Professor conquers Mt. Rainier

Over summer break a Northern Kentucky University chemistry professor reached the 14,410 foot summit of Mt. Rainier, the most extensively glaciated volcanic peak in the United States.

After a previous attempt to climb Mt. Rainier in 2003, Dr. Jim Niewahner and his daughter Susan trained for three years to gain enough endurance to complete their hike this past July.

“He likes the challenge and likes to have a goal,” Mrs. Niewhaner said.

As Niewahner recalled, on Saturday July 15, he, his daughter, five other climbers and three guides started hiking from an area called Paradise. “Unfortunately, shortly after we began hiking, my daughter, who started feeling ill the previous day, had to turn back,” he said.

The remainder of the group continued the five mile hike to Camp Muir where they set up camp. With very little sleep the group gathered their packs and continued up the mountain at 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

“The reason for climbing so early is to return to camp Muir before the sun can heat up the mountain and cause rock slides or avalanches,” Niewahner said.

After climbing 4.5 miles up a steep trail and crossing a crevasse the group made it to the top of the mountain. “Strangely enough, it was not especially thrilling to be at the top,” Niewahner said. “However, on the way back down one could see how steep and difficult the trail was and then I began to appreciate what we had done.”

After congratulating one another and receiving certificates of accomplishment “the thrill of success began to sink in,” Niewahner said.

“I would like to thank all of my friends, colleagues, and family for their support and encouragement because it was the key factor in getting me to the summit,” Niewahner said. “Lastly, I want to give special thanks to my daughter Susan for being my climbing partner on these two trips.”

“I have always been proud to call him dad,” Susan said. “He has given me the inspiration to keep trying.”

Niewahner used Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated to plan this climb and find guides. The three guides that accompanied him on this trip were Casey Grom, Linden Mallory and Steve Sinor. On RMI’s website you can find tip for getting in shape as well as what you can expect when climbing Mt. Rainier and Mt. Mickinley.

According to RMI’s website, in order to climb Mt. Ranier you have to be able to carry a 40 pound pack for five hours on 20 degree snow slopes, be able to ascend steadily for 5,000 feet in seven hours, and be able to descend 9,000 feet in six hours.