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girlclimber

[TR] Mt. Rainier- Gib Ledges Attempt 3/12/2004

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Climb: Mt. Rainier-Gib Ledges Attempt

 

Date of Climb: 3/12/2004

 

Trip Report:

Let me first preface this by saying I absolutely hate writing. The only reasons I am typing this report are because some of you have requested it and the fact that I love you all very much.

 

So! Rainier in winter. I figured that would be the next challenge after topping out for the ninth time last summer. Unfortunately the weather made it a big challenge indeed. The only great window was in mid February, when my dad (who is my main climbing partner) couldn’t go. I kept training and hoping.

 

Then, a month later, on Wednesday, I realized the opportunity I had been waiting for was here. Friday and Saturday looked to be the best days. My dad told me with disappointment that being shorthanded at work meant taking Friday off wasn’t an option. Well, I was damned if I was going to sit through another break in the weather when I there was a chance I could climb. CC.COM to the rescue!

 

I found only one other person who was serious about an attempt and whose schedule allowed for it. So AaronB became my partner for the weekend. Climbing with someone you’ve never met is always a risk, but I can’t help but wonder what Aaron was thinking when I met him in Eatonville with my mom in tow (I’m 19 and still live at home for those of you lucky enough not to have met me). A quick transfer of gear and we were on our way.

 

We arrived at sunny Paradise with the mountain in full view. After a bit of repacking and gear-fiddling we left the parking lot at 11 AM. It soon clouded in and a stiff breeze began to blow, coating us in frost. At the bottom of Pan Point we ran into a descending RMI group who had turned back the day before at 13,000 feet due to ‘moderate’ avalanche hazard. We continued in low visibility up to around 8,000 feet where the sunshine made its return. It was warm with surprisingly little wind until the last slope before Anvil Rock. There we ran into a headwind and gusts blew strongly enough to knock us off balance while pelting us with ice chunks. All part of the fun!

 

Sometimes it looked like this: 4444100_0078_0001-med.JPG

 

Other times it looked like this: 4444100_0081-med.JPG

 

The slog took 5.5 hours, a time with which I was thoroughly unimpressed given the amazing snow conditions - hard sastrugi with no post holing above Alta Vista. The shelter was empty except for my little snowman, who has stood guard there since late October. We set about organizing gear, melting water, and discussing the next day. Crawled into the sleeping bags around 8 and were drifting off to sleep when a light flashed against the wall. Then we saw it again. I jumped out of my sleeping bag, jammed my boots on and ran three steps to the door. Kicking it open, I saw a headlamp attached to a guy attached to skis. I was so shocked I blurted out, “Where did you come from??” And so Dave and Adam joined the party. Naturally they fired up the stoves and all the laughter and talking made it hard to sleep. Around ten o’ clock things began to quiet down. I was all for an early start, but we pushed back our wakeup time to 1:30 AM, still an ungodly hour by any measure.

 

I was up before the alarm and headed out to check conditions. Perfectly calm, 20 degrees, with the stars out in force. None were visible near the summit, but I couldn’t tell if it was due to clouds in the sky or a cap on the mountain. After lazily brewing up and eating a bite, we headed out at 3 AM. Firm snow made for good cramponing, but we weren’t moving as quickly as I would have liked. We followed the first rock ridge to its end, where we had to traverse a snow slope/gully to access the main Cowlitz Cleaver. On the way up to Muir Aaron had noticed an avalanche had cut loose lower on the slope, so that was of some concern. Crossing one at a time we made it safely to the rocks and pushed on.

 

Alternating between rock and snow made it hard to develop a rhythm, and I began to have serious doubts about our chances of summitting. At the Beehive, we stopped to discuss options. The pace was just too sluggish for me to maintain for the rest of the climb, and I knew it would only slow more as we got higher. It had taken us an hour and twenty minutes to reach a point 800 feet above camp. Gaining only 600 feet an hour is just too damn slow IMO. That, combined with iffy weather and the lack of 100% confidence in my partner, led me to pull the plug.

 

Aaron didn’t argue, for which I was grateful. I was so disappointed I felt like crying, but I sucked it up to focus on the descent. We returned to Muir without incident and told Adam and Dave what we’d found. They headed up at close to 6 AM, which seemed pretty late to me. After resting a bit we packed and got outta there.

