I was cleaning up an old laptop, and stumbled on my “write-up” from a climb of Mt Baker I did in 1999. I read it, and it made me smile to remember my one “success” as a mountain climber. Its a long one though, so I have decided to break it into 3 parts. One for each day of the climb.
Bear with me though, I have changed nothing since it was first written. In fact I was married to my first wife back then, and Michelle and I were just friends. Lots has changed in 14 years, for the better. But here is a snippet into the preblog, hell, pre facebook life of Moutainstroh. Hope you enjoy.
“Its midnight! Time to get up!” That damned alarm clock again. We woke to a dark tent, but I felt more rested than I had in the last 2 mornings. There was a quick flash of light in the tent and I groaned thinking it was lightning. Since it stayed on though I realized it was Tom’s head lamp. Up and dressed and I was ready to face the elements.
“I see Stars!!!!!!!” was my first comment. The sky was clear, but it was windy and VERY cold. Hot chocolate, oatmeal and I was ready to go. I was wrong about perfectly clear though. Clouds would blow by from time to time and black the sky, so we were unsure about the weather to come. I was feeling very good though, and ready to climb.
We set up in our rope teams. Three groups of three. Barbara took the front with Beth in the middle and Gwynne as anchor. The second groups (TEAM 2!) started with Kevin, me then Scott. Allan led the third, Becky then Tom as our last person. Roped, headlamps on and ready to go, we finally hear “CLIMBING!” and we were off.
Climbing in pitch black has its advantages. You can’t see except for where the headlamp shines. You are therefore forced to simply look at the footprints in front of you and keep stepping into them. This keeps you from seeing how steep the climb really is. Secondly, when you step over a crevasse you really have no idea just how deep the fool thing is. Finally, you get to see shooting stars! I saw at least three.
We only had two problems in the dark. The first was Beth’s lamp shorting out, and the second was Becky having to pee! Both were worked out and we continued on. My only worry was Alan who kept saying he had never seen so much wind this low and it looked like a lenticular at the summit. That annoying “I’m not going to make it to the top” voice started again. Only this time it was due to conditions.
We were soon at the crater. It was steaming and stunk like you wouldn’t believe.
From there we could see the Roman Wall. A 35 degree slope, heading up to the top. Barbara was elected to lead the rest of the climb. I found out later Alan advised he was just flat tired. She was concerned, though, about Beth being number two. Barbara knew she would have to kick each step we used, and Beth would have to improve them. While making sure not to fall. Next thing I knew I was right behind Barbara and Beth was part of Team 2!
The wall was steep, and there were no steps at all due to the weather and new snow of the last few days. Barbara kicked each time and kept moving, I was right behind her. Sometimes having problems seeing very faint steps. I kicked the best I could to make it easier for those behind me, and more importantly, to keep my butt from falling off the mountain. I am happy to say I stayed right behind her, no delays at all.
We started our traverse to the left, then in the middle turned to go straight up. We only ran into one problem. Gwynne hit the turn, stopped and informed me she was just “little scared.
This is a bad thing. I told her flat, “I promise I will NOT let you fall. I have an ice-axe and a rope, you will not fall!” OK, so if she fell she’d take me with her, but I was NOT telling her that just then. Barbara was beat and had hit a point where she had to cut each step with her ice-axe. She had also put in a picket just in case. This was no time or place to stop. Gwynne believed me though and started up. I wish I had the camera then though, we could see the shadow of the mountain just then on tope of the clouds. VERY cool.
We crested the wall, but to our disappointment we were NOT at the top. But it did level out. The sun came up and the ground sparkled. Gwynne called it a field of diamonds, and you know, she was right it was gorgeous! We walked across the glacier to the last climb and we were finally on top. The lowlands were under overcast, but we could see all the north cascades sticking up. Looked like islands on the ocean.
I finally reached a summit. The voice was quiet and I had NOT wasted a year of training. Sounds stupid but I truly felt on top of the world.
Five hours later we were packed up, (with truly my heaviest pack ever, we had to carry the team equipment of the two who left, and the ladies were useless!) and off the Mountain all I wanted then was to sleep, but when I woke up all I could think of was “Next year, Rainier!” Damn I was sore, but the pain of the Rainier climb had finally lessened.
Editors Note: Sadly, 3 more attempts at Rainier resulted in never seeing the summit. But it makes me happy to hear the younger me full of hope and energy. Thanks for coming along with me down (or should I say UP) memory lane.