Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Climb

Finally, two weeks after the climb I have time to write about the experience.  I've finally had a chance to really rest up from the experience and everything else I've been up to the last couple weeks.  

Where to start?  I guess I can start on Tuesday before the climb.  I was pretty nervous before I left Seattle.  Not about the climb, instead, I was nervous about making sure I had everything I needed.  I decided at the last minute not to take my bigger camera (which I was sad to be without on the climb).  Now having been through the experience, I think I would definitely take it with me if I decide to climb the mountain again.  Since I couldn't not have a camera, I had to buy a decent small digital camera at the last minute.  I had to stop by REI to get my freeze dried meal and the much appreciated ear plugs that I would need the night before the summit climb.  Once I was on the road, almost all the nervousness went away and I was just plain excited.  I wanted it to already be Friday morning though.  I had been waiting for that day since January and I didn't want to wait anymore.

Rainier Base Camp was a pretty cool place.  RMI has a great set up in the town of Ashford.  I liked that everything a climber needed was right there.  Anything I may have forgotten could have been rented or purchased at Base Camp.  I liked the idea of staying at the place that we would be taking off from for both training and for the the climb.  It meant not really having to worry about much.  Tuesday evening was an introduction night.  We spent a few hours getting to know each other.  My group had very nice people from all over the United States. We got to know our main guide, Brent.  This climb would be his 368th summit of Mt. Rainier.  I felt like I was in good hands.  Brent went through all the gear we would need and showed us a slideshow of what we could expect on the trail.  

Wednesday was our training day.  Since the people that come climb with RMI have all different levels of experience, it's important to have a day to make sure everyone knew how to do things like rest step, pressure breathing, self arrest and climbing roped in.  For the training they drove us up to Paradise and we went on a short hike to an area that would work well for training.  It was a fun day that went by very quickly.  Most of the stuff was review for me, but I learned some good footing techniques as well as pressure breathing which would be extremely helpful on the climb.  The pressure breathing was good for dealing with the gain in altitude.  They told us that if we felt a headache coming on, that this would be the best way to alleviate it.

Wednesday night I got all my gear together and bought some last minute food for the trip.  Again, while I was looking forward to Thursday's hike up to Camp Muir, I still just wanted it to be Friday morning already.  

Thursday was a beautiful day.  This made the whole group excited since this meant our chances were summiting with decent weather were good.  The hike up to Camp Muir was just as beautiful as when I had done the Camp Muir hike last year.  This year it felt like the time went by pretty quickly though.  RMI has the climb extremely organized down to how often you break and for how long.  Roughly every hour, we took a 15 minute break.  They told us we should plan to eat 300 calories per break and drink a half quart of water.  This would help keep our energy up and helping our bodies deal with the gain in altitude.  I'm not used to eating much while I'm hiking up a mountain so this was a bit different for me.  I think I definitely appreciated it on the summit day though.  The hike to Camp Muir is 4.5 miles and you go from 5400' up to 10,000' in elevation.  It's probably one of the most rewarding day hikes I've done in the Northwest.

When we got to Camp Muir, we took our sleeping bags out and headed into the RMI hut to choose our spots.  Since I was in the first group I was able to get a spot on a lower level.  Luckily the hut already has sleeping mats in it, so we didn't have to bring those up with us.  RMI also provides water at Camp Muir so we got to restock our nalgene bottles.  We had a group meeting to talk about what we would need for the summit climb and what we should expect for the day.  After the meeting we ate dinner and then went to bed at 6pm.  I really thought I would struggle with going to bed at 6pm.  Luckily since it was dark in the hut and I had ear plugs, I actually got about 3 hours of sleep.  After that I was just laying there hoping that the guides would come wake us up soon.  I didn't want to wait around any longer!  

Luckily the time passed quickly and the guides came in and turned the light on around 11:30.  we got our gear on, ate some breakfast and then headed out to the ropes.  The view at night from Camp Muir was amazing.  It definitely made for a cool start to the day.  The weather was very calm and the sky was completely clear.  

The climb starts across a fairly flat section across the Cowlitz Glacier.  We only came across small crevasses on this part and at night you don't notice these as much as when we came back later in the day.  The next section is a rocky "skree" section up and over Cathedral Gap.  There were two larger rocky sections of the day including this part and Disappointment Cleaver.  Footing wise, these were the hardest parts since you're walking on very loose rock that varies in size.  The crampons really do help you dig in for both the snow and the skree sections so you learn to appreciate having them on.  

