Careful readers of this blog (okay, that's probably nobody) might recall that while I did reach the summit of Mount Rainier in 2009, I did not stand at the very highest point, on Columbia Crest. I always meant to go back and remove that asterisk from my highpointing roster, but it was never a priority. Frankly, I figured I could skate by and finish the 50 state highpoints without having to revisit Rainier. However, when I was climbing Denali this summer, two other highpointers shamed me into admitting that I couldn't really say I had gotten to the highest point in the state of Washington. Since I already had a 2013 Rainier climbing permit (from when I did the winter skills seminar in February), and my climbing skills were honed after 20 days on glaciers, I figured this would be a good time to knock it off. Since I don't have a climbing partner, I once again climbed with RMI. I was kind of hoping to climb with one of the guides I had climbed with before, since I would more or less be jumping straight onto the mountain, but it was nice to get to know some new guides. Thanks to these great guides and much better weather than was forecast, I was able to stand at 14,410 feet, as high as I could have gone without leaving the ground. This completed a sort of "highpoint trifecta," climbing three of the most difficult state highpoints this summer (after Denali and Granite Peak, MT). Just based on how my legs felt afterward, Rainier was less challenging than Granite; Denali is in a whole different realm.
Saturday, September 14, I ran 8.5 miles in the morning and flew to Seattle in the afternoon. The flight was uneventful; I got into Seattle, picked up a little rental car, and drove to Ashford. Along the way, in the town of Puyallup, I stopped to get a pizza. Not so much because I was hungry at that time, but because I wanted most of it to bring with me for dinner on Rainier. As I mentioned in my post about Granite, I have had a bit of an aversion to freeze-dried meals since choking a few down at 17,000 feet on Denali. I got in to Ashford about 10pm and checked into the bunkhouse (which meant getting the key out of the envelope taped to the office door, since they had closed hours earlier). It was probably a coincidence, but I was in the same room I stayed in back in February. I spent some time sorting through my gear and packing my backpack, along with usual email and such, before getting to sleep.
On the way down the mountain, the ladder was more of a bottleneck than it was on the way up. We wound up waiting above it for a while for Seth's teams to get down, then I was the first down the ladder on Solveig's rope, once she had rigged some protection. We took another break not long after, at the top of the Disappointment Cleaver. We took one more break on the Ingraham Flats before getting back to Camp Muir. On the way down the cleaver, however, I took a tumble. We were short-roped going down the rocky cleaver. Near the bottom, I lost my footing and face planted. Justin was apologetic, thinking he may have been pulling on the rope, but I wouldn't have gone down if I hadn't tripped. I probably wouldn't have tripped if I didn't have my crampons on. I had been having such a nice day up to that point. I was stunned at first; I took a minute before I even tried to get up. There weren't any outward signs of trauma, my pants weren't ripped or anything. I had some grit in my mouth. At some point later, I could feel that my clothes were sticking to my knee and knew that it had been bleeding. I was still in a bit of a daze as we crossed the Flats to the break. After sitting for a minute the bad mood set in. I would have taken a helicopter back to Ashford from there if I could have.
Back at base camp, I retrieved my car key from the office and threw everything into the car. I didn't attempt a full change of clothes, but did take off my t-shirt and put on a dry fleece. I got a soda and snack from the grill and killed a bit of time until we reconvened to hand out certificates. Most folks hung out for a little while longer; I got some more substantial food and joined in. Even with a caffeine infusion, I was feeling tired driving back to Seattle once the group broke up. I got in to my hotel downtown around 9:30. I had intentions of going out after a shower, but I was exhausted and my eyes were bloodshot. I fell asleep trying to get caught up with Facebook. After the initial few hours, I did not sleep well. My nose was stuffed up, and that always gives me problems. It was before 7am when I got up and got some breakfast at a deli across the street. I did get a little nap in before checking out. I went to the REI mega-store, getting there just as it was opening at 9. I wasn't looking for anything, I just figured I'd go in as long as I was nearby. I got a big burrito across the street for second breakfast. I would have gone into the Feathered Friends store, but it still wasn't open as my free hour of parking was running out. Once I was able to get on the interstate (it was not easy), I drove to Olympia to tour the capitol, since I didn't actually go inside when I was there in 2008. I joined a tour already in progress. After looking around inside and out, I drove back to the Seattle airport. I had a very delicious "celebratory" lunch of salmon with huckleberries. Apparently I wasn't paying that close of attention to the time, because my plane was mostly boarded by the time I got there. I had a layover in Denver, then it was back on the same aircraft to go home to Austin.
The rest of the week was pretty much in recovery mode. My legs really weren't that bad, but they were definitely feeling heavy. I kind of surprised myself on Sunday, running a nearly 7-minute pace in a ~4-mile foot race.