July 25, 2004

climbing Mt. Rainier

I grew up on Mercer Island (adjacent Seattle), until the 7th grade, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. Mt. Rainier is an icon of the Seattle area, you can see it from anywhere (at least you can when it's not overcast and/or raining). My mom calls Mt. Rainier "her" mountain and everyone here seems to have a special attachment to it, my sister included.

My sister (mountain over her shoulder) decided a while back that when her residency was over that she and her husband would take about a year off and travel around before they both got back on the career track. Climbing Mt. Rainier was near the top of her list, so about 6 months ago we signed up for a summit climb.

Mt. Rainier is 14,411' tall, is the 5th tallest peak in the lower 48 states and the most glaciated as well. This means that you need to wear crampons and carry an ice axe, though there is no real ice climbing involved (you carry the axe as a cane, and would use it to arrest yourself if you fell, but you don't swing two of them over your head like you would climbing a vertical ice sheet). There are other 14,000' peaks in the lower 48 states, but most of those climbs start at 10-11,000'. The Mt. Rainier climb starts at 5,000-something feet -- so it's almost 3x the vertical gain and considered to be the most aerobically challenging climb in the lower 48.

Before you can rope yourselves together and head up the mountain you need to know a few things, like how to perform an ice-axe arrest. You've probably been skiing, fell, and found out how slippery your nylon/gortex suit is -- with out an ice axe you might not stop before the next crevasse. So my sister (Lynn), brother in law (Scott), and I did a one day school, followed by a two day guided climb -- just got back. Stories and pictures to follow.

Posted by rick at July 25, 2004 06:13 PM