Leader: John Kottos, Co-Leader: Scott Maxner.
Janet Mercier, Carl Platts, Ed Hawkins, Dave Langley, Georg Feichtinger, Ned Bergman.
Sunday July 3rd :
The Team of eight met that morning at Paradise Ranger Station. Most of us had been in the Seattle area for some other mountaineering activities few days before. We proceeded with the official Group Registration procedure and we settled at Paradise Inn, elevation 5500ft. We had a final review of our plan, gear check, objectives and expectations. That evening we all enjoyed the luxury of a great dinner along with some of the other spoils of an overall comfortable environment at this old but elegant Inn.
It was unfortunate that one of the team members (Ed Hawkins) announced that he had to withdraw from the group due to some medical issues he encountered while climbing Mt Hood few days earlier.
Monday July 4th :
The remaining seven members of the group initiated the ascent that morning. We left the Paradise Parking area at approximately 8:30AM. The objective of the day was to reach Camp Muir (elevation 10,000ft), where we would spend the night before continuing on to the Advance Camp (Ingraham Flats) the following day. The weather conditions were excellent throughout the day and we enjoyed the gradual ascent, with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. It was sunny with temps in the high 60’s low 70’s. Everyone was fully loaded with climbing gear, tents, food and fuel supplies. This initial part of the ascent was on snow-free ground for the first hour, and we soon encountered snow covered but crevasse-free terrain the rest of the way. There was no need to be roped, so our ascent was free-form, and we all stayed together for the most part. We saw many other people on at various times on their way up or down the mountain. Everyone in our group reached the destination by mid-afternoon and within 30 minutes from each other. We proceeded with setting-up the tents and with the chores of cooking dinner. We discussed the following day’s agenda and went to bed at dusk.
Tuesday July 5th:
An early rise that morning and a hearty breakfast were in order with a plan to break tents, pack our gear and to start moving-up before 9:00AM. It was soon after breakfast when two of the members (Dave Langley and Ned Bergman) notified the leader that they had decided to turn back down. Janet Mercier also made a decision at that point to go down with them. We re-sorted the group gear and the remaining 4 climbers roped-up for the climb to Ingraham Flats. We brought with us 2 tents, 2 ropes, cooking gear and food as needed. The 3rd rope, 3rd tent and some of the food went back down with the returning climbers. The weather continued to be excellent, sunny but cooler temps. We reached Ingraham Flats (elevation 12,000) late morning, selected a safe camp spot and set up tents. We built snow walls around the tents for wind protection and carved out in the snow a kitchen area. We had dinner discussed next days plan and went to bed at dusk. Extreme wind conditions that night, we were glad we built the extra snow-wall protection.
Wednesday July 6th:
Another early rise and another perfect day, weather-wise. The plan was to practice roping, self arrest, ascent techniques and to proceed with an exploratory route finding for next day’s attempt to Summit. Another unfortunate development that day, the Co-Leader Scott Maxner announced he would not be able to climb, due to serious knee joint cramps. For safety reasons and with the remaining climbers Carl and Georg not having prior high altitude experience, it was decided that the Ingraham Flats area would be as far as this team would go. We nonetheless took the opportunity to enjoy the place and the day. We roped up and we did some fun climbing on the Glacier route between Disappointment Clever and Gibraltar Rock in perfect weather conditions. It gave the SS members the opportunity to have a good practice of rope management at zigzag turns and at a real crevasse crossing situation. Scott took some good pictures of us from down below. We turned back cooked dinner and went to bed at dusk. We encountered a second night of extreme winds.
Thursday July 7th:
We rose early had breakfast, broke camp and got ready for the trip down. All 4 of us got roped and began descending to Camp Muir. It was somewhere between camps when we got wind of the unfolding drama right above us, where another team of 4 climbers (coincidence) had fallen into a crevasse. Rangers and choppers were rushing to the scene and in the end all turned out fine in spite some of them sustaining injuries. We reached Camp Muir got un-roped, rested for a while and continued our route to Paradise. A few hours later we encountered the relieved and smiling faces of our returned teammates. They were happy to see all 4 of us back safe. Mountaineering is not all about reaching the Summit. We learn that making sound decisions to call it quits when needed and returning back alive is the ultimate accomplishment.