Monday, January 28, 2008

A prize at the top

In 2004 I learned about the "fastest growing sport no one's ever heard of" from my Dad.  He likes his hobbies and his newest hobby at the time was geocaching.  This hobby, as they like to say, is comprised of using multi-billion dollar satellite technology to find tupperware in the woods.  After I moved to Seattle and started going on hiking adventures on my own, I decided that maybe I should have one of these hand-held GPS receivers with me just in case I ever got lost in the woods.  Before Seattle I was used to hiking in the foothills of Boise where you can see for miles and it's nearly impossible to get lost.  After my dad got me a Garmin Legend for my birthday I decided I might as well get myself a geocaching account and find some caches while I was out hiking.  

Geocaching has taken me some incredible places and acted as the best tour guide possible for both the city in which I live as well as any others I ever visit.  I've met some wonderful people through the sport and had some really great experiences including my hike up to Camp Muir last summer because of it.  

Why do I bring up this hobby you ask?  Well of course there's a geocache on the top of Mount Rainier!  While physical caches (the tupperware or often old ammo cans) are not allowed in National Parks, that doesn't stop geocachers from listing Earthcaches on the website.  Earthcaches are placed for their educational value in accordance with the Geological Society of America.  So while I won't be finding a container where I can trade trackable items, swag or sign a log book, I can use the opportunity to learn something new about Mount Rainier and its geological features.  The cache I will be finding is the Rainier Summit Earthcache.  As the cache listing says, finding it will help me discover the present thermal activity in the summit crater.  To get credit for finding this cache I'll have to describe what the rocks and mud feel like in an email to the owner.  Of course I'll be taking pictures to show that I've stood in the very spot where the coordinates tell me to go!

As if getting to the top of Rainier won't be cool enough, this will easily be the coolest cache I may ever log.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Training - Part One

Over the next few months Rachel and I will look into a lot of training options for our trek.  If we go with a guided service, they include training in the trip (which makes the trip 1-2 days longer than if we go on our own).  If we go on our own we'll need to look into some mountaineering training so that we're fully prepared.  While it's important to have mountaineering skills, I think the best training over the next few months will be to ensure that I'm physically in the best shape of my life. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a very active person in general.  I walk 2 miles each way every day to work, which I've found has made hiking a lot easier.  I run anywhere from 2-6 miles 5-7 days a week.  I've tried to step that up to 3-6 miles and added the occasional jump rope and basketball if I happen to be working out at the gym.  Rachel and I are planning to do the Mercer Island half marathon in March.  This will be my first half marathon, therefore, the longest distance I've ever run in my life.  I also play on a co-rec soccer team every Thursday which often leaves me pleasantly sore on Fridays.  

I decided that I needed a workout that strengthened my upper body since I'll be carrying about 35-40 pounds on my back for the trip up the mountain.  What's a better upper body workout than boxing?  I've never been a huge fan of boxing, until I got my Nintendo Wii and realized what a great workout it could be.  Last week my friend Miriam and I started taking a boxing fitness class.  Luckily I don't have to hit people or be hit by people but it's great taking out any frustrations on the punching bags!  Talk about a great workout and a fun change of pace!

Hiking.  There will be many many hikes taken between now and the climb.  I went for a short hike just east of Seattle last weekend.  Rachel and I have plans of doing the hike to Camp Muir sometime when the weather's a little better.  I'm also going to look into a backpacking trip up Mt. Adams to help train.

Anyway - it's time to go to the gym now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The List

The major cost for my endeavor will be the gear. I pretty much have nothing I will need to accomplish this trek. I've already made a couple pilgrimages to R.E.I. and I'm already overwhelmed. A lot of the items are camping or trekking items that I've wanted anyway and can likely use many more times in the future so it is easy to justify the expense. The more mountaineering oriented items I will likely end up renting. I can't quite see buying $250 boots to only wear one time (if I decide that Mt. Rainier is my first and last major mountain I will climb). I'm sure that I will visit R.E.I. many more times between now and this summer to talk to the experts and do research on what I should get. The first item I know I will get is a climbing guide - the best one recommended Mike Gauthier's climbing guide...

Below is a list I found at which tells you what you'll need if you elect to go on their 3 day Mt. Rainier climb. Whether I go with a guide company or not, I figure it's good to have the items they recommend.


BACKPACK: A 4,000-5,000 cubic inch pack is the recommended size for this climb. A separate summit pack is not needed or recommended.

SLEEPING BAG: A bag rated to 20° F will keep you warm. A small deviation is fine. You may use either goose down or synthetic. Sleeping pads are provided at Camp Muir. A compression style stuff sack is recommended.


AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER: A climb of Rainier involves travel in avalanche terrain. A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well.

HELMET: Helmets are required for glacier travel and on the upper mountain.

CLIMBING HARNESS: A comfortable, adjustable harness is necessary for training and while climbing on the upper mountain.

ICE AXE: The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5’8”, use a 65 cm. axe; 5’8” to 6’2”, use a 70 cm. axe; and taller, use a 75 cm. axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.

CRAMPONS: The 10 to 12 point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. Rigid frame crampons designed for technical ice climbing are not recommended on Mt. Rainier. If you bring your own crampons, bring the appropriate repair kit/replacement parts and adjusting tools.

TREKKING or SKI POLES: Trekking poles are used on the approach and to provide additional stability in adverse weather.



WARM HAT: A wool or synthetic hat. It should be warm, but thin enough to fit underneath a climbing helmet.

