A mountain. Is there anything on Earth more majestic? Gazing upward too see it all. They stand tall penetrating the clouds while looking down upon the terrain. Whether alone or clustered with others, they transform our world into art. Pyramids and skyscrapers are mankind’s attempt to emulate God’s effortless paintbrush strokes. I’m a speck of dust in comparison. To see the world from their perspective gives me more than a spectacular view. At the pinnacle, there is that moment when I can see what they see, a beautiful world.
Perhaps I was always fascinated with mountains. Icecap mountains appeared in my childhood drawings before ever actually seeing one. I’ve been looking up and admiring their beauty every time I’ve had the opportunity to do so. Imagine ascending one, touching the clouds, and standing at the summit. But why imagine? I have to know. To know what it looks like using my own eyes (not Google images). To feel the cold wind on my face at the peak while looking down at the world. To be glorious while standing at the summit of a worthy mountain. Ah, which one to ascend?
This decision didn’t take long. Given that I’m a city dweller, never camped in a tent, haven’t been higher than 4,000 ft, and have only been on about a dozen or so day hikes, I have 0% real mountaineering experience. Everest and the other major 6 were immediately off the list. I didn’t want to travel too far for my first mountain, so the Himalayas are off the list along with anything requiring a 6+ hour flight. Also, I wanted a more technical experience, not just a long walk upward. I looked up the top 5 highest mountains in the contiguous US (excludes Alaska and Hawaii), and came across 3 in CO, Mt Whitney in CA, and Mt Rainier in WA. After reading up on Rainier, my search was over immediately. Mt Rainier is the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range, and the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous US. Mt Rainier is a massive stratovolcano and it’s active. Sign me up!
The Rainier Training. I had to transform from a runner into a backpack carrying machine. It went on for about 4 months. The training consisted of lifting weights and walking upstairs with a 40 pound pack. I didn’t have to become a body builder or anything, but I had to get stronger. And as for the stairs, it was 100 flights 3x per week and a killer 400 flights once every 2 weeks. The aerobic piece of the training was covered with the usual marathon training. A before and after picture would reveal hardly any difference. As with preparing for a marathon, the real outcome of all the training is the confidence.
August 3-5 is finally here. 14,411 ft. I can do this.
Just like the hurricane that cancelled the NYC marathon in 2012, the weather at Mt Rainier can prevent a successful summit attempt. Although the odds are in my favor, there is a chance that the weather will prevent my team from ascending further than high base camp. I figure that I should expect such a possibility to avoid any disappointments. But whatever happens, the journey itself will be epic.