The plan for today included walking up to Camp Muir– the last bathrooms before you rope up for the glaciers, then to Ingraham Flats.
One of the fun things people do not tell you about climbing Rainier, you poop on the glacier then pick it up in a blue bag– like dog shit, and carry it up AND down the mountain. So. Much. Fun.
We hit Camp Muir mid- morning, sat down for a break, and pulled out gear to rope up for the Cowlitz Glacier. It was very warm and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, which also means frequently re-applying sunscreen.
Camp Muir has guide huts, ranger huts, and lots of camping. It was very dirty and crowded but had a lovely view of the ants hiking up the snowfield. Despite all of this, it was really pleasant to have one more bathroom to use before ascending to upper camps.
After our break, we started along the wanded route across Cowlitz Glacier, to Cathedral Gap, which you ascend before turning uphill towards Ingraham Flats, our next camp.
We trudged along on the packed snow path to the base of Cathedral Gap, which is essentially a notch of chossy, loose rock. In other words, everything moves and when you step somewhere it lets loose a cascade of rocks. The warm temperatures did not help, creating a small river of water cutting through the volcanic rock/sand making it even more unstable.
At the very base of the gap, we were moving across a steep gully one at a time— Sarah had just made it across and was belaying me to her when a cascade of bowling ball sized rocks came rocketing down the gully. I had very little time to react, I was either going to pull Sarah into it, or dive forward and pull the rope taught between Greg and I. I chose the latter, which was wise. I almost got mowed over, they would have taken me on a ride down the glacier and into a crevasse.
At the top I pulled out my first aid kit and quickly doctored my hand which had gotten scraped up when I dove away from the rocks. It was getting late in the afternoon, and we needed to get to Ingraham Flats and set up our summit base camp.
Ingraham Flats lays at the bottom of the Ingraham Glacier, below all of the calved off, cracked blue ice. As Greg describes it, the flat spot in the center of a Pringle, before the glacier careens slowly down the hill, cracking and grinding.
We probed a spot for camp, a “safe zone” where you do not need to be roped up to move around. Then set ourselves to work building camp, boiling water, and Greg built the most beautiful 2 seater toilet in the snow. It really was glorious.
By the time we had finished boiling water and setting up camp, it was time to eat dinner, then get a meager amount of sleep. As we were eating dinner, then drifting off to sleep— we were serenaded by the lovely sound of rock and ice fall beyond our safe little camp.