July 9,10 2001Table of Contents
It has been a long couple days.
(July 21, 2001 – I am totally not proofing this before I send it out)
July 9, 2001. Mt. Tahoma National Forest, outside Mt. Ranier National Park.
I set my alarm for 7:05. I woke up to it, and hit the snooze, and fell back asleep to half past. Not good, but I was still alright, the shuttle for the summit didn’t leave until 8:45. (I hadn’t packed or made my food or anything. But I felt like I still had time.) Of course Murphy was working overtime.
I went to the rental shop, to get my stuff, and they didn’t have my paperwork straight, so I had to get that taken care of "in the office", another building away. Of course my credit card was broken, victim of woman trying to make an imprint at the summit lodge earlier. Then the phone lines were screwed up, and on and on. I don’t get my stuff until about eight o’clock. I still have to go to the bathroom, and haven’t had breakfast myself. I am late, but still ok.
Murphy still working overtime. I am seriously late. One of the shuttles leaves at 8:30, and I go up to make sure that there is another one. There is, but most everyone else is on it, and has their boots, gaitors, and hiking gear all set. I have none of this.
None of my three meals is made, in a storm, I spread a little bit of jelly, and peanut butter on two slices of bread. Then throw out 4 other slices, and squirt mustard and pickles on two of them, and mash them together. Another bag has turkey, and the other has cheese. I will complete those sandwiches on the way up the shuttle ride
8:45 – "Sir, are you on the summit climb today with R.E.I.?", a bleach blonde surfer type asks.
"Yea", was my hastened response. "Sir, we have to leave now!" – "All Set." I say hoping I have everything, and closing the rear of my Subaru that has clothes, peanut butter, and garbage strewn everywhere. Surfer boy goes to put my pack in the back of a gear tow along, and I say, "Uhh, I was hoping to do some adjusting to the gear and stuff on the ride to the top, can I bring it with me?" "I guess so." Was his response, then, as we are walking towards the front of the bus, when a woman checking things off a list, asks him about it, he says "He has to rummage". "Sorry Guys, I was born late." I announce to the others as I board the shuttle. – I then proceed to put on socks, gaiters, finish my sandwiches, and realize that I forgot my shades.
I told the driver, who was playing a mix tape that had some deadish tunes, a little Marvin Gaye, and Johnny Cash’s "A boy named Sue". – For the rest of the day, and into Tuesday, I was saying to myself, and sometimes to others, "My name is Sue, How do you Do? – Now you gonna Die!" – I thought it was amusing, I don’t know if anyone else did. I told him about my shades, and he said "You can buy a pair at the shop, I think they run 40 or 50 dollars." I wasn’t too excited, to pay the money, but even disappointed not to be able to use mine on the mountain. I guess it’s to be expected that I would forget something since I was so late.
I bought the glasses, we did introductions, and Win Whittaker spoke for a bit. Win is Lou’s son, Lou is kind of famous in the climbing world, as is his brother Peter. I think one or the other of the were the first American to summit Everest, they both started R.M.I. about 3 years ago. Win didn’t impress me as an eloquent speaker, and because of this I didn’t associate the fact that he was Lou’s son.
They divided us into two groups 12 and 12. I was with Jason E. who was the other Senior Guide. Jason had just completed a summit of Mt. Everest with "Tuck", who was one of the other seasoned guides in our group of 24. The 12 that I was with were with the guides Mario, Justin, Mason, and Jason.
The list of equipment that we had to have included pick axes’, crampon’s, trekking poles, Mountaineering boots, a headlamp, two fleece / pile sweaters, a down/wool fleece parka, a pair of longjohns top and bottom, two pairs of wool / synthetic socks, three large garbage bags, two trail lunches, a breakfast, and a dinner, sunscreen, lip balm, a fleece hat, waterproof / windproof top and bottom, and glacier sunglasses to prevent snow blindness.
The plan was to hike approximately 5 and ½ hours to the Muir Camp, which was kind of at the base of the steep part of the mountain. After the group was organized, we started the climb, and were supposed to keep in single file the whole way, and it came out that a couple of our climbers were in less than spectacular shape. One of the guys had just been bitten by a dog, and the other had knee problems in the past which reared their ugly head. The father of one of the father / son teams had problems breathing very hard and made the determination that he wasn’t going to be able to make it. The son decided that since his dad wasn’t going to make it, neither was he.
Our group of 12 left about 10 minutes before Win’s group left, and were passed by them because of the slowness of our lame compadres’. I didn’t like this, and had the urge to press on harder and faster. Of course this was squelched by our guide. In the interest of the group, he took it slow and steady. A little later, I thought this was probably a good thing. Taking things slow preserved more of our energy for the next day’s climb.
Anyway, the slowness of a couple members of our group led to us getting a "pep" ha ha ha, talk from Jason. He said things like "This thing tends to have a lemming effect, and cause the rest of the group to think that they don’t have it in them to make the climb". Basically it was a huge downer. – I didn’t like him. The longest section of the climb was the last snowfield. It was several miles long, and difficult to hike in. It was kind of on it’s way to slush, as it was the top layer, and exposed to a lot of sun.
Muir was kind of at the base of the steep part of the mountain. Up to Muir we hiked with trekking poles, and regular Mountaineering boots. From then on, we would hike with Avalanche transmitters, roped – in climbing harnesses, helmets, and for the early part of the day, head lamps. Muir would be were we bunked for a couple hours, and got prepared for Monday nights / Tuesday Mornings hike.
Anyway, we took a couple breaks on the way up to Muir, but around 4:30 or so we finally made it. In one of several of the guides private discussions, they determined that the guy with the dogbite, and the guy with knee problems wouldn’t be allowed to continue to the top. So, they got to hang out at camp Muir when the rest of us climbed it. That must have been a serious bummer for them. Especially since, if you don’t make it to the top, there is no refund.
At Muir we had to get dry and warm, prepare for bed, eat, drink, and go to sleep. I did these as swiftly as I could. I felt a little sore, and was a little concerned that I might hurt myself on some of the rocks, or slip and twist an ankle on the steeper parts of the climb. I felt this way because of the impression that I got from some of the other people when they described the climb. I remember the statement from the competitive cyclist that I talked to the prior day "It was the most grueling experience I had ever had."
The bunkhouse was tiny, and we were squeezed in like crewmen on a submarine. When I first saw it from the outside, I thought it might be "Storage Shack". Little did I know it was going to store me for the next few hours.
Overall my feeling at camp Muir was estacy. It was really cool. It kind of had the "Everest" feel from all the pictures I have seen. Things locked down with rocks, so they wouldn’t blow away. Bunches of tent’s on the snowfield beyond housing the "Independents". These were the folks that were climbing the Mountain without the aid of a guide service. – I kind of would have rather stayed in a tent. I really liked the area, and was hopping around still with a lot of "pep" in my step. I explored the rocks, on the left side of Camp Muir, and popped my head in the Guide hut, where they had stoves, that they were using to cook the guide’s dinner. I was told it was a "restricted area" and if I was allowed to see it, then they would have to shoot me.
But it felt really good up there, and I felt like I was in good shape, and had plenty of juice to continue on. – This kind of decreased a little the longer I was there. The lactic acid in my legs started to build up a little, and I became a little sore. But overall I still felt good.
One of the guys in my group, Darren, who was from Houston Texas, and designed custom swimming pools, was a former marine. He was a funny guy, who was thinking he might want to be a guide sometime in the future, and was doing this ascent as kind of a job prospect. He had ton’s of jokes about "Little Johnny". I will share his favorite.
Johnny and Grandpa were sitting on the porch on hot afternoon, and Grandpa get’s a cold beer out of his cooler. "Grandpa what’s that?" said little Johnny. "Well, it’s a cold beer", replied grandpa. "Can I have one", said little Johnny. – "Can your dick touch your ass?" replied grandpa? – "No," said little Johnny. "Well, then you can’t have one" he said back. So they were sitting for a little while longer, Grandpa had finished his Beer, and reached in his pocket, and pulled out a big fat Cuban. "Wow grandpa, what’s that?" said Johnny. "It’s a fine Cuban cigar", said grandpa. "Can I have one?" said little Johnny. "Well, can your dick touch your ass?" Said grandpa. – "Well, No", said little Johnny. "Then you can’t have one." Said Grandpa. A little while later, Johnny went in the house, and Grandpa started smelling some wonderful cooking in the kitchen. Some time later, Johnny came out with some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and some milk. Grandpa said "Wow, Johnny, those cookies smell great, I sure would like to have one." Johnny replied, "Grandpa, can your dick touch your ass?" "Well yes Johnny it sure can", he replied. Johnny said, "Well Grandpa, you can go fuck yourself, because grandma made these cookies for me!"
That was one of many of Darren’s. We hung out for a little while with this other dude from New York City. Then I had dinner, and we got divided into our rope teams for the next day. I had a "Self cooking meal", that I had used when in Colorado with Jen V. a few years earlier. They worked pretty good, and tasted ok too. They cost about 7.50, but what the hell. It was convenient, and it was dinner. Some of the guides popped there heads in the bunkhouse, and looked at it impressed. I ate a ton of food at this stop. Two sandwiches, a few cliff bars, my instant dinner, trail mix, pretzels, fruit, and carrots. Plus about 3 quarts of water.
