Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rainier 09- Fuhrer Finger

While unobjectionable skiing can be fun, objectionable skiing is the best. This is where you commit to getting up early, working hard all day, getting a little scared and skiing something really cool. When you don't know if you are going to fail or succeed, but are willing to try damn hard to make it to the top. We are the skier boys and we ski big mountains and in the case of last week we ski big volcanoes.
Mt. Rainier stands at 14,420 ft. tall and is located in WA, two hours southeast of Seattle. It is an active volcano that calls to certain climbers/skiers to be on top of her or at least try. It is the highest volcano in the U.S. and homes 26 major glacier systems covering over 35 miles. 4,000 people climb this mountain a year and about 8,000 attempt it. The Ranger Station in Paradise sits at 5,400 ft, that makes it a 10,000 foot climb to the crater at the top.

With 60-70 lbs packs we left Paradise and headed towards our base camp at 9,200 ft, below the Kautz Glacier. The Cascades weather hit us hard at first, it began to rain and we were all soaked three hours into our approach. Luckily we got above the clouds, it warmed, we dried and our objective was in sight. The Fuhrer Finger, first climbed in 1920 by Hans and Heinie Fuhrer, with Joseph Hazard. A perfect ski trail with a lot of vertical above it.
The next morning we woke up at 3:30 a.m., but did not leave camp until 5. A late start for a really long day. A party of three (non-skiers) were already in the initial chute and we headed up behind them. The first part of the climb was up a 40 degree two thousand foot chute, crampons and ice axes worked well. We topped out at 8 a.m, had a breather and continued up toward crevasse terrain. We were roping up pretty soon after. The crevasses were there, but the snow bridges were stable and we crossed them without any harm. It just took us a long time. The higher we climbed the closer we got towards a huge lenticular cloud hovering above the summit. The 30 mile per hour gusts were becoming a constant 40 and visibility was getting low. I questioned reaching the summit, but we pushed on with all of our layers on.
We summited around 3 p.m., nine hours after leaving base camp. We stashed our skis 100 ft from the summit walked to the top, spent maybe three minutes up there with winds blowing close to 50 mph and walked back down to begin our descent. The skiing near the top in the lenticular was not that great, hard pack, crunchy, wind effected, still better than walking. As we made it below the lenticular the snow surface warmed a lot and the skiing actually got good. We skied back past the crevasses and towards the chute. The snow in the finger was excellent soft snow and we skied like the boys all the way back to camp with a heroes entrance as three other parties viewed us. They were jealous of our turns and effort.

We spent the rest of the afternoon drying our gear, got to bed early after a warm meal and woke up the next morning to a hot sun heating everything. We packed up camp and skied the remaining 4,000 vert of rolling thiry degree terrain back to Paradsie. It was amazing looking back up at our line we skied the day before. Mt Rainier was a big commitment and an excellent objective to ski. It opened my eyes to expeditions like this one and what it takes to reach the summit. An amazing experience for the boys. Thanks to Stefan and Bret Beattie, Adam and Andrew Lawton, Topher and Tom Zimmer, we crushed it. Jake the Buffalo Soldier Boot pack Rasta.