Today I was invited to join a small group of fellow adventurers on a quest to the great state of Washington to climb non-other than Mt. Ranier. Wow, just the thought was chilling. I have never thought about nor have I ever been interested in participating in any kind of hiking that included ice. Now that I’ve been asked, there is simply no alternative for me other than accepting the quest as a challenge, something that I probably would have never done. The quest is to begin in late June 2007. It’s on now!

As time approached and preperations were made, we met on a semi regular basis to talk about needed equipment and to practice hiking and rescue techniques. This climb was to be one which required the skills necessary to rescue a member of the team if they were to fall into a cravasse. We practiced things such as anchor points and haul systems. With my years of technical rope rescue experience in the fire service, I felt extremely confident that I could do what I needed to do in that situation.

June 21, 2007
We all met in Charlotte for the flight to Washington. It was an uneventful flight until we approached what I thought was an amazing sight, Mt. Ranier from the air.

An Amazing Sight

We touched down at the airport, rented a car and headed to Ranier. It was not long before we arrived at our destination. I’m really getting stoked now.

David, Tim, Me and Robert

We found a place to sleep for the night near the mountain and began our final preperations.

June 22, 2007
The next morning, we headed up to the visitor center and the trail head. Inquiring about the weather, we found that the temps on the summit were to plummet to sub-zero temperatures over the next few days, not good news……but “it is what it is”.
Let’s hit the mountain. As we dressed for our journey, the wind picked up and even though the sun was out it was pretty freaking cold in June no less!

Ready for action!

We began our climb and I was immediately in awe of the beautiful alpine views.

We climbed all day quickly ascending above tree line. The climb was steep and after a few hours it was painfully apparent that my feet and ankles were not compatible with the ice boots that I had rented. Ice boots are vey stiff and don’t bend like ordinary hiking boots. Every step was painful. I did not mention my agony until the next morning. I was determined to give this new experience every chance that it deserved.

As we climbed further up, the clouds engulfed us which made it difficult to navigate. When you are climbing on a glacier, there a few to no landmarks that you can navigate by. Everything is white. Our visibility dropped down to a few feet and I was even more determined not to lag behind the group. I lost a visual on them several times and deffinately did not want to get seperated in this environment. The predicament with my feet and ankles was making it even harder to keep up but I endured.

Finally, somewhat disoriented as to where base camp was, we made camp on this incredible glacier.

This whole quest, this environment, was new to me and so awesome. I’ve hiked all my life and it is deffinately a different experience in these conditions. The clothes you wear, the equipment you need and the skills you need are all so different. Setting up camp on the side of a glacier was one of those differences. We began digging and digging until we had a level surface to set up our tents. The teperature was dropping rapidly and I was ready to get inside and cook some much needed food. As we completed our camptown, the clouds began to clear away and revealed the most amazing sunset.

We climbed inside, melted some snow for water and cooked up our meals for the night. I was amazed to be so comfotable sleeping next to a wall of snow where we had dug out for the tent. It wasn’t long before I was out cold….I was actually very warm.

June 23, 2007
Morning arrived quickly and so did the sun.

Making my way out for my “morning business” I just stopped and stared as I realized that there are few people who get to see a sight such as this. I’m on top of the world!

On Top of the World

After breaking camp, we find that we were not far from base camp. We arrive there and take time to prepare for the push to the summit. Base camp is pretty crowded and I need to make a decision whether to continue on or stay back while the group continues. At this point my feet are blistered, my shins are in agony and my ankles hurt. It’s all I can do to take a step. I never thought this would be something to stop me from summiting Mt. Ranier.

Sitting on a rock I watched the rest of the group head over the ridge. The rest of my day was uneventful. I observed mostly, people, birds, cloud formations, the incredible blue ice that clung to the rock faces around me. I really enjoyed myself actually. I must’ve sat there for hours, watching. It was interesting to see how people arrived at base camp and set up camptown. Every so often a group would head off over the ridge to the summit. It would take another day of hiking and then a midnight hike to reach the summit by daybreak. The temps are expected to be sub-zero. This presents a huge challenge of endurance not to mention keeping you water from freezing. Keeing hydrated is critical.

At dusk I retreated to the base camp shelter made of rock, stone and wood. I bedded down for the night and listened to the banter from other hikers, hikers from all over who had come here to summit this mountain.

June 24, 2001
Morning arrived with another spectacular sunrise and the coldness that perhaps only one who is camping on a glacier can experience. Even though I felt crippled and bummed out that I could not summit, I felt alive.

The guys showed up around noon that day. I felt the tension between them immediately. David had developed dehydration issues because of frozen water and Tim, being the team leader decided to turn back. Robert was upset by the decision. It turns out that everbody’s water froze and the temperature was 2 degrees with high winds, not the ideal time to try to summit.

After regrouping, we headed back down the mountain. Going downhill was a little less painful for me and we glaciaded (basically sledding on your butt) every chance we got.
The trip down was uneventful and we arrived back at the welcome center in good spirits. It was an experience I will try again sometime in the future. The summit awaits.

June 25, 2007
After our wonderful journey to Ranier, we decided to continue our adventure to Olympic National Park to hike down the shoreline for a few days. We acquired the necessary permits and began our hike. The Pacific coastline is like a different world from the Atlantic coast. It is truly a spectacular place to visit.

From the mountains to the sea


We quickly realized that hiking in the sand was going to be a challenge. You can’t get a good footing in the sand, it’s like taking two steps and falling back one. We struggled to find firm sand to walk on. With the low tide came rocky shallows that we could find a good foothold. We used this to our advantage. The sights were amazing. Rocky monoliths jutting out of the sea and holes cut through the rock.

I was totally enjoying this new kind of hiking. This whole trip has been a great new experience for me. I started hiking on ice and snow and ended up hiking on sand. One thing we had to be aware of was the tide coming in. We had to get to a certain place before the high tide. Once the high tide came in we would not be able to traverse the cliffs.

As the sun began to set we found our campsite for the night among the huge driftwood that littered the beach.

It was a beautiful night. We talked and enjoyed the fire. We soon realized that in the tree above us was an eagles nest. We watched as he ventured out to the ocean cliffs to feed on the seagulls eggs. Deer were prevalant and ventured out at low tide to find what food they could.

Nightfall on the Pacific coast

Morning brought another beautiful day and we continued our hike along the shoreline. The beach was litterd with discarded remnants from the sea. We found everything from buoys, some with lights, 55 gallon barrels with foreign languages written on them. We found Japanese soda bottles and everything from tables to signs from ships long passed. Whatever went into the sea eventually ended up here.

We camped a few more nights and headed back the way we came. It was an incredible trip from mountains to sea.


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