Mount Rainier — Get to the Wall!

In the days leading up to Christmas I received a package from Oregon.  Inside was a book from Tawk Press called “Seeds of …”  It is a compilation by Mary Jane Nordgren of short stories related to the Pacific Northwest and the first story was the one I wrote about climbing Mt. Rainier in 2000:

“Get to the wall! Get to the wall!”

These were the first words gushing out of my father’s mouth as the glacier we were sitting on at 12,000 feet began to groan.  Luckily, this is all that the glacier did.  We had just traversed across an eight-inch wide ledge with a five hundred foot drop to our right and were taking a rest where the ledge had widened to ten feet.  If the glacier had let loose, we had no place to go.  We were stuck on this ledge high up on Mt. Rainier, 2½ miles above the rest of the world.

This expedition began as a thought in my father’s mind when he was climbing Mt. Rainier twenty years earlier.  As he was climbing, he met a father climbing with his son and decided then and there that if he had the opportunity, he would climb Mt. Rainier with his future son, me.  As I was growing up, I also developed an interest in climbing that has taken me to the summits of Mt. Fuji twice, Mt. St. Helens, Half Dome, and six others.  Finally, during the summer of 2000, our plans complete, we journeyed to Seattle and then on to Mt. Rainier, the jewel of the Pacific Northwest.

On a chilly July morning, just after daybreak, we set out from Paradise Lodge with four of our climbing buddies and began our ascent of Mt. Rainier.  We trekked nearly eight hours and over 5,000 vertical feet with our sixty-pound packs before arriving at Camp Muir.  This was our base camp.  We spent the next thirty hours acclimating ourselves to the altitude, replenishing our bodies, and catching up on needed rest.  At midnight, we arose to prepare ourselves for the summit attempt.  With the temperature hovering at minus ten degrees, it was hard to believe that summer was just seventy miles away in Seattle.  We prepared breakfast over propane burners that emitted flames and sounds that mimicked a small jet engine.  Then it was time – the summit awaited us.  We donned our insulated boots, long johns, gloves, vests, crampons, harnesses, headlamps, and parkas.  Finally, at two a.m., we were roped up and began our final ascent with millions of stars shimmering all around us.

The trail we were to follow was very dangerous due to the lateness of the season.  Many new crevasses had formed, some of them hidden below snow bridges making them extremely hazardous.  The width of one crevasse forced the trail to snake a half mile out of its way just to find a place to cross.  However, even here it was treacherous, for we had to belay across a horizontal ladder that served as a 15 foot bridge over a void whose icy blue walls disappeared into inky blackness hundreds of feet below us.  A football field, stood on end, could have been completely entombed in the darkness below us.

Another crevasse was also the reason we were on a ledge when the glacier began to groan and electrify us with a huge dose of adrenaline.  It was monstrous, and stretched horizontally for nearly a mile all the way to the backside of the mountain.  There was no way to traverse it – we had to go around it.  We skirted the mountain nearly 180 degrees before it was possible to continue our ascent.

The last 2,400 feet would prove to be the most demanding of the ascent.  This is when we were the most fatigued; altitude sickness was affecting some of us, and a storm had rolled in.  However, we trudged into the blustering winds one step at a time, pausing between each step to take a breath.  Our visibility in the driving wind and fog had become nearly nonexistent due to the whiteout conditions we encountered as we approached the summit.  The ends of our rope disappeared into the whiteness as the clouds swallowed the others on the rope.  Communication was reduced to tugs on the rope and occasional sputtering static from my two-way radio.

As we neared the summit, we encountered descending climbers who gave us encouragement by indicating the summit was just beyond an approaching ridge.  Then, suddenly, we had made it!  We could no longer go any higher.  We were standing at one of the highest points in the continental United States contemplating and congratulating each other on what we had just accomplished. I was tired, but felt great because I had just accomplished a very difficult feat that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  The memories of the climb will always be with me, and I hope someday to have the opportunity to return to the summit with a son of my own.

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~ by Rob Page III on January 6, 2011.

35 Responses to “Mount Rainier — Get to the Wall!”

  1. WOW! Compelling story, stunning photos…Mount Rainier is truly spectacular.

    🙂

  2. Great photos and story.

  3. This is on my bucket list.
    I hope to one day make it. Thanks for the great post!

  4. What an awesome adventure — and to get to do it with your dad, I’m jealous. I don’t have much that I can share with my dad (http://wp.me/pY8MO-eM).

