National Geographic : 1953 Jul
Dwarfed Adventurers Thread a Maze of Tortuous Chasms Difficult ascents require careful preparation. Mountaineers must check every inch of climbing rope, for sharp rocks may weaken nylon strands. All housekeeping essentials must be crammed into compact knapsacks. Light weight foods are packed in waterproof containers. As soon as the climbing party reaches the glacier, teams of two to four rope together. On the ice sheet, reflected sunrays can cause bad burns within half an hour. Water is scarce, de spite a wealth of snow and ice. Oranges and small cans of juice replenish body fluids. Some climbers prefer fruitade made from candy drops and melted snow. These high-altitude trav elers use a rhythmic "rest step," a pace geared to thin air. With each step they pause about three seconds, the time required for a full breath. Here on Mount Rainier independent parties with qualified leaders may try for the summit. All mem bers must register with a park ranger before starting and upon returning. They must give evidence of phys ical capability, proper equipment, and climbing experience. Rainier's 40 square miles of glaciers constitute the largest single-peak glacier system in the United States. Some of its ice tongues may have extended into the Puget Sound area ages ago (map, page 105). Crevasse floors provide fair shelter in extreme cold because interior tempera tures of glaciers remain around 32°. On the sum mit, caverns melted out by volcanic steam offer refuge. Reaching the top of ma jor peaks, climbers sign registration books kept in waterproof containers. These men cross a snow bridge on Winthrop Gla cier, one of six ice rivers originating at Mount Rai nier's summit. They head for camp at Steamboat Prow, the jagged edge of the black rock mass (left). The mass itself, known as the Wedge, splits the ice sheet into the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers.