Mt. Rainier. October 17, 2008

Got up and finished packing on the 17th and hit the road in the rental SUV.

Drove to Ashford, then on to Longmire where I checked in with the USPS and got an overnight permit - in case this all works out. The ranger was very nervous and said there were crevasses all over the Muir Snowfield and she suspected I would soon be dead. I did promise everyone at work that I wouldn't get dead. Let alone poor DW...

From the road I got some excellent shots of the mountain, standing out against the pure blue sky.

And looked down to see the gorgeous wet green lush foliage.

I got to Paradise and saw the new Jackson Visitor Center, and the soon-to-be-ruins of the old one. Oh, well. It took a while to find overnight parking (no signs, and bad directions from two rangers and I still don't know I was in the right place).

I finally got my stuff together and on my back and hit the trail, of course 200' lower than I would have liked to start, but again, oh well - it's all good for training.

I started up the stairs to the old visitor center, then around behind it to the left and started up the trail to meet the Skyline Trail. At about 6,000' I ran into some deer eating peacefully. I took a picture then alerted the hikers coming down, who hadn't noticed it about 100' off the trail. Oh, well.

At the end of the marked trail, Pebble Creek, the fork off the main Skyline Trail, I ran into the sign for the open crevasses. Woohoo!

Just shortly after this I ran into the first and only climber out that day, coming down. John had run into heavy duty knee-deep post-holing only 5 minutes up and had bailed. We talked about the trail, the attempt on Muir, and for him, a possible summit (?) and he briefly considered traveling with me, then continued on down.

I went up to his post-holed tracks, and saw what I considered to be a better line, and followed it up another several hundred feet up the rock bands and snowfield. It was about 5PM by now (I wasn't moving all that fast, alas) and the cloud had moved in pretty thick. I got a bit more than halfway from Pebble Creek to Moon Rock and ran into a suspicious-looking band of color and texture in the snow that I was nervously thinking to be a crevasse. I whacked the ground with my trekking pole and it sounded deep and boomy. But a few feet over it was sharp and brittle. Behind me it was sharp and brittle, so I decided not to risk it solo and wandered around till I found an area that sounded nice and solid and crossed there. I got a couple hundred feet past that and noticed that it was very dark and hard to see.

Notice you can barely make out the rocks around me at around 7,800' on the Muir Snowfield. Also the faint snow accumulating on my hat.

I decided that it would be pretty difficult in the next hour as it got dark to make it to Moon Rock in the hazy gloom. I had only about 100' of clear visibility, and though I trusted my GPS, I was nervous of the crevasses and knew it would be low going around Anvil Rock where the worst of the crevasses were open. In my efforts to maintain the trust of DW who graciously allows me to go on these solo adventures, I had to turn around.

As it was, the going was slow to the bottom, visibility worsened, and it got steadily colder and windier. I had a sausage/egg/cheese bagel from the Whittaker Cafe in my bag, and had that on the way down, having not eaten much on the way up (have to fix that some day soon). I missed the trail a few times, the snow was misting out of the cloud and made visibility even with a headlamp only about 50' (high-beams in a snowstorm effect).

Along the Skyline Trail I got to turning the light off and on, and eventually had it on pointing straight at my feet since it would only shine about 10' anyway. I got to stopping every hundred feet or so to do a quick circle check to make sure I wasn't going off a cliff or anything and saw two glowing orange eyes staring back at me from a small group of trees. I quietly prayed it was some passive animal like a deer or even sasquatch and walked confidently past it (there were signs all over that they had recently had some black bear issues in the area).

Shortly after I saw some lights along the East loop of the Skyline Trail, and recognized it as two hikers going down, so I flashed my headlamp at them. They flashed back. Fun socialization opportunity on a lonely mountain.

It was tough in my poor condition to find a way out of the old visitor center parking lot, but finally I made it to the car about 8:30PM and changed, ate, and drove to the MIL's house outside Seattle. What with the rain and traffic and all, it took about 4 solid hours from Paradise with a stop for gas and stop for a cell call to alert DW who was prayerfully thankful I was okay.

It was fun; I learned a lot; I had an adventure and it was way worth it in my training and an excellent shakedown for my next big adventure.