Five Guys and All Their Gear Packed Tetris Style
Snowy, Windy and Low Visibility
It began snowing in the parking lot at Paradise and it only intensified as we went up. Sustained winds of 38mph and higher gusts pushed us around even with an additional 35 pounds strapped to our backs. We were all thankful we had trained with and used hiking poles to help us keep our balance and footing.
Blizzard @ Camp Muir
When we arrived at Camp Muir we were hot and sweaty from the effort of battling the wind, snow, and elevation gain. It was nearly dark (this picture was taken the next morning) and the temperature was around 15º with wind gusting at 45-50+ mph, especially in the channels between the huts and the rock wall where we had to secure our packs, crampons, ice axes and climbing poles. Our gear inside our backpacks was in garbage bags to keep items dry and all we had to do was extract that garbage bag and head inside, but Will was having trouble getting his gear out of his backpack because of his pack's pear shaped design. I helped him collect his gear. We were only out there 5-6 extra minutes, but being soaked with sweat in those conditions, he started going hypothermic! We got him out of his wet clothes and into his Alaska Plus sleeping bag and gave him hot chocolate to drink, It took him well over an hour to stop shivering continuously.
Break at Disappointment Cleaver
Preparing For the Last Stretch to the Summit
Of the 18 hikers who started the trek, only 8 of us were ready to make the last push to the top. One person turned around on the first day, never making it to Camp Muir. Several more decided not to join us when we left this morning. A few more turned back at Ingraham Flats. A young man of just 16-years old had pushed himself beyond his limit and he fell to his knees several times as we ascended. At the point where he was struggling to get back on his feet, a guide took him back down. A few others made the decision not continue higher from this break at the top of Disappointment Cleaver. Our guides made the decision for another based on their assessment of that climber's ability and the safety of the rest of the team. In the mountains, your ability to react as trained, follow instructions, and commit physically and mentally can be the difference between life or death, for you and the other members of your team.
Assessing the Avalanche Risk
Our guides Pete & Mike (in the neon green and grey jackets) confer on the route and asses the avalanche risk due to the snow accumulation on the Emmons Glacier on the way up to High Break
Hannah & Chris Scout Ahead
Guides Hannah Smith (Avalanche Level I Certification) and Chris Ebeling (Avalanche Level II Cerification) went ahead to asses the risk. They found that the winds had deposited more than 3 feet of soft, loose snow on top of hard packed snow. They determined that the avalanche risk was HIGH and our guides made the decision to turn the team around. Disappointment Cleaver would be everyone's high point for this expedition.
Disappointment Cleaver - 12,358'
You can see the summit of Mount Rainier behind us. It looks like we could just cruise up and tag the rim of the volcano, but that summit is still 2,052' above us and 0.9 miles away.
Left to Right: Gregg Brekke, Mike Briehl, Will Cousino, Eric Gibb & Mike Cousino.
Tent Camping Above The Clouds
Rope Teams Crossing the Cowlitz Glacier on the Return Trip to Camp Muir.
Each rope team had one guide and a max of three climbers.
Mount Adams Peeking Through the Clouds 48 Miles Away!
Mt. Adams is the second highest peak in Washington at 12,280'
Pike Place Market
On Thursday we added my brother, Mark, to our entourage. We dropped Gregg off at King's Station for him to catch his train to Portland, and then the rest of us sampled to the local tastes and brews that ultimately turned into a Pike Place Pub Crawl when we serendipitously ran into to fellow climber Alex Lucken!