The Skywriter

Guest blog: Why we climbed against coal


Guest blog: Why we climbed against coal


By Genevieve Raymond is a full time mom and part-time founding member of Climb Against Coal. -- Luis

We were moms on a mission. We woke up at midnight Saturday morning to attempt the 14,411 ft summit of Mount Rainier.  We had a message for Governor Gregoire: close Washington’s largest toxic polluter and point source of deadly carbon — the TransAlta coal-fired power plant in Centralia.

We are not experienced mountaineers, but six months ago, when we brainstormed this crazy idea, we determined to meet an urgent challenge with radical action.  We each have children between the ages of 3 and 6, and our kids have taught us to be loud and persistent in our demands.  The Governor’s plan to burn dirty coal for fifteen more years is unacceptable.  The time to transition to clean energy is now.

At the 14,411' summit of Mount Rainier. Banner reads "Governor Gregoire: Close TransAlta Now. Coal Kills"

We were the last team to leave base camp at 1:30 a.m., but all of our training paid off: we climbed 5000 ft in six hours and were the first team from Camp Schurman to arrive at the summit.  While we stood awed and breathless atop Mount Rainier’s magnificent glaciers, it was hard to ignore other, less awe-inspiring facts:

  • TransAlta’s coal plant, Washington’s largest point source of carbon emissions, was warming the climate and destroying Rainier’s glaciers beneath our feet;
  • The snow that we melted for our drinking water was laced with mercury, a potent neurotoxin which blows onto the mountain from TransAlta’s stack;
  • The views we expected from the top of our state’s tallest mountain were muddied with haze caused by TransAlta’s nitrogen oxide emissions.

Vashon friends and family circle up in the O of "NO COAL"

We wrestled our banner out in the wind, managing to snap a few photos, and then it was time to head back down to a less nausea- and fatigue-inducing elevation.  After taking a day back at base camp to recuperate and revel in our accomplishment, we headed down the mountain to Glacier Basin (including a thrilling 1,500′ glissade, a.k.a., sliding on our butts).  I had been anticipating this moment for months--triumphant moms, returning to our families, gathering our kids up in our arms.  We were met on the trail not only by our families, but by much of our island community who had come out to the Park to support our effort and also to make their own stand against coal.  Early that morning, as we were still tucked into our sleeping bags at 9,400′, our friends and families were laying out a 75,000 square foot image with black landscape fabric on a snowfield stating: NO COAL.

It was an incredible moment of solidarity and the mountain really was abuzz with the message of our action.  From the climbing rangers at base camp — “Oh, you’re the No Coal Moms?  You guys are famous!” — to all the climbers we spoke to — “You guys might not have been mountaineers a few days ago, but you definitely are now!”; from the rangers at Glacier Basin and everybody who passed on the trail snapping photos, to the person who hiked down a few thousand feet from Burroughs to get our email address so he could send the photos he took of the No Coal banner.  Everybody we spoke to was supportive, engaged, and ready for Washington to move beyond coal.

We are proud to join the many voices throughout the state urging Governor Gregoire to step up. Our parents taught us to face our problems, to try creative solutions, and not to procrastinate.  We are teaching our children those same lessons.  We can not push this problem into our children’s future.  In 2025, when our kids are grown, we want them to look back at this time with pride -- pride that their parents took a stand, made sacrifices, and met a challenge to help future generations live on a thriving, nurturing planet.

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