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Rainier, Part 3: Training Day

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Sunrise over Camp Muir

We awoke to another glorious day.  Despite cramped tents, thin air, and low temperatures near freezing, everyone slept pretty well after the long hike up to Camp Muir.  The prospect of a day to train and acclimatize, without having to carry a pack, was appealing.  A bright sun rapidly warmed the camp as we set about making breakfast.  Properly fueled with coffee, hot chocolate and eggs, we were ready for our training day.  Mark’s previous experience as a guide on Rainier was immediately evident, as he walked us though the basics of traversing snow and ice slopes with crampons and an ice axe, and taught the essential skill of self-arrest in the event of a fall.  When crossing glaciers or steep terrain, climbers rope together for safety.  If one person falls, every member of the rope team executes a self-arrest, anchoring the rope team.  It’s the wingman principle in action.

After lunch, we strapped on crampons and ventured out onto the Cowlitz Glacier, maneuvering around crevasses and getting the hang of rope management and moving as a team, four people on each rope team.  Eventually we worked our way to the lip of a large crevasse, a gaping crack in the glacier spanning fifteen or twenty feet across and plunging fifty feet or more down into the belly of the beast.  Here we set up and anchor to practice rescue techniques, in the event we should need to haul someone out after a fall.  Doug, one of our wounded warriors, graciously volunteered to take the sharp end of the rope, and was soon lowered down into the ice.  Setting up a pulley system to haul someone out takes some time, and Doug was a trooper as he dangled on the end of a 10mm rope while we got organized.  Across the crevasse, a group of three park rangers were practicing the same drill, and keeping a watchful eye to make sure we knew what we were doing.   With our trusty guides, they needn’t have worried.

Supper came early, as the whole team turned in by 8 pm in order to grab as much rest as possible before our 2330 wakeup call.  With adrenaline flowing and thoughts of what lay in the darkness above Camp Muir, it was a restless evening.

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Dinner time at camp. The start of the Disappointment Cleaver route crosses the rock outcropping in the distance.

 

Tomorrow:  Summit Day.