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50 Years of Climbing: Rue Beyer and Mt. Rainier

RMI climber Rue Beyer on her way to Camp Muir for her summit climb of Mt. Rainier in 2014. ---- In honor of our 50th Anniversary, we are featuring stories of first climbs. Stories from guides and stories from climbers. Today, we are excited to share Rue Beyer's story of her first climb - Mt. Rainier in 2014. Since Rue's first climb, she has continued to climb around the world - Denali in Alaska, Ecuador's Volcanoes, and Peru. Her next adventure is Kilimanjaro in August! Find out more about having your first climb featured on our blog! ---- My first climb was with RMI on Mt. Rainier back in 2014 on a team led by RMI Guides Tyler Jones, Katie Bono, and JM Gorum. This may sound corny or clichéd, but I always had a calling to the outdoors. However, it was during one of the most difficult times in my life, that I picked up a book on mountaineering and set a goal for myself to one day go climb mountains. It was that goal I set for myself that helped get me through depression and one of the worst times of my life. It took some years to get around to calling RMI, but after a visit to Mt. Rainier in 2013 where I trudged up the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir, I knew I had to come back and climb this thing all the way. It all happened during a particularly turbulent time at my place of work where there were massive layoffs happening plus the mine site I work at (I’m a mine geologist) was being bought out. I couldn’t keep putting life on hold so I made the call to RMI and booked a trip for late July 2014. Shortly afterwards, my (now) husband, Mike, and I moved from Winnemucca to Elko, Nevada and settled into new jobs. In the chaos of moving and starting a new job, I managed to keep my focus on preparing for this trip. I had no idea what mountaineering really entailed other than what I read in the stories. Whenever I asked other climbers how they got into climbing, they never gave much of answer and acted almost secretive about it as though it were some special club. I didn’t know where to start, but I was determined to not let that perceived attitude get to me. I told my brother from another, Chris Franco, that I was going to climb Mt. Rainier that summer and he was so excited for me. He was a major in the US Army that had done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and when he got out, he got into mountaineering and was the one who had initially challenged me to try Rainier. He had recently been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer that attacks the spine and shortly before the climb, he became paralyzed. I wanted to do something for him on this climb so I decided to record a little film for him that would hopefully bring a smile to his face. The day before I had to be in Ashford for the team check-in, I was about to board a flight out of Elko on a little regional jet to Seattle. It was the second of two flights that are flown each day. At the time, Mike and I were only dating and he had zero interest in climbing so one of his college buddies flew in so they could hang out. He was flying in on the plane that I was supposed to fly out on. Upon arrival, I said my goodbyes and was prepared to board the plane but the pilot walked in and said there were mechanical issues and the flight would have to be cancelled. I was devastated. I thought, “Great, it’s nearly 6:00 PM and I have to be in Ashford tomorrow at 3:00 PM.” I walked out of the gate and told Mike what had happened. He could see how upset I was and we realized I wouldn’t be able to fly that night even if we had driven to Salt Lake City. He thought about it for a second and then said, “Hold on. Seattle isn’t that far. It’s a 12-hour drive and if we leave soon, we can get you there by morning.” So we loaded up and he and his friend took turns driving all night. We got into Seattle around 7:30 AM, had a quick breakfast at Pike Place Market, and then headed to Ashford. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is and certainly made for an adventurous start to the climb. I met the team that afternoon and they were all wonderful people. I was surprised to have met a father and two sons from my home state of Georgia on my team. It was great! The Mountaineering Day School session the next day was enlightening for me since practicing something is very different than just reading about it. On the climb to Camp Muir, I was in heaven. I had to remind myself that it was all one step at a time. So I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and breathing. Every now and then, I’d try to take in the views and end up nearly tripping over myself. It couldn’t have been better weather that day. The views were out of this world and I was feeling good. Once we got to Muir and the guides sat a bunch of us down to discuss the logistics of summit day, I felt the butterflies kick in my stomach. I was excited, nervous, scared, and everything in between. I couldn’t believe I was actually here doing this, the thing I had dreamed about for years, never thinking it would become a reality. I wasn’t very smart on that trip when it came to food and sunscreen. I took the pre-made food bags that Whittaker Mountaineering offered in Ashford and didn’t really listen to them when they said to swap out foods I didn’t like with ones that I did. I learned there was very little in my bag that was appetizing to me. I also had no clue on the proper way to eat a Mountain House meal as I poured the bag’s contents into a mug, which later meant, I couldn’t eat breakfast out of it because I couldn’t finish the meal. I didn’t really sleep when we were at Camp Muir. Mostly I just laid there trying not to get in my head about it. When the wake-up call came, I was a bit dazed at first and anxious with all the rapid moving around and getting ready. I scrambled myself together and before I knew it, I was roped up and our team was on our way. It was weird hiking in the dark, I hadn’t done it very often but there was something oddly peaceful about it. It was quiet and I found myself mesmerized by the crevasses we had to step over. As we kept going, the sun started to come up and I could see more of the surroundings. It was incredible, but then I started feeling really nauseated. I couldn’t really eat anything since dinner several hours earlier and I suddenly felt the hunger pains surge. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and telling myself to just keep moving and breathing. The weather started to turn and I wasn’t sure we’d make it. I was sure we’d end up turning around, but as we ascended into a cloud cap, it became clear we were going all the way. The visibility wasn’t great and I thought we were just coming into a break when Katie ran up to me and gave me a big hug saying, “You made it!” Rue Beyer on the summit of Mt. Rainier in July 2014. I looked at her, confused, not realizing we were standing on the summit or at least a few hundred yards away from it. I lagged behind the team getting to the summit and was walking with Tyler when I turned and started puking on the side of the trail. He laughed and said I wasn’t pressure breathing. It could’ve been that or the lack of calorie intake, but I felt much better afterwards even though I looked awful! After photos and signing the Summit Registry, I asked Tyler if he would film a video for me. So I sat down and started speaking to the camera as though I was talking to Franco, trying to rally his sprit the way he’d done for me for years. It was an emotional moment for me and even Tyler was getting excited from how charged up I was. We made our descent and I was even more in awe of what I saw coming down that I couldn’t see in the dark going up. It was breathtaking! We made it back down to Paradise and my face had horrendous sun/wind burn. I was pissed that the sunscreen I used didn’t work very well. I got back to my hotel that night and really felt it: the sunburn and the euphoria of my first mountain climb. I was hooked! I knew right then this was something I loved and wanted to keep doing. All smiles as Rue Beyer descends the Muir Snowfield after reaching the summit of Mt. Rainier. Six years later and I’m still climbing. I’ve traveled to places I never thought I’d go, met some of the most amazing people who are now lifelong friends, grown and healed as a person, learned many lessons through many mistakes, and found that I’m at my best when I’m in the mountains. Thank you, RMI and the guides I’ve climbed with, for providing all these amazing opportunities and experiences!  Cheers, Rue Beyer

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