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Cameron S Adams

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Trip: Mount Rainier - Furhrer Finger, “complete” ski decent

 

Date: 3/30/2016

 

Trip Report:

Mount Rainier March 28th, 2016

Cameron Stone/Randy Lee

Furhrer Finger, “complete” ski decent

 

It takes a lot of motivation for me to write trip reports. Mostly this is because it takes time and energy not only to sort through all the photos, upload them, and then get a write-up in a timely fashion. However, for this particular trip, the time and energy is well worth it. In a lot of ways, it was a unique summit experience, the pictures came out beautifully (too bad I can't upload them) and I want to update the community on the conditions.

 

This post will include two versions. In the first, I will be writing a “down and dirty” version for all of you “SKI-MO dorks.” In the second, I have an actual narrative for anyone who appreciates a good summit story. Please leave comments below. Get your stoke on!

 

Uphill

4500-9400 Soft snow, hot uphill travel to ridge camp

9400-11000 Boot pack great steps. Styrofoam snow.

12000-13000 Horribly sticky snow. Required frequent cleaning, despite anti-balling plates. Very unhappy prezi crampons.

13000-summit. Hard packed, wind blown. Easy steps.

 

Descent

14000-13000 Survival skiing. Windy blown to horror…show.

13000-12000 “Pick your destiny skiing.” Sastrugi to consolidative wind blown.

12000-8000 “Dream like” responsive snow. It felt like my best days in France. Save your money don’t go to Europe.

8000-4500 Slush zone. Still enjoyable glacier skiing

 

 

Glacier travel was easy. We only crossed two “crack” system, up high (12k) bypassing the wall. Glad we had skis. I would recommend standard glacier gear for the both crossings. We used none. The picture shows both of the crossings that got my heart rate up. Please leave comments below.

 

Narrative

One day I was climbing the south side of Mount Hood and looked back to see a solo climber flying up side of the mountain. Neither of us knew it yet, but this speed demon was my new climbing partner.

Randy, an ultra-marathon runner and general snow enthusiast, is a 42-year-old father of two living in Hood River, Oregon. I always like climbing with a family man. I have found that these climbers are the safest, with “get back to my family” providing a strong motivation both to make cautious choices up high and to turn around when risks outweigh benefits. On the other hand, a family man has real life responsibilities that preclude him from climbing all the time and any time. When Randy found himself with an opening in his schedule, we fixed our sights on Mount Rainer as our next objective.

Last week, we found ourselves with a weather window. I launched into attack mode. The weather window would come approximately four days after heavy snowfall. Two days of sunshine would mean a great consolidated snowpack. We knew it was game on.

I have climbed Mount Rainier by multiple routes. I selected F Finger for a failed solo attempt in 2014. I promised myself I would bring back skis for my next descent. My hope was that we wouldn't have a tough time with the glacier travel.

The night was calm and we started skinning at a reasonable 8 AM. One of the tricky spots was the descent to the fan. Our packs were heavy and the snow was very firm. After crossing the glacier un-roped, “the fan” went quick and could have been the most dangerous spot on the route. Skinning to 9,400 went fast. We choose an upper bivy spot (at 9400) because of the obvious. rock outcropping. We final decided to have an open bivy. It was Randy’s first time using an open bivy. Can you remember your first open bivy? Please leave your stories below.

 

We got a late start on the next day with a wake up time of 0300. Randy was having a difficult time moving in the morning—he threw up most of his breakfast and the water that he'd been drinking. By the time we started moving toward the glacier he had drank 1/4 cup of coffee and eaten three pieces of chocolate. “It’s going to be a long day,” I heard him mutter.

As the night and our legs warmed, the steps became easier. The glacier crossing proved to be pretty easy and the snow entering the finger was great for the pons. In the darkness of the morning I put in my earbuds and cranked up the volume on my Mark Twight punk rock mix. It makes me feel like a rebellious high school youth again. A little musical rebellion is always my answer to the mountain’s darkest hours.

We reached the steepest part of the glacier just in time for the sunrise to lift our spirits. As the sun came up, we stopped to check in and eat. Randy was still feeling sick, but able to continue.

The glacier travel went along easily until around 11,000 feet when the snow turned slushy. It was sticking to our boots pretty bad so we switched to skis. We skied for about 1000 feet before switching again back to crampons. This was the most psychologically difficult part of the route. From about 12,000 feet to 13,000 feet, we needed to pause after every step we took to clean our crampons from the buildup of potentially dangerous snow.