After we crossed over Cathedral Gap we came to Ingraham Flats.  This is a section with several larger crevasses and is relatively flat.  A lot of climbers choose to set up camp at the Flats so we could see a few tents as we came through this area.  We took our first break in this section.   We were told that if we could make it through the next section to the next break feeling good, that you might as well go to the top.  The second section over the Disappointment Cleaver was the only hard section of the day for me.  It wasn't hard physically, just mentally.  It was the only part of the climb I actually felt scared on.  This was another skree section with very steep drop offs.  I was fine until I decided to look down at one point and then my nerves got to me.   I know that I can be lacking in coordination so part of me worried that I'd stumble on a rock and end up pulling my team down the mountain.  Luckily that didn't happen.  However, I knew I had to come back down through this section on the way back later in the day! 

After that section it was smooth sailing the rest of the day.  We had two more breaks to take before the summit.  The third section included the largest crevasses we'd have to cross for the day.  Earlier in the week, one had opened up to the point of needing a ladder to cross.  We were able to step over a few crevasses, then the last one was probably about 6-8 feet across.  RMI places the ladders across these.  I think the crevasse I crossed on Mt. Baker helped me get over my fear of crossing these.  I was able to walk across the ladder without a care in the world and this ended up being my favorite section of the climb.  We were at this point around sunrise.  

The final stretches were just steeper sections on snow.  We had a lot of switch backs up toward the top.  Probably the last 100 yards of the climb my legs were starting to feel like they were almost done.  I was pretty happy to be at the top when we got there.  I believe we got there around 6am.  We dropped our bags and took a few minutes to rest.  Then anyone who wanted to go could walk across the top to the true summit of 14,410'.  I knew I'd hate myself if I didn't make it to the tippy top and the weather was still nice so I was excited to see how the view was.  It was pretty cold up at the top and the wind didn't help much, but it was an incredible feeling being up there.  

We signed the register, I claimed my earth cache find and we snapped a bunch of photos from the true summit.  We were up on the top for about an hour before it was time to head back down.  Luckily we got there in time to have clear skies.  As we were leaving, the clouds started to roll in so I don't think the other groups summiting that day got as nice of a view as we did.

The climb down was pretty smooth and quick.  I was nervous for the Disappointment Cleaver section, but all went well through there.  The only miserable part of the climb was my feet by the end.  Mountaineering boots just aren't comfortable, especially when you're heading downhill.  We only took a couple breaks on the way down, then we took about an hour break at Camp Muir.  We needed to collect our gear from there, rest a little bit and refill on any water we needed.  We did a lot of boot skiing on the walk down the Muir Snow fields and I did some glissading where ever I could!  Getting back into the bus the tiredness hit me and I was excited for when I'd get the chance to shower.  

Overall it was an incredible experience.  I had awesome weather, a great group of people to climb with and great leadership with the RMI guides.  During the climb I was saying to myself "I'm never doing anything like this again!"  Now, I'm thinking that I could definitely do it again.  Many have asked me what's next on my agenda.  Well, it's a little ways off and I'll possibly climb some other mountains before then, but my next major goal is Kilamanjaro.  :)  I'll need to save up a lot of money and do a lot of investigating, but my goal is to include this with my 5 year plan.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I climbed the Mountain! Great weather helped me achieve the goal I've been working so hard for. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life! I'll give a more complete rundown of the climb later, but I wanted to share some of the fun I had last Thursday and Friday with a few photos. 

Thursday around 9am in the Parking Lot at Paradise.

First great view of the mountain on the trail to Camp Muir.

On the trail to Camp Muir.

My little section of the hut at Camp Muir.

The larger crevasses we had to step across. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the crevasse we had to cross by walking over a ladder "bridge." This was actually my favorite section of the climb.

A pretty cool place to be at sunrise.

Ice Axe Annie at the top!

Looking over the Crater Rim from the true summit.

Trail across the Crater Rim.

Cool view on the way down.

Toward the end of the climb at Ingraham Flats.

Our climbing group on the way back down to Paradise.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time to see about climbing a mountain

The time is finally here! I'm sitting at a coffee shop at Rainier Base Camp and I'll be taking off with my group in about 30 minutes. I'm really excited. Today's hike to Camp Muir should be beautiful since the weather is perfect!

