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  Nancy Norris: What are you waiting for?

Part Four: The mark of a mountaineer vs. a peak bagger


Nancy went to Rainier in June 2000 and didn't summit due to weather, went back the following month and made the top. This is the mark of a mountaineer vs. a peak bagger, being willing to know the mountain will be there next time, you don't always make the top, Mother Nature has her say always, that's part of the sport.


After making the summit of Cayambe in Ecuador we returned to Quito for a little rest and then Mike a team member became ill, and the other guy had not intended to climb Cotopoxi, so it was just Eli (guide) and I. He asked me if I still wanted to do it and of course I said YES. We departed for the hut and it was the dirtiest and loudest hut I had ever been in (actually the huts in Ecuador were the first huts I had been in). A lot of the people were there just to party and not even climbing. After a somewhat sleepless night and still feeling a little ill, we departed. There was a huge moon doggie (I had never seen one of those before) that just lit up the sky along with the huge stars and we could see the lights of Quito as we made our way to the top. It was a glorious climb. It wasn't too cold and there was hardly any wind. When the sun came up it revealed a beautiful day. It was a beautiful climb and we moved steadily and arrived on top in about 6 and one half hours and I felt good all the way. The summit of Cotopoxi sits a little above a crater and we just enjoyed the view and had a little food and water, took some pictures and stayed at the top for probably about 30-45 minutes.

"Nancy's energy and enthusiasm are contagious.  Having spent 20 days on Mt. McKinley with her in 2002, she was the one in the group who kept smiling and offering words of encouragement to her expedition teammates.  Her positive mental attitude will be one of her biggest assets on her future big mountain climbs."   Tim O'Brien, Rainier Mountaineering, Senior Guide on climbing with Nancy Norris on Mt. McKinley in June 2002.

It was the most pleasant summit I've had to date. The weather was so perfect that you could relax and enjoy the view and the glory of a summit. Eli had me lead our decent and we even did a little glissade (sp) and got down to the hut in about an hour. It was truly glorious and one I will never forget. After this we went to the hut on Chimborazo and then the two of us plus Eli were ready to climb. Things were going really well and then at about 18,000 feet Mike started to have some altitude problems so we stopped for a while to see if he would feel better.  He did and so we moved on but in just a few minutes he was feeling really bad again. When Eli asked him just how he was feeling, Mike said when I look at Nancy I feel really dizzy, and I mentioned that I have that affect on all men so that really doesn't indicate an altitude problem. Just kidding but I did say that. Thank goodness I don't lose my sense of humor as I gain altitude. We decided that the only thing to do was to go down, and Mike felt so bad because he knew that with this one I would have had all three summits, but I reassured him that it wasn't anything he had control over and not to feel bad. Even though I was disappointed I wasn't really upset because I knew that it could have been me (as in the past) with the altitude problem, besides I was going home with 2 summits under my belt and I was a happy girl, ready to take on the next mountain. In June of that year I made plans to climb Mt. Rainier. Now I had been trying to get on Rainier in 1998 and 1999, but my Mom got sick each time just before I was ready to leave and had to cancel each time. It's not easy to get on Rainier because they limit how many people can climb, so I then had to get on the list for the following year. We ran into a storm at camp Sherman that would just not let up so there was no way we could go up and actually it was difficult even going down. Other than I really enjoyed the white out, I was extremely disappointed that I didn't have a chance to get to the top. I knew this time I could wait for another year, so after I got home I asked one of the guys that had been on the climb if he would like to go again next month with me (July) and he said yes, so we made out plans.


I couldn't stand it that I hadn't got to the summit in June, so I made my plans and was back in Washington in July. The weather was perfect and my friend and I took off for the mountain. We spent one night a the low camp and then continued to climb to camp Sherman. I had brought the wrong pair of boots, the larger ones for longer periods of time on the mountain, so may feet were slipping around in the boots and of course causing blisters. When we put the tent up at camp Sherman, I taped my feet and we laid down for a couple of hours and then about 1:00am we got up and left for the summit. As bad as the weather had been the month before, it was really good this trip. The sky was bright with stars and we proceeded to climb and everything was great  - except my feet. I was in Washington, on Mt. Rainier, the weather was perfect, and I was on my way to the top and I wasn't  going to let sore feet stop me. We proceeded on our way to the top and the crevasses were open wider than they had been in June so that presented some unique situations. At one point we had to jump over about a three to four foot wide crevasse right unto an ice wall and then climb to the top.


That was fun and provided quite an adrenaline rush. Feet are still hurting, but now I'm getting closer to the top of a mountain that I have been trying to climb since 1998, and I'm feeling good. On the most beautiful day ever we were standing on top of Mt. Rainier and it was so clear that we could see several surrounding mountains which was a beautiful sight. We signed the book and had a little water and food and enjoyed the view and decided to go down so we could pack up camp and go all the way down before evening. My feet are really hurting but the joy that I felt for finally reaching the top of Rainier would carry me through. When we got down to camp Sherman, I didn't even look at my feet because I knew it wouldn't do any good, so we just packed up camp and continued down. By the time we got to the parking lot my feet were really bad and I couldn't wait to get my boots off when we reached the car. It was not a pretty sight when those boots came off, I have never seen such bloody stumps in my life. I gradually pealed off the tape and rinsed them off with my water (which really stung) and assessed the damage. I've never had this many ugly big blisters in my life and luckily had brought some sandals along and put them on.

To make an even longer story short, when I returned home I went to my podiatrist and he said I had third degree blisters and had to remove one nail that was already infected. I wore sandals for about six weeks and had to cancel a climb I had schedules to climb the diamond on Longs Peak. BUT....I finally made the summit of Rainier, so I was happy. Nancy




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