As many of you know, I took the name Mountainstroh for my email and my web page name back when I used two feet, instead of two wheels, to accomplish my yearly athletic goals. Over the years I climbed or attempted to climb many large and small mountains. The ultimate goal, for me, was to summit 14,410 ft Mt. Rainier.
I never made it, but once you have climbed on a mountain, it stays in your blood. This means you stay attuned to happenings on the mountain. This weekend what I got was some very bad news…
Over the weekend, it was reported that 6 climbers, 2 guides from Alpine Ascents Inc, and their 4 clients fell, maybe as far as 3000 feet, along the Liberty Ridge route of Mt Rainier. They are presumed dead and due to the dangerous rock and ice fall conditions in this area, they may never be recovered. You can read about the two guides Eitan Green and Matthew Hegeman here.
First some facts. Since the 1890s, only 95 people have died trying to climb the mountain (counting these 6). Currently, over 10000 people per year attempt to climb the mountain (only 50% make it to the top). These climbers, though, were on one of the most difficult routes of the mountain. 25 climbers over the years have died here. Over a quarter of all the deaths on the mountain.
There is no question that the deaths are sad. Some of the climbers had family, all had friends, and I am sure many of them had an inspirational effect on those around them. Funny how mountain climbers have that ability.
I tend to look at it a bit differently though. First let me be right up front here. EVERY time I climbed, I VERY much wanted to come alive. One does not climb a mountain if he has a death wish. When you are roped together, your life is in the hands of your rope team and theirs is in yours.
If you slip, you want them to catch you, and I do my best to do the same for them. We work together to come back alive regardless of the summit.
Sometimes though, accidents happen. Climbing is inherently dangerous. Cold, crevasses, rocks and ice, slips, falls and weather can all take their toll, no matter how hard you prepare. There are those, many in fact, who think it’s too dangerous in general and people shouldn’t be allowed to do so.
Others think climbers are selfish, because if something does happen, the people they know are left to mourn. Forgive the language but Horse shit!
Sometime in their life, everyone has had a dream. Writing a book, sailing around the world, visiting a foreign land, or, yes, climbing a mountain. Many, if not MOST never attempt the dream. They think about it, mention it over beers or wine, read about it, and yes dream, but then it never happens. When they are older they are filled with regret for not trying.
These guys were living their dreams. The guides were two of those lucky few who got paid to do what they love, climb mountains. I’ve climbed with AAI many times, they know their stuff! The clients got off the couch and had trained for months, for the opportunity to climb. They didn’t choose the “easy route” (the one that kicked my ass 4 times) they challenged themselves to do even more.
To me, its sad when a climber, sky diver, or any one who lives life to the fullest dies driving to work, or catches cancer and withers away, or any other meaningless way to pass on. It just seems wrong to me. It may be a cliche, but I think it is very true, they died doing what they loved.
These people were surrounded by wonders most will never see. In the midst of one of the most beautiful mountains anywhere in the world. We’ll probably never know what happened to them, but prior to it, they were living their lives to the fullest, hearts betting, blood flowing and loving the mountain they were on.
As I said. it’s too dangerous to recover the bodies right now. Personally, if it were me, I wouldn’t want them too. I do NOT want to be buried in a cemetery, nor be sat on a mantle somewhere in an urn. But I’d have had no problem if someday a grand kidlet could point at Rainier and say “My great grandpa Mountainstroh is up there somewhere!” (OK no problem except the dying part, but you get my meaning…)
So don’t be sad, but after reading this raise your glasses to the Northwest, or if you are local, to the mountain itself. These men are with the mountain gods now, and there is no better monument to them than our mountain.
Please know I wrote this with the utmost respect and compassion for those who lost these men. I am only sharing what I hope people would’ve thought for me if I hadn’t made it back.
Take care and if you can, give the dream a shot!