JUNE 27, 28 to
The drive back to
Friends of Judy in
The ticketing and bag check in at the
airport was a major production. We had thirteen members of the climbing team
and a four person camera crew. Each person had personal gear, a climbing pack
and a bag full of general climbing equipment. Fred organized an eight man relay
line and all the bags were moved from the curb from person to person to behind the
ticketing counter in a matter of a few minutes. When we left several attendants
were staring at a pile of over 120 packs and boxes anticipating having to move
them to the plane. I tipped them $2.00 a bag and they seemed pleased. Western Airlines was contributing the air
transportation for the team to
The flight from
Since then he had traveled and made
films in the Antarctic, the
The plane passed over
They were professional skiers and spared few tricks to make the descent. The first mile and half dropped away rapidly as they descended at speeds in excess of fifty miles an hour. The air started filling with a fine nearly invisible grey powder. They raced on, nearly choking in the advancing cloud of ash. The surface of the snow turned a light grey and their skis started grabbing at the pumice film that was accumulating. Within moments the descent halted as the smooth surface of snow turned into a crusty sheet of sandpaper. They released their bindings, covered their mouths with handkerchiefs to filter out the ash as they tried to breathe and ran, then walked as fast as they could down the last mile to their cars and escaped.
When we landed at SEA-TAC airport the
other passengers left and Jim Whittaker and Dianne Roberts came aboard and
welcomed us to
The reception area was jammed with reporters, photographers, TV cameras, floodlights, spectators, family members and friends. Richard Rose's wife and son, Paul Stefurak's wife, Sheila's mother and other supporters were in the crowd. Richard's mother-in-law had knitted wool hats for each team member and brought fresh strawberries and cherries.
I met my brother to pick up two flags to carry to the summit: an American flag which had flown over the capitol and a United Nations flag recognizing the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP). He also had a box of 500 granola bars, a hundred packages of breakfast squares and a dozen boxes of Bisquick from General Mills.
Several vehicles and a small bus were
used to carry the large pile of equipment and people to
Sea-Tac airport is ninety miles from
the west side entrance to
In the Hiker's Center there was a large
relief' model of the mountain. The film crew set up lights and cameras. As it
will happen, out of the 120 bags we had, only one was misplaced...the one with
the keys to the camera box. While Bob Carmichael, the cameraman, located a bolt
cutter to remove the lock, the rest of us took off in different directions.
Some of the team listened to a lecture on beavers. Judy, Bud, Rich and I took a walk along the
Longmire woodland nature trail. Judy and Bud had never experienced a large
skunk cabbage, or a forest with a wall-to-wall, two-inch-thick carpet of moss;
or hemlock trees five feet in diameter; or trillium and a variety of delicate
ferns; or the armor of needles on Devil's Club which grow in the twilight of
the forest. Each of these was found by gentle touching, sometimes on hands and
knees. The final step from the
The model of the mountain was eight feet square and stands nearly two feet high with a summit crater about three inches in diameter. It highlights the major ridges, glacier, cliffs, and surrounding peaks. While we had braille maps with raised outlines of peaks and trails the large model was several of the blind this was their first encounter with the shape of a mountain. Fred thought a volcanic mountain would be a smooth cone and was surprised by the rugged, irregular contours and the twisted cascading shape of the glaciers.
The blind explored the model with their fingers and were shown the route they would climb. For forty-five minutes they ran their fingers over the mountain, the glaciers, rivers and foothills. At times there were ten hands on the summit.
"Where is the route?"
"What is this steep section?"
"Is this a glacier?"
"Where am I now?"
"How far is it from here," (pointing with one finger)
"To here?" (indicating with the other hand.)
They would get lost and disoriented and wanted to know where they were. Sheila put a finger on the depression of the crater asking, "What's this?"
Jim answered, "The summit, you're on top."
She responded, "Gee, and I'm not even tired."
Now they were starting to understand
why I had chosen
Outside, the sun was setting on the
mountain summit nearly 11,000 feet above. The caravan continued on to Paradise
Lodge, another thirteen miles up the road. Half way to
The road climbs at a steep angle along the forested side of the lesser mountain range. A low rock wall serves as the barrier between the road and a thousand foot abyss. A mile up the road from the bridge a huge brown-colored bear climbed over the retaining wall on the right, lumbered in front of the bus, climbed up the steep bank on the left and disappeared into the woods. The powerful animal seemed like an omen of strength and nature’s way of blessing our trip.
Paradise Lodge, built in 1917, is a giant log cabin. The lobby is dominated by pillars and rafters made with two and three-foot diameter logs. Large fire places at both ends are used as gathering places in the evening and a place to dry out on rainy days. Once at the lodge everyone settled into their rooms quickly.
Fitz and I visited a radio relay trailer in the parking lot on which the Motorola Corporation had installed a radio repeater tower to make sure that communications could be maintained with us during the climb. The trailer would also be the central communications and information center for the press and spectators.
It was cold and the bright stars outlined the Tatoosh range to the west and the mountain to the east. As Fitz and I hiked back to the lodge, I described the hassle I had had with the Federal Communications Commission in getting a license and authority to operate the repeater tower. It had taken over two months of paper work and phone calls. In effect we would be operating a radio station and I had to fill out an application for a license which included a description of the broadcast facility, the purpose of the station, the power of the station and the exact location of the tower in terms of latitude, longitude and altitude.
Fitz went to bed and I spent the better part of the night sorting out food and equipment. The second floor corridor in the lodge staff area became an assembly station. Each of the three meals a day for twenty to twenty-six people for the next six to seven days was set out in piles the length of the hall.
For each day there was a pile of Kool Aid packets; lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes for a salad; two large sausages, two or three blocks of cheese and Triscuits for lunch; dehydrated dinners; Bisquick, eggs, coffee and. hot chocolate mixes for breakfast. Pots, pans, stoves, white gas, lanterns, ropes and miscellaneous items were put in other piles. The food for each meal was packed in large bags and labeled- "Mon.Brk.", "Mon.Lnch.", "Mon.Din."...When there seemed to be some semblance of order I went to bed. The remaining details of organization could be handled in the morning before the major ceremonies.