Friday, September 17, 2010

Allison's Rainier Trip Report

Well...we're back and I'm pretty sure my whole body could go for a massage right about now. It was not the greatest weekend to go climb a Mountain, weather wise. We started out on Friday with our gear check and the meet and greet. Climbing school soon followed on Saturday morning with a bit of a fog and cooler weather, though we did stay pretty dry throughout the day. We learned a great deal in a short amount of time and I really felt confident in our skills to go tackle Mt Rainier.

Climbing School Photos

Our hike up to Muir was crappy. It was foggy, raining, sleeting, and snowing. The cloud level was around 9200 feet, so we were in the muck up through part of the Muir Snowfield. It was a long hike, but with the breaks, I felt pretty good upon arrival to Muir.

Hike up to Muir

We got all cozy in the "hut" for a few hours and then had our dinner. I think I was able to get a few hours rest before the guides came to wake us up for our Summit Climb. We were all very excited when we stepped out of the "hut" to find the stars were shinning and the wind was low. That would soon change :(

Roping up to begin our Summit Climb

We headed out of Muir through the Cowlitz Glacier and up to Cathedral Gap. The weather was still cooperating...mostly, and physically I felt great going into our first break on the Ingraham Flats. There were definitely some tricky parts (jumping over a crevasse being one of them). Once we hit the Disappointment Cleaver, things went downhill fast. The winds began and quickly started gusting and the snow/sleet were whipping us in the face. If you have ever been on the Disappointment Cleaver, in the dark, you will understand how much that put a damper on things. The Cleaver is no easy conquest and I kept looking up (directly up I might add) only to see the little lights of headlamps from climbers ahead of us. Physically, it was a challenge. We had to put on our goggles which decreased my visual field dramatically. We ended up at the top of Disappointment Cleaver on our 2nd break only to find out we were going back down. The winds were whipping us from our places on the Cleaver and visibility was only to the feet in front of you. It was a mental and physical challenge for me to get up the Cleaver. I found it extremely hard to negotiate all the rocks and cliffs on such a short rope. I was the only female on my rope team and my leg stride was much shorter than my teammates. A couple of little slips and an issue with my crampons sent my heart rate racing, that's for sure. However, knowing we had to turn around and do it all again without summitting was disappointing to say the least. Physically, by that time I was tired, but if they said we could still go, I would have. We ended up turning around and going back down to Muir at that time.

The hard parts?? Learning to pressure breathe (which definitely helped), that was one of the first things we learned in climbing school. I didn't feel much with the altitude, which I am grateful for. The boots...OH THE BOOTS! my shins are both black and blue and swollen from the boots, not sure why that happened, nothing was bunched and I tied the boots near the ankle and not up to relieve pressure on my shins, but they both just HURT! I was telling the guide on the way back down to Paradise "I feel like I could still run laps, if only I had a pair of sneakers!".

Lessons Learned?? Bring a pair of sneakers for Camp Muir and possibly part of the hike up and down from Muir. Every step was excruciating for me coming back down and I only wished I had a pair of sneakers to make it easier.
We did have some nice weather moments at Camp Muir as it was in between the upper mountains storm and the cloud deck below.

This first photo is the spot we took our second break on the Disappointment Clever, the second photo is me (second in) trying to take it all in.

Myself, husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and my brother.

Our RMI guides were FANTASTIC! I cannot say enough about all of them. They were welcoming, extremely knowledgeable and down to earth. I seriously think they made this experience for us. I cannot thank RMI enough for this amazing experience! Being able to rent all our equipment from Whittaker Mountaineering was such a load off of all of us as well. Knowing that all our equipment was waiting for us upon arrival and top of the line, guide recommended equipment was refreshing. Turn in was equally as easy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! It was an unforgettable experience!
Now it's time for bed :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Allison's Ready For Rainier!

OK, this is it, two days until we meet up in Ashford, Wa. I decided to do a bit more relaxing this past week, tying all the loose ends on the packing list, took the kids shopping to get ready for school etc... We spent the last two nights camping on the Pacific Ocean in the Olympic National Park. We were able to drive out to the Hoh Rain Forrest where we took a "kid friendly" hike...OK, maybe more like a stroll. It's hard to keep 5 kids going at the same pace, especially when there are big trees to climb and fish to watch in the Hoh River. I ended up carrying our 2 1/2 year old son for most of it. His weight is about equivalent to our climbing backpacks I would think :) I am reminding myself to breath deeply and just absorb all I can this upcoming weekend. I will have my husband at my side the whole way, hopefully giving me a push every now and then :) Our summit night/day is on Sunday/Monday, so be thinking of us! Will hopefully be able to report back next week with photos!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Anthony is preparing mentally too!

