2012 Climb For Clean Air

Last year, on my climb recap, I vowed to be part of 2012 Climb for Clean Air event again and give Mt. Rainier another try.   I love the mountain so much and I am a big supporter with American Lung Association effort and this event is the best of the both world for me.   I get to climb the mountain that I adore so much and be part of an amazing event for a good cause.

This year is also mark as 25 years anniversary of this event, which made it even special and my mind was set to be part of this amazing event again.

Then life happened.

My family are my biggest supporter.   Without the support from my husband, I would have serious hard time to accomplished things the way I did.   Last year, we trained together and weekend after weekend, we drove 2 hours to the mountain so we can hiked for 8 hours and head home (well, he drove, I napped).   It was wonderful and awesome.

There are certain health challenges that we are facing recently and my husband is heading in to some surgery with about a month recovery time, and there were absolutely no way we can squeeze in an appropriate training with that short period of time and the last thing you want is to go up there without proper training.   So we decided this year, something gotta’ give.   We are not going to be part of the event for this year and will be looking forward for the opportunity to be part of it next year.  The mountain is not going anywhere and it always welcome and challenge us to give it another try.

For those who want to know more about this event, feel free to contact me.   If you want to give mountaineering a try and want to take on challenge to summit the mountain, this is an awesome event to be part of.   Their reach to the summit program give you flexibility to choose between four mountain; Mt. Rainier (14,410ft), Mt. Hood (11,239ft), Mt. Adams (12,276ft) and Grand Teton (13,770ft).   I proudly stood on the summit of three of those mountains (Rainier, Hood and Adams) and I can tell you this, it was absolutely amazing experience.   They will have professional guide service and you are not required to have certain pre-requisite mountaineering skills (you kinda have to be somewhat fit tho).

Me at 9000ft

This picture was taken around 9,000ft and is my favorite picture of me in the mountain.   It was a phenomenal day and a great reminder of why I love this mountain so much (I did look happy, yes?).    We might still take occasional hike up to the Camp Muir during the summer or to the surrounding lower peaks.   Would love to have other people in this awesome SQL Family to join us one of these days.

2013 Climb for Clean Air — watch out for us!

Until next year.

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Because It’s There

When asked why he climbed the mountain, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person who stood on the summit of Mt. Everest, said ‘because it’s there’. When I think about it, that’s one of the reasons why I climb the mountain too, among other things.

Some of you probably already know, since you were following my progress live, that I did not summit the mountain.    Two factors that were completely out of my control, my health and weather, prevented me from going further.    Did I feel disappointed?   A little bit, of course.   I’ve been training hard and looking forward for this day, but I felt more proud more than anything.   I got to see a view that only a few of us are able to see.    I got to watch the most beautiful sunrise between the mountain range, and the most beautiful stars in the sky.    I got to experience this whole thing with my husband, the love of my life.

Mt. Rainier

This mountain, Mt. Rainier, is a hard mountain.   The weather could change from hot, sunny, no clouds to 30mph wind, rain and no visibility with no warning.   For some of us, who live at sea level, being above 10,000ft with no acclimation period, can really push your limits.    Then, add that with 30mph wind, cold wet wind, while walking on a 60 degrees ice hill, with 400ft crevasse next to you – things could get a little hairy up there.

We gave it our best, but it wasn’t our day.   Only three of our team member reached the summit, while the rest of the five of us did not.    I hope that I didn’t disappoint a lot of you, who follow my progress live, who continuously cheer me on, who relentlessly give the support during this whole journey.    The mountain is calling my name to come back, which I will.   I have entire year to get myself healthier, better and condition even more before joining American Lung Association, Climb for Clean Air team again – to give the summit another try.   Why?   Because it’s there.   Because I love being out here and the mountain, this particular mountain, is so majestic and keep calling my name to come back.    I stood on top of this mountain 6 years ago and I’m itching to come back and repeat that experience.

Why Climb for Clean Air, you might ask.   There is more than one guide service that I can always go to and have them guide me to the top of this mountain.   I don’ have to wait until next year.  Heck, I can go again in the next few weeks if they have an opening.     That’s all true.   However, I absolutely love what American Lung Association of Washington does.    I have a lung disease.   My daughter has asthma.  I would love, someday, to not struggle with it anymore.   The funds that I raised, the ones that YOU so generously donated, helps them to promote the clean air campaign, as well as the research for vaccines and cure of all lung disease.   So what would be better than combining the love and passion for the mountain, and the cause that I believe in?    That is why; I will join 2012 Climb for Clean Air.    I hope you will support me again next year the same way you did this year.    I hope that you will generously donate to their effort through this campaign and help me reach my goal again next year because by doing so, you are helping them, help me.   You are helping thousands of people who have lung disease and give them hope.    That’s my personal goal.    I’m a cancer survivor, and I have lung disease.   If I can do this, and not let my limitation stop me for doing things that I love to do, I am hoping that other people who have what I have can be inspired to do the same.