This webcam at Paradise shows just how nice the weather will be for the start of our journey. I believe that weather is supposed to hold out, so this should be good for our summit attempt early tomorrow morning.

Throughout the past couple weeks I've been thinking of how fortunate I've been through this whole experience to have the overwhelming support from my friends, family, coworkers and perfect strangers. If there was ever a day or two that I wasn't sure that I wanted to follow through, I just thought of the people who have been rooting me along and it's been the kick I've needed to really push myself. A huge THANK YOU goes out to all the people who have been so supportive in so many ways. I'm really excited to have this opportunity and I've been thrilled that people have cared so much to let me share my stories with them. So yeah, thanks!

Guess I should go get my boots on and head over to meet the group now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Carpe Diem

The time has finally come. I've been determined to climb Mt. Rainier since I made it my New Years Resolution in January and I'll finally get to do it. I've actually sectioned off my life this year into two sections because of all that's gone into preparing for this. My pre-Rainier life and my post-Rainier life. It's been hard to plan things with my friends for so long and I've just kept telling them "let's do such and such after Rainier." I'm sure they're tired of hearing that and I know I'm tired of saying it. :)

I made a pact with myself that I would make an attempt on the Mountain one way or another before the climbing season was over. I've finally decided to go with the RMI guide service. They have both a 4 day and a 5 day summit climb. I've opted to go with the 4 day climb, which includes a day and a half of training before the summit attempt.

The way the guided service is set up, I'll be going down to Ashford, Washington (just outside the park entrance) Tuesday for introductions and the first part of training. On Wednesday we'll spend the day near Paradise doing some training as a group. I'm guessing this will include more self arrest and ropes training. Then on Thursday we'll hike up to Camp Muir. With the guide service we'll be staying in a hut rather than in our own tents. They say to bring ear plugs as it can be hard to sleep in the hut. On Friday morning we'll get started on the trail to the summit at 12:30am. I have been reading reports of teams heading up earlier than that because of the warmer temperatures lately on the mountain.

So now it's the last minute preparations. I'm trying to figure out what food and how much to bring. Luckily the recommended foods for a climb like this are pizza, beef jerky, chips, candy, etc. Being that those are my favorite foods, I think I can handle that. I'm also trying to figure out what layers I'll want for the summit climb. They say it's much colder up on Rainier than people think it will be so I'm guessing my down jacket will be coming in handy.

I'll be going on my last short training hike today on one of the trails near Seattle. It'll be nice to take a break from those trails for a while after this is over. I'm actually looking forward to doing some normal hiking for a bit after this experience. Although, there is talk of still climbing Mt. Adams this summer!

Anyway, if all goes well, anyone with a view of Mt. Rainier should be able to look up on their commute to work Friday morning and hopefully see me waving from the top. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Learning Experience

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, based off my experiences so far. I haven't been one to know a lot of fear in my life. If I want to do something I usually just go do it. Mt. Baker made me realize that I need to learn how to deal with my fears and not let them take away my confidence in climbing a mountain. That being said, I didn't want my fears to ruin any summit attempt for the Rainier group I've been training with. All of us have worked really hard over the past several months toward this goal. The point I stopped at for Baker was a good stopping point. It was a good, safe place for one to wait while others attempted a summit. I don't know that Rainier has those same options in case someone can't go on. I'm determined to make the summit, but if my fears get the best of me I wouldn't want my group that I've been training with to miss out because of it. They will still be going as scheduled this Friday, so they should be up on the summit a week from today. I'll be excited to hear how it goes for them.

I'm still planning to climb the mountain. I'm just thinking that I need to go with an option that wouldn't have the possibility of letting my training buddies down.

When I do climb the mountain, I will be following the Disappointment Cleaver route. This is considered the easiest and most popular route up the mountain. The park rangers keep trail reports updated regularly on their website. This route starts at Paradise for the first day and the typical stopping point is Camp Muir at the 10,000' level. If it's a two day summit attempt, then it's very typical to get started on the trail at 12:30am the next morning meaning you spend the first few hours in the dark. It's important to start in the middle of the night so that you have the best conditions on the snow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mt. Baker

Friday after work we drove up to Mt. Baker and set up camp outside our cars. There was still too much snow on the road to go all the way to the trailhead, but we were less than a mile away from there. After building our tents, we only had about 2 hours to "sleep" before we were going to get up at 1am. Since we'll have to get up at 12:30am to start our journey for the summit of Rainier, this was good experience to get used to hiking in the middle of the night. We got going just before 2am on Saturday morning.

