Monday morning, 3 days before the climb I wake up with that sinking, nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and it never went away for those 3 days. I’m not sure if it was becsuse it’s a possibility I could not come back or that I was terrified to get AMS. Mostly it was the unknown and the anticipation. The morning of I wake up a hot mess. I was so emotional and I just couldn’t keep the tears back because of the out pouring love I received that week from everyone and the fact I was leaving behind my worried sick husband. I say my goodbyes and I’m on my way. We met up in Ashford at whittaker mountaineering to pick up our rental gear. The moment I see everyone the nerves washed away. I felt so excited at this moment and couldn’t believe the day was finally here. We did some stretching at the guides memorial and then we were off to paradise. When we arrive we have to get our camp permits. One for Muir and one for ingraham flats. Come to find out camp is full on Friday for the flats. My initial thought was, “f**k, yep there goes our trip or do we summit tonight??” But that’s crazy talk. When we told Jake, he didn’t seem concerned. He told us the same thing happened last year and it worked out. We may just have to change plans some. Okay phew. We set out for camp Muir around 11am. Mind you it’s freezing, foggy and windy. Can’t see anything. 2 weeks prior when I did Muir it’s was a beautiful summer day. Shorts and t shirt weather but this was the complete opposite. Within 5 min, we have to delayer. You feel hot and uncomfortable because it takes a good mile to really get Into the groove. Not much happens between here and Muir other than a long, cold and windy slog up. Climbing mountains would be fun they said.
25 min before reaching Muir, we break the clouds and we all feel alive again and get excited that were almost there. Rainier is looking beautiful as ever. We get to Muir in 5 hours 20 min so its about 430pm.
We set up camp, boil water and get our sleeping arrangements ready. Overlooking Muir, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing like being above the clouds. Being separated from reality and just enjoying that moment in time. Realizing I’m doing something most people don’t get the chance to do and just chasing that dream.Our guide took us up this little rock climb where we over saw the camp and got a view of what The other side looked like. Huge open crevasses everywhere. Hundreds of feet long and wide. It was insane. There’s a pretty sweet one tent camp spot up there too. Best spot in the area hands down. I plan on going back to camp up there. The minute the sun goes down, it’s absolutely freezing cold out.
It’s about 730 and I guess I’m going to get into the tent and warm up. Mind you, when we set up our tents I’m sharing a 3 person tent with 2 others but this tent looked like a 1 person, maybe 2 if you want room. Our sleeping bags and pads overlapped eachothers. We were basically sardines, but hey more snuggles, more warmth. It took me hours to warm up it felt like. I had most of my layers on with hand warmers and mittens on. I could feel the cold coming through the sleeping pad so I tried putting my puffy coat beneath me. I even had my beanie on! Took quite awhile to fall asleep. I tossed and turned a lot that night. Pretty sure I kept my roomies up with the constant squeaking of my pad. I wake up in the middle of the night having to pee, but there was no way I was getting out of my sleeping bag because I was finally warm. I’m holding it until morning.
Next time i wake up it’s light out. I’m thinking it’s like 8am, but nope only 545! Ugh but since it was light out, I decided to finally go pee. I was so happy I got out because I got to watch the sunrise. Crisp, cold morning with the warmth of the sun touching my face and not one person awake other than me. Pure silence. It was pretty amazing. So I go pee and then find a spot to sit to call cory while I look at Adams, helens and the sunrise. I just couldn’t get over this view. After our conversation I head back to lay in the tent for a little bit. After everyone wakes up, we eat and get ready.
We did some training with self arrest, roping up and a little crevasse training before we headed to ingraham flats. Self arrest practice was actually pretty fun but it can potentially be dangerous if you don’t do the proper techniques. You know, impale yourself with the axe. No big deal. After that, we talk about crevasse rescue and practice tying knots in our prusiks, which is a way to get yourself out of a crevasse with ropes. We then roped up and practiced walking with switch backs because you switch rope on either side of you when you turn. Next, we pack up camp, learn to put crampons on and we rope up for the FIRST time ever, across a glacier. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. Oh, and you’re probably wondering about the permit for ingraham flats. The night before someones tent got blown over the edge, wedged between 2 crevasses. Our guides went and rescued it, so for that we got a free pass 😊
Within 10 min of climbing we have to jump a crevasse. I wasn’t prepared for that yet so it took me a good minute, okay 5 to finally jump across. Moving along, my legs were DEAD. My hips were sore. It felt so hard to move one leg in front of the other. I thought to myself if it’s going to be this way the whole time I’m screwed. It ended up only being that way to the flats which took a few hours. We had to climb through a rock field so for this we short rope and move quickly. Less chance to get struck by a rock from the people above. You also have to be mindful of not kicking rocks yourself. We get to the top of the rocks and we can see little tahoma!
