Mt Rainier 14411 ft
May 26-27, 2001
Mick and I started from Paradise at 11:00am. Very hot. Mick found woman's sun hat. Beautiful day. Mountaineers on Nisqually and Pan Point. Took breaks on Muir Snowfield. Pushing fluids alot. Muir at 5pm, Ingraham Flats at 8pm. I started boiling water. Mick shoveled out bivy sites. Ingraham Direct wasn't very broken up. Ranger's climbing report said that ice fall hazard was considerable and that a two party team had a member punch through on the ice fall the week before and they waited until an RMI group came down to their rescue. We asked the Ranger why the party of two needed help and he said, "because they couldn't deal". Mick and I were comfortable with two person glacier travel and were carrying all the necessary equipment, but what worried us was the weather report that predicted winds developing Sunday afternoon. We agreed that an earlier start than usual (11pm) would be needed to reach the summit and return through the ice fall back to camp safely. Descending the Ingraham in a white out wasn't in our plans.
But as it turned out we didn't have to worry about those climbing details because we were as high as we were going to climb. We both agreed that 3 hours wasn't enough time to boil water, eat dinner, and rest before we needed to start climbing. We decided that we would just sleep in and have a nice leisurely trip back down to Camp Muir and then Paradise the next morning. The stars were out and it was a beautiful evening looking south beyond Little Tahoma. So we climbed into our bivy sacks and went to sleep only to be awakened a few hours later when numerous parties climbed passed us. As beams from headlights brushed across our bivy bags, I took a sip from my water and ate a handful of cashews and some chocolate. I was warm and comfortable: exactly where I wanted to be!
We awoke at 7am, boiled more water, packed up, and headed down. There were already several climbers descending the Cleaver, presumably turned around by the winds that were blowing up top. The night had been relatively calm, with a few occaisional gusts, but now the gusts were becoming more frequent and stronger. By the time we reached the scree and rocks near Cathedral Rocks, the gusts of wind were strong enough to knock us off balance. Several times I was forced to take a quick sideways step to keep from being blown over. Each time this happened, Mick and I had to laugh because we were so glad that we weren't up higher on the mountain where we could only imagine what the winds were like. We had definitely made the right decision given our situation.
We took a brief rest before we quickly crossed the Cowlitz Glacier with the crumbled Gibralter Rock looming above us. We arrived back at Muir around 10am, about an hour after we left Ingraham Flats. After removing ropes and harnesses we drank some water, ate some food and headed back down the Muir Snowfield. We passed several large groups climbing up as we descended. We were amazed that they were still heading up in spite of the dark clouds that were now encasing the top of the mountain.