Torklift’s journey to Mt. Rainier’s summit Part 3: The Climb

Continued from Part 2

A race against time
As our guides rope us up for the final ascent, I couldn’t help but notice how our climbing teams were re-organized. One of our female group members decided to stay behind at camp along with a guide. Continuing the climb was four rope teams: Two groups of three climbers consisting of two men plus a guide and two additional groups of 2, another woman and myself each had our own personal guide. Jack and I were separated onto two different teams and at this point, I knew the guides anticipated that I would be one of the first to turn back early. This factor was just extra fuel. I wasn’t prepared to give up until I reached my goal.

crevasse-crossingCrossing a crevasseWith only a headlamp and the moonlight, I closely followed my guide and laser-focused on each immediate challenge in front of me. Bottomless crevasse? Check. I’ll go ahead and death-grip a rope while I inch my way across wobbly wooden 2x4 planks thrown over a flimsy aluminum ladder with my clunky spike shoes. Vertical ice walls? Check. That’s what my crampons and ice axe were for, right? Scale the edge of a cliff across loose rock and boulders? Check. With the path just inches wide in some areas, I tried my best to put fear aside and refused to succumb to the exhaustion nipping at my heels. With no time to waste, I kept moving as quickly as possible, which was sadly similar to the pace of a zombie.

At the top of Disappointment Cleaver, two climbers had already turned around at two separate points. Since it required a guide to take each of them back down to camp, only two guides remain for the entire group. There was a rope team of two gentlemen plus Jack and I. The two of us roped up with our guide to tackle the remainder of the ascent. As the wind picked up and our faces began to freeze, we trekked onward.

guide-breakOur Lead Guide stops for a quick breakThe climb was ruthless. With infinite steep switchbacks and several sections of treachery, I slowly began to lose momentum. It got to the point where our guide was literally pulling on the rope to keep up a pace. With no breath or energy left in my legs, I was ready to surrender. My body wanted to quit and my mind was screaming mercy. But there were just a few things to consider. In order to summit, we needed at least two mountaineering guides. If I quit, the three remaining climbers on this trip would not have a chance to summit. Jack had dedicated endless hours of preparation and I would shatter his dream of reaching the summit.

All of Torklift was expecting me to complete this climb. The immense pressure to not give up was the only thing that kept my feet moving one in front of the other. Slowly but surely, I just kept moving, pushing beyond any effort I thought I was even capable of. Regardless of a mind and body wrenching in pain, I just kept going.

A mountain of meaning
summit-torkliftTorklift on top of Mt. RainierAs I forced myself up the last fifty brutal feet of the climb, I finally approached the top rim of Mt. Rainier’s volcanic crater. The elevation was over 14,400 feet and the simple act if breathing was a distant memory. I was still in shock and disbelief that I had made it to the summit. After being disconnected from our rope team, I took a moment of triumph to look out over the horizon as the sun had inched its way into the sky and I could see layers after layers of mountainous landscaping below. Never had the word “breathtaking” been so literal.

I carefully entered Rainier’s crater while Jack trudged onward to the Columbia Crest, the highest tip of the summit. He signed our names in the summit book alongside our Lead Guide, who just happened to be on his 115th visit to that very spot. Upon their return we signed a Torklift flag to commemorate the event. I even attempted my signature “jump for joy” although exhaustion had definitely taken its toll.

My signature “jump for joy” in Mt. Rainier’s crater

I know the journey was of huge significance to Jack as well. As he stood upon Rainier’s summit, he placed emphasis on one of his favorite quotes:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
                            -- Theodore Roosevelt

This quote is heard often at Torklift headquarters and is even posted on the wall in the company’s conference room. It’s a daily reminder to take chances, even if it means failure. To face challenges, overcome obstacles and reach for the highest heights. It’s what Jack and I had just struggled to conquer and what’s made Torklift the company it is today: an organization ready for the biggest challenges.

