Last night the wind was howling and rain pounded on our tents like a million birds hitting a window. I wondered if we would be able to climb the next day.
I woke up in the morning to hear from my mom she had thrown up all night. She didn't think it was from altitude, but rather stress from my wedding. Not to discount the stress of my wedding, but I think it was probably some sort of flu. She told me she did not want to stop us from climbing. She had planned to climb this mountain with me and she was going to regardless of how she was feeling.
Tonya and I made some oatmeal for ourselves with gogi berries and these little seeds that help hydrate you for long periods of time. I threw on some sunscreen and warm clothes. My mom tried to check the weather on my iphone, but it was a no-go. At 10am we were all packed up. It was sunny and clear. As we began scaling the nearly vertical slope the winds swooped us off our feet and we had to anchor ourselves by digging our feet and ice axes in. The wind was boss. We kicked steps into the mountain since the steps kicked by previous climbers were either ruined by those who came down the mountain or they were covered by snow. The snow was slushy or as my mom referred to it as "sugar", which led us to sink up to our knees with every other step and pulling oneself up and out took three times as much energy as kicking steps. It was exhausting and frustrating. I could only imagine what my stepfather was going through since he was double my weight. Although, Tonya led and kicked most of the way, her steps were either too far apart or there were too many steps and holes from previous climbers, I couldn't follow her. My mom switched places with me after a few hours to give me a break from the kicking and while her steps were perfectly spaced apart (the smaller the steps are spaced apart the easier it is on your muscles), I just kept sinking. Eventually she and Tonya's steps joined forces, from there things became a little easier. We passed about 15 climbers who were on their way back down the mountain, none of which summitted due to altitude sickness or high winds. All I could do was hope that we would be the lucky ones to summit.
After four hours in we were famished and stopped for a bite to eat. I had prepared peppered turkey on rice bread with provolone and dijon mustard. The bread was dry and had soaked up all the dijon and since we were dehydrated it felt like we were stuffing our mouths with gauze, any little drop of saliva was captured by the bread.
At 6 hours we finally made it over the hump and towards the traverse to high camp (around 9300 feet); Schurman. At the hump we were able to look down onto Emmons glacier, which is known for crevasse country. While it was mostly blanketed with snow, each little divet in the snow represented a crevasse that had not yet opened. There were hundreds of divets and at least a dozen large crevasses with their mouths wide open. Jerry said, we better rope up since these crevasses can swallow a school bus. The trail we were headed on was about 12 inches wide with a drop off to Emmons. One slip and you may not return. What made the climb real was two things: Tonya saying, use your ice axe religiously or you could be a goner. And my mom standing at the edge of the trail with a gigantic crevasse behind her. It was ready to swallow. The ropes would tie us all together in case one of us should slip we could dig our axes in and also pull someone out of a crevasse. We clipped into our chest and waist harnesses and Jerry took the lead, while my mom took the back. Forty minutes later we were to high camp.
Schurman was gorgeous. To the left we were looking straight up at the summit. We were so close so very close to the top of the mountain I grew up with. She was so powerful. You could see the steps of the people who had gone up that day. To look up and see what we had ahead of us was both overwhelming and awe inspiring. To the right of where we stood were hundreds upon hundreds of peaks in the cascade mountain range. We were above the clouds. As a kid you spend your time on a swing set trying to reach the clouds, as a 30 year old adult I had climbed through and above them.
It took us 7 hours to get to high camp and our work was not yet complete. My mom was feeling really ill. We unroped, my mom melted snow for water and Tonya and I instantly grabbed a shovel and ice saw. We needed to create a wind shelter for our tents. Winds on rainier could get up to 100+ mph. At this moment the winds were calm. When we arrived there was already a shelter half dug. We started in on it. We needed to make a space wide enough to fit Tonya's large round North Face tent and a space long enough to fit my mom and Jerry's long narrow mountaineering tent. We sawed blocks of snow and ice about 3 feet deep and stacked the blocks creating a 6 foot tall wall. After 2 hours of sawing, digging and shoveling we thought we were finished. It was 8pm and we needed to get our tents set up before the sun went down or winds picked up. We also needed to get to bed as we were supposed to get up at 11pm to climb.
The tents did not fit.
We spoke to the ranger. He pointed out another spot for Tonya and I. Forty minutes of shoveling later we had very rough and very low walls. They just barely covered the sides of our tent. The snow walls were incredibly soft. We were also getting yelled at by a woman in the tent across from us. She told us to quit chitter chattering and shoveling was disturbing her sleep. Her attitude was uncalled for. Regardless, we stopped what we were doing and hoped large winds would not come.
By 10pm we finally ate. It was not going to be possible to climb tonight. We were too exhausted. Part of me was excited for a day of rest, but part of me wondered if we would get to summit. What if the weather turned terrible tomorrow evening?
The video below shows some of our climb— a rest at 7,710 feet, shoveling and sawing a wind shelter and the magnifiscent sun set just after our 10pm dinner.
Getting ready for our ascent to high camp
Towards high camp we shall go
Around 7700 feet
Traverse to high camp
Crevasse mom stood right in front of
Mom and Tonya roped up
Jerry roping up at traverse
Trail to high camp (Schurman) & Rainier summit
Looking down at trail to high camp from Schurman
First snap shot at Schurman (Jerry led us along the trail to camp)
Camp Schurman (high camp)
Tonya and I digging/building a wind shelter
Wind shelter almost complete (or so we thought)
Just before bed