Mount Rainier Climb  ~  June 3-5, 2011


Basecamp, Ashford WA (8 pics)
Training Day, Paradise(12 pics)
Paradise to Camp Muir (29 pics)
Summit Morning (16 pics)
Crater to Muir (38 pics)
Muir to Paradise (8 pics)

South of Seattle 14,410' Mount Rainier looks something like this. (From Military Road, overlooking the Kent Valley.)
Just like Mt McKinley was called Denali before Europeans renamed it; Mt Rainier's original name is Tahoma.
The peak jutting out of the left side of Rainier is called Little Tahoma. It's going to show prominently in the pictures ahead.

Basecamp, Ashford WA

Corner of Mount Rainer National Park map. Ashford is about six miles from the Nisqually Entrance (lower left corner).
Red lines are roads. Paradise is below the center of picture. From there we hiked up Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir. (green spot)
The route continued north across Ingraham Glacier to Disappointment Cleaver, then uphill to the crater, and across to Columbia Crest.

Rainier Mountaineering Inc (RMI) is run by the Whittakers who have been guiding here since the 60's and is the traditional choice for a climb.
The building and red/white awning are meeting areas. Behind is the rental shop, and left of that is pizza/deli/beer.
Out of the picture on far left is the gear store and office. To far right is parking, lodging, and coffee shop. (Picture from rainy Thursday.)

Took a walk in the rain. To give you an idea of the size of Ashford, this is the only gas station.
And it's located between a patch of forest and a cow pasture!

Friday morning was sunny. Found a trail behind the parking lot. This is the most unusual photo of it.

What a pleasant surprise! Somebody has taken a triple chair ski lift and converted it into a big rocking bench!
Spent hours up here. Saw elk one time, heard them crashing through the brush another time.

Friday Orientation. I thought "Oh no, they're gonna make us watch a safety video!" But it was a slide show showing the route
and the guides made it fun. Next we went to a table and learned more about the required gear.

It was sunny, so we did our gear check on the lawn. My big red 30 year old pack made a good conversation starter!
My 20 year old leather boots got left behind when I rented new-fangled plastic boots (lighter and warmer, smart choice).
This was my climbing team, plus a couple other guides for when we roped up into smaller teams. Gabriel (with paper) was our main guide.
Whittaker's Bunkhouse in the background.

The other climbing team was doing thier gear check too. 17 clients plus 6 guides gave us a total of 23 climbers this weekend.

Training Day, Paradise

Saturday morning! I remember making the comment "I haven't been this excited for years!" Gear store and office on the right.

Looking at the mountain from the Paradise parking lot (elevation 5,420'). Restrooms located through the door in the snowbank.

On the right side of the mountain, can you guess which chunk is called Gibraltar Rock?

Ah, we had so much energy in the beginning!

Lots of other people were on the mountain today. Tatoosh Ridge on the left.

We walked up about a mile or so.

We did a lot of our training on the hill to the left. On the right you can see tiny little climbers.

A close up of the climbers. At middle left and on the trail to the right. I couldn't wait to be up there!

We yelled "Falling!", slid down the hill, then used our ice axe and feet to self arrest.

Although it was sunny, we wore hoods because it was windy. Tatoosh Ridge in the background.

Our guide took us down a hill while roped together and then yelled "Falling"! We fell to the ground and dug in.
Then for each of us he pulled hard on the rope and tried to make us slide. It was good practice.

It was great to spend an afternoon on the mountain and I felt like I'd learned some valuable skills.
One more night in Ashford to eat a big dinner and rest up for the climb.
You should now know the name of the ridge in the background! (Tatoosh) The highest point is Pinnacle Peak 6,562'.

Paradise to Camp Muir

The day started a bit more cold and grey than the day before.
The RMI bus and trailer shuttled us back and forth between Ashford and Paradise.

Finally climbing for real! The "hazardous conditions" sign adding to the adventure.

A quick clothing adjustment stop.

Still full of energy and hiking as one.

The hills spread us out a little.

A look back as Mount St Helens appears over Tatoosh Ridge.

Next rest stop is where the group ahead of us has stopped at the bottom of the hill.

The reality of bathroom breaks on the trail! Women just hold it until Camp Muir I guess.

One hour of hiking, about ten to fifteen minutes of rest. Then do it all over again. (Five times.)

If this looks like something you would enjoy for hours on end - then Mt Rainier is the mountain for you!

Gibraltar Rock is above the head of the climber (Chad) on the left. If you follow the snowline down from there
Camp Muir is about where the snow line meets the big rocks of Cathedral Ridge in back (above Gabby's white hat).

Looking well over Tatoosh Ridge now. Last view of the Paradise lodge, it will be too far in the valley from now on.

I'm reminded of a stream of ants on the march.

I'd just watch my feet for a while, then stop to look around and see that I'm at the place which looked far away before! Easy!

With Mount Rainier as a backdrop, every rest stop was stunning.

Getting closer!

Mt Adams in the distance.

We can see Camp Muir now. Gibraltar Rock looms large.

Although you can see the road to Paradise, the lodge and parking lot are now hidden from view.

The last rest stop before Camp Muir. A quick meeting filled us in on what the protocol is.

Shouldering the packs for the final push to Camp Muir.

Camp Muir, elevation 10,188'. Years ago somebody told me the hut holds 300 people. The joke's on me
because it only sleeps twenty. Guides slept in the rock hut.

Plenty of tent space. Little Tahoma is the double pointed rock in back on the right.

We kept our packs outside along this wall. Not enough room inside for everybody and all thier gear too.

