Climbing Above Paradise

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CLIMBING ABOVE PARADISE
Fay Fuller’s Commitment to Climbing Mount Rainier
A Love Your Parks Tour’ Story of Excellence by Lisa D. Smith, with Nancy J. Reid

I’ll never forget standing in a field thick with wildflowers, and staring up at magnificent Mount Rainier. I was in complete awe of this prominent 14,410 foot peak in the Cascade Range, an active volcano that last erupted about 150 years ago. It was at the Longmire Museum where we learned of Fay Fuller, the teacher and journalist known for being the first woman to ascend Mount Rainier.

Coupled with her introductory visit to Paradise, an area known for its abundance of summer wildflowers and spectacular views of Mount Rainier, it was P. B. Van Trump, one of the first climbers to ascend Mount Rainier, who inspired Fuller to make the big climb. Her initial attempt was in 1887, where she made it up to around 8,600 feet. Her second and successful attempt was in 1890 with P. B. Van Trump’s climbing party. Apparently her outfit raised a few eyebrows. Back then, there wasn’t climbing gear made for women, so along with covering her face in charcoal and wearing goggles and a small straw hat to protect her face from the wind and sun, she wore flannel underwear, a flannel bloomer suit, woollen hose and boys boots.

The adventure was challenging. Climbing steep slopes of ice and snow Fuller battled altitude sickness along with falling rocks, intense winds and burning sunlight. She made the ascension, and at her request, with almost no assistance from the men in the climbing party.

“It was a heavenly moment. Words cannot describe the scenery and beauty; how could they speak for the soul?” said the then twenty year old Fay Fuller when she reached the summit of Mount Rainier on August 10, 1890. She climbed the mountain again in 1897.

While she’s known for her historic ascent of Mount Rainier, Fuller became quite the advocate for women climbers and mountaineering in general. She was a founding member of the Washington Alpine Club, the Tacoma Alpine Club, as well as the Portland-based Mazamas mountaineering club. She traded her teaching career for journalism and as the first female reporter for the Tacoma Ledger, wrote the column “Mountain Murmurs” that covered local mountaineering events and climbing stories.

 

Fay Peak overlooking Mowich Lake in Mount Rainier National Park is named after her. Home to approximately 382 lakes and 470 rivers and streams, and climbing to 12,800 feet in elevation, Mount Rainier National Park provides habitat for a diversity of plants and animals. There are five main areas to explore: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon/Mowich. Visit www.NPS.gov/mora.  

Nancy J. Reid and Lisa D. Smith, the mother-daughter travel team on the Love Your Parks Tour, and publishers of Big Blend Magazines, are ambassadors for the 8 Keys of Excellence Character Education Program that embraces the challenge of bringing excellence to 50 million children and young adults. This free program builds excellence in communities by guiding young people and families, toward a positive future full of confidence, motivation, creativity, team work, leadership and valuable life principles. More at www.8Keys.org.

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