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Monday, September 2, 2013

A day with Dan Mazur and Patrick A. McKnight

On Wednesday, August 21st, 2013, I had the pleasure to climb with my Everest expedition leader Dan Mazur and Patrick (my 13 year old son).  Dan, his wife, and his son were gracious hosts the night before.  Today's post recounts a wonderful day of hiking and climbing Mt. Rainier with Dan and Patrick.  I offer several observations below but the post consists primarily of pictures from the day.

Dan lives in Olympia, WA and he invited us to his house for the evening prior to our climb.  We pushed off from Portland, OR at about 4pm - right after a quick trip to Next Adventure to get Patrick some new hard shell pants.  Tuesday evening, Patrick and I arrived in Olympia a bit earlier than Dan expected.  Apparently, we escaped the bad Portland, OR traffic.  Below, Patrick was busily surfing the web on Dan's backyard bench on the water.


Yeah, backyard is a bit of a stretch.  Dan's house sits right on the Port of Olympia waterfront.  Here is a panoramic view from his deck:


Nice, huh?  Needless to say, I was jealous of his "backyard."  I particularly liked his sea water lawn.  After a bit of rest, we ate a great meal and then hit the rack to rest up before our 5am wake-up call.  Our aim was to climb on the glacier, get to know one another, and give Patrick some skills to practice for later climbs.  Here was our destination:

Our drive from Olympia, WA (Dan's house) to Mt. Rainier was uneventful.  We did the usual pre-climb ritual of eating at a super market, buying food and repackaging it for the day.  Nothing noteworthy other than I got Patrick to eat his first breakfast burrito.  I think he will slowly become a true climber as he learns to eat anything and everything put before him.  We finally got to the Paradise parking lot at about 9:30am and were off to climb at 10am.  Here are a few choice pictures of our early approach:
A look down from our approach
Patrick on the approach

Yep, that is where we were heading..

 

Great waterfall below the toe of the glacier
We got up onto the Nisqually glacier at about noon and started to roast.  I believe it was about 70+ degrees and we were dressed for a light hiking day - still over-dressed for that heat.  So the Nisqually glacier looked pretty bare in late August.  Below is a great picture of the full glacier:
Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier - probably in the spring.
Once we got up to the glacier and had a bite to eat, we quickly went to work to get Patrick setup with his harness and some rope skills.  He really seemed to enjoy himself at this point.  Below are a few nice pictures from that time:
Patrick - mountaineer
Dan Mazur - Everest expedition leader
The dirty glacier
Taking a break.  

Ready to glissade?  We were but the glacier was not terribly cooperative.
A self-portrait with a nice view in the background

Cool view up the hill.

Climbing in August...sure beats mowing the lawn 
Dan contemplating his next adventure....

while Patrick waves in the background.

Too cool....

Yep, we see you.
So we spent a bit of time scrambling along the scree to get to the glacier.  Once we were there, we got Patrick to lead up a shallow ice pitch.  Below are a few pictures of Patrick placing some ice screws.  
Learning the ropes....


Dan Mazur patiently coaching Patrick through the ropes...



Hey!  Patrick's first ice screw.  Well done lad.

The rest of the day went really well.  We had some fun glissading down the glacier - not terribly fast but we all practiced self-arrest and cooled off in the process.  Our climb down included a rather steep and frustrating scree pitch of shale and pea gravel.  Patrick cursed a blue streak for about a third of the pitch but he regained his composure and completed the climb without much trouble.  I think he was tired at this point.  Here is the pitch - look at the little white area in the middle left of the picture below:

Made it to the top...

The runoff was strong and cold.
After our scramble, we headed back for the car....not before we had a nice surprise encounter with a marmot.  These marmots are well-fed now.  Those fat suckers could care less that we were there.  
Mr. Marmot...barely visible from this shot.

He started moving away from us...not because we scared him but because the food probably looked better downhill.

This guy just laid down during his meal; never once acknowledging our presence. 

I told you these guys were huge.....

Check out how big he is compared to Patrick.  I think our dogs would have run away from him.

Still eating....

An even better shot with Patrick offering Mr. Marmot some of his water.
So it was a great day.  We got a few last glimpses at the beautiful wild flowers before departing for the car.   Kathy would have loved these sights.  I post them here for everyone's benefit:
Beautiful wild flowers throughout this entire area.  What a great hike down.



What a day!  Thanks Dan for the great hospitality and wonderful instruction you gave my son.  I truly look forward to our days on Everest.