22 November 2018

Turns All Year: Year 7 (Month 84)

The snow dances in cascading sparkles as we move, the crystals refracting the sunlight in every direction. Theresa and I are skinning toward a convex slope on an especially warm spring day. A third member oufour party is out in front. Just as the thought starts to creep into my mind, Theresa stops. She's standing in the exact spot I would turn uphill. She's reading my mind again.

I met Theresa in rather unusual circumstances, a good indicator of the remarkable skilationship to come. We met at 9,000ft on Wy'east (Mt. Hood) on July 28, 2013, and summited together the next day. I liked her style, and she liked my tutu. A match made in backcountry heaven.

My admiration for Theresa is well documented - I appreciate her ambition, humility, aggressive knee-bend, and overall stoke - but what continues to surprise me is our sympatico relationship in the mountains. When we're adventuring just the two of us we don't stop to talk about things, or rather we do talk but only to confirm our shared assessment of a situation. We read mountains in the same way, and share a similar tolerance for risk. I know when she's afraid, and trust that when I'm nervous she'll talk me through it. T's a better skier than I am. I am a little more confident on steep, icy terrain. We both enjoy powder days, skinning in the rain, bad 90s music, long trudges stupid distances for silly objectives, and an occasional beer for breakfast before long trudges stupid distances for silly objectives, sometimes in the rain.

Theresa is my ski mountaineering solemate.

Which is why, on this particular day ski touring in Canada, I am not at all surprised she is reading my mind again. Where she stops is so obviously the only place to do a kick turn I don't understand how anyone else could have skinned right by. But that's what makes soulmates so special, they get you in a way no one else can.

October 20, 2018 - Tahoma 7-Year Skiaversary!
Ours is a skilationship forged in the mountains. Between the day we met and now, I have skied 189 days (for you math nerds out there, that's about 38 days/year). Of those, 72 were with Theresa. Meaning I've spent 38.1% of my ski days in the last five years chasing her. I can think of no better use for my time.

As co-conspirators in Turns All Year, we often try to celebrate our anniversaries together. She's a year ahead, so this October we visited Tahoma (Mt. Rainier) to mark 7-years for me and 8-years for T. As a special treat we had Theresa's twin sister Trisha with us, who was celebrating one month of turn. The snow, as expected, was marginal to poor on the lower sections, but up by Camp Muir we experienced a little over a thousand feet of October magic: not too soft, not too sticky, and offering a glint of the late corn harvest, the snow sparkling in the late afternoon sun.

#TeamTutu going for a very long walk. 

What marginal to poor snow looks like. 

Nearing the final stretch. Snow is getting better! 

Zero for Trish, 8 years (96 months) for T, 7 years (84 months) for me!

The deep knee bend of the Sipple Sisters. Demonstrated by Trisha. 

I'm WORKING ON IT! Okay?!? Photo by Trish.

Theresa enjoying some surprisingly good turns. 

Linking patches of white. They're running dry.
Took a little drive past reflection lake on our way home.

Top photo by Theresa.

25 October 2018

Turns All Year: Months 82-83

For most people, ski season begins with bellies full of turkey, cranberries, and yams. Winter resorts open around Thanksgiving, welcoming riders in droves for the first crappy, rock-laden turns of the year. These same folk ski until mid-March or early-April - depending on your geography - then stash the skis in the back of the garage to be forgotten until the next round of stuffing and pumpkin pie.

These are not my people.

My people approach April with glee, knowing the best adventuring opportunities of 'Volcano Season' are right around the corner. May and June, and sometimes July, bring an ample harvest of spring corn in the sunshine. Slushy-turns, laying trenches, and skimming ponds are our soup du jour.

Only the hearty survive the next season. Chasing turns in August, September, and October can be most accurately described as "fine". Generally speaking these trips involve a lot of hiking with skis on your back, skinning with skis on your feet, skiing (if you call it that), and hiking some more while schlepping the now-useless sticks you carried for hours only to use for a handful of minutes. But for those of us who chase Turns All Year, these summer sufferfests can be some of the most rewarding.

If you're thinking about joining the TAY crew, be warned: you can easily make it to July, and probably even August, but September and October are where the Vibram meets the pavement and most people fall off the wagon, consoling themselves with the thought that "9-months is enough". It's not; you're a failing failure who fails. 

