Preparation Meets Opportunity: Lessons Learned on a Summit Attempt at Mt. Rainier

Preparation Meets Opportunity: Lessons Learned on a Summit Attempt at Mt. Rainier

Contributed by Mark Pattison

In my past life, I was a professional football player in the NFL, but today, my sights are set on climbing the Seven Summits, with only Mt Everest left unchecked on my list. This past August, as part of my training, I had the goal to summit Mt Rainier. A recognizable and majestic peak towering at 14,411’ and located a few hours outside of Seattle.

There is an old saying that I often refer to – "when preparation meets opportunity, it then puts you in a position to do great things". Proper training is key for high-risk summits like Mt Everest. Not training properly can be deadly due to wide open crevasses and cold temps, even in the hot summer months. Being unprepared not only creates an unsafe environment for yourself but for those around you as well.

Entering Mt. Rainier National Park [photo via Wikipedia Commons]

My good buddy, former NFL & college head coach Jim Mora and I, trained an insane amount of hours in the month of July to prepare for this endeavor. Jim and I tracked our athletic progress through the popular Strava app. We biked and/or hiked 510 miles and climbed over 52,000’ in the month of July alone to make sure we were totally prepared to summit Rainier and to do so without suffering or jeopardizing others on our team.

Early tracks at the bottom [photo by Mark Pattison]

On Summit day, we arose at 11:00 pm and were off by 11:45 pm, starting from 10,000' at Camp Muir. We slowly made our way up Disappointment Cleaver, which is a massive rock face that took hours to complete. At that elevation, if you are not properly trained you can/will experience nauseous, dizziness and even throwing up. As the saying goes, you are only halfway once you reach the top.

I take training seriously not only to avoid possible injuries, but sadly because of the many deaths of those who never made it back down from their summit attempt.

Taking a breather in our tent near Camp Muir [photo by Mark Pattison]

The major takeaway from my trips, like anything you attempt is if you don’t put in the work, you will never get the results that you seek. What can you do to properly prepare for such an undertaking?

  1. EQUIPMENT - Use the right equipment. Make sure you are dressed for the climb, have quality gear and pack reserves (food + water especially) just in case.
  2. TRAINING - Train like you have never trained before. Condition yourself to heavily work your cardiovascular system and strengthen your body to sustain the 14 grueling hours you will be on your feet getting to the summit and back.
  3. NUTRITION - Bring the right nutrition! Fueling your journey is super key to completing a climb successfully. System crashes due to a lack of sustenance can be the difference in reaching the summit or not and there’s nothing worse than undergoing an expedition like this with drained energy levels!
  4. MENTAL PREPARATION - Challenge yourself mentally ahead of time. Do physical things you don’t like to do to push your mind, body and soul to a level you haven’t been to before. This will make a huge difference when things get tough on the mountain – and they always do.

I say to my kids all the time that it takes a little more to make a champion. Do your part so you don’t let yourself or your teammates down. For more info on training, tips, etc, head to

Mount Rainier under a starlit sky [photo by Becca Tapert, Unsplash]


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