See You Later!
Mike and Bone rose early to prep for their separate trips, grabbing a quick breakfast, Bone dropped Mike off at RMI and high-tailed it to the Mount Ranier National Park Ranger Station. Bone planned to start his climb an hour before RMI in hopes of meeting up with Mike half-way up. Now the standard RMI pack weighed in at 50 pounds. Bone's pack included a tent, extra water, and other camping equipment which weighed 90 pounds. After registering with the ranger, Bone embarked on the "time of his life".
The day started innocently enough, by 9:00 AM the weather was perfect at 75 degrees with a nice breeze, sky was flawless. With his ski poles Bone started to climb the stairs and onto the trail into destiny or infamy.
The climb can be described in stages that are classified as:
The Paved Path: From 5,500 to 6,000 feet. This the area where families would walk around the park.
The Dirt Path: From 6,000 to 6,500 feet. In this area, day hikers will hang out and trek the green fields of the mountain
The Lower Snow Field: From 6,500 to 7,000 feet. This field has a reasonable slope and is relatively obstacle free
The Middle Snow Field: From 7,000 to 9,000 feet. This field has a distinctive slope (45 degrees) and has underground rivers, dangerous crevasses, and is in the middle of very unstable glaciers. Most deaths on Mount Rainier occur in this snow field.
The Upper Snow Field: From 9,000 to 11,000 feet. This field has a series of very unfair slopes that make Camp Muir appear closer than it is.
By 1:00 Bone thought he was half way. Mike and the RMI team had passed him just before the dirt trail ended and the snow field began. Bone had a regimen of hiking an hour, then taking the pact off and having a snack and drink. With this schedule he slowly move from 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet in the Lower Snow Field.
As Bone continued up the mountain into the Middle Snowfield, the terrain became much less hospitable and much more rugged, with underground streams (pictured below), crevasses, and huge boulders along the path.
Yep!! This is fun!!
While in the Middle Snow Field (between 7,000 and 8,000 feet Bone observed that the going became even tougher as the grade steepened (now a 45 degree incline), and the weather became much more unstable. He also observed that the few casual tourists that were on the mountain disappeared and he was for the most part climbing alone.
Around 5:00 a sudden cloud burst threatened Bone's climb. At higher altitudes clouds can quickly form and dissipate. As Bone climbed over a ridge he was hit by a wall of rain and sleet. Now trying to climb up at a 45 degree angle on a slippery snow field in the rain is a big challenge. And trying to stay on a trail and avoid the glaciers while unable to see the end of your nose was also a challenge.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow ,,,,, is Camp Muir !!!
Being very nosy. At the height of the storm, Bone slipped on the trail and fell face first onto a chunk of ice and bloodied his nose. Alone, soaked, and bleeding, just as Bone was ready to quit when the sun came out and a beautiful rainbow appeared (see above) to beckon him to continue.
Despite the break in the weather the temperature had dropped to the low 40',s and as is turned out Bone was still two hours out of Camp Muir.
Above 9,000 feet in the Upper Snow Field Bone started to experience severe altitude sickness. His head began to pound and heart started racing like a NASCAR circuit. He began also to have another concern, a loss of daylight. By 6:00 the sun was beginning to set.
So Close, and yet so Far!
One,,,, More,,,,, Step!!!. By 6:00 Camp Muir was now finally in sight. However as Bone very slowly drew closer to Camp Muir, his inability to breath increased to the point that he would take a step and then have to wait 15-20 minutes before he could continue. His 90 pound pack felt more like a 900 pound pack. Mike and the RMI Team had put in for the Night in the RMI Buildings (huts) for their 12:00 AM wakeup call.
Bone would meet up with Mike at Camp Muir, but not until the next day.
By 7:00 the sun was just about down and the temperature had dropped into the 30's, and Bone was still in his shorts. After talking to a Park Ranger (who was about to send Bone back down) Bone finally arrived at Camp Muir.
After being "lectured", Bone went out onto the Cowlitz Glacier just below Camp Muir to set up camp, and had to shovel out a flat area for his tent as the sun set behind the summit.
With the sun down, the temperature dropped in the 20's and Bone was absolutely freezing. As he scurried into his "M" Tent, and into his sleeping bag the night winds began to howl. As he dined on a frozen Snickers bar and a last swig of water for dinner the temperature dropped into the negative. With his head still pounding and heart was still racing due to altitude sickness Bone finally, fitfully, fell asleep around 9:00PM wondering if he would wake up dead.