Today we rocked Mt Rainier. If I barely make sense, bare with me, I’ve basically been awake for 40+hrs and have 14+hrs of climbing mixed into that somewhere.
First off, thanks to Nate, John, & JP at Alpine Ascents for helping to make a truly incredible climb possible. They were pretty killer guides/cooks/coaches and we were lucky to have them.
The itinerary that I posted earlier is pretty close to what we ended up doing. The only edits I’ll make are the lack of consideration I gave to getting any amount of sleep or specific snacks eaten while hiking.
Day 1 was just a long slog from the parking lot at the Paradise Visitors center (5,400 ft) up to Camp Muir (10,000 ft) which is not an all bad vertical gain, considering we’d be staying the night, and pushing for another 1,000 ft the next day. We got into camp about 4:00 and quickly set up shop, got a hot drink in the works and topped off our water bottles. Here, is where I’ll say that the guides really started to shine. They kicked the door down bearing gifts of food – burritos cooked from scratch. I gotta say that I was pretty impressed to be having a meal like that instead of freeze dried whale dick that I was expecting to have. Apparently I was a lumber jacker and sawed serious logs during the night.. I think the guys in the bunk below us were fit to be tide by about 6am.. Oh well, should have brought ear plugs – as suggested by the guides.
Day 2 starts off right with coffee, fresh blueberry pancakes, eggs and bacon. How bad can this deal be one might ask? After wrapping up from breakfast we had a day of “snow skills” which included things like self arrest (stopping yourself if you fall down a hill), the most efficient stepping techniques (who knew that the French would get something right?), crampon use, and avalanche beacon use. Pretty straight forward stuff that ideally you will not have to use. Fortunately, no one had to use any of the safety techniques taught, so that’s a bonus. After class we ascended over the Cowlitz glacier, through Cathedral Gap and up to Ingraham Flats.
On summit night we were supposed to go to bed at 6:00pm and get as much sleep as you could by midnight. I must have climbed that mountain and every possible obstacle or hazard a million times in my head from 6 – 12am. I may have gotten a collective 1-1.5hrs of sleep, but I’m not sure. Suffice it to say, adrenaline is what fueled the first half of the day.
I tried to power down some oatmeal to give me some energy even though I had little if any appetite. After putting on our layers of clothes, head lamps, crampons and roped up, we were off. Disappointment Cleaver was the first obstacle, and quite one at that with 1hr 45 minutes needed to get beyond it. To summarize – 2ft wide ledge on a glacier in many spots, walking over crevasses and using fixed lines to ensure stability when traversing really hairy spots on the trail. Apparently the deal behind Disappointment Cleaver was that original mountaineers believed this to be the summit, and to their incredible dismay when they reached the top of it, they still had a good 2.5-3hrs of climbing (in good conditions) left.
Our breaks were very short lived due to the extremely cold temperatures that were not helped with a ripping wind coming off the mountain causing all sorts of fun. Switch back, after switchback, and steep pitch, we were nearing the summit of Mt Rainier at about 4:45am. Unfortunately we didn’t get to cross the crater rim – something to do with -10F and 60mph+ winds ??? Lame… oh well, we turned around, for what was to be a long slog of descent ahead of us. The upside of not risking the crater rim is that I’m here to tell you about it, sunburn and all 🙂
Photo’s from Brian D.
At Camp Muir