 

Dave and Adam at the base of the Beehive:4444100_0093_0001-med.JPG

 

Maybe I’m taking it way too seriously, because it was an agonizing defeat for me though I know the summit is not the most important thing. I could take a lesson from Aaron, who was just happy to be up on the mountain in beautiful conditions (btw Aaron thanks for taking the chance of climbing with a total stranger). This is the first climb on which I personally made the call to retreat, so the doubt and “what -ifs” are a new thing for me. But I learned so much more by failing, there’s no way I’d call it a bad decision. There’s always next winter, eh?

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Thanks for sharing! thumbs_up.gif

 

I'm a little surprised that you are so upset about not summiting. It's quite common - especially in winter - and not a big deal. Have patience young jedi yellaf.gif You'll get up there next year if it's important to you. wink.gif

 

Cheers!

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thumbs_up.gif

Strong leadership work. Successful team behavior on both of your parts. It's not always easy to make the difficult but correct decision.

 

Don't despair about the Ledges this year. "Winter" may be almost over, but the route ought to stay in at least until mid April, unless it gets really warm.

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This is an excellent trip report. You told your feelings. You told your weaknesses. You told your doubts. Not many people are willing to write like this for fear of retribution or appearing feebile in a realm of chestbeating on cc.com.

 

Here are the phrases I liked in your trip report. I hope you write more trip reports.

 

....Climbing with someone you’ve never met is always a risk, but I can’t help but wonder what Aaron was thinking when I met him in Eatonville with my mom in tow (I’m 19 and still live at home for those of you lucky enough not to have met me)

...The slog took 5.5 hours, a time with which I was thoroughly unimpressed given the amazing snow conditions - hard sastrugi with no post holing above Alta Vista

...but we weren’t moving as quickly as I would have liked

....I began to have serious doubts about our chances of summitting

....and the lack of 100% confidence in my partner, led me to pull the plug

...Aaron didn’t argue, for which I was grateful. I was so disappointed I felt like crying, but I sucked it up to focus on the descent. Maybe I’m taking it way too seriously, because it was an agonizing defeat for me though I know the summit is not the most important thing

...I could take a lesson from Aaron, who was just happy to be up on the mountain in beautiful conditions (btw Aaron thanks for taking the chance of climbing with a total stranger). This is the first climb on which I personally made the call to retreat, so the doubt and “what -ifs” are a new thing for me. But I learned so much more by failing, there’s no way I’d call it a bad decision.

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thanks for the tr, girlclimber! i agree with lots of the above comments. a summit doesn't make the tr or the trip. don't consider a failure.

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Dave and I made pretty good time up to the beehive (probably a bit less than an hour). Once we got there the weather started to change a bit, as your photo shows. We noticed that the clouds on Mt. Adams seemed to be lowering and it was starting to snow a bit. We debated the weather and decided to continue on and see how things developed. After a short rappel down from the point past the beehive we continued up to the edge of gibralter rock. At that point the weather was at it's worst. We debated again and decided to wait and see what direction things would go. After a bit of pondering things started to clear up so we decided to continue on.

 

As we started across the ledges the snow started to become very soft (thigh deep). We hugged the edge of the rock along the first portion of the ledges. Neither one of us were very comfortable with the quality of the snow at this point since the next portion of the ledges offered a bit more exposure. The snow quality combined with our somewhat late (although planned) start caused us to make the decision to turn around. Had the snow quality been a bit better I believe we would have gotten through the ledges and up the chute safely.

 

The other concern that was on our minds was that of the snow quality on the slopes above gibralter rock. We could see that snow was being deposited on those slopes throughout our climb by a northwest wind. We assumed that this was the case for the previous couple of days and had some concern of wind slab due to the clear weather and possible hoar frost layer that might have formed earlier in the week. Since we didn't go that high we really don't know, but it was a concern and weighed in our decision to head down.

 

All in all, we had a good day of climbing. The summit was our goal, but I'm not disapointed with the outcome. I believe that our decision to turn around was the right one. Maybe next time it will work out.

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I'd just like to add a few things.. First of all, I made it to Muir in about 5.5 hours, you made it in closer to 4.75 ..hehe, but I did plague our trip with a few problems.. ehh my bad on crampons, I used my BD sabretooths with my Makula's ..usually I used my Salomon Snow & Ice boots.. so my crampons kept "popping off" at the most inconvienient of times. I also didn't quite do a good enough checklist on my gear. I was in a huge rush, coming from Spokane.

 

But I must say despite feeling like I let my partner down, "not being in as good of shape as she, or as well prepared" ,I was super happy to get out of Spokane and get some fuken SUN,SNOW, and WIND in my face. You are awesome H.C. Thanks for the Leadership. 19 or not.

