Sleeping next to strangers was more comfortable than expected, perhaps because the intensity of the hike up to Camp Muir waisted me. I fell asleep listening to people from all over America (and the world) complain about headaches from the altitude- weaksauce. Our highways go above 10,000 feet in Colorado, I thought.
Shuffling bodies and mumbling voices awoke me in the morning, I thought it was still dark, I had to pee. I started to listen to what everyone was saying, “It’s a beautiful day”, yeah right, “It’s gorgeous out there”, define gorgeous, “Great day,” oh suuuuuure. I honestly expected nothing more than blowing snow, bitter cold, and maybe a bit brighter grey light than yesterday.
My bladder convinced me to get out of my sleeping bag, find my clothes (still wet), assemble my armor of Gore-tex, and go out side. At first I was shocked at the brightness that rushed me. As I adjusted, I looked around. I saw this:
Without even a chance for my mind to react, my emotions took over and I submitted to the overpowering force of God’s glory. I didn’t have any tears, perhaps the air was too dry, but I know that I couldn’t catch my breath and that I felt deeply penetrated by a demanding and relentless beauty. Gem of a moment in my life.
I don’t remember peeing after that. Scary thought now that I think of it. I just roamed around the camp, stunned, in Awe. This unveiling of my surrounds was so intense because I had not even seen Mt. Rainier from afar before now. My only perception of Rainier was clouds and a wicked storm. Now I was above the clouds, in heaven, and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
After our final efforts to absorb our magnificent environment up on the hill, we began packing up to head down. Because of all the new snow and the ninety mile per hour winds the night before (that we hiked in), the avalanche danger was too much and we had to take our final opportunity of good weather to descend.
I left without even seeing the summit, but it didn’t matter to me. My adventure quota was overdone and being buried alive didn’t sound so great. I was at peace with the mountain, and that was most important. Turning our backs on Camp Muir, Harry, Joel, and I began descending the Muir Snowfield, and I descended with satisfaction.