Record Breaker; 78-Year-Old Becomes Oldest Woman To Summit Mt. Rainier

Record Breaker; 78-Year-Old Becomes Oldest Woman To Summit Mt. Rainier

Imagine hiking more than 9,000 feet up glaciers, deep crevasses, and unstable rocks to reach the top of your state’s tallest mountain when the weather can change in an instant.

Now imagine doing it at age 78.

Rose Vanderhoof of Ashford, Washington, reached the top of the 14,400-foot peak Mount Rainier on Monday, July 10. She is the oldest woman to do so. Bronka Sundstrom, a legendary climber who reached the top of Rainier when she was 77 years old in 2002, held the previous record.

The climber, who is 4 feet, 11 inches tall, said she wasn’t trying to beat her friend’s record. She tried to do this climb when she was 76, but it didn’t work out. She thought about climbing Mt. Rainier last year, but instead chose the 93-mile Wonderland trail that goes around the mountain.

When asked earlier this year if she would try to reach the top of the mountain at age 78, she replied, “It’s up to God.”

She said, “I was going to leave it all up to him.”

Vanderhoof started talking about going on a climb, and then she found out that her son and niece also wanted to go. That’s when the training started, and everyone in the family got involved.

To get ready for their big climb, they did steep walks and climbs and trained with ropes and ice axes on glaciers. But at age 78, Vanderhoof could no longer carry the 40-pound pack that was needed to get up the mountain. They found volunteer “sherpas” who were willing to walk eight miles twice to bring gear to and from Camp Muir, a base camp for climbers on Mount Rainier.

How dangerous it can be to climb Mount Rainier

The ice on Mount Rainier are melting.
Geologist Scott Beason from Washington state is on Good Day Seattle with Abby Acone of FOX 13 to talk about the melting glaciers on Mount Rainier and how important it is to keep them around.

Mountaineering is not for people who are easily scared, and Rainier, which is also called Tahoma, has its own unique difficulties. People have died trying to get to the top hundreds of times.

Summit Post, an online climbing group, says that climbing it comes with a long list of risks, such as:

High altitude sickness (high altitude brain edema, pulmonary edema)
Crevasse falls
Getting around on ice and rocks
Falling rocks
Unstable glacier cliffs
High winds, cold temperatures, high humidity, blizzards, lightning, and a strong sun make for quickly changing weather.

This was Vanderhoof’s ninth time on top of Mount Rainier, but it was her last and most important climb. About 35 years ago, Vanderhoof started climbing mountains in the Pacific Northwest. She has climbed to the top of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Glacier Peak many times, and she tried to climb Mount Baker.

Vanderhoof said, “I know this is a really, really hard climb.” “It’s not just about the body. It takes a lot of thought.”

Vanderhoof’s last climb

The group started their hard trip on July 8, and it would take them four days to get there. On the way up, they camped for two nights, and on the way down, they camped for one night. Before the trip began, Vanderhoof said it didn’t matter to her much if they made it to the top.

She said, “I just wanted this climb to be fun for everyone and feel like a big camping trip. If we reached the top, that was just a big bonus.” “I especially wanted my son and my niece to enjoy the climb, even if we didn’t do it. The main goal was to get to know each other and give God praise, since we are all people of faith.

They had to deal with freezing weather, hail, rain, and other things along the way, but Vanderhoof said the group stayed strong. She even found her granddaughter at base camp comforting a fellow climber who was crying and scared to finish the trip.

“About halfway up, my son looked up at me and said, ‘Mom, I have a new appreciation and respect for you,'” Vanderhoof said. “He didn’t understand how hard this was.”

The last part of the climb started at 11 p.m. under clear skies, but the group had to walk around huge crevasses and deal with altitude sickness and very cold winds.

“It got to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it,” she said. “I was completely worn out. I kept praying, “Through Christ, who strengthens me, I can do anything.” I said it over and over.

“I could just see the faces of the people who had encouraged me and prayed for me,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘I can’t stop.'” So I just pushed myself harder than I ever have before.”

By the time they reached 13,000 feet, the sun had already started to come up. Vanderhoof could see clouds below her and storm clouds in the distance with lightning and thunder. Around 8 a.m., when the group hit the top, there were cheers, tears, and lots of hugs.

“We could look down and see the sunrise,” she told us. Everything was just so lovely.

Like most hikers, Vanderhoof put a note in the peak’s register box to tell everyone that she was the oldest woman to reach the top of Rainier.

“We took our time and took it all in, because this is the last time I’m going to come up here,” Vanderhoof said.

But what goes up must come down, so they started their descent, which was another dangerous, two-day trip through harsh weather. When the group got to base camp, their “sherpas” met them with food, drinks, and cheers. All of the guards wanted to know what Vanderhoof had done.

At the bottom of the mountain, where her husband was waiting with balloons and a warm hug, she got the same kind of welcome. Then there was pizza and a party.

“It was a beautiful time,” said Vanderhoof.

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