Week 6 – Mt. St. Helens

2/10/18
Elevation Gain: 5,700 ft
Summit: 8,364 ft
Mileage: 12 miles RT

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Remember that small volcano that erupted back in the 1980’s? This time of year it’s completely covered under snow and it really isn’t season to be climbing it.

The Summit Seekers had Mt. St. Helens on our excel spread sheet of hikes (yes, that’s true we use excel) for the last weekend of March before permit season starts. We had this great plan of a hike for this week but when we saw the forecast we quickly check and adjusted our plans to make it to St. Helens because getting weather like we did this weekend in February is pure lottery.

Thursday night we came up with the idea, communicated a plan and Friday during my lunch break I picked up our harnesses, helmets, crampons, avalanche transceivers and mountaineering boots across the street from work. We hit the road right after work to car camp at the trailhead and get an early start. After a few logistical changes we didn’t actually get to the trailhead until about midnight and we woke up at 4:30 to start this hike.

So here we are Saturday morning starting our hike at about 5:45 AM in the dark with snowshoes and headlamps. There’s something about hiking in the dark that is invigorating but I also like to know what my surroundings are. Nothing makes you feel more alive than being up before the sun and watching it wake up andstart to turn shadows into a display of color and beautiful scenery. As the sun rose we started to get a good look at our objective for the day and it was breathtaking. Mt. St. Helens – I remember reading about this in books when I was a kid and after moving out here putting it on my bucket list.

After about 3 hours in we switched to crampons and got some good practice in our gear. We started up the true ascent as I like to call it and we really had to put our stepping and breathing into practice because that sucker was straight up with little mercy. We took 10 minute breaks about every hour to an hour and a half to fuel our bodies which really is a game changer from stopping and going a lot.

We weren’t quite making the time we had set as our goal but we still had it in us and motivation to summit. We were taking a quick break about 1700 ft or so from the true summit when we started to see people take some gnarly falls. As we were prepping to start back up we witnessed a terrifying accident that halted everyone on the mountain in their tracks. A man above us took an estimated 600-700ft fall off the side of the mountain and down into a gully to the left of the summit. As I’m sitting here on my balcony with my down booties on and drinking my coffee, I can still hear his scared to death scream that I think will stay in my head for a while. His scream was pure terror and it shook the mountain – we thought he had for sure busted his head open or broken bones.

A few by standers got down to him as quick as they could and it seemed that they had some medical background – everyone up the mountain was yelling to get signal from him, everyone on the line up to the summit was yelling “med kit” and searching for gauze to get down to the crew helping him. It’s one of those experiences I feel like I’ve been reading about in my mountaineering books but one you just don’t ever expect to be on the mountain when that happens much less witness it all go down. My eyes literally teared up and we were all humbled in that moment by the gravity of mother nature.

It was a beautiful sunny and clear day with PERFECT conditions or so it seemed but towards the summit the conditions started to decline and putting people in compromising positions. A lot of people started turning at that point once we realized he was okay because all of this happened while he had on the right gear – crampons, ice axe, etc. Our group reluctantly huddled to figure out our next steps.

We wanted to summit so badly in our hearts and we have enough drive to push the team up but we looked at this man in the gully, we recalled our talk with a girl who had just fallen off her ski’s and had a good fall and we thought about our goal of summiting Rainier. As we were making the decision a well versed hiker/mountaineer came by and said the top was sketchy and even steeper areas that she was hesitant about but she said “it’s optional to get up there, it’s mandatory to come down” and that kind of sealed our thoughts.  We made the call to turn – so close but absolutely the right decision. As we came down we started to realize the elevation, the slush, the ice  and all of the variables that could change even more over the next couple of hours if we pushed to summit.

Kim couldn’t have said it better “sometimes the mountain just reminds us, she’s in charge. When we’re fortunate enough to reach a summit, it’s a surreal experience because for it to be possible all the stars have to align; weather, route conditions, hazardous potential, turn around time, endurance and focus.”  However, when we don’t make a summit it’s because we all have the same mindset, interests at heart and we care for each other and understand the gravity of the mountain conditions. I’m so thankful to be sipping on my Komodo Dragon coffee this morning after a delicious breakfast, 11 hours of sleep and fresh laundry. That mountain will always be there for us to return to ….unless it blows up again! In all seriousness – the reason why I’m attempting Rainier this season versus the past is because of this group and the alignment and support we have for each other. Stay tuned – we’re excited to share the rest of our journey!

In other news – HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY TO OUR FEARLESS TEAMMATES, Kim and Joe ❤️

Week Three – Mt. Si

Elevation gain: 3150ft
Elevation: 3900ft
Mileage: 8 miles

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Two days in the Cascades was not enough. We are serious about these mountains and our goal to raise $16k for Climb for Clean air.

We all got home mid day on Sunday, cleaned our gear, repacked and met at the trailhead at 7am on Monday. Pause … we had to get a new park pass because ours was expired but we started on the trail right around 7:30.

It was a great morning full of surprising pink skies in the distance, low number of people and we were making good time despite sore legs and little sleep. When we finally made it to the top it was incredibly windy and we found the perfect boulder to hide behind and enjoy our coffee and snacks. As we sat down we noticed the beautiful view of Rainier. HOW special to see the beautiful mountain you’re training for while you’re training?? It was awesome.

