Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Camp Muir: Ooh-Wee

If you're like me, you love buying things with clever sayings printed on them, inspirational or otherwise.  I find them to be the best way to really tell the world who I am without having to open my mouth or update my personal blog.  Don't talk to me until I've had my coffee!  I only drink wine on days ending in Y!  Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit!

That said, I've seen a lot of shirts, signs, and coffee mugs lately sporting a quote attributed to John Muir.  Specifically the phrase: The mountains are calling and I must go.  Well, that catchy little phrase taken from a letter to his sister was all I needed to be inspired to hike to the Camp Muir summit base camp, a mere 10,000' up Mt. Rainier.  Armed with little more than a 100oz Camelbak, two 24oz water bottles, electrolyte tabs, sandwiches, trail mix, a Clif Bar, a Luna Bar, almonds, SPF 40 zinc oxide, sunglasses, gloves, hat, extra layers of clothes, a buff, hiking poles, microspike crampons, and a 6,000' head start, I knew I was going to be living the inspiration on my coffee mug.

My desire to be inspired was non-existant when the alarm went off at 4:45am.  By the time we reached the park-n-ride in order to meet up with our other fellow hikers, I was really regretting buying that stupid mug whose coffee was barely keeping me awake.  The ten of us reached the Paradise Visitor's Center around 9am, thankfully, and from there it was only 4.1 miles to Camp Muir.  Only 4.1 miles with 4640' of elevation gain.  That's almost a mile up!  This Muir guy was starting to seem like a real kook.

Mountain, Marmot, Wildflowers.  Something for all. (Photo by Dawn M.)
The first 1.4 miles were on and off of ascending trails.  There were wildflowers and marmots aplenty, but those sights were just distractions from the work ahead.  This hike wasn't about enjoying nature, dammit.  It was about the mountain that was calling.

After running out of trail, we reached the snowfield that would lead us to Muir.  Only 2.7 miles and 3000' on slippery snow pack.  We slowly worked our way up, and again, people tried to point out that we were surrounded by beautiful scenery.  More distractions!  So what if we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens?  So what if there was bright blue snow underneath our footprints?  So what if there were a pack of ravens wildly cawing and flying around the different rock piles we passed?  The goddamn mountain was still calling!  I must go!

Left to Right: Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens (Photo by Jessica L.)

Five and a half hours after we began, we reached Muir.  We were exhausted, many party members had severe frostbite, two people were lost in a crevasse, and rations were running low, but we had done it.  We had answered the mountain's call and we were inspired.  Inspired to sit down and eat lunch, because were also tired and hungry.

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.  After trudging up those 2.7 miles of snow, we were left with few options for the descent.  If we walked, it would be knee-achingly slow.  If we ran, we would like slip, fall, and slide off into a crevasse.  This meant we were forced to sit our butts down on trash bags and glissade (sled) back down to the trail.  The screams of terror as we rode down thousands of feet could have easily been mistaken for whoops and hollers of excitement, but they shouldn't be.  Does riding a trash bag down a 3000' descent sound remotely fun?  Does it?

Butt thoroughly frozen, we finally reached the trail.  We were happy to be able to walk once more, our backs and hips yearning for the weight of our packs.  A short while later we reached the parking lot.  The mountain had called and we had answered.  We lost a lot of good people up there, but they died for a good cause.  A coffee mug.

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