Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Peaks: Mt. Rainier

Date Climbed: October 1, 2011
Location: Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Start: Paradise (5,500 ft)
Max Elevation: 11,800 ft. (somewhere on Ingraham Glacier)
End: Paradise
Difficulty: strenuous, glacier travel
Personnel: Kirk, Brent, Eli, Von and Luke

Mt. Rainier is the mecca for mountaineers in the lower 48 states. I first laid eyes on Mt. Rainier a year and a half ago while on a west coast road trip. The mountain stands over 14,000 feet above sea level. Just for some persepctive...Mt. Timpanogos in Utah stands at 11,700 something feet and the valley floor is somewhere over 4,000 ft. So less than 7,700 ft difference (a bit more than half the difference of the peak of Rainier and Seattle). If it is clear in the Seattle area, it catches everyone's eyes....and on that day, it definitely caught mine.

The second time I saw it was in June 2011 when I was flying home from Alaska. I actually got a window seat on purpose so I could see the cascades on the way home. I watched the in-flight map anxiously and soon enough there below me sat a giant mountain poking its face out of the clouds. I stared at it intently for about 3 minutes and convinced myself to climb it that summer.

Somehow in late September, some friends and I planned to go to Mt. Rainier for a late season last minute climb. We drove 14 hours and stayed in Seattle at a friends house and started our climb on Friday evening up to Camp Muir. The climb to Muir Camp is a 4,000 ft. hike up steep trail and up the steep Muir Snowfield to "basecamp." There was not a single person in the huts at Camp Muir. RMI, the local climbing guide service, already stopped for the season and probably for good reason. We were climbing in 60 mph winds and cold weather.

The following morning we packed our day packs, roped up and headed out onto the Cowlitz Glacier. We crossed the glacier in near whiteout conditions fairly quickly. We climbed up the adjacent rocky ridge to Cathedral Pass and onto the Ingraham Glacier. The whiteout at this point made route-finding very difficult. Somehow we could not find Ingraham flats despite hours of trying. Frankly, it was an embarrassing attempt to climb Mt. Rainier. We spent the better part of the day criss-crossing Ingraham Glacier and even Emmonns Glacier trying to find a way up onto Disappointment Clever to no avail. At sunset, we had to turn around.

The following morning we made our way down from Camp Muir and to our car. Despite our failed summit attempt, it was good glacier travel experience and now I get to go back again.

For pictures, click on the link:


For more information on the route we attempted, check it out here: