Disconnected from the world for a few days (due to moving), I woke up Sunday to an email from my father. He had sent a news clip that stated 11 had been taken out by an avalanche on Mt. Rainier and 1 man was still missing. At midnight I received a text from my stepfather, an expert mountaineer, "someone is missing on Rainier". While most would be shocked, I wasn't. Every year somebody dies in an avalanche or crevasse in the early season (May to early June) when the snow is still thick and the temperatures are warming. To many there is a general perception; the mountain can't be that dangerous. It is close to the city and easy to get to.
In the case of the missing climber, he was alone and following the steps of other climbers. According to my mom, an expert mountaineer, on a 2 day climb plan (an aggressive plan), day 1 you climb to the half way point, generally with a few other climbers. Day 2 you get up early anywhere from midnight to 3am. Why? You are trying to beat the warmth. Not to say that it is balmy up there, but during the night the snow freezes. Most start climbing before it has a chance to warm and the snow has a chance to break, causing an avalanche or opening a crevasse. That night, it was believed to have stayed warm not allowing for the complete freeze.
On the second half of the climb towards the summit, you would be roped to a team. Everyone stepping together, everyone keeping the tension of the rope just snug enough to control a tragic event of getting swept away or falling into a 150+ foot crevasse. This guy, he wasn't roped. He was alone. Out of the teams that got swept by the avalanche, he was the one to go missing. My mom tells me, several people try to climb solo. All I can think, that is just plain stupid.
Yes, the event is tragic. And yes, you can never predict what will happen on the mountain (it is said, 3000 people attempt to summit and only one third actually make it to the top due to winds, avalanche, crevasse, etc). My plan and I am sure it is my stepdad's and mom's plan, is to practice ice axe arrest, a term I grew up with and I haven't practiced since I was 14 (Mt. St. Helens climb). In addition, we will probably practice being on a rope together. In the case of tragedy we may actually be able to save each others lives. I trust my parents to lead us to the summit safely. If I didn't, we could be the ones buried.