We had our pre climb talk, and found out that there would be 3 breaks tomorrow on the way up to the summit. The first section would be about an hour and 15 minutes, then a 10 minute break. The next section would be about an hour and 45 minutes, or 2 hours, (it was the crux of the route), the third and fourth pitches would split the remainder of the trip to the summit. We all had to wear Avalanche transmitters, that would make it easier to find us in the event of an avalanche. We would wear a climbing harness, and be roped in to the person in front of us, and behind us if we were in the middle. It was important to keep the rope relatively taut, so that if any of us fell, we wouldn’t pick up as much speed on the way down. This turned out to be difficult.
After our post dinner meeting, walking around, and taking a bunch of pictures, and telling jokes, around 6:30PM I hit the sac. I wore Long Johns, and fleece pants, and had to shed sleeping layers because I was way too warm in my marmot Pinnacle +15 degree bag. The guy next to me snored, so I made some makeshift ear plugs with some toilet paper. Uncomfortable, and not too effective. I had to get up once in the middle of the night to urinate.
They woke us up at 11:30PM, earlier, we were told that we would have an hour and ½ to get ready, and go. I used the bathroom, ate a little breakfast, which consisted of a little fruit, and an energy bar, plus a lot of water. Our senior rope guide, Jason E. checked our harnesses, avalanche locators, crampons, helmets, and headlamps. We then roped in. The order was Jason, Toni (female), myself, Jonathan, who was a about 6"5’ tall, and probably 230lbs, then a junior guide Mason picking up the rear. I, although tired was super psyched. I felt a little sore from the previous day’s hike, and a little nervous about twisting an ankle or knee somewhere on the mountain. That would be a total bummer, especially because of the no – refund thingy. About an hour and ½ later, we were ready to go.
July 10, 2001 Camp Muir, Mt. Ranier, WA.
When we started out the first things I noticed were that we were going incredibly slow. I mean so slow that I was getting annoyed. I kept trying to make sure that I had the correct taughtness between myself and Toni, but no matter what I did, I kept seeming to move up closer and closer to her, and because of this, a lot of slack seemed to develop in the rope. I would say in the first 30 minutes Jason yelled at me 3 times to watch the slack in my rope. I was getting quite frustrated with it. Especially since, it seemed that whenever he stopped, and caused Toni to stop, that more slack would develop in the rope, and that was the moment when he would turn around and say "Watch your slack Ryan." – At one moment I was a little concerned, because he said before we started that "If you can’t follow directions, then I have absolutely no problem with taking you out of line." – I didn’t know if this was a threat, but because of the repeated warnings, I was concerned.
After about 35 minutes of trudging through the snow, we stopped, and looped up the slack between us. He said, "Ryan you have to watch the slack between yourself and Toni." – I said quite honestly "It’s incredibly difficult to keep the rope taught when we are moving at this very slow pace, but I’m trying my best." – Jason responded, "We are going to be proceeding at various paces throughout the day, and I’m trying to compensate for the speed of some of the other teams." – I guess I understood this, but it still felt like we were going way too slow. I was psyched, jazzed, and I wanted to go full bore up the mountain. The pace we were going wasn’t even a slow walk. It seemed like we took a step, paused, then took another step, and this repeated. It was agonizing.
The other thing that I noticed that was as supercool, and inspiring was the sight of all the rope teams ahead and behind us on the mountain. It was dark, cold and windy outside. The stars and moon were out, and were bright, but not so bright that they added significant illumination to the trek. Our teams headlamps were probably the brightest things on the mountain. I loved watching the groups of folks move in front of us, and wind their way up the mountain. I felt like I was a hobbit, or something marching to war back in Middle Earth, and I could see all of the rest of my team leading the way with their torches.
The fact that I couldn’t really see the terrain at all except for the way that the other team members
were moving accentuated this perception. Unfortunately, the opportunities to look at and enjoy the effect that the rope teams headlamps had ascending the mountain, were few and far between. This was because I was really concentrating on looking at the trail in front of me, and trying very hard to keep the rope taught. Occasionally I would steal a glance or two at the "torch bearers" leading the way in front of me.
When we came to the edge of the rocky section, we all looped our ropes together, and held them tightly and "Short Roped" the shorter steeper rocky section. This was very difficult, especially with crampons. Crampons are designed to work well in snowy, icy terrain. In rocky "scree" as it’s called, they suck butt. The spikes on the crampons, don’t grip well, and make moving along the rocks about as easy as walking a tightrope in 1970’s disco platform shoes. A couple times, I thought I saw the spikes of the crampons cause sparks when they slipped along the larger rocks. That was kind of cool. In this steep section, where our guide warned us "There is a significant rock hazard to your left. Let’s move quickly, and keep our eyes open for falling rocks." – This was exactly the kind of section that I wanted to move cautiously, so that I would lower the potential of twisting an ankle or knee. Wonderful.
