Judy was going to stay at CampMuir until high camp was set up. She felt
strong when getting to Muir and was disappointed that she had to remain behind.
Joanne Lennox, one of the many volunteers who had generously donated two or three
days, stayed with Judy during the day and sorted out extra supplies. I hadplanned that I and some of the climbers would
return from high camp for a second trip up with more supplies.I would then take Judy to high camp.
Ropes were required from CampMuir to high camp. Jim led the first team
of four.He traversed up to and across
the top of the Cowlitz Glacier, moving from West to East in a long arc along
the base of Gibraltar Rock, past Cadaver Gap, an ice fall,then past the base of Cathedral Rock, gaining
one hundred vertical feet over a half-mile distance. The rest of the teams followed
Jim's path in single file.Breaking
trail in the soft snow was tiring and it was easier to follow in the tracks of
the team in front. The climbing party encountered the first of a number of
small crevasses a couple of hundred yards from Muir. Each blind climber came up
to the edge of a crevasse and using a ski pole like a cane stuck the pole into
the hole and flicked it back and forth between the two sides to judge how far
they would have to jump. Their belayer would pull the rope snug as the climber
jumped. Occasionally they would misjudge a step and drop in to their waist and
then crawl out on the other side.
Crossing A Crevasse Photo: Ridgeway-film
Shortly after leaving Muir we
traversed under the steep ice fall coming down from Cadaver Gap which separated
Gibraltar Rock and Cathedral Rock. High camp was just a little beyond the other
side of Cadaver Gap but we traveled the long way around to get there. Warren
Thompson of the Everest climbers mentioned that this is where Willie Unsoeld
was killed in 1979. Unsoeld was from the Pacific Northwest and an internationally known
climber. He and another climber had been descending from Cadaver Gap during a
winter climb and were trapped in an avalanche that swept across the area we
were now crossing.
The minutes passed as we began to
traverse along the base of Cathedral Rock which is the steep barrier separating
the Cowlitz Glacier, which we were on, and Ingraham Glacier on which we would
camp. Already we could hear rocks melting loose from the weathered, red basalt,
volcanic rock cliff rising 600 feet above us. The constant process of thawing
during the day and freezing at night levers the weathered rock loose, dropping
it onto the glacier below and leaving large piles of rock and rust-colored
We were far enough below the cliff that
we didn't have to worry about anything falling directly on us and didn't have
to climb over the rocks. Rocks falling in the early morning or at night would
land on frozen slopes and slide further down the glacier onto our path. During
the day those rocks would absorb heat from the sun and melt a hole in the snow.
Over a period of a week or two the rocks would melt a hole eight to sixteen inches
deep, depending on the size of the rock. As the hole got deeper the rim of the
hole cast a shadow over the rock. Eventually the rock would only catch rays of
the sun and get warm at high noon and the hole wouldn't get any deeper unless
it rained. The water from rain would run off the rock and melt the snow and the
rock would roll into the water-made cavity.A rock could wander from one place to another depending on the direction
of the wind during a rain storm. Occasionally a climber stepped on a sunken rock
and the spikes of the crampons ground on the hard surface. Sometimes a small
rock jammed in between the spikes and had to be pried loose.
The traverse below Cathedral Rock
ended at the opening to a very steep snow chute which led upward and was used
to climb to the Ingraham Glacier. To get into the opening required that we move
across a rock fall area and around some large rock outcroppings. The sun
heating the rock mass had softened and melted the snow for several feet around.
Climbing past the outcropping into the gulley we sank in up to our knees and
hips. It was a difficult task even for those who could see where they were
going to step.As we rounded the
outcropping, we coiled the rope so it would not tangle on the rocks and we
could give a hand to the blind climbers. Once in the gulley we let the full
length of the rope out again.
