On September 16, we set off on our first summit climb together.
We met at Climbers Bivouac at 8:00 sharp, where everyone but the two of
us and David had camped the night before. Salima and Andy had secured
permits for all of us the night before, so we were all set.
Our climb began at
Climbers Bivouac at 3,700 feet at the trailhead of the
Ptarmigan Trail #216-A. We then trekked 2 1/4 miles to the timberline
at 4,800 feet, at which point we were thinking "this is cake"! Baby
Noah was sleeping quietly in his fully deluxe Kelty KIDS pack, and all
was well. Then we began to ascend into the rock and pumice scramble
of Monitor Ridge. We ascended
about another 800 feet before Andy had to shed layers, which brought Noah
to life. Cleo was having difficulty with getting her doggie packs
through some of the narrow crags of the rocky trail, and we were all questioning
the feasibility of Noah's continued ascent. Reluctantly, Andy and
Christy decided to turn back and try the
Loowit trail instead.
The five of us remaining pushed on, climbing an additional 3,400 feet
in 2 1/2 miles to the summit. The weather was perfect, being cool
and cloudy for most of our ascent, then once we cleared the clouds, it
became sunny and warm. Above timberline, the route generally followed
Monitor Ridge, climbing steeply through blocky lava flows and loose pumice
and ash. From timberline the route was marked with large wooden posts
to about 7,000 feet elevation. The upper 1,300 feet of the route was unmarked
and covered with loose, pumice and ash. After we had ascended to
within sight of the summit, Salima's injured knee started giving out,
but she pushed on with us the grueling final leg to the summit.
Upon reaching the summit, we relaxed, took pictures, and basked in the
beauty of the moment for over an hour. Salima, of course, wanted
to take a nap, but we were
all captivated by the scene. We ate lunch on the upper lip of the
crater, peering down at the devastation caused by the eruption 20 years
ago, while Mt. Rainier towered over Spirit Lake and the crater, Mt. Adams
and Goat Rocks loomed to the East, with fantastic views of Mt. Hood and
Mt. Jefferson to the South, all floating on a fluffy layer of clouds.
The return trip was devastating to our knees, and we lost the trail for
a short while, having to traverse the slope for quite some time before
reaching it again, but all made it back without mishap. All told,
the 9.4 mile round trip took us up almost a mile in elevation (4500 feet),
and back down again.