A look inside the door.

We were exhausted. Eric was having a hard time staying awake while Gabby told us the plan.
Eat quickly, go to bed by six, rest as best you can, then get up at midnight to climb!

I took a top bunk. Because it wasn't raining the sheet of plastic leading to the bucket didn't bother me.
The hut belongs to the National Park. They're a little short of funding.

One stinky outhouse. Because our drinking water is melted from snow in the area, we were encouraged to use it.

Sitting around enjoying the view and watching people walk up the hill is the thing to do here.

Summit Morning

Got so excited after dinner I never fell asleep before we had to get up at midnight. Was really tired through those early morning hours
when I normally would have been sleeping. Hiked like a zombie for couple hours!
Lousy picture of me, but nobody looks good in such grueling circumstances I figure. Some blowing snow got caught in the flash.

The first few breaks were in darkness. Then a break in twilight, too dark for good pictures.
Here I pulled the camera out of my pack and snapped a few. 5:45 AM

That's Little Tahoma! We're way above it!

That's Emmons Glacier extending for miles actually. On the other side of Goat Island Mtn you can see it becomes the White River.

The beauty of this place, this moment, really hit me. Up to this point I had been keeping my head down, focussing on each step.

Next thing I knew, it was time to sit down in the crater! This would be a one hour break.

But I could see Columbia Crest on the other side of the crater. The guides cautioned us to save energy for the way back down.
A fifteen minute walk each way plus ten minutes at the top makes it a forty minute detour. That's most of the one hour break.

On the hill ahead people are signing the summit register. The ground is bare and steaming because Mt Rainier is a volcano.

There was a cloud right around the Crest.

The summit means different things to everybody. Since I was a teenage Boy Scout I had wanted to stand here -
for me it was a dream thirty years in the making. I got a little choked up as I thought about it all.
Sean representing for Ireland. As a pilot he flew over Rainier and got inspired to climb it.

That's Liberty Cap, 14,122' tall. Past that we should be able to see Seattle, Tacoma, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mtns, etc.
Wasn't bothered a bit by the limited view. The weather overall was fantastic, and now I have something to look forward to for the next climb!

A wide angle view of the crater and our early morning summit party. 7:50 AM

Hiking across the roof of Washington. On most any nice day, there's somebody doing this! Isn't that amazing?!

The cold and breezy section.

Stopping to sign the register. (It's a composition book that has been dunked in water and then frozen.)

Got hot walking across the crater on this sunny morning.

Crater to Muir

Five minutes to get ready, then back down we went.

A look south over the edge. Mt Adams in the center.

Felt on top of the world at this point! Too happy to have any worries about making it down. I could have skipped my way down! (not really)

Except for people on the mountain, this view reminds me of what I might see out of an airplane window!

Walking towards Little Tahoma. Sean on the line ahead of me.

There were a couple little crevasses to jump over. Not real wide, but very deep!

About four and a half miles from the crater to Camp Muir. Most of it downhill as you might imagine.

Little Tahoma on the left. The big snow covered rock on the right by the climbers is the top of Gibraltar Rock.

Logan on the rope behind me had my back.

Approaching a cloudy section.

One little rope team in one giant landscape.

Imagine swirling cloud sounds.

Avoiding a crevasse on a traverse.

Stay on the catwalk!

Another cloudy section. I relate to this picture - it says it all for me. Something like, "Keep moving forward
even though you can't see what you're getting into (because it's too late to turn around)!"

A rest stop ahead.

Guides shortened our ropes for the next section. (Disappointment Cleaver)

Clark fueling up for the next push. We had water, snacks and a little sit down at every break.

A "wish you were here" postcard moment.

Through the gap below Gibraltar Rock we can see Mt Adams and upper Paradise far below.
The foreground is the Ingraham Glacier headwall or icefall (I heard it called both).
Lower left corner is a row of tents which we'll be hiking by later.

Moving right along.

A cleaver is a ridge between glaciers. Emmons on the left, Ingraham on the right.

With ropes short, there is better communication in the tricky stretches.

Walking across the glacier the ropes are full length again.
I wonder what this section looks like in the summer. A little more cracked maybe?

The climbers are hurrying to get past the dangers of crevasses and falling ice.

But first we need to get down from here!

The rope team guides stayed high to be in a better position in case somebody slipped.

Working our way down the cleaver.

Another steep stretch.

Lower than Little Tahoma finally.

To get to where the tents are we need to cross the crevasse field on the right.
Notice the little flag and rope in the lower right corner. Trail goes by the rock.

Definitely a scenic route!

Last break before Muir, we have crossed the dangers of the Ingraham Glacier.

A high camp. (That row of tents that have been in many of the pictures.)

The Ingraham icefall at the upper right.

A wide angle look at the icefall and what we had just walked through.

A helicopter is resuppling Camp Muir. Gibraltar rock on the right, St Helens in the distance.

A gentle traverse across to Camp Muir.

Muir to Paradise

The helicopter also took out bins from the outhouse and empty propane tanks.

A bundle of wood was dropped off. I heard the hut is going to get a new floor.

Almost ready to head down. Clouds are rolling in big time.

Everybody is tired, but the pace is quick because everybody also wants to get back to the comforts of civilization.

There were a couple places where we could glissade. (A fancy way to say slide down on our butts.)

A look back up from where we had been this morning.

Into the clouds!

One last look at the mountain before getting on the bus.
An unforgettable trip. Thank you RMI, the wonderful guides and fellow climbers!


Ready for more!

Thinking about Emmons Glacier route next year.

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