News

Reaching the summit

 -
— image credit:

Growing up, Solveig Garhart listened to stories of how her father and grandfather climbed Mount Rainier.


In 1975, they climbed 14,410 feet to the summit and looked down upon the


rest of Washington.


"It was something I grew up with," Solveig, who lives in North Bend,


said of the stories.


Now 17 and soon to be a senior at Mount Si High School, Solveig


said, "Last winter, I decided I wanted to climb it, too, this summer." But


she didn't want to go alone.


"My daughter wanted to do that with me," Jim Garhart said.


Upon making their decision, Solveig learned of others who


wanted to climb Mount Rainier with her and her father.


Dan Corlett, 17, of Fall City, said scaling the rocks and snow of


Mount Rainier, "felt like a good challenge. I've always liked Mount Rainier."


Dan, who will be a junior at Mount Si, has done rock climbing in the past.


Three other friends from across the state also decided they wanted to attempt


to reach the summit.


Leading the group were mountain-climbing veterans Annette Mockli


of Kirkland and her friend and fellow climber, Michael Jacobson.


Solveig's father learned of Annette, who is a library technical assistant at


the Snoqualmie Public Library, from a mutual friend. In seven


attempts, Annette has reached the summit of Mount Rainier six times. For


her, climbing has been a lifelong passion.


"My dad always went hiking, so I did it as a child. Hiking escalated


into climbing," she said.


Mount Rainier can present different obstacles to climbers,


depending on their experience. Different climbing routes of varying degrees of


difficulty exist for those wanting to reach the summit. Ice falls, rock falls


and traversing large ice flows and crevasses can be tricky, especially as


the summer sun starts to melt the snow.


The air can be freezing, and the winds can whip at more than 60


miles per hour. In the summer, it is common to ascend the final 4,000 feet from


the base camp to the summit at night. Nighttime limits the potential for


melting snow, but it can also limit visibility.


Three weeks before their actual attempt, Jim thought it would be


a good idea to climb to Camp Muir at night. Ten thousand, one hundred


feet up the side of Mount Rainier, the camp serves as a base camp for those


who want to climb to the summit.


"A lot of the climbing you do at night, and that's what I wanted the


kids to experience," Jim said.


But during the climb, the weather, which had been a gentle


snow, changed drastically. The winds started to howl and the climbers almost


lost their place on the mountain. Jim said the group, "got up to about 7,200


feet and a snowstorm started blowing." Ice froze to Dan's face, and Jim's ear


and cheek were frostbitten. They struggled to search for "wands" that had


been planted in the ground by the Forest Service and for wands that Jim


had placed to show the group where it had been. They weren't helped by the


bulk of their 70-pound backpacks and the skis they carried.


Annette, who has led other groups up Mount Rainier, said it's because


the elements can change so rapidly that safety is so important when


climbing the mountain.


She said she tries to get climbers to realize that, "back to the car is


where you want to be at the end of the day." In all, the group climbed to


Camp Muir five times with full backpacks while preparing to scale


Mount Rainier.


In order to be physically fit for the climb, the group trained every


other weekend starting in April and increased their workouts to every


weekend as July 14 approached. They climbed Mount Si and trekked up


to Alpental.


Then it was time for the real climb. On July 14, Solveig, her father,


Dan and their friends started at the base of Mount Rainier and climbed to


Camp Muir, which served as their base camp. The following day, July 15,


Annette and her co-leader, Michael Jacobson, hiked to Muir and met up with


the group.


The group set out at 11 p.m. that night to reach the summit.


Organized into two teams of four people, with each team linked together by a


50-meter rope, Annette and Michael led the other climbers to the top.


Annette said the climbers were aided by good weather.


"It was one of the best weather situations I've encountered on


the mountain," she said. "It turned out


to be an outstanding climb."


But making your way up 14,000 feet of snow and rock is a


daunting task, even if the weather is good. Annette said the group's prior


training paid off.


"I felt overall they were prepared, as far as strength goes," she said.


She taught the group to "power breath" and to take rest steps, where


climbers take one step, rest for a second, then take another step.


Dan said he expected the climb to be more physically challenging.


"It was easier than what I thought it would be."


However, Annette said, climbing is more of a mental challenge than


a physical one, and Solveig said her attention was fixed on making it to


the top of the mountain, not on the scenic beauty that surrounded her.


"You're so focused, you don't realize what's happening," she


said. "You're like, `Oh, we came up pretty far.' Pretty soon you're at the top."


At 5:40 a.m. July 16, as the early-morning sun washed over the


mountain turning the snow a shade of pink, all eight members of the group


reached the summit of Mount Rainer. From their perch, they could see


the mountain's volcanic crater, a half-mile wide and covered with snow.


They could see all the major peaks in the Pacific Northwest. They could


see down to Puget Sound.


"One cool thing when you reached the top was just how the mountain


laid out in front of you," Dan said. "It


was huge."


"I was really relaxed and calm. It didn't really hit me," Solveig said


of completing the ascent. She added what she had accomplished didn't sink


in until hours later, when the group was preparing to leave Mount Rainer


National Park.


"It was like, `Wow, we were up there a couple hours ago.'"


Both Solveig and Dan said they are already planning on climbing


Mount Rainier again, possibly taking a more challenging route.


Annette said it's the challenge that draws people to mountain climbing.


"I get to know myself through direct testing of the elements and


my skills," she said. "I learn something about myself, and it makes


success, sweet."

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 17 edition online now. Browse the archives.