Climbing Mt. Rainier for a Cause
It was warm…very warm. The Muir Snowfield stretched out around us as we climbed upwards. An occasional breeze blew out of the Southwest, whispering across the surface of the snow around us and drying the sweat from our brows. A year earlier it had been cold…very cold. Climbing the same stretch of mountain, the same group of climbers bearing the same loads battled the winds, the rain, and the snow to reach the same destination: Camp Muir at 10,000’ on the side of Mt. Rainier. This was our second attempt at climbing Mt. Rainier together.
In July of 2009, as the rest of the country settled into the weekend routine of baseball and barbeques, we gathered below foreboding clouds in Ashford, WA with the dual goals of climbing Mt. Rainier while raising money for an orphanage and school near Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The storm clouds held themselves at bay in the beginning, not unleashing their full fury upon us until we reached camp where the wood paneled huts were battered with snow, wind, and rain. The shelters rocked under the force, the walls turned to drums as they echoed the clatter of the elements pounding the sides. Despite our optimism and aspirations, in the morning our battle was fought not going uphill but making our way downhill, returning to the lodge at Paradise soaked to the bone and grinning like mad. We were ready for Round Two.
Inspired and undeterred, it was not long before we were organizing the 2010 climb. The climbing team, a wonderfully talented group of doctors and those involved in the medical field, set out to convince others to join. Working with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) and To Return to organize the climb and fundraising efforts we soon had a full climbing team ready for the second try. Back at Camp Muir a year later, we found ourselves in an entirely different place. Hardly a cloud could be found in the deep blue Pacific Northwest skies, the winds were nothing but a rumor, and the sun bathed the rocks and glaciers, all making Camp Muir a rather pleasant place to be.
Rising in the middle of the night, we set out up the rolling glaciers of Mt. Rainier, our path illuminated by headlamp and our crampons crunching softly in the ice. As the skies turned to dawn in the east we found ourselves far above the landscape below, the normally impressive Southern Cascades appearing quite diminutive from above. We wove our way amongst the seracs and around the crevasses of Mt. Rainier and just before eight in the morning we reached the mountain’s summit, the wide volcanic crater from which Mt. Rainier’s glaciers flow.
It was a wonderful accomplishment, a group of friends returning again for another attempt, this time everyone reaching the summit under ideal conditions. And in the process this small climbing team raised over $10,000 for To Return scholarships and the construction of additional schoolrooms at the Peace Matunda Orphanage near Kilimanjaro. Over burgers and beers back in Ashford that afternoon we decided that the thorough thrashing the year before made the summit that much more rewarding.
Thanks to Ben, Jason, Jim, Dan, Eric, Stefan, Niten, Gary, Scott, Zeb, Jeff, and RMI for making our climb so enjoyable and for your generous support of To Return.