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

You can ski at the end of August and the beginning of September at Wy'east (Mt. Hood). On a chairlift. With a beer in your hand. All it will cost you is $60 for a lift ticket (or $49 when the snow is especially horrific).

The only place in America to offer year-round skiing, Timberline Ski Resort, operated on the Palmer Glacier, offers winter enthusiasts the opportunity to ski salt-treated glacial ice for all but two-weeks a year. For the last 5-years, lift skiing at Timberline has served as my easy-button for TAY. This year a whole crew of crazies descended from Seattle and Hood River to celebrate Cori's birthday and ski in August and September. Here are my favorite photos from the trip:

Friday, August 31, 2018 | Palmer Glacier

That's not what it's supposed to look like under the chair...

Ben slooshing through the clouds!

"Recharging" on the chairlift!

Todd rocking the corn pow!

Happy skiers!

After skiing we went to Trillium Lake. Because it's still very warm in August and we do what we want!

Steak for dinner? Don't mind if we do. Excellent dinner choice and preparation Ben!

Saturday, September 1, 2018 | NOT Skiing
On Saturday, I worked from the lodge (because I skied on Friday, and you can't play every day of the week) and hung out with the lovely Miss Erin (who really rocks a cane if you ask me) for a few hours before she went to pick up Todd and Theresa. They opted for a 20 mile trail run through a hornets nest when they could have been skiing. I know, I don't understand it either.



If you have to work, this isn't a bad place to do it!

Later that same evening, we were really rocking the pink. We decided to form a band called Fuscia Fiasco.

View of Wy'east from our campsite.

Sunday, September 2, 2018 | Palmer Glacier

Helloooo ladies!
Someone is ready to rip!

Annnnnnd....there she goes! 

One must have colorful outfits of ridiculousness for summer skiing.

About half of the gang! Thanks for coming friends!!! See you next year?

The two-fer is definitely the preferred way for me to ski in the summer. Extra beta for you: August 31 falls on a Saturday in 2019. September 1 is Sunday. Mark your calendars.

18 October 2018

Don't Cry Over Spilled Booze

Even if the glass hadn’t shattered everywhere, the snow was too dirty to make any remnants salvageable. The malted-brown goodness Andrew had carried for hours was gone forever, dissolving before our eyes into the frozen earth. We’d be spending New Year’s Eve without whiskey.

A group of us were at Keith’s Hut, near Pemberton, British Columbia, to ring in the New Year. Keith’s Hut isn’t remote, but it does require a reaonsbale amount of effort to reach. After a spicy creek crossing, you climb 1,500ft over 3 miles to the hut, with the most elevation gain coming in the final half mile. It’s just far enough to be tiring, but just close enough that it’s seems okay to pack a few extra pounds of luxury items. That is how we came to be in possession of a glass fifth of Crown Royal, strapped securely to the outside of Andrew’s backpack. 

The crown is in there. Stuffed into the black center pouch.

Yeah.... we definitely packed too much stuff....

The problem with said arrangement, if you haven’t surmised already, was the container in which the whisky resided. Besides being stupidly heavy, glass - even thick, elaborate glass like that of a Crown bottle - is delicate. When Andrew threw his pack to the ground in a moment of triumph after many hours of effort, the glass shattered. We all watched in horror as our hopes and dreams seeped into the snow, staining it brown with our grief. I’m that moment of disbelief, more than one of us shed a tear.

Even looking at this photo again makes me sad.

But our loss is your gain. I want you avoid this sad fate and learn from our experience. Follow these three simple rules to keep your booze safe and ready to enjoy on your next adventure, and remember to always drink responsibly:
  1. Never on the bottom. Or the side. Or the outside. Or - and this should be obvious - next to any of the pointy things. I’ve known more than one person who has punctured a beer in a pack and spent a cold night in a stinky, wet sleeping bag. Be sure to add padding around your beloveds, and be careful not to squish or squeeze it too tightly. And whatever you do, don’t drop 50lbs of pack right on top of it. Your alcohol is precious cargo, and should be treated as such.
  2. Glass is a no no. Most good alcohol comes in glass bottles, but it needn't stay there. Plastic bladders (including the one referenced in my Alpine Gimonade blog) are cheap and readily available. Buy one designated to your mountain beverages, and be sure to rinse and store it in the freezer when it’s not in use. You could also pack a decent boxed wine (or canned!) or a plastic bottle of booze. Stick with beer in cans for adventures, and keep those glass bottles in the cooler in the car. You’ll be thirsty when you get back too. 
  3. Check (and double check) your seals. Even the best container can leak when not sealed properly. Wine, water, beer, booze - all of it sucks to spill on your kit. For smaller containers, add a plastic baggie to be on the safe side. It’s easy enough to remember: always righty-tighty those containers so you don’t end up with lefty loosey boozy all over the place. 
Our trip did turn out alright, albeit different than we had intended. We skied from dawn until dusk on New Years Eve day, and came in at dark to eat dinner and ring in the New Year. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, someone checked their watch and it was only 6:30pm (the sun sets just after 4pm that time of year)! We struggled to make it to “Novia Scotian New Years”, and at 8pm cracked the cans of champagne I had carried to celebrate.

