Leader: Keith Sullivan, Co-Leader: Ivan Krakow.
The MT Rainier trip in 2002, turned out to be very popular, the maximum number of climbers that the Park Service allows in one party is 12; the trip was filled by February. Seven of the nine Baker 01 team members signed on for Rainier: Leon Tokatlian, John Kottos, Nancy Cooper, Diana Frye, Rebecca Shannon and of course Keith and Ivan. New Summit Sensations members included Trudi and Marty Janoschek, two very active members of the AMC NH Chapter. They were joined by Mitch Manseau, another AMC leader and charter members of the “Wednesday Group” of older, but extremely fit and enthusiastic NH mountain hikers. In the Spring, after two earlier team members dropped from the climb, we were fortunate to pick-up two guys with extensive outdoors and mountain experience. Matt Shannon, Rebecca’s “little” brother, took time off from his job as a trail crew boss with the Green Mountain Club, and Bill Burke joined us bringing a wealth of outdoor leadership as well as rock and ice experience.
After a rendezvous and one night at a Seattle airport hotel, the Team traveled in 3 crew-cab 4 wheel drive pick-up trucks to Paradise for a climb on the well-trodden Camp Muir, Ingraham Glacier, and Disappointment Clever Route. We spent a night at the Paradise Inn (5600′) to start getting our sea-level bodies acclimated and get a good nights rest before 4 nights on the mountain. The climb to Camp Muir was a long slog with huge packs, but the day passed quickly as we were frequently serenaded by our very own quartet of scantily clad female singers on the hike up. Everyone made it in good shape, and we got our tents set up just prior to one of the stranger storms to hit Camp Muir in years. The dinner crew of Rebecca, Marty and Keith braved the elements, which included rain, hail, a little snow and lightening, to produce some sort of hot meal which was delivered to their teammates in the tents.
At the planned wake-up time of 7:30 it was snowing lightly and skies were overcast; Keith poked his head out of the tent, yelled, “stay in bed, we’ll go later”, and went back to sleep. A couple hours later he was awoken by Ivan who shook the tent and said, “get up, it’s time we left”. The skies were clear, and the winds mild; there was plenty of time to climb the 1500 vertical feet to Ingraham Flats and set up a camp where we planned to stay for three nights. We organized into 3 4-person rope teams. Ivan had climb this route previously, so he took the lead. Keith led the last rope team, while Nancy led the middle. The climb to Ingraham was short and sweet with only a couple of crevasses to easily step over on the Cowlitz Glacier and minimal rock fall hazard as we crossed Cathedral Gap and moved on to the Ingraham Glacier. All day we were in the sun, with a beautiful undercast at about 8000′. In fact, for the remaining 72 hours on the mountain we rarely saw a cloud above us. We were able to take a recently deserted camp site that came ready made with snow block walls to shelter all 4 of our tent positions. After a great dinner and a lot of laughs, we got a good night sleep. The next day, while most of us thought we would be resting for the midnight wake-up and summit climb, Ivan, Nancy, Matt and John roped up and climbed Disappoint Clever to inspect the route RMI had put in, and locate any useable pickets or other anchor points. While our reconnaissance rope team was doing their work, a guided climber with an RMI group became very ill and lost consciousness in his tent. RMI maintains radio contact with their base operations and the Park Rangers constantly, so almost immediately a rope team of rangers with a liter was dispatched from Camp Muir and an Army helicopter was requested from near-by Fort Lewis. The rangers virtually ran up the well packed climbing route and put us to work moving our camp and helping to dig out and flatten a landing area for a giant, twin rotary CH47 Chinook Helicopter. After resetting our camp, and enjoying dinner, we hit the sack a little later than planned, but feeling some satisfaction that we may have played a small role in saving the life of a fellow climber.
Shortly after 1 AM, ten of us roped up into three teams, put on our turn signals, and fell into a long line of rope teams heading for the summit on a beautiful night for climbing. We had brought wands, but they were only needed to mark the route to the bathroom area – the foot path was wide and deep, similar to a well packed snowshoe path. The clever did not disappoint any of us and we continued on to the summit crater, all teams arriving by about 8 AM. We dropped our packs for the long walk across the flat crater to sign the register and stand on the true summit. Because it was no longer dark, and you look down a few steep drop offs, the descent was a little more dicey at times than the ascent. However, due to the bright sunlight, the snow surface had become soft and mushy and an uncontrollable fall very unlikely. The nose of the clever was about the only hazardous place and that had been protected by a fixed rope which had been place by RMI.
We had a fantastic dinner which included carrot cake for dessert and a full night’s sleep before heading down to Paradise the next day. Morale was high and everyone seemed to handle the long haul out with great spirits. Because of the staged ascent and moderate pace, no one complained of altitude sickness at any time during the climb. Two team members decided not to climb to the summit; one had a bad cold or the flu, the other just felt a little intimidated by the terrain on the upper part of the mountain.
After hiking out, we drove down to Ashford and stayed one night at Mounthaven Cabins. This is the perfect place for a large climbing group to go to chill out, clean and dry clothing and gear. It’s clean, spacious & rustic, but not fancy enough to worry about drying tents and mountaineering boots on the front porches. They have a laundry room on site, and cabins of various sizes. This trip, we had a large cabin with 7 beds, and a smaller one with 3. The large cabin had a huge living area. Somehow, most of the team members had the energy to play volley ball that evening while, some of us soaked in the hot tube and then sat in front of a camp fire. Matt Shannon shunned the comfort of a mattress and box spring to sleep where he had spent the previous six weeks of nights; outside on the ground.
The next day we drove to Seattle, toured downtown, and spent one night in a hotel before flying home to NH.
This climb was memorable for a number of reasons. The age of team members ranged between 24 and 58, all decades well represented. People got a long very well, cooperated and supported one another, and generally worked as a team. Most of the team got to the summit (10 of 12) but everyone seemed to enjoy the trip and get what they wanted out of the adventure. The 2 who chose to stay back, got up in the middle of the night to prepare hot water for everyone else, and had soup ready when we returned! Again, the most important lesson learned was to spend extra days on the mountain to get acclimated. Camping skills are extremely important; if you stay nourished, hydrated and sheltered you will stay healthy and be able to climb well.