Melissa – A Testimonial
Mt.Rainier looms 14,410 feet above the Washington landscape located within its namesake Mt.Rainier National Park, just southeast of Seattle. As the most glaciated peak in the continental United States, as well as an active volcano, ascending Mt.Rainier is no small feat. It is considered one of the most challenging endurance climbs in the United States and a trek to the top of this mountain takes plenty of planning, dedication and determination.
Melissa first saw Mt.Rainier off in the distance while on a plane flying into Seattle and knew it was a mountain she wanted to conquer, immediately adding it to her bucket list. Growing up climbing mountains in Colorado and in places like Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia through college and early adulthood, Melissa was plenty experienced. She knew however, that the conditions of Mt.Rainier would require both physical and mental strength beyond what she had faced in past climbs.
Preparation for this trip began in January 2014, nearly seven months prior to the planned date of the trip. The safest way to travel on Mt.Rainier is in a group of three, so she recruited friends Stephanie and Natalie to begin cardio training and learning the survival skills required for a successful climb. As the date for the trip approached, Melissa faced a challenge: the need for proper footwear to make this ascent.
Stephanie, Melissa’s climbing companion, had applied for funding from The Sporting Woman Community Fund to purchase mountaineering boots for a previous climb and suggested that Melissa do the same. Only three weeks before the trip, The Sporting Woman Community Fund made it possible for Melissa to acquire a pair of mountaineering boots that would provide the protection necessary when crossing the rocky terrain, snow and ice of Mt.Rainier.
The day of the climb Melissa and her companions hiked to the base camp, located at a 5,000 ft. elevation, leaving them with a 9,000 ft. climb to the summit. Melting snow for water supply was among the first tasks at the base camp. Melissa described ‘snow kitchens’ as areas where snow was packed down much like a counter top with stoves available to melt the fresh snow nearby. Unlike other water sources in nature that require boiling before consumption, snow in its natural state is sterile and only needs to be melted for drinking. Snow can also be burned, so the person in charge of melting must keep a small amount of water in the bottom of the pot as a barrier in order to keep the snow from scorching.
After pitching tents the group went to bed at 7 p.m. and awoke at 10 p.m. to begin their adventure. The safest time for climbing Mt.Rainier is throughout the night because the sun is down and the lower temperatures cause the atmospheric pressure to be at its lowest, reducing the chance for avalanches and snow movement across crevices as a result of a lack of solar radiation. As they climbed, the group faced 1,000 ft. gains per mile and soon discovered why Mt. Rainier is considered to be one of the most challenging climbs in existence. Melissa describes the physical pain that came with advancement up the mountain as nothing she had yet experienced in her past climbs. Facing extreme circumstances, Melissa credits her companions for being mentally tough and relentless as they fought through the strain that confronted their bodies.
Melissa recalls feeling a sense of encouragement at the sight of the headlamps of the climbers ahead of them bouncing back and forth across the snow, with the moon as the only other source of light. As the sole all-female group they saw that evening, Melissa and her climbing companions take pride in the emotions, cold and pain they pushed through as they conquered Mt.Rainier.
Finally making it to the summit as the sun was rising, Melissa described the sight in a thank you letter to TSWCF as a “dream world from Mars with everything appearing bright orange as the sun blasted through the thick clouds.” The triumph of achieving something that she had only dreamed of was what made all the planning, training and the final uphill battle worth it in the end.
After meeting with Melissa to talk about her trip and how The Sporting Woman Community Fund helped her achieve her dreams, I asked her to describe in one word how the accomplishment of summiting Mt.Rainier made her feel. She said INSPIRED.
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