Emboldened by our bubbly, we put our boots back on and skinned above the trees by the light of the moon. The ski down wasn’t the best of my life, but it still stands out as one of the most memorable.

Cheers to Newfoundland!

Joffre Peak by Moonlight.

15 September 2018

My First Editor's Note

This summer kicked my ass. Between family visits and house projects and planning a secret, surprise wedding, my personal life has been all over the place. Life at the office has been similarly hectic, with an organizational restructure resulting in two openings on my team and a reshuffle of priorities we're responsible for. I may have given up busy, but in its wake I feel like I've been forced to embrace chaos. To be honest, digging my way out of the deluge has burned a bit of my mojo.

Astute readers will notice it's been awful quiet on the blogging front. I've barely published in months, and honestly I'm really disappointed to see my weekly blogging streak die. I believe writing regularly is an important exercise - one I find personally fulfilling. I started this blog to document my trips, and, if you'll indulge me for a moment, as a way to "practice my craft". Now that I've fallen "behind" I find myself overwhelmed at the idea of "catching up". I have so many stories I want to share but am paralyzed by the sheer volume of stuff in my brain. Plus, I really want to upgrade to a new website, which has further prevented me from moving forward and investing in this platform. I have 14 blog drafts started and just. cannot. finish.

But mountains are climbed one (sometimes painful) step at a time, and I shall get back into the swing of writing the same way. Thus: this blog.

The truth is I've been doing a lot of writing, just not here. One of the projects I'm most proud of from this summer of insanity is our fall edition of Mountaineer magazine. It may be a small publication with a distribution of 10,000, but this edition the magazine fell to me and I'm relieved we got it out on time and relatively error free.

The process was full of learning - I've never produced a magazine before! Figuring out deadlines and working with contributors and making last minute red-lines was a surreal experience, and in a way a dream come true. Who doesn't want to be Editor-In-Chief for a magazine?! Of course it takes a village, and I couldn't have done this without an incredible team of colleagues and contributors, to whom I am forever indebted. I'm so happy to have had this opportunity, and am also relieved to hand it off for the next edition. This may very well be my first AND last Editor's Note, and career milestones should be celebrated because.

I had no idea where to start or what to write. After researched, I opted to go with a personal story which you probably know. It felt scary and vulnerable to put this out into the universe, and it's been exciting to run into folks who hadn't heard and hear their feedback. I'd love to know what you think! You can view the full edition here, and without further ado, here is the full Editor's Note:

Editor's Note

Community is a funny thing. You can go looking for it, or it can find you when you least expect it.
Each August we host a Mountaineers staff retreat. We bring together the hardworking folks from our publishing and programs divisions to tackle one big mission-centric topic, then spend the afternoon getting to know one another over watercolor circles and canoe races. This intentional day of relationship building has turned into one of the highlights of my year.

This day is so important to me, I recently realized, because my colleagues have become my community. Like so many people at The Mountaineers, I joined to learn specific skills and was drawn into the people who make this organization so great. In my case that meant joining staff and learning to hone my communications chops in a professional marketing role. What I didn’t expect – what I still thank my lucky stars for every day – was that my days would be filled with hardworking, dedicated, passionate, risk-taking, adventurous colleagues, both in my fellow staff and in the coalition of volunteers we support.

But my connection to The Mountaineers goes deeper still. One year after joining the team, our Education Director Becca Polglase introduced me to a friend of hers who she met through, of course, The Mountaineers! She thought we might make a good match because of our shared love for enjoying the outdoors.