Rainier shining in the background while these little guys had a yummy breakfast. Until next time, Si 🌄

 

Week Two – North Cascades Snow Camping Weekend

January 13-14th, 2018

What a weekend! The mountain family finally got a chance to get back together after the holidays. All day long we dream about places to go and group text each other suggestions for our next adventure.

After seeing Mitch Pittman’s adventure up to Artist point in the snow, we were sold. We saw him at an outdoor event and he confirmed, we had to go. We had just been up to Artist point back in October but this trip would be different and an excuse to use all of our new gear.

We start our trips with a 5 am wake up call and a 6 am meet time. Jessi picked me up and my house and we were on the road to race Kim and Joe to the magical winter wonderland that awaited us.

As soon as we got to the parking lot and brought our bags out we just started laughing because they were about as big and full for an overnight trip as they were for our 4 day backpacking trip this past summer. That’s the point though .. winter camping is completely different. You need the right gear and it’s just flat out bulky.

We made it up the mountain in good time despite Kim and Joe deciding against snowshoes 😉 Still too soon? Almost at the ridge we noticed a few people turning around due to avalanches … they were minor but still necessary to take precaution. Jessi and I hurried to higher ground and out of the avalanche zone. Kim and Joe met up with us and we started to think we might be in a dull, moody whiteout. After being on the ridge for less than 20 minutes the skies parted and blue skies greeted us. This was just the beginning.

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We set up camp, added a few layers and started to enjoy the views. I decided to test out my new InReach that my parents gave me for Christmas and unsponsored I am saying this device is incredible. Not only can I send a text and coordinates from anywhere in the world I can also receive communication back. My parents said the text comes in like normal from me along with a link that shows them on a satellite map exactly where I’m at. What a peace of mind and neat device!!

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Let’s be honest .. how can we not have a photo shoot with that backdrop and our bestie being a photographer? Not going to lie .. this was a hilarious part of the trip.

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I love these girls. They motivate me, push me and encourage me. When you can truly be yourself in your happy place over and over again and still want to spend days at a time with the same people, you know you’ve found your crew.

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We noticed  a few different pink shades of light hitting Mt. Shuksan and everyone on the ridge started to slow down and gather. An amazing display of colors started.

Pinks to orange to yellow and then back to pinks and purples … It didn’t matter what angle you we were looking at, our breath was being taken away one mountain range at a time.

Of course we started trying to snap as many photos as possible and frustrated that none of them can truly capture the moment. We were all getting excited and yelling out loud .. “how did we get so lucky? How did we get so blessed? I can’t believe we live here.” … the mountains just kept screaming for attention and we all stopped to enjoy it.

Table Mountain.

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Mt. Baker in all of her glory. After the sunset show we all settled in our tents to warm up and make dinner. I put my down booties on, hopped in my 0 degree bag and lit my jet boil to prepare my food. I was just beside myself with the feeling of accomplishment, emotion of joy and reward of stillness. After dinner we all started to gather again and Jessi wanted to try some Astrophotography of the stars and Mt. Shuksan. I would say from the shot below with the Big Dipper waving hello, she nailed it.

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Jessi started to shoot and then she yelled out “Erin, come over here I think I caught the northern lights.” She sure did .. the more we looked at the sky with our naked eye and the more she took shots the more realized we had hit the jackpot. As Jessi was taking long exposures I was looking at Mt. Shuksan to try to be as still as possible. I saw 3 shooting stars just sitting there and it made me wonder .. how can one not believe in God? He’s everywhere .. his beauty, grace, strength and warmth shows up in big moments and small moments.

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We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, still excited and blessed. We traveled down the mountain just in enough time to beat the crowds. We’re still talking about this adventure and my guess is we’ll be talking about it for a long time ❤️

Week One – Rattlesnake Ledge

January 6, 2018

Week one of many hikes. Jessi texted me (Erin) yesterday and asked me if I would be up for a sunrise hike at Rattlesnake Ledge in Snoqualmie. I checked the weather and reluctantly agreed even though I’ve been becoming a more fair weather hiker as of late. We live in the great PNW – how could I become a fair weather hiker? That mindset changed real quickly post holidays. That’s just a small example of what this entire journey will look like – accountability, challenges, early mornings and constant motivation.

Jessi and I had a great hike up making it in about 45 minutes without really pushing ourselves too much and we even had the ledge to ourselves for a solid half hour. Despite the freezing cold and wind that picked up we ended up staying at the summit for 2 hours just catching up, talking out goals and taking fun photos. We decided in that moment that we are going to document this journey because what more fun way to look back on our adventure than a fun and interactive blog? We’re more determined than ever.

We are attempting to summit Mt. Rainier in July which has been a long time goal of mine. That being said we wanted to take it to the next level and raise money for the American Lung Association to help meet their goal of saving lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research.

As long as we are healthy enough to train, climb and summit, we will do so in the honor of others. We ask that you join us in this journey not only with financial support but also emotionally and spiritually. The mountains are a special place to us and we can’t wait to bring you along on the adventure with us in every way possible!

Tomorrow the mountain crew is getting together to go over our our summit training plan, meal prep, hikes for the year, etc. Basically, 2018 is off to a GREAT start – stay tuned for more adventures! Please leave us a comment of curiosity, encouragement, tips or advice. We’d love to hear from each of you along this journey and we WILL be responding and sharing details of our journey.

Elevation gain: 1160ft

Elevation: 2078ft

Mileage: 4 miles

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