Today was a long day! I am back from the summit now, at 8:30pm safe and cozy in my sleeping bag. New socks undies bra – I feel like a new woman!
We woke around 4am to prepare for the summit via the Easton Glacier. We set out initially unroped because we still had to gain around 500ft elevation before reaching the glacier. Once reaching the glacier we continued in 2 roped teams of 4 people each (1 guide 3 climbers). To get the picture, we were wearing several layers, complete with mountaineering boots covered in gaiters with crampons attached, carried our ice axes (some carried ski poles as well) and were tied in to the team at our harnesses. We carried our huge packs emptied out, with only more warm layers, water, and food inside.
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking for me, and it’s had to give you a play by play of a 12hr day (arrived back to camp around 6pm). I will say that it was an incredibly grueling and tedious and spectacular journey that required great fortitude and desire. There were several occasions on the way up where I was nauseated by the exertion/sulfur fumes/altitude, or when I was hobbling along with cramps in my muscles from the repetitive motion that is climbing a mountain. When these moments came to pass – and there was no false expectation that I would be void of such discomforts – I remembered my training and how long I’ve looked forward to these moments and persevered. I used the rest step and pressure breathing as much as possible to fight fatigue and the oxygen strain put on the body by altitude. And occasionally I would look behind me and down at the world below, naive of its beauty. All of the surrounding mountains stood proudly and watched as we marched toward our goal.
Upon nearing the summit, there was of course the steepest and most challenging section, known as the Roman Wall. It had a grade of nearly 40 degrees (but believe me, I was going to write it was 60 degrees when the guide told me it was only 40 I was shocked. 40 degrees feels really steep!) And because it was nearest to the summit we were most affected by altitude at this point. Still, we crested the edge of the precipice to the false summit and looked back, astonished by our gained altitude and all that lay below us. We paused to put on layers in defense of the wind and watched the backcountry skiers zigzag down the slope.
After summiting we descended rapidly. I was lucky to be selected my Michael to lead the descent down the Roman Wall segment. This ended up being the best solution, because as I am, from time to time, afraid of heights, leading helped to allay my fears. Exhaustion was setting in our stiff bones were taking a beating on the uneven snow as it melted in the hot afternoon sun. No greater relief could be felt than that when our eyes at last set upon our tents flapping in the mountain wind.
We will all rest now – a great effort was given by all and a well deserved night of sleep is in store for us! Tomorrow we get back to training for our even larger mountain – Rainier, which we will attempt in just a few short days.
Ps – Phil wants his mom to know he’s been diligent with the sunscreen. He even made a nose protector out of tape and gauze!