No Disappointment on the Cleaver – Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier never disappoints. Even when the summit is elusive – and half the climbers who try it don’t make it — the experience rocks.
Disappointment Cleaver is the route taken by Fred Hutch teams, and expertly guided by Alpine Ascents International. The expedition begins at Paradise, more than 5000 feet above sea level, and aptly named for the explosion of wildflowers laid out like blankets. It winds up to Pebble Creek, and finally to Camp Muir. Camp Muir (10,080 ft) is a collection of rustic stone structures housing guides, clients, independent climbing parties and rangers. After a restful night, participants put on their mountaineering gear, rope up and kick steps up to the Ingraham Flats. It’s here that the mountain opens its gates. It’s quite possibly my favorite view in the world. From one side, you look out on Little Tahoma – a spike that is actually more than 11,000 feet high — and then your gaze looks downward on the Yakima Valley. From the other side your eyes fix on the Ingraham Glacier, which fronts the top ridge of Mt. Rainier.
Disappointment Cleaver is a massive mix of rock and ice on the side of the mountain. Climbers need to ascend it to reach their summit. It’s challenging and dramatic. At the top of the Cleaver, the route winds, switch backs and zigzags through crevasses and seracs. All beautiful to the eyes.
This year three Climb to Fight Breast Cancer teams summited the 14,411 ft peak. Climbers carried photos, keepsakes, prayer flags and banners. They marked the journeys of their loved ones and donors. These tributes reinforce the emotional clarity of what the CLIMB is all about.
One amazing climber who elected not to continue past the 12,800 foot mark wasn’t thinking of his own disappointment, he was thinking of his donors. Before turning back for a persistent cough, he asked that we carry hundreds of pink ribbons to the summit. He wanted to take these mementos back as thank you gifts to his donors.
Another climber carried the weathered photo of her Mom, who lost her battle with breast cancer many seasons before.
These teams are special; I say this every year as I meet interested adventurists in the community. There is an element of bonding involved in every Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team. We come together for a common goal and encourage one another in ways not found in typical vacation experiences.
We cheer one another, celebrate the successes, and yes, sometimes mourn the outcomes. But we’re proud that so many research dollars are raised to support devoted Hutch scientists and researchers.
This summer wasn’t my first Mt. Rainier experience, and I hope it’s not my last. I hope to climb for Fred Hutch every year that my feet allow. When I can’t climb anymore, I’ll continue to donate. No one works harder for their donations than climbers. They tape blisters with duct tape, suck down Nuun flavored water to avoid dehydration and nurse sunburned faces.
The Mt. Rainier teams this summer walked miles and celebrated milestones.
There was definitely no disappointment on the cleaver.