Blisters, Sweat and Tears
You may have read Dave's account of Mount Rainier in Adventures, which is the official summary of the ascent of the mountain. Here is my account.
The trail from Paradise to Camp Muir was a snow covered mountainside that took you from 4,500 to 10,000ft. It was very hard to get into a rhythm because you were never sure how far your leg would disappear into the snow and you looked with envy at the ski tourers gliding on the surface. The sun bore down and layers were rapidly peeled off and sun cream applied everywhere-even up the nostrils.
On arriving at the hut 4.5 hours later we bagged the last 2 spots, I rolled out my sleeping bag next to a stranger happily snoring away and started to melt snow for drinking and cooking.
Huts may be uncomfortable, dark, cold and lacking in space, but are usually full of fascinating people, united by the same goal to climb the mountain and the same passion for the mountains; Muir Hut was no exception.
Dave woke me at midnight and it was time to leave the cosy warmth of my sleeping bag for the cold and dark, one advantage of this time is that the pit toilets are also frozen like the snow. Mornings are not my best times, but seeing the star strewn sky, always puts a smile on my face, there is an amazing calm and peace about mountains in the dark. The only light is a circle of snow just in front of your feet from your headtorch. Trudge is the only way to describe the way we travel up the mountain, weaving through the seracs and stepping across the crevasses. All of a sudden you are aware of a change in light and there in the East is the first sign of dawn. A red band appears on the horizon which gets wider and lighter and chases the stars away, then the first rays burst out to light the way.
Finally it appears we are approaching the summit, my legs are tired, my head hurts, Dave is pulling on the rope and my steps are getting smaller, we top the rise and there is a huge crater, but the highest point is across it - goddam it. After a brief water stop across we wander, there is steam rising from vents reminding us that it's still a live volcano and the snow around them has melted. The summit is always an emotional time for me, I nearly always cry, partly relief at having made it, partly the amazing feeling of awe as you look around you at the landscape and partly because of the sheer bloody effort it has taken to arrive there.
We don't stay long as we want to get down before the snow melts and gets too soft, back to the Hut to pack up our sleeping and cooking gear, have some soup and rest for an hour. Next it's slip and slide back to Paradise to our truck. This took FOREVER, usually the way back seems shorter than the way out - not this time, it was never ending, everytime I stopped for a drink my legs shook like jelly. Ascending 4,500ft and descending 10,000ft in one day was really tough, but the beer when we got into a campsite for the night was incredible as was the shower. It was a very tired, but happy Simmo that crawled into bed that night and slept dreaming of snowy mountains.