I saw Mt. Rainier for the first time three years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Being from Michigan, it was surreal for me to see a snow covered mountaintop on an 80 degree day. I instantly wanted to learn everything there was to know about the mountain and ironically enough, I moved to Washington a year later an hour away from Mt. Rainier National Park.
This February, I was scrolling through the Facebook page of Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (RMI) and saw a post about Climb for Clean Air. This program gives climbers the opportunity to summit either Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker or Mt. Hood with world-reowned RMI guides after reaching a specific fundraising commitment for the American Lung Association. I jumped at the opportunity to summit Mt. Rainier for a great cause but was a little apprehensive about raising $8,000 between my husband and I. After reaching out to the event coordinator and speaking with Climb for Clean Air alumni climbers, I knew the fundraising was possible with much commitment. I brought the information to my branch manager and he was thrilled about the idea of fundraising within the branch. Within the past three months fundraising at work, we brought in almost $5,500. We coordinated bake sales, an after-hours BBQ at the bank, sold Columbia Bank wristbands and posted flyers that got both our personal clients and business eager to help out. It was a long three months but thanks to the help of our family, friends and co-workers, we successfully raised the $8,000 fundraising commitment for the ALA.
While we were busy fundraising, we were also very busy training. It takes an incredible amount of endurance to make it to the summit of Mt. Rainier. Every guide or past climber will tell you to be in the best shape of your life, so we pushed ourselves harder than ever each week to get our bodies to where we're at now.
Along with the subjective hazards of inadequate experience or lack of fitness, there are also many objective hazards that make training imperative. An article from the Backpaker about the Muir snowfield proclaims, "The real killer isn't fatigue; it's the fierce storms that roll off the Pacific and shroud Rainier in blinding fog and snow, turning Muir into a high, featureless killing field. Even when snow doesn't fall, storms can envelop Rainier in vertigo-inducing whiteouts that make navigation nearly impossible." Along with the heavy snowfall and storms, other objective hazards include rockfall, icefall, and avalanches. Through Climb for Clean Air, not only do we get to summit with professional mountaineers, we also get to train with them. Before the climb, we will have night training (where we practice climbing in the night with headlamps), self arrest training and avalanche training with the RMI guides. Each one of these valuable training sessions could help save our lives in a deathly scenario on any mountain.
I look back at registering for Climb for Clean Air in February, and I already know it was one of the best decisions of my life. I've gone on amazing training hikes (like the ones shown in these photos from Rainier), met wonderful friends that I'm sure I'll be climbing with in the future, and have learned an incredible amount about mountaineering which opens a door to a new world of endeavors. We have 24 days until we go for our final ascent to the summit, and it already saddens me knowing it's coming to an end. To everyone that has donated to the American Lung Association on behalf of Team Kommer, thank you. We wouldn't have been able to accomplish such an undertaking without your generosity. To everyone that has been out there with us guiding and training, thank you for making this an incredible journey, I can't wait to share the experience of a lifetime with you all in 25 days.