We met over Fourth of July weekend in 2014. Our first year took us sailing, skiing, backpacking, and kayaking. We said I love you for the first time on the summit of Mt. Adams, and, after an unsuccessful third attempt on Mt. Baker, he proposed. This summer, we surprised everyone at our housewarming party when I came out in a wedding dress. Becca officiated the surprise wedding, attended by skiers, hikers, climbers, and Mountaineers. It was our outdoor community that brought us together, supported us, and helped us celebrate. I can’t imagine it any other way.

When I say I love The Mountaineers, I mean it quite literally. That’s why I am so excited – stoked if you will – to be here working to further our mission to connect people to the life-changing connections made through outdoor experiences. I get a front row seat to the magic of our community.
In this edition we explore the idea of stoke, and how a flame - literal or figurative - keeps burning deep inside. Sometimes that flame stokes you to climb mountains, like in our piece on K2 by accomplished climber Jim Wickwire, and sometimes it inspires greater action, like for Charlie and Carol Michel, who recently made a significant donation to The Mountaineers to help us install solar power at the Seattle Program Center. Other times stoke can mean taking time to heal yourself with a trip into the mountains, as Tyrhee Moore explores in his feature, or in can mean grounding yourself on a daily basis in your own backyard, as recommended by our resident performance expert Courtenay Schurman.

To move forward in our lives we must stoke the flame and keep it burning. Every one of us does this every single day, whether we realize it or not. And we are each supported by a united Mountaineers community bonded by love for the outdoors, sharing a stoke to explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

11 August 2018

An Epic Climb of Mount Rainier via the Willis Wall

Nearly 400 people have been members of The Mountaineers for 50-years or more. Together, they share 20,000 years worth of outdoor memories: exploring, learning, and conserving in our wild places. I have the privilege of learning about their stories on a weekly basis.

One such epic arrived to us via Eddy Boulton, a second generation Mountaineer and daring explorer of PNW mountains. In 1971, he and Jim Wickwire (the first American, along with Lou Reichardt, to summit K2) shared a harrowing ordeal on Mt. Rainier. They barely lived to tell the tale.

Eddy and Jim shared their accounts of the climb with us for a feature in Mountaineer magazine. While the bulk of the credit for this piece goes to Eddy, I had the pleasure of weaving their details together and took great care in editing this piece. I am so in awe of their accomplishment. The resolve and will to endeavor leaves a lasting reminder to us all about the power of the human spirit.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories, click here. It's also published as a blog on The Mountaineers website
The wind is howling; it’s pitch dark, and heavy snow is blowing sideways. I stagger, trying to stay on my feet while Jim shouts at me from the bivouac to get in. Struggling in the gale, I lift one leg, try to step into the sack, and am blown flat on my side. I get up and try again. “If you don’t get into the sack, you’re going to die,” I think.
Jim and I lay still as the snow rapidly piles onto our bodies, turning into a suffocating weight. I’m exhausted from the exertion, and we’re both shivering violently, slipping into the first stages of hypothermia. If our temperatures continue to drop (below 93 degrees Fahrenheit), we will face complete mental and physical breakdown, and ultimately death. Gasping for breath, I feel as if I’m being chased by devils who won’t let me rest.
Our bodies will probably be found later I think, in August perhaps, as the snow melts away. No one knows where we are on this huge 14,410-foot mountain. Strangely, I feel little fear or regret.


