Much to my relief, our third day of the climb dawns cloudier and cooler than yesterday. After my ordeal last night, I couldn’t be any more grateful. I wake up still feeling weak, and I’m wondering if I’ll even be able to make it to Camp Muir, let alone anywhere on the upper mountain. But I’m feeling well enough to give it a shot.
Similar to yesterday morning, we meet by the visitors center before loading our packs in the trailer and taking the shuttle up to Paradise. We’ll take the same route up that we took down from mountaineer school yesterday. Right away, we’re greeted by this beautiful stag. He’s not even a little worried about all us hikers nearby.
Since we already hiked down this way yesterday, and the weather isn’t very clear, I don’t take many pictures at the start. I’m too busy focusing on staying up with the group anyway. I am NOT going to let them get away from me today! I stay hot on Leah’s heels (pictured above) for the first section. She’s our third guide, and she ends up being a tremendous help and inspiration to me, which I’ll tell you more about in my next post.
We take our first break shortly before Pebble Creek. The way this day works is that we hike for an hour, take a 10 minute break to eat as much sugar as we can shove in our faces. It’s the best way to keep your energy up when you’re expending this much effort. It will take us a little over five hours to get to Camp Muir. When we restart, I fall in right behind Dave. I’m literally walking in his footsteps!
Right around the time we hit the Muir snowfield, the sun comes out. Or maybe we’re finally above the clouds. Either way, despite the snow, it warms up! Thankfully it’s still not as hot as yesterday and I’m even feeling stronger than before we started! Tired, but stronger. I’m so relieved. Plus, less clouds mean better views!
Lori looks unamused here, but I think she just isn’t expecting me to take her picture. Despite the difficulty of the hike, she always has a smile on her face. She really is my ray of sunshine.
There he is – the man, the myth, the legend – Dave Hahn.
That’s our route…it’s so busy today! You can’t see Camp Muir from here, but it’s just around the corner. It’ll still take us three more hours to get there. It doesn’t seem like it’s that far away!
Finally, we’re here! Welcome to Camp Muir!
The public bunkhouse is on a first come, first serve basis. Everyone else sets up camp in the available flat spots. The guided services have their own bunkhouse where we’ll stay tonight.
I’ve never seen so many people up here. Granted, I’ve only been here twice before, but still.
We gratefully drop our packs just below the guides bunk and bring all the gear we’ll need inside the bunkhouse where we’ll be sleeping (resting, really) for the evening.
It doesn’t look like much, but it’s home for the night. There are worse views to have.
As promised, here are a couple close ups of Mt St Helens. These are looking right in to the crater, where the side blew off 36 years ago. When I climbed it back in 2012, we came up the far side and looked out in this direction.
Lori has fallen a bit behind and unfortunately is told this is as high as she’ll be able to go. I’m bummed for her, but she’s so happy to have gotten here. I’m proud she didn’t quit, and she still has a smile on her face!
Since this is her summit, we take our obligatory photo with the Rainier beer mascot. Yep, it came all this way with us (ok, it’s empty now, and a bit squished, but it’s the can that counts)!
This is the route we’ll be taking tonight. We’ll cross the Cowlitz Glacier which is fairly straightforward, before hitting Cathedral Gap. This is the part that killed me last time and just looking at it makes me so nervous.
It’s basically loose rock and dirt we have to hike up in crampons. Not easy at all. Please let me get past this tonight!
After an early dinner and a briefing from Dave over what to expect in the morning (aka 11pm when we’ll be woken up), we turn in. There isn’t much sleeping in these close quarters, but at least we are resting.
Here’s a close up of where we’ll be resting.
I hop into my sleeping bag at 5pm and quiet time starts at 6. Unfortunately (but really fortunately) I’ve had so much water to drink, I get up to use the bathroom several times. One time I think to grab my GoPro and snap a couple blurry sunset photos. I can think of worse ways to end the day.
We’ll be up in a few hours to start our summit attempt so I try my best to get some sleep. 11pm comes earlier than you think!