Climbing Mt. Rainier with IMG
By Brian Baughman
Wednesday the 5th
I showed up at IMG HQ with a mixture of emotions. Is my gear OK? Did I train enough? Are the other people going to be fun to be with for this experience? Will the guides be good? Will the weather hold out? Etc, etc, etc. We showed up quite early and got to spend some time with one of the guides, Greg. (who turned out to be an amazing person) Eben came out, and started putting my mind to ease. As we went through the gear check the calm professionalism of IMG and Eben in particular gave the inkling that this was going to be a great experience. Having all the gear in order, and some initial training now complete, just needed to have some dinner. (And get as much sleep as my busy mind would allow, given the circumstances.)
Thursday the 6th
We met at IMG HQ again, bag packed, and ready to go. Loaded in the van, and the 7 climbers and 4 guides started up the mountain. We were about half way through the snow field to Muir when it really dawned on me how lucky we got with this trip. The weather was amazing, and we got incredibly lucky with the guides that were on this excursion, they were like an all-star cast. As if that wasn't enough, then Eric Simonson emerged from behind us and said that he was going to join us for the summit. The trip just kept getting better! The trip up to Muir was great - my wife and I had done it 2 weeks prior with full packs, so I knew what to expect. Seeing the mountain on your left on the approach is a constant reminder of the task ahead.
Friday the 7th
We started the day finding out that one of our group was unable to continue, and was going to stay at camp Muir. The rest of us worked on some training for the first half of the day, then headed to Ingraham Flats. Going through the loose rock with full gear heading to Ingraham was a lot harder than what I had imagined. I was pretty well burned after that, and doubt began to creep in. After some dinner, trying to fall asleep at 5pm, uncertainty continued to roll around in my mind. If just getting to the Flats were that hard on me, how would I ever make it to the summit. Sleep deprivation, mixed with physical exhaustion kept me pretty emotional that evening. All that being said, opening your tent and seeing the amazing view of Little Tahoma right in front of you, is a stunning reminder of how beautiful the world can be.
Saturday the 8th
After getting 1-2 hours of sleep, the wake-up call came. I had been up for at least an hour, unable to sleep, steeling my resolve. I had trained for this. I was ready to test my will against the mountain. All doubt had faded. Quick breakfast, and get geared up. Rope teams assigned, and I'm on with my wife and one of our guides, Mike. It was probably about 11:30pm when we headed out. Just after the first break, we lost 2 more of our group, and they headed back with one of the guides. We were down to 4 climbers, 3 guides + Eric. We wound our way up the mountain all morning. Greg Vernovage was right behind me most of the way. His coaching and guidance helped keep my mind at ease, and my rhythm steady. I could do this. My mind did not have much time to feel the pain in my legs. I had too much to think about. Keeping the rope slack perfect, not snagging my crampons on my gaiters, keeping balance, etc. About 15 minutes before sunrise, the pace quickened. We were on a mission to get to the top just before the sun broke. I then started hearing shouts go up, and as I looked up, we were right at the crater rim. Mission accomplished. Months of training, were finally paid off. It felt amazing. The journey back down was long and arduous, but my body was filled with pride, and adrenaline from the summit.
This journey has left an indelible mark on my life. It has altered the path my life was taking. I can't wait for more. There will be many climbs in my immediate future, Mt. Baker, and Machu Picchu are at the top of the list. I feel very lucky in all aspects. I very much hope to do climbs with the fantastic guides at IMG that helped me up Rainier at some point in the near future.
Brian Baughman, IMG Climber