It was May 15, 1971. Jim invited me to climb with him back in January, and what I didn’t know at the time was that Jim had considered other climbers, who were not available, before calling me. At 44, with little history of difficult climbing, I was a second-rate partner. But Jim and I had become friends through The Mountaineers and he trusted me. I was flattered by his invitation and said yes to the chance to do something remarkable.
I should mention my friend Jim is none other than Jim Wickwire, well-known mountaineer and author. He made the first ascent of the Willis Wall by its East Rib in 1963, and he and Alex Bertulis made the first ascent of what Alex called “the Brummel Buttress” a few years later — both challenging routes on Mt. Rainier. Later, Jim was a member of the first American team to climb K2, known as the most dangerous mountain in the world. It is a mountain that has claimed many lives and only a few hundred have reached the top. Jim came close to death when he was benighted, alone, near the summit with only a bivouac sack.
For our climb, Jim wanted the classic route: the Willis Wall. It runs straight up the north side via the Central Rib and is considered one of the most dangerous routes on the mountain. While the Willis Wall is not technically difficult by today’s climbing standards, it poses significant risk. A great overhanging ice cliff about 300 feet high, originating from the summit ice cap, looms ominously above the 4,000 -foot wall. The wall is so steep that the falling ice, breaking from the cliff above, falls straight down to form the head of the Carbon Glacier nearly a mile below. The danger is unavoidable. Chunks of ice bigger than Volkswagens break off frequently without warning night or day, all year round.
During summer and dry periods in winter, the Wall is too steep for the snow to accumulate, and the black face can easily be seen from Seattle 60 miles away. Liberty Ridge, to the right of the Wall, is the route of ambitious climbers due to its relatively safe position along a prominent ridge. It was first climbed in 1935 by Ome Daiber, Arnie Campbell, and Jack Borrow and was known as “Suicide Ridge.” No one at the time even thought about climbing the Willis Wall. I heard of Willis Wall in 1938 when I was 11 years old from my brother Bill, who attended The Mountaineers climbing course with Fred Beckey. Fred, may he rest in peace, was a cautious climber with over 1,000 first ascents and never considered climbing such an objectively dangerous route.
Twice that spring I made summit climbs of Mt. Rainier to get into better physical shape. Jim, being confident of his strength, ability, and experience, did little to prepare, as he was busy with his work on the Alaska Native Land Claims Act.


Leaving Seattle at 4:30am on our fateful morning in May, we head toward Ipsut Creek Campground at the foot of the Carbon Glacier. We stop by Charlie Crenchaw’s house to pick up stove cartridges and advise him of our plan. Charlie is active in Seattle Mountain Rescue and was the first African American to summit Denali. Later that weekend, he will help coordinate our rescue attempt.
Halfway across the 520 Bridge we realize Jim doesn’t have his double boots. A quick U-turn in the middle of the bridge takes us back home; then once again, we’re on our way.
The weather prediction is ideal. Driving toward Enumclaw at dawn, I snap photos of the north face in all its glory under blue skies. We’re excited to begin hiking up the moraine toward the snout of the Carbon Glacier in windless conditions. We carry snowshoes, but never need them. In the afternoon we move to the moraine and build camp in the sunshine.
The next morning we wake early and walk the rest of the way up the Glacier over the frozen snow with no difficulty. We make camp at the northeast side of Curtis Ridge, which separates the Carbon and the Winthrop Glaciers, and rest for the afternoon. Our first two days on the mountain have been glorious.


