Camp Muir Seminar
September 24-29, 2000
This year, Rasa took part in the Camp Muir Seminar
Rainier Mountaineering Inc.
Mt Rainier in Washington. The seminar consisted of a climbing school,
crevasse rescue training, ice climbing, and an attempt at the summit of
Rainier. She participated in the seminar with long time climbing partner
They left Detroit on September 23rd on a flight bound for Seattle via
Houston (a bit out of the way). Maria Flack picked them up at the airport
and put them up at her place in West Seattle for the first night. After
a quick dinner in downtown Seattle, everyone was in bed by about 10:30.
The next morning, the weather turned out to be phenomenal for Seattle at
this time of year. Blue skies afforded a nice view from Seattle of the
Olympics, the Cascades, Mt. Baker, and Mt. Rainier. Once everyone was
ready, they made a few stops in Seattle and then set out for Mt. Rainier.
The weather held all the way up to the mountain and the views along the
way were spectacular. Arriving at Whittaker's Bunkhouse, they went over
their packing for the seminar and called it an early night.
Monday, September 25th, was the official start of the seminar. The first
day consisted of the same climbing school that Rasa had taken part in
during last year's Rainier climb, but she was glad to get a refresher.
The pace of the school, however, was faster than her previous trip. With
the sun shining, the heat became more of an issue this year as well. The
day of instruction consisted of rest steps, self arrest, cramponing, and
rope team climbing. Everything went very well. On this first day, they met
all of the other climbers along with their guides and felt good about the
company. Rasa did have some problems with one of her new boots during
climbing school. The plan, at that point, was to hope it would work itself
out as the week went on. With the first day of school over, everybody went
back to Whittaker's, had some dinner, and turned in for the night.
Tuesday morning, everybody piled into the shuttle for the trip to Paradise
and two members had already dropped out. The remaining group arrived at
Paradise and set out on foot toward Camp Muir. The climb up to Camp Muir
went at a fast pace. Rasa was realizing that she had packed her pack a
bit heavier this year and was feeling the effects. That portion of the
climb seemed much harder than it had the year before.
When they arrived at Camp Muir, Brent (their guide) announced to the group
that they would be summitting the next day. The original intention was to
summit on Friday. With the unpredictable nature of the weather, however,
they decided to take the gift of the beautiful weather they were currently
enjoying and go for it. So at 7:30PM, the group went to bed and were awoken
at 2:00AM to begin their summit bid. By this time, the wind had picked up
considerably, but the weather was still quite favorable so they proceeded
as planned. Rasa was on a rope team with Tom, Julia, and Terry with Brent
as their team leader. They were the first team out. During the first leg
of the ascent, Rasa was having some problems stepping on her rope but this
was worked out early. By the time they got to their 3rd rest stop, she
started feeling the pangs of nausea that she usually gets at high altitudes.
She tried to keep taking in food and water and seemed to keep it under
control. With minimal danger of avalanche on the mountain, they decided to
take the Ingraham Glacier route instead of Dissappointment Cleaver. Usually,
the cleaver will take them around the avalanche area but with the snow as
solid as it was, there was little danger. The team reached the summit on
Wednesday, September 27th, at 10:00AM. At the top, Rasa realized that it was
one year ago to the day that her and Tom had stood on the summit of Mt.
Kilimanjaro. The weather at the top was still holding and they took in some
awesome views in all directions.
From the summit, the team trudged back to Camp Muir. Rasa was still feeling
the altitude and arrived at Muir with a headache. With a good chunk of the
afternoon left to go, they had a class on tying knots. Everybody was starting
to fade at this point, however, so they all turned in at about 7:30PM. The
wind was still picking up and, by this time, it was howling.
Thursday was rescue training day. After breakfast, the team went out onto
the Cowlitz Glacier for lectures on different rescue approaches. The bollard,
deadman anchors, pickets, and z-pulley system were all discussed in detail.
Most of the lectures involved, pretty much, standing still out on the
glacier so many of the group were getting quite cold. In the afternoon,
however, the activity level went up as they started to practice some rescue
techniques as well as some ice climbing. If somebody falls into a crevasse,
they probably won't fall very far as each member of the rope team is roped to
each other. Both the victim and the other team members need to know how to
rescue the victim. To do this, they needed volunteers (victims) to be lowered
into the crevasse. Rasa was the first into the hole. The plan was for the
volunteers to be lowered about five feet but Rasa ended up about twenty feet
down. She described hanging inside the crevasse as "very quiet"
had two ropes attached to her. The rope that was being used to belay her into
the crevasse and the rope that would be used for the rescue. As she was
lowered, the rescue rope wrapped around her thigh so that one leg was going
up while the other was going down flipping her around. She yelled up to stop.
Kent (another guide) started to come down to help her out but she managed to
free herself before he got very far. The drop below where Rasa was hanging
was (by her estimate) about 100 feet. After a short spell, she managed to get
up enough nerve to let go of the rope and snap some pictures. Within about
fifteen minutes, the team up top pulled her out. After that, it was her turn
to take the other end of the rope.
The next lesson was in ice climbing. This time, the volunteers are lowered
back into the crevasse and they have to use ice climbing techniques to get
themselves out. Rasa went back in. She claimed to be a bit insecure with the
tools but she did say she started to get the rhythm and did get herself out.
This was much harder on the body than being pulled out. She complained of
very achy forearms when she was done. This did turn out to be one of the
highlights of the week though.
One of the guys, John, was working on team arrests. This is what is used to
stop a climber from falling into a crevasse. The team uses their ice axes
to stop the whole rope team. You basically stick the axe into the snow and
and hang on for dear life. John had gotten into the position perfectly,
however, the adze of the ice axe went into his face. He never let go of the
arrest position until the team was safe. He just let his cut bleed into a
pool of blood in the snow. This is someone Rasa said she would climb with
By this time, it was getting much later in the day and some of the rope
teams started to head back to Camp Muir. When they arrived, the clouds were
rolling in beneath them giving them an awesome spectacle to see. For the
remainder of the evening, they ate, listened to the guides tell some great
climbing stories, and then turned in.
On Friday, the guides woke everybody up at 7:30AM. The weather had, indeed,
turned foul (good thing they summitted Wednesday) and was not conducive to
rappelling that day so they decided to head back down to Paradise early.
Everybody got up, ate breakfast, and set out down the mountain at about
10:00AM in the pouring rain. The climb down only took about two hours. About
three quarters of the way down, Rasa ran into Lisa and Tim on the trail
heading up. They had both climbed with Rasa on Rainier last year and came
out to see her. They all walked the rest of the way down together. Once
everybody got to Paradise, they all moved over to the bar to throw down major
food and drink. Rasa was wanting a shower pretty bad but the Paradise Inn
wouldn't let her into her reserved room until 4:00PM. Luckily, Lisa and Tim
already had a room and let her and Tom clean up in there. Glenn showed up at
about 2:00PM and everybody hovered around the bar until the Bunkhouse shuttle
left and most of the group went with it.
As miserable as Rasa had felt on the mountain from the altitude, it all
melted away with a good long shower and a beer. As usual, she met some
amazing people who will not be forgotten. At one point during the seminar,
Rasa wondered if she really wanted to continue climbing, "sometimes I find
it hard to justify the high levels of discomfort one can go through on the
mountain...especially when this is considered my vacation". Now, all she
talks about is looking forward to her next climb with Tom on Aconcagua in
Argentina in January of 2001.