BALACLAVA/ NECK GAITER: Required for cold and windy days.

BALL CAP: A lightweight ball cap, bandana or sun hat works very well.

GLACIER GLASSES : A pair of dark-lensed sunglasses with side shields or full wrap-type sunglasses is required.

GOGGLES: Amber or rose-tinted goggles are required for adverse weather. Additionally, contact lens wearers may find a clear-lensed goggle very useful on windy, dusty nights.

HEADLAMP: With an “alpine start,” we will travel approximately four to six hours in the dark. We strongly recommend Lithium batteries as they perform well in a cold environment. If you choose alkaline batteries, bring an additional set, and ensure that they are kept in a warm pocket while climbing.

HANDS A good glove / mitten combination is important because of the variety of weather conditions experienced throughout your climb. Below are some recommendations. Your glove combination should include three separate layers that work well together.

LIGHT WEIGHT GLOVE: One pair of fleece or wool gloves.

INSULATED GLOVE: One pair of wind/water resistant ski gloves.

INSULATED MITTS: One pair of wind/water resistant, insulated mitts for protection against wind, snow and cold. These also serve as emergency back-ups if you drop or lose a glove.


BASE LAYER : One long-sleeve, light or medium weight top will be used as your base layer. Light colored tops are ideal, since dark colors absorb heat from the sun, and neck zippers will provide extra ventilation.

INSULATING LAYERS : A variety of insulating layers work well on Mt. Rainier. Your choice of garment (fleece or soft-shell) and the number of garments (one or two) should be based on how well you do in the cold. Generally speaking, we recommend two layers that work in combination with each other.

SHELL JACKET: You will need a jacket made of rain/wind resistant material with an attached hood.

INSULATED PARKA with HOOD: This item becomes of highest importance when we are faced with poor weather. Additionally, this oversized, insulated parka traps heat at rest breaks. The parka may be either goose down or synthetic fill and should have at least two inches of insulation thickness. It should fit over all of your clothing layers, including your wind shell. We do not recommend wind jackets with zip-in liners or down sweaters as substitutes as they are not warm enough for this climb.


BASE LAYER: One pair light or medium weight bottoms will be used as your base layer.

INSULATING LAYER : One pair of fleece or windstopper pants is required for the upper mountain. Full-length side zippers are recommended for making quick clothing adjustments, and for ventilating options.

SHELL PANT: A pant made of rain/wind resistant material will be needed for the climb. Full-length side zippers are a great option, facilitating quick clothing adjustments over boots and crampons.



MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: Insulated plastic boots are the preferred choice for ascents on Mt. Rainier. They provide the best insulation as well as a more rigid sole for kicking steps and holding crampons. Some leather boots that have Vibram soles and full shanks are also adequate, but they will need to be a stiffer design and might still result in cold feet on summit day. Lightweight hiking boots are not acceptable as they don’t work well with crampons, or in very cold or wet weather.

GAITERS: A knee-length pair of gaiters, large enough to fit over your mountaineering boots, will be needed. This will protect you from catching your crampons on loose clothing.

SOCKS: Two pair, either wool or synthetic. Some people find liner socks useful for reducing friction.



MEALS and EATING UTENSILS: Three trail lunches, one dinner and one breakfast are needed. Utensils consist of a bowl, insulated mug and spoon.

2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES: Two or three sturdy one-quart water bottles are required. Wide mouth bottles are ideal since their opening is less likely to freeze. If you bring a hydration system, also bring two one-quart water bottles as back up.

2 LARGE GARBAGE BAGS and a 1 GALLON ZIP-LOCK BAG: We recommend lining your backpack and sleeping bag stuff sack with garbage bags to keep items in your backpack completely dry. Please use the Zip-Lock as your personal trash bag.

TOILET ARTICLES: Toothbrush, toothpaste and a few hand/sanitary wipes. Bring some personal toilet paper for your climb.

EAR PLUGS for sleeping at Camp Muir.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

A general introduction

Who:  Annie is my name.  I'm 29 and live in Seattle with a view of Mt. Rainier from my balcony.  I love doing anything active, especially if it takes place outdoors.  Ask my family if I loved hiking as a kid and they'd laugh at you and tell you how miserable I made family hikes with all my complaining.  Since I've grown up I've acquired an appreciation for seeing what nature has to offer and I feel traveling by foot is the best way to do it.  

I'll be doing this climb with my friend Rachel who shares my appreciation for the outdoors.   We are looking for others who would be interested in going with us - is that you?!

What:  Summiting Mt. Rainier is the goal.

When:  Summer 2008 - the target right now is the end of June.

Where:  From Paradise (5,400') at Mt. Rainier climb 16 miles roundtrip with a 9,000 foot elevation gain to the summit (14,410').

Why:  Last year I hiked to Camp Muir (10,188') and when I got there I thought to myself "what's another 4,000 feet?"  I've always looked at the mountain from Seattle and thought how great it would be to someday stand on top.  Well, I've reached a point in my life where I don't want to keep saying that I'd like to this or that someday - I want to actually do those things.

How:  Rachel and I are researching whether to go with a highly expensive guided group option or to find people with mountaineering skills and form our own group to go to the top.  There will need to be an immense amount of training that will go into this and that which will be part of the fun.  I will also need to acquire pretty much all of the gear necessary to make this trek safely.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Years Resolution

My new years resolution for 2008 is to summit Mt. Rainier.  My goal is to learn everything I need to in order to safely and successfully reach the top of the 14,410 foot volcano.