Climbing Mt. Rainier

  • Published
  • By Chaplain Ryan Neill
  • 627th Air Base Group
When I first arrived at JBLM, the day was clear and I looked out my window and saw Mt Rainier. Its prominence is undeniable and it just beckons to be summited.  I knew little to nothing about what kind of preparation, effort and finances it would take to accomplish such a task but I was immediately hooked with the thought, "I want to climb that mountain!"

Shortly after arriving on base, I noticed a photo in the 8 AS where a team from the squadron had summited the mountain.  I was intrigued both by the comradery and the cost savings (no guide fee) of undertaking this adventure with fellow Airmen and I began looking for an opportunity to join a similar group.

A few months later, I was visiting in the OSS when Capt Emily Brand shared that Maj Jesse Stubbs was forming a team from the OG to summit Rainier.  After months of planning and preparation, a team of 6 set off to climb the mountain.

The first "leg" of the trip involved a climb from Paradise (5,400 feet), in  Mount Rainier National Park, to Camp Muir (10,188 feet).  The route began as a clear trail path but quickly turns into snowfields. 

After a day of rest at Camp Muir, we woke up at 2300 to prepare for our ascent.  During this time I considered  the route before us.  With places named "Cadaver Gap" and "Disappointment Cleaver" I asked myself, "Is this really a good idea?"

Illuminated by our headlamps, the path was eerie and crevasses appeared all that more ominous in the dark. As the sun came up, the mountain and all its beauty came alive.  We were blessed with a clear day and the views of the surrounding mountians were spectacular.

There were a couple of places where guide companies put fixed ladders to cross crevasses and ropes to anchor yourself as you climbed through the more treacherous portions of the route.  The right equipment and the proper training made all the difference for the climb.

When we reached the summit, the team began feeling the effects of exertion and altitude.  I was then reminded of the words from veteran climber Mr. Angus Bush, in the OSS, "When you reach the top, you are only half way."  As we headed down the mountain I began to realize this truth!

I'm thankful for the "wingmen" that were on this climb.  Their encouragement and patience was inspirational to meet this challenge.  I experienced a variety of feelings when the journey was over; sheer exhaustion was surpassed by a new sense of accomplishment.

For anyone considering climbing "The Mountain," I encourage you to move forward with your goal.  When the day is clear and I look out my window and see Mt Rainier, it takes on a whole new meaning.   Vision, training, effort, teamwork and sacrifice helped to fulfill my goal "I climbed that mountain."