Mt. Rainier Training Complete-Next Stop Mt. Elbrus!
It's hard to imagine that only 2 weeks ago I was still at high camp at Mt. Rainier (9400 ft). We made it about 600 feet from the summit before having to descend due to high avalanche hazard. It was a great lesson to be placed in a situation where one had to make the smart and responsible decision to turn around. Don't get me wrong. . . it would have been amazing to see the top, yet our team did our best and we all knew we could have made it had the weather cooperated. It was by far my top physical challenge to date.
After eight months of preparation and anticipation, Mt. Rainier (14,410 feet) was finally here. Led by Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI), I was off for a six-day expedition skills seminar on Mt. Rainier for my last formal training before setting foot on the highest peak in Europe, Russia’s Mt. Elbrus. The 18,510-foot summit is also my first climb of eight in my campaign to help women and children in the Congo and Uganda by climbing the highest mountain on each continent. Through my campaign, Climb Take Action Seven Summits, I hope to raise $2.2 million – $50 for ever meter – for International Medical Corps, a global humanitarian organization with programs that directly support the people in these war-torn and fragile countries. With Mt. Elbrus scheduled just one month away in mid-July, Mt. Rainier really was my final crash course in mountaineering before embarking on the seven summits string.
Reaching the summit of Mt. Rainier via Emmons Glacier (14,410 ft) requires a vertical elevation gain of more than 9,000 feet over a distance of eight or more miles. Every year, roughly 9,000 people climb Mount Rainier and only about half of them reach the summit. The peak is accessed through the town of Ashford, Washington, which is just a couple-hour drive from Portland, if you don’t forget one of your bags at baggage claim. About 30 miles outside Portland, I realized that I left one of my bags at the airport. On my way back, I ended up hitting a slick part of the road and did a 360 across I-5. Luckily, the car came to a stop facing the right direction on the highway and I, tapping on the gas, counted my lucky stars and headed back to the airport. What a way to start the trip, but I comforted myself that the odds of anything else bad happening were highly unlikely.