But with effort we made it through. I was breathing a little hard when we made it back on to the snow, but mostly because of the elevation change. We were told to practice "forced breathing", which I am familiar with from rock climbing. That’s one of the biggest things about Rock Climbing, people usually forget to breath. I made a conscious effort to breath systematically, and forcefully as I was hiking. I tried to get into a rhythm where I would step right, step left, force exhale, step right, step left, inhale a normal breath, then step right, step left. This didn’t work, because we were going so slow. So, I kind of did like a 1 and ½ step between each force exhale, it worked, but still sucked because Jason was constantly changing pace and such.
At one point after we rounded the corner of a large wall of rock, we came upon a less experienced "independent" team. One of the members of the team had lost a water bottle, and it fell closer to a crevasse that was slightly off the path. They seemed kind of stuck, so Jason was the hero, and went of the trail to retrieve it. I could tell that he enjoyed being the hero. Then he said something to the other team member to the effect of "That should be inside a pocket!" then to the leader of that team "Unless you follow know the trail very well, you should follow us." – I was thinking to myself that Jason was kind of a dick.
We took our first break, and Jason was all about business. When we stopped, he said "Pack’s off, down jacket’s on, eat and drink" Reapply sunscreen" was added when it was light out. – This was the nazi like mantra that was repeated several times by every guide, whenever we stopped. It felt like we were in the Military. I guess the only reason that I was kind of annoyed, was because I was paying a large sum of money to a guide service to get me to the top of Mt. Ranier. Not to be barked orders at like a buck private. – I don’t know. I have given a lot of thought to this since, and I have mixed feelings about it. I mean I can understand that there are definite safety concerns about some things, but most of the time on the mountain, I didn’t really feel unsafe. – I can respect these peoples experience, and knowing of how conditions, and situations can rapidly deteriorate from slightly unsafe to life threatening, but my whole feeling along the trip was that Jason should relax a little bit, or maybe just treat the experience as something a little enjoyable.
So, the second pitch was considered the crux, it was called "Dissapointment Cleaver". Jonathan and I high fived each other before it, in an effort to psyche each other up for it. As it turns out, he needed a little more than a high five. This section was longer only because there were no real safe places to rest for the entire section. It was very steep, and had a long section that again went up a steep rocky area, that we had to short rope. Prior to this, there was a long traverse, which was a little hairy, especially in the dark. They had placed a static line along one side of it, which we were supposed to use to steady ourselves. So, instead of having the pick axe in our uphill (left) hand, and holding the rope in our right, we held the static line in our left, the pick axe in our right, and let the rope dangle.
After the long traverse, and the steep rocky part, we came to a long steep snowy section. It was starting to get a little lighter out, and I got some good quick snap shots of the sunrise. The long steep section was really the crux of the climb. Jonathan was feeling the altitude in a big way. He was having a tough time keeping the pace up, and I heard him trying to use his forced breathing, but apparently he wasn’t using it enough. Jason barked at him "You should be breathing ½ as deeply, and twice as often." – Mason, who was behind him tried to keep remind him as he was going.
He wasn’t getting it too easily, and we had to stop and wait for him on at least ½ dozen times between 2/3 and ¾ the way to the finish. Unfortunately for me, I was in the front of Jonathan, so whenever he stopped, which got to be quite often, I tried to slow down, to let him catch up, but the rope between myself and Toni soon got taught, and this had the affect of stopping Jason and our whole crew. This annoyed Jason, and myself, because with each step I took, I had no idea whether or not I was going to be able to finish it without being pulled back.
I got sick of this, began forcing each step, and effectively dragging Jonathan up the mountain. After about 15 minutes or so, Jason realized this and said "Jonathan, you need to keep up, otherwise you are going to burn Ryan out." – Jason also gave me a "Cool it" sign, which I read to mean "Let him go at his own pace."
We finally made it to the end of the second pitch, and it was getting brighter. At this point, we were able to take our headlamps off, and I shot a few pics of the sunrise. "Packs off, jackets on, eat, drink, apply sunscreen."
Mason asked Jonathan "What’s your energy level like?" – "Do you think you can make it through the next couple pitches?" After some indecision, Jonathan said "I don’t want to hold you guys up." Jason must have had more confidence in him, because he said "You can make it!", basically deciding that he could make it at least the next leg.
On this break, Jonathan was very concerned about holding up the rest of us. When Mason asked him about his energy level, and the probability of him making it to the next section, he said "Can I have a few minutes to think about it?" – When Mason responded "Yea, that’s fine" The rest of us looked on, and he discussed with his father his methods for breathing. His dad was on another rope team.
So, once Jason decided that Jonathan could make it, he said "5 minutes", and we will get heading. The next pitch was a long snowy one, with no rocks, or rock hazards. It got quite monotonous, especially with dragging Jonathan the entire way. We made a dozen or so switch backs, and I got quite adept at stepping over the trailing rope, to keep it on the downhill side, then transferring the pick axe to my uphill hand. I was pleased with myself in this manner.
