Day Four – Summit Day
Rope Team One (Seema, Sherpa, Jay and Bruce) woke around 11:30 pm. They
prepared and started down the trail at 12:30 am. Our instructor Brent,
was in Camp Muir with one of the RMI groups. I watched 3 RMI trains
leave between 12:45 am and 1:15 am before I considered hitting the trail
with my rope team. We had one casualty that morning where Marco slipped
and hurt his back preventing him from trying a summit bid. My rope team
now consisted of Carol, Yvonne and myself.
We left Camp Muir at 1:34 am and found the traveling easy toward
Cathedral Gap. Once we arrived at the Gap, we shortened up the ropes and
ascended the 250+ feet to the top of the Gap. There a climber in a
sleeping bag greeted us! It turns out he had to be dropped from a RMI
team for unspecified reasons. We continued up the rock scramble until we
stepped onto the Ingraham Glacier. Here we could see rocks strewn all
over so we moved quickly until we put some distance between the wall and
Carol was hindered since our rest day with some effects of altitude. She
had no desire to eat and showed other symptoms of altitude sickness. At
11,000 feet, she decided to abort her summit bid. We were now at
Ingraham Flats and I saw two climbers leaving their tent for the summit.
I asked one of them if Carol could crash until daylight in their tent
and they agreed. Carol showed an interest in descending on her own. I
felt comfortable with her choice to descend, however, I asked that she
waited until daylight arrived.
Yvonne and myself continued and at 11,400 we caught up with rope team
one. They were off the trail having some discussions on team
performance. As with any team makeup, you will have varying individual
speeds. Although they left 1 hour ahead of us, we caught them in just
over one hour. I made the decision to change rope team assignments to
balance the teams. Yvonne went to team one with Sherpa and Jay. Bruce
and Seema moved to my rope team.
This new arrangement allowed team one to proceed at a uniform pace. I
have no agenda in establishing speed trials, only that we give our best
effort toward our summit goal. Seema, Bruce and myself continued through
the Ingraham Glacier, past the ice falls, through the bowling alley,
past the headwall to the start of Disappointment Cleaver. We snaked our
way up the DC where I made only one slight course correction to bring us
back on trail. We traveled carefully through the DC and soon we found
ourselves back on the glacier. Here we started up on a slope that
appeared to be 45° to 55° ascents through a series of switchbacks.
Daylight was upon us and all I could think of was how careful we will
need to be on the descent. The sun will soften the glacier and the
possibility of ice balling under your crampons will exist.
Bruce on the glacier above the DC.
At 12,200 feet, there is a natural flat area that is perfect for
resting. Here we talked as a team concerning our performance. Seema was
having some difficulties with the conditions. I mentioned that as a
team, I would walk off with her, or she could wait there until our
return. I really wanted her to make it up to the summit, but under these
conditions we probably would not get to the summit. She agreed to wait
until our return. Bruce and I continued with a determined mindset. I had
Bruce lead the rest of the way as we moved over to the Emmons Glacier
and traveled on switchbacks between various crevasses. These crevasses
ranged from small to huge where the bottom could not be seen.
Sherpa and his mascot.
We caught Sherpa’s rope team and I could hear him say “What the
Hell…..” to describe our ability to catch him from what was a mile head
start. Our rope teams arrived at Point Success together and the
celebrations started! We walked over to the register and then onto the
actual summit. After a hour and half, we left the rim and started
heading back down.
The summit crater and the rim.
All three rope teams grouped together where Seema was resting. After
a 10-minute break, our rope team, now complete with Seema, headed back
down. Even though the sun was softening up the glacier, travel felt
safe. On the DC, Seema slipped on some rocks and I caught her fall by
holding the rope. Unfortunately, a water bottle slipped out of her pack
and slipped down the slope about 20 feet. Bruce decided to retrieve it
and promptly slipped down the slope bringing Seema with him. I was in a
belay stance and was able to hold both Seema and Bruce during the slip.
The water bottle was rescued and we continued down.
The ice fields and crevasse
on Ingraham Glacier.
Back on the Ingraham Glacier, we moved fast through the rock and
icefall areas not slowing down until we were safely near Ingraham Flats.
Through Cathedral Gap we continued and soon we were back in Camp Muir.
High fives were now being shared, as we understood the success of
putting 9 climbers on the summit this day.
Arm, Dani, Carol, Guy, Terri and myself decided to head down to the
parking lot and try for a room at the bunkhouse. Time was against us and
the Bunkhouse was closed by the time we arrived. All hotels and motels
near Ashford were filled and we had to travel 40+ miles into Tacoma just
to get a room. Around midnight, we crashed for a well deserved rest.
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