 

At this point, Randy started to slow down, but I was determined to keep my pace. I kept him in my view for most of the morning. Every time I checked in with him he told me he was struggling and feeling sick, but still wanted to persevere. After about 13,000 feet my pace slowed as well. I started counting steps. I would make myself walk for 20 steps at a time. My goal was 20 steps. My world was 20 steps. I didn't care about the summit, I didn't care what time it was. I just counted steps.

I reached the summit plateau many, many steps later. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I desperately needed to eat and drink. After putting on all the clothes I had in my pack, I sat down. It was a sunny calm day, but I know looks can be deceiving. The summit of Mount Rainer is particularly unpredictable. On that particular summit, I've once before found myself at the turning point of a weather window, staring headlong into a windstorm with zero visibility and zero degrees temperatures. I was anxious to get off, but I also wanted to give Randy a chance to make it to the top.

After about twenty minutes on the summit plateau, my mind started racing. Where was Randy? I promptly got my skins on and started skiing down the mountain toward our ascent route. As I crested the plateau I saw the tips of Randy's skis bobbing back-and-forth as he slowly made his way up the mountain. His face wore a huge grin.

I made Randy stop to eat some food and drink some water. We were both mentally exhausted but I could tell Randy had a little AMS simmering under the surface of his glowing facade. Together, we made the decision to descend as fast as possible but first give Randy time to quickly tag the top. I waited below, happy to get a little more rest and an opportunity to shoot the formidable occasion.

 

 

When Randy got back to the ski pile he was exhausted and lethargic. I was almost certain at this point that he was suffering from AMS. This worried me and I reminded him that we needed to get down the mountain as fast as possible. “Randy we need to leave now,” I kept saying in the steadiest voice I could manage, trying not to seem alarmed. But Randy was moving slowly — way too slowly. I tried to help him to pack or to offer him food. I reminded him that the gate would close at 6:00. Finally he was ready to start skiing.

 

The skiing was the scariest part of the day. With Randy not feeling well I was concerned on two counts. First, I'm not an expert skier. I think of myself as a “moderate rider.” I kept reminding myself that the finger would be no more extreme than the bowl at my local mountain. I focused on my breath and the elevation fell quickly underneath my feet. Unsurprisingly, Randy felt a great deal better after a couple thousand feet of skiing.

 

At the top of the finger we stopped and had a discussion about safety. Randy wanted to take multiple stops I want to get through it. I went first and would wait at the safety of ridge camp.

It was dream snow. There'd been two people who boot packed the finger. We had plenty of snow to go around. At the end I was breathless but energized. I yelled at Randy as he made decisive ski turn down the last of the steep skiing. I proudly watched as he exited the chute safely.

Back at camp I watched Randy descend the finger. Less than an hour after we were fumbling with gear we back to the relative safety of camp. We had a couple hours left before the gate closed. By this time Randy was feeling motivated to get back to his family. I yelled at him from across the camp “Where was your motivation hour ago,” as I laughed out loud.

After packing up the gear, we skied down most of the rest of the glacier. The arduous task of leaving the drainage proved to be hotter than we originally intended. Randy was a little bit behind. During my last check-in with Randy he told me that he'd rather have me go to the car. I told him I'd rather wait for him. He yelled back “I don't need you to hold my hand. “ I laughed so hard I almost fell over. I may have been a bit delirious at this point.

I was in the parking lot for about 20 minutes when Randy came flying around the corner doing jump turns down the final snow. After about three jump turns with a full overnight pack, his last one ends up in disaster. laying on the ground of the concrete, Randy looks up to me and says, finally “I give up.”

“It’s not over yet, buddy,” I reminded him of our long drive home. We packed up the car and dreamed aloud about our next meal. My favorite part about climbing with Randy is his love for fast food. After every climb we get something super dangerous. We landed on Taco Time this trip. Last time it was Arby’s. What is your favorite place to eat post climb?

Hope you enjoyed! Please leave comment below

Post climb: The trip was a dream come true. I have been dreaming about this route for many years. It was a special moment in my life and I'm glad to share it with a great partner and a true friend. Sitting on my porch I feel exhausted just thinking about the climb. Soon it will fade, I'm sure. As do all the troubles in the heart aches of life and the mountains. The struggles melt away and the triumph lives on.

I don't think I'll ever take my skis to the top again. Too many other things to do.

 

Next adventure.

Who is in?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gear Notes:

Skis and skins. Overnight mountain gear. If you have questions about my setup, please ask.

 

Approach Notes:

The gate opens and closes irregularly this time a year. We were told that it depends on staffing and snowfall.

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