Mount Rainier - Glacial Cave Exploration 2015
My role on this multi faceted expedition was on the survey team. Below is a very basic journal of what I was involved with during this trip.
Aug 12, 2015
As usual the day was spent in a haze of packing and thoughtlessness. Some reason I could not focus very much on the tasks at hand. This cumulated with a walk, which had me wander down town Canmore, going from pub to pub enjoying a few pints.
I went back to my locker and began to pack everything I thought I may need. I was soon distracted by a few text messages from a friend wishing to go to the hot springs and watch the meteor shower that evening.
I left the warmth of my blanket around 2 am and hiked up off lake Minniwanka's beach satisfied with the display of meteors put on by mother nature. After dropping them off at their house I returned to my locker to retrieve the equipment I knew I had forgotten. No luck, the locker was closed to all access. Oh well! It was about time I drove to Calgary as I had to meet Christian at his house slightly before 6am.
Aug 13, 2015
"I can see you" Christian's text woke me slightly after 6 am MST.
He opened his garage door and moved his jeep out. Signaling me to park my jeep inside. Once parked we shuttled my mess of gear into his jeep and we're on our way to the boarder.
Gladly Christian was at the wheel as we exited Calgary heading south.
After some small talk I drifted to sleep.
Waking in Fernie we fueled up sent our last in Country messages to friends and loved ones before crossing the border near Yahk, BC.
I slept again.. well honestly I slept practically for the whole trip to Mt. Rainier. Despite this I was still exhausted when we arrived at Paradise just before 7 pm PST. We went to see if we could get my climbing pass, but were minutes late.
After discussing what our sleeping options were (and finding the local hotel fully booked) we headed to Cougar Rock campground to sleep. On our way down we drove by the expeditions equipment trailer - lo and behold we stumbled across John Punches. After introductions and a brief sit rep we were guided to an expedition campsite near Longmire.
Here we visited and slept well. Excitement was with us for the upcoming hike to Camp Muir, scheduled for the following morning.
Aug 14, 2015
5:50 am we woke broke camp and headed back up to Paradise to pack and Ronde Vue with the other team members. The only trouble being the weather..
Numerous delays and more delays. The weather remained shit.
We decided to go the next day and fore go the extra day of acclimatisation.
We got fuel in Ashford where we also ate a burger and used wifi at the Highlander pub. We then went back to the Longmire campground and Lorie's trailer for beer and social shenanigans. Bed time came early at 10 pm.
Aug 15, 2015
5:45 am wake up.. After packing my sleeping kit and using the washroom I went up to Lorie's trailer for some blueberry pancakes with maple syrup (she was so spoiling me). Back at Paradise with all the other science people and a few last minute porters. It was go day. Still a bit overcast to start. After a lot of faffing we left paradise around 10am. Heading into the mist we toiled under the large burdens on our backs. My backpack weighted 84 lbs. After getting off route going to pebble creek. It was smooth sailing but a grunt. I arrived at Camp Muir at 2 pm. The next party member arrived an hour later. The last at 4 pm.
Medhi, Punches and I melted some water to get everyone 1/2 L to drink. A brief overview of crevasse roped travel and ice axe self arrest. Punches assigned the rope teams. Christian lead my team with Lee in the middle and myself as the anchor. Once over Cathedral gap we refilled all our water bottles at a small stream and continued to Ingraham Flats camp. Once De kitted, we said thank you to the descending porter team, boiled water and ate. The porters which came with us would have a 2:30 am start. After some organising, i set up my bed, added a hot water bottle and fell asleep sometime after 11 pm.
Aug 16, 2015
It was a restless sleep. People were getting up to use the bathrooms, the porters leaving around 2 am, an IMG guide picking up kit to shuttle for us, and the train of climbers marching past the tent with their chiming carabiners hoping to claim the summit. The funniest thing which happened to me was hearing some rustling and opening my eyes to FX pissing in a pee bottle a foot and a half from my head. I just closed my eyes and hoped this was not his first time peeing into a bottle.
At 6am I got out of bed and went with Punches down the glacier, unroped, to collect water for breakfast. The morning was disorganized... I collected water again with Christian and one of the Germans (i would later learn his name). Finally packed we roped up and left camp for the summit. Christian in lead, Lee in the middle and myself as the anchor. It was a long hot climb. We crossed numerous snow bridges, stepped over lots of crevasses, used traverse lines, move beneath large seracs and even crossed multiple crevasses via ladders. It was beautiful and gnarley! After 7 hrs we made the summit camp with our beasts of backpacks weighing near 100 lbs each (we added more weight at Ingraham Flats). Getting organized, sorting group gear and getting squared away were the tasks that came first. Once everyone was in camp we ate and went to bed shortly thereafter... 10:15 pm
Aug 17, 2015
The wind let us have it! Needless to say I did not sleep much. And yes, before you ask, I awoke to Christian pissing into a bottle a few feet from my head. It seemed to be a theme on this trip.
Eventually the urge to piss overwhelmed me and I got out of bed.
Outside the wind would not stop. Once finished peeing, I began to help Dave Riggs with fixing the cook tent. The wind snapped the tie downs off of the pickets and moved the tent laterally a few feet. Others soon joined in, water was put to boil, and the morning began. Once finished breakfast and the morning meeting. A group of us shoveled snow onto the edges of the tents, and better secured them to the glacier we were camped on. I then went for a nap - my way to wait for people.
Christian, survey Dave (Riggs) and I went to begin mapping the glacier cave. Problems and problems. We could not get an acceptable calibration for the DistoX2. We walked back to the tent gambling we could get an acceptable calibration in the cook tent. Success! We calibrated all of the DistoX2s. Back to the cave we went and surveyed 23 stations with oodles of splays.
