Blown Away on Rainier

I swear, every time I turn around Dad comes out with another story. Like this one.

When he taught with the Boeing Employees Alpine Society, or BOEALPS, they used as a textbook “Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills,” by The Mountaineers. It’s currently in at least its seventh edition, but the one Dad used was probably the first.

Dad and another climber were asked to take one of the book’s editors up Mount Rainier, as she had either no or very little climbing experience. She was a small person, and Dad and the other fellow roped her up between them, Dad taking up the end of the rope team.

As will happen on large temperamental mountains like Rainier, the wind came up, gusty and strong. They’d climbed to a certain point up on a ridge and suddenly WHOOSH this poor girl is blown sideways into the air. Dad and the other fellow were pulled off track a couple of steps, but held tight until she could clamber back between them. Another three or four steps up the ridge and WHOOSH she’s knocked off her feet again.By the time Dad and the other guy dug their feet in, she’d sailed about ten or fifteen feet into the air, heading in the direction of a very steep drop off of, oh, say two thousand feet.

Dad said she shrieked every time she was blown away, all the louder the closer she got to the edge. “It wasn’t funny at the time” said Dad, giggling. It sure was funny to hear it, though.

The story ends with them shortening the rope, so that there wasn’t but six feet between each of them. And they did make it to the top and back down safely.

I can still see in my mind’s eye this poor tiny soul being gusted off the edge of the mountain. It takes something like that for people to realize what mountaineers go through just to get to the summit in one piece. The mountain doesn’t give a flip about you or your plans.

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