$24,000+ raised in benefit of Washington’s National Park Fund. Sponsored by Microsoft. Guided climb donated by International Mountain Guides. 100% of the climbers reached the summit.
With special weathery luck, on the cloudy morning of August 12th, 2014, we reached the summit of Mount Rainier after three days of hard work, thanks to the amazing leadership of four IMG guides. This is our illustrated story.
Every year two guided summit climbs are donated by International Mountain Guides to benefit the three national parks in Washington State through a fundraising program. Washington’s National Park Fund and Microsoft join forces to encourage sixteen eager climbers to join challenge.
I was part of the August 2013 climb and managed to reach the crater, but due to bad weather and injury I did not make it to Columbia Crest, the true summit. Nevertheless I was extremely happy, and decided to do it again, this time more prepared.
One of IMG’s partners, George Dunn, who has summited Rainier over 500 times, told us all about the guided climb through the DC route in a talk at Microsoft early in February, and two hours later my husband and I were signed up for August. The goal was to raise at least $3,000 and train hard over the next six months.
Most of the people on the team had not had any mountaineering experience but wanted to get to the top of the big mountain that greets them every day from the Seattle area. That’s what’s special about this climb, not only are funds raised for charity, but climbers get the chance to step out of their comfort zone and fulfill one of their big dreams.
A week before the climb we were physically ready and did nothing but prepare yummy food for the trail. IMG provides breakfasts and dinners while on the mountain, and we take care of ourselves throughout the day. Among my favorite trail food are puff pastry sold at Whole Foods and PCC, Luna bars, cheese, honey, ham & cheese sandwiches and Chinese bread.
Day 1 – August 9th
Meeting at IMG’s headquarters in Ashford for Gear Check is a very exciting thing. You get to meet the lead guide and the rest of the climbing team, and have the opportunity to spread all your gear on the floor to select only what you really need. Since this is luxury climbing, no camping or cooking gear is required, so the goal is to have a very light pack.
We were very lucky to have Mike Hamill as our lead guide. He’s a Himalayan veteran who guides year-round all over the world and spends his springs leading people to the summit of Everest. He’s the author behind the book “How to climb the Seven Summits”.
After gear check and introductions were done, we ventured to the Copper Creek Inn for some dinner, after which each of us went to have a good night sleep.
Day 2 – August 10th
You’re supposed to have a really good breakfast that morning and head back to headquarters at 8 am. Final packs weighted between 34 and 48 pounds, which is not very light.
We got on IMG’s van and started the drive towards Paradise.
Once there, we were greeted by the wonderful WNPF staff with whom we had been interacting via email since February. It was so heartwarming to see them there and waving a large banner for us. We, of course, took the mandatory group picture.
The hike up to Camp Muir was hot, sunny and windless. What else can you ask for?
On prior visits Camp Muir had always been cold and windy, but not this time. Our luck continued and we spent a warm evening enjoying burritos and hot drinks with the guides inside a cozy weather port. I was so thankful for this, especially after seeing the clients from another guiding service having re-hydrated food by themselves.
Then we went to bed at the hut.
Day 3 – August 11th
This day was about glacier training and moving to high camp. Chill day that started with pancakes.
Then we packed everything and went on to learn how to walk on crampons, how to perform team and self-arrest and how to walk as a rope team.
After that we moved to high camp at Ingraham Flats, a safe glacier surface in between very scary crevasses. It was here where the guides surprised us with an incredible dinner of spaghetti with meatballs.
We went to bed at around 6 with a nearby thunderstorm as lullaby. We got up after the storm and noticed a young wildfire on the east side of the park.
At 11:30 Mike woke us up and we got ready for the summit bid. The camp was eerily quiet without any wind. After our guides treated us to some oatmeal and coffee we put on the crazy gear and started the headlamp path amid a starless night.
Five minutes into our walk we crossed a 6-foot wide crevasse through a ladder, and it was a piece of cake. The trick is to not look down.
Due to heavy clouds we only got the day’s first light when all of us reached the crater.
Standing on the crater is considered a successful summit, so we took a few minutes to drink, eat and celebrate. After that we headed towards Columbia Crest. There were no views, but that doesn’t matter, we were there.
Now we only had to go all the way back to Paradise. And we got there at 3pm, with our WNPF friends cheering us up from the parking lot. That’s when it started to rain. It turns out a thunderstorm was fast approaching and we barely missed it.
WNPF sponsored dinner for climbers and guides and Mt. Rainier National Park’s superintendent, Randy King, honored us with his presence. A totally successful climbing experience.
This is the video clip that tells it all: