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      WELCOME TO THE CASCADECLIMBERS.COM FORUMS   02/03/18

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marek

partner for a climb

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anyone feels motivated for a climb on tue-wed ?

give me a call 253-945-1493.

gib ledges or ID , i have wheels and climbed mt rainier

a number of times.

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Well if i knew you guys were looking for people to accompany you I would have loved to join!!! I would have even skipped class on wed! What was it like up there, windy? pitty.gif

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My plans for climbing Sherpa Peak on Wednesday had fallen through and I was searching for some other way to take advantage of the fine spell of weather we’d been having. I noticed marek’s post on CascadeClimbers.com under Climbing Partners looking for someone to climb Gibraltar Ledges on Rainier on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was now 10:30 on Monday evening, but I decided to call the guy anyway because I was as they say, “all dressed up with nowhere to go”. The fellow who answered the phone had an accent to his voice that I couldn’t place. Turns out he was Polish and had climbed Rainier ten times, he was younger than I and he runs marathons for fun. I couldn’t help but think how it was that the hard core Polish climbers were the first to summit Everest in winter and were at present attempting K2. “Am I serious enough to climb with a guy like this?”

 

We agreed to meet at the 272nd St. Park and Ride in Des Moines at 9 am the next morning. Mark would bring the stove and we didn’t need a tent, because we would use the climber’s hut at Camp Muir. I was so tired, I decided to start packing in the morning, which was a mistake, because I lay in bed thinking about such things as whether to take my heavy down jacket or the light one, which pants, which sleeping bag... I got up at 5:30 and had all my gear laid out by 7:30 when I had to take my son to school. I was on the road fifteen minutes late at 8:45 and met Mark at 9:15. He had a little Ford Escort, which just barely fit two climbers and their gear.

 

On the drive down to Paradise Mark told me that he had made five previous attempts on Rainier in winter, all by the Gibraltar Ledges route. Most had been defeated by bad weather, but one had ended when his partner fell off the ledge and had to be rescued by helicopter. On one occasion, he had reached to within 400 ft of the summit in 100-mph winds. The winds were so strong, that they were crawling on hands and knees. He was upset that his partner insisted they turn around! So, here I was with a very determined fellow who flat out told me we would not turn back except under the direst of circumstances. It all made me rather apprehensive. I felt really strong, as I had climbed Hood the previous Friday without any soreness the following day, but would four days rest be enough? Besides, I had run seven miles only two days before.

 

We stopped at the Museum at Longmire to register and found there were no recent reports from the mountain. Arriving at the overnight lot at Paradise we found it cool and windy. The wind was a Chinook out of the east. Mark wanted to see everything that I had packed to make sure I wasn’t carrying any unnecessary gear. This was where I discovered that I had forgotten my wind pants. “How could you forget your wind pants?” He asked, incredulously. On any other trip, this wouldn’t have been so bad, but Rainier is a windy mountain. I told him that my pile side-zip pants would have to do. I felt terrible about this but wasn’t surprised it happened. It was all a result of trying to pack so quickly, as I usually pack a day in advance.

 

There was a fellow in a white car parked next to us who was obviously a climber. He was very tall with a dark beard and told us he was climbing the mountain solo. Wow, that seemed to me a rather risky thing to do. He departed half an hour ahead of us and judging from his progress on the Muir snowfield, he was in excellent shape. A few minutes out of the parking lot we met two women. The older of the two was apparently an acquaintance of Mark’s because they immediately began speaking in Polish. This was Branca who last summer at the age of 77 was the oldest woman ever to climb Mount Rainier. Furthermore, she completed the climb in one day in excellent time. Branca warned us that it was too windy to climb this day. We reassured her that we were just going up to “check it out”, and would turn around if it was too bad at Muir.

 

It was quite windy at Panorama Point, still coming from the east, but I told Mark my prediction that it would not be windy higher up on the Mountain, because the Chinook winds only affect the passes. He agreed that this was so. We met four guys out for a hike and said hello. One of them was Dulton from CascadeClimbers.com. Turning the corner to ascend the Muir Snowfield, we had the wind more behind us. We found that winds earlier in the week had scoured the snowfield exposing ice in some places and heaping drifts in others. It was a very tiresome walking surface as one step would slip off, while the next would sink in to the ankles.

 

We arrived at Muir Hut at about 5 p.m. with me lagging behind a good half-hour. There was no wind! I had never been to Muir before, so I didn’t even know which building was the climber’s hut. I found it was the stone building with the door open. Inside it was dark and very cold. And it was very smelly with several stoves all going at once. Ice coated the walls and floor. I was so tired, I had to sit a few minutes before I could summon the energy to unload my pack. I chose a bunk on top in the back on the theory it would be warmer up high. Of course it didn’t occur to me at that time that fart gasses also rise...

 

The other occupants of the hut were a party of three who had arrived on Monday and had spent the entire day relaxing at Muir. They were going out at three a.m. We thought that was too early for a winter ascent and planned on 5 a.m. The remaining climber, Dave, was the guy we had met at the parking lot. He kept pretty much to himself.

