Winter break compels many students to search for activities to occupy their time until school starts again, but for the ISU Mountaineering and Climbing Club, climbing a mountain became their New Year challenge.
Colton Kennedy, senior in mechanical engineering, coordinated the expedition to climb Mount Rainier, located in Washington National Park. The journey took six days to complete with 20-plus hours of slow and precise climbing to reach the summit, which is at a height of 14,410 feet above sea level.
“I feel like there’s a certain amount of intensity that you get mountaineering that doesn’t come across or that you don’t have available in everyday life,” mountaineering president and climb leader Kennedy said.
Freezing temperatures, acute mountain sickness and avalanche conditions provided for a challenging climb of Mount Rainier for eight ISU students, who reached the summit Jan. 3.
“It’s not something that you do and necessarily have a whole lot of fun while you’re doing it,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes you do, but it’s more of one of those activities that after the fact you really appreciate what you were able to accomplish.”
The ISU Mountaineering and Climbing Club spent the semester training comprehensive safety for the climb, which was put to the test when a team member lost his footing and fell 15 feet into an open crevasse on the way up the mountain.
“The decisions that you make really are critical, vital to [a climber’s] safety,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy was appreciative that the training provided for a calm and quick rescue for Ted Angus, senior in mechanical engineering, which allowed the climb to continue to the summit.
“It’s definitely an accomplishment with a climb like that. A climb of Rainer is something climbers respect you for, but a winter climb of Rainer is something that even guides will respect you for,” Kennedy said.
On the trek down, team members Celia Clause, senior in agricultural engineering, and Andrew Klein, senior in industrial engineering, experienced harsh symptoms of acute mountain sickness.
“[Experiencing acute mountain sickness] was just absolutely miserable, like terrible food poisoning; I was vomiting most of the trip down,” Clause said.
Clause suspects that her acute mountain sickness was brought on by dehydration and malnutrition. The team’s diet consisted of melted snow, candy bars, energy bars, oatmeal, bagels, rice and chicken during the climb.
Despite her encounter with illness, Clause says she would without a doubt complete the climb again.
“It takes a lot of teamwork to do something like that and being able to trust the people on your team,” Clause said.
Kennedy wants prospective climbers to not only plan and train ahead of time but find an experienced team to complete a climb with. He suggests that your team consist of people who have been forced to go back before reaching a summit.
“A lot of what it is, is decision making and you rely on the wisdom of the people calling the shots. Join an organization. Don’t be overly brash because that’s how people get hurt,” Kennedy said.