My energy level up to this point had been VERY high. I felt like I could do this all day long. I felt especially good at the end of the second pitch, which was at about 12,500 feet. I was having no problems breathing, and my legs were not cramping, nor were any of my joints causing me pain. I still felt a little impatient at the slow pace that we were taking up the mountain, and was thinking that this really wasn’t too hard.
I did start to feel the elevation about ½ the way up the third pitch. While ascending, one kind of get’s in a groove, Step, Exhale, Inhale, check rope taughtness, Step, Exhale, Inhale, check rope taughtness, Step. That was really similar to the pace, because of how slow we were hiking. On occasion, my mind would wander, and I would forget to breathe, and start to feel a little woosey.
That’s when I realized that I was at about 13,000 feet, and it is important to remember to breathe, especially when you are hiking up a steep mountain in the snow, with the risk of avalanches fairly high. The wooseyness dissipated as soon as I started to get back into my forced breathing rhythm. – In the class, and in our pre climb speeches, the guides, kind of refer to this as a "Fix All". "Your leg is sore", "Breathe more", "You are feeling woosey?" "Breathe more", "You have a blister? "Breathe More". I really think it works though. As soon as I started letting my mind wander, and enjoying the scenery, I started to focus on the breathing again, and things were dandy.
I kept up this focus all the way through the third pitch. I still felt like we were going slow, but started to realize that it was kind of necessary for the duration of our hike, and the difficulty that other members of our team were having. Jonathan was really struggling, and would totally not have made it if we had pushed any harder. The philosophy of our leader was "That everyone make it, or no one."
At our rest point after the third pitch "Packs off, jackets on, eat drink, apply sunscreen." I began to respect the experience of our Rope leader, even though I still thought he was a dick. – I really had to urinate. Given that on our breaks, one only has a limited amount of time to do the things that are asked of you, it is difficult to fit in other things that I would characterize as "Self Maintenance".
At the break on the third pitch, I really had to go. I mean really had to go. However, at this time, I had put on my fleece pants, hiking shorts, Polypropylene thermal underwear, and Bergelene underwear. So, I had several layers to contend with to pull it out, and give some water back to the snow.
Add this to the fact that I was roped in with a harness to four other people, and wasn’t able to walk too far off the trail to relieve myself. I asked Jason where I could go, and he referred to a point, about six feet away from the rest of us. Also, the wind was blowing quite hard. If I had stood at the point he referred to, I would have certainly sprayed the rest of the crew with a nice warm layer of mist. – Kind of made me think about Woodstock.
So, I got on my knees, and tried to go in the embankment. The side of the wall was at about a 30 degree angle, so, I had to point in the middle of my legs, otherwise my knees would be in it. With the wind blowing, and me constantly having to steady myself, it was extremely difficult to urinate. I couldn’t concentrate, and basically kneeled in the snow for 6 minutes trying to go. It really sucked, and reminded me of when I was in the hospital in High School for my ankle surgery.
After surgery it is generally difficult to urinate, and if one doesn’t do it after a certain period of time, they generally try and give you a catheter. I didn’t want a catheter. So, I was stubborn, and drank a bunch of water, to try and make myself go. They gave me one of those dohickeys that you can use to urinate while laying down, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I mean I had to go, I really had to go, but I just couldn’t do it laying down. With my ankle the way it was, I wasn’t going to be standing too soon either, so I was in kind of a pinch. More water.
Later that night, when visitation hours were over, I was about to burst. I mean to the point, that I think since from this day forth, my bladder was stretched beyond the point it should have been, and maybe I will have some problems when I am older with bladder control. In retrospect, maybe I should have gotten the catheter.
Anyway, at about 2:00AM, I couldn’t handle it anymore, so I worked my way out of bed, and stood on my one good leg, sweating from standing, my ankle feeling like it was on fire from the pressure, and pain, feeling a little woosey like you do after standing up too fast, finally I concentrated, and relaxed at the same time, you know how it is, and was able to urinate in the plastic container that they gave me. No lie, It was like a two gallon container, I must have filled it ¾ of the way. I let out about a gallon and ½ of piss. It felt good, but it ached afterwards, sort of maybe what women’s uterus / bellies feel like after giving birth.
So, on the Mountain at about 14,00 feet, I was struggling again to let it go. After about 9 minutes of kneeling there, I finally got a little lower by bracing myself with my right hand, and holding it with my left. Finally after pushing hard, it started to trickle, then to stream. Not relaxing, but self maintenance. I had to keep up the pressure the entire time to make it keep coming. It didn’t help either that my harness was very tight around my lower abdomen. This put pressure in places it shouldn’t have been to do what I needed. Maybe about ½ the way through my whizz, Jason asked me how I was doing. The break was almost over. I still hadn’t eaten, or drank anything. I hadn’t even thought about the sunscreen. Just about the piss.
