, wonderful meals, great conversation and two charming little boys with gobs of energy!
The weather during during these first two days had been typical for Seattle. Some sun, often cloudy, and frequent rain showers. We still hadn't seen the Mountain. On our third day, we made the drive to Mt. Rainier National Park!
Entrance to the Park
We stayed two nights at the Paradise Inn, a unique and wonderful National Park inn situated at the foot of the Mountain at 5,400 ft. The Inn was fantastic and the dinning room served some great meals. I had bison meatloaf one evening and we did some fueling for the climb with breakfast buffets both mornings! By the time we arrived at Paradise, the weather had turned to a steady rain. And if it's raining at Paradise, it's likely snowing hard higher up on the Mountain. Things were getting interesting.
We explored a bit around the Inn and the Climber Information Center until it was time to head back down to Ashford to meet up at IMG, our guide group for the climb. We needed to rent some gear, go through a gear check, meet our guides and climbing partners and do some orientation and basic mountaineering training.
The next morning, it was time to begin our climb! We woke to heavy, wet snow at Paradise. It was beautiful to watch while we ate breakfast but meant it was going to be an interesting day. By the time we were all together and ready to start out, the snow was mixing with rain and we were prepared to get a little wet. Still, it was incredibly exciting and we were raring to go!
For the first couple of hours, the weather was reasonable. Rain had turned to snow and the climbing was good. As we moved up the Mountain, however, the wind began, the snow underfoot became deeper, and the climbing got a lot more challenging! This was some serious mountaineering now! Or at least that's what it felt like to me! It was snowing sideways and our left sides were covered in ice. Visibility was next to nothing; I had no idea where we were, where we were going, or how the guides had any idea either! The snow was more than knee-deep and we were climbing rather steeply, like going up stairs. As our lead guide put it, it was "hoods up, heads down" type climbing. We were informed at one break that we had lost a climber; one of the only two women in our group of 12 had to turn back.
At our last break, the snow had eased a bit...but not the wind. Camp Muir was in sight and seemed so close. However, it took us another 45 minutes to get there! By the time we made it to Camp Muir we had been climbing for seven hours! 4,600 feet up and 4.5 miles from Paradise. We were exhausted! We headed straight into our shelter (the guide groups have use of a plywood shelter with platforms for sleeping), stripped off our packs, started rehydrating and some even grabbed a quick nap! When it was time for dinner, the weather had cleared up quite a bit.
Our shelter for the night and the outhouse (quite an experience!)
Looking east (the very right side was our last stretch of the climb)
Dinner was prepared by the guides and served in the IMG WxPort (weather-port), a tent used by IMG all season. The meal was hot, very good and incredibly welcome! We were in good spirits, rather proud of making it through the day, and the guides gave us a lot of props for pushing on in those conditions. We were told that they almost turned us all around a couple of times and that a lot of groups would not have made it up. That was great to hear! We went to bed early, though I did't get much sleep with seven other climbers in a one-room shack!