Wow! This summer flew by. There were so many plans. Camping, climbing, visiting friends. Everything happened so fast and of course in the flurry of living life, somethings went to the way side. Unfortunately this blog was one of them. But now that things have settled down a bit I’m hoping to make writing a more regular activity.
In the midst of all the adventures and memories, one of the best moments of my life happened!
Mountaineering has quickly become a passion. A driving force in my life. But discovering this passion would not have been possible without my fiance, Scott. Climbing is our favorite sport and when we are able to go together, it’s all the better. But on this particular weekend, romantic feelings were the furthest from my mind.
Washington skies had been flooded with smoke from the recent wildfires, so taking advantage of a break in the conditions we decided to climb Mt. Baker. Along with six of our friends, Scott and I set out on a bluebird day. Spirits were high, and conversation light in contrast to the 35 pound packs we carried on our backs. Trekking five miles and five thousand feet up, we made camp at the base of the glacier. Unlacing my boots and dropping my bag, I breathed a sigh of relief and sat down for the first time in hours.
Gathering together, our team of eight sat along the rocks rimming the snow covered glacier and enjoyed a hot meal. There is nothing quite like eating a steaming bowl of re-hydrated stew while staring out at mountain views for miles, to get you in the mood for early rising and cold ascents. While we ate we looked out at the jagged, snow capped alpine terrain and discussed our dreams of future summits. Knowing the alarm would come in just a few hours everyone prepared their gear for the climb and right at dusk we each crawled in to our sleeping bags and fell asleep to clear, starry skies.
As the alarm sounded at one am I stretched my tired body and climbed out into the cold night. While I quickly added another jacket layer my sweet partner handed me a cup of hot cocoa. Finishing as quickly as I could, I grabbed my pack and joined my team on the snow. Making sure our headlamps were on and crampons securely fastened, we set out for our summit bid.
The morning wore on and higher we climbed. The smell of sulfur grew so thick I could taste it. The sensation of standing in a vat of rotten eggs made us all a little queasy. Along with the thickening smell, we could tell the smoke was starting to seep back into the mountain air. There would be no views from this summit. These combined were not making for the most comfortable of conditions. Slowly we climbed. Crossing crevasse after crevasse, hoping the snow bridges would hold. Helping one another as we managed the rope tied between us.
Continuing the journey up the snow and ice covered glacier, we passed steaming volcanic vents. The smell of sulfur continued to chase my team as we were reminded that the mountain was alive. The hardest part of the climb was right in front of us. The “Roman Wall”. Firmly gripping the head of our axes we climbed 1,000 feet up over rock and ice. Carefully planting our boots with each step so that the crampon spikes gripped the glacial earth.
As we made our our final push over the “Roman Wall” I drove my ice axe into the frozen ground and pulled myself up the last few feet. Finally standing on top of the wall I could see we had just one more football field length of glacier to cross. The summit was in my sights. Collecting myself, I exhaled and picked up the pace.
Finally arriving at the base of the summit, the eight of us set our packs on the snow. Scott headed up and waited for me to gather myself. This was not a typical climb. The conditions were less than ideal. More than once I had to convince myself to keep going. As I gently walked up the last few feet he asked with a smile if I was ok. Trying to breath had become an effort. I walked toward him for a hug and a little support. Never did I think, that as he held me he would say these words, “Will you be my forever summit girl?”.