Archive for Climbing

After dinner, there’s not much else to do in Camp Muir. We have a short meeting with the guides about tomorrow’s plans, and the idea is floated that if conditions are perfect and the entire group agrees, maybe we will be summiting mount Rainer tomorrow! The original climb plan for our three day expedition was to get to Camp Muir on day one (check). Day Two would be spend with mountaineering school in the morning, followed by climbing to high camp at 11,000 feet for a day of acclimatization. We would go to bed super early, get up at midnight, climb to the top of the mountain, then climb all the way back to the parking lot.

That sounds like a long day. I like the new plan much better.

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Thursday at 9AM. It’s go time. Chris and I are in a van with six strangers making nervous small talk. Since leaving Seattle, Mount Rainier has dominated our view, and the longer we drive, the bigger the mountain gets.

As we were on final approach to Seattle the day before, I was pretty excited to get a glimpse of Mt. Rainier from the plane. I snapped a quick photo as we flew by.

“Look! Mt. Rainier!” I said with a measure of relief to my seatmate. “Doesn’t look too bad!” He ignored me completely.

“Actually, it looks a bit, I dunno… small.” I blathered on as he continued to ignore me, “I’m climbing that tomorrow. I got this.”

A few minutes later, my smirking seatmate tapped me on the shoulder.

“Uhh, hate to say it, but you were looking at Mount Adams earlier. That’s Mount Rainier right there, son.”

“Oh. Shit.”

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Wheeeeew!”

I exhale forcefully and, as I was taught, imagine I’m trying to blow out a candle three feet away. At thirteen thousand feet above sea level, the air is thinner, and something as simple as breathing requires concentration. Mechanically one foot moves in front of the other. I’ve lost all focus except getting that next lungful of air in, forcing that next foot to move upward a little bit more, blowing that next candle out. I’ve forgotten why I am here, way up on the side of this mountain, staring at a route that keeps getting impossibly longer; impossibly steeper; impossibly higher. Nothing makes sense anymore. The lazier part of my brain is pleading with me to stop.

“Wheeeeew!”

The other part of my brain screams, “This is stupid!”

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Aug
26

Climbing Grand Teton

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It’s 3 AM, and the rain that had been hammering the thin roof of the tent most of the night seems to have mostly stopped, at least for now. Mostly exposed at High Camp, a little over 11,000 feet on a mountain in a bad storm, there isn’t much opportunity for sleep, especially when the lightning is so close that the flash and boom happen at exactly the same time. Earlier, I’d asked the guide what we should do in the event of lightning. The answer was short and sweet: “Try to sleep through it, because there ain’t anything else you can do.”

Easier said than done. I’ve been awake most of the night. So has Cole. Everyone in camp isĀ  probably awake. If the thunder didn’t do the trick, if the nervous anticipation of a summit push didn’t do the trick, I’m pretty certain the echoing crashes of rocks falling in a frightening landslide did. I start to question the wisdom of my decision to try this mountain thing again…

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