Mount Rainier from the northwest by Stan Shebs, via Creative Commons license.

My friend Karl and I grew up in and are still active in Scout­ing. Scouting’s prin­ci­ples, the patrol method and the virtues of “doing hard things”, have made a dif­fer­ence in every aspect of our lives. The train­ing we received in the out­doors has opened amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for us to explore this beau­ti­ful Earth that Our Heav­en­ly Father has pro­vid­ed us. There have been many times when we have found our­selves in chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions, but the prin­ci­ples and skills learned in Scout­ing have made all the dif­fer­ence.

In August of 2008, while climb­ing Washington’s Mount Rainier, we met a group of three climbers from Ger­many. Since they nev­er vis­it­ed the moun­tain before, they asked us for direc­tions about the route we were climb­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, they won­dered how to access the Emmons Glac­i­er from where we were stand­ing.

Mt.-Rainier-CampMy friend, Karl climbed this same route twice pre­vi­ous­ly, so he explained how to down climb to the glac­i­er to reach Camp Sher­man, one of the estab­lished base camps on Mount Rainier. About 45 min­utes lat­er, this group came back up to where we were and pro­claimed that it was impos­si­ble to access the glac­i­er from above as there was no way onto the glac­i­er and the glac­i­er itself was far too bro­ken up. They then pro­ceed­ed to go on up a rocky exposed ridge with hopes of access­ing Camp Sher­man via the less desir­able Steam­boat Prow route.

Karl insist­ed there had to be a way down onto the Emmons Glac­i­er, and we main­tained our planned route on the glac­i­er. After explor­ing a few options, Karl dis­cov­ered a steep mud chute that led down to the edge of the Emmons Glac­i­er. Except for get­ting our­selves pret­ty much cov­ered in mud, we all safe­ly down climbed to the glac­i­er and made our way up to camp Sher­man via the Emmons Glac­i­er route.

We stopped for a short break at Camp Sher­man at about 5 PM. The climb­ing rangers there advised us that the route above was quite bro­ken up, and there were few options avail­able for our sum­mit attempt. We moved on up about 1000 feet above Camp Sher­man before mak­ing camp for the evening.

The next morn­ing we slept in until a lit­tle after sun­rise. Short­ly after aris­ing, our Ger­man friends came along on their way to the sum­mit. We spoke briefly with them and wished them luck on their attempt. We pro­ceed­ed to fin­ish our break­fast and packed for the day’s climb, with the hope of reach­ing the sum­mit before night­fall and sleep­ing at the top in the sum­mit crater.

We roped up and began climb­ing when we spot­ted the Ger­man team descend­ing up above. As we reached them, they again repeat­ed sim­i­lar words as the day before; “There’s no way up. It’s too bro­ken up and there’s no access.” Karl and I glanced side­ways at each oth­er and replied, “Thanks. I think we’ll climb on up any­way and at least see what we can see.”

Mt.-Rainier-Climb-2-300x225We con­tin­ued our ascent, fol­low­ing basi­cal­ly in the foot­steps of the Ger­mans and one oth­er team who had gone up before us; both had returned due to the con­di­tions of the route and the lack of an appar­ent safe way up. As we came to the end of the boot track, it was appar­ent that they weren’t fool­ing with us. The route above was exposed and seri­ous­ly bro­ken up with deep crevass­es and large impos­ing ser­acs.

Indeed, things did not look favor­able for a con­tin­ued assault of the Moun­tain. We tra­versed a ways and down climbed a bit and then moved on up a ways. There was a steep slope that came down over a deep crevasse. Not being able to see around the slope past the crevasse, Karl decide that we should belay him while he went out on the snow bridge to see if he could dig us out a plat­form to gain access along the edge of the crevasse and hope­ful­ly be able to move up the chute on the oth­er side. We sent him out on belay while he dug out a foot path to access the chute.

As he got around the cor­ner, he could see that there was a steep slope but no crevass­es or obsta­cles to pre­vent our ascent. We set a fixed line so we could safe­ly cross the ledge Karl cre­at­ed. We decid­ed to wait until morn­ing to make our ascent as it was now mid after­noon, and time and con­di­tions were not favor­able to safe­ly con­tin­ue our climb.

Mt.-Rainier-Climb-3-225x300We arose at 2 AM and were climb­ing by three. We crossed the snow bridges, and our lit­tle ledge along the edge of a 100 ft. crevasse and con­tin­ued on up the moun­tain by aid of head­lamps. Below us, we could see the twin­kle of head­lamps as oth­er teams were head­ing up from Camp Sher­man. Just before sun­rise, the Ger­man team reached us. They indi­cat­ed that they had used our access route and thanked us for per­se­ver­ing and open­ing the route for them. As the sun rose, we were stand­ing on the edge of a crevasse whose uphill side was quite a bit high­er than where we stood. The sun pro­ject­ed our sil­hou­ettes on the oppo­site side.

This made for a unique photo–the three Ger­man climbers on the slope above us added to the moment.

We con­tin­ued on to the sum­mit of Mount Rainier and back to base camp and on down to our cars with­out fur­ther inci­dent oth­er than a cou­ple hours of being lost in the dark while try­ing to find the trail after exit­ing the glac­i­er. But there again, team work and per­se­ver­ance paid off. There were about thir­ty climbers who sum­mit­ed Mount Rainier that day on the Emmons Route. Every one of them had fol­lowed our route and used our ledge.

As we stopped at Camp Sher­man on the way back down, sev­er­al who were plan­ning sum­mit bids for the fol­low­ing morn­ing, asked us for direc­tions to our route as they had heard from the oth­er descend­ing teams that it was the only pos­si­ble way to a suc­cess­ful sum­mit bid.

Boys thrive on adven­ture. Let’s make sure that we keep the out­ing in Scout­ing, teach them the skills and pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow in char­ac­ter, cit­i­zen­ship and fit­ness.

Steve Frisby
Stephen R. Frisby is a Silver Beaver and long time Scouter. He is known for his exquisite custom home building and extensive utensilless cooking skills (caveman cookery). An avid outdoorsman, he is a mountain runner and climber, assaulting Mt. Rainer multiple times. He currently serves as the New Scout Leader in troop 427, sponsored by LDS Sunset Heights Second Ward in Orem, Utah.

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