Just after the trailhead, we came to a bridge that had been washed out so we had to "ford" the river as the sign had indicated we would need to do. Luckily there was a tree over the river not far from the bridge and it was wide enough to walk across. This would prove to be good practice for me later in the day since I'm highly lacking in coordination! The trail was very hard to keep because it was mostly buried under snow. We actually ended up losing the trail for a while and went on a slightly precarious route. I slipped and fell at one point and my bad gut feeling I had before going into the trip made me stop for a minute and reevaluate whether I wanted to be climbing Mt. Baker this past weekend. Something was telling me that something bad would happen. Luckily my gut feelings weren't accurate.

We finally got out onto the glacier and it was wide open and beautiful - this put me at ease. That is, until we came to the first and only major crevasse we would cross for the day. I'm guessing the crevasse was at least 12 feet wide, with at least a 20 foot drop or more in parts. We had to cross this on a snow "bridge." The snow bridge was about 2 feet wide and of course, made of snow. This is why we did the crevasse rescue training and I'm glad we did. We all made it across safely and I tried not to look down!

Not long after crossing the crevasse and a little more of the glacier I heard a loud noise and looked to my right. A big chunk of snow was coming off the mountain and an avalanche was taking place right in front of us. It was hard to tell where it was going to stop - though where we were standing at the time, we were not in its path. It did scare me because it was approaching the trail we had just crossed and I knew we had to go back that way. The avalanche sent a snowball the size of a minivan down across the trail we had passed just minutes before. Again, this made my gut feelings get to me. As we got farther up the trail and passed other rope teams, they indicated that there was avalanche danger near the summit. I decided I didn't want to summit after hearing that. I stopped at 8,000 feet and Mihae decided to stop there with me as well. It was a perfect stopping point for not summiting. It was a rocky section of the mountain so other climbers and skiers were stopping there for breaks so it was fun talking to others while we were there. The view was amazing!

The guys in the group, Harrison and Bram, decided that they would attempt the summit and they almost made it there. They did an avalanche test and decided not to risk going all the way to the summit. This made me feel better about my decision.

I have to say the whole experience made me feel better about Rainier. Experiencing some of the things I may come against with the mountain put things more into perspective. I also realized that I am in shape for climbing Rainier so all the hard work has paid off physically. The plan is still to summit the third weekend of July.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Big training climb

Just a quick update since I don't have a lot to report. Everything is on schedule right now for us to summit the third week of July, so just under a month away now. I'm ready! I want it to be here already. Every time I look at Rainier from Seattle I just imagine that I'll be standing up on top of it soon. I want to stop having to imagine it and just be there!

This weekend we're doing a big training climb. The choices were Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker or Mt. Shuksan. It looks like we're probably leaning toward Mt. Baker. I was hoping for Hood or Baker since they're both mountains that you can see from far away. I like the idea of looking at a big mountain and knowing that I've climbed it. The weather is supposed to be perfect this weekend, so we should have pretty good conditions for whatever climb we do.

I'll likely try to do another big hike or two after that. Possibly a second try for Camp Muir in early July.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Unpredictable Mountain

The photo above is Camp Muir on a day with perfect conditions. Not a cloud in the sky. Minus a really bad sunburn from almost a whole day of the sun reflecting off the snow, my hike up to the 10,000' level of Rainier last summer was amazing. Unfortunately this week some others weren't lucky enough to have those prime conditions. A Seattle PI article tells the sad story of three climbers, one of which died, on their trip to Camp Muir. I've always heard that Mt. Rainier has its own weather system and that storms can creep up on you out of nowhere.

