Adventures

Key: 2008-07-18:     2008-07-20:    

Name:
Rainier Summit Attempt

Description:
Tracy and Jason's attempt at summiting Mount Rainier

Begin Date:
2008-07-18

End Date:
2008-07-20

Distances*:
2008-07-18: 4.62 mi
2008-07-20: 2.11 mi

Total: 6.74 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
12309.84ft (3753.596m)

Minimum Elevation*:
5257.84ft (1603.276m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

* This is derived from GPS data and can have major discrepancies due to poor GPS reception.

Trip Report:

I'll spare you the details of us getting to the mountain itself. Most of that is pretty boring anyways, just some stops here and there and driving for the rest of it. Though we did manage to get a good view of the mountain from Steven's Canyon Road from the south. Here it is:
Mount Rainier view from Steven's Canyon Road. This is the side we went up.

7-18-2008:

We ended up camping overnight at Cougar Rock Campground which is about 20 minutes from Paradise on the south side of the mountain. This was good as that was where we were headed for obtaining permits and to begin the climb.

We awoke fairly early in an effort to get a jump on the day, that way we would have a bit more time to rest at Camp Muir once we finally got there. The skies were overcast, but it was obvious they were all low clouds so that didn't concern us too much. We knew soon enough that we would rise above them.

We arrived at Paradise at I believe around 8:30AM to find a group of three climbers who had already managed to get on the ranger's bad side. This worried us a bit due to our inexperience on Rainier, but when we got up to the counter the ranger actually was more than pleasant and had no problems with our plans. She wished us luck and let us loose on the mountain.

We headed back out to the parking lot, packed our things, and said good bye to the comfort of the car, and with that, our Rainier attempt had officially begun.

We made good time up to Panarama Point, which is about where the Muir Snowfield begins and about 1400 feet about Paradise.

The Muir Snowfield, as fun as it sounds, is really simply a slog of about 3200 vertical feet spread out over about 2 miles, most of which is on snow. The vertical gain and the distance really aren't the hard parts though, what gets to us lowland dwellers is the elevation. Camp Muir sits at just over 10,000 feet, so for us who spend most of their time at 10 feet, this is quite a change. Couple that with the fact that your only real reference point is the top of a giant volcano in an otherwise endless slope of white, and well, you don't really feel like you are going anywhere despite the fact that you are breathing like you just sprinted a lap around a track. It can be very demoralizing to say the least. Oh yeah, I almost forgot that we have on 45 and 60lbs (Tracy and Jason respectively) packs.

So, needless to say, when we arrived at Camp Muir 6 hours after we left Paradise, we were both pretty exhausted and decided Muir would make a fine place to spend the night and figure out how we wanted to try this thing (Our original plans had us pushing on to the Ingraham Flats, about another 1000 feet up the mountain).

We setup our camp quickly and after a fine freeze dried dinner decided that the last thing we wanted to do was get setup for a climb in a couple of hours, let a lone wake up in a couple hours to actually climb. We were simply too exhausted from getting to Muir and Jason wasn't feeling great most likely due to the altitude. We rationalized that an extra day of acclimation would only help in the long run. Here is Jason getting acclimated:
Jason relaxing in the tent at Camp Muir on Friday (7/18) afternoon. Little Tahoma is in the back ground just above the blue and white tent.

At about 10:30 that night, we and the rest of Camp Muir were awoken by that night's climbers getting ready for their attempts. Although being toasty warm and relaxed, both of us kind of felt like we should have pushed a little harder and been getting ready with them, but that thought quickly faded as the climbers headed out and we both drifted back to sleep.

7-19-2008:

We woke up to the sunshine peaking from behind Little Tahoma to the northeast and pulled ourselves out of our bags to watch the climbers who had left about 6 hours earlier reach the summit.
Saturday morning summit(14,410 ft) climbers. If you look to the left of big rock you can see the climbers on the snow way up high, they look like tiny black dots.

You can just see the climbers to the left of Gibralter Rock.

We spent most of the day mingling with other climbers and watching as group by group, the summit teams strolled back into camp, looking completely blown out, but also glowing with pride and happier than one can imagine.

We went back and forth all day trying to decide just what we wanted to do. The climb to the summit seemed so far away, but we both knew that not at least giving it a shot would leave us feeling very empty, so we made up our minds (Mostly Tracy actually). We were going to see what the upper mountain looked like. The plan would be to go until at least the sunrise and at that point we would make the final call to keep pushing if we felt great, or to enjoy the sunrise and head back down if we didn't. With that, we ate our dinners, readied our gear and climbed into the tent to try and get some shut eye before the big attempt.

So at this point, let me explain something about Camp Muir. It is essentially a never ending bustle of climbers and day hikers roaming around doing all sorts of things, but more importantly not doing those things quietly. From dawn till until dusk there are people coming into Muir, many of which don't realize there are climbers trying to sleep. Others are trying to be quiet, but the reality is that getting gear ready is a pretty noisy venture. This, in addition to the fact that you are already very nervous about the climb ahead, and that the sun is still super heating the tent, equals little to no sleep.

You end up sitting in your tent with your eyes closed praying for the sun to dip behind the mountain and for the inconsiderate hikers to shut up. Once it finally does and the day hikers yield to the darkness, you say to yourself, finally, but just then the early summit teams begin to wake up and get ready to go. As I said before, it truly is never ending.

So, as you can probably imagine, when 11PM rolled around. We were both wide awake, excited but also very exhausted from the lack of sleep. Tracy whipped up some coffee to go with the Starbuck's Doubleshot that our neighbors from the day before generously gave us (Actually, they just didn't want to carry it down from Muir. You will see that a lot.). We packed up our equipment, most of which we had readied the evening before, tossed on our boots and crampons, clipped in our harnesses, and began our slow march into the darkness.

We set off at a great pace, just taking things slow and making sure we took plenty of breaths. In fact at this point we were already taking about a full breath for every step. We crossed the Cowlitz Glacier, passing what would be the first of many crevasses, and eventually made it to what we had thought was a short rocky scramble up (It looked small from Muir) to the Ingraham Glacier. Once we got there, we could see it was actually a much bigger scramble, gaining about 150 feet.

This is just another example of how hard it was to gauge just how far away or how big things are on Rainier. There really isn't much on the mountain to give you any sort of perspective, and since everything is so big, you tend to think things are much smaller than they actually are.

Moving along, once we reached the top of the scramble, we could see Ingraham flats with the Ingraham Icefall looming ominously above. We also got our first look at just how many other climbers were going up that night. Little strings of headlamps dotting the climbing route stretched all the way across the flats, up Disappointment Cleaver, and beyond towards the summit.

We made our way up the flats(Which aren't as flat as the name would imply) trying to be as quiet as possible as there were a lot of campers up there as well.