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Mt Rainier Emmons Glacier report

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Carbon Basin area on Mt Rainier
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Bivy site on Inter Glacier Mt Rainier

Last week guide John Mackey, friend Bob G. and I all flew out to Washington to climb Mt. Rainier.  What a amazing place to climb.  I have totally fallen in love with this mountain and the area surrounding it after just five days of climbing on it.  Although we did not summit because of weather and time restraints I still had a total blast.  Our original intention was to climb the Liberty Ridge in four days.  After flying to Seattle we all stayed in a hotel for the night to go over gear and to get a shower and some good food.  On our drive into the park we saw 5-6 moose along the road.  What a cool start.  We began hiking from White River about 4:30am to get to Glacier Basin and the start of the Inter Glacier.  The sun was out and we spotted 3 very large marmots out in the snow field playing around.  We needed to take a good rest to drink water and eat at a rock outcrop since we had been hiking and gaining elevation for about 3 hours.  It was at this point that we decided the Liberty Ridge might not be our best choice on this particular trip.  We decided to climb the Emmons Glacier instead.  It’s always a good idea to have a back up plan in case things don’t work the way you thought they would.  We climbed up the Inter Glacier snow field for about 3,000 feet and decided to dig out a snow platform to set up our tent, make food, boil water and get some sleep.  The afternoon clouds started to build and before you knew it we were on the edge of a nice thunderstorm.  I have been deathly afraid of lightning ever since my wife and I got struck in Colorado climbing 14’ers about 7 years ago.  It was pretty nerve racking since we were exposed on the mountain.IMG_3367IMG_3360

We got up the next morning with the intention of climbing to Camp Shurman and taking the day to rest.  We climbed to the top of the Steamboat Prow a couple hundred feet above Camp Shurman with a large loose volcanic dust and rock cliff separating each other.  Since we had hoped to climb the Liberty Ridge none of us really had the route description of how to get to Camp Shurman.  You can tell the elevation plays tricks on you when what should be a easy problem to solve turns out to be hard.  We decided to go down with our tails between our legs.  It was demoralizing to realize failure from such a strong team of climbers.  We never really looked at the Emmons route description since we really thought we would just do the Liberty Ridge.  Heading back down to the car was somber and quiet.  Once to the parking lot we all laid around and dried out.  We went to a camp ground just south of us to sleep and eat.  The camp ground was right next to a beautiful fast moving river with a mossy green tree covered forest.  The ground was soft earth and small pine needlesmaking to capable to actually walk around with bare feet or to bivy on the ground.IMG_3380IMG_3385IMG_3393IMG_3374

The next day we drove to Enumclaw to go take a look at the Carbon Glacier for our return trip next year.  We drove into a section of the park with 600-800 year old rain forest and a wide rock filled river.  John made a tall rock cairn down by the river with smooth river stones.  The park rangers told us to take a walk through the rain forest to check out the size of some of the trees.  This was a great way to re-energize ourselves.  We decided to climb the Emmons route again the next day in a two day push.  It had to be done fast and light since our window to climb the route was small.  Our flights left on that Sunday so everything needed to work out just right.  When we got back to our camp ground we dropped as much weight from our packs as possible.  Packed everything up for the alpine start and slept on the ground.IMG_3411IMG_3413IMG_3417IMG_3403

We started hiking in at 3:30am from White River to get back to the Inter Glacier snow field.  We took another break at the same rock outcrop to see how everyone felt.  Once back on the snowfield we climbed fast to Camp Curtis gaining a ton of elevation in a short time.  This time we knew how to get on to the Emmons Glacier and up to Camp Schurman.  At Camp Curtis we put our climbing gear on and roped up for the exposed traverse in to the Emmons Glacier.  We passed some open crevasses before reaching the safety of Camp Schurman.  Everyone had moved quickly during the day and we all felt like we would crush the rest of the Emmons Glacier.  Our next day was going to be long but fun.IMG_3419IMG_3429IMG_3432IMG_3418

Our wake up time to finish the Emmons Glacier was 11:00pm.  We would eat, drink coffee and start climbing at 12:00am.  We had a small rain storm come through around 4-6pm in the afternoon.  No problem right?  Just the typical afternoon storm.  I finally got some sleep and woke up once Bob’s alarm went off.  It was raining like hell outside with no end in site.  I stayed up for the next couple of hours waiting to see if it would stop raining so we could start the route.  Our window of opportunity was closing for us if we didn’t start soon.  The rain never stopped and it even started to lightning on top of the mountain.  I could only see about 100 ft in front of me at 9,500ft.  It was a total bummer to realize we would not make it again.  I went back to sleep.85510015

We had not showered for five days and we were all sunburned and peeling really bad at this point.  Even with constant application of zinc and sunscreen the sun still hammered on us.  It was time to make some coffee, pack up the tent and head back down the glacier.  This time we had given it a good shot.  The weather had not cooperated for us with what we needed to do.  After packing up, we roped up and climbed back down to the Inter Glacier.  It was time to glissade back down to the Glacier Basin area and start the hike back to the car.  We slid down in 20 minutes what took us 4 hours to climb.  We were all pretty happy to be back safely in the woods.  On our way out we had one more really cool happening.  A large black bear crossed paths with us before we reached the White River parking area.  That was the icing on top of the cake for this trip.  Totally amazing.

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