Just back after a pretty tough couple of days. We managed to summit Rainier via the Emmons Glacier but just barely.
My friend Paul Nanawa and I hiked in through White River on Thursday morning. We had a fairly casual walk up through an incredible stand of firs and pine eventually making our way onto the inter glacier. As a precaution, we roped up and continued to ascend. We had gotten a slightly later start than we had hoped and the snow in the late afternoon sun became soft. Post holing our way up the incline, we struggled under our loads finally making it to Camp Sherman at 10,000 feet in the early evening.
We quickly made camp made dinner and went to sleep – but only for a few hours. By 1:30 am we were up, cooking breakfast and prepping gear for our summit bid. Emmons Glacier is by no means the hardest route up Rainier none the less, it has its own unique set of challenges. Weather, crevasses and over 4,000 feet of climbing pose formidable obstacles.
By three, we were out of the tent and roping up. Neither Paul or I had been up before so our only information on the route was from books and questions to some of the other groups who had made attempts the day before (they had turned back at 12,000′ feet due to white out conditions). We were hoping to follow someone else’s tracks. But by quarter after three none of the other groups seemed motivated so we started up.
After a few hours of steady climbing, the wind picked up and sky became overcast. Clawing our way up and over one crevasse, we were surprised and how quickly visibility dropped. We continued on, placing wands every so often to help direct us on the way back down.
The summit, much like getting to the poles, was anticlimax. It was cold, windy and because of the wind and blowing snow – a complete whiteout – so much for a magnificent view. Still, we felt good for making it but didn’t linger as it was very cold and we still had to climb over 4,000 feet down.
Our descent was anything but relaxing. Now a total whiteout, we inched our our way down straining to find one wand after another. They seemed to be spaced just far enough for us to think we had veered off route.
Finally, after nine hours we arrived safely back at Camp Sherman and collapsed, exhausted, in our tent.
The Save the Poles expedition is sponsored by Bing with major support from Terramar, Goal0, Atlas and Sierra Designs.
Remember, it’s cool to be cold. Save the Poles. Save the planet.
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