Frank (ljtourist) wrote,

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Yet Another Trip Report

From the weekend of 9/9-9/10:

Saturday was pretty boring; mostly running around doing errands, and preparing for my outing on Sunday. One of the places that I'd not yet gotten to out here was Mount Rainier National Park, and that was my destination.

Doing quite a lot of research on the various trails, my plan was to head out early to the station at Paradise, climb up to (pdf links!) Pinnacle Peak, have lunch up there, and do Naches Peak in the afternoon.

The first part of that went swimmingly; got a nice start, fully prepared with all the stuff I bought at REI, and had a great drive down, the mountain getting bigger and bigger all the way. Paradise was relatively crowded; not a huge surprise. The weather was better than I could have asked for: low 60's, sunny, very slight breeze, and low ozone (meaning good visibility). Ideal for backpacking, really. Since the lot was so full, I had to park down in the day-use area, and walk up to the visitor center. That got me my first taste of high-altitude climbing, and was a portent of things to come.

Confirmed with the rangers (who are usually a great source of information) that I wasn't planning anything insane, and got a bit of good news: the summit of Pinnacle Peak was only about 100 yards from the end of the trail, just up a moderately steep rock scramble. No problem! Found the trailhead easily enough, strapped on my backpack, and headed up.

And, wow, that rarefied air started kicking my ass. I've lived my whole life below 600 feet, the last 2 years essentially at sea level. This trail *starts* at ~4900 feet up, and goes up from there! One of my coworkers climbed Mt. Everest recently, and I was reminded of his presentation. He mentioned that they eventually settled into a routine of "take one step, wait, take 5 or 6 deep breaths, take another step...". This wasn't *that* bad, but near the end I was really doing "half-step, breathe, half-step, breathe" and taking lots of breaks. Man, oh man.

It didn't help that I had completely overpacked, either. While I only took ~64oz of water (another mistake; I thought it was enough, but it should have been at least double that), I packed my light fleece shirt, a wool sweater, and a light jacket. See, warnings tend to work on me. When I read all of those DIRE WARNINGS about how you MUST CARRY PROPER CLOTHING that high up or RISK DEATH, I take them seriously. Me being me, I overdid it, of course. Even at the peak, it was pretty warm; my short-sleeves were fine.

I did make it to the top of the trail, though not in the hour that I planned; it was probably more like 80 minutes. The next step was to get to the summit. This was where things really got tricky, because...

THE RANGER TOTALLY LIED TO ME! If I'd been doing the math, I'd have figured that out beforehand: the trail starts below 4900 ft., and goes up 1050 ft., for a peak about 5920 ft. Well, the summit is at 6562 ft. Even if I could climb straight up, it'd be at least another 650 ft. (twice the distance I'd been told)! And, it wasn't a rock scramble at all! It was covered with loose rock, which is ten times harder to climb!

So, about 90 minutes of hard climbing later, I made it almost to the summit. On the way up, I talked to two other people who were climbing Pinnacle Peak, both of whom had done it several times before, and both of whom gave up this time around, since they couldn't find the "path" to the peak! Completely exhausted, and not about to risk life and limb to do what other, more experienced climbers could not, I stopped within a long stone's throw from the top, had lunch, a long rest, and started the treacherous trip down. Yeesh.

All told, it was just under 5 hours and, in spite of my bitching, it was tremendous fun.

I did get some spectacular pictures, since you can see the whole Tatoosh range, really, as well as Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and, in the other direction, Mt. Rainier. Something to look forward to over the long "winter", as I'm stuck inside with nothing better to do than edit photos.
Tags: travel

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