Day Three - Summit

We had our packs ready, and after a hot drink we attached ourselves to the rope and headed out. John was in the lead, followed by Shari. I followed Shari and Michael came last. Our first task was to cross the Cowlitz glacier and ascend Cathedral Gap, a low spot in the ridge between us and the Ingraham glacier.

Once we crested the ridge, we started up the Ingraham. There is a flat spot a little ways up this glacier that is used as an overflow campground - it has a tremendous view but is one of those places where you go roped and belayed to the bathroom as a crevasse could open up at any time and place.

Past the Ingraham Flats, we entered the hardest and most dangerous section of the climb. This section started with a ladder over a crevasse. The ladder looked like it had been there a while, and this was the only way over the crevasse as it looked too long to go around. We belayed each other across even though the distance was less than 10 feet. Needless to say, the only looking down we did was to make sure our feet were placed correctly.

After crossing the crevasse, we found ourselves going up thru the debris from an avalanche or icefall. Fortunately, this was a pretty short section. After it, we followed the trail as it wandered thru large seracs of ice. I found myself glad to be climbing in the dark as I'm sure it would have been pretty scary in the light.

This was the steepest section of the climb and it took us several hours to cover this section. At one point, John mentioned that the sun was coming up. Sure enough, there was a band of orange on the otherwise black horizon. However, it seemed to take forever for the sun to actually crest the horizon. I know that twilight is longer the farther you are from the equator, but it sure seemed like about two hours from John's remark to when the sun actually rose.

About the time the sun rose, the steepness slacked off and I knew the end was near. It wasn't too much longer before we saw the rocks of the crater rim above us. Once we hit the crater rim, we had about 1/4 mile to go across the crater and up 100 feet or so to the summit.


We posed for the obligatory summit photograph, then managed to find and sign the summit register. We reached the summit at 7:15 am, after 8 solid hours of walking uphill. The vertical gain was about 4,300 feet but the distance was only about 2 miles.

After leaving the crater, we met all of the RMI guided parties - they left a few hours after we did but moved faster since they carried less weight (and they had slavedrivers as guides). About the time we entered the dangerous section, I noticed my crampons were collecting snow, making it difficult to get purchase. I had to keep hitting my crampons with my ice axe shaft to knock the snow loose.

We were right to climb during the dark - it was much scarier when you could actually see the huge chunks of ice hanging over you. We did manage to ignore the danger long enough to safely clear the area. Once down to Ingraham Flats, we stopped for a drink and photos.


The section from the Flats back down to Muir was easy although a bit steep in places. We arrived in camp at 11:15, exactly 12 hours after we left. Needless to say, we collapsed. The rest of the day was spent napping, eating, and yes, melting snow.

Copyright © 2009 by Dana Cline
Last Updated  Monday, April 06, 2009
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