I told "Gestapo boy" I was almost ready. About 1 minute later, I turned around. He immediately said, grab some food, and drink something, then we are heading out. Again I felt like I was in the military. – How much was I paying for this? I shoved some food and water in my mouth, took my jacked off, put it in the bag, put the bag on, and was ready to go. So much for a break.
The fourth and final leg was still slow and monotonous. I kept up the breathing, and concentrated on keeping the rope taught between Toni and I. To be honest, it was more like I concentrated on walking slow enough that I wouldn’t be dragging Jonathan’s ass up the slope. But it kept happening. All 6’4" 230 lbs. of him would get winded, and he would have to take a break. Then this would prevent me from moving forward, so I would have to stop, and notify Toni with a "Toni". She knew what I meant when I had to stop.
This went on for maybe 800 yards or so, and Jason told Mason, to switch order with Jonathan, and put him on a short rope, so Mason would be dragging him, and not so much me. This was quite a relief for me, but I don’t imagine so for Mason. This is the way we made it to the top. Plod, breathe, check rope, move pickaxe, plod, breathe, check rope, move pickaxe.
Several times during this section, Toni would have a problem or two, and meekly say "Falling," and kind of stumble. Of course in the class, they teach you that whenever anyone say’s falling that you should drop to your knees and self arrest. So, that’s what I did. Jason at this point would almost yell at us to get up, and keep moving. – I definitely didn’t like him.
Along the way, there were some splendid views. I could pretty much see everything. The weather was clear. It was nice, except for the 40 mile per hour wind, and the 20 degree or so temperature that we were facing into. When we made it to the top, we were still not at the summit. The other team had arrived before us, and were breaking in a little area that allowed them to just get a little bit out of the wind.
When the rest of our teams made it to the top, A couple of the guides talked with Jason, and asked if we had anyone who wanted to hike across the rim, and to the summit. Referring to me, Jason said "I’ve got one that can do it." One of the other guides referred to Darren, and said "He can make it." I was balls to the wall, and ready to go. Darren, I assumed felt the same way.
Jason made a point of saying that this would be a fast hike across the rim, to the other side, and that we would have to keep up. I assumed that we would be roped together when we walked across the rim. SO, when I was looking for people to clip into, Jason, was saying, "let’s go." – "Oh, were not going to be roped in?" I asked. "Nope" was the terse response. So, I stood up, and followed him with Darren close behind.
When I got over the ledge that we were huddled on the other side of, I got my first view across the rim. The rim was approximately a ½ mile in diameter. On the other side, it was a steep 75 yards to the top. I was not looking forward to that.
I kept up with Jason the whole way. At several points, he looked back. Darren was falling behind. He slowed down a little, and Darren would catch up a bit. Then we went a little further, and he would then pause. The two other guides were behind Darren. But, they were way behind. Anyway, we started up the 75 yards to the summit, and I stepped in pretty much the same path as Jason did.
At one point we walked around the end of a thin crevasse, and crossed it at the top. Jason said "Step in exactly the same place I do." I did. – Then we were at the summit. Again, I could see forever. I got a couple hero shots, by that time, Darren had caught up to us. We were there about 30 seconds, and Jason was ready to leave.
I was pretty jazzed to be on the top, and wanted to stay to take some more pictures. Jason said something like "We have cold people over there, and we should get going." – Since I was pretty much out of memory on the Memory stick I had, (I didn’t get a chance to clean it out before leaving my car) – I had to review some of the pictures, and delete the ones that I didn’t want. This would take some time, and we really didn’t have a lot of it. So, I missed a good shot of the rim from the Summit.
We then hiked back to the makeshift camp, and Jason was already talking about starting down again. – Of course I wanted to take some pictures, and hang out. I really didn’t feel that cold, and was pretty jazzed. – I thought about urinating again, and tried to go. I couldn’t. So, I held it. I also really wanted to adjust my boots, because I felt like I was getting a blister on my right heel. I wasn’t allowed time for that either. I was also hungry after my little "jog" across the crater. – And wasn’t really given too much time for this.
I was not happy about any of these three things that I would have liked to have done, that I considered self maintenance. But I wasn’t the leader, and we had to get going. – How much was I paying for this? Whatever. We started back down the Mountain for camp Muir. We ran out the last two pitches, on the way down, and were at our next break in maybe 40 minutes or so. Jonathan found it much easier going down, and was having an easier time of it.
The snow made it relatively easy on the calves, and quads coming down. That really is the worst part of hiking, coming back down a long steep section, because your knees and joints are not accustom to that weird movement jarring the knees over and over. – That was the roughest about descending the Grand Canyon, and coming back down from Mt. Washington. The snow made it much more bearable.
The wind was still blowing quite heavily, and the top of the snow, was crusty ice. When people above or below kicked it, it would send hale like spray’s on those people downwind. It wasn’t nice, especially to get it in the face. At this point I had my camera around my neck, and was trying to catch some snapshots in certain places down the mountain.