This article scared me on one level and made me realize I made the right choice this past weekend. For several months now I had been planning to do the very same hike to Camp Muir as a training hike with some of my Rainier group. I had planned to go down to the park for the weekend, camp and participate in a Cache In Trash Out (CITO) trail cleanup with geocachers on Saturday and then make the trek to Muir on Sunday. The few days before this was to happen I kept an eye on the weather and it didn't look good for Mt. Rainier National Park. Rain, snow and cold temperatures. Shortly before the weekend I talked to the people who were coming with me and we decided that maybe it would be best to do a hike around Seattle on Sunday instead. On Saturday after the CITO event we drove to Paradise where the trailhead is and the conditions seemed horrible. You could only see about 200 feet in front of you because of clouds and fog. We stopped and talked to some mountaineers doing some crevasse rescue training and they warned that if we were heading out on any trails to take a compass, as they said a lot of people were getting turned around. Based off that, I felt like I had made the right decision not to take others on the hike I had only done one time in my life. Today I've had people sending me the link to the article telling me they're glad we decided not to do the hike.

There will be risks in climbing Rainier, but then there are risks in everything. This is a challenge I've made for myself because it will be tough, but it will be attainable.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Two More Mountains and more skills

So I have been keeping busy with training over the past week. Monday I took advantage of the day off work to go hike the "super highway" known as Mt. Si over in North Bend. It's only a half hour from Seattle, so whenever the weather's decent (or even if it's not) this hiking trail can be packed. I actually prefer this when I'm out hiking by myself, which was the case. Knowing that I'm within yelling distance of another human being makes me feel completely safe hiking alone. To make sure I'm on the right track for climbing Rainier, I needed to climb Si in an hour and 45 minutes. I did exactly that. I've definitely climbed the mountain in less time before, but this was the first time I was carrying over 40lbs of weight on my back. I must say that I did enjoy all the positivity I got from the people I passed on the trail. Several people along the way asked what I was training for or if I was training for Rainier. More than one person, knowing that I was carrying a lot of weight, congratulated me when I made it to the top. It's a nice feeling knowing that people are out there rooting me on, even when they don't even know me!

On Thursday night our Rainier group got together to do some crevasse rescue training. Just in case someone on our rope team does fall into a crevasse, we learned the basics of how to build a Z Pulley system to pull them out. We've basically learned all the rope and safety stuff that we need to learn now. So now we just have to make sure we're in great shape!

Today our group went over to the Olympic Penninsula to hike Mt. Ellinor. The mountain is beautiful and I definitely want to go back and check it out again. While this was only about a 3 mile hike, it was good for elevation gain (right around 3000'). A section of this hike was up a chute that is very similar to the Camp Muir section of Rainier. It was a cloudy hike on the way up, but toward the top we broke through the clouds and found a beautiful day at the summit. The best part of this hike was getting to glissade back down the chute. Glissading definitely saves time and saves a lot of pressure on the knees!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Train, train, train!

Hopefully in about a month from now I'll be packing my backpack to head down to climb Rainier. In the mean time, there's just a lot of training to be done. Last night Mihae and I did the cable line of Tiger Mountain. Typically hiking trails have switchbacks as they work their way up the mountain. The cable line goes straight up the mountain. It's a common training hike for people who want to summit Rainier. Bram was hoping we'd make the hike in under an hour and 15 minutes to make sure were getting in good shape for our summit climb. Mihae and I made it in an hour so we were happy about that.

This weekend is going to be a good opportunity to get some training in. Rachel, CJ and I are currently investigating some possibilities for a more strenuous hike/climb. We had wanted to do Mt. Adams, but with the all the snow from this winter, the conditions aren't in our favor quite yet. I do really want to climb Adams at some point this year, even if it's after Rainier. We also considered Mt. St. Helen's for this weekend, but being Memorial day weekend and that climb having a limited number of permits it's not likely to work out. We'll probably head up Highway 2 somewhere as there are plenty of opportunities out that way.

As for my non-hiking conditioning I've been keeping up with my usual running, boxing fitness class and soccer during the week. I've been trying to add several sets of stairs with every run. I think overall strength building is going to be what I need to focus on now.

I'm definitely anxious for the actual climb to be here already. When I started planning this in January it felt like it was forever away so it's nice to know it's getting so close.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gear and Training

Good news! I now have all the gear I need for my trip up Rainier. I got my ice axe, harness, prussicks and caribiners, helmet, tent, sleeping pad, shovel, waterproof shell and a bunch of other stuff over the past week. I feel like I should own REI after all the money I've spent there over the past few months. I guess maybe I'll have a nice dividend check next year! Having the right gear definitely can make or break the overall experience and I feel pretty confident with the what I have now.

