I was fortunate enough to experience one of the greatest journeys out there, with the safety and competency of amazing guides and the company of some truly awesome people. On Thursday morning around 8am, I hopped on a bus with 8 other climbers and 3 guides towards Paradise, the starting point of our long trek up to basecamp at Camp Muir. The first hour was easy trekking with our packs; a slow but steady climb uphill on a paved path lined with sound soother-esque streams and wildflowers of every color (being munched on by fat gophers, no less). The beautiful grandiosity of Mt. Rainier stood tall in the ever-shortening distance. After a while on the path, we hit the snow field and switched our sneakers out for our more advanced alpine shoes. With our heavy packs on back and our poles at our sides, we gained almost 5,000 feet in elevation by the time we arrived at Camp Muir around 2:30 pm. Although exhausted after this very strenuous hike, I felt exhilarated by my strength; I’d hiked all day with a heavy pack in steep snow fields and still had energy left to spare. I thought ok, I can do this. At Camp Muir we took in the breathtaking views, made some dinner, and discussed what tomorrow would look like. I settled into my sleeping bag in our bunkhouse (a modest single room with enough space to fit 20 climbers) and drifted off to sleep somewhere around 6pm. I was luckier than most—I slept a few hours despite the close quarters and mix of anxiety and excitement. Many of my climb-mates likened it to trying to fall asleep before Christmas: it just couldn’t be done. Around 12:30 am, our guide, Mike, came in to wake us up from our “slumber”. Bringing gifts of warm water for breakfast and words of encouragement, we were told we had an hour before it was show time. With head lamps on, those of us willing to aim for the summit that day scurried in the dark to prepare our packs and ourselves for the long day ahead. With crampons, harnesses, helmets, headlamps, ice axes, and a much lighter pack in tow, we roped together and began the climb around 1:30 am. At first, it was all I could do to not be distracted by what was going on around me—the stars! The snow! Over and over again in my head, I said to myself, this is wild. This entire thing is just wild. And really, there’s no other way to put it. It’s a surreal beauty, a quiet and calm that many will never experience. The stars are magnificent with no city lights to dim them and the snow glitters in the dark just beyond reach of the head lamp’s beam. The longer and further we climbed, the more and more my motto became one foot in front of the other. As the altitude and incline increased, and muscles began to tire, the easier it was to stay focused on the task. That, and looking sideways sometimes warranted shock at the steep slope downward only feet away. We climbed through snow, rock, and ice, spanned crevasses and crossed horizontal ladder bridges. My legs and arms and core and mind worked harder than they ever have, harder than I even knew they were capable of doing. Eventually, around 7:30am, we reached the summit. As breathtaking and amazing a moment as that was, any good climber will tell you, the summit is only halfway. You still have to get yourself down. I will be the first to admit, the difficulty of the descent is something I vastly underestimated. I almost welcomed brief moments of uphill climb within the descent, as tired as my legs were from climbing. By the time we reached Camp Muir, around 1:30 pm, my legs felt like complete Jell-O. And we still had 2 and a half hours to go. With a mix of half glissading but mostly falling down the snow field below (cue purple toenail and bruises galore), I eventually made it back to Paradise with my team.

That joy is unlike any other. To know your body has done something so fiercely difficult—so physically and mentally demanding and you did it. It is a feeling not meant for words to describe.

While climbing Mt. Rainier is not possible for many, there are a multitude of things in life that provide us with the same feelings of strength and accomplishment. Man or woman, I hope we all are able to find something that provides us that feeling—it’s something we as humans all deserve. It of course got me thinking (on my very long flight home) about why, as women, we are often taught to look for this feeling of self-worth in appearances and attention. This is not to say I don’t care about my own appearance—I am the first to admit my blonde highlights no longer come naturally and I certainly paint on a face when going out in public. But I do feel as if society (and social media) has made it OK for women and girls to try and find their identity in their appearance and the attention they receive for it. It’s suddenly OK to just be pretty and that’s it. We all deserve to not only feel beautiful, but to be told we’re beautiful as well. It’s essential. But we shouldn’t let our identity, or our praise, end with that. We are beautiful and (fill in the blank). Let a beautiful appearance just be a side bonus to everything else you can do.

I’ve attached some of my favorite pictures from my trip below! If you have any questions about the climb, please feel free to contact me. I used RMI to take me up the mountain, and I would, without a doubt, recommend them as a company for guiding. As my fave lady Cheryl Strayed once said, “Put yourself in the way of beauty.”