nkan02 wrote:I would not waste money on the guided service if you are doing the DC route. You will be going behind them (and you can time your departure after them if you wish). As others said, DC route is very straightforward, there is a huge trench in place and there are a lot of people - I would compare it to Longs Peak Keyhole route. Very well established. Yes, there are crevasses but they are either avoidable or there is an obvious track to cross them (even ladders as it was in our case). I would definitely do DC route unguided.
With Emmons route, it is a bit different. By comparison with DC, it felt very remote, empty (there are still groups, but it was just all spread out). It would make sense to go with the guided service if you are completely new. Still, your biggest variable is the weather. We had no luck with the weather on Emmons route (and were snowed in for 3 days at Camp Shurman), but had blue bird days on DC. You can't predict that. July-August seems to have bigger summit windows. We got lucky around Labor day this year (but no luck back in late June). I would go with Emmons, it is just a much more fun route.
It's worth noting that nkan02 has taken HAMS and has a few winters and springs under her belt. If you have that kind of experience and take the time to learn the basics of crevasse rescue and glacier travel, absolutely go unguided.
With the resume you listed, you're right to at least be considering a guide. It's also early; you could spend the next few months training and build the required skillset to go on your own. Winter 14ers are great training grounds for the easier routes on Mt. Rainier.
That being said, a guide service will carry a large chunk of your crap for you, cook, melt snow, etc. To some people I can see how the money would be worth it for the pampering. I was certainly jealous.
I shared the Ingraham Flats camp one night with AAI and one night with IMG. Both seemed like class outfits and I honestly didn't see a huge difference in their styles. IMG fed us some of their leftover pasta and probably saved my tent from blowing away, so they get my vote. Both AAI and IMG seemed more like a personal experience than RMI, though I have nothing negative to say about RMI either. It was just a much bigger group. All three guide services successfully got people who probably had no business being there to the summit.
As for Emmons vs. DC, I've only done the DC. I found it a fantastic first glacier experience. The comparison to the Longs Keyhole is fairly accurate, but that doesn't make it any less spectacular. There's just something about being on a glacier for the first time. Plus, you get to see the iconic areas like Camp Muir, Cathedral Gap, the Cleaver itself, etc.
“There are two kinds of climbers: those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all the rest.” - Alex Lowe
"There have been joys too great to describe in words, and there have been griefs upon which I cannot dare to dwell; and with those in mind I say, 'Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.'" - Edward Whymper