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aukushner

[TR] Rainier- Emmons (long TR includes rescue) 7/25/2004

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Climb: Rainier-Emmons (long TR includes rescue)

 

Date of Climb: 7/25/2004

 

Trip Report:

 

Saturday (7/24) morning we headed up from the White River parking lot at 6:30 am to Camp Shurman, trying to avoid some of the heat. When we got to the Interglacier, we roped up there in order to cross over the Inter and then down over the ridge onto the Emmons. Other than the heat and sun, all the crossings went well and we arrived at Camp Shurman around 1:30. Dave, the climbing ranger, met us and let us know a little about the route – basically mentioning that it was taking people anywhere from 6-10 or more hours to summit and that people were busting through on crevasses – mostly just up to their knees, maybe hips. That afternoon, we talked to a lot of people who said that it took them at least 10 hours to summit, and they were coming down throughout the afternoon.

 

With that in mind, we decided to get up at 11:30 pm. Woke up to gorgeous skies full of stars, and were on the way up by 12:30. The first half of the way up was warm, and we were climbing strong. I had never been above 12,000 or whatever the elevation of Adams is, but I felt strong and good during the whole climb – as did Eric and Vik. We were able to witness a gorgeous sunrise just as we were below the bergshrund, and summited at 7:30. We hung out at the top for close to an hour, feeling really good about the time it took us to summit, but knew that we had a lot ahead of us! We headed down around 8:30, made some good choices in route, and I, as lead, only went into a small crevasse right near Emmons flat up to my knee. We were back in camp at 11:00, but wanted to get past the Inter while the day was still early. After resting, eating and drinking at Shurman for about an hour, we packed up and headed down.

 

We were able to get through the lower Emmons and over the ridge onto the Inter safely and were feeling really good. We got about half way down the Inter and saw all the glissade routes and decided to take one of them, thus unroping. Although we all kept had our harnesses on. Vik decided to pursue some more glissades, and Eric and I were walking together and talking. Eric and I knew that there were some open crevasses to climbers left, so we headed to the right side. The snow looked flat with no major depressions.

 

All of a sudden I stepped forward and my foot broke through a thin layer of snow to nothingness – and I fell. I threw my arms out, but I could feel myself falling along with snow. It is hard to say how long I was falling, but I stopped, suspended in air. I checked in with myself to figure out what was happening…. I knew I had fallen into a crevasse, and was saved by my backpack wedging itself in between the ice walls, thus catching me from falling further. I was faced sideways in the crevasse with my left arm pinned up against the ice wall and my backpack. My right arm was at my side, and my feet were dangling in the air. I called out to the guys that I was ok, but I had no idea how deep I was in there, since I could not look up due to my backpack pressing my neck and head forward. They could not hear me since I was facing downwards as well – and in there pretty far (afterwards they said that I was probably 40’ down)

 

They tried to drop a rope down to me at first, but it was on the opposite side (I could feel it with my foot behind me) and I tried to yell out directions, but again, they could not hear me. At this point, I was working hard to wedge myself as best as possible, with the fear that if I moved too much, my pack might slip, or the waist strap might unbuckle. I also was melting the ice around me, which was a cuase for concern….

 

I heard some other voices up above – and it turns out that a group of 4 was coming up the Interglacier and came over to help. One of the guys took a cell and ran down the trail until he could get reception and he called 911 which in turn got the message to Dave, the ranger, up at Shurman. At this point, in the crevasse, I was working hard to check in with myself, assure myself that I would live, and not to panic. I just kept breathing, ‘zen breaths aurora, zen breaths’ but I had moments of complete panic.

 

Finally, they were able to drop a rope down to me on the correct side of me which was VERY exciting. They then dropped down a second rope on a carabiner for me to connect with – which was probably the best moment I have had in a long time. One of group of 4 (guys from Missouri and Arkansas) was an EMT and he was calling down to me, talking to me, in the calmest voice ever, which was so soothing. I relaxed a lot after locking into the rope and talking to him. Once I was roped up, I wanted to get out of the backpack. I made the very stupid mistake of unbuckling my waist strap first and tried to strangle myself with the sternum strap. At that point, I was very consciously working on my breaking and swearing that I better not die of strangulation after I was roped up! I somehow got my head out of the strap and my left arm free (probably could not repeat that feat again if I tried!) – and I was hanging on the rope! What a sweet moment! I think it was at that moment that I yelled up to them that if they pulled me up I would buy them all beer!

 

They asked if I wanted my pack up, and while I was figuring that I would leave it, I said sure since they offered and they said they had me. So I took the extra rope that was there and tried to figure out how to tie in a figure 8 (that took awhile!) and they pulled my pack out when I was ready. Snow poured down on me, and at that point I was shivering pretty bad. Finally they started to pull me up. I just closed my eyes until I got to the top and clawed my way out, crying rolling away from the edge. I was dripping wet, and the 7 guys who were there helped me get into drier warm cloths and a sleeping bag. They got me hats and gloves and neckwarmers and hot chocolate. I do not think that I have ever had so many men helping me put cloths on in my life! But no joke, they were all so incredible and kind and patient and calm.

