Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hiking to Muir

Trusty Gus the Garmin with Mt. Adams in the background
Every year, with the exception of last year, Travis and I along with some friends make the climb to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier.  This year the weather was amazingly perfect yet again, and we lucked out on another great trip.  This is an extreme hike, mainly through snow, and it takes pretty much all day so we had my little sisters babysit the Goober Monster.

Our friends Andrew and Sonja met up with us at our house at the blazingly early time of 5:45am.  Coffee was immediately consumed.  The drive to Rainier didn't take too long and before we knew it we were at the visitor's center in Paradise getting our boots on.  What a minute....the ONE THING that I should've checked before leaving the house is to make sure my boots fit, right?  Or perhaps even had INSOLES?  Ah yes, they didn't have any.  Apparently when I took them out two years ago to use my custom orthotics I never put them back in....and I also haven't worn them since.  GAH!  I was nervous telling Travis about this because I knew he would be pissed.  Of course he was.  Unfortunately the visitor's center shop wasn't open until 10am (GRRRR) and I was S.O.L. with buying insoles. Quick thinking on my part I asked Trav to shred his sneaker's insoles to fit in my boots.  This helped, but my no means was as comfortable as I'd hoped, but like heck I wasn't going to complain about this to Trav.  OoPs.  Packing FAIL.

My new Osprey Aura 50 backpack felt incredible (much better than the good old school Jansport I used years ago!), and although it's a hideous poop brown color, it fit well and held everything I needed. ;)

Spot the marmot?
We started the ascent at 8:50am, according to trusty Gus.  Immediately from the start there was snow on the trail, so the pace was nice-and-easy.  There were 6 of us total: Travis, myself, Andrew, Sonja, Jeff and Adam.  Jeff has been taking spin classes like a madman, so he's in much better cardio shape than two years ago when he didn't make it to Muir.  This year he was going to make it!

There was a bunch of wildlife sightings including badgers, marmots, foxes, chipmunks, little itty bitty birds and crazy half-naked climbers on skiis going up the mountain.  Yeah, the last one was a stretch, but this dude was like Davy Crockett without the raccoon hat and probably more facial hair.

The sun was HOT and we weren't taking any chances on sunscreen, so we reapplied 50 SPF multiple times on the trip (and of course, I still manage to get splotchy burns).  The most common place to get burned while hiking in snow?  Under your nose.  OUCH.  Since I was wiping my nose the entire time the sunscreen was getting wiped off....and I got some nice little under-nose burnage.  It's peeling now and looks dumb.  Double GAH.

Once we got to the Muir snowfield it gets a little crazy.  It's like you're on a never-ending, snowy stair-stepper machine for hours.  It can wear you down mentally, and that's exactly what happened to Jeff a little.  Luckily lunch on some rocks was a welcome break.  Once you stop climbing, it's cold.  So out came the layers.

Trav, Sonja, Andrew and Adam all went ahead as I stayed with Jeff for the rest of the way.  I felt it necessary to not just ditch Jeff and go faster because it A) would be stupid for me to leave a comrade (though there were plenty of people on the mountain) and B) I didn't want to make him feel bad.  Of course it was wearing on me stopping every 5 minutes to take a break--I just wanted to get to Muir.  Once Muir was in sight, it still takes about 45 minutes to reach it.  It's the most frustrating part of the hike: you can SEE your destination, but getting there takes SO.MUCH.EFFORT.

I started ascending a little faster and left Jeff about 100 feet behind me when I finally reached Muir.  YES!  It took a little longer than we expected, but oh well!  More layers added, some celebratory Scotch sips and pictures were taken.

NOW the fun part: glissading/sliding down the snowfield and fall/running (funning?) down the mountain.  The trip back to Paradise takes a heckuva lot less time because you basically just "fall" down the mountain...or slide.

Some videos:

The day was long, but the pizza and beer at home were totally heavenly.  Until next year!

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