posted: July 30th, 2007 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: Six days from now, Janie and I will be towing our Airstream to Mount Rainier National Park for my much anticipated climb of THE MOUNTAIN.
Our guides tell us that on the first day we will be climbing approximately 5,000 feet to Camp Muir, an intermediate camp located at 10,000 feet. On the second day we’ll pass through Disappointment Cleaver and make a high camp about 2,000 feet above Camp Muir for a final ascent on the third day of Rainier.
International Mountain Guide Paul Bauger, tells us we need to be in the “best shape of our lives.” I’ve taken Paul at his word, and hope that what I’ve been doing will be adequate. What we’re doing though challenging is not impossible for older people.
The oldest, in fact, to ascend Rainier was 83, and he accomplished the feat this year, doing so over a period of several days. On August 9, 2004, former climbing ranger Chad Kellogg went from Paradise trailhead at an elevation of 5,420 feet to the 14,410-foot summit and back IN FOUR HOURS AND 59 MINUTES—a trip that takes the average climber a good 2 days. We’re planning a three-day trip, but then I also want to take lots of pictures.
Though there may be more I could have done, I don’t know what that might have been. I’ve engaged in the drudgery of weight lifting, but on several occasions have transformed drudgery into pleasure with friends—and recently with family.
Two days ago, nephews Brian and Jeremy Rossman and I departed the trailhead for Jackson Glacier. The trip required a six-mile gradual climb to Gunsight Lake, certainly one of the most incredible lakes in Glacier. As we hiked along St. Mary River we saw mergansers basking at a curve in the river. At Mirror Pond we paused to photograph a near perfect reflection of Mount Jackson—and concentrated on that until a moose walked into the picture.
We stayed with the moose for about 30 minutes, then continued on to Gunsight, a lake at which I’ve camped. From there, the trail climbed steeply another 2.5 miles to trail’s end near Jackson Glacier. From there we bushwhacked another mile to near the summit of Jackson Mountain for a more intimate look of this much-reduced chunk of ice. Adjacent to it was Blackfoot Glacier, and in the not-too-distant past, the two glaciers were united as one.
Though glaciers dominated this setting as recently as 20 years ago, manifestations of their past presence are everywhere. First there were the huge boulders over which we walked, ground and pulverized by the power of glaciers. In themselves, the rocks were interesting. All were of sedimentary origin, but from several different time periods. Huge green and red boulders were all mixed together, representing the different eons during which inland seas deposited their colorful, telltale sediments.
Later, these sediments bonded and solidified and then with the passage of many more millions of years were thrust upward through the process of orogeny.Brian and Jeremy and I discussed these immense passages of time and sat in awe for awhile, realizing that although there was a puzzle here, we could in fact, fit together some of the pieces. We could see lateral moraines. We could see the smooth sheet of rock on which the glacier had recently been ground smooth by weight and sliding action.
We sat for awhile longer and then realized that we did, in fact, have a long way to hike back before the day was over. All totaled we covered about 18 miles with packs and ascended much of Mount Jackson.
Now all I have to do is repeat in Rainier what I did in Glacier—and do it for three consecutive days. If I can’t do it this year, Rainier will still be there next year—and even the year after. I’m not out to break any records, simply to enjoy the beauty of the mountain—one of the most lofty places in the continental United States.