Jason caught me, at several places, and said that I couldn’t let go of the axe to take pictures. He said if I wanted a picture break to ask to stop, and then I could take a shot or two. Of course, I didn’t want to stop the group. But asked to stop in a couple spots. As soon as I stopped, Jason would be asking me if I was ready to go. How much was I paying for this?
An aside, I am writing this quite some time after this occurred, and I am getting quite angry thinking about it. Especially after what I am going to tell you next. – I mean most of the time, I go back and forth between "Well, is our leader watching out for our safety, or is he just being a dick?" I think a little bit of both. I don’t know, maybe I will write a letter or something.
So, after the top two pitches, we came to the top of disappointment cleaver. This is where Jonathan on the way up was kind of pushed into making it to the top. On the way down, Jason decided to have us follow him while he treaded a new route down the side of the mountain. This involved us going about ½ to ¼ the speed we were going up to this point. We broke trail through sometimes waist deep snow, while one of the other teams short roped it down the regular path, and collected the markers along the way.
When we got to where we were back on normal trail, I was pretty fed up, and very interested in getting to the bottom. I was dragging a little mentally, because I had just spent 40 minutes trudging through waist deep snow. As we were going along the traverse, I tripped on my crampons, and took a header down the hill. I yelled falling, and immediately, arrested myself without tugging on the rope between me and Mason. (Jonathan and I had switched spots, and it was Jason, Toni, Jonathan, and Mason on the way down.) I was a little embarrassed, but got right back up, and on the trail. – Jason, of course lectured me, and said "Get up, and get back on the trail." – No shit Sherlock.
We were making good time down the mountain up until this point. It took us about 40 minutes longer on this section. When we got to the flats, the group that had short roped it was still waiting. I asked them how long they had been sitting there waiting for us, and it was about 40 minutes. So, we got to the long traverse, and Jason decided that he and Mason would go back up, and break that trail, while we attached on Brians rope, and made it back down to the flats.
Nice, do I see a cut of that time in a refund? – Not. – We made it to the flats, and I expressed my annoyance with the fact that we were waiting for Jason and Mason to finish breaking the trail, two of the other guides, kind of didn’t really say anything, but that "Think of it this way, People have done it before you." – So, that doesn’t change the fact, that breaking a new trail on the way down wasn’t on the brochure.
After the flats, the last pitch to camp Muir was uneventful. It was picturesque in spots, not that I would be able to record it, not being able to take pictures of course.
It was very interesting being able to see things during the light hours that I wasn’t able to see on the way up, because when we ascended this section, it was in the dark. – That was neat, because it was like doing something new, when I had already done it. The section that Jason warned us about the falling rock hazard was quite interesting looking. It was a large snowfield, that was peppered with bowling ball / softball size rocks all over the place. It looked neat. The section that I remembered seeing sparks shoot from the crampons the night before was just as sketchy during the day. Frankly, I wondered how we made it up in the pitch black of the night. Sheer will? – A guide who persevered? – I don’t know. Maybe it was good we couldn’t see it the first time, we might have gotten a little psyched out. . Maybe it was good we couldn’t see it the first time, we might have gotten a little psyched out.
So, we made it back to Camp Muir. The first thing I wanted to do was check my feet. They were killing me, not having the time to tighten my shoes when the team was roped together. Of course, I had a nice nickel sized blister on my right heel, just where I thought it was going to be. Nice. Could I have prevented it with a little maintenance, and time to adjust my boots? Maybe?
We had an hour after getting to Camp Muir to get our things together, and pack for the hike down to Paradise. I immediately went about getting my stuff together, while others like Jonathan laid down, and tried to catch a couple z’s. I was ready sooner than others, and ended up just hanging out in the Bunkhouse, trying to stay out of the wind. Jason came in, and told us his philosophy on packing things up. "I use the stuff and forget it method." – With an air of condescension that followed him wherever he went. – Are you getting the picture that I didn’t prefer this guy. I can think of some of my friends who would have blown a long time ago with all the crap he was dishing out.
I spent most of the time glacading down the snowfield from Camp Muir. That was kind of fun. But in my effort to let my feet breathe a little, I had packed up my gaiters, in my backpack. Huge mistake on my part. I got about 50 feet, and my feet were soaked. – Two hours later, they were super saturated. Do remember that term from High School Chemistry. Well, they were.
The worst part about getting back to Paradise was the last 500 yards or so. It was at about a 40 degree angle, and on asphalt. Not fun at all for the toes, ankles, knees, shins, quads, or calves. I was using my trekking poles liberally. When we were passing people on the way down, they would get out of our way, and sometimes step on the grass off the sidewalk. – He of course reprimanded them for doing so. I thought this was a dick move, because they were being nice. I mean I think the thing I didn’t like was the way he was saying it. He said "You know, the sidewalk is big enough for both of us, stay off the nice green grass." – He could have been nicer to them.
