Day 2 Orientation
I went to bed last night around 9:00 pm, I watched a couple episodes of Weeds on Netflix, and posted to my blog. Yesterday's post was cathartic, it was easy to write, and I haven't felt the words come out of my head that smoothly in quite sometime. Who knows if anything is wrote yesterday made any sense but, it sure did feel good.
Going to bed wasn't too hard because my body had been awake for close to 20 hours, perhaps my blog post yesterday was a direct result of the euphoria that is felt when hallucinating from exhaustion. I stayed in a place called Whitaker's Bunkhouse, which is an apt description of the place, the walls are thin, and the HVAC units for each room probably cost under $200, a piece. The heater that was in my room is the kind that they use in trailer offices, or temporary construction sites, it does a great job of pushing really hot air but doesn't control the temperature in the room, you add to this a knob which has had all of the markings removed, throw in a large asian who has a high body temperature and you have a recipe for a tough night of sleep.
The room was ice cold when I entered, so I turned the knob until I heard the machine turn on, then ignored it. The room eventually warmed up, and I fell asleep.
I slept for the fort 5 hours undistributed, the next four hours I tossed and turned. I in fact made constant transitions from the bed to the floor. I felt like a dog looking for the coolest spot on the floor, and then id get cold and get back into bed.
I eventually started to strip down, until I only had my boxers on this didn't help much, so I got up at one point to turn the machine off, which only made it worse because in a short period it was too cold, so I got up and turned it back on.
As a result I of this night of hot and cold, I woke up feeling poopy.
I got breakfast down the road from the bunkhouse, at a small bar and restaurant, a modern incarnation of a Wild West Saloon. The entire place was made of wood, it was dark, and smelled of stale alcohol. I was expecting some grizzled man named Cookie to come from the kitchen, and bartender with a handle bar mustache to offer me a drink, but I was disappointed to find an older woman, and her cute young daughter. The mother had the years of hardwork, and dealing with drunken assholes written in the wrinkles other face, while the daughter with bright pink cheeks, perfect blonde hair, had was shy and had an innocence in her eyes which told me that a trip to Seattle on a weekend might be a really big deal for her.
I was happy to find a classic bar menu of hamburgers, steak, fries, and a breakfast menu that gave me exactly what I needed bacon and eggs. The food took a while, there were probably 10 other people there waiting, but the fact that the mother was the only cooking all of these meals, while she was teaching her daughter how to setup for the day forced me to be patient. If anyone can understand their situation it's me.
After breakfast I drove to the park entrance and took a couple of pictures at the entrance of Mount Rainer Park. A small part of me felt like a singer who visits his venue the night before a performance and just stands on the stage, peering into an empty auditorium, visualizing his work, and imagining the response of his audience.
I got back to the Bunkhouse right before 8 am. The bunkhouse is owned and operated by the family that owns the guide service RMI, the family also owns the company Whitaker Mountaineering which sells and rents gear. The bunkhouse is two buildings, part of a larger campus dedicated to Mountaineering. RMI is a company that is more than 50 years old started by Lou Whitaker who climbed Rainer as a kid, and had been all over the world climbing,
I met my group during orientation. An interesting group of 13 other people, the youngest in our group is 19 who happens to live in Arlington, and the oldest is well over 55, and even a mother of 3 from Colorado who wanted to try something technical. More than half of the people are from the East Coast, and most of the people have little or no technical Mountaineering experience.
I didn't have much of a chance to get into a conversation with anyone that exceeded finding out their name, where their from, and where they were staying. As a consummate stalker I've been observing the others, and it's interesting how various personalities take to a group, it's like watching a chemistry experiment. Take various chemical elements, put them together and watch the atoms moving around to form a compound. I have no idea what the compound of this group will become this week, but so far I've marked the elements of the group that I will bond best.
For the most part the day was uneventful, we had a slide show to start the day which explained the history of the company, and the overall itinerary of the course. As I sat and watched the pictures of the climb to the Summit of Rainier, I realized that this exactly where I wanted to be, yet understood the serious nature of this venture.
All thought its a small number, people die on this Mountain.
Rainer is technical, it's tough, the weather gives you enough of a beating you know what to expect in higher altitudes, yet there is ample opportunity to learn hands on the technical skills essential to Mountaineering.
Every other group this week that was out on Rainer did not make it to the Summit. The weather made it unsafe to proceed beyond 12,000 feet. I'm hopeful because at least one or two of the days this week the weather is supposed to be clear enough for us to make an attempt.
JJ who is our lead guide has been 4 of the 7 summits, and has made 4 expeditions to Everest, and he routinely leads clients up Aconcagua in Argentina which is one of the 7 summits.
JJ is built like most world class climbers he is 5'9" with shoulders built to carry a pack, his skin weathered from the sun, but its the hue that can only occur from having the suns rays reflect off of the snow and bake your face. During his orientation he talked extensively about how mountaineering comes down down to learning efficiency, and making smart decisions. He could not stress more that most deaths that occur at high altitude are a result of poor decision making.
After the slide show and orientation, we pulled all of our gear out and had it inspected by the guides. The rest of the day was spent learning the basic knots, and hitches we would use this week.
The final skill we learned was something I call learning to unfuck yourself. We are going to travel on fixed lines this week, and climb as a group tied together. Along the snow fields, and glaciers we cross this week there is a possibility of having someone falling through. If this should happen we are going to be taught how to do a rescue to pull that person out, but today we were taught how to ascend a rope using only prussit chords, and your desire to live.
Now only if Crossfit rope climbs allowed for a harness, and prussit chords.
This will be the last post to the blog until Friday or Saturday. I will not have a cell phone, or my iPad. It will be nice to be out of touch and disconnected from the world for a bit, thanks everyone for their support, I'm looking forward to finding out if this will lead to the next chapter in my life.