It was at 9800 feet---above the clouds---that I first began to cramp. My climbing companions and I had climbed from the Paradise Ranger station at 5500 feet of elevation on the southeast flank of Mt. Rainier in unusually sunny and warm conditions for June. We had covered the roughly 4000 vertical feet and 5 miles in a little less than 4 hours, and while I felt strong, I knew that I was in trouble when my feet began involuntarily curling in my double plastic boots. Despite the 4 liters of water I had consumed over 4 hours, I was dehydrated. Due to the sun and warmth, multiplied by the sun’s reflection off the glacier, I had been sweating heavily during the ascent. Despite 12 months of rigorous training, the effort of carrying 60lbs. of equipment up slopes as steep as 50 degrees had taken its toll.
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