There were a few things I thought about while standing in the crater at the top of Mt. Rainier. One: Just when you think you can’t go forward, you can always push harder - there is always more to give. Two: With the support of family and friends, and the positive mindset of believing in yourself, you can literally accomplish anything. The whole experience is somewhat surreal for me and is something I will remember forever.

finalTorklift President Jack Kay, IMG Lead Guide, Asst. Mkt Director Sheryl Bushaw

After the climb, Jack and I realized that in those moments of both struggle and triumph on the mountain, we both thought about our families, friends and most importantly, our Torklift family. The primary inspiration and motivation to complete a journey of this magnitude was Torklift. Celebrating 40 years in business is a direct result of the hard work, dreams and dedication of our employees.

For 2016, we hope that you join us in celebrating our 40-year milestone.

Torklift Sheryl

sherylWritten by Sheryl Bushaw:
As a graduate from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Journalism and emphasis in Public Relations, Sheryl is a passionate writing professional with focus in areas of copy writing, social media and creative design. She is a travel enthusiast and explorer-extraordinaire with a zest for life.

Continue reading
1619 Hits

Torklift’s journey to Mt. Rainier’s summit Part 2: Into the unknown

Continued from Part 1

rope-upLearning mountaineering maneuversThe first leg of the trip to Camp Muir flew by with ease. Other than mild foot blistering and a substantial physical exertion, this section of the trip was familiar to me. I wouldn’t say comfortable, but it was still within my comfort zone. The second day before departing to camp two at Ingraham Flats, our guides took time to teach us basic mountaineering maneuvers. We learned different ways to walk with crampons, a metal plate with large 1” spikes fixed to our boots that help us to tread on ice and rocks. We also learned self/team-arrest, which is the process of anchoring your body into the mountain in effort to stop the fall of a fellow climber in which you are roped to. After rolling down a steep ice hill both feet and head first, getting familiar with using an ice axe, we finally roped up and headed toward camp two. Our group broke into separate climbing teams of 2-3 people, including a guide for each.

It was at this point we left behind our hiking poles and only used the ice axe for support. With fifty-plus pounds strapped to my back, maneuvering an exceptionally steep trail of loose rock sans pole support was a new challenge I had to face. I seriously struggled and I could tell the guides were analyzing my performance. When we arrived at Ingraham Flats, I retreated to my tent that was already set up on the glacier with newfound frustration. It was that evening when we all grouped together for our meal and that our Lead Guide briefed us on what was about to happen next.


cathedral-gap-topNearing the top of Cathedral Gap

Camp two at Ingraham Flats


guide-tentGuide tent on Ingraham Glacier, camp twoFlash of doubt
As we sat in the guide tent and listened to directions from the Lead Guide, he made it very incredibly clear the amount of difficulty we were about to endure. We were also under a time crunch and pace requirement. If our climbing teams were unable to reach a certain point on the mountain by a specific time, your rope team would have to turn back and give up on the chance to achieve summiting. This put an immense amount of pressure on performing well, as the opportunity for others to summit depended on the level of your endurance. By the end of the pow-wow, I was highly doubtful that I would be able to complete this climb. They indicated that this portion of the climb was undoubtedly the most difficult and I had already struggled leading up to this point. It didn’t help that inclement weather prior to our climb had left the mountain in poor condition for summiting; forcing the route to be the longest it’s been in at least the last 10 years. The large sections of crevasses forced climbing teams to re-route a zigzag pattern and a far more challenging path to the summit.

View over Ingraham Glacier and Little Tahoma

I lay down in my tent and closed my eyes. Light-headed and struggling with deep breaths, I realized the lack of oxygen at high altitude was causing me to cough uncontrollably. I focused on breathing while my mind shifted into its own thoughts. How the heck was I going to pull this off? There was absolutely no way, I convinced myself.

As my mind drowned in fear, worry and insecurity, my thoughts shifted toward my team of Torklift employees and how much they believed that if anyone could do this with Jack, it was going to be me. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to turn this around. I needed to psyche myself out and change my mindset in order to accomplish this challenge successfully.

Even though I had the support of my fellow co-workers, there were also several people that expressed doubt that I could summit this mountain. How amazing would it feel to prove them wrong? How could I allow others to tell me what I could and couldn’t accomplish? Only I was in control of reaching my goal, and right there, lying on the icy floor of my freezing tent, I made my decision. Summiting this mountain wasn’t an option. I was going to give every ounce of effort within my soul to make this momentous achievement a reality. If I believe it, I can achieve it, I thought to myself repeatedly.