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Don't worry about it too much, it's not as bad as it seems. In fact, I think for the situation handed to the both of you you handled it as well as anybody could. You both took a chance on each other and when the conditions didn't cooperate you made the right call and didn't argue with each other about it. I agree about just being up in the hills, that's the whole point. I didn't summit either this weekend, and I froze and soaked my ass off Friday night, but hey, it was still better than sitting at home! bigdrink.gif

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thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif

Ha! I didnt summit this weekend either, but rolled out the pad and worked on a suntan after doing some mixed stuff.

Great tie in from two parties, and great TRs.

TTT

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thanks for the tr, girlclimber! i agree with lots of the above comments. a summit doesn't make the tr or the trip. don't consider a failure.

That's such total bullshit. It's a failure if you didn't reach your goal, and failure is frustrating. It might have been cool anyway, you might have learned something up there, but it's still failure.

 

Sorry to hear that you didn't make it. Nice TR. thumbs_up.gif

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Great TR GC! thumbs_up.gif

 

Sorry to hear that you hate to write; you're damn good at it.

 

Cheers on your attempt bigdrink.gif

 

BG

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Regarding the pace: people say it normally takes 2 hours to get to the ledges. With your time of 1.20 to beehive you probably needed only one hour to reach the ledges. 2.20 - not bad at all...

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thanks for the tr, girlclimber! i agree with lots of the above comments. a summit doesn't make the tr or the trip. don't consider a failure.

That's such total bullshit. It's a failure if you didn't reach your goal, and failure is frustrating. It might have been cool anyway, you might have learned something up there, but it's still failure.

 

Sorry to hear that you didn't make it. Nice TR. thumbs_up.gif

 

It may be failure of one specific goal, but I always take multiple goals on trips. For example, summit, take great pics, and come back alive. It's that come back alive one that I make sure gets met above all else wink.gif

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Sure, but I think GC has a reason to be disappointed with the outcome of this trip. If you turn around after struggling on for hours and you're exhausted, that's one thing. But to turn around when you REALLY don't want to, that's another.

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If you need a contest, there's this guy who says he can climb faster than you... Dan Hose-it. cool.gif

 

Personally, after a few near death experiences, I have become accustomed to living to climb another day. Summits are nice and I visit my share, but it is really being trashed by the mountain occaisionally that makes a summit seem so cool. If I summitted every time, I would look for something more challanging to pass the time.

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Two very nice trip reports. People only dislike writing because they think they are no good at it, or because it forces them to come to grips with their feelings, but you are good at it.

 

From the descriptions of the snow conditions it didn't sound as though anyone, no matter how strong, was going to get to the summit via GB that day. The day we did it last Feb. it took us two and a half hours just to get on the ledges, but we didn't have thigh deep snow when we got there (in fact it was 8 AM). This was because the wind had been out of the NE rather than the NW. Even had you succeeded in reaching and traversing the ledges, you might well have been avalanched on the exit chute. People have died there. There is no shame when the mountain turns you back. Still you might have gone a little further just for the sake of checking out the route. You aren't all that committed until you approach that exit chute.

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Most people don't even try a winter climb on Rainier. Being on the mountain is always a learning experience. Consider it an adventure in your life that you can look back on and reflect on for future climbs. Put a notch in your journal as a "Winter" attempt and call it good. My hat is off to the both of you for having the guts to try and succeed. The summit isn't the measure of success, getting back down and surviving is the way you measure success. So, in my opinion you two had a positive trip. Congrats!! P.S. Like Ed Viesturs always says "It's not the summit that is important, it's getting back home that matters"!!

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Here is a picture of the summit that was taken on Saturday from the Tatoosh Range the day of the attempt. Note the thin lenticular cloud.

2591rainier_summit.jpg

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I didn't summit this past weekend either. It was my second attempt this year at Yokum on Hood. It was still a great day in the mountains and we had some fantastic climbing. It's all good! cantfocus.gif

 

...good leadership and great writing!

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Thanks for all your comments! I felt so much better after writing down what we'd experienced and then reading the responses.

 

I admit to being amazed by compliments regarding my writing. CBS is correct that I think I'm no good at it. I find it impossible to be objective when it comes to what I've written, so I can never tell whether it sucks or not.

 

Anyway - now that a bit of time has passed, I have a much greater appreciation for this trip and what it taught me. And thank you guys for being part of the aftermath of the adventure laugh.gif

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