We leave our snow camp before midnight, heading for the smaller of two avalanche cones at the foot of the wall. Cones form when falling ice and snow accumulate at the bottom of the gullies of the central rib. We have to climb one of the cones and get over a bergschrund to continue up the Willis Wall. With no way across the gaping ‘schrund, we traverse to the larger cone a hundred feet away. Hoping it will ‘go,’ we climb the cone and jump the gap, clinging to the vertical ice wall on the other side. On the morning of our third day, we are finally on the Willis Wall.
I hear a whistle in the dark, high overhead. When pieces of rock or ice fall from great heights, they ricochet, spin, and emit fearful shrieks, whistles, or buzzing sounds as they fly. Jim thinks they sound like a 105mm howitzer shell. You wonder if the next one might find you. I try not to worry. You won’t hear it before it hits you, so the ones that whistle are passing safely.
Jim leads the steep snow gully through the dangerous icefall. We move fast. About 300 feet up, I spot a ledge covered with snow to our left and call out, “Jim, I think this is our escape ledge!” I studied the route carefully the day before. He agrees to get out of the gully and onto the rib despite our quick upward progress. We attain the highest part of the rib and hear a faint noise. We look up to see a puff of smoke in the starlight. Within seconds, an ice avalanche is roaring down the gully where we had been climbing only moments ago. Chunks of ice ricochet hundreds of feet high and whistle over our heads as we flatten ourselves on the snow. Even ribs don’t offer good protection from ice avalanches.
Then, just like that, the shower is over.
We climb on at a steady pace, taking notice of the stars disappearing as clouds form overhead. We don’t know it, but an ominous front is rapidly approaching.
We focus on our task at hand. The snow is icy and hard. The 1971 spring thaw had come early, melting and refreezing the upper mountain and making it impossible for us now to jam the shafts of our ice axes in to make belay anchors. We chop small holes instead, placing our ax picks in them as anchors to form a belay. As Jim climbs, I pull up the rope and pass it over the ax; then, as he passes me and continues up, I pay out the rope as he climbs. We have no additional anchors. The rope is 150 feet long, so if Jim falls near the top of his lead, he will tumble about 300 feet before the rope stretches taught. It’s doubtful that our ice axes will stop a fall like that, so our efforts amount to little more than a psychological belay.
As we leapfrog up the wall, the clouds roll in and it begins to snow. We reach a vertical rock cliff sheathed in verglas ice. I wait while Jim reconnoiters around to the left, making best of a very poor belay stance. After a long wait, I get a cramp and straighten up, letting go of the ax and rope for only a second. At that very moment, Jim slips on the ice and falls. With a desperate one-handed lunge he spears the ice with his Penberthy Thunderbird ice ax. The extreme-angled pick catches… and holds. Our old traditional Austrian axes would NEVER make a stop like that. The Thunderbird, a prototype given to us for testing by Larry Penberthy, an old friend and climber, saves us both.
We’re both unnerved by the near disaster, but persevere because we have no other choice. We can’t go down from here. Jim leads more vertical verglas rock 30 or 40 feet and calls me up to a ledge. Jim was here eight years prior with Ellensburg climber Dave Mahre, and they named this ledge the “Traverse of the Angels.” It leads to a small tunnel in the volcanic rock leading to a gap between the upper and lower ice cliffs. It’s the only way through to the summit. And it’s completely blocked with ice.
A coal miner in my youth, I am undeterred. I swing my ax furiously, throwing great chunks of snow and ice over the cliff and down the mountain. I drop my pack and crawl into the newly exposed tunnel. Easier ground lays on the other side. With two packs to carry, Jim has a much harder time negotiating the tunnel. I hold him fast on belay as he crawls through the tunnel, pushing my pack and pulling his own.

Finally, we’re safe and done with the difficult and dangerous climbing. And we’re exhausted. About 50 feet below, I spot a small hole in the snow. Guessing it might lead to a moat, we descend and dig, finding a fine place to bivouac. During the night, ice thunders over our heads. We get very little sleep, but at least we’re safe in our little hole.


On the morning of day four we emerge to find low wind and quickly accumulating snow. Jim leads a steep and tenuous section for about 300 feet. When the slope eases I get in front, where I face an uphill struggle to kick steps, alternatively sinking up to my knees, waist, and armpits. It’s the definition of wallowing, and we are not moving fast enough. Jim takes over with his longer legs and fights for five and a half hours until we reach the crest of Liberty Ridge.
It takes us nine hours to climb 1,000 feet. Jim is utterly exhausted from his efforts. We spend two hours taking turns building a snow cave, alternatively working to delicately balance overheating and shivering. We crawl in and the roof collapses. With strong winds and heavy snow, we start another cave in the dwindling light.
The second cave is very small, much smaller than the first. I sit next to the opening and focus on keeping it clear as the blowing snow fights to pack our entrance shut. Claustrophobia slowly possesses me. I nearly died in an avalanche burial six years prior on Mt. Robson in the Canadian Rockies. Suddenly I have to get out! With no thought, I begin thrashing and burrowing through the packed snow toward the entrance. Jim tries to stop me but I am obsessed with escape. When I emerge I am blown off my feet by the high winds, which are gusting at 70-80mph. Jim is nearly buried in my animalistic escape but manages to crawl out behind me with the bivouac sack. That’s when he shouts at me to get back in.
The bivy sack offers little protection. We shiver violently. Time is standing still. As hypothermia takes over, our shivering slows and eventually stops. I have no recollection of how we came to be sitting in the snow with the remnants of the bivy sack wrapped around our shoulders.


