Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mike Banner's 50 years to the top of Mt Rainier

ST Mike Banner summit of Mt Rainier
Mike Banner, my long-time coworker is featured in the Seattle Times this weekend, because last year he accomplished ascending Mt. Rainier fifty years in a row. 50!

You would think he would be single-minded to get to the top. No. He invites rookie climbers, non-climbers, on his ascents. He takes them up - often to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet on Rainier - for a  mini-course in glacier climbing. Of course having inexperienced people on the climb lowers the chances of success. Extra care must be taken on the glaciers in the presence of crevasses, they have less awareness of what they can and cannot do and therefore expend more energy than those experienced. Furthermore weather often  slows or cancels a climb. Of course he does not take them on the more difficult routes, like Liberty Ridge or Kautz icefall.

In 1979 I joined him on the climb for my second time to the top. We had a party of six; I believe two were rookies, not sure. We left Paradise, 5700 feet, at sunset. We were blesses because the nearly full Moon rose and hour later and lighted our path. After reaching Camp Muir toward midnight (as best I recall) we rested for about an hour as people in other parties who had spent “the night” there were getting up and going. We took the Muir-Disappointment Cleaver route, the standard, and got to the summit after sunrise. From reaching the summit crater to cross the crater and ascend Columbia Crest, the highest point, is about a half mile. At 14,411 feet it is real work. So half our party were satisfied to stay at the rim; the other three of us went ahead. Then at the very summit Mike opened his pack and pulled out a full-size watermelon!  Then I got sick, but not before I reached the summit. (My previous climb was in 1964 with the Seattle Mountaineers climbing course.)

I wish I had good photos of that climb, because that year there was an unusual condition in the ice called nieves penitente, that usually happens much closer to the equator in the Andes. Nieves penitente (means praying snow) is little towers of ice - an expanse of them - in our case, one to three feet high. It’s unreal to realize you are walking among miniature ice towers! See Wikipedia.

Mike has introduced many people to the mountains. Congratulations to a gentleman.

Seattle Times honors Mike. But they didn’t print the photo of Mike, Clay and myself holding up the watermelon atop Columbia Crest! (He still has it.)

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