Eric Fellegy of Brainerd, his cousin Steven Burnett of Lake Shore and friend Jamie Orten recently climbed Mount Rainier in Washington.
The group had been planning the trip for some time, Fellegy said, and left by Amtrak train on June 25. After a 30-hour trip by train — which included their train hitting 20 cows in the middle of the night — and an eight-hour car ride from Idaho for the last leg of the trip the group arrived at the mountain.
“The weather was gorgeous that first day ... around 60 degrees with heavy wet snow right from the very beginning. We were a little confused because all the research we did prior to the climb we saw sand, dirt, flowers and a well traveled trail from the very beginning but we quickly realized their was fresh snow everywhere with little or no traveled path,” Fellegy wrote. “We were planning on getting up to Camp Muir at around 10,000 feet the first night then summit early the next morning but since we got such a late start we made it about (8,000) feet and had to take our tent out on the snowfield and camp out for the first night.”
That night the tent was buffeted by 40-50 mph winds, Fellegy said, and the group considered themselves lucky to have survived. That morning they packed up and made it to Camp Muir, which has a bunker that holds about 25 people.
“The plan at Camp Muir is to melt snow, if needed, get a hot meal in your stomach and then wake up at around midnight to climb the last (4,000) feet to the summit so you can be up there by sunrise. At around midnight the ranger comes in and informs us all that summit has sustained wind speeds of 70 mph with gusts of 90mph ... reaching 100 (mph) at times and the temperature around 5-10 degrees. He said its basically a suicide mission if anyone goes up. Needless to say, no one went except a group of 10 or so that had a couple of guides,” Fellegy wrote.
“So, instead of reaching the summit, we were stuck at Camp Muir at around (10,000) feet ... but we felt a great deal of accomplishment because we have never climbed anything like this before. We hiked and camped Eagle Mountain in (Minnesota) during the winter but it’s a small hill compared to (Mount) Rainier. We talked to many people on the way up, at camp and on the way down, and they all said we were crazy to be hiking Rainier as our first big hike. Its training grounds for (Mount) Everest. Hundreds of people have lost their lives on Rainier. We were informed at the very beginning to watch for signs of the missing hikers that were never found from January. Also a week before we hiked four climbers fell into a crevasse and a ranger saved them but lost his life in the process. Crevasses seem to take most lives up there.
Fellegy said he, Burnett and Orten are planning another trip next year.