9/4/2003 at 3:34 pm #7779highpointersclubParticipant[Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum][By: markv on September 4 2003 at 3:34 PM]I won’t even call it a trip report, but just some notes for future Rainier climbers…i know i like reading what everyone else has done before i head off to a highpoint.
I summitted Rainier on 8/21 with an RMI guides group. The weather window was ideal. The day before we started up the mountain it was foggy most of the day, and the day after we came down visibility was marred by forest fire smoke. But on 8/20 and 8/21 it was just clear skies and warmish weather.
The climbing school on 8/19 seemed very well-run. We had an actual Sherpa as a teacher! So when he repeated a million times to rest-step and pressure-breathe, i took it to heart. “The louder i breathe, the more they laugh, the further i leave them behind.” The various crampon/iceaxe/rope techniques we practiced here were somehwat different from what i had learned previously at CMS’ 2-day school…maybe between the 2 classes i have a very basic background now.
We (HP’er Doug and i) stayed at the Nisqually Lodge in Ashford, which was reasonably nice and forgettable. As was the food at various places in Ashford.
8/20 was the uneventful hike up to Muir Camp. My trekking poles worked ok on the firm snowfield “trail.” Everyone in our sub-group of about 12 seemed to be in good shape. Muir Camp was smelly, but hey i was happy to have latrines to use, and hot and cold water provided. I didn’t sleep at all in the bunkshoebox…my body just can’t fall asleep before midnight. The stars were amazing.
8/21 we started climbing at 1 a.m. or so. (it was so strange not to have a watch or a topo map or compass…just to follow instead.) i started out roped up behind Doug and our “guide” (more comment about him later…ick). I wanted to take a moment from time to time to actually look around at the stars, and later to take pictures, etc…but when RMI plows on, you plow on, end of story. Doug didn’t continue past the first “maintainence break.” He seemed to be doing fine to me, but he knew how he felt and he was sure he couldn’t keep pace for 6 more hours like that first one. So he was put in a tent (at the next stop a bunch more from the large group turned back, and Doug et. al. headed back to camp), and we, for the first of many times, inherited someone new onto our rope team. Cumulatively this ended up being difficult. By the time the sun was up, we had gone through 5 different newcomers to the rope team, and each change (especially the 2 stops that weren’t during maintainence breaks) put us further behind the rest of the teams. So by the last big stretch from Disappointment Cleaver (aka Crampons Screeching Against Rocks Cleaver), our “guide” decided to push the tempo. Up until that point i had been feeling scarily fine and even fresh, but the last push to the summit i was starting to huff and puff.
We made it to the crater by 7-something, and despite the guide trying to talk me out of crossing to the actual HP (it’s amazing how FEW people up there cared to do the extra 45 minutes walk to the HP…geez, RMI would have had to tackle me to keep me from the HP at that point!), i crossed to Columbia Crest, took my pics and signed the register, and got back to the group in time for an oh-so-refreshing 16.3-second break before heading down. “Let’s see, i can fix my boot, or eat something, or drink something, or take a picture, or pee, or…oops, too late, i wasted my break breathing…time to go!”
The trip down was, well…i was determined to enjoy myself. It really is awesome up there. The views, the crevasses, everything. It’s just hard to notice all this when you’re last on a rope team, trying to keep lockstep with a guide who wants to make it down in time to watch his 3 p.m. soap opera. We were the last rope team in the group, still we were AHEAD of schedule, yet the whole way down was just one relentless hurry. The guide i think needs a lesson in how to lead a rope team. He would go down a steep/precarious stretch at a reasonable pace, and we would hover behind at the proper distance…then he would hit the straightaway and just take off, never mind that we still had to negotiate the stretch that he had just finished. I swear twice i almost got yanked into a crevasse. I was completely ticked at this guide by the end. He actually at one point said that if i don’t like his pace, then i could lead! So i led the rope team for about 20 minutes (wondering if this was completely unsafe or what), until he got impatient and reversed us back so he was leading.
I was so tempted to just unclip from the rope while we were walking. I swear he would have never noticed…it’s not like he ever turned around to check or anything. I have huge doubts he would have been able to arrest a fall of mine anyway…the times that i lost footing, all he did was trudge on without noticing, making the rope taut, and then tugging me on.
I got a few really good glissades in on the snowfield after unroping…w’hoo. My knees hurt on the last stretch of trail/pavement, but all in all, i’m rather amazed i came out of this trip feeling so good. I think i’m a new 100% believer in rest-stepping, pressure-breathing, and training by hiking with an overweighted backpack. I’ve done easier hikes in better shape, and still ended up feeling much worse afterwards than i did after Rainier.
A quick disclaimer about RMI. Some of the other guides were very helpful with tips, and seemed to have happy rope teams. I’m sure it’s possible to have a great experience with them. If you do Rainier with them, i would try to somehow attach myself to whichever guides are more experienced and least testosterone-ridden. My guy was a 1st-year kid with an attitude. In retrospect, i should have anticipated things and on 8/20 hiked alongside and gotten chummy with some of the better guides…that might have gotten me on their rope teams.
Oh yeah, and they got me up the mountain. Without a doubt. I guess that’s the RMI upside…they have a great record of getting people up there, safely, quickly, relatively cheaply. Enjoyment sold seperately.
And a few notes about gear…their gear list is extensive and specific, and i cut some corners. My heavy leather boots with double wool socks and chemical foot warmers were perfect. I’m very glad i didn’t use the unweildy double plastic boots. Of course that’s easy for me to say since we had good weather. Trekking poles with baskets i think are a better idea than non-adjustable ski poles. I was surprised by how MANY clothing layers i actually did use high on the mountain, but still, for a summer climb, it seems they recommend too much. One of our rope team changeover stops took about 20 minutes on a very windy 4 a.m. spot, and using that break as a guage for what clothes would be needed for a long emergency stop, i still can’t imagine wanting to carry 2 fleece pant layers. (i carried one, and didn’t use it.) If you tend to drink a lot, bring a little more water for the summit push than they recommend. I brought 2 1/2 liters and still ran out. The other thing i wished i had brought up to Camp Muir was a deck of cards or something. I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t sleep.
HP #11, w’hoo. I would like to do Hood next late June/early July. Anyone interested?
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