Monday, July 16, 2018

Hiking Mt. Rainier

John recently took a trip to Washington state to hike Mt. Rainier, and although I didn't join him, it was too cool of a trip not to blog about for future memories! So thankfully John was willing to write a post to share with y'all! ;)


While not a huge fan of social media, I'm a big fan of Lisa and her blog, and I think it is both incredible and more than a little bit frightening that what she posts here will be preserved on the internet for posterity - the upside of this, of course, is that our two wonderful kiddos will be able to look back on her posts (minus those she has deleted - RIP slow-cooker beef stroganoff recipe) and gain insight into the people their parents were while they were still cool.

With that lofty goal in mind, Lisa asked me to write a short post about my recent trip to Mt. Rainier. Here it goes:

The seed of the idea to climb Mt. Rainier was almost certainly planted during the four years I spent living in Auburn, Washington, where "the Mountain" both literally and figuratively overshadowed my daily life as a little boy who, left largely to his own devices, quickly became enamored with the natural world around him - an easy thing to do in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. That seed likely germinated during law school, when, as an escape from the oppressive burden of my daily case readings, I turned to fly fishing, bird hunting, and, after graduating law school and moving to the American Southwest, long day hikes to the summits of mountain peaks in the southern Rockies and other nearby mountain ranges.

Having kiddos curtailed my free time but not my desire to spend time outside, so I started thinking about what sort of things I could do to make the most of my limited opportunities for outdoor adventure. Alpine mountaineering, in its sheer scale, grandiosity and undeniable romanticism, was the obvious answer, and, given my boyhood familiarity, Mt. Rainier was the clear target. So obvious to me, in fact, that I booked the trip and made a deposit without even mentioning it to Lisa - a minor detail that resulted in a not insignificant amount of consternation in my household.

In any case, I showed up in Seattle nine months later, in fairly good shape but without having prepared physically the way I should have (occupational hazard of being a new dad for the second time, as well as a private equity mergers and acquisitions lawyer by day - and, frequently, night - I guess). Mentally, however, I was all there.

Of the three days my team would spend on the Mountain, two and a half were in whiteout conditions, which means there were no pictures to be had. The first leg, a six- hour slog up the Muir Snowfield for roughly six thousand feet of elevation gain, all while wearing double mountaineering boots and hauling a forty pound pack, was grueling but not entirely disheartening.

The second day was spent acclimatizing and learning how traverse glaciers by working as a rope team, which is a system of attaching yourself to the two other members of a three-person team via a climbing harness and thirty feet of rope, so that if one member of a team falls into a crevasse (essentially a giant crack in the ice, up to around 60 feet deep), the others, in theory, will be able to haul the fallen person out and all can continue onward as planned. After becoming sufficiently proficient in glacier travel technique, my team roped up, strapped on crampons, and climbed another few thousand feet to "high camp," where we then rested up for the next several hours prior to our attempt at the summit of Mt. Rainier.

The third day, "summit day" (which began at 12am - the infamous "alpine start") did not go as planned. The blizzard conditions that persisted over the prior three days contributed to what our lead guide (who I'm inclined to take seriously, since he was standing on the top of Everest two weeks prior) determined to be an unreasonably high risk of avalanche danger. As a result, my team (and every other team on the Mountain during the time I was there) did not go for the summit of Rainier.

While failing to attempt the summit left me feeling incredibly disappointed in the moment, by morning my emotions had cooled and I was able to appreciate the value of all of the things I had learned on my trip. The fact that the weather cleared up must have helped (along with the fact that we were able to look further up on the mountain and see that avalanches had actually occurred during the night), and we were finally able to take a few pictures:


  1. Wow!! Amazing, and scary! And beautiful pictures!

  2. How amazing! We're hiking the Summerland train on Rainier next month as a fundraiser for our ministry in Zambia. I love John's pictures of what further up the mountain looks like!


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