I had just pulled the zipper shut on my North Face bag when I received a text message from Chris Tomer (@chrisdtomer) who is a meteorologist based out of Denver, CO saying
“Morning Tommy! Be careful on Rainier Fri-Sun. Large storm system with heavy snow and 40-50mph wind.”
Well…..Dammit….But I just packed all of my gear for Rainier. That forecast pretty much shut down our hopes of getting to the summit. Mark Nolan (@markallennolan) and Devin Corbett (@devincorbett) were already on the mountain and luckily were able to summit early in the week. John Burkett (@redtideproductions), Michael Rowe (#dirtyjobs), and Myself (@adudeandhiscamera) were all flying in today, which was June 7th and would be flying out after our summit success on the 10th.
John lives on the east coast so he didn’t get the message of no Rainier until it was too late to unpack. Michael had to work that day and was packed and drove to the airport right after work not having enough time to go home and repack.
Jeff Haines (@21st.century.skizoid.man) lives in Portland so his plans didn’t change a whole lot. He would just be hosting 5 other sweaty and stinky dudes at his residence in Portland, as we decided to take our luck with the weather a little farther south near Bend, OR. We would attempt to summit the South Sister, which only stood at 10,358 feet above sea level, which is about 4,000 feet lower than the summit of Mt. Rainier.
Big Agnes had just hooked us up with some rad new Battle Mountain 3 and 2 tents for Rainier as camp is at elevation and on a glacier….. We weren’t in snow or on a glacier for camp at 5,800 feet….BUT WE MADE DO and rocked it out.
We set up camp near the trailhead as we would attempt South Sister the following morning. Threw up our tents and out came the Helinox chairs, tables, and even a cot….IT WAS TIME TO GLAMP. We grabbed some firewood from town and stopped by Crux Brewery to help us stay entertained as our campfire roared in the wilderness of the three sisters.
We danced, sang, and laughed late into the night as we caught up on stories since the last time we had saw each other. Friendships were formed as some of the guys had just met the other for the first time.
The following morning we would wake up with no rush as our goal was to start hiking at 8am, but it wasn’t a Rainier type of mountain where you would be leaving around 1-2am to make the summit in the right weather.
Some woke up early. Some late. We started trekking up to the summit passing through thick mossy forests to empty ridges. Passing glacier lakes before we hit the treeless, rocky, and steep final push.
Being above everything the wind has no mercy. Every foot we gained in elevation we felt as the wind speed grew its force and would be shoving us around like bullies on the playground, but we kept one foot in front of the other going up the switchbacks that led into a white bliss.
We would slowly grow apart. At first it was far enough to where you couldn’t hear each other and then the climber in front of the next would just disappear into the white mist above. Almost like they were entering a new dimension. You could only hope for the best, as vision was minimal on top of protecting your eyes from the gasly wind.
I was the last in line as I approached the summit I saw the dudes and another team resting behind a pile of rocks. The wind speed had grown to a gust that could knock you down the mountain. As we were tucked hidden from the weather we shared Perky Jerky and our Jetty Extracts with the other team as you could see that we were all exhausted. It wasn’t so much the mountain but more Mother Nature that was beating us down.
As soon as we got ready to leave good ole South Sister wanted to show us who was boss, and not only did the winds pick up but it turned into sideways hail pelting from head to toe and stinging any skin that was exposed. We weren’t expecting this so only one of the six of us brought our Zeal goggles. Devin was also the only one who could see the trail as the pelting hail was blinding us while it slapped us in the face.
I quickly lost the rest of the guys ahead of me as I tried to stop and do a Facebook Live video. I only lasted seconds before I had to recover my glove to not suffer frostbite.
The steps were stumbly as I was walking blindly down the trail unable to show my face as I knew it would be covered in hail bites.
Through many falls I got low enough and out of the crazy weather, and I could just barely see one of the guys about 100 yards away. As I gained speed my body wanted to interrupt and say “HEY THERE BUDDY, I’M DEPLETED.” This is when the quad cramps really did a number on my down climb. If that wasn’t good enough then the groin cramps started. It was funnnnn….
But we all made it down in one piece and only missing some skin.
We packed up camp and headed to Portland as we would be crashing at Jeff’s again before heading to some Gorges just east of Portland.
The next morning we all repacked our bags as we would be flying straight home after we visited some waterfalls. Oregon has always had a piece of my heart as the wilderness is something you can’t really explain besides saying “Green” because it’s some of the most green, fresh, and beautiful landscape in all of the world. Waterfall after waterfall with epic climbs and mountains everywhere you look! We hiked into the Oneonta Gorge, which is smothered by greenery at every turn hiking back to see a mind-blowing waterfall. Right before you get to the opening of the waterfall you have to cross through the deep section of the 50 degree water. I’m 5’10” and it almost went to my nipples. It’s chilly but also so invigorating and totally worth getting closer to the beauty that lays within.
Michael, Devin, Mark, and Myself hung out by the falls and snapped photos and just took in all of its beauty and then headed back down the gorge to catch up with John and Jeff.
This trip was more than just climbing a mountain and hiking through gorges. It was a lesson on how to take circumstances that aren’t always the most fun and turn them into not only something fun but something priceless.
When we learned about not going up Rainier we could have just stayed in the city, been Sad Sally's, or not have even gone as we would be leaving wives, and kids which is valuable time to us.
Instead we decided to take the opportunity of six dudes coming together from Colorado, California, North Carolina, Oregon, and Florida to help raise more awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. We filmed an episode of More Than Just Me TV as we covered the story of our very own dude Michael Rowe who found out just last year that he has Cystic Fibrosis, which is a genetic lung disease that also affects the digestive system.
We came together in the cold rain and lame weather to laugh, love, and live. If you ask me it was one of my best trips I have ever taken because I didn’t just come back with another peak summited...
I came back with memories of my friends and how they are a part of my adventures.
My family grew this past weekend……