The cave was surprising in its Draft (very strong), size etc. It was also very cold and wet.
Back at camp we ate, had a meeting, and turned in for the night.
Aug 18, 2015
It finally happened. I left the tent and the warmth of my sleeping bag around 1am. I had to pee. The wind was done and a beautiful blanket of stars was draped across the heavens. It was difficult to return to the tent. I live for moments like these!
The rest of the night was restful. Finally around 6am all three of us in the tent got up and dressed casually for our hike to the summit. We joined a few guided groups on the summit, took our hero photos, signed the register and went back to camp for breakfast.
After breakfast Christian and I waited for our survey kit and assignment.
We entered the same entrance as the previous day and continued on from station 1.23. We tied in the various science stations, passed various entrances and leads, surveyed past an underground lake and racked up the distance. When we finally squeezed, yes squeezed, our way to the surface we had mapped over 2200ft of passage with an elevation gain of around 360ft (we were surveying in imperial.. Hurray.. i think).
Once back at camp we ate, had the regular evening meeting and turned in for the night.
Aug 19, 2015
I was up early and could not wait in bed any longer. I grabbed my phone and head phones heading to the crater rim. Sitting in the sun I admired the view while listening to great music.
Eventually others awoke and began to stir. I fired up the stoves and played waterman for breakfast.
Christian and I headed out to survey the various side leads seen the day before. We mapped 2300ft of passage. Unfortunately at some point I dropped the gas monitor... oops. Honestly I think it was useless to us as we were surveying upward trending passage (a mistake i would learn the hard way later on). Either way I would need to find it before getting into new passages the next day.
More to survey tomorrow as we only did half of which I wanted to.
The upcoming weather report was for 65mph wind during the next evening. This would make things interesting. There was no meeting, so I went to bed with good music.
Aug 20, 2015
The wind died in the early morning. This combined with the tolls of trip had everyone stay in their sleeping bags a little bit longer. I finally started the stoves and the thought of warm drinks with hot food began to rouse everyone. After breakfast and the morning meeting Christian and I headed in to the cave to find the gas monitor and continue surveying the summit section. Success! We found it in the Borehole above the lake. We then set off mopping up a few blank spots and leads. Exiting the cave, not having tied the survey in where I had hoped, we walked on the rim of the crater Looking for our objective. Once located we descended and began to survey the priority lead tasked to us. Streams and fumaroles were in the large chamber not far from the entrance. It was also steep. Here Christian fell with some rocks and began to gasp violently. I asked if he was ok.. no response. . Again I asked.. He had climbed up a few feet and asked me if the gas monitor was on. It was not. I turned it on, and it lit up. Low O2 18.9% and high CO 3%. We slowly exited the cave. For giggles and a distraction we bagged the summit again as it was only 15m above us.
Christian was done for the day, so we headed over to the other survey team and visited. Fix took our pictures. Then I left and got Eddy to help me survey some leads at the top of the subway. We eventually connected into a station left from a previous day by the other survey team.
Back at camp we ate, listened to music and had Woody dance for us in unicorn and rainbow tights. Absolutely fantastic and hilarious! !
I got a hot water bottle for the night, and cleaned my kit up for the upcoming wind storm. Bed time.
Aug 21, 2015
There it is. We were experiencing it in all of its power. 65+mph wind.
The tents rattled and jumped. Going to the toilet involved crawling over the lip of the crater in an attempt not to be blown off the mountain. The tent at Ingraham was reported blown away with gear strewn near and far across the glacier. Christian and I were to try to complete the closing of the loop, and finish off a few leads. Moving across the crater was made an adventure fighting against the wind. The occasional gust would send you sideways trying not to fall. Once at the entrance we dove in heading to our first objective with Fix following. After sorting out the survey we paused for a few photos..
Christian and I continued on alone surveying in some small, nasty and windy passages. Eventually it came to an end.
No connection. We were covered in mud, being wet and cold. We headed back to camp. Our caving for this expedition was at a close..
After lots of socializing, dinner and a hot water bottle, I went to my tent with a 5 am wake up for the descent tomorrow. It would be fun, dropping 3500m!
Aug 22, 2015
So.. the 8 am departure did not happen. It was late, much later than I wanted. We left the Summit camp at 10am with heavy bags yet again. 4 1/2 hours later we were at camp Muir. While resting for a bit, we ran into some of the derig team coming up. They had to carry a bit more up then originally planned due to the Camp on Ingraham Flats blowing away in one of the wind storms. Thanks for all the support guys! (and the setup and support teams as well). I chose to run down the Muir snow field, while Christian and Lee were content with walking down to Paradise. I believe I was motivated to get out of my mountaineering boots, and put on my sandals. Walking from Pebble creek down to Paradise I was greeted like a returning champion by hikers I met along the trail. A few would engage in conversation and I would explain the project, and what we had accomplished, accompanied by the few token photos on my phone. I arrived at the team trailer, and dropped my bag (90lbs), 6 hours after leaving the Summit camp. The other team members would start trickling in an hour later. We hung out smiling, laughing, swapping stories, and drinking beer. We returned to the Longmire camp to shower, eat, visit and sleep.
Aug 23, 2015
We were up early, and on the road shortly after 7am. Christian behind the wheel and I a passenger. We arrived late that evening, back in Calgary.
The survey teams mapped a total of 10399 feet (3169m) of cave passage in the East Crater. With a vertical depth of 367 feet (111m). The west crater cave had 336 feet (102m) of passage mapped to a depth of 54 feet (16m) before having to call it off due to bad air.