Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mt. Rainier...the Return Trip (part 3!)

Columbia Crest, 14,410 ft!

Okay, last post...I promise! 

That final push up to the rim of crater was grueling and those 20 minutes felt like an hour! Doing all my training for this adventure at sea level did not prepare me well for the thin air at 14,000+ feet and I was seriously sucking wind when we made it to the top of the rim and descended into the crater. Even gasping for air it was a wonderful feeling of success! Jack and I dropped our packs and exchanged some hearty congratulations! However, while making it into the crater is considered a successful summit, we could see across the crater to the true summit, Columbia Crest. 

It was then that Peter gave us the good news and the bad. The long traverse we took earlier in the morning to avoid that newly-opened cravasse put us way behind schedule. However, our little group was still about 30 minutes ahead of the other rope teams. So, he said that if hauled it across the crater and up the other side we would be able to make the true summit! The other guys, unfortunately, would not have that opportunity. Needless to say, we promptly started out for the other side of the crater and, upon making it up to Columbia Crest at 14,410 feet, Jack and I really could celebrate our success! Of course, we only had time for a few pictures and then we had to haul it back down and to the other side.      

Rainier crater as seen from Columbia Crest


Looking down into and around the crater from the summit was pretty interesting. As you can see, there was no snow on this side of the crater rim and, in fact, it was actually steaming! This old volcano is not exactly inactive (the USGS says it is merely at rest between eruptions). Upon making it back the the other rim of the crater, we met up with the rest of our group, roped up, and started the looooong trek down the mountain.


Looking down on Little Tahoma
All I can really say about the trip down is that it was long, really long...and tedious...and so terribly hard on my knees that I think I've selectively forgotten most of the half a day it took to get back to Paradise. I was actually a lot more concerned about falling on the trip down than I ever was on the way up! We did get a few really cool views on the way down, like this one looking at High Camp from just below the Cleaver. The size of those cravasses was absolutely stunning...and also rather shocking to see so near to camp!

High camp at Ingraham Flats...and some monster cravasses!
A great view here as well, looking across the Cowlitz glacier to Camp Muir and Mt. Adams looming in the distance, taken from just below the Cathedral Rocks.

Camp Muir from across the Cowlitz glacier
Aside: this is an image I'm pretty glad I didn't find until after I got back home (looks rather daunting to me). It shows the Disappointment Cleaver route to the summit from Camp Muir from a 2002. The routes are bit different every year but you get the general idea. Our route this year was quite a bit different than this from above the Cleaver but otherwise very similar.



We took a break for a while at Camp Muir; unroped, removed crampons, stowed ice axes and applied more sunscreen. It was very sunny and getting rather warm as we descended down Rainier. Stepping onto the Muir Snowfield in the mid-day sunshine was quite fine, but after about twenty minutes the snow had softened so much that every step became a slide, and after a while we were boot-skiing down the snow! That was a bit rough on the knees as well and we soon began taking advantage of every opportunity to glissade that we could find. Somehow, I didn't end up with a picture of even one of the many chutes that we rode, sometimes for 100+ feet. It was pretty fun, even with the slush that ended up everywhere.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the visitor center at Paradise and our trip was complete! We drove down to IGM HQ in Ashford, returned rental gear, claimed our certificates and, most importantly, signed the Summit Board that we had only gotten to look at last year! It was an amazing trip and an incredible accomplishment (at least for me)! I wonder what mountain Jack and I will set out to climb for our 50th birthdays!

2 comments:

  1. What can one say after all that ? Glad you made it. So thankful you are safely down. Those crevasses are quite terrifying! Pretty shot with Little Tahoma. The crater one very interesting. The summit must have given quite a high for you to have a thought of another climb.

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  2. Wow!!! Wow!!! Wow!!! Unbelievable views!!! Unbelievable experience!!!

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