Our latest group training was this past weekend. We headed over to Alpental at Snoqualmie Pass Saturday evening and hiked up in the rain to our camping spot. The rain ended up making the camping not very pleasant since we were soaked by the time we got our tents up. My new shovel came in handy for digging out a flat spot in the snow for our tents. It's more to carry, but again, it's definitely nice to have.

In the middle of the night the rain turned to snow and this ended up causing the tent to almost cave in. I'm considering returning the tent for another style, though I like how light and compact it is.

Sunday was all about training. We worked on self arrest training which is very important to know in case we slip and start falling down the mountain. The training for this was pretty fun too because we got to do some glissading (basically sledding without a sled). Glissading was my favorite part of the Camp Muir hike I did last year and I'm looking forward to it again this year. We also did some training on our rope teams.

It may be a lofty goal, but some of us are considering climbing Mt. Adams over Memorial Day weekend. Though the climb's not technical, it's still pretty long and will get us up over the 12,000 foot level so we can see how we do with the altitude. Recent reports said getting to the trailhead was a 12 mile snowshoe trip. Hopefully the warm weather over the next few days will change that, otherwise we may have to consider climbing Adams another time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

No time to waste...

I always think that winter and early spring are going to be down times for me. Lots of free time to catch up on things like sleep and just getting things in my life organized. That definitely hasn't been the case this winter. That's why I've been slacking off on my updates here. I have been doing things to prepare for the Rainier trip, but finding a few free minutes to write about them has not been easy. So here is a quick recap of my Rainier prep over the last few weeks:

Thien-An very graciously accompanied the ladies of the group (Rachel, Mihae and myself) to REI for a gear session. We took the list of recommended items for summiting Rainier (see an earlier post with this list). He was extremely helpful in giving us information on things like ice axes, gloves, crampons, etc. REI staff were ready to give him a green vest by the end of the night.

Bram had us over with one of his mountaineering friends to have a ropes course so that we could learn the knots that we'll need to know for trip. Of course some of the knots are used more for rescue attempts if needed - hopefully we won't have that need, but it's still good to be prepared. I found a fun website with animated steps to show how to make most of the knots we'll need to know so I have a feeling I'll be consulting it when I practice.

Last Tuesday we had a group conditioning hike at Rattlesnake Mountain. The goal was to make it to East Peak (4.4 miles each way), but due to time and possible bad weather rolling in, we turned around at about 9pm and headed back down. Someday I do want to make it farther up that trail, as it's very beautiful. I'm still doing well with carrying 40-50 pounds of weight during the training hikes. I <3 my backpack! I think my boots are getting more comfortable with each hike, so hopefully they'll be good when it comes time to wear them for 2-3 days straight.

The group has a snow camping and then rescue training planned for the second weekend of May near Stevens Pass. In late May we're planning to climb Mt. Shuksan in the North Cascades. I also want to try to organize a trip for some of us up Mt. Adams since that's a mountain I've been interested in climbing for some time now.

I need to finish up acquiring my gear in the next couple weeks so I see another trip or two to REI in my future. I'm still overwhelmed by all the possibilities when it comes to gear. I do like that I'll have great equipment for any hiking or snowshoeing I do in the future though!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On the trail again...

I've been bad about updating this lately, but there hasn't really been much to tell. For a couple weeks I didn't have a lot going on in the way of training or collecting gear so there wasn't anything update. I did get a chance to get started reading the Mt. Rainier guidebook which is great for giving you all the information you need to know about the mountain down to the nitty gritty details.

On a recent visit to home in North Idaho I did check out one of the local sports shops and was happy that I did. I found some North Face gore-tex shell pants - only one pair left, in my size and on clearance! It's always such a thrill to find deals like that. Normally I only find those kind of deals on things that I don't happen to need. I tested the pants on a snowshoeing expedition around my parent's place and I was quite pleased with how they did their job. This means a majority of my clothing for the journey has been acquired. Besides head protection, the last major item I'll need clothing wise is a down jacket.

I finally got back out on the trail again last Sunday with Mihae. We decided to go check out Wallace Falls State Park. I hadn't been there in at least a couple years and remember it as being one of the most beautiful trails in the area. It's still one of the most beautiful trails in the area - to the point of being almost magical. We both carried a significant amount of weight in our packs with a couple gallons worth of water among other things. I'm happy to report that my backpack is still super comfortable even with 40+ pounds! While we meant to go on the Wallace Falls trail, we ended up taking the Wallace Lake trail instead. We agreed that this ended up being better because we ran into a bit of snow on this trail. Since we're both trying to get used to our mountaineering boots, having to try them out in various conditions is helpful.