Trip Detail

Our route

It was raining and cold on Thursday morning.    We huddled up and were told to wear our base layer only on the upper body, and no base layer on the lower body plus our hard shell for top and bottom.   The goal was to walk on steady pace, not to sweat too much and keep our clothes as dry as we can.

We started to walk around 10am.    I was feeling good and the rain didn’t bother me as much.   We stopped at our first break about an hour after at 6500ft.   I ate and drank, and tried to keep my body as warm as possible.   The wind started to pick up and it was cold.   I was feeling strong.

Me at 1st break. Poor Visibility

We continued to walk and the wind started to pick up really strong.   As we walked up the rock, I started to be a wee bit behind the rest of the group but still feeling pretty good.   Jake, our lead guide, started the pace for me and I was told to stay closely behind him.   The visibility was really poor.   I can barely see 20ft in front of me.   The fog and rain, plus the wind were made the whole hike become more difficult than what it usually was.     Our second break was around 7300ft, a short hike above Pebble Creek and the weather just got worse and worse.   I started to get worried.   I knew this route by heart and I’ve been on this route every single weekend in the last two months but this cold air and moisture really, really hard on my lung.    I shivered as we sat down on our break, tried to chug half litter of water and ate our snack.    I was thinking to send a check-in from my GPS but I can’t even get my hand off my gloves, so I gave up.

View of the summit from Ingraham Flat. It's 'right there'

Fifteen minutes later, we got up and started to walk.   Muir snowfield never seems so unfriendly.   This snowfield is not a strange place for me, but with poor visibility, I barely can tell where we were at.    I slowed down my walk a bit to compensate my breathing.    Whenever I did pressure breathing, I let cold air irritate my already irritated lung.    I kept on going, one foot in front of another until we got to our third break, somewhere at 8500ft, shortly before the base of the moon rock.   My hands were so cold and numb, and I quickly switched to different gloves.   My feet started to feel numb as well but I braved through it.    I shivered badly and I started to feel some tightness on my chest.   I had tears in my eyes because I knew exactly what it was.    I kept on praying; please let this tightness go away and tried to think something positive.

Steep Trail at Dissapointment Cleaver

We continued to walk and the wind blew even stronger.   By the time we got to the last hill after the moon rock which about 9200ft, I could only walk slow since the tightness in my chest was getting stronger.   Elias, one of our guides, walked with me and John.   I took one step at the time, one foot in front of another, focusing on just getting myself to Camp Muir.    From the distance, I saw the rest of my team sit down on their fourth break, which was about 9600ft and I told Elias that I want to skip that break.   I would rather walk slow and take 30 secs breaks when needed to get deep breaths rather than sitting down for ten or fifteen minutes, so we did.    I started wheezing as I was walking, and coughing and my chest felt tighter and tighter.   My tears started to fall down on my cheek because I knew what this meant.   I worked soooooo hard to come to this point and my body failed me.

We finally got to Camp Muir about six hours after we started, which was not a bad time.   I caught up with the rest of the team and rested.    Jake, our team guide and I, had a little chat.   He was worried about me to go higher than Camp Muir because of my irritated lung, especially the weather in the upper mountain wasn’t really friendly.   There’s strong wind and it was cold.    I agreed with his assessment and as much as I wanted to go higher, I would put the rest of my team in danger because if I couldn’t recover fast enough, I would be a liability to the team instead of asset.

I came back to the hut and rested.   I let John know that I would stay behind and made him promise to keep on going and not stay behind just because of me.    I cried on John’s arm but he assured me that I did the best I can and there’s nothing else I can do.    We held hands and laid next to each other at the hut, and rested.

Little Tahoma Mountain from the Cleaver

At midnight, Jake came into the hut and woke us up.    We were told to get ourselves ready and they were shooting at 1am to start walking.   It was quiet and a lot of silence in the hut as everybody tried to get ready.   There’s nervousness, as well as the unknown feeling on what’s out there.    There were three rope teams of ALAW climbers.   John was on Jake’s rope team, along with James and Lance, our fellow climbers.   I stepped outside and stood next to John as he was getting ready.    The sky was clear, even though we had very strong wind and about 30mph gust wind.    I was in awe when I look up.   There it was the most beautiful sky I ever seen with so many shining stars.

