Rainier 2000

Camp Muir Seminar

September 24-29, 2000
This year, Rasa took part in the Camp Muir Seminar hosted by Rainier Mountaineering Inc. on 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 Tom Demerly.

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". She 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 any time.

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.