Key: 2009-07-11:     2009-07-12:    

Rainier Summit Success

A successful Rainier summit at last!

Begin Date:

End Date:

2009-07-11: 4.26 mi
2009-07-12: 11.52 mi

Total: 15.78 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
14432ft (4400.241m)

Minimum Elevation*:
5205.36ft (1587.466m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

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

Trip Report:

Just a little correction for the GPS:

The GPS listed our height a little higher than it actually is. The true summit of Rainier tops out at 14,410 ft.

OK, now for the report:

We left Redmond at precisely 4AM in order to get a good jump on the climb. Neither of us felt particularly into it at this point, but figured we had a great opportunity and shouldn't let it slide by. This would be our second attempt at Rainier in one week's time.

We arrived at Paradise around 7AM and promptly took care of the permitting, drank a bunch of water, finished our last minute packing details, and got our boots back on our feet. We both had a bit of deja vu when slipping on our boots as it almost felt like out feet were preemptively screaming at as knowing what was coming. Nonetheless, we finished getting ready and hit the trail at almost exactly 8AM.

The begining of the climb seemed to be a lot harder than last week for both of us, even though we were making very good time. Eventually however, we did find a good mental rythym and were back being positive after the first break.

I'll spare you the details of the Muir Snowfield as it is rather boring, but we did make amazing time to Muir. We pulled into camp around 12:30PM, 4.5 hours after we had left the trailhead. That is close to our record without packs. Needless to say we were pretty thrilled at our performance to this point.

Once at Muir we were determined to get ourselves setup as quickly as possible in order to prevent making some of the same mistakes as last week (Mainly taking too long to get setup and not getting as much sleep and we would like). We were unpacked and mostly ready by 3PM. Quite an improvement, which gave us plenty of time to relax and focus on the climb ahead.

A much busier Camp Muir:
A busy place. Heard there was over 110 people camped here.

Muir was a lot more crowded this time around, but we were still able to make a great tent spot complete with wind barriers to prevent the annoying tent flapping that had kept us awake the previous week. We even had spots to sit and relax in the partial sun.

As kind of a bittersweet turn, there were a lot more clouds in the sky this time around, which obviously can be bad for the climb, but sure does keep the solar radiation down which is a big concern in the mountains. It also makes the tent much much cooler, so we weren't too bummed about it, and were actually expecting it due to the weather forecast. With that we slipped into the tent at about 5:30PM hoping to get some sleep.

We brought earplugs and sleep masks this time around, and while they did help immensely, we still only managed to get about 3 hours of sleep each. That was also a big over last week, so we were both happy, even though we both could have used a couple more when the alarm sounded at 11PM.

Not wanting to be the last group out of Muir again, we made it a point to be speedy in packing up and getting a move on. It helped this time around that the wind was nonexsistant and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. In fact, the timing was almost perfect as at about 11:30PM the moon began to rise, illuminating the snowy mountainside.

At just before midnight, we were ready to begin the long climb ahead of us. So, being as quiet as we could, we slipped past the other tents and climbers, most of which were already up and preparing for their climbs, and became the second team out of Muir that night. Not to bad if you ask us, that was just as we had planned.

We made our way up the standard route, crossing first the Cowlitz Glacier, then up the rocky cut leading to Ingraham Flats. Looking back towards Muir from the top of the cut, we could see a seemingly constant line of other teams hot on our tails.
Our goal was really to at least get a good ways into Disapointment Cleaver by the time the quicker teams would catch us, so we tried to keep our breaks to a minimum. As it turned out we almost made it to the top of the Cleaver before finally being passed up. In actuallity, we might have even made it to the top if we would have stuck to the newer snowy route up the Cleaver. We didn't know the guides had slightly modified the route over the week, so we ended up going up a bit more of a rocky stretch than we would have liked, but it got us to the same spot in the end, so no real harm was incured.

Once on top of the Cleaver we took a quick break to let our legs have a little rest (The Cleaver is a rather steep section of the route, and really doesn't have a lot of good breaking points, if any at all due to potential rock and ice fall triggered by other parties). We let a slightly faster team from IMG (International Mountain Guides) pass us before starting again and they seemed to have a good pace going, so we moreorless latched on to the back of them. Hey who says drafting is only for bikes?

We followed the route and IMG's team across the upper part of the Emmons Glacier passing a few very large crevasses and very precariously placed car-sized chunks of ice. After about a quarter mile, we turned up towards the summit and began the endless switchbacking that would make up the next couple of hours. The sun was begining to lighten the sky to the east, and soon after we were able to kill the headlamps. We were almost to the point that we turned around the week before, so to be that far at sunrise, made both of us very happy (The week before we were just getting to the Cleaver at this point, about 3 hours back).

The sun rising to the east:
Sunrise. With the Stuart Range in the left of the sun.

As expected, but still not appreciated, the switchbacks continued. However, much to our dismay, the altimeter seemed very reluctant to change. Of course this was all pyschological, but up there it sure feels like a lot of work to gain 100 feet of vertical. We were steadily getting closer to the rim at 14,200 though, and we could almost sense that the end was within our grasp.

It was about at this point, that some giant ominous clouds having their way with Mt Adams began to head our way. Our beautiful starry night, had turned to a partly cloudy very early morning, and now was becoming an all out snowstorm. Oh well, getting to the top was really the only thing on our minds at this point, and as long as RMI and IMG were going on, so were we. After all, the summit was right around the corner, literally.

Sure enough, about 5 minutes after it started snowing, we took the final steps up over the crater rim and were all but finished with our ascent. All that was left was the trek across the crater to the true summit. Something that neither of us was willing to forego, despite most of the guide services saying the crater rim is as good as being on the top. No way!!! We had come this far, we were going to the top.

So there we were, Tracy and Jason, standing on the rooftop of Washington, with snow blowing sideways and views of only gray clouds swirling about. We were there. We had done it. 14,410 feet above sea level never felt so good.

Tracy and Jason on the true summit or Mt Rainier:
Summit Team Madcampers!

Now as any moutaineer will tell you, getting to the top is only halfway, and indeed that is the truth, but for the sake of the trip report, I will just say that the way down was rather uneventful. We left the summit at about 7:15AM and made it back to Muir at around 10:17AM. So 10 hours and 19 minutes for the trip. Not to bad for a couple of slowpoke climbers on their 3 try.

We finished the trip off with the obligatory packing of our gear at Muir, followed by our favorite 2500 foot glissade run that takes you all the way down to 7500 feet. From there it was the standard foot numbing hike back to Paradise to turn in our permit, and do what always seems to be the best part of any big hike, taking the boots off and tossing on the flip flops.