THIS IS LONG, BUT THIS IS THE TRUE EPIC STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED ON MT. RAINIER LAST WEEK.
When I left Rick at IMG last Saturday, the other climbers gave me a hug and promised to keep my sweetie safe. Well, all the promises were kept and they all survived..>BUT BARELY!!
This was an incredible epic adventure. Something that is for sure gonna be in the mountaineering history books.
A little background. Liberty Ridge is a very technical climb. You have to carry all your gear, even on summit day. Its mostly all ice climbing too, so your skill level has to be high. Its not just an easy walk up!
The weather forecast looked PERFECT for Tuesday--summit day. Up until Tuesday, there were some storms, but things seemed okay. No real problems and Rick recalls that the climbing was just fantastic! "Out of this world" is how he described it.
On summit day, they started at 2am. Rick carried the heaviest of the team gear that day--the tent.
As they neared the summit, the weather turned HORRIBLE and on top, they had 60 mile per hour winds!! A quick summit picture was taken before total white outs. It was now 7pm on Summit day--the 23rd. For some really unlucky reason, the guide's GPS quit, and with zero visibility, they were in trouble. It took them several hours to trek down just 500 feet. It was looking grim. There were drop offs, cervasses and zero visibility. The guides weren't sure where they were going. The trail was covered and a few of the climbers started having a problem similar to snow blindness. It was almost certain, to all of them, that they would die on top of Mt. Rainier.
One guide saw some rocks and they thought, maybe they could hunker down near the rocks and get out of the constant wind. Once they were near the rocks, the realized that it was not going to happen. Suddenly, at 10pm, one of the climbers spotted a 4 foot hole. An ice cave. One guide rappelled into the cave about 20 feet and found a nice platform. 5o deeper from that, they found a huge "room". It was big enough that they were able to set up 2 tents! So, the group of 5 descended deep into Mt. Rainier. It was a pretty constant 32 degrees inside the completely frozen cave. They had to continue to wear their crampons because it was all ice--picture pitching a tent in the middle of an ice rink. (remember, they had been awake since 2am!)
So, now they were out of the storm, which was good, but how long would the storm last? Would they need to stay in the cave for more then a day? If so, they would run out of fuel and food. The rationing began. Instead of heating ice for water, they caught water dripping and used that for drinking. The ate food that would take the least amount of water to digest. Hypothermia started in. Everyone and everything they owned was wet. The good news...in the cave, the GPS and the radio worked, so they were able to radio out their location.
Further down the mountain, a group was climbing the Emmons glacier. It was their summit day, but at around 12,000 feet, they bailed, knowing the weather on top was not favorable. Two of their 4 guides continued up on a rescue mission looking for Rick's group. They reached the climbers at 10:30am on the 24th (WHICH WAS RICK'S 50th BIRTHDAY!!!), so Rick's group had been in that cave, slowly dieing, for 12 hours. The rescuers had left their camp at 2am, so they were pretty tired when they got to the cave.
These two rescuers, weren't really "rescuers", meaning they didn't have any food or anything with them. They were two guides that were taking a group to the summit--so their packs (as is the normal case on summit day) were light, with only snacks, a bit of water and a larger puffy to wear on the summit. But at least these guides had hiked up to the cave and would know the way down.
After an hour, they all climbed out of the cave to find the weather about the same. The descent was slow and they had some problems getting past some large cervasses. They rolled into camp Shermon at 7pm.
The guides at camp shermon and the other climbers were welcoming, doing first aid on one climber's eyes and helping them take off their crampons. Hot water and food was given to all. At 8pm, Rick went to sleep.
Meanwhile, I was sitting at my parent's house in Issaquah. I always like to call Rick's guide companies to find out how they are doing and wondering what day and time they might be back. So, on the 24th I called. I thought they might be done since the forcast had been so good for the 23rd. This is how my phone conversation went:
Hello, IMG, ____speaking.
Hi, this is Angie Miske. My husband is on the Liberty Ridge climb and I'm just checking in to see how they are doing and if they will be down today or tomorrow?
Um...let me have you talk to George and you guys can chit chat about that.
Hi George. So, how are they doing? Do you think they'll be down today or tomorrow?
Well, they all summited yesterday, but have ran into bad weather on the summit, so they are spent the night up there.
Um, they only had 3 days of food with them.
Yes, they will have to do some rationing, but there is a group going up the Emmons glacier and they will meet them and give them some more food.
LOL thats about the whole conversation.
I didn't think too much about it.
On the 25th, I got a call from Rick that the had a "interesting" time and he would leave it at that until I picked him up. I was invited to go out to a celebrating dinner with them in Ashford. Thats when the whole epic event was re-told to me.
Rick made it out alive. He survived with only a numb toe, some bad sun burns and very puffy lips. He is a different person now. Everyone in the group honestly thought they were going to die. One guide even said he was considering getting an office job and giving up guiding and mountaineering. Rick had some extremely spiritual moments on the mountain.
Through all of this...I have decided I will try climbing the mountain (via a much easier route) in late August of this year.
4 days ago