Last weekend five of us headed up to Paradise Lodge with intentions of climbing Mt Rainier in celebration of my dad's 60th birthday and life in general. I think the research had been done which showed the weekend of July 22nd as the best weather weekend for the last 100 years...we think Mother Nature woke up on the wrong side of the bed last Friday.
We still made a trip out of it and got to test all of our gear in some nasty conditions and we saw a new side to the beauty around Paradise and the Muir Snowfield. A wet one :-)
We had all of our gear and the cloud ceiling seemed to be a couple of thousand feet above the visitors center (5500 feet) so we decided to head to Muir and camp for the night or to turn around and call it a day hike if the weather was too nasty for our likings.
We crossed the creek at 7200 feet and jumped on the snowfield. An extra large group of Alpine Ascents climbers were eating and staging here so we chatted and enjoyed some respite from the Northerly winds coming off of the ridge. Our gloves came out of the packs and we got ready for war with the weather as we could see that visibility was going away in about 400 feet.
Soon enough we were surrounded by grey and stepping up in unison with the Alpine Ascents group. A large RMI group passed us on their way down the mountain when we were told that they made it up to 13,000 feet in a summit attempt and were in some very precarious weather. We gave them a smile and moved on.
The rain turned to sleet and then snow and we kept moving up. We crossed a small land spike and got back on the snow field. Matzke let me know that he was swimming in his boots...I was wondering how long it would be until they froze as we were into a snow storm and the temps were below 32 F. I also noticed that my dad's sleeping bag, which was packed outside of his pack in a hefty bag, had taken some water, this scared me a bit. I was definitely glad to have on my rented plastic shell climbing boots, my Alpha SV skiing/climbing bibs and my Alpha SL jacket that kept me dry, except for my sweat which had me drenched ;-).
We had pulled ahead of Chad, our fifth climber and we waited at about 9200 feet for him. We got cold, then colder and our outlook wasn't so good.
We voted on spending a miserable night at Muir camping or getting a beer and some blackberry cobbler at the Copper Creek Inn. Cobbler and Beer it was! That is the beauty of living on the doorstep of Rainier, if things aren't right then just wait until they are...we'll be back!