The rest of the way wasn’t so bad. Want to know the first thing I thought when we first got to ingraham flats? Absolutely NO privacy to go to the bathroom. I have no problem popping a squat to pee but number 2? No way jose. I take the shovel and dig as deep as I possibly could to make a bathroom. So squating you can only see my head ha. Again, we set up camp and eat. We see little tahoma looking out, and looking the other way is the top of rainier. 3400 feet from the top. You could tell how windy it was at the top with how quickly the clouds were moving. To the left was a huge rock wall which you would hear loud rock falls quite often which almost sounded like an earthquake about to happen. A little unnerving. To the right is where we go to climb. We get all the gear we’re taking with us ready so that way when we wake up we can just go. I’m going to get really personal here so I apologize but I felt like I had to go number 2 but I couldn’t. Practically the entire time. It was miserable. I blamed it on the altitude. I said maybe I’ll wake up with the nervous poos before we go. Once again the sun starts to go down and it gets really windy making it really cold. We decide to all hop into bed. We couldn’t sleep so we just talked and laughed. These girls made this trip so much more enjoyable. It’s like 7pm and we have to wake up at 1230. This is going to suck. I think I hardly slept because the wind was pretty strong that night. I thought for sure we weren’t gonna be able to go on but 30 min before we got up, it stopped. Kinda crazy. Every time I heard foot steps by our tent, I thought it was jake about to wake us up. I wasn’t ready. I could hear other teams talking so I knew soon we’d have to get up but I had no idea what time it was. I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed and had thoughts of wanting to stay back but minutes later, jake wakes us up which I was already. I get out of the tent and it’s actually not that cold. You see people already almost to the top of the DC (disappointment cleaver). This is where teams decide if they want to keep going. At this point on you are completely exposed. I’m seeing the stream of lights all along the mountain and it feels so surreal. This is what you read about. I’ve waited for this moment for a whole year and we’re actually doing this. I felt excited but also nervous. Did I get the nervous poos? Of course not. It took us a little longer to get going but we started around 130am. I think not being able to see made this somewhat easier and less scary. I then of course felt like I have to go to the bathroom. Ugh but I refuse to go while attached to people. No thanks. We had to go through another rock field for a bit but then after that was snow/ice the rest of the way. I heard one of the girls was already feeling sick. I felt so bad because usually the top of the DC is the turn around point. Once we reach the the DC we take our first break. We put on our down coats, eat and sip some water. At this point we are about 12k feet up. I had a bagel stuffed in my pocket that I could nibble on. It was here I got a little sick. I would feel hungry so I’d take a bite of my bagel. I then felt naseuous and felt like I had heart burn. There were moments I thought I was going to throw up and this happened every time I took a bite but you have to keep fueling your body. This sickness lasted about 45 min. I would get slight headaches but ibuprofen fixed that.
We reach the first ladder. It was slanted and thought how the hell do I cross this?! It was your typical metal ladder with 2 boards laying across just enough for each foot to stand on. Crampons made this a little more difficult considering this was my first time in them. My heart was pumping and I was terrified even if my guide was belayed into the snow but I had to do this. One foot in front of the other I made it across safely. It was roughly 430 and You could see it starting to get light out. See how far up we were was incredible. I mean we had perfect conditions. Seeing the sun coming up across the horizon was like nothing I had seen before.
We stop to take a break around 13500 feet. Just guessing here and it was at this moment I KNEW we were going to summit. Things can change quickly up there but I just knew it. I was feeling good at this point. Like let’s freaking do this. Here we go, the last push.
Climbing along this narrow path with it being pretty much straight down on your left didn’t really scare me all that much. The beauty of seeing Adams, the sunrise, the camp below us, seeing the this beautiful mountain from a different perspective was simply amazing. No words can really describe it, other than you need to see it for yourself.
