Peak(s):  Mt. Rainier - 14,410 feet
Date Posted:  07/25/2011
Modified:  02/22/2013
Date Climbed:   07/21/2011
Author:  mt_turtle

 The Rainier Effect  

The Rainier Effect! I still have no idea how this climb will effect me in the future. I know in the few days I’ve been back, I’m different. I went to Rainier with two goals: to gain some basic mountaineering skills and to summit. What I gained was so much more. From the people I met to the deeper love for mountaineering Rainer instilled in me, this truly was a great experience.

I signed up with RMI for their four-day climb. Our group was blessed with two really great guides. I think a better description of them is world class. I feel I got a bargain for this experience. They never gloated about their accomplishments; although, they have many. If you ask the right questions, they will gladly share their experiences. Over the four days we spent together, I was constantly learning more about this great sport.

Our lead guide was Casey Grom (pictured below). Of his many accomplishments, the one that stood out to me the most to me was his three summits of Everest in three attempts. On one of these climbs with Dave Hahn, they came across a very sick and unconscious female climber at 27,300 feet. Their team saved her life; and Casey was part of the group that brought her down the Lhotse Face, the most technical section. Here are two links to the story link1 and link2. He told me this story because I asked the right questions. It was a privilege to have him as our guide.

Our other guide was Eric (Cool Cat) Frank. I gave him the nickname; it is the best way I know how to describe him. He is a mountain climber/surfer that surfs on the coast of Washington (brrr!) and likes the more technical routes on mountains in Alaska including Denali. He was the lead on my rope team on summit day, and we had a blast. Both of these guys felt like friends, and I can’t thank them enough for getting me up the mountain and for all of the knowledge they shared.

Day 1 (July 18th, 2011)

Upon arriving in Ashford, WA, I checked into the Whitaker Bunkhouse. For $35 a night the price was right, and the bed was comfortable. There are six beds, two downstairs and four upstairs. What I like most about the bunkhouse is all of the climbers you meet. They kind of become your team outside of your team.

Below is Kristen; she was staying in the bunkhouse and has a great story. She is trying to become the youngest female to complete all the states highpoints; she currently is seventeen years old. I think she has seven years on the current record holder. Christine has Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska left, and she is preparing for Denali next year. She made the summit of Rainier (the summit crater) earlier this year, but did not get to the high point. She came back for another attempt just a few days before I got into town, but their group was turned back by weather. At the airport, she found out RMI had a cancellation; so her father brought her back for another attempt. She stood on Columbia Crest the day before our group’s summit attempt. We passed as she was heading down. She was beaming. I congratulated her for reaching her high point. Her determination was really inspiring.

Now it was gear check time. I’ve read some criticism that the guided programs on Rainier are too regimented. I guess if you have a team with the skill sets required for glacier travel, then this might not be for you. I found it was a perfect fit for my needs. And what some would call regimented, I saw more as a learning opportunity to be more efficient.

As many times as I have packed for the hills, I couldn’t believe how much we learned from Casey. You can tell Casey’s time on big mountains has taught him to conserve space and weight, while being able to access what he needs quickly in steep and windy conditions.

Day 2 (July 19, 2011)

We arrived in Paradise in very un-paradise like conditions. The good news was with all the snow Rainier got this year the snow was all the way to the parking lot. We did not have to go far for the one-day climbing school. This meant more time learning and less walking! The weather was my biggest fear. From everything I’ve read, just over 50% of those who attempt Rainier make the summit. Summit failures are mostly due to weather and lack of conditioning. With three straight days of no teams making the summit because of weather, this fear was real.

Below is the RMI mobile. The ride from Ashford to Paradise is on a very winding road. My advice is don’t sit in the back if you get carsick. I made that mistake once.

The school was great and met my expectations. During breaks Casey ate well on the mountain. The only time I heard him gloat was when he was eating steak and we were eating cliff bars.

Day 3 (July 20th, 2011)

Mount Rainier was before us, and we had a clear view of it on the way up to Camp Muir. Spirits rose when we heard the RMI group had made the summit this day.

After a long slog up the Muir snowfield, Camp Muir was now in sight.

Zoomed in for a better view of Camp Muir.

Below is a snapshot of conditions in the RMI hut at camp Muir. Later we found out that Paul to the left and Chris up top would be with me on a rope team led by Eric. Eric dubbed us the A-team.

Here is the infamous Camp Muir outhouse. The guides said this gets the most complaints on their surveys. I just took it as part of the experience. From what I read, it was everything I expected.

We found out the day before that Ed Viesturs would be at Camp Muir with us. Below is his camp. He was on a private climb with friends and family. Some in our group didn’t even know who he was. I was like what; you’re on Rainier, and you don’t know who he is!

I did get to meet him, and he was gracious enough to allow me to get this awesome shot. WOW!

Day 4 (July 21st, 2011)

We were up at midnight, got our crampons on, roped up, and were ready at 1:00am. Our rope team was the first out of Camp Muir followed by the rest