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We set up camp and piled more rocks around our tents, as the winds began to stir up.  After our camps were set up, we all teamed up and helped Tom figure out how to set up his tent.  As the winds really started to howl, we all huddled by Pat and Salima's tent (they nabbed the biggest rock wall) and made some dinner, drank some hot cider and cocoa, and melted snow for water.   Our stove stopped working, but luckily Salima had brought plenty of fuel.    Sandra and I trotted over to the ridge line to watch the sun set over Mt. St. Helens, and then we all began to freeze, so we retired to our tents.  Bundled up in our 0 mummy bags, we stayed warm despite below-zero wind chills and temperatures in the teens, but our tent took a beating from the intense 30-mph winds.   As our tent thundered around us, we tried to get some sleep, but to no avail.  After less than one hour of sleep, we rose, began to melt snow, and get ready for the day's climb.

Everyone was up by 3:00am and we ate breakfast and set off up the mountain.  The winds had died down a bit by this point, and we were hopeful that the clouds that had moved in would burn off.  By 5:00am, we reached the Lunch Counter, and we stopped for a rest.  At this point, Gabe dropped his water bottle, which rocketed at the speed of light down the mountain back to our camp.  After a similar occurrence on Mt. St. Helens the month before with his trail mix, I think we need to get Gabe leashes for his gear!   At the top of the Lunch counter, we stopped to put on crampons.  The going had become icy, and the slopes were getting quite steep.  Everyone put away their ski poles and took out their ice axes, except Sandra and I.   By this point, the altitude was beginning to affect Tom and Sandra, who began not to feel well. 

As we approached the 10,000 foot mark, the water in my camelback had frozen solid, as had Tom's.   We tucked Sandra's hose into her jacket to prevent it from freezing and we all drank from her.   Tom really began to struggle with the altitude, as well as the lack of food and water, and Sandra's boots were hurting her feet.  Pat and Salima zoomed ahead of us for the rest of the trip, while the rest of us tried to stay together to help each other and keep an eye on each other's condition.    Snow now began to fall, and the snow clouds were moving in.  The wind had picked up a bit and we added layers.

After another couple of hours, we reached Piker's Peak, the false summit, at 11,700 feet.  At this point, Sandra was discouraged by the lack of a view, and didn't want to continue.  She urged us to go on and wanted to wait for us there.  The weather now had eased up, and the winds were light, so after a discussion, we left her there and set out for the summit.  The route dropped down several hundred feet into a gully before rising again.  At the bottom of the final pitch, Tom had to drop his pack, as Gabe fed him orange juice to keep him going, and I emptied his camelback into a water bottle so he could drink it.   As we neared the summit, the weather got worse.  Snow began to fall heavily and the wind started to pick up.  At the summit, you could just see the old miner's lookout poking out from under the snow, and the pole marking the top.  There was no view at all, just a blanket of white.  We snapped a few quick photos and raced back to Sandra...


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