On the way down, we passed another group heading up the mountain. They looked like they were having little fun. Probably like we looked 24 hours ago. On the way across the snowfield, there was a hole that had to be marked. It went about 60 – 70 feet down, and was a real hazard. – Jason marked it. In addition, all the guides talked with all the guides who were on their way up. I would say we spent about 40 more minutes talking with people on the way up. Was I paying for this? Hmm? – We also took a long break ½ way down. Hmm, when I wanted to break for a while, like on the top, it was all go go go, when I wanted to get back to the bottom, it was all break break break.
As we spent an hour and 20 minutes extra on the mountain, we were also the last to make it back to Paradise, and base camp. The leader of the other group, Will Whittaker, Lou’s, the famous Whittaker’s son, was already in the bar in a pair of shorts and tee shirt, and had several drinks in him when we finally made it back to Paradise. Later when I saw him at base camp, he had Red Eye’s and all.
One positive, I was able to return the "Avalanche Glasses" that I had to purchase, because I forgot my own. That was nice. The woman at the counter was definitely, not to psyched about it, but she let me return them. I was glad of this. At our break, Jason gave a plug to the other guides, and asked if any of us felt like they did a good job, that we could repay them with a "tip", or letter or something. As Jason was my guide, and Mason was kind of still working out the kinks, nobody was getting a tip from me. – Other people felt differently. I think I would have had a much better time if I was with someone else. Cest’ La Vie.
The shuttle bus took forever getting around to leave for base camp, so I left with Darren who had driven his rental car up to Paradise. We talked on the way down. He was a pretty cool guy. He had seriously thought about being a guide himself, and talked later with Jason about the possibility of that career choice. – I am not sure of the outcome.
Darren had to make it to Sea-Tac by 7:30, and ended up leaving Base Camp at about 5:20. – There is no way he made it to the Airport in that amount of time. – It took me 3 hours coming down here the night before the climb, and I certainly didn’t dawdle. I haven’t e-mailed him since to ask him about it, but I totally cannot see him making it.
At base camp, I bought a poster, and had Jason, and Win Whittaker sign it. I got my route mapped out, and wrote down all the cool points along the way. One really cool thing was that Lou Whittaker, came down to hang out. So, I got to meet him. That was a total thrill.
I got him to sign my poster too, that rocked. He seemed like a cool guy. He must have been 75 years old or so. I didn’t realize until that point that Win Whittaker was his son. – I guess I really just didn’t put it together. When Win introduced me to his "Dad", I put two and two together, and got it. Then I had a little more respect for Win, though not much; he was visibly intoxicated.
After dawdling around, and talking with folks for a bit, I headed out back to Heathers place in Seattle. I gave her a call when I was at a gas station, and got directions when I was in cell phone territory. It took me about 3 hours to get to her place, but I found it fine.
I think I was too tired to take a shower, but I can’t remember. Heather and I ordered out for a Pizza. Then her boyfriend Dan came over, and we hung out on the Porch for a little bit. After pizza and chatting, I went to bed and slept like a baby.
The hike was good for my poison Ivy. It was the first time, that I felt comfortable to wear normal socks directly exposed to it. Now it’s the 21st, and it’s still healing. It’s pretty much gone away, but still a little scaby, and itchy. J’namie pas.
So, 9 pages later, that was my Mt. Ranier experience. I think that R.M.I. was a good experience, and that I just had a personality conflict with my guide. Although I do think that he could have relaxed a little more, and at least let me take a couple pictures along the way. If I don’t think about it, I won’t send them a letter. That will probably be the case, or maybe I can just send them an e-mail, and point them to this web page when I put it up, and let them read for themselves.
I am glad that I did go though them for my first Mountaineering experience, although now, I do feel that I could have made it on my own. (Of course with a group of other people for safety. – Oh, Bob Hograff was kind of the catalyst for this climb. Back in Rochester, he was kind of goading me into climbing Denali when I was in Alaska. While I was looking into this, I realized that there are only 7 guide services that are certified by the National Parks, to climb Denali. One of them happen to be R.M.I. – That’s how I got the Idea to climb Ranier.
Oh, one more bitch about Jason. On our last break down from Muir to Paradise, he gave us his philosophy on climbing. He said "Most people are only concerned about if you made it to the summit or not." "That’s usually the first thing they ask you." – He said "I try to think about it in a more broader perspective." "Did I have a good time, did I meet some cool people?" - "Then if the people continue to ask, then I will tell them about the top." – He seemed like he was trying to wan philosophical all over the place, and I thought it was annoying.
Then at Base Camp, when talking about Jason’s recent successful ascent of Everest with Lou Whittaker, Lou said "Well, it’s got to be nice to have that off your back." – I assume referring to the fact that this was his first successful summit of the Mountain. Jason of course agreed vehemently that it was great to make it to the top. - Hypocrite