Mt. Rainier's Southwest Face
by Miles Clark
Alas, at some point winter must come to a close…..well, not this year, but my money has certainly come to a close. Thus, it is once again time for that four letter word: work. Work can be ugly, but some of us here in Tahoe have figured out ways to contort that four letter word into something we truly enjoy.
Mt. Hunter from McKinley basecamp
5 years ago, when I got sick of doing carpentry all summer, I got into mountain guiding. I now love guiding and it has taken me to some gorgeous places like Alaska, Mexico, and Patagonia. And I'm hopeing to guide in some even more exotic places soon.
This summer I am working on Mt. Rainier (14,411 ft) in Washington state. I work for Rainier Mountaineering Inc. I’ve worked for them for a few seasons now and they treat me alright. Mt. Rainier is a big, brutish, glaciated peak that is a great training ground for higher glaciated peaks like Mt. McKinley (20,320 ft) and those of the Himalaya. For some reason, people come from all over the US of A to climb this pile of rock and ice and see if they have what it takes to charge up and down her and I have a blast showing them the way.
A Typical Guided Summit Climb on Mt. Rainier
From the parking lot, all that is between you and the summit is 9,000 vertical feet of rock and ice. Luckily, you only have about 30 hours to touch the top and get back down again. Clients who sign up with us participate in a day long school where we teach them the necessary skills to climb Mt. Rainier. Then the next two days are spent climbing up to the top and sloggging back down to the lot.
Summmit of El Pico de Orizaba (18,701 ft) in Mexico
On the first day of the climb we hike from the parking lot at Paradise (5,400 ft) to Camp Muir (10,100 ft). That takes from about 10am to about 4pm or so. We then bed down by 6pm and are up again anywhere from 11:30pm to 1am, depending on the time of year. Once up it’s ice axe, crampons, harnesses, helmets and ropes as we start climbing towards the summit. 3 breaks on the way up and Bam! you’re on top. An hour or less is spent on the top and we are zippin’ back downhill in the daylight. 45 minutes to pack up again at Camp Muir and we start schleppin’ down toward the parking lot. We’ll usually hit the parking lot somewhere around 3 or 4pm making round trip from lot to lot about 30 hours.
People are generally pretty spent when they get down but absolutely stoked to have done it. A b.o. heavy pizza and beer session usually follows with speeches and toasts galore. If all goes well, people get what they came for and learn a few fun mountaineering techniques along the way. Ahhhh mountain guiding, a strange world unto itself.
A few fun mountain guide jokes:
Q: How do you know if someone is a mountain guide?
A: He'll tell ya.
Q: What is the difference between a mountain guide and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.
Q: What is the diffence between a mountain guide and God?
A: God doesn't think he's a mountain guide.
Lemme know if you have any others.