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Delmar man finds himself grappling with fate

Denham continued training and then contacted Alpine Ascents International after looking through some brochures to guide him up the 14,411-foot summit of Mount Rainier.

"So I train and I train and I train, and I fly to Seattle and we fly into SeaTac and the airplane turns towards the terminal and it's the first time that I see this monster of a mountain," he said. "And I say, 'holy mother of God, what have you gotten yourself into.'"

Denham described the Alpine Ascents crew as "spectacular" with a 2-to-1 ratio of climbers to guides in the group of 12 that headed up Mount Rainier.

"These people have this down to a science," he said. "It was just spectacular. You're above the clouds and you're having a great time. You could see Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams and Mount Hood from there."

The ascent was "much steeper than it looks in the pictures," according to Denham, as they headed to the 1.3 miles of ice on the southeast flank of the mountain called the Cowlitz Glacier. The group prepared to cross the Cathedral Gap.

"We're going along, and I didn't know it, but we were going over a crevasse and I don't know how much snow was there was but it was weak," he said.

Denham, a fellow mountaineer named Mike (the hikers on the trip all went by first names) and their guide, Kajsa Krieger, unknowingly climbed over the crevasse last.

"They had all gone over this crevasse and weakened it, and three days of awesome sunshine was not helping," said Denham.

Krieger made it over first with Denham and Mike following behind when Denham found himself in a situation that some mountaineers never get out of.

"Out of nowhere, it just gives way like a trapdoor," he said. "I can see a crack in the front and then within a nanosecond I was completely engulfed in all this snow. It was like jumping off the roof with tons of snow and not knowing what to do."

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