Recently, Middleburg’s mayor, Bridge Littleton, traveled across the U.S. to climb the tallest mountain in Washington State. Located in Mount Rainier National Park, Mount Rainier is more than 14,000 feet tall and boasts one of the most glaciated summits in the lower 48 states.
Having little hiking experience, it was always an activity Mayor Littleton had an interest in pursuing. After hearing of Mt. Rainier from several friends, he decided to try his first shot at mountaineering. Before embarking on this excursion, Mayor Littleton trained in Virginia. He wanted to ensure he was in good physical condition to have enough endurance for the journey. Mayor Littleton comments, “having never done this before I did not have a sense of all the training I had to do” (Littleton). Yet, he persevered and started conditioning at the gym consistently. He also climbed Old Rag in Sperryville for more hands-on training around thirty times before the big hike.
After arriving in Washington, Mayor Littleton met with a professional group for the hike. There were twelve group members and four guides, all of which participated in a training seminar that spanned the first couple of days of the excursion. The group had a sense of comradery; Littleton commented how “the people were a lot of fun and there was a common bond together” (Littleton). On the first day, the group practiced climbing techniques to prepare them for the climate and terrain of the mountain. Mayor Littleton had worried if he was physically prepared enough, and after the first day, he realized “it was tiring and difficult, but I had” (Littleton). On the second day, the group started their hike. Carrying sixty pounds of supplies ranging from a sleeping bag to an ice ax, Mayor Littleton hiked five and a half hours to his first checkpoint, Camp Muir. There, he experienced one of his most memorable moments from the trip. Mayor Littleton reminisces, “on the second night, I went outside at about 2 a.m. and there was no wind or clouds or moon, but the sky was clear. That high up there’s no humidity and you are above clouds and man-made light. The brilliance of the stars was so bright you could almost reach up and touch them” (Littleton). He goes on to say that “that was the most inspiring thing. The raw beauty of it” (Littleton). At Camp Muir, the group specialized in training on glaciers; They worked to recognize dangerous spots and areas of risk.
The next day, Mayor Littleton and his group began their climb to the summit. It would be a four-hour hike, 4,000 feet. However, after hiking for a bit, Mayor Littleton began to experience an emergency medical issue called pulmonary edema. His lungs began to fill rapidly with fluid, restricting his breathing. This condition happens to around six percent of people who climb. So, Mayor Littleton had to turn around and go back down the mountain to ensure his safety. Luckily, he was ok. He “went to the emergency room and the effects subdued” (Littleton).
Despite this scare, Mayor Littleton wants to do the hike another time. He says that he “ended up loving the experience” (Littleton) and that there is only a slight chance the medical emergency will happen again. Mayor Littleton reflects that “you come away with a great sense of appreciating unique and amazing natural wonders that we must protect. Further, we must inspire others to do the same thing. They are treasures. Like Middleburg is.” (Littleton).