The chute took us up three hundred
feet to the Ingraham Glacier. This was by far the steepest slope we had been on,
and with heavy packs it was difficult for the blind to maintain their balance. Each
step was made as a deliberate planned effort. Voices reverberated off the walls
on both sides. Justin could be heard talking to some distant galactic entity as
a diversion. "Hello universe, come in, come in." He felt he was
climbing into space.
Doug lost his balance and slid down a
couple of times and commented on the law against mountain climbing that Whittaker
had mentioned – the law of gravity.
Looking down to the Cowletz Photo: Dianne Roberts
The top of the chute opened onto a dirty ridge
of ground volcanic rock where we could look back to CampMuir, as well as north onto the Ingraham
Glacier and onto Little Tahoma, an 11,000 foot peak on the eastern side of Rainier. The original Indian name for Rainier is Tahoma; there was Big Tahoma and
Little Tahoma. We had reached a logical place to rest.
For twenty minutes we munched on
Gorp, drank juice, put on more sun cream and generally enjoyed ourselves. There
was a nice echo off the southern end of Cathedral Rock and I went over to find
a good place to practice yodeling. I
thought it was the most fantastic echo I had ever heard. I yodeled again.I was feeling pretty good about my yodeling and
turned around to see everyone rolling around holding their sides laughing. Unknown
to me Doug was making a recording and when I stopped yodeling he was playing it
After the break Jim led off again and
took the team along the north side of Cathedral Rocks heading in the direction
of the summit. The trail curved up and to the right over a snow bridge, and
onto the Ingraham Glacier.From there
the slope was gentle for about a half-mile before gradually getting steeper,
transforming into a cascading slow motion water fall called the IngrahamIceFalls - a jumble of crevasses and shredded
snow bridges.Jim traversed to the right
under the ice falls onto a small relatively flat spot appropriately called the
Ingraham Flats and indicated this was where high camp was to be set up.
Facing uphill, Cadaver Gap is on the
left. The Gap is a narrow pass between Cathedral Rocks and the lower eastern
flank of Gibraltar Rock. Two hundred yards to the right was Disappointment
Cleaver, a large shoulder of a ridge that separated the Ingraham and Emmons
glacier. The large ice fall, area where the eleven climbers were still buried
from the ice fall eleven days before, was between high camp and the Cleaver.
When Jim reached high camp, the last
person was still a quarter of a mile behind. Climbing ropes are 160 feet long. When
five or six ropes are stretched out and there is a distance of fifty to sixty
feet between ropes there is a total distance of 1,100 to 1,200 feet between the
lead climber and the last person.
Looking back Photo: Ridgeway-film
When I reached high camp I dropped my
big pack, took a small day pack, and was ready to go down for another load of
supplies and Judy. Bud Krogh and Joe Wishcamper, two lawyers turned Sherpa to
help carry gear to high camp, headed back to Camp Muir with me.
Four members of the 1984 Everest
climbing team who were serving as porters planned to follow. We moved rapidly
down the Ingraham Glacier to the top of the steep chute which dropped down onto
the Cowlitz that we had climbed earlier. Near
the bottom of the chute we passed Steve Marts and two guides who were climbing
to high camp. Steve had climbed a number of the world’s most difficult
mountains as a cameraman. I could never figure out how he got to the top to
photograph the first climber ever to reach the summit.He was going up to join with Ridgeway and the
film crew as a second cameraman.We
chatted briefly.I had met Steve while
still planning Pelion.
Judy and Joanne were ready when we
arrived at CampMuir. Bud Krogh continued on down to Paradise to return to Seattle to attend a wedding. Earlier I had
invited Bud to go to the summit with us. We had done a number of things
together as kids. We used to rappel out the third floor window at his home
until his mother objected to the footprints on the wall. Years later he was on
the staff at the White House under Nixon, and had his public service career
interrupted by the avalanche of issues in the Watergate and Ellsberg cases. Now
he was carrying heavy loads for a group of handicapped climbers. Joe and I loaded
up packs with food and lanterns. Joanne set out the rest of the equipment for
the Everest team to take up. Joanne's husband Monte had gone to high camp and
returned before we had.He was already
packed to head back up.