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  5. Great pics and story…I thoroughly enjoyed it!!

    http://www.runtobefit.wordpress.com

  6. Mt. Rainier WOW… you must be proud of your dad ~SW

  7. I am not sure what is more amazing – the story or your pictures. Congrats on getting pressed.

  8. That is absolutely stunning!!! My hat goes off to you! I think I want to add that to my bucket list.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed! Enjoyed your post.

    Xx

  9. I will always love Mount Rainier.

  10. Beautiful story and photos of your adventure. This is what life is all about, living in the moment! What is life without following your dreams? And how great to have your story published!

  11. Awesome story! Beautiful pictures! What an amazing thing to get to do at such a young age with your father. What special memories you must have created with your father and the time you have gotten to spend with him. I am imagining some pretty wild stories are told at your house!

    I do have to say that black with white type is very hard to read for me! My eyes could barely bring it into focus, I actually thought of just finding something else to read.

    Magical Blessings Sj

  12. I’ve always liked stories about mountain climbers. Movies, too. While I’m saying to myself “Why?! Turn back before you die!”, I’m also cheering the climbers on with “Yes! You can do it! Wow! You made it!” It’s something I think I would love to do, just because it must feel so good to know that you could — and you did.

    Great story and accompanying photos!

  13. Excellent photos from Mount Rainier.

    http://calogeromiratraveland.wordpress.com

    http://calogeromira.wordpress.com

  14. Amazing photos!

  15. Amazing stories and adventures. Thank you for sharing!!

  16. Gorgeous photos! I’ve climbed a couple of mountains, neither as dangerous as Mt. Rainier. And definitely without snow! (I live in a tropical country.) I’m envious! I would love to climb more mountains, like Mt. Fuji. It’s exhausting and challenging, but the sense of fulfillment at the end of the journey is priceless, isn’t it?

  17. Awesome! Great story thanks for sharing! And awesome photos!

  18. Looks like a great adventure!

  19. Amazing photos and story… thanks for sharing! I guess I should step it up and start taking some decent photos instead of always “point and shoot” pictures on my adventures… I am inspired. My big hiking goal this year is to hike the Chilkoot Trail here in Alaska.

  20. great story great photos. what more could i ask for in reading a blog. good stuff!

    http://enjoibeing.wordpress.com/

  21. Having grown up in the Seattle area, obviously Rainier is on my to do list, but your story here just added to my want to do it. Great story.

  22. Absolutely breathtaking. Great story as well. I’ll be curious to hear about your future ventures.

  23. I grew up north of Mt. Rainier in Issaquah. Went hiking and climbing near there often, Chinook Pass, Goat Rocks, Crystal Mt. Once I hiked to the ice caves in my bare feet (accidentally left my boots behind, 100 miles away.) Thank you for the wonderful pictures and words.

  24. OMG beautiful pictures and an awesome story!!! Keep on adventuring! 😀 Congrats on the Freshly Pressed!

  25. Great story. Husband and I climbed New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington a couple summers ago and encountered terrible weather (almost a guarantee) above tree line. It’s no Ranier, but it was an adventure shared that we’ll never forget.

  26. That is an incredible feat and I’m glad I was fortunate enough to read about this adventure. 🙂

  27. […] Mount Rainier — Get to the Wall! […]

  28. Liked the story and accompanying images, keep adventuring!

    http://thisismycloud.wordpress.com

  29. Now I’d love to go to Mount Rainier myself. I wonder when I could do that though. It would be one of my dreams as of the moment, since it is still close to impossible. But maybe someday (I hope someday SOON).

  30. Rob – thanks so much for posting your account of our climb. It was great to see the photos again and relive the memories of our ascent with you, your Dad, his friend and my two boys. I am so happy that your father invited me and my two older sons to participate – we still talk about it from time to time. I now am brainstorming for a comparable journey to do with my two younger sons before I am too old to scale mountains! My best – Al

  31. Wow! What a trip! My Mom always has wanted to climb to Camp Muir, but that hasn’t happened yet. No way I’d try for the whole climb! 🙂

  32. it must have been a wonderful experience:D i’m jealous

  33. […] and taking the time to read my blog.  I haven’t had this much attention since my post about climbing Mt. Rainier with my father.  A few of you have asked about downloading/buying the pictures.  They are available for […]

  34. […] my dad goes out West annually to hike, this was my first trip since the summer of 2007. I really enjoy hiking with my father and it was great to be back up there with […]

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