May 27-30, 1995
The adventure began in the parking area at Paradise as Jan, Mike, Buzz, Ed and I (Rich) rendezvoused with John. After a last-minute check of ropes, wands, pickets and flukes, we began the slow, methodical ascent toward high camp. I was gratified with our pre-dawn departure as the early morning sun was expected to turn the glacier into a midday flying pan. The route was well plodded. Like a cow path leading to green pasture, this path led skyward to 10,000-ft. Camp Muir. Paradoxically, 16 people expressed interest in this climb. The final part consisted of six eager and highly motivated individuals. The Park Service had forewarned that hundreds of climbers were at Muir. When we arrived there were only a few dozen. Had the Park Service been disingenuous or had hundreds fallen in crevasses? We had no trouble establishing a base camp. Arriving at 12:39 gave us plenty of time for chat, rest and viewing thunderstorms far away to the west and east. Various climbing parties arrived and departed later that afternoon but at no time was Muir ever crowded.
A little after midnight on Sunday, our two teams left for the summit. With bobbing, narrow light beams cast by our headlamps, we crossed Cathedral Rocks and reached Ingraham Glacier. There we were confronted with various routes that seemingly led nowhere. Climbers were observed moving up Ingraham direct then backtracking. Another fast moving group passed us headed toward Disappointment Cleaver only to be turned back. RMI’s mule team of 20-plus climbers were seen below. We followed them south of the Cleaver. Our route was to be via East Emmons Glacier. This would require another 1-2 hours of time, something we would need to remember throughout the day. Hour after hour we continued the steady pace, moving higher and higher. At 13,000 feet we took a short break, recalling that Bud Proctor had dropped his pen into the exact same crevasse. It now looked even deeper. With John Pegg’s team close behind, we continued for the summit. Powered by “Pocket Rocket” high energy biker fuel, Jan, Mike and I arrived at the summit at 08:30. The weather was perfect! A slight wind, clear skies and what felt like T-shirt-like temperatures. The actual temperature was 21 degrees while at Camp Muir it was a balmy 35°. Wasting no time, we crossed the upper crater, took photos at the precise top, signed the register and returned to the crater rim in less than an hour. John, Buzz and Ed had now arrived. As we stood shaking hands, we enjoyed that rare opportunity of success of reaching a very highly glaciated summit.
A group decision was made for my team to descend alone. With Jan in the lead, picking and probing for hidden crevasses under the mushy, crampon-balling snow, our descent was amazingly slow. We took no rest breaks knowing that our route was back through a crevasse field with snow bridges now weakened under the-mid-afternoon sun. Where five crevasses were in the morning, there were now six, and many had widened 6-12 inches. We belayed and jumped our way across with no mishaps. We passed under the Cleaver where the 1981 RMI accident occurred and rejoined Ingraham Glacier for last-minute water and food. Now refreshed, in another hour we were back at Camp Muir. John Pegg’s team arrived only 15 minutes later. It was now about 4:00 pm and we had been climbing for almost 16 hours. The climb had gone well … amazingly well! Months of planning, pretrip meetings and crevasse rescue review had indeed paid off. It was now time to savor the last few hours of the day.
We stayed the night at Muir watching the shadow of Mt. Rainier move across the snowscape. Early Monday morning, the group left for Paradise. By noon that day, clouds had begun to surround the upper slopes. We had met the challenge of Rainier, and it felt good.
— Rich Anselmo
Mt. Rainier is a tough climb any way you look at it. The indigenous people called Mt. Rainier simply Tahoma, or “the mountain”. It needed no other name, and in the Northwest it is still the standard against which all the other glaciated peaks are measured. Six Obsidians met that challenge over Memorial Day weekend. After an early start from Paradise Lodge, we arrived at Camp Muir at about 12:30 pm. This is over 5,000 feet of climbing with packs weighted with ropes, wands, snow anchors and climbing gear. Think of it this way — that’s five times up Mt. Pisgah! Above us as we made camp was the summit, still another 4,500 feet and some hard climbing away, but the weather was perfect and we tried to get some rest for another early start the next morning.
Shortly after midnight we formed two rope teams. Rich and Jan Anselmo and Mike Landes were the lead team; John Pegg, Buzz Blumm and Ed Lovegren followed on the second rope. Even with our early start there were others ahead of us, which turned out to be fortunate. The route crosses a ridge of spired rock called Cathedral Rocks and traverses to a place called Ingraham Flats. From there we had planned to use the regular route over Disappointment Cleaver. But a group ahead of us was turned back. The Rainier Mountain Guide group behind us took a lower route around the cleaver because of the unstable conditions on the higher route. After a short conference, we decided to use the lower route, even though it added distance and time. This was a wise decision in retrospect. There was a slide on Disappointment Cleaver that very morning. Following the tracks of the RMI group, we slowly negotiated some large crevasses and made our way up the east side of Emmons Glacier. At about 13,000 feet the altitude really starts to be felt. Rich’s rope team started to gain distance on us, but we were determined and steady in our progress. The full morning sun now blazed off the snow and crevasses cast ominous shadows in beautiful hues of green and blue ice. Although we were slow, persistence paid off. Suddenly we were at the crater rim, shaking hands all round with the first rope team.
Although the trip back is every bit as much of an adventure as the ascent, we knew we had done it. Standing on the true summit on the other side of the picture-perfect crater, we could see Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak to the north, Mt. Adams and St. Helens to the south. All the planning, the crevasse rescue practice, all the training and the effort were rewarded by one of the finest days I can remember on any summit, and a moment in time I will never forget.
— John Pegg