 

We melted snow for the next day and filled my thermos bottle with hot tea. After dinner we turned in at 8 p.m. and I immediately wished I had brought my Thermarest pad. I was warm enough, but was so uncomfortable that I didn’t sleep more than thirty minutes at a time all night. The hours crawled by. I must have peered at my watch half a dozen times. At about 2:30, I heard this loud sound and I yelled out, “what the hell was that?” It sounded like a phone, but was an alarm for the other climbers. They quickly dressed left without even firing up their stoves. We got up at about 4 and drank hot tea and heated some more water for hot cereal. While I might make an alpine start on a cold breakfast in summer, I have got to have something hot for a winter climb.

 

Dave was up and Mark asked him if he would like to join us on our rope. We told him we changed our mind about the ledges and were going to go with Ingraham Direct both up and down. He agreed to join us. We left at 4:45 with no moon and a starry night sky. It was about 25 degrees out, and seemed pretty warm to us with no wind. Mark lead with me in the middle. The path was well beaten out and wanded already. As we reached Ingraham Flats, we could see the headlamps of the party above us. Mark thought they were at 13,000 ft, but I thought lower than that. By the time we got to the cirque below the icefall, it was getting light and we could see the three climbers making very slow progress up a very steep slope. It seemed we were catching up. It was damn cold here and we climbed for a while in down jackets. As we climbed higher we hopped a few crevasses and arrived at the icefall. We found the going steep and slow, accounting for why we had seemed to gain on the other climbers. We set one picket at a steep snow bridge after which it was a few hundred feet of front pointing in shallow kicked in steps on a 40-45 degree slope. It was definitely too hard and steep to plunge step down this on the way back, which meant we would have to go backwards down this stretch, a prospect I wasn’t relishing.

 

At about 13,000 ft the slope lessened to about 30 degrees and the technical part of the ascent was over. It was a matter of step, breathe, step, breathe, just plain hard work. I remember looking down at the top of Gibraltar Rock and thinking how easy it looked to get there compared to the traverse we had just done. It was just a single double rope rappel down to easy slopes on the Ingraham, except that we had only one rope…

 

We reached the crater rim at 10:30 am and saw the other party up at Columbia Crest. We took a breather and then, leaving our packs and rope, headed across the crater for photos. We said hello to the other chaps on their way down. At the summit, Mark voiced exactly what I had been thinking regarding the rappel. “Did you ask those guys if they wanted to team up?” “No, did you?” Let’s go catch them!

 

As it turned out, it wasn’t hard to catch the other party as they looked dead tired and were going really slow. They too were dreading the down climb and readily agreed to our plan. One of them said he’d only rappelled a couple times before, okay whatever. We found some exposed rocks on the col above Gibraltar and set up a solid anchor with some slings. After an amusing discussion about which knot to use, we rapped down a 50 degree slope of snow and rock. Dave went first on a Munter Hitch and I followed. He must have thought the crevasse was obvious, because he didn’t say anything. I saw it rather late and decided to go over the top of it. The only problem was that snow on the lip collapsed underfoot causing an awkward moment. We told the others to dodge to the left to avoid the crevasse.

 

Once we were all down and clipped to pickets, we pulled the ropes. Dave had been really concerned about the ropes jamming, but they pulled easily enough. We all roped up again and were on our way to Camp Muir safely past all the technical obstacles with Dave on lead. We pulled in to Muir Hut at 2 p.m. and found the other rope team was a good half-hour behind. When they pulled in they were dead tired and told us they were going to spend another night in the hut, and would we kindly inform the ranger?

 

The trip down Muir Snowfield was dreadful. One never knew what to expect. No two steps were alike: now ice, now drift, and now hard pack. I didn’t have my crampons on, hit one particularly icy patch and was on my ass before I knew what hit me. Mark later thanked me for pointing out a place to avoid. As unpleasant as it was, we were down in only an hour and forty minutes. Dave was long gone. That guy can really move, a great partner for a total stranger. We stopped for a meal at the Copper Creek restaurant and I had the best veggie burger I’ve ever tasted. The whole-wheat bun was home baked and fantastic. Despite the three liters of water I had consumed that day, I must have been dehydrated, because I had three glasses of water and two cups of tea and still didn’t have to pee until I got home! Mark announced that, having finally gotten his first winter ascent, he was through with Rainier for the foreseeable future. As for me, I plan to climb it at least another couple of times this year. Why waste all that conditioning?

 

--Brian

 

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nice TR, good job getting up there with a new partner!

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Good trip report, Brian! It's nice when thinks work out so well with totally new partners, huh?

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Marek is a very experienced and solid climber and we seemed to agree on almost all points. I can't think of one thing of importance that we disagreed on. I would not hesitate to climb with him again.

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Congrats on the winter ascent, sounds like you guys had a good time. Looks like you had awsome weather too (a balmy 25 degrees!?).

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Congrats on the winter ascent, sounds like you guys had a good time. Looks like you had awsome weather too (a balmy 25 degrees!?).
Well, I think it was more like 15 degrees on the summit, but it was nice if you were in the sun. laugh.gif

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I may be up to going back for more punishment next week on Gib Ledges if the weather cooperates and we get some more snow. It's going to have to be primo to get me out, though.

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