Yellow ribbon students reach the summit of Mount Rainier this past spring
By Janel Shoun-Smith on 6/29/2012
|Casey Campana shot this photo of Ben Spencer on Mount Rainier at 12,500.|
Lipscomb students Casey Campana and Benjamin Spencer, both part of the Yellow Ribbon scholarship program, rose to new heights this past spring when they went on their first mountain-climbing expedition: to the top of Mount Rainier, the fifth-highest mountain in the contiguous United States.
|Spencer shows off the Lipscomb flag on the summit.|
|Campana waves the Marine Corps flag on the summit.|
|Campana on the summit,|
Mount Rainier is 14,410 feet to the top. Campana and Spencer, buddies from the same Marine unit, summited and returned in the course of one day, taking both a Lipscomb University and Marine Corps flag with them to the top of the mountain in an effort to raise awareness for the Yellow Ribbon program, which provides college scholarships to military veterans. They also got to experience the dangers of mountain climbing first-hand, as they discovered and helped rescue two other climbers who fell about 200 feet and were injured.
Campana, originally from Maine, got into local rock climbing after he moved to Nashville a year and a half ago to attend Lipscomb. He had the bright idea to climb a mountain about six months ago and recruited Spencer, from Pennsylvania, to go along. They trained throughout the six months, reading and practicing everything they could on mountain climbing, collecting gear and getting into shape.
“I had never personally been higher than 6,000 feet in my life,” said Campana, a senior psychology major, as is Spencer. “It is snow and ice through the whole climb, and the biggest danger is the rapid temperature changes that loosen rock and snow.”
The apex of Mount Rainier, located in Washington, is only 84 feet below Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S. located in California. Winds at the summit were 50 to 60 mph, said Campana.
The students planned their trip to fall outside of the heavy tourist season, so there were only four other climbing parties headed to the summit on May 8. They arrived at Mount Rainier and left their car at a basecamp parking lot at 5,000 feet on May 6. This site was full of day-trippers skiing and hiking on the mountain, Campana said.
On May 7, they hiked up to Camp Muir, the high camp at 10,080 feet, leaving everyone but about 10 people down below. “We all had the same weather window, so we all summited the same day,” Campana said. “It was such an intimate experience. Everyone on the mountain was extremely experienced and we all looked out for each other.”
Even so, they found they had to use much of the research and rescue skills they had learned to help lower a pair of injured climbers down one of the steepest portions of the climb. “We utilized absolutely everything we learned, except for a few rescue techniques used in extreme situations, which we were more than happy not to have had to employ,” Campana said.
Campana said he enjoyed the solitude of mountain climbing, plus “you have a healthy level of terror at any one time,” he said. Long-term hiking, like the Appalachian Trail, is not his preference. “I prefer more adrenaline, during a short amount of time,” he chuckled.
“I went through a lot of physical misery (in the Marines),” he said, “but this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. You can’t get more of a personal challenge… shy of climbing something higher.”
A goal that may be in his future, he says.
|Looking up at the mountain from 5,000 feet.|
|View of the Cowlitz glacier from their tent at Camp Muir (10,080 feet).|