July 10, 2000
Fifteen-year-old Nick Brewe (right) and his father Keith made the climb up Mt. Rainier for the first time.
For Jerry Salter (left), who had summited the mountain before, the climb was memorable because his son, Brandon, 17, accompanied him.
by Deborah Stone, features writer
After months of intense training and preparation, twenty-four climbers with full packs began their ascent of Mt. Rainier on June 24th.
Climbing teams were led by Venture Crew 609 of Issaquah; a youth-led high adventure program for young women and men, chartered by REI of Redmond, operating under the guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America.
The group consisted of members of Boy Scout Troop 618 of Bellevue and Troop 573 of Woodinville. Youth climbers ranged in age from fourteen to seventeen and included seven father-son teams. Among these teams were Jerry and Brandon Salter and Keith and Nick Brewe of Woodinville.
The teams left White River Campground at 4,400 feet on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier and proceeded up the mountain, camping at Glacier Basin at 6,000 feet the first night. They established a high camp on Emmons Flats at 9,800 feet above Camp Schurman for the summit assault.
Six rope teams left high camp around midnight Sunday and most arrived at the 14,411-foot summit between 7:00 and 9:00 on Monday morning. Of the initial twenty-four climbers, sixteen were successful in their ascents.
"We had a great blend of experienced climbers along with our first-timers," said Tim Ham, Venture Crew 609 Chairman. "There were five adults and three youth with prior summits. Not all of the climbers reached the summit, but each established their personal best on this route on a climb they will never forget."
For Jerry Salter, the climb was made even more memorable and special because he did it with his seventeen-year-old son, Brandon, a senior at Woodinville High School.
"I had summited before, but really wanted to make it with my son," commented Salter. "It will be something we will remember for the rest of our lives."
Last year, he and his son had attempted the climb together, but had to turn around at 13,400 feet due to altitude sickness. This year, although they suffered some nausea and fatigue, the pair rested more, ate better, and persisted in their endeavor.
"We also had great training sessions this year, which provided us with excellent preparation for the climb," explains Salter. "We went through several months of training on glacier travel skills, ice-axe self arrest, crevasse rescue techniques, and training hikes, including one to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier. That was up to 10,000 feet and helped prepare us for higher altitudes."
Bill Clark, Venture Crew Adult Advisor, led all the skills training of the group, and for the third year in a row, led the climbing group. It was his 20th summit of Mt. Rainier.
The ascent of Mt. Rainier is an arduous one, and there is no relief for climbers along the way. They are roped together and constantly move upwards, past treacherous ice crevasses, all the time vigilantly aware of the conditions that surround them and attuned to the other climbers on their team.
"It is very hard work and very challenging," says Salter. "When you reach the top, it is somewhat anticlimactic, because it has been such a tiring ordeal and you really don't feel that well. But it's an amazing view to look down and see the tops of all these other mountains. You can see for such a far distance. It is an awesome feeling and I know for me, I felt humbled. I have such a respect for this King of mountains and for Mother Nature."
For Salter, the process of getting there is what matters most, and being able to share the experience with his son is the definite high point. Salter's next goal is to climb Glacier Peak, but prior to that, he and his son are headed for New Mexico for a seventy-seven-mile, fourteen-day backpack trip.
"I have always enjoyed the outdoors and these types of experiences are so important to me," explains Salter. "Over the years, I have done lots of hiking and backpacking with Brandon, and I know he shares this feeling with me. He has learned so much about the outdoors, and doing something like climbing Mt. Rainier has proven to him that he can achieve any goal he sets, as long as he has the desire."
Keith Brewe and his fifteen-year-old son Nick made the climb for the first time, although they have done many backpacking and hiking trips together in the past, including a Mt. Saint Helens climb two years ago. For Nick, the experience of summiting Mt. Rainier was a definite challenge, especially with the high altitude and the cold.
He says, "It was really hard, and it was so cold that my water bottle froze. I had bad blisters, too, and it was difficult to walk with plastic boots. The air was really thin and it was hard to breathe. I felt lucky that I didn't get sick, but I did feel really tired. It was good to finally get to the top and then get back down again."
Although the view at the summit was a bit obscured due to smog conditions, Keith Brewe found it spectacular. He remarks, "As we climbed, we saw the Northern Lights, and then the moon came out and everything was red. It was incredibly beautiful and Mother Nature cooperated fully with the weather and conditions. We couldn't have asked for better weather."
Both father and son agree that their preparation and training definitely paid off. "We felt confident during the climb, as we had gone through so many climbing exercises using the equipment, as well as had done some snow camping," comments Keith.
In the future, Keith and Nick hope to climb Mt. Baker and the Three Sisters together, continuing their passion for exploring the great outdoors as a team.
Venture chair Tim Ham sees the Venture Program as one that instills a sense of leadership and responsibility in the outdoors. He says, "It is such a positive program, and there is a great camaraderie within the group. The participants enjoy doing activities that are challenging and they receive an appreciation for the skills involved in accomplishing these activities. They realize that they need to prepare themselves, not only physically, but mentally to achieve their goals."
Venture Crew 609 is open to both males and females and Scout membership is not a requirement for participation. The group meets once a month to engage in planned outdoor activities. For more information, call Tim Ham at 425-646-7216.