By: Chris Davenport
Written on May 18, 2012.
I’m gonna keep this one short as we’re currently in position to climb Mt. Baker and have very poor internet service. Yesterday was an amazing day on Mt. Rainier. As the highest volcano in the Lower 48, and fifth highest summit in the Lower 48, it presented a fun challenge for the Volcano Tour team. Both Ted and I had climbed and skied it before, and I have been on Rainier with Chris Pondella, but those trips were ‘over-nighters.’ The first time I skied Rainier with Ted, I ran into Sky Sjue, who was skiing it in a single day. From that point on I had wanted to give it a go in a single day as well. So here we were, fit (although tired) after already hiking and skiing thirteen volcanoes in eleven days – parked at the base of Rainier ready to go. There was a little discussion about our options – to camp or not to camp – but everyone agreed it would be much classier and a prouder achievement to send it in a single day. The Volcano Tour has been blessed with so many friends joining us for the peaks. For Rainier, the team was Ted and Christy Mahon, Jess McMillan, Ian Fohrman, Jim Morrison, Christian Pondella, and myself.
Washington’s Mt. Rainier (14,411’), in all of her glory. Photo: Ian Fohrman
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We were up at 3am brewing coffee and making Hulk Smoothies (our Whole Foods Market favorite). A couple of bags of Bear Naked Granola were ripped through with blueberries and coconut milk. As the team powered through breakfast there was a knock on the door, and to everyone’s surprise, Christian Pondella and Jim Morrison stepped through into the Land Yacht. This has to be one of the greatest moves of all time to come join a crew for a ski descent … Jim flew his plane from Truckee to Mammoth, picked Christian up, and they flew to Seattle, landing at 11pm the night before. They rented a car and drove straight to Paradise on Rainier, arriving at 3:30am the morning of. With absolutely no sleep at all, Jim and Chris were about to climb 9,000 vertical feet and ski Mt. Rainier. Christian has been one of my main partners over the years in the big mountains, and is also one of the world’s premier mountain photographers. Jim and I also go way back and he has already skied Shasta, Jefferson, and Hood with us on this tour.
Christian and Jim deliriously happy below the Fuhrer Finger route.
We started up in the dark at 4:20am and made quick work up the mountain. The Nisqually Glacier was well covered, with just a few major crevasses to navigate. By 9am we were up through the classic Fuhrer Finger Couloir, and powered toward the summit. The temps were cold, and with a stiff breeze, the day was one of the coldest we have experienced on this trip.
Christian navigates a crevasse.
Climbing mid-way up the Fuhrer Finger couloir.
Jess McMillan and the team high above the couloir moving onto the upper mountain.
Ian Fohrman on his first Rainier ascent.
The final thousand feet of Rainier is a killer, especially after having already climbing 8,000 vertical feet already that day, and 60,000 already in the last ten days. We were tired, we were cold, but we were so fired up to be on top of this magnificent mountain in a fast time, and on an awesome route. I broke out my Bernese Down Jacket (part of the White Spyder Collection) for the first time on this trip, and even added some hand warmers to my gloves. We tried to sit out of the wind, where it was slightly warmer, but after a few minutes everyone agreed it was time to keep moving. We skied off the top and down the frozen upper mountain, wondering when things would soften up.
The team climbs the upper ridge 1,000’ below the summit.
Jess and Jim high on Rainier.
We didn’t shoot a ton of ski images on the way down. The skiing was marginal until we were through the Finger, where the corn really got good. But at that point, we had skied into the clouds so the visibility wasn’t so great. In any case, we made it down to Paradise and back to the Land Yacht in just over eleven hours. It was a great achievement for the team: getting all seven members up and down in a good time and on a really fun route, with no issues whatsoever. Although one-day ski descents have been done on Rainier, it certainly doesn’t happen very often; and I’m really curious if anyone out there knows of any woman who has done it in a single day as Jess has now done.
We quickly packed up the rig and headed north for a long drive to Mt. Baker. Baker may well be our final volcano of the tour, as there is some pretty significant weather moving in later in the weekend and our time is getting tight. But what a string of amazing weather we’ve encountered!
So, Chris Davenport signing off for now. Thanks for following us everyone. Stay tuned for more updates. And, once again, congrats to Christian and Jim for making such an amazing effort to join us.
Team #VolcanoTour’s Mt. Rainier route.