 

Meanwhile, the call had gone into Dave – and while I did not see him, he was headed down out way about 5-10 minutes after I got out. Since I had been down in the crevasse for about 45 minutes, I was mildly hypothermic so it took awhile to warm up. My neck also hurt from having my pack both land on it and press it down the whole time I was down there – so they stabilized me and checked out my back – but all was good. I was pretty bruised up (I was bleeding a bit while in the crevasse – which I could not figure out what it was at first) – my arms look pretty ghastly at this time – red underneath from my pits to my hands just about – and very swollen and black and blue is starting to set in. I hung out getting warm for about 40 minutes and then said thank you to the guys going up and Eric, Vik and myself went down the rest of the interglacier with Dave escorting us. At the bottom, Paul (I am pretty sure that is his name – my memory for all the details is a little shot), a backcountry ranger, met us to escort us out as well. I carried my pack and walked out. Other than being pretty swollen in my arms and my left shoulder, major bruising on my neck and my knees (from banging around trying to wedge myself in) and my ribs being sore from the waist belt, I am ok. A bit traumatized, but ok. Feeling very very very lucky.

 

Lessons learned:

1. Rope up on the interglacier. Almost no one was roped up there – so if you are going up there - rope up! Those crevasses are really well hidden. While they were taking care of me, we saw many parties go by not roped up and several people go into up to their knees.

2. If you are hanging by your backpack, take the sternum strap off first. Waist belt first doesn’t work as good

3. the climbing community, strangers or not (including park service), are amazingly kind and helpful. Thank you for saving my life! (if i have any of your clothing, please PM me and I will send it to you - especially big thanks to the two guys who helped make hot water for me and gave me a hat, neckwarmer and t-shirt!)

 

I gave the mountain my gloves, my sunglasses, my visor and my picket I think. I was granted a summit that day, but I also got really lucky on the way down. It might be awhile before I climb again…. But what an epic day - my first summit of rainier, and my first (hopefully only) crevasse fall.

 

Be safe out there folks... crevasses are really scary. I had healthy appreciation of them before, but now....

-AK

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wow, sounds like everyone's worse nightmare.

I agree, the intergalcier can swallow you up, many people treat it like it is benign. I have fallen in a couple of times on the IG as well. Good to hear you are safe and sound!

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I've been in similar situations and so I know how scary this can be. I'm glad you are okay! All you can do is focus on alleviating some of that danger by being more safety conscious. Even overly so in the future. It will be awhile before you feel the same in the mountains again. Less confident, less sure, but eventually you'll come to terms with the fact that mountains are dangerous. There is risk and at times, circumstance and choices aside (too many variations. Even those who make the best still get the smackdown), your number is up. It's that way in any aspect of life.

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Glad you are safe and sound....You otta consider pitching this story as a made for TV movie. It is exciting...with a happy ending!

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I am not sure I want to put this out there to the world and exploit it! smile.gif My karma was with me for sure down there (as were plenty of images from Touching the Void). I don't think i could have been any luckier with the fall.... although my elbow and my arms are getting really big now! Off to the doctor tomorrow!

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I was on the emmons two weeks ago, on the descent I unroped so I could glissade. after becoming surrounded by crevasses I walked back up the hill to my friends and roped up again. forget about sliding, a little time saved isnt worth what you went thru. Glad all turned out alright

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Good description of a very traumatic moment in your life. Glad you're ok.

 

"While they were taking care of me, we saw many parties go by not roped up and several people go into up to their knees"

 

Classic "it won't happen to me" idiocy.

 

What else could go through the mind of a person walking by a situation like that and not immediately stopping to rope up? Any ideas?

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Did this happen on the lower, "steeper" part of the Inter Glacier near the big glissade tracks where you first leave the trail, or on the upper, slightly more level part where the path cuts left?

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if you think of it this way - that there are 4 sections of the inter - the 1st really steep one from the trail, then a flat section, then a steeper, then the final flat section. It was on the 1st flat section just above the steep section which is actually a snowfield (crevasses start at the top of it)

if that makes sense.....

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About 30 years ago, someone in a party my Dad was with had an almost identical crevasse fall/rescue on the interglacier. About the same depth, same struggle to get a rope to victim and time to extract them, same cold/wet hypothermic results. Not the smartest place to be unroped, if you can help it. When I go up there by myself, I stay off the glacier and on the route to the climber's left - it's pretty good and a nice change from the glacier slog.

 

Glad to read Aukushner is not hurt too bad. Accidents in the mountains do make you think about how to climb more safely! (And reading about them can/should have the same effect.)

 

Thanks for sharing!

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The route to the climbers left is the Mt. Ruth Ridge route and I would definitly recommend it as an option for late season (after August) climbers and those who don't want to rope up. Only drawback is it takes longer and usually you need to scramble up the boulder fields, (not as much fun as the snow/ice).

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The Interglacier is the only place where I've ever been involved in a crevasse fall (a climbing partner, also unroped.)

 

Last year a climbing ranger at Camp Shurman told me that there are more crevasse falls on the Interglacier than anywhere else on Rainier.

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