Mercifully, dawn comes. The sun pokes out at us through the dying storm on the morning of day five to reveal a ground blizzard blowing across the summit saddle. I’m fascinated watching the whole surface moving like a thick, white river.
We sit motionless. Jim is having auditory and visual hallucinations, and I begin imagining helicopter noises. Realizing we need to move or die, I dig a frozen orange out of my parka pocket and break it into sections. I push orange into Jim’s mouth, and then into mine, until it is gone. I find stale peanuts in a pocket and feed them to Jim one at a time. Still famished, I eat the orange peels too.
I retrieve our crampons and put them on Jim’s boots, then my own. I try to pull the climbing rope out of the snow, but it has frozen solid. I simply don’t have the strength to pull it loose or dig it out, so I untie it from my waist and drop it. Jim tries to rescue my pack from the bivy hole, but it too is frozen into the mountain. I pick up Jim’s pack, stuff the bivy sack into it, sling it over my shoulder, and help Jim up. “Come on, let’s go.”
Punching steps in the snow, I slowly guide us toward the Emmons Glacier. I make it only a few steps when I hear Jim cry out. He’s collapsed. He gives me a desperate look as I help him up and put his arm over my shoulder. We wind our way across the top of the Winthrop Glacier icefall in the direction of the Emmons Glacier: the easiest way down the mountain.
The ground blizzard is still blowing snow down the mountain, and having no climbing rope, I worry about the snow-concealed crevasses. I observe that chunks of frozen snow are blowing down the mountain, visible unless they drop into a crevasse, so I carefully proceed down following the chunks.
It takes us six hours to get to Schurman Hut.
We find its outwards opening door buried in snow and frozen shut. The only window has a broken pane, so by working through the hole I manage to get the window open and crawl in. The bunk next to the window is covered with a large mound of snow that had blown through the broken pane. I jam the door open by shoving from the inside. It’s done. We’re safe.


Schurman Hut, named after an early Mt. Rainier guide and Boy Scout leader, was built by dozens of volunteers, including Ome Daiber who helped create Mountain Rescue, in the early 1960’s. It’s built of steel tunnel liner covered with cemented rocks and serves as a climbers’ refuge for emergencies. During the climbing season, it’s used by climbing rangers. In it, I find a two-burner Coleman stove, five gallons of stove fuel, a candle, a half-book of paper matches, a can of Spam, some dry milk, and coffee. We also find a radio with batteries too cold and weak to transmit, but we can hear the rangers ticketing cars without chains.
The storm, which had died considerably during our descent, comes back in full fury. Jim is very tired and doesn’t get up much for two days. I busy myself making toasted Spam and coffee and searching for more supplies. At the rear of the hut I find a steel locker with a brass National Park Service padlock made by the Best Lock Company. I beat on the lock with my ice hammer until it gives. Inside I find treasure: big, 5-gallon tin cans of emergency food! I keep what remains of the lock.
Using the big mound of snow by the window as a water source, I cook for two days, mostly soup and dried potatoes, and the hut warms to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, we snuggle together on a bunk under an old, rotten tent.
On the second day in the hut, we decide to make a run for it. We make it as far as the door where the wind literally blows us over, gusting at 90-100mph. Back inside we go.
At 4:30pm on the third day in the hut, we hear the wind die down at long last. We grab what little gear we have and start for Glacier Basin. By midnight we reach White River Campground, completely exhausted. Unable to wake the ranger, we sleep on the dry Ranger Station floor for a few fitful hours. 
Too cold to sleep any longer, we resume our march toward home. All night I punch steps in the snow. By dawn we arrive at the Park’s White River entrance, some 20 miles from Schurman Hut. We flag down a snowplow on Highway 410, and the driver takes us half a mile down the road to a working phone.
Jim calls the Mount Rainier Park Superintendent, who’s relieved to learn of our return. An Army helicopter had been waiting for days for a break in weather to come searching for us, and was just about to depart. We are taken to Jim’s car at Ipsut Creek where we we’re greeted by six of Jim’s friends who marched all the way up the Carbon Glacier to look for us. It’s our eighth day on Rainier, and we are finally safe.


All this happened 47 years ago, but the memory is as vivid as if it were yesterday. I’ve been lucky to survive 7 or 8 near-death experiences, but none as profound. If not for the Penberthy ice axes, or the break in the weather at the summit, our bodies would have been found later — just as Bill Loki discovered my pack in August 1971. I found Jim’s climbing rope, too, in July when I led a Mountaineers climb of Ptarmigan Ridge.
Jim and I never climbed together again. He went on to do important Himalayan climbs, and in 1972 I married Hille Harms, a climber, skier, kayaker, and artist, and I never did risky climbs again. But I cherish my memories and remember my old friends, including Jim and Mary Lou Wickwire, and will always hold a special place in my heart for the Willis Wall.