Femme Beckey Expedition: May 16th-June 8th, 2023
Written by: Miriam Caron, July 2023
Expedition Members: Lizzie Wenger, Miriam Caron, Sierra Smith, & Ella Meyer
Mountain Four: Mt. Rainier via the Emmons Glacier: May 27th-29th
Morning Glow--Mt Rainier by Lizzie Wenger 2023
For the fourth leg of our journey we were joined by our good friend Ella. Given that Ella had grown up in Seattle with Rainier constantly in their backdrop, they were absolutely stoked to get onto the mountain. For me and Lizzie though, we were filled with restless anticipation. A year before in August of 2022, Lizzie and I had attempted to summit Rainier via the Disappointment Cleaver route; but due to a lightning storm we were forced to turn around at 12,000 ft.
The year before in August of 2022, we had been the only all-female climbing team at camp Muir. We picked up a vibe that the climbing ranger at camp Muir (as well as almost all the other climbers at the camp) doubted that we were going to the summit and even assumed we were part of a guided group. The ranger went so far as to stare us down during the pre-climb safety talk he gave everyone even though we had more snow protection gear then most of the other teams. This year we returned to Mt. Rainier summit hungry, excited to try a new route and determined to prove ourselves as badass femmes.
We began our climb on May 27th from the White River campground at 4,000’ and hiked up to camp Sherman at 9,500’ where we had to dig out a platform in the snow for our tent. That evening we left the safety of camp and began our crevasse-filled journey up the Emmons glacier. As we nodded off from sleep deprivation at about 10,500’ we were starkly awoken to a snow bridge crackling beneath our feet, and we were reminded just how dangerous our summit pursuits were.
Sunrise on Emmons
Lizzie with a big pack (35mm)
We safely made it to the highpoint of our trip, Mt. Rainier summit at 14,411’ shortly after 12pm. After taking a short summit nap, which led to a killer glacier goggles tan, signing the summit registration book and sharing our treats of pop rocks with other climbers and ski mountaineers, we started our descent hoping to make it back to camp before the afternoon sun turned the stable snow to slush.
Sunburnt Miriam with little Tahoma in background (35mm)
Emmons glacier (35mm)
Ella on Emmons (35mm)
We had a smooth journey down the Emmons glacier having no problems crossing snow bridges over semi-truck sized crevasses until we reached the beginning of the Emmons flats. We were less than a quarter mile from camp when we approached a large crevasse with a snow bridge so big you wouldn't know you were crossing an almost bottomless pit unless you were sure to check far to your left and right as if crossing a road. We identified the crevasse and one by one crossed the snow bridge while the other two of us were ready to self-arrest. Lizzie first crossed the afternoon slush safely, then Ella followed. However, as I followed in their footsteps my foot plunged through the crevasse and I was up to my hip in snow and my boot felt nothing but air beneath it. Luckily, my competent partners jumped into action. After Ella jumped into self-arrest, Lizzie dug a dead-man’s anchor as quickly as she could while Ella began to belay me off their self-anchored ax. Once I was on belay, I threw Ella my heavy pack and was able to remove my leg from the hole and crawl across the crevasse.
As we stumbled into camp, a group of middle-aged men who were setting up camp at the start of the Emmons flats arrogantly looked at our exhausted faces and asked if we were doing alright to which Ella quickly responded, “We're doing great, how are you?” After an amazing night's sleep, we awoke and powered up on a freeze dried breakfast before making our quick descent glissading down the inter-glacier zone to the White River campground and sadly said so long to Ella.
Post summit dinner
Stay tuned for part 6 of the Femme Beckey Adventure: A climb of Forbidden Peak!