Monday, July 6, 2009

First summit of the season!

Had to take some time off and climb on my own with friends Mary and Erin.  And anyone who knows us individually, let alone collectively, could probably guess that this would not be a very serious affair...

The ladies' climb somehow ended up incorporating the ridiculousness of plastic tiaras, and the Independence Day holiday necessitated flags and pinwheels as well for camp decoration.  My theory: You don't see too many all-women climbing parties, for whatever social reasons.  If other climbers see us climbing with such silly accoutrements, they must realize we aren't too concerned about our chances of making the summit, and are comfortable in this mostly-male environment.  Plus it's a good conversation starter.  *grin*

The Emmons route on Mt Rainier is less travelled than the other common route, the Disappointment Cleaver (the one I'll be on the rest of the summer) for two reasons.  One, you can't see the trodden path leading all the way to camp from the most popular visitor center in the park - it's a hidden path leading through the trees to a camp you can't see until you're there.  And two, it's longer, with more elevation gain - over 10,000' from trailhead to summit.

We hiked up 5,000' to Camp Schurman on the first day, then took the next day, July 4, off to talk with the rangers, sleep, enjoy the view, and watch the fireworks twinkling down below once dusk fell.  You can see the balloons of sparkle from Seattle and the casino in Auburn, and countless little fountains of light from countless small towns and private homes.  It was windy, but we occasionally dashed out from the ranger hut to check it out, then bundle back in where it was warm.

And we almost didn't make it out of the hut.  Warm and cozy and full of people to talk to, we almost just stayed and hung out in the tin-and-stone ranger cabin - summit schmummit.  But Mary rallied us, we went and made our "breakfast" oatmeal, and set out into the wind for our climb.  Seven hours later, as the sun rose higher over the Cascades and Puget Sound, we wandered onto the summit and had some kind stranger take our (slightly ridiculous) picture.  Yay!  Cold - let's get down!

Back to Schurman, four-hour nap, and a long slide down the snow slopes to the three-mile hike back to the car.  Stinky (it's amazing how smelly you can get in three days) and tired, I slept in the car while Mary and Erin stayed up for the drive back (thanks!!).  Good to be out with friends...

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