The whole team left about 1am, and I walked back to the hut.   It was cold, dark and windy.   I laid there in the hut and I couldn’t go back to sleep.   I worried about John, and the rest of my team due to the weather.   The guide said that the weather was ‘workable’ which didn’t really give me warm and fuzzy feeling.   I could hear the wind howling outside the hut and made the most horrible noise.

The door suddenly opens a couple hours later.   Erik, one of the guides, came back with two of my fellow climbers, James and Dean.  They both got really bad altitude sickness, headache and nausea.   They got as far as the first break, which was at Ingraham Flat (11,200ft).    I was told that John still climb strong and keep on going, which was a huge relief for me.    Then Erik asked me how I felt, and told me that he would take me to Ingraham Flat to see the sunrise if I was up to it.   I jumped to the opportunity so quick.  Jake and I had discussed that earlier but it all depends on the availability of the guide and how I feel.

Absolutely Stunning Sunrise

Around 4am, I was putting on my crampon, and had all my gear ready.    Erik and I roped up together and started to walk across Cowliz Glacier.   It was gorgeous sky.   The sky was orange due to the sun that tried to rise.   I took a deep breath and followed Erik.    He set a really good pace and I kept the interval the whole way across the glacier.   I saw a lot of rock fall and quite a big crevasse as we walked.    The wind still blew pretty hard, and it hurt my face as we walked but I was excited.   We got to the bottom of Cathedral Rock and started to climb up.    There was a lot of loose rock and it was not an easy feat to walk on the rock with crampon.    As we approached the top of the Cathedral Gap, Erik told me that John and another fellow climber, Chris, had turned around from the top of Disappointment Cleaver and they were resting at the top of the Cathedral Gap.     I was excited to see John and kept on walking.   The terrain changed from the rock to this solid 60 degrees ice.    I took one foot in front of another and follow Erik to the top of the Gap.    When we got there, we didn’t see anybody so we got a bit confused.   Erik talked to Elias via the radio and tried to figure out where they were.   Turned out they were waiting for me at the Ingraham Flat, which was about half an hour from where we were.   He asked me if I want to keep going to the Flat.   I was hesitated a bit, since I really want to go to there, but John and Chris, my fellow climber, were ready to walk back towards me.    I didn’t really want to run into them on the 20ft wide icy trail with about 400ft drop next to me.   I want to see John so bad and sat next to him and enjoy the view together so I decided to wait for him on top of Cathedral Gap.

Big Crevasse at Ingraham Flat

We found some spot next to the tall rock and sat down.   I can’t really describe it here how beautiful the view was.   Words can’t even explain.    Little Tahoma mountain stood in front me, and I can see Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helen, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood and Goat Rock Range in the horizon.   It was so peaceful and absolutely stunning.   The sun rose up in the sky, gave the most incredible glowing color.      I sat there quietly and soaked it in.   I felt lucky, and blessed.    I got to see the most stunning view that not a lot of people get to see.   Sure, I would love to stand in the summit but on that very moment, I felt incredibly lucky.   About 15 minutes later, I heard some footsteps and there was John.    He was limping and I can tell he was hurting.    He got to the top of the Disappointment Cleaver and decided to turn around because he knew that he would have a hard time to come back down.    John was diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis six months ago on his right hip.    There is no blood flowing in between his femur and hip joint and has been recommended for him to have a hip replacement surgery.   He hasen’t done one yet and continued to hike with me, but this trip aggravated that even more.   He felt that he would be a liability to the team if he kept on going.    He told me that it was very windy and very cold on top of the cleaver, which convinced me even more that I made a good decision to stay behind.

We sat down on top of Cathedral Gap and enjoyed the view together.   For a second time, I felt incredibly lucky.  Not only I am one of the few people that get to see this magnificent view, I got to see it with my husband.    This is a win.

Thirty minutes later, we were heading back to Camp Muir.

We got back to Muir about an hour later and rested just a bit.    We were told three of our team member reaches the summit about 7:15am.    I was so proud of them!   Congratulations for Justin, Lance and Mark!    Due to the weather, they only stayed up on the summit for 45 minutes and didn’t even go to the higher point in the middle of the crater to sign the book.  Anywhere on the rim is a legal summit, and they will go into the parks records with the date and their names sicne they did make it.   The three stayed at the crater rim just long enough to take pictures and head back down.

I'm being recognized!

