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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's not Berlin, but . . .

Thanks to my Prawfs-colleagues for the updates and photos from Berlin.  My own recent blogging-hiatus is due -- in any event, this is the excuse I'm sticking with -- to a just completed trip to the Pacific Northwest.  At 7:30 a.m., this past Sunday, I was here (on the summit):

Now, back to my course-pack . . .

Posted by Rick Garnett on July 31, 2007 at 03:24 PM in Rick Garnett | Permalink

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Looking at this picture, cold green tea in hand, one might forget we're in the middle of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jul 31, 2007 6:06:10 PM

This may be a stupid question, but which peak was that? Mt. Rainer? And how was the climb/hike (i.e., was it a technical hike?)

Posted by: Alex | Aug 1, 2007 2:18:32 PM

Alex: Yup, it's Mt. Rainier. I guess I'd say the climb is a fair bit more than a hike (it involves negotiating glaciers, rope-travel, ice-axes and crampons, some running belays and fixed ropes, etc.), but I'm sure that real mountaineers -- not day-tripping amateurs like me -- don't consider it *really* technical.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Aug 1, 2007 9:38:56 PM

I wouldn't climb a mountain (major wimp), but I love mountain-climbing stories. I've just started "Forever on the Mountain" about an ill-fated Mt. McKinley climb in 1967 (which is interesting to me because one of my college roommates climbed McKinley and I saw the whole slide show). Based on what the author here says, I'd be slow to denigrate a Rainier climb:

"[S]erious climbers usually did (and still do) their graduate work on Mount Rainier, the lower 48s closest approximation to McKinley. To cite just one example, the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition, which made Jim Whittaker the first American to summit Everest and put four other Americans on top as well, trained on Rainier for their Himalayan epic.

"Rainier, one of the world's most massive volcanoes, is 14,410 feet tall and laced with a network of glaciers not unlike those surrounding McKinley. It is also battered by tremendous storms ripping in off the Pacific that can bring hundred-mile-per-hour winds, prodigious snowfall, and the same milk-thick whiteouts that bedevil McKinley climbers. Though more than a mile lower than McKinley, Rainier is a serious mountain, one that has claimed in excess of three hundred lives since the creation of the national park more than a century ago. Almost half of those were aboard a plane that crashed there in 1946, but the remainder were climbers who came to grief."

Also, my former partner Lou Kasischke was on the disastrous May 1996 Everest climb, and shows up in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (he turned back and did not try to summit, which saved his life), so I never minimize mountain-climbing.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Aug 2, 2007 3:53:02 PM

Rick, the only reason I ask is I am going to go hike Kilimanjaro next year (which is not a technical climb in any sense - from what I understand) -- but Ranier sounds far more technical. I have never done a hike where I had to do any of those thing (i.e., negotiating glaciers, rope-travel, ice-axes and crampons, some running belays and fixed ropes, etc). I am hoping to get more into some serious hiking and learn how to do many of things. Where did you start?

Posted by: Alex | Aug 2, 2007 4:18:40 PM

Jeff -- you are right, of course, that some of the best mountaineers got their start on Rainier. And, I'm happy to have others regard climbing it as a real achievement -- certainly, it felt like one to me -- but I'm self-conscious about my own *very* underdeveloped skills in the sport. Your comment reminded me, though, how lucky I was to have the guides I did (through RMI -- Whittaker's company). To be helped by climbers who have multiple Everest climbs under their belts was a real confidence-booster.

Alex -- I've heard that Kilimanjaro is, pretty much, a long high-altitude hike, with no technical requirements at all (just acclimatizing). For what it's worth, I'd recommend to anyone the RMI climbing school -- it's just one day at Rainier, and I got what turned out to be a very good introduction to the basics that you mention. You can do the one-day school on its own, or as part of a summit-climb.

By the way, if you have not read "Touching the Void," by Joe Simpson, do. It's amazing.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Aug 3, 2007 5:17:30 PM

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