Monday, June 13, 2016

It's All About Your Climbing Team

Day One: Camping on the N. Fork Sauk River
Glacier Peak stands to be the most remote stratovolcano of the Big Five in Washington. Since it's such a long hike in before you even hit the base of the mountain, I think it's a harder climb physically and mentally than Rainier is (the tallest mountain we have in this state). Climbing is 100% a mental game. If it weren't for the two friends I climbed with, I would have turned around 500 feet from the summit. A mixture of exhaustion, anger, and fear of not surviving the 8 mile the trek back to our base camp had me ready to chuck my ice axe down the mountain and sacrifice myself to the White Walkers.

But, Jason and Derek pushed me, we all pushed each other to make it. Jason is an expert navigator. He's climbed Rainier maybe five times already, and with this summit up Glacier Peak, he has finally summited all five stratovolcanoes. Hooray! Anyways, Jason did the research, and mapped out our route with 10 solid waypoints. I feel we make a good team because I sometimes compliment his nav skills. I would step in at the right times to add in my two cents. I'd almost crack the whip on him to say "No, we would definitely die if we went down there.." Under stressful conditions, a person's true personality comes out. In the midst of exhaustion and frustration, I may turn into a diva, but Jason stays calm, cool, and collected. This is why we can make it to the top of mountains. Every team needs a Jason.

Day Two: Base Camp at White Pass ft. Derek
Wouldn't have made it up without our friend Derek, too. He is a newbie climber that tagged along with us because he wants to get into more mountaineering in the future. Congrats on his first summit, he got the hardest one out of the way! I'm pretty sure Derek is 100% muscle. He was the caboose of our rope line but after a while, we realized he was the strongest of us all. He took the lead on the last stretch to the top and punched in snow foot holes all the way there. Much appreciated, Derek! He is also extremely mentally tough. He never showed any fear or frustration during those 19 long hours and with this being his first time out there, didn't break down during the hardest parts.

Jason dug us a snow throne hahaa
In all, we spent fours days and four nights out there. Day one was a prep day, waiting for the weather to break. We found a majestic camp spot along the river near the trailhead, explored in the rain, and made hotdogs over a smokey fire. Day two was hiking in to White Pass at 5,000 feet, about eight miles from the trailhead which would become our base camp for the trip. Day three was starting our hike at 4 am to the summit in perfect weather. Eight miles later and a total elevation gain of 8,200 feet, we made the summit. It was a push, we almost turned around because of timing but all of us were on board and we made it at 4 pm. We shotgunned a beer and celebrated, then turned around for the long eight miles back to basecamp, making it there at 11 pm. We were walking zombies. Day four, we had another early start at 6 am and hiked the remaining eight-ish miles through the forest back to the trail head. It was such a beautiful day. The weather was sunny and warm and we were hyped up from making the summit. We made it to the car at 2 pm, which was slow. I pulled something in my left knee and after a while it kind of just stopped working for me so I had to hobble it out.

There's the peak! We were somewhere on the White Chuck glacier.
Good old Coors Light shotgun at the top, why not?
There were moments on the hike where we were standing on a snowy ridge and I was pretty sure I was about to die in an avalanche. But thankfully, the snowpack this year was extremely solid and after 5pm, the sheets of snow seemed very durable. The hardest part was the trek back to camp after the summit. We didn't realize how long of a trek we still had ahead of us. I was secretly crying and walking at one point because I was so frustrated by my injured knee that and wanting give up. But if I gave up, what would I do? Just take a nap in the snow? The little voice in my head was like, "Kelley, you're so WEAK. Stop crying right now. Let's go." Because when you're crying, it's hard to enjoy glissading down a 800 foot ridge, or see the beautiful sunset over the snowy jagged peaks, or laugh at Jason falling into an icy pond, or take in the accomplishment of summiting this damn difficult mountain that not a lot of people in this world can even fathom doing. Suck it up, Kell. You're one tough human. We are a team of tough humans.

TEAM: Third Round Climbing
I think we all questioned our sanity at one point and why we choose to put our bodies through this type of hell climbing mountains. But it just shows how unstoppable humans are. I love working hard to achieve my goals. I love packing all my gear into one backpack and having everything I need to survive in it. I love seeing snowy peaks and the other booming mountains off in the distance. And I love bears and I know they're out there watching. The last mountain I have left to climb is Mt. Adams which I will try again in a couple months. I'll have to think of something fun to do at the top to celebrate finishing the Big Five. ⤲

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