Reflecting on my Mount Rainier charity climb for Big City Mountaineers
Though it’s been almost three years since I found myself in the summit crater on Mount Rainier, it’s still amazing to reflect on how I ended up there. The "why I climb" question is a hard one for any climber to answer, I think, but for this particular climb, I was inspired by the idea that I could take on an incredible personal challenge for a greater purpose than just conquering my own fears. It was a chance to really make a difference.
I started filling out the application for the Big City Mountaineers (BCM) charity climb in January 2010 after hearing about an all-women's climb of Mount Rainier from a good friend, but I almost didn't finish applying. Not only am I afraid of heights, but I had never picked up an ice axe in my life, and had never been above 6,000 feet. Thanks to encouragement from the three friends I did the climb with and the folks at the BCM office, I completed the application and got to work both on training and raising the requisite $4,000 for participation.
Rainier was my biggest climb to date at that point, and still is. After signing up for the climb, I started a six-month training program and worked diligently to be sure I was in good enough shape. I took a trip to Colorado to get myself above 14,000 feet to see how my body would respond to altitude, and it wasn't pretty. But through mind numbing training hikes, thigh burning Stairmaster sessions and long, rained out backpacking trips, I kept reminding myself I was training for something bigger than myself. It's amazing the kind of motivation you can find.
While on the Rainier climb, I remember taking a break with the team around 12,000 feet. We had three rope teams with three guides, and my rope team leader told us if we wanted to turn around, this was our last real opportunity to do so. With the climber-to-guide ratio, if we wanted to turn around after that, an entire rope team would have to turn around in order for one of the guides to take the climber down safely. It was a sort of do-or-die moment, and I remember feeling alright physically, but the reality of the fact that we really were almost there, and this was it...that was an incredible moment.
When I sat down in the crater on Rainier for a break before heading down from the summit, I was elated and exhausted. When we made it back to Camp Muir to rest an hour before descending to the Paradise Visitors Center, I collapsed in the tent and cried. I cried out of joy, out of relief, and out of the emotional exhaustion that comes with such a long road toward a single objective.
Though it might sound a bit cliché, the trip really was life changing. By the time it was over, I’d climbed Mount Rainier with nine amazing women and raised over $5,000 for the BCM kids. Knowing the money I'd raised would help give disadvantaged youth the opportunity to learn incredible things about themselves through outdoor experiences was a huge part of what kept me going.
Despite the fear I had, I wanted to prove I could do it. I wanted to prove I could put myself through the suffering that is mountaineering, spend two full days absolutely terrified on a glaciated pile of rock, and that despite all, I could succeed.
A big part of the BCM trips the teens participate in is self-discovery; they learn about who they are and how strong they can be. My BCM charity climbing journey was as much about helping others as it was about finding my own strength. I wanted to take the girl in the mirror, guilty of so much self-doubt and self-defeating talk, and quiet her for good. The result? She and I haven’t talked much since!
Huge thank you to Climb for Change for allowing me an opportunity to revisit the climb and the events leading up to it here! Read more about the climb in my trip reports: Part I and Part II, and for all things related to playing outside, visit Adventure-Inspired.com