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Postby Rockymtnhigh69 » Tue Nov 27, 2007 5:59 pm

I have a couple of friends that have very little experience and have hiked only a handful of 14ers. They used a guide service but stated that Rainier is not all that hard other than the elevation gain, lots of miles, crevasse crossings and that unless the weather got extremely nasty, the route is pretty straightforward. I believe they did the "disappointment cleaver".

To those who have climbed it, is Rainier all that hard in your opinion? What would help you prepare for a climb of that nature.
On my first take-off, I hit second gear and went through the speed limit on a two-lane blacktop highway full of ranch traffic. By the time I went up to third, I was going 75 and the tach was barely above 4000 rpm....
And that's when the Ducati got its second wind. From 4000 to 6000 in third will take you from 75 mph to 95 in two seconds - and after that, Bubba, you still have fourth, fifth, and sixth. Ho, ho.

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Postby cheeseburglar » Tue Nov 27, 2007 6:16 pm

Rainier sometimes isn't that hard, compared to some other mountains. It's a piece of cake sometimes, impossible other times.
Depends on the conditions of the glacier, avalanche danger, weather, route finding in bad weather...
Sometimes all the crevasses open up and you have to zigzag. Other times you can walk over the crevasses all the way up and never even zag.
You could solo climb it (others have, they keep a record book of ascent times) if you were willing to accept the risk.
Read Freedom of the Hills sections on snow and glaciers, it's written by the Seattle Mountaineers, and Rainier is their playground.
You need to be comfortable on steep snow. Do some couloir routes in Colorado, like the Snake on Sneffels, Holy Cross, or Bell Cord. Practice roping up, belays, crevasse rescue, ... and then you should be ready.
Or if you want some more risk of dying and being called a moron, just head over there and climb it. There are lots of people up there most days that would be happy to rescue you and lecture you afterwards, if you live.
If you hit the conditions right, you will probably think it was a piece of cake!

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Postby markf » Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:14 pm

Rockymtnhigh69 wrote:I have a couple of friends that have very little experience and have hiked only a handful of 14ers. They used a guide service but stated that Rainier is not all that hard other than the elevation gain, lots of miles, crevasse crossings and that unless the weather got extremely nasty, the route is pretty straightforward. I believe they did the "disappointment cleaver".

To those who have climbed it, is Rainier all that hard in your opinion? What would help you prepare for a climb of that nature.


That's a very long list of very big "other thans". If you're fit and disciplined enough to manage a 1 AM start, and if the weather is good, it's a long, hard, fun walk. If anything goes wrong, you may need self arrest and crevasse rescue skills, weather reading skills, map reading skills, the ability to navigate with map and compass in a snowstorm or a whiteout and possibly the ability to hole up in a snow cave or other improvised bivy for a few days. Lots of people have walked up Rainier in good weather and proclaimed it an easy walkup, but others have gotten caught in bad weather and paid a very high price for their overconfidence.

I did the DC route on Rainier in 1979 with RMI, we spent a day working on glacier travel and self arrest skills before doing the summit. Between the training day and the day spent walking to Camp Muir, the guides pulled a few people aside and told them that they were not ready for Rainier and that they would not be going to the summit. I had an excellent time, but I don't know how RMI has evolved over the last 30 years. I soloed the DC route in October 1990 (and got a $50 fine from NPS), the crevasses were all exposed and easy to spot and the route was well marked by a season's worth of footsteps.
mark

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Postby tress » Wed Nov 28, 2007 10:40 am

why did you get a 50 dolla fine, Mark?

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Rainier

Postby viejo » Wed Nov 28, 2007 11:54 am

Seems to be a fair amount of interest in this post. I don't normally like to offer what is likely unwanted advice, but this thread really raises some thoughts about climbing responsibility that I feel strongly about.

