SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Backpacker Magazine – August 1999

Climbing: A Higher Calling

In every backpacker's life, there comes a time when you stare awestruck at a mountain and wonder, "What's it like to climb that sucker?"

by: Jim Gorman


Perhaps the experience of crossing that bridge best sums up the difference between backpacking and mountaineering. Backpacking is about entering a wilder place and opening your senses. Mountaineering is all about focus. On a big mountain, bodily functions otherwise taken for granted become meaningful. Each step has consequence, each breath is critical. Every morsel of food and gulp of water determines your readiness to handle the stresses of the day. The heightened level of awareness is both exhilarating and exhausting.

The sun is still high when we drop our packs and begin chopping out tent platforms with ice axes and shovels to establish a high camp at about 11,000 feet. This will be our base of operations for several days of learning crevasse rescue techniques, as well as the launch pad for our summit attempt. Travis, my tentmate, and I anchor our tent against Rainier's vaunted blasts, which never come. The weather is almost disappointingly benign.

By the end of our third day on the mountain, a boisterous camaraderie has developed among the members of our group as total strangers become united by a common experience. We've dangled in the blue-ice maw of a crevasse hundreds of feet deep, then clawed our way out using special ice-climbing axes. We've sweated through the intricate sequence of maneuvers required to anchor then extract a ropemate who's fallen into a crevasse. Over dinner, John, a salesman from Snohomish, Washington, regales us with an endless string of bawdy jokes. Brenda, the lone woman on the trip, has heard it all before while guiding other trips, and delivers a few of her own, including one involving Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, and "I hate Hillary" inscribed in the White House lawn. She sets us howling.

During dinner that night, Matt has an announcement. "I think you guys are ready. Later tonight we'll go for the summit. So eat up, drink lots of liquids, get to bed early, and we'll wake you when the time's right." We'll be summiting a day ahead of schedule. An electric current of excitement runs through the group.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
international mountain guides
Jan 12, 2013

can you tell me apporx how many pounds ur willing to carry for your layering system bcause it seems heavy this seems more geared for expedition climbing vs alpine i mean ur the pro but im reading about guys climbing the whites in the dead of winter using a base layer/s, driclime wind shirt from marmot, as their wind layer a light insulation peice for added warmth (micropuff) or equal then there shell if needed then like a patagonia das parka this seems like it would weigh in at far less ..
ww.mountaingurus.com/

Stu in Colorado
Jan 06, 2011

I disagree with the premise that peak bagging is a natural part of backpacking. As an avid hiker/snowshoe/camper and landscape photographer I would rather hike into an alpine lake and watch the sun rise and set over the mountains than climb to the top for a 'been there' ribbon.

I know a lot of great people that peak bag as a hobby, but it seems a little self serving to climb a mountain just to say that you have done it.

Stu in Colorado
Jan 06, 2011

I disagree with the premise that peak bagging is a natural part of backpacking. As an avid hiker/snowshoe/camper and landscape photographer I would rather hike into an alpine lake and watch the sun rise and set over the mountains than climb to the top for a 'been there' ribbon.

I know a lot of great people that peak bag as a hobby, but it seems a little self serving to climb a mountain just to say that you have done it.

Stu in Colorado
Jan 06, 2011

I disagree with the premise that peak bagging is a natural part of backpacking. As an avid hiker/snowshoe/camper and landscape photographer I would rather hike into an alpine lake and watch the sun rise and set over the mountains than climb to the top for a 'been there' ribbon.

I know a lot of great people that peak bag as a hobby, but it seems a little self serving to climb a mountain just to say that you have done it.

Stu in Colorado
Jan 06, 2011

I disagree with the premise that peak bagging is a natural part of backpacking. As an avid hiker/snowshoe/camper and landscape photographer I would rather hike into an alpine lake and watch the sun rise and set over the mountains than climb to the top for a 'been there' ribbon.

I know a lot of great people that peak bag as a hobby, but it seems a little self serving to climb a mountain just to say that you have done it.

Ralph Kolva
Jan 06, 2011

A couple of years ago our party of three were on the Kautz Glacier route and ran into a group being guided by RMI. One of the guides was friendly but two of RMI's guides were total jerks. Summit morning they rappelled over my friend while getting to the Kautz. The previous day I asked if the ice fall would accommodate 2 parties, they told me no but summit morning they started climbing behind us (we were about halfway through the ice fall) so we took a diagonal line to avoid kicking ice on them. All day we were moving well ahead of the RMI party and caught sight of them several times. On our descent of the ice fall, close to the bottom but still on the steeper ice the RMI party prepared for their descent. Surely they knew there was still a party below them but rather than check they started preparing the upper part of the ice fall for their parties descent, all the while knocking ice down on top of us. We had a couple of other small issues with the RMI group as well, I know this is only one group and one of the RMI guides seemed like a really decent guy but overall they exhibited really un-professional behavior. 15 years ago my wife and I took a mountaineering class with American Alpine Institute and while on Baker we met guides from Alpine Ascents, everyone we met from both schools I would happily climb with. RMI on the other hand has really tarnished their reputation with the action of the guides we encountered.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Health and Fitness
2014 fitness updates
Posted On: Aug 21, 2014
Submitted By: RebeccaD
Gear
MYOG Alcohol Stoves
Posted On: Aug 21, 2014
Submitted By: Tigger
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions