Unfortunately I rarely go on my big climbs with friends because it is almost impossible to coordinate time, money and objectives. So I am looking forward to my next climb, Mt. Rainier in Washington State around July 30 because I will be climbing with my climbing buddy Jim Davidson and several other friends, some new.
Rainier brings back memories for me in several ways. Back in 2004 I put together a team with limited climbing experience to attempt Rainier via the Disappointment Cleaver (DC) route. We called ourselves the Rainier 9.
I was coming off two “non-summits” of Everest back to back in 2002 and 2003 and was about ready to give up climbing altogether. But something inside me kept the passion alive. So while climbing my Colorado 14ers with Patrick and Robert, we started talking about Rainier and the plan was hatched.
The Rainier 9
We used Rainier Mountaineering, RMI, as a guide service. That summer was tough one for Rainier with difficult weather. Few teams had summited the week before and the week after us but we were able to slip through a small window and all of us made the summit – a memorable time and wonderful experience.
I vividly remember our team climbing on three ropes approaching the summit crater one by one and then moving to the highest point, Columbia Crest, at 14,410 feet. it was a beautiful day and we spent a few minutes sharing the views, long hugs and a few tears.
Rainier is not the highest in North America, that would be McKinley aka Denali. It is not the toughest, that would be; well take your pick. The DC is not the toughest route, that could include Liberty Ridge – more on that in a moment.
What Rainier offers is a miniature version of alpine climbing at its best. There are glaciers, snow fields, crevasses, avalanches, steep slopes and wonderful views. Many use it as a stepping stone for Denali or Himalayan climbs but for many it is a lifetime destination and a summit of dreams.
A Different Kind of Climb
For this climb, however, it will be all this plus a bit of poignant climbing history for my friend Jim. You see Jim climbed Rainier in 1992, via the Liberty Ridge, with his long time climbing partner Mike Price. Jim came home, Mike did not.
If you have not read Jim’s account of the experience in his book co-authored with Kevin Vaughn, do. The Ledge takes you through the harrowing account in amazing detail while keeping the overall spirit of the experience forefront. I promise you this; it is an afternoon read because once you start, you won’t put it down.
Thus, I expect all our emotions to be tested as we will climb the same steep slopes of the Emmons Glacier where they fell into an 80′ crevasse. We will pass the spot where Jim was able to, against all the odds and to the disbelief of Park Rangers, climb out. We will pause and let the moment, the memory for Jim, settle back into our conscious thoughts.
I never knew Mike but I know Jim well. It will be an opportunity to share this time with him and to create new memories.
Before we leave, I’ll do another post on our route and hopefully a couple during the climb from the mountain.
Memories are Everything