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Landing in Seattle at 10:30am on Wednesday, surprisingly enough only 2 duffel bags got lost out of 14 people! Not bad. Soon enough we had 3 mini-vans rented, confirmation that the 2 lost duffels would arrive soon, and we were on our way to Tacoma to retrieve a box of stoves and fuel bottles. The weather was great and we had awesome views of Mt Rainier during most of the drive to the White River Ranger Station. We got our permits, headed down the road to the campground/TH (4400ft) and performed the art of stuffing 50-60lbs of gear into each of our backpacks. Around 5:30pm the 14 of us were marching down the trail towards Glacier Basin (6000ft), our first camp. Due to flooding 2 years Rainier 005.JPG (304290 bytes) ago, the trail was still a mess! We had to cross the stream several times, jump over wet rocks, and dodge under/over fallen trees. It sure was nice to be hiking among giant trees that aren't seen in Colorado. After about 2hrs we covered the 3miles and 1600ft to camp. A warm night to relax, eat, and take in the views. Scott woke me up with his night terrors screaming about something while I tried to find a headlamp. Quite hysterical!

Thursday
Breakfast, packing up, filtering water, and hitting the trail around 7:30am we were at the Inter-Glacier in about anRainier 023.JPG (219934 bytes) hour. There we dug a cache to bury our poles, shoes, and whatever else. We also donned our harnesses, helmets, crampons, and roped up for some practice and to get into the groove. Still plenty of sun around, but the wind was rippin' down the glacier with the frequent gust that felt like getting sand-blasted. Near Camp Curtis we dropped down to the Emmons glacier and encountered our first Rainier 035.JPG (213099 bytes) crevasses. A couple folks on their way down commented that no one was summiting due to high winds, and we saw another group with wooden ice axes (don't those belong in a museum?) and the rope looped/tied around their waists! Working our way around and over some other crevasses, we were at Camp Shurman after about 5hrs. We waited for the other rope teams then went a couple hundred feet higher to our home for the night, Emmons Flats (9800ft). We probed an existing tent platform to make sure it wasn't over a gapping crevasse, then start setting up camp. It was still a bright blue and beautiful day, but theRainier 052.JPG (224159 bytes) wind kept reminding us that we weren't in for a free ride. Six tents set up, we all chowed an early dinner, melted snow for our water bottles, and packed up for a potential summit departure at midnight. I was in the tent around 5pm since I had enough of getting blasted by the ~50mph gusts. Sleep was not coming easily, but it was nice to just lay there and do nothing.

Friday
An hour or two of restless sleep and I was awake listening to the wind blast our camp around midnight. I got out of Rainier 067.JPG (223306 bytes) the tent to talk to Bob and we decided to give it an hour or so then we would reconsider a summit attempt or try again tomorrow. Amazingly enough, the wind DID start to die down and though it was steady, there were no more huge gusts. A 2am departure was set and we all geared up, got some food in our bellies, and tied into the ropes. Aaaahhhhh, the familiar sound of crunching snow under crampons and the world consisting of the 15ft circle illuminated by a headlamp! For some reason, I really dig this! It was cold enough that I started in my down jacket, but took it off within an hour or so. The trail was relatively easyRainier 074.JPG (185949 bytes) to follow and we slowly made our way uphill, step by step. We came across several crevasses and I couldn't wait to see how deep they were later in the day when we were on our way down. We took breaks about every 1000ft and before too long, the sun was coming up and bathing the mountain in the beautiful shades of pink and red that few people are fortunate enough to see. During a long traverse we could see the berschrund and what I thought was the crater rim. We hopped up over it and saw the remaining Rainier 085.JPG (164616 bytes) 800ft to the summit. Holy crap, I couldn't believe that I was finally going to get to stand on top of Mt Rainier!! The remaining elevation disappeared as I watched steam billowing out of the "vapor caves" that remind us that this mountain is still an active volcano! Just below the summit the first rope team (Bob, Mike, Scott) waited for us (me, Tom, Zach, Lee) and we dropped our ropes and summited together after only 4.5hrs leaving camp! It was awesome! Great views all around of the other Cascade volcanoes and not a cloud in sight! The wind was still chilly and constant, but who cares! Several guided groups were coming up theRainier 098.JPG (155112 bytes) other side of the crater and we ducked out of the wind near the register and to wait for the other two rope teams. After 2 hours of relaxing at 14K, the other rope teams (Sharon/Tiff/Sheryl/Michele and Dan/Dave/John) were joining us on the summit! 14 of us were up there together.... AWESOME!!!
Myself, Lee, and Tom quickly took off to climb up Liberty Cap. May as well, since its right there! We dropped down to the saddle and made quick work up the 1 mile and 800ft around an avy cap and along a cooooooool Rainier 106.JPG (190148 bytes) snow ridge. It only took 45mins from the summit of Rainier. We wrestled with the cap of the register and then realized that the wind was non-existent! Mother Nature was giving us a break and after stripping some layers of clothes and putting on even more sunscreen, we boogied down to the bershrund again. The entire way down we walked with mouths gasping open at how beautiful and surreal glacier and ice formations really are. Some crevasses we couldn't see the bottom, and the "amphitheater" was a playground of ice sculptures in all different shapes and sizes. With just a couple hundred feet to go, I looked atRainier 122.JPG (210112 bytes) my watch and realized that with some hustling we could get to camp in just under 10hrs after leaving last night! We broke into a jog and made it to camp with 90secs left, even after Lee took a tumble but hopped right up and kept running after dumping snow out of his glasses!
After a couple hours of relaxing, drying gear, and tearing down camp we all headed back down the glacier towards the trailhead. Not far out of camp I was watching Tom come around a crevasse when I dropped into Rainier 136.JPG (221597 bytes) one out of the blue! My chest hit one side and my pack hit the other side. I instinctively rolled right out and Tom dove into self-arrest position. Holy crap! There were foot prints on either side and the afternoon sun must've melted it just enough for my skinny ass and giant pack to knock it through. Once on the Inter-Glacier, we unroped and glissaded down hundreds upon hundreds of feet back to our cache. After a couple more hours of stream-dodging and hurdling fallen trees, we were at the mini-vans relaxing. It was 9pm before everyone arrived and we started hatching our next plan. Much to my surprise, most folks wanted to head to Seattle instead of Mt Hood! I rallied up Zach, John, and Sheryl and we loaded up a mini-van and drove to the exciting town of Packwood to get a couple hours of sleep in the direction of Mt Hood. We had 1/2lb Hot Pockets at a gas station at 11:30pm only to find out that our hotel was closed, luckily we found a no-tell motel across the street and collapsed. Onto our Mt Hood adventure.....

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