Tomorrow our Rainier group is planning to do the cable line on Tiger Mountain. It's great for training as it will be similar in steepness to the Mt. Rainier climb. I'm sure it will be a good reminder of how decent of shape we'll need to be in for the actual climb in June.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Making Progress

After spending several hundred dollars I'm starting to feel like I'm making some progress on collecting gear. Earlier last week I went to REI with Mihae determined to find a Gregory backpack to buy, because I figured that was the best pack for me after trying them on. I got fitted for a Gregory pack that I thought I'd be interested in getting and it just didn't feel right. With some good upselling from the REI lady, I tried on the nicer Arcteryx backpack and fell in love. It was more than I wanted to spend, but I figure that boots and a backpack are two of the most important pieces of gear comfort wise. So a few days later I came back to REI and had the backpack fitted for me with at least 30 pounds of weight. That 30 pounds felt like nothing, thanks to the backpack's comfort so I decided I needed to buy it. Luckily I was able to use my Dad's 20% off discount at REI so the cost was a little more reasonable.

I put the backpack to its first test immediately after buying it. Rachel, Rich and I headed over to North Bend to hike up Little Si. This is not a long trail - my hiking guidebook says 5 miles roundtrip with a 1200 foot elevation gain. This made for a good first test for both me and Rachel with our new backpacks. I also tried out the new boots, which are very stiff. Other than the last 15 minutes down the mountain, the boots were great. The backpack was awesome the entire trip, where I was carrying around 40 pounds. We made our goal of reaching the top in less than an hour, right around 58 minutes.

I took the last week off most exercise in order to let my knee get a little better and I think the time off helped do the trick. I decided not to run for an entire week, which was very aggravating to me since running has become a huge part of my life. I did run in the St. Paddy's Day Dash yesterday and felt pretty good overall. I'm ready to get back into my regular routine of working out this week, which will definitely be helpful in my training for Rainier.

The more I talk about Rainier with people, the more excited I'm getting about it. We're just over three months away now from the climb. There should be a lot of really great training hikes between now and then.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gear and Running

Yesterday was a really productive day for me. Even with my bum knee (from the Rattlesnake hike the week before), I completed my first half marathon. I always said I wasn't interested in running half marathons because I didn't think I could run for that long. I decided around New Years that this year I would challenge myself to do things I either never considered doing or never thought I could do. I'm feeling pretty great today knowing that I accomplished my first goal of this year. Rachel and I ran somewhere around a 10 minute mile for the 13 miles of the Mercer Island half marathon (we're still waiting on our official time). It was a beautiful run and I'm definitely interested in trying a half marathon again!

The endurance aspect of doing the longer runs will likely come in very handy for my overall conditioning for Mt. Rainier. After the race, Rachel and I were already moving on to plans for our upcoming races - the St. Paddy's Day Dash in Seattle next weekend and Bloomsday over in Spokane in May.

After the run, we decided to head to REI to look into boots for climbing Rainier. REI has their 20% off one item promotion with your membership going on for the month of March so I thought it was a good opportunity to purchase one of my more expensive items for the trip. There aren't many choices (at least for women) in mountaineering boots, but I found some that I think I'll be happy with. The La Sportivas I picked up came highly recommended. I wanted to get them soon so that I could decide if they were the right boots for me and so I could start breaking them in long before the actual climb.

After getting the boots we headed on to OR (Outdoor Research) to check out their current sale. I'm glad we decided to go there as I was able to find some good mountaineering gloves at a really nice discount and pair of base layer pants. I'll be doing some more research and/or shopping this week. I'd like to find a backpack and some other clothing layers fairly soon.

I felt like it was a pretty successful day all around. :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Yesterday was a nice day for a hike, so a few people from my Rainier group and I decided to go hiking. Due to conditions on Mt. Si and Granite Mountain, we decided on doing an easier hike up Rattlesnake Mountain. Rattlesnake ledge is one of my favorite quick hikes close to Seattle (just south of North Bend). It's easy and the view is rewarding when you get to the ledge. The trail actually goes on for several miles, but I've never gone much farther than the ledge. I have a fear of the woods, especially when hiking alone, so in the past I've always stuck to heavily populated trails. A majority of people stop at the ledge so I've never ventured too much farther up the trail. After seeing the view up higher yesterday I'm kicking myself for not going farther up in the past. I guess that's the really nice thing about all the training I'll do for Rainier - I'll have hiking buddies!