We reach our 2nd ladder. This wasn’t as bad except the boards were all wobbly but after doing the first one this one wasn’t so scary. We saw this pretty awesome lenticular cloud coming for the top of rainier which isn’t always a good sign but to see one that close was awesome. With something like climbing Rainier, you think you’ll never make it top. Maybe its because I had it engraved in my head that I wouldnt summit. I’ve seen it take people 3 or 4 times to summit. Either due to weather or that altitude sickness would prevent someone from summitting so when I saw the edge of the crater I couldnt believe it. Also, the fact that I didnt struggle on this climb, it was hard to believe I had made it. For an entire year I dreamed of this moment. Reaching the top and how it would feel. I started to get all emotional. It felt so surreal. It didnt actually feel like I was on top of Mt Rainier. Took a good week to set in. The highest point in Washington state and the tallest glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states. Unbelievable. We make it to the crater, which look like a big bowl. It was pretty windy the last 20 minutes or so but with the walls of the crater it was calm inside. We dropped our packs, hugged it out and we took our ropes off and headed for the columbia crest which is the true summit.
Took about 10 minutes to cross the crater where we signed the summit registry. We took a break here and then proceeded to the true summit. 14,411 feet tall we freaking made it! I tried to take it all in but we took our pictures quickly because it was extremely windy and cold. Now, this was my chance to go to the bathroom. So I walked back across the crater, grabbed my blue bag, yes you have to pack your poop out, gross I know and tried to find the most private spot possible. Yeah, theres no where private. I basically just went to the edge by the wall and popped a squat and yeah people were walking by and they dont care but I do! ya know? After I did what I had to do, I wait at my pack and eat some food. I felt great at the top. No sickness or anything. Once we all met back up, it was time for the dreaded descent. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour and that was it. You want to hear something super depressing? I could see the parking lot at paradise from the top. Ugh. Going to be a long trek down but thats part of the climb. What goes up must come down. It was around 9:15 and the ice was already turned into slush which makes things more difficult. Coming down was so miserable for me. It was very hot, I ran out of water and you’re slipping and sliding practically every step. Most accidents happen on the way down as well so the slush wasnt helping that. I then got hit with the sweats and my tummy rumbling. You all know what that feeling means. I went into panic mode because I thought maybe I wasnt going to be able to control what was about to happen. I started to get all irritated and grumpy at this point. I said, no I am waiting to make it to camp muir. That feeling eventually goes away. Thank god. After about 4.5 hours we make it to ingraham flats. At this point we are exhausted. We debated on either packing up and going or just taking a break. As much as I wanted to just pack up and get the hell off that mountain, I just couldnt. One of the girls ended up staying back because of AMS and she so kindly packed up my sleeping bag and pad. Bless her heart because I dont know that I would have had the energy to. I ate a sandwich and a slice of someones pizza then passed out on the snow for maybe 15 min. I felt like absolute shit. I had a killer headache and I felt sick to my stomach. I think the altitude had finally hit me. I seriously thought I wasnt going to be able to make it off that mountain. I could barely do anything, but I took some ibuprofen and just dealt with it. Heading back to camp muir was rough. I felt like I could just keel over and fall asleep right there. A long way back to muir and I started to feel better since we were dropping altitude. We take a break at Muir to go to the bathroom and take off all our rope gear and we head back to paradise. I knew it would be a few hours and at this point its 5pm. We told family wed be back between 2-6. My phone had died so I couldnt contact anyone and I knew everyone was probably worried but everyones phones were dead. I just wanted back down as fast as I could so people didnt have to worry anymore. Im fine, but they dont know that which sucks. We made it back to the lot at 730pm. My mom had talked about meeting me for when I come down but I didnt want her having to wait hours in case we were late but then I saw other people had family waiting, I said, “Man, I kinda wish I had someone here now.” Then I hear someone yell, “Jessica!” I turn and its my mom and dad! I’m getting all teary eyed just typing this. I was so happy and in tears and said I’m sorry to make you worry. My mom gave me her phone to call cory right away because he had been so worried. I felt terrible. I was so glad to be back on flat ground because my feet were in so much pain. I even had no feeling in part of my big toes for over a month. We all celebrated with burgers and beers and headed home after that.
I consider mountaineering type 2 fun. It takes dedication and it’s demanding, physically and mentally but it is so fulfilling and rewarding that it’s all worth it. I love to climb so much and it took a lot of hard work but proof that you can do anything.