As nightfall set in I made a serious effort to get some much-needed rest, but the anticipation of the last and crucial segment of the climb was weighing on me. I was amped up. Not even the violent flapping of my tent from gusting winds was going to intimidate me. At 1:30am our guides gave us the wake up call. I quickly mended my blistering feet and strapped the back of my heels with a generous amount of duct tape. I forced a breakfast of watered-down instant oatmeal and went to gear up. My climbing harness is tightly secured, my ice axe in-hand and my headlamp is on. It’s go time.

Read what happens next by following

- Torklift Sheryl

sherylWritten by Sheryl Bushaw:
As a graduate from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Journalism and emphasis in Public Relations, Sheryl is a passionate writing professional with focus in areas of copy writing, social media and creative design. She is a travel enthusiast and explorer-extraordinaire with a zest for life.

Continue reading
1342 Hits

Torklift’s journey to Mt. Rainier’s summit Part 1: Mind over matter

Out of site, Out of mind
packingTorklift Sheryl and Jack Kay packing our backpacks for the trip
The final days before our scheduled climb to Washington State’s iconic Mt. Rainier, it still hadn’t completely sunk in. The plan was simple. The goal was absolute. But was I ready? To be honest, I had no idea. I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I happily jumped at the opportunity to climb Mt. Rainier alongside Torklift President Jack Kay, who had been training over a year for this moment. I had less than two months to prepare and condition my body and lungs for not only the grueling physical demand a glaciated mountain required, but also for an altitude I had never experience before. Without knowing how far I could push my physical capability and how my body would react to the common side affects of high altitude, I managed to keep all of the cold hard facts out of my mind as the days dwindled down to the trip’s departure. All I could think about was how amazing it was going to be to have my feet on the top of that majestic mountain... witnessing the sun igniting its fiery glow across the mesmerizing Pacific Northwest landscape. I kept the details of what it would take to get there completely pushed aside. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But the magnitude of Mt. Rainier isn’t something you can ignore for long.

Torklift International President Jack Kay chose to climb Mt. Rainier to signify the celebration of Torklift International’s 40 years in business come 2016. Be sure to read how I was selected for the opportunity to accompany him on this journey in by clicking here.

Ready or not…
imgInternational Mountain Guides arrive
morning of climb departure
As we arrive at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park the day before the climb, the shear reality of the climb finally begins to set in. I had hiked up to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet elevation several times before to help prepare myself. It was beyond that point that had me edgy. To pass Camp Muir, climbing teams must be roped up for safety as crevasses and other hazards were prevalent. I didn’t know what it might be like after the point of Camp Muir, especially since the majority of our trek to the summit would occur during nightfall. Have you ever had that tingling pit in your stomach when you’re nervous about something? The night before our departure, I couldn’t shake that feeling. I even thought about leaving a note for my family just in case something was to happen to me. With rock falls, avalanches and crevasses hundreds of feet deep, the dangers of climbing this mountain became very real to me.

campmuir-routeRoute up toward Camp MuirOur climbing team was made up of seven people and five experienced mountaineering guides from tour company IMG (International Mountain Guides). As the last climbing team of the season not only was the mountain in less than ideal condition, but we were also the only people on it. Should an emergency rescue be required, we had fewer resources to rely on in a time of need. For this reason IMG sent us up the mountain with extra guides on hand, who would also help with equipment tear down since our trip marked the conclusion of their season. Our team consisted of folks from around the world, and as representatives from Torklift International and local Washingtonians, Jack and I were honored to be climbing with such an amazing group of people.

Climbing team with two IMG Guides on departure day

Trailhead from Paradise to Camp Muir

Stay tuned as the journey continues…

- Torklift Sheryl



sherylWritten by Sheryl Bushaw:
As a graduate from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Journalism and emphasis in Public Relations, Sheryl is a passionate writing professional with focus in areas of copy writing, social media and creative design. She is a travel enthusiast and explorer-extraordinaire with a zest for life.

Continue reading
2467 Hits

Follow Blog Via Email