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[TR] Camp Muir White Out

Josh Lewis

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Trip: Camp Muir White Out


Date: 4/25/2010


Trip Report:



This was one of the more intense hikes I been on, on a normal day it's just a simple walk across the Muir snowfield to the Camp, but in a while out, it's not so simple. The idea came about April 23 on Thursday when I really wanted to get out. Unfortunatly we could'nt leave early Friday because of a lot of problems that came up which included my brother Michael's college. Unfortunatly on the way there he sorta spraint his ankle. This really worried me because it could have blown my chance to go to Camp Muir. Fortunatly it did'nt. The main part of the trip takes place on April 25, 2009.








We had a late start out, around 5 or so in the afternoon. Our first intentions were to spend the night at the camp, but a broken tent would'nt do, especially being 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier. We were worried about the Ranger's closing the gate to Mount Rainier National Park, but fortunatly it was open (which it is pretty much always). Unfortunatly our golden pass was missing so we had to pay like everyone else. On the way we stopped to get a shot of Rainier which reminded me of K2. The gate at Longmire was closed at night so we had to sleep in a parkinglot which was ok, but which meant no early start. Around 5:50 in the morning I woke up to great weather, but the gate was still closed so we woke up again around 8 and it was, but the bad part was the weather was turning on us. I encouraged my brother to going to Paridise (which is the trailhead to many hikes at Rainier including Camp Muir) telling him we could always do an easy hike. Of coarse that was'nt what I was acually hoping for. When we got there it was snowing and very cloudy which was worry some to my plans, but the osat group came and my brother agreed with going to Camp Muir.








We started off on a diffrent trail than the original or last time we went here. We followed some snow prints with a few hikers and at first it was nice and easy, but soon it got steep. It was a bit steeper than I remembered it, obviously it was not the real trail, but it would have to work. We did'nt bring our snowshoes which fortunatly we did'nt because it would have been dead weight, and the snow was icy and I started to have to use my ice axe. We later got away from the woods and walked into what I call the unkown because it was a white out. White was pretty much all we could see, perhaps a slight shadow of foot prints which even those were not very visible. Most people would have turned around at this point, but we were ambisious to make it! The only way we had a clue were we were going was by following the very faint grey color of ridges through the fog. The fog looked so much like snow that at one point there was a huge snow ridge in front of us that I had to be right in front of it to notice it, before it looked like the rest of the fog. At one point I heard voices which I yelled "Are you guys on the trail" and they yelled yes, so I followed and went down hill until I realized they were going back. The fog was so intense that the only way I was able to know were I was is because of my foot prints which the wind and snow were slowly making disappear. The thought came back again, "why do I get myself into these situations" but it's because I need excitment in my life, to live a life without anything is not really living a good life. Although this was probably a little extreme, but hey what can I say, mountains are just too much fun.








I caught up with my brother and we followed the ridge until we got to Panorama Point, which was a panorama of fog and snow and rock. We took a break and ate some food and drink, and by this point my hair was frozen. When looking at the plants, it's amazing how they survive such an intense enviroment of snow, wind, cold, and lack of sun. As we started back up we got to a point were there were two ridges. "Uhmmmmmm which one?" So fortuantly my brother made a good call to pick the one on the right. You might think were you guys using a map? We had one, but it does'nt do as much good when you can't see much, but it did help us a bit at places. Even to this moment I am unsure if we ended up on the Paridise Glacier or if we were on a snowfield on the right side of the ridge. As we kept going up the ridges there is a clear spot which then the summit of Rainier is visible. This brings much hope to us but then it gets foggy again.


Hiking through the Storm



After a few minutes in the fog it clears up again, but this time it's for real! I could see Rainier in it's beautiful wonders, although to be honest it was'nt as snowy as I expected, but all the wind it gets up there much be part of the reason for that. The clouds above kept swirling and mini clouds kept passing over us creating interesting shadows. One thing I learned during this part of the trip is that if you take your time going up to 10,000 feet, it makes a big diffrence when it comes to altitude sickness. I'm not saying we took our time because we had to get down before they closed the gate again. There are in some cases were altitude sickness is unavoidable but having strong lungs help. Even though I have asma, the altitude did'nt have much effect on me, perhaps this is because I go on runs at home, last time I was here we went fast up and had some major effects on me. When nearing Camp Muir, someone who was passing me asked me if I was going to Cathedral Rock which you have to pass the Cowlitz glacier which I had no ropes but gave it some thought. The clouds kept chasing us up, the higher I went, the higher the clouds went, but fortunatly I eventually got past the clouds. I decided to put on my sunglasses which hurt because my hair was frozen so I had to crumble off some of it to get them on. When we got to Camp Muir we ate and drank and rested. We caught sight of a small bird which we threw a banana chip and it dove after it. I never knew birds flew up here, especially at this time of year, because it is far from any forest or tree's.














We did it Buddy!







Here is a video on the view at Camp Muir:



When I felt energized again the guys that passed me were going to cross the glacier to Cathedral Rock, he was without rope. He told me it was fine to cross the Cowlitz Glacier even without a rope and they offered me to come along with them. "Well how could I decline such a wonderful offer" I thought to myself. In the mountaineer's it's against Mountaineering protocal to go on a glacier unroped, but the upper part of the Cowlitz Glacier was in a sense like the Muir snowfield. The Muir snowfield is like a friendlier version of a glacier, in late season there's crevasses in both. Michael was'nt to happy with the idea, but he could tell I would be disapointed if I could'nt go. At first I was a bit nervous going on a glacier for my first time, especially unroped, but the two climber guys were in front of me. All they had were a pair of spiky snowshoes and ski polls, and they shared back and forth a pair of ski goggles. Halfway across the glacier to be honest was a lot more beautiful than Camp Muir, it had a very mountainous look to it, but I noticed there were lots of rocks from rock falls around the glacier. It started to become icy at one point, I forgot my crampons from home which were to be used to Camp Muir. I was a bit nervous because a ways down the glacier indeed had crevasses. At the time I did'nt notice the ones above me as well and I had to ice axe arrest to safer snow below. One of the climbers turned around, and recommend I do to due to steep ice above, but I wanted to go further. It started getting icyer and my brother came on to the Glacier as well and told the other climber guy something and he yelled for me to come back, which I did. Michael said he saw a boulder come flying down from the steep place I wanted to go to, which was a good call. It was most certainly worth going across, although perhaps a little bit dangerous.










I had some nice conversation with the climber on the way down, his buddy went further up and later told me it was even better up there. At Camp Muir we gathered up our gear, took a few photo's and got ready for the decent. The decent ended up being more worry some than the ascent. As we were going down, we could see that the storm was bigger than it was before and we went once again into the thick fog. We got to glassade a little bit, but was'nt as good as we hoped. There were some problems, not only would we have to stay near the ridge so that we did'nt end up lost on some glacier, but at many parts the snow was hard and bumpy. At first the way down was easy to navigate and follow the Muir Snowfield but then got harder as the Muir snowfield ended. We got up onto the ridge to stay safer and followed tracks but at one point the foot prints lead to a steep down hill which did not seem right. At first we were gonna go right which fortunatly as we were going down we changed our mind because it is possible that it would have ended up on the Nisqually Glacier. I started saying some prayers that we would be able to get down safe and know the way. I believe those prayers were really answered that day because we had much difficulty navigating the ridge. At one point it was questionable to even ice axe arrest down so I climbed up on some steep rock on the ridge. My brother went around the ridge on the snow and started going up hill. I was quite worried because gripping the rock was hard because I got caught between a plant but managed to get over it and climb over the rocks, falling could have been quite serious at this part. After going up a ways then I had to climb down the rocky ridge which there was an ice shoot if I fell.


Getting to the Storms Edge



We went down to the left of the ridge and ended up at Panorama Point, what luck! After Panorama Point once again we became lost again. I kept hearing voices, by this point I was tired and I could'nt tell if it was a hallucination or the wind or perhaps if it was real. It was a creepy enviroment, in a sense had a ghost like feeling, the voices had seemed so real that even after the trip I remember well what they sounded like, but no real words, and some laughter almost like childeren with wind sound added to it. As we waited for another clearing we saw faintly some trees with a ridge. This excited us, we had to carefully get down to it, and then we found some foot prints. We followed these until it got to a steep part again which was questionable. We went down the hill on the right, which at first I was worried because it looked like the hill would go down into the Nisqually Glacier, but fortunatly it was the right way. The snow tracks were extremely hard for me to see at one point and I was left on a steep hill by myself, until my brother came back and told me that it was safe to glassade down. On the way down I did not turn my head away while ice axe arresting and hit my nose with my axe. Fortunatly it was'nt too bad, but it hurt. We came up onto another ridge and as I was walking it was so white, I almost walked off a cliff and stopped about two feet from what might have been a cornice cliff.


Small clearing, enough to make it down the next section



Sudden Clearing



I heard the osat group coming which from here they helped guide the rest of the way down, we almost took another wrong turn with the group but fortunatly knew better. We almost took a "wrong turn" which would end up at the same place, but we did'nt want to upset the osat group. When we saw the parkinglot, I could hardly believe it! On the way home we saw a fox and a racoon, and I had one of the best milkshakes I have ever heard. To me this trip was worth it, even though it was tough, worry some, and now painful. I got a terrible sunburn or as my mother calls it sun poison, it hurts to eat because of my lips being hurnt, I can't touch my face because it is so swollen and sun burnt. Also I have this nasty blister which I believe not only was this cuased from sun but also wind and cold. Anyone going to Camp Muir, be careful of whiteouts and know the route before you go here. This trip was just what I needed, an adventure!