Around 10am, we started to pack our gear to get ready back to Paradise.   John and I had a head start since he might have to walk a bit slower due to his hip.    It was an awesome day.   The sun was out and there was absolutely no wind.   The mountain was smiling at us.   It was absolutely beautiful day.    That was another proof that the mountain weather can change from one extreme to another without warning.     We ran into Climb Team 3 around 8300ft and wished them luck.     We glissaded off the mountain and took our time to walk.    Around Panorama Point (6800ft) – I heard someone calling my name.   I looked around and there was a familiar face.   My best friend, Marisa, was hiking up to greet me!   That was so awesome of her!   We continued to walk down together and got to Paradise around 2pm.   I walked to the Paradise Inn and immediately called my girls’s name since I knew they were there.   Within a second, I heard my youngest girl scream out ‘Mama!!’ and follow by my oldest.   They both ran towards me and leaped into my arm.    That was double win!

We had celebration dinner at 5 with Lou Whittaker and the rest of the team.    I was recognized as an extraordinaire fundraiser and a great inspiration.   I was honored.   My girls got a little souvenir from American Lung Association as a token of appreciation on my behalf.    Both John and I got our certificate from RMI and ALAW, did the whole photo and such.

Overall, it was unbelievable journey.   Despite the fact that I didn’t summit, I know that I accomplished a huge thing.    I did my best and gave it all, and more.

The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had a courage to start  — John J. Bingham

The mountain is not going anywhere and I will be back.    Jake, Elias and Erik – thank you SO much for an awesome experience.   You are an awesome guides and I appreciate everything you do to make this journey so memorable for me.    I will see you around on the mountain!

For a complete pictures of the climb, visit:  http://tinyurl.com/ClimbPictures

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D-day: Climb for Clean Air

This is it.  The day is finally here.   Today is my climbing day.

I woke up antsy, and nervous.   I know I’m ready, but I can’t help to feel the anxiety and all of this ‘what-if’ thought in my head.  The weather supposed to be decent and those strong winds supposed to slow down.    I’m still crossing my finger for it since the mountain weather can change faster than you even realize.

Today’s agenda is to go to Camp Muir (10,080ft).   We are going to meet the rest of the team at 9:15am at Paradise and start to walk at 10am.   It will take approximately 6 hours to get to Camp Muir.   We are going to take a break every hour for 15-20 minutes.    When we get to Camp Muir, we are going to rest, rehydrate and being horizontal (sleep is optional).    We are going to start our upper mountain climb somewhere between midnight – 1am.

Disappointment Cleaver is the route we are going to go through.     There will be three break from Camp Muir to the Summit, and they are Ingraham Flat (11,200ft), Disappointment Cleaver (12,300ft) and High Break (13,500ft).   At the summit, depend on the weather – we could take an hour break or touch the rim and head back down.     The whole trip from Muir to Summit take somewhere between 6-7 hours.

I will try to send a check-in every break to all of you who already on the list for my ‘basecamp’ person.   Please forward that check-in to anybody else that you think need to know.   This check-in will also posted at my Facebook page and on twitter (#GoYanni)

You can also follow my progress live.   My GPS (Spot Connect) will continuously upload my coordinate via satellite to their server, which will update the page.   The URL for my live progress is:

http://tinyurl.com/FollowYanni

Today’s climb is not an easy feat.   It’s a hard, and tough and I’ll be hiking for a long time.   It will be cold, very cold.   There’s a lot of crevasse around, as well as loose rock.   There’s always a possibility of avalanche.   I can go on and on, and no, I’m not trying to scare my mom here.    I’m just being realistic.    However, I’ll be doing this with a professional guide services who know what they are doing.   I know I’m in a good hand.   I have trained for this day, and learned and learned more.      Having said that, I am requesting everybody’s prayer for John and I safe and strong climb.   For our strength and for coming back home safely with our ten fingers and toes.    Please send us your positive energy, your warm thought and wish us luck.

Thank you, very very much for all of your support.   This is a joint effort.   All of you are climbing with me in spirit.

It’s GO time.

 

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T-1: Recap

Today, it was a good day.  Climb school was a lot of fun.   We huddled around 8:15am, did a quick gear check and a little chat with the Jake, our guide.   He recommended us to just wear one layer of upper and lower body, since the weather seems to warm up.   We met the second guide for our team, Erik Nelson and we were heading out to Paradise at 8:30am.

We walked for about an hour to our climb school location and during the climb, we learned about a proper rest-step and pressure breathing, which are vital for a successful climb.   We also learned about the pace that we are going to use during the entire climb as well as walking with our ice axe.    Ice axe need to be on the uphill side and needed for a balance point when you walk at the upper mountain.

We also learned some uphill walking technique, such as duck-walking, and cross-over and some downhill walking such as plunge and boot skiing.    It’s amazing a little thing that you do can increase the efficiency of your walk and preserve your energy!