When Judy was ready, I tied her in
the middle of the rope and put Joe Wishcamper on the end. The Everest climbers
arrived just as we were leaving CampMuir.Joanne and Monte and the Everest team caught up and passed us upward
bound along the base of Cathedral Rocks just before the steep snow chute. As we
approached the opening to the chute the clatter of loose rocks was more
frequent. Under the afternoon sun melting snow was now trickling down, forming
a small stream next to the outcropping. We filled our water bottles and took a
sip before starting up the forty-five degree and steeper snow chute. By now the
snow had softened the steep slope and it was easy to kick an evenly spaced
sequence of steps for Judy to follow.
Judy, Joe and I plodded on with an
easy rhythm using the rest step and arrived at high camp only twenty minutes
behind the Everest team.Judy had made it
to high camp, non-stop, in two and one-half hours. The rest of the team had eaten and were
already sleeping.Though she said she
felt good, she was so tired she couldn't hold a cup of soup in her hands.
High Camp on the Emmons Flats Photo Roy Fitzgerald
High camp consisted of eleven tents
bound on the south and north sides by crevasses, a steep slope rising above us to
the summit on the west, and a panoramic view to the east looking over the top
of Little Tahoma. Glaciers flowed past Little Tahoma on both sides and
disappeared into the valleys and forests which stretched into eastern Washington. East of Rainier the foothills get
progressively smaller, and eventually the countryside flattens out into an
orange haze of wheat fields. In the distance the windshield of a car flashed a
burst of reflected sunlight. The shiny roof of a barn stood like a beacon in
the midst of a sea of flat country.
First arrivals at high camp had dug a
platform out of the slope for each tent. Thirty feet above the tents and to the
left was the "bathroom", a hole dug in the snow with a place on either
side for positioning feet. Use of the facility was an acrobatic, public activity.
A rope to the left of the “bathroom” indicated there was a crevasse on the
An outdoor kitchen had been made by
digging a platform six feet wide and three feet deep. A shelf to hold the stove
and extra food was carved out of the snow. Snow was melted for water for
dinner, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and to fill the drinking bottles.
Glacier Kitchen Photo: Ridgeway-Film
Jim and I encouraged everybody to get
to sleep. Climbing would start early. Jim said he would wake everybody up at
two.Climbers had prepared their smaller
c1imbing packs and crawled into their tents. Except for Doug, Kirk and Justin
who could be heard quietly talking about the dead climbers and that they would
have to walk where the dead were buried, there were no other conversations. Everybody
was tired from the day's climb and the altitude. Jim stretched out ropes so all
we had to do was tie in and we could get started quickly.
Jim, Dianne and I assigned climbers
to rope teams, balancing the strength of the guides with the strengths of the
different climbers. We wrote out the names of each team and cross checked to
make sure everybody was included. When finished, I crawled into the opening of my
tent and turned around and sat with my feet sticking out.Judy and Svein Gilje, one of the two
reporters climbing with us, were already asleep. I took off my boots and banged
them together to knock the snow off them and then zipped up the tent. I used the
boots and a sweater for a pillow.
It was quiet outside except for the
rustling of a plastic garbage bag in the kitchen area as a gentle breeze came down the glacier from the
Periodically a few rocks would fall
down the face of Cathedral Rocks and drop into the open space of a schrund, the
deep gap formed by the glacier pulling away from the cliff. Even the sound
seemed locked into the ice.
Even though there are acres of snow
and ice, the space available for a camp site is limited. The eleven tents were
on both sides of the trail up the mountain. Around a ranger and climbing party passed through
camp. I could hear the slow, steady crunch of crampons biting into ice, their
rope sliding over the frozen snow crystals, and the ring of the metal ice axes
being stabbed into the frozen snow and used as a walking staff. They were on
their way to the summit in search of a person who had been wandering on the
summit for a week on a religious quest. An hour later another climbing party