My background on Rainier is limited. I ascended the Kautz glacier in '93 with a larger party (9 folks) lead by a very experienced acquaintance. I ascended Liberty Ridge with an Emmons descent with two of us in '06. And I ascended Tahoma Cleaver with a Tahoma glacier descent this past summer with 3 of us.

I totally agree with some of the folks posting that many of the necessary skills can be developed and practiced here in Colorado. You can easily find an overhang to work on crevasse rescue techniques. You can find some steep snow slopes to practice placing anchors and setting up pulley systems. And there's plenty of great snow climbs to work out crampon and ice axe techniques.

If you choose to climb this mountain, do so with the ethic and confidence that you and your group alone are responsible for handling any situation on the mountain. If bad weather causes you to lose a boot track or wands, can you work your way down? If you're dangling from a rope in a crevasse, can you jug your way back up? If your partner breaks through a snow bridge, can you stop a fall, anchor the rope, and if necessary set up a haul system to pull them out?

There was a comment that some inexperienced climbers found Rainier fairly straight forward on a guided trip. There's a huge difference in following a guide in good conditions and having the knowledge to run your own trip. There was a comment about solo trips on Rainier that I think might have been misleading. All climbing on Rainier requires a permit. Solo climbing requires additional authorization beyond a climbers permit. Probably why Mark got his $50 fine.

Contrary to an earlier post, Colorado climbers are not necessarily highly regarded on Rainier. The NW climbers often see us as having more attitude than aptitude on true alpine routes.

The point of this rambling dissertation...Research this climb thoroughly. Research the skills you'll need to extract yourself from even the more remote hazards. Know avalanche safety. Know navigation skills. Don't count on wands or boot tracks. Know how to build an emergency shelter. Hopefully everything will go well, but plan for the worst.

If the extent of your experinece is a dozen Colorado 14er's in decent summer conditions, you may be in for more than you think. Please be aware of what you need to know and what you don't know, then decide the best way to attain that knowledge. A guide service is one way to go. Self education or education from experience partners is another. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst, and stay in control of your climb at all times.

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Postby gdthomas » Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:35 pm

Rockymtnhigh69 wrote:I have a couple of friends that have very little experience and have hiked only a handful of 14ers. They used a guide service but stated that Rainier is not all that hard other than the elevation gain, lots of miles, crevasse crossings and that unless the weather got extremely nasty, the route is pretty straightforward. I believe they did the "disappointment cleaver".

To those who have climbed it, is Rainier all that hard in your opinion? What would help you prepare for a climb of that nature.


While the route could be described as "straightforward", I wouldn't recommend climbing Rainier for the first time unguided unless you have significant snow/glacier travel experience and the ability to deal with many possible risks. The first time I climbed Rainier via DC (guided), a person on our rope team fell into a crevasse which was covered over with snow. There was no indication whatsoever we were crossing a crevasse. It looked like part of the snowfield. The guides generally know where these "snowbridges" are located but there are enough crevasses along the route, even the guides can't be certain of every step. Fortunately, the other three climbers on our rope team arrested (although one duffus arrested in the wrong direction) and the surprised climber only fell several feet. The second time I climbed Rainier, we did so unguided with no problems other than heinous weather. My point is, firsthand, detailed knowledge of the route is critical and there is no way a first-timer will have this information. If you're going to climb Rainier unguided, no matter how easy/straightforward the route, be prepared to assume the risk of anything and everything the mountain can throw at you.

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Postby Dan Wiedrich » Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:15 pm

I climbed Rainier unguided via Disappointment Clever in June 1995. My brother and I did it along with 2 friends. We had all done some easier snow climbs during the prior 5-7 years leading up to Rainier, including Shasta, Lassan, postholing in both the Sierras and Rockies in Colorado. We also took a glacier/snow climbing class or 2.

Weather, route conditions and strength of the party can play critical roles.

The day before we made it to the top, conditions were pretty bad - very windy and blowing snow...

It's my understanding many people are guided up Rainier. One of the reasons is that a lot of folks want to climb it but are light on snow/glacier experience.

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