Then we got to the fun part.   How to self-arrest and team-arrest during unfortunate situation such as, well, hope this never happen to me, but falling to the crevasse or if someone on your rope team fall into the crevasse.    We hiked up to the top of the hill and slide on our back and our stomach facing down, and try to stop ourselves.    I’ve been through this climb school before, 6 years ago, and this is like a refresher course.  I even learned some new technique!

Last part of the climb school are crampon and walking with rope.   We learned on how to put our crampon and how to walk in crampon.   Different efficiency technique and every little energy you can save up, you will most likely have a successful climb.

We were done around 3pm and headed back to RMI basecamp.    John and I were busy getting our gear ready again for the next day.   Some of our gear were wet (that’s what happened when you slide a lot in the snow).

The highlight for today is meeting Lou Whittaker.   I adore Lou.   He is a mountaineering legend.   He gave us some wisdom, more tips and tricks and share some awesome stories.   You know there’s a lot of stories when he was guiding people to the mountain since 1962!

We wrapped up our session around 8pm and call it a night.     John and I were back in our room, and getting our gear packed.   The plan is to meet the rest of my team at 9:15am tomorrow, at Paradise.

I’m pumped.   I’m so ready.   I am as ready as I can be.   Fifteen weeks of training are to prepare me the next two days.

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T-1: Climb for Clean Air

Another day closer to my climb day!   Today’s agenda is climb school and a fire pit chat with Lou Whittaker.   For some reason I thought we were doing the fire pit chat yesterday with Lou, but it is tonight at 7pm.   Yesterday we were only meeting our lead guide.   During climb school,   we are going to learn different techniques that will save us our lives in the event of unfortunate situation, fine tuning the technique of things that we are already know, such as breathing and walking.   Learn how to self-arrest (just in case you fall) and team arrest (just in case your team member fall), walk on with crampon, walk with ropes and all other cool mountaineering techniques that will needed for this climb.

My pack will be a wee bit lighter since the equipment list for climb school are not as much as the climb day.   We are going to huddle at 8:15am and be at Paradise at 9:30am.   We will be out and about until 3pm.

As I am writing this post, it is raining outside.   Not pouring, but sprinkle rain and a little bit of wind.    It’s not a new thing for Seattle resident since that’s pretty much how our weather all year.   Hopefully, wind stay the same and the rain will not get any harder.

Well, I better eat my breakfast and head out.    Thank you for your emails/tweets!  Keep them coming, since I might need a little encouragement later when I come back from the climb school – super tired, wet and cold and question myself on why in the world I am doing this.

Lots of love.

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T-2: Recap

We left the house around noon’ish today and head out to Ashford to start this adventure.   We arrived at Ashford around 2:30pm and picked up some of our gear.   As a sponsor of the event, RMI gave us helmet, harness with locking carabiner and avalanche receiver for free to all the climber.   Since I had done the climbing on 2005, I didn’t need to rent any other gear.

Shortly after, we gathered under one of their tent and we brought our pack and the rest of our gear so the guide can inspect it and make sure we have everything we need.   Laura, our event manager gave us our swag and I got an additional bonus — an ice axe that personalize with my name.   Pretty awesome!

My personalize Ice Axe!

We started the afternoon by an orientation by our lead guide, Jake Beren.    He’s been with RMI for 5 years and been all over the place.   We sat down inside the lounge at the base camp and introduce ourselves, where we come from, why are we doing this, etc.   Then he went over some presentation about the route, what to expect and the schedule for the next 3 days.      We chatted for about an hour, did a little bit of Q&A session and we moved on to a gear check.

He went over some of the gear, starting from the ground (boots) to the top (helmet).   It was interesting to see tip and tricks he show on how to pack efficiently, such as, put your snack inside your parka pocket so when you are at 12,000ft, with a strong wind – you don’t have to dig inside your pack for a snack.   You put your parka on, there reach inside the pocket and there’s your snack.    After that, he started to go over our gear individually.   I got everything okay, other than my thick mittens.   He told me that mine wasn’t warm enough, so I need to get a different one.   So I rented this one.

We wrapped up the afternoon around 5pm.   Tomorrow we are going for a climb school and we are meeting at the same place at 8:15am.

That’s it for today!   I’m hoping for a decent weather.  It’s rainy here and somewhat cold.   Forecast tomorrow said that it will be partly cloudy with a chance of shower (yes, that’s Seattle weather) and it will be 53 degrees at Paradise to start of.

Thank you for everybody’s tweet today!  I only have internet access here at the basecamp.   I’ll try to update daily on what’s going on until the time I’m out in the mountain.

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