Sun burn before I went to bed



The next morning I woke up (it looked worse in person)



The aftermath: I lost a lot of respect from people on this trip partly due to the fact I did not turn around, the osat kicked me out, and after all this happened I was even more desparate than ever to get the mountains. This was the trip that was leading to my bike ride into the mountains. After this trip it was nearly 2 months of no excitement and that is when I could take no more! My choices in the mountains now days have been much better, I had to miss a few days of school because my face was leaking with oils that would get my shirt all sticky, and even when I came back to school people asked "what happen to your face?". Part of the reason I did not turn around was because I knew that if I did, this could be the last trip... for a long time, and sure enough I was right. I will admit, as long as it is done safely, I think a white out is something every mountaineer should experience atleast once because not only would they get a good feeling of the danger reality of getting lost, but it some how has an emotional excitingness to it.

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Indeed! I have gotten some minor sun burns on hikes before this, and some bad sun burns at the beach, but this was a true lesson when it comes to this stuff. Its fun to be able to tell stories, why hold them just to myself? If that is the way some of the greatest mountain book writters felt, I would not be as interested in reading books. There are consiquences to sharing my stories, the mountaineers basic climbing group kicked me out after being in, but before even meeting them! And it had to do with two things, the trip reports, and because I was younger than 18. I guess I don't like holding out on details, in a pinch I would feel guilty for leaving out a mistake I made. A lot of people who post trip reports leave out mistakes they make so that there public reputation does not go down, but if people want to think poorly of me for saying the truth of how it went, thats there deal. I've gotten critisism for even the little things, and some times people have made up stuff that I did and I would end up having to come in saying "I did not do that", which I'm guessing they assume I'm leaving out other mistakes which I usually don't. Another advantage about mentioning your mistakes is it can sometimes remind others of what not to do, or what to be careful of.

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You might consider taking a course in compass navigation. Getting down from Camp Muir is not too much of a problem with proper map and compass skills. I think the reason you got kicked out of the climbing group was for continuing on to Cathedral Rock. It is against National Park regulation to travel on glaciers and to go above camp Muir without a climbing permit.


Climb Safe

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I've already taken a navigation course ;-)



This trip happened almost a year ago. As for the Cathedral rock thing, I only went a few hundred feet across the Cowlitz Glacier, not too far, perhaps was below Camp Muir. I don't think the permit thing had anything to do with it, because first of all they did not check me to see if I had one or not, second they sent me a letter explaining why and that was not listed. I plan on rejoining them when I am 18 years old.

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Just a quick thought for you.


I have been involved in several "club" formats, one U program, a bunch of commercial services, two S&R orgs, a few military professional "mtn" people (by far the dumbest of the bunch) and spent a good deal of time guiding and teaching.


The most fun I have had, the biggest learning curve and the best climbs by far has been with the buddies I learned to climb with and still do.


The rest, IMO, if you are really into climbing and want to excel at it will just waste your time.


And the other guy was right, you have some good photos. Just make sure you stay alive till you are 18 :) "Experienced hikers" leaving Camp Muir without some common sense (which should tell you to stay off a glacier unless you are FULLY prepared to be there) and a rope are often found DEAD or never found at all.







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Josh, why are you bringing this up again after 13 pages of "interesting replies" over at NW Hikers?



Seems to me like a good way to remind people to be careful out there. It's a good reminder for me, anyway. And because he's never posted it here, maybe some never saw it. Thanks, Josh, for reposting this.

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So...this TR sparked an interest in me. I read it thinking "you're doing everything completely wrong" but then clicked around a bit on Flikr, the NWhikers link, your other TRs here, and realized this TR is from a trip a year ago.


Presumably you've made a lot of progress since then as your other TRs talk about climbing/hiking with other experienced people. If not, I implore you to read a bit about decision-making in the wilderness.


Some excellent books I can recommend are:

Freedom of The Hills (Mountaineers)

Deep Survival (Laurence Gonzales)

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Agree to the above people. I know you've a bit more mature than I was probably at the 16 year range, however just take it into consideration that a few of your stories I've read have ended up in crappy situations. Find some people who've got a lot of experience and stick with them for a while, get your learn on and when you're 18-21 and have a bit more maturity and experience you'll be WAY above the rest.

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Find some people who've got a lot of experience and stick with them for a while


Sounds like an impossible request! If the people I am going with are at all considered not "a lot of experience" then it will be extremely difficult to find such a thing. But I do believe I am with experienced people (including myself in being experienced). The maturity issue is probably not going to change much, in years to come I do not expect it to change, but as time progresses people will noticed that I have already changed from stuff like this. Also I don't much of my less adventurerous reports here because I figured climbers might find them less entertaining.

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If the people I am going with are at all considered not "a lot of experience" then it will be extremely difficult to find such a thing. But I do believe I am with experienced people (including myself in being experienced). The maturity issue is probably not going to change much, in years to come I do not expect it to change, but as time progresses people will noticed that I have already changed from stuff like this.


I hope that you are still posting here in 10-15 years, I'd love to hear your opinions on this then.

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Thie trip report shows how far along you have come from the past. I remember this TR from a year ago. I call this one of your five self-destruction trips in 2009. So far 2010 has been far better for you because you have made much better choices and have been around more hiking and climbing partners.

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