After a summer of “almost training” for this big hike – I was on my way up Mount Rainier.
A strenuous goal – Part III August 23rd – On the way to Rainier you could not see the mountain at all. I wondered at times if it was truly there. At 8am, we arrived at the Paradise parking lot. We were completely engulfed in thick cloud cover. At about 53 degrees, it was surprisingly colder than I thought it would be. My pack felt heavier than I thought it would be too because I brought everything I thought I would need — and more. As we started getting gear on for the hike I was excited to get a move on – and complete a “goal I set for myself in May.” The first part of the climb from Paradise is a steep, paved trail. I was regretting the intensity of my workouts right away. In about a minute, my hiking partners were out of sight in the clouds surrounding us and my stomach ached from breathing hard. Fortunately, they had the philosophy of “leave no one behind,” so they would stop and wait for everyone (me) to catch up periodically. After a while, the paved trail turned to rocks and after pulling out my trekking poles, things were tolerable. After about 2 hours and 2000 feet of elevation, the rocks eventually gave way to snow. It was the Muir Snowfield. Before starting up the snowfield, we stopped for some lunch and to put on our snow gear. The snowfield was a challenge for two reasons; First, the higher in elevation we ascended, the more time we needed before rests. Second, trying to walk in the snow took more energy than one would think, which contributed towards an intense workout – or in my case, exhaustion. One of the redeeming features of the hike happened soon after we started on the snowfield. We were above the cloud cover and could see other mountain peaks. It was surreal to be hiking above clouds in complete silence — save my heavy gasping for air. About a half mile from Muir you can see the buildings – my designated goal line. The largest frustration in completing this goal was that I could see the finish, but could only take a few steps at a time before leaning over to catch my breath. The last half-mile stretch took about an hour or so and at times, it looked like it was actually getting farther away. The final 300 yards were the hardest and in the distance I could hear thunderous rumblings. I thought Rainier was finally going to erupt so I picked up my pace as much as I could before I was blown off by the eruption. (I found out later that the sounds were very loud avalanches in the distance) When I was within yelling distance from my co-workers/hikers, I heard cheers of motivation, which helped me up the twenty or so steps to Camp Muir. I did it – and had the greatest feeling of accomplishment! It really was a strenuous – more like brutal – goal.
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