Ok, so I had the best of intentions for hiking this past weekend.  Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out and I missed another opportunity for some pack time.  I’m not going to let it get me down though.  I will put boots on a trail this weekend, for sure.  Given my schedule I have precious few opportunities remaining to be on the trail and I’m starting to feel the pressure.
The gym training has been solid.  I’ve been getting about 4 sessions of intense cardio every week.  Sessions usually last around an hour and the intensity is pretty high (even anaerobic at times).  That combined with 4 sessions of weight training means I’m spending a lot of time in the gym.
I picked up a copy of Mountaineering:  The Freedom of the Hills, by Steven M. Cox and Kris Fulsaas over the weekend.  It seems like a very good source of information and I’ve managed to skim over a good deal of it.  Although, honestly, some of the technical aspects covered are beyond me at this point.  Like Allison mentioned, I too have been pouring over the RMI and Whittaker Mountaineering videos and clips on You Tube.  I especially liked the tour of Camp Muir, by Peter Whittaker and the July 16th summit video with Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker.  Both videos were a great introduction to Mt. Rainier and get me excited all over again about the climb.
I still have to sort out the food situation.  At the moment I’m leaning toward just going with a pre-planned meal package.  It definitely seems like the most efficient way to go (for me at least).  I’m sure I’ll supplement with some of my own goodies, but trying to buy, organize and fly with everything I’m going to eat doesn’t seem practical.  Of course, my wife would be the first to tell you that I’m anything but practical.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Camp Muir, Mount Rainier

Tag along as Whittaker Mountaineering owner, Peter Whittaker gives you a quick tour of Camp Muir....

Allison's got two weeks to go!

OK, two weeks to go! Wow, this summer has gone by way too fast! I have started to up my workouts a bit here in the last week and a half. In the beginning of the year, I had completed the P90X workout and then towards April/May timeframe completed Insanity. I have now restarted Insanity daily just to make sure I am getting a bit of cardio mixed with resistance training more regularly. I am still hopping on the Stair Machine at the Y with my 30-35lb backpack for an hour about twice a week. I have had a hard time making the HEAT class at the Y this summer, to my disappointment, the class is from 5:30-6:30 and my daughters summer gymnastics schedule is from 2:30-5:30, so it just hasn't worked out much :( I was able to go this past Wednesday and she had us running laps in the parking lot, lunges up and down the sidewalks and resistance running with a partner pulling against the "reins" of a resistance band around our hips. We then finished the workout off with a tricep/bicep workout with the resistance bands in the grass. LOVE that class when I can make it!

Equipment is rented and flights are all set for my climbing partners.
Getting a bit more nervous, but still really excited to do this. Still love watching all the RMI and Whittaker Mountaineering YouTube videos (I get a kick out of how calm and collected they all are when talking about crevasses and ladders, amazing) and I want to thank Lindsey for her amazing blog following her summit. The more I read, the more prepared I feel and her entry had a lot of great information in it, thank you Lindsey for sharing your experience! One loose knot we still have is food. I read, and forgive me for I can't find the post again, a post on nutrition and what to bring on the climb. Trying to decide whether to go with the pre-planned meal package or just bring my own??
Decisions, decisions...

School starts for four of our five kids the day before our climb.
Perfect timing, get to see them off on their first days and then, with hopes the weather holds out, Grandma and Grandpa can take them outside to look at Mt Rainier while we are climbing and tell them that somewhere on that Mt, Mommy and Daddy are going UP!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"I think my biggest concerns are the unknowns..."

Here is Anthony's latest training blog...

Well, this past week was a little disappointing training wise.  While I managed to hit the gym four days, for cardio and resistance work, I missed my normal weekend hike (bummer).  I’m going to try and make it up with a little longer outing this weekend.  Unfortunately, it won’t be until Sunday due to my work schedule, which means I can’t go over-night like I wanted to (back to work on Monday).
Otherwise, I can’t complain.  My training in the gym has been consistent and I’ve made reasonable gains in both my resistance and cardio work over the past few weeks.  I have noticed that the increased cardio has made weight maintenance more demanding.  I feel like I’m eating pretty big and pretty often in an effort to maintain my weight.  I know, I know, that’s a problem most people would love to have.
As time goes by and my climb approaches, I’m getting a little more anxious (nervous?).  I feel like physically, I’m fairly well prepared (famous last words), but I still have some loose ends with my equipment and personal supplies to tie up.  I know I’ll feel better once everything is taken care of.  I think my biggest concerns are the “unknowns” Like:  How will I handle the altitude?  Will I be able to figure out all the unfamiliar equipment?  Will the weather hold up?  Have I forgotten anything? Etc, etc.  I’m just hoping it’s like they say:  Our greatest fears (anxieties) lie in anticipation…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lindsay Summits Rainier!

