hi - this isn't your typical trip report, but I've heard that there are readers here that like to know the outcome of those that ask climbing and route questions on the board. Pretty much what's written below is true. Please excuse the couple of places where i may have used exageration and hypberbole as a writting crutch -
Arrived in Washington State on Saturday June 19, and made our way to Whittaker’s bunk house by 3:00 that afternoon. Early to sleep and at the Paradise parking lot by 8:30 Sunday morning to check in at ranger station and head up the hill to camp Muir. Arrive at Muir around 2:00 and settle into the shelter to cook up some ramin pride. The forecast for Sunday night/Monday morning looked a little sketchy with improvements forecasted for the next day so we planed on sleeping in and summiting Monday night/Tuesday morning. The two guys who shared the shelter with us that night left for the summit around 1:00 and were back by 5:30. They explained that they took the advice of guides who had groups that were also planning to summit on the Ingraham Flats that high winds and snowloanding made it prudent to turn back before hitting the Ingraham Direct.
Monday night a girl in the shelter goes out about 11:30 to use *facilities*. She comes back in and we ask here what the weather's like She says the moon is up, all the stars are shinning, it’s warm and no breeze. With that information we quickly get up and start gearing-up for our summit attempt. We are roped-up and the water’s topped off by 12:30 and we are on our way. My partner who’s been on rainier 12 times and summited 8 of those times commented that it was the nicest conditions he’s ever had (even though the snow conditions were more like mid-May than the 3rd week in June). We joined the parade of headlamp equipped climbers working the switchbacks up the glacier. We were making great time, feeling great and the biggest issue was getting around large groups that were going pretty slow.
I started feeling like shit and couldn't catch breath (i.e. couldn't breath) about 200-feet short of summit. Should have have turned back then, but two guys descending said the summit was right over the next ridge so I kept going. Made it to the summit, put on my belay jacket (thank you wild things) and proceeded to take 30-minute power-nap.
OK, taking a nap was maybe not the best plan, but we need to melt some water before we could head down and I had no desire to walk across the crater to hit the *true* summit.While I was napping Steve (my climbing partner) melted ice for the trip down. Decided that dawdling was a very bad idea so off we went. While we made it up the hill in pretty good time our decent may go down in the record books as one of the longest. Steve was particularly patient (I am putting him in for sainthood) with me considering a number of the places I elected to stop where probably high on the death-risk scale. That was also coupled with the fact that over the long decent Steve was reasonably sure that I'd have a misstep that would drag both of us to our death with the hardpack snow turning to slush and the possibility of not arresting before you found out what was at the bottom of the run-out. Friends watching us come down from the Flats wondered aloud why we were picking some of the spots we did to stop. Throughout all of this Steve was gently urging me along with polite comments about our impending doom if we stayed too long. Being that it was probably one of the nicest days ever on the mountain there was no breeze, no clouds and all that beautiful white snow; therefore, we quickly felt like we were on the inside of a microwave oven. With the heat things were really starting to soften up and melt out. Steve was telling me that stopping under the ice fall with it getting as warm as it was was a really bad idea. We later found out that at least one girl behind us punched thru a weakened snow bridge and and had to be pulled out of a crevasse.
So just about after 8 hours after leaving the summit we arrived back at camp Muir. We'd been talking the day before to a physician's assistant who looked at me and figured out that something not good was happening (no shit). He asked me a couple of questions and then I crawled into my sleeping bag to die (I mean take a nap). An in determinable time later I awoke to two climbing rangers/emt's(big thumb's up to Peter and Cooper, two great guys who were the consummate professionals) one of whom was twisting my big toe to wake me up and asking if I was ok. I said I was fine provided that I remained horizontal and that I planned to sleep it off. The PA at this time was convinced that I was suffering from a pulmonary embolism, but that was shortly disproved when they put me on O2 and my pulse/ox numbers started looking good. They spent the next hour hour or two (who was looking at a watch) periodically taking my vital signs and monitoring my condition. While I no longer felt as bad as I first did and my vitals stabilized into my nominal range I’d still have sever shortness of breath if I exerted myself at all. The rangers conferred with the PA and an emergency medicine doctor on the ground and decided that it was best to get me down as soon as I could. I was doing ok, but they didn’t want to take the chance of me going south over-night, so they threw me a flight suit and a helmet and said pack your gear you're gonna get to take the resupply helo down. As luck would have it, this was one of the few days a year that the park has a helicopter to bring supplies in and out of camp Muir. They’d been postponing for over a month and this was the first day that weather permitted them to fly. There was almost a hiccup in my get out of jail free card because there was a woman on the Flats who was really sick and she was gonna bump me for the ride (I would agree that possible cerebral edema trumps possible pulmonary edema every day). Lucky for me, she wasn't ready to be flown out so they flew me down and went back for her. I rode down the mountain in the back of the ambulance with the woman and two other park rangers/emt's . Before they loaded her on they told me she was in bad shape. I explained that I knew the drill and would be invisible. She was crashing hard and I ended up taking my own vitals to pass along to the dispatcher. It’s amazing how well a nasal cannula with 4.5L of O2 flowing blocks the smell of other peoples puke.
Other than the minor inconveniences at the end of the climb I had a great time. And how often do you get a helicopter tour of Mount Rainier. I can't wait until next year. Story about riding in the front seat of an advanced life support ambulance and getting to honk the loud horn and operate the lights and siren to follow (probably not). May also throw in my experience of medical care as a commodity in Washington and how they tried to up-sell me.
The cause of what was diagnosed as HAPE may have been medication I was taking in addition to diamox. could get no conclusive confirmation from the drug manufacturer and only some hmmm, maybes from doctors so I'm not going to give the drug name here. You just may want to check if anything you are taking is a vasoconstrictor.