Friday, June 14, 2013

Mt. Rainier (part 2)

Our second day of the climb started with another great meal in the WxPort - pancakes, bacon and coffee. The night had been pretty chilly and a hot breakfast really hit the spot! The weather was good but additional precipitation was in the forecast. Also, our lead guide, Chris, informed us that conditions higher up on the mountain were dicey at best. The upper mountain had received a number of storms in the week or so before we started up to Muir and there was a lot of unstable snow. In fact, no one had been higher than 12,700 ft in the past 10 days. However, Chris was sending two of our guides across the Cowlitz glacier to investigate snow conditions above the Cathedral Gap and on towards our high camp in the Ingraham Flats. 

IMG WxPort (partly buried in the recent snow)

Meanwhile, we were scheduled to do a good bit of mountaineering training while still at Camp Muir anyway, so no deviation from that plan was necessary. After breakfast we grabbed our ice axes and headed to the hillside behind the WxPort. We practiced the rest-step climbing technique we had used most of the day before and also learned some other methods of efficiently and safely moving in snow at rather steep angles, both going up and coming down. We also learned how to stop a downhill slide, in every possible attitude, with the use of an ice ax (ice ax arrest).

Executing a head-first, back-side ice ax arrest

We ate our lunch back in the WxPort, had some hot drinks, reviewed some knot-tying and waited for the return of the guides surveying snow conditions up-route. They returned and we got the bad news that avalanche conditions were still too dangerous to permit us to move to high camp that afternoon for a summit attempt the next morning. The guides were very clear on the conditions and answered a lot of questions from the group. The fact was no one, with any guide group or on their own, were climbing on our route in these conditions. We were bummed but our first priority on this adventure was coming back from it!

We also learned that we would need to set up tents in which to spend the night as another group had dibs on the shelter we had used the night before. At least we'd get that part of the experience of being at high camp, just down a bit lower! So, we dug out, flattened and roughly leveled a section of snow at Camp Muir and set up our accommodations for the night.

The weather had been getting poorer throughout the day and the snow had started up again. However, after the tents were up and gear moved in, a couple of guides agreed to take us up to the summit...of Muir Peak! We grabbed our ice axes, donned helmets, and make the short climb. At least we got to the top of something!

Muir Peak and part of Camp Muir (taken the next day)

Jack and me on Muir Peak

Over dinner, our guides said that the forecast was calling for perfect weather the next day and, if that was the case in the morning, we would take a trek across the Cowlitz glacier and up to Cathedral Gap. We planned for an early start and got to bed. (Again, I slept perfectly horrible! Must have been the altitude...not my age!)

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh. No comments, eh? These photos are like being there! Made me shiver, even. It's obvious there aren't any male readers out there. What a shame. One great post, and so many more interesting details!


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