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The Last Great Journey of the Season on Mount Rainier

September 15, 2010

Author and participant Carla Blakeman and her husband, Brian, in front of "Little Tahoma" on Mt. Rainier.

My husband, Brian, and I participated in the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.  After months of fundraising for breast cancer research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and training for the biggest hike of our lives, the weekend we’d been looking toward finally arrived. We were apprehensive about the journey before us, but we were also excited to go on an adventure of a lifetime. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were willing to embark on the unknown.

Our first day was pretty uneventful, as most of us had hiked up to Camp Muir at least once before in our training. It was a cloudy, foggy and misty day, which doesn’t seem very fun to hike in, but is definitely preferred over a warm and sunny day. When the sun reflects off of the snow, it can start to drain and dehydrate people. We stopped every hour or so to take off our packs, eat a handful of food, and drink a 1/2 liter of water.

Our team dining together in the Alpine Ascents cook tent.

When we arrived at Camp Muir, I rested in the hut, which was more luxurious and warmer than a tent. Our guides made us burritos for dinner. It was a great feast that tasted pretty good compared to our usual snack of trail mix and Snickers bars.

We awoke the next day to a morning sunrise that was absolutely breathtaking. We were above the clouds and appreciated the warmth of the sun. (We heard it was raining in Seattle – we were above it all).  It looked like a sea of clouds with snow-covered islands poking through.  We completed “snow school” (where the guides teach us the skills needed to climb a mountain), hiked to our new home on the Ingraham Flats above Camp Muir, and went to sleep.

The guides stirred us at 1:15 a.m to begin our summit day adventure.

Climbing up majestic Mount Rainier, photo by Don Kenyon.

We started hiking, crossed a small crevasse or two, and started up the Disappointment Cleaver. The Cleaver is about a 1,000 feet of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  It was above the Cleaver that I decided to turn around and my husband continued on to the summit.  He was more than prepared to do so, and we had decided before the climb began that if one of us decided to turn around, the other would continue on.  I still feel good about that decision.

While I was heading down from Disappointment Cleaver, Brian was going up the mountain for a chance at the summit.

At 8 a.m. on 8/9/10, Brian and members of the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team summited Rainier. They enjoyed walking around the crater and taking pictures. They could see and smell the sulfur vents from the volcano.  After about 45 minutes at the summit, Brian and the team started heading down with their Alpine Ascents guides.

On the Summit of Mt. Rainier! Exploring the Summit Crater.

As a team that night, we enjoyed celebrating our unique accomplishments. Each person achieved a different goal,whether it was making it to the top, getting past Camp Muir, carrying a 40 lb. pack, or something else. We all pushed beyond what we thought were our limits. And not only that, we raised money for breast cancer research at the Hutchinson Center.  Ultimately we knew that no matter how high or how far we got on the mountain, we still made a difference.

The 14,411 ft summit of Mt. Rainier-the roof of Washington state.

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