Before leaving Seattle, Bram made sure that those of us training for Rainier had plenty of weight in our packs. We stopped at a gas station to buy gallon jugs of water. We'll be adding more gallon jugs for future hikes. The more weight we carry now, the better we'll be in the long run for the actual climb.

The hike was pretty easy until we hit some deeper snow. We did our fair share of postholing, which made me regret not packing along my snowshoes. All together we hiked about 8 miles and had an elevation gain of about 2400 feet.

After the hike, Bram showed us all the gear that we'll need to have for the trek up Rainier. It reminded me that I still have a lot of shopping to do! I think my next major purchases will be a backpack to help get used to carrying a lot of weight and boots so that I can get them broken in.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ever so slowly...

Not too much new to report.  I haven't been working out as much over the past week since I've been sick with the cold that seems to be going around.  I guess the going, going, going all the time does tend to catch up with a person.  Luckily it happened now and not two weeks from now when I have the half marathon.  Unfortunately, this means I've fallen behind in my training for that.  

I have been keeping my eyes out for gear lately though.  Trying to find the best deals on good equipment.  I do feel lucky for finding some crampons for half off online.  Since I'm not really familiar with this stuff, I'm having to rely on reviews.  Someone mentioned that they found these worked well on Mt. Rainier so hopefully that will be the case for me as well.

I'll likely look into doing some sort of hike this weekend.  Probably another one close to Seattle, so not likely anything major.  I would like to get over to Mt. Si soon since it's continually one that people recommend to train on.  

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Running, Climbing walls, and other things

Over the next few months I'll be looking for any kind of strength training possible.  Currently Rachel and I are training for the Mercer Island half marathon which takes place on March 9th.  I'd like to get a couple 10 mile runs in between now and then, along with the regular 6 mile run I've been doing weekly.  The half marathon will be the longest distance I've ever run.  I've been feeling really good with my running the last couple months so I'm looking forward to the challenge.  Just because I like the organized races, the next week I'll be running in the St. Patrick's day 5k run - it should be a piece of cake!

My friend Mihae, who will be coming on the Rainier trek, is a member of a climbing gym out in Ballard and invited me to come with her.  Rachel and my friend Dan (who is pictured in the hike from last weekend) and I all went.  Two other guys who will be coming on the Rainier trek (Bram and Thien Nan) were also there.  Even though climbing Rainier won't involve rock or ice climbing, it's still a great way to build upper body strength that just may be necessary for the trip.  I hadn't been on a climbing wall since I lived in New Zealand a few years ago.  I really enjoyed it back then, so I've actually been wanting to try it out again.  The personal challenge involved with it is amazing.  Luckily, due to my boxing fitness class, the only soreness I experienced was in my fingers.  I'll likely visit the climbing gym a few more times before the big climb.  

Gear:  The Patagonia store downtown is currently having a big sale.  I took advantage of this the other day to get my capilene base layer top.  Sometime when I have more time, I'd like to check out the sale again.  I already tried the capilene out on a long run and it definitely serves its purpose with "wicking" the sweat away.  My list of gear to buy is still really long!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting Started

Thursday of last week Rachel, Mihae (my coworker who's interested in coming up Rainier with us) and I met up with Mihae's friend Bram.  He and his friends have climbed Rainier before and have a lot of experience with climbing mountains in general.  We got a lot of good ideas from him on training we should do between now and then.  Also, having another personal account of the climb itself made me feel more confident that I will be able to successfully climb the mountain.  

A few of us decided to get together on Sunday to do a shorter hike to get started.  We did the West Tiger Mountain #3 trail just off I-90.  Other than slipping around a little on the snow and ice, we did a pretty good job of tackling the easier hike.  As the weather starts to improve and the snow melts off the Cascades, we'll have more options for good training hikes.  We've agreed that one of the best things about all the training will be all the neat areas we will get to discover between now and the end of June.  

As for gear, I'd like to save I've acquired more stuff I'll need for the climb than I actually have already.  I did order some gaitors from the REI outlet, but I'd like to find a good backpack, boots and a nice gore-tex shell jacket for the training I'll be doing over the next few months.