Backtracking a bit here. Saturday I ceased the opportunity of a sunny spring day to go to Mount Rainier and introduce the legs to the mountains. The day started with a scheduled semi-early 6 a.m meet-up at the parking lot with Robert. At 6:08 I figured I’d better call him and see if he was late, still in bed (has happened several times), or what.
He wasn’t coming. Reason: lack of fitness from committing the last 3 years of his life to building his house and the fact that the only aerobic exercise he’s had is walking up and down the stairs. Oh well. It’s not like I’ll be alone on the trail from Paradise (5400 feet) to Camp Muir (10,200 feet). For a moment I thought of quickly returning to the house to grab the skis for a faster and more entertaining decent, but did not. It would just take more time. I’ll just walk down.
At 6:35 Robert calls. He just went for a run. He didn’t like the fact that he couldn’t go in the mountains due to complete lack of fitness rather than ‘the house’. His legs are cramping and he’s caughing up things with fur on them. The process has begun… By the time I am available to go in the mountains again at the end of June, he should be able to at least handle it. About this time I make the turn off of I-405 to HWY 167. The Mountain is out in it’s full spring glory – snow top to bottom, clear smog-free skies, and the soft early morning light. This was the right decision.
The trip down remained uneventful except for a little a stop in Puyallup (the land of never ending stoplights) for another cup of coffee, to peal the paint off the coffee shop bathroom walls, and some petroleum. A few miles east of Ashford I noticed the figure of a person walking along the road with a backpack on. Was this one of the local meth-heads (saw some very spooky people out in that area doing kokanee spawner surveys for Tacoma Power) or some other homeless type, or a climber headed up the mountain in need of a ride. The latter it was, indicated by the helmet and ice axe, so I pulled over and offered him a ride just like I would do for a skier at the bottom of the ski hill.
Daniel hopped right in. He was headed for Paradise (ain’t we all) with plans to poach (sans permit) a solo summit attempt on the Gibralter Ledges route. Daniel owned to vehicle. So he caught a bus from Auburn to Eatonville, then had caught a couple of rides to where I picked him up. This all started the night before. We chatted a bit about routes, perspectives on life (kids (Molly), his moving to WA two years ago because of Mt. Rainier, etc.) and had a nice ride up the hill. I had planned on hiking up to Muir with Daniel as long as we were at a similar pace and it worked out, until running into a co-worker, Pete, in the parking lot. Pete was one of a few trip leaders for One Step At a Time (http://www.osat.org), which organizes climbs up Mt. Rainier and other NW Mountains in conjunction with 12-step programs. Although likely slower than my usual pace, I thought it would be fun to hike up with them. Afterall, I wasn’t there to light the boot track on fire, just to enjoy the day in the mountains.
Up the hill we went at a leisurely pace. There was a nice boot track already set up from the previous day, making the travel very easy.
Views of the Tatoosh Range, Mount Adams (below), Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood were incredible with the clear skies.
Althought I enjoyed the mellow pace with OSAT, they were making up for the slower pace with frequent stops. I had hoped to be at Camp Muir by 1:00 and had set a turn around time for then so that I could be home at an early enough hour that Trina didn’t have Molly all day. I stayed with Pete and his group until 8,000 feet where the were taking another break. I stopped as well, long enougth to eat a super soft Powerbar, some water, and take a few more photos. It was 11:45 and 2,200 feet remaining to get to Muir. Not enough time, but I’ll see where I end up.
I set a steady firm pace and quickly found myself at the Moon Rocks (9,000 feet) 25 minutes later. Although I still had 45 minutes until my 1:00 turn around time. I decided to just stop there, enjoy the views, eat a sandwhich, and let a little altitude headache set in.
The decent was fun. Good plunge stepping, but still to firm to be able to run down the mountain. It was entertaining to see all the different people and their “styles” for ascending the route. Many skiers were skinning up; snowshoers where snowshoeing, despite all the people walking faster than them with out snowshoes; a group if Indians (Asia) wearing full Gore-tex and CRAMPONS; some without shirts looking to be lobsterized in then intense UV; and many other arangements that make the trip on the Muir Snowfield always entertaining.
There was some evidence of the 100+ mph winds that came through with storm earlier in the week.
More Tatoosh Range teasing.
A wonderful day that really recharged the batteries.