Lindsay & her husband, Marcus on the summit of Rainier!
 Our climbing team made it to the summit on the morning of Wednesday August 4th and couldn’t have had nicer weather.  It was sunny and there was little to no wind...exactly how I like it.  The weather through the four days was very favourable although I did go through quite a lot of sunscreen!
En route to the training area.
  I had some ideas as to what to expect during climbing school, but I couldn’t get over how hot it was when I was completely surrounded by snow.  I was a little nervous going into the school because I was afraid that I would not be able to self arrest myself properly, but it turns out the guides were really good at demonstrating and coaching me through each type of self arrest.  I wish they could have taught me how to avoid getting chunks of snow in my ears and up my nose, though.  Part of the training involved learning how to move as part of a rope team, as well as manoeuvring on snow and rock with crampons.  Having to lean forward and trust that the crampons would dig in and stop my forward motion was a little difficult to get used to, especially on the steeper slopes.  It feels much different than how I would center my body weight when coming down scree or rock.  By far the most fun of the school was sliding down the snow slopes.  Who would have thought you could get up so much speed going down such a small hill!  
Taking a break during school.
 The night before the climb I was pretty anxious.  Climbing school had gone pretty well and I was confident in my skills, but what I still didn’t know was how I was going to handle the altitude.  I kept telling myself that I would be okay because I had previously climbed to a higher altitude, but it was still an unknown.
Climbing up the Muir Snowfield en route to Muir.
 It was calm and very sunny all of the way up to Camp Muir.  On the snow, I found it was difficult for me to stay in rhythm with the rest of the team because their stride lengths were much bigger than mine.  During breaks (every hour for about 15 minutes), I would drink about 500 ml of water and refuel with either an energy bar, dried fruit, or granola bars.  Pita chips were my favourite snack so I saved those for the summit. 
 At Camp Muir I had time to organize my gear for the climb, sip on my water, and eat (dehydrated meal – lasagne and more snacks), before getting into bed at 6 pm.  I had thought about bringing a pair of sandals with me, but at the last second I decided I would forego the weight.  My advice would be to bring them because there is some time at camp where you can just hang around and rest.  It’s nice to do this without big hiking boots and sweaty socks.  If someone forgets to tell you, use the mats to block the windows in the top bunks (not sure why I couldn’t have figured this out myself?).  I think I probably got about 3 hours of decent sleep before our guides brought in the hot water.  I slept in my base layers so it would be easier to get going in the morning as our team only had one hour to pack up our gear, eat (dried fruit and cream of wheat), go to the washroom, and put on our harnesses and crampons. 
Heading up a steeper section.
 When we set out at 1 am, it was dark, but a lot warmer than I had expected.  At our first break, to my surprise, I was shivering the whole time we sat down.  Some of our climbers were deciding to turn around and at one point I thought I may need to as well because of how cold I was, but when we started to move again, my shivering stopped and I was feeling pretty good.  The summit climb ended up being a lot easier for me physically than I had expected.  Mentally, I was waiting for the altitude to hit me, but it didn’t come until we started to descend.  I felt a little light headed, but was surprised that I had not felt nauseous at all during the trip.  Overall, I was very prepared for the challenges of the trip.  Going over the ladder was easier than it sounded, but the jumping of the crevasses was certainly something I would not like to do very often.  One thing I will mention that I found a little difficult on the climb was adjusting to being roped with the team.  I had to force myself to move faster than I usually do, but also I had to be cognisant of the person in front and behind at all times, especially when going up and down the Clever on short ropes.  
Little Tahoma
Lindsay at High Break.
 My favourite part of the climb would have to be sitting at High Break (13,500 ft) and watching the sun come up.  The clouds below were starting to billow up over Lil’ Tacoma and Mount Adams could be seen peaking out of the clouds.  It was such a beautiful sight!  It also meant that it would begin to warm up, so mentally it was a really good pick-me-up before making our final push to the summit.
The whole team on top!
 I am so happy that my husband and I took the time to pack train as much as we did prior to the climb.  If you can do this climb with someone else it certainly saves on the amount of weight you have to carry up the mountain with you (my husband and I shared a lot of stuff rather than bringing duplicate items).  My pack was pretty light compared to what I actually trained with so I found I could handle the weight easily on both days of the climb.  I am sure that the resistance training that I did helped with the ability to carry my gear, but I believe it also played a role in my recovery.  My body didn’t really fatigue as much as I thought it might.  Other than a little tightness in my right calf muscle, I felt like I had just done a regular workout.  I thank our RMI guides and Whittaker Mountaineering for helping make the climb such an enjoyable experience.  Now all that is left is to figure out what peak will be next!