What happened on Saturday at Rainer can be one of my biggest stupid judgment call that
can take my life away from my friends and family. I am very sorry for myself.
It started with a decent morning, where a group of us went to Paradise @ Rainier
snowshoeing. At the parking lot, I saw there were other skiers going up and ski tracks
were quite visible from where I stood. I was ambivalent, but my 1st bad judgment picked
skiing instead. I wanted to make those turns. As our group moved on to the trail, I
noticed that the approach up was very packed and icy, and until I saw the open bowl, I
was thrilled to get up and made a few runs. Gorgeous weather at the time, blue ski with
good visibility, and we were not even 1 hour hike in from the parking lot. I feel a bit
relieved because what I saw was a stable slope.
I stayed at the back as I don't want to interrupt other's snowshoeing experience. But
as the group keep climbing up, we moved to a bottom of a steep gully. Before I can say
nothing to the people in the front, they already started ascending on the snowshoes. I
remembered I said to myself, it was just crazy to go up. It is a 40° slope but very wide,
with a few patches of grasses, loose soil, and some rocks. I stood there, thinking to call
it off, and I would just ski on the slopes that we just passed. My 2nd bad judgment came.
"Don't leave the group, stay with them." I put my ski on my pack and started climbing as well,
after 10 mins, I didn't like the icy hard-packed slope. My ski boots wasn't gripping well.
We got up the gully safely, and the group already moved on to go further up. I didn't remind
myself to speak up, just looked back into the gully to make sure I can make it down the hill
same way I just came up.
We hit another 25° open face, and we switched back to climb up another 200 feet vertical on
hard-packed ice. This time I felt I need to put on my ski and at least I got edges to stop
if I fall. I believe our adrenaline pushed us to go up higher, as weather was improving. We
stopped for lunch and hot drinks, within 30 mins, clouds came in. Bad signs.
Before .... it happened
Though it looks good, it is super icy.
Rainier is emerging ... for us
Charlie s Angels
Going up the steep slope, that we shouldnt have.
I m working hard on my skis on these icy condition. (Photographed by Larissa Min)
Jumping ... just off the ground.
No one but us !!!
On top of our first ridge ...
On top of the first steep slope .... (13.3 MB).
My 3rd bad judgment came after lunch that I didn't speak up about turning back as a group, while
some of us wanted to go higher on the ridge. I just followed. We safely got on the ridge, and
started realizing it was going to be a long long day. Wind was picking up, cloudy and foggy, nearly
white out, we did not see any markers or flags or any sort. 20 mins after that, I took my skins off,
and started to find our ways to descend. And no doubt it was very icy. All we saw are steep drops,
rocks and boulders. I stopped on a relatively flat spot waiting for the group to catch up. I felt
bad already, because I was on ski and it limited how we could traverse down as a group.
I moved about 10 feet down, and hit a piece of pure ice, and I skidded and lost my edge, and here it
went, my uphill ski popped first, I fell down sliding on my hip, picking up speed, I tried stopping with
my downhill ski, scrapping as hard as I can, the edge just wouldn't cut in. Then the downhill ski popped
out. In my mind, I got a ski above me coming down towards me and the other ski was flying down. I tried to
lean towards my left because I saw a patch a grass that I wish to aim for. I put my left hand out, and pushing
hard on the ice trying to slow myself down. Ice just cut through the gloves and scrapping my palm. I
continued to slide on my butt uncontrollably for about 10 meters, and in front of me were a pile of boulders.
I was terrified as I was picking up speed at this point. I remembered clearly that I was saying "Oh Fuck!
This is it !" to myself. Me crashing into the boulders was imminent. I briefly thought of my mom, and 2
other people in that split second. Then I was thinking how I was going to stop myself. I didn't want to
break both legs. I thought I'd rather break just one instead of both and I still could have a chance to go
down. I hit quite hard at the boulder on both boots.. Thanks God, I was not sliding anymore. Behind
these rocks, it was a steep drop. As I stood up, I picked up my ski next to me, immediately looked up
on the steep slope, making sure the ski above me was not flying down towards me, and noticing my friends
yelling at me "are you ok ?" Some were coming at me trying to help, but I told them to stop, there was
no reason to have another person to take a chance to slide down.
It took me a while to kick steps and climb up on the open slope. I knew I was shaken. And the worst
feeling that I had came right after when I saw faces of my friends. Even though I was safe, I could
see their loss of confidence and a sense of WTF. From that moment, I knew it would be very hard for
me to go down with the group where everyone else has snowshoes and could slowly track it down. I was
worried about my own safety. As we kept moving to look for a route down, clouds really came in, and it
turned into a white out condition. 20 minutes later, we were stuck at the steep slope about 45°. None
of us were confident to just go down. Some of us showed their worries on their face while a few turned
into the solution mode ignoring the others. It was difficult that for those who took leaderships without
communicating what they intend to do to the rest of the group. A lot of yelling and shouting is going on
because windy started blowing really hard. Finally, we realized we were so lost, and we started blowing
our whistle. We heard there are people just below us on the slope, though we couldn't communicate with
them, but we could hear them moving. A few minutes later, they evolved out from the fog. They were 2
skiiers with crampons on. They quickly assessed where we were, and suggested us to go down fast. It
was difficult for all of us, even with snowshoes, to traverse across on the 45° slope on ice. But as
we started moving, I could see this is the way out. I was lucky that they ferried a pair of snowshoes
for me to traverse across. And it took us about 30 min, climbing down on steps. And we reached safety.
My final thoughts: I felt regretful for my judgment but yet grateful for the lessons came along with it.
Shaken, but yet inspired by our courageous hearts.
now as a group ... finally
Now you can see the scale of the Ridge .... (Photographed by Larissa Min)
Moving on ... going up even higher (which we shouldnt have again)! (Photographed by Larissa Min)
Just too steep for my ski to handle, ... booting up the rest of the slope.
The ladies ....
We were having some group dynamics problem .....
Up on top of the 2nd steep slope ... (Photographed by Larissa Min)
Our lunch time ...finally
Hot water bottle warming the belly ... preganant, nah!
Keep going up higher, ... clouds are moving in .... getting colder and colder. (Photographed by Larissa Min)
So steep that I had to boot up the rest. (Photographed by Larissa Min)
It seemed like endlessly going up ... (Photographed by Larissa Min)
First little fall of the day.
Our last glimpse of Rainier on that day.
It was windy ....
... and cold ...
It is so windy .... (3.7 MB).
... and whiteout .... (Photographed by Larissa Min)
Had to go down this ridiculous steep slope to get out of here.
Some of us literally crawled down .....
Total white out, .... getting dark
Basically, you will need a GPS, and luckily we had one.