Monday, July 27, 2009

Mount Rainier

This mountain is the highest peak in Washington, rising to 14,410 feet.  It is the 4th highest peak in the nation after Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, California’s Mt. Whitney, and Colorado’s Mt. Elbert.  It ranks along with Alaska, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming in degree of difficulty to climb--all being class 4 technical climbs.

Our intent for today was to check out the Muir Snowfield.  This broad expanse of snow must be traversed to reach Muir Camp.  Typically, climbers leave Paradise Lodge on the Skyline Trail and hike 4 miles and almost 5000 feet to spend the night at Muir Camp.  The next morning (well, it is usually somewhere around 1 AM) they are up and on their way to the top--another 3 miles and 4500 feet across the glacier.  After their ascent, they come all the way down making it a very long day.

Muir Camp is accessible to the hearty hiker, so they say.  Skyline Trail to Pebble Creek is usually dirt in August (peek climbing season), although we crossed some snow today.  The snowfield is not so steep that you need crampons, so they say.  When we got to Pebble Creek, we perched ourselves on a rock and watched as several climbers made they way onto the snowfield.  Most slipped and we made a mental note of that.

Once upon a time, in a life far, far away, I wanted to climb this mountain.  People die on this mountain and I wouldn’t climb without a guide service.  Rainier Mountaineering came very highly recommended so a very good friend and I made reservations to climb with them.  They will not take anyone without mountaineering training so we also signed  up for mountaineering school.  My guardian angel was no doubt watching over me, because I just happened upon a photograph in a book somewhere of climbers high on the mountain.  It scared the beegeebies out of me.  I cancelled.  My friend subsequently took 3 mountaineering courses and was still unable to get up the mountain.  However, since that time, I have thought I would climb as far as Muir Camp.  That could be my summit.
There were hundreds of climbers on the trail

Gene at Peeble Creek
Today, we went to look at the snowfield.  We definitely noticed that most people slipped and we also noticed how long 2 miles looked from our vantage point and how high it went.  Information gathered, we backtracked on Pebble Creek Trail to Skyline and continued on around the loop.  On this portion of the Skyline Trail we had to cross many large areas of snow--enough to convince me that I didn’t need to be on Muir Snowfield.  I’ve always said I’ll go as high as I feel comfortable and on Mt Rainier, my summit was Pebble Creek.
Climbers getting ready for the snowfield.

I ain't going up there.
On our return, one of those snow areas had the trail marker buried and we missed our turn off to Paradise Lodge.  We probably went (downhill, of course) three quarters of a mile before we crossed another patch of snow.  There were hundreds of people on Skyline Trail and this patch of snow had not been crossed today.  That was our clue that we had missed our turn.  Adding that 1.5 mile to the already 6.5 miles, made two very tired puppies and a very long day.  Did I mention that one of the main roads to Paradise is closed resulting in a 2 hour drive around from our campground.

We have planned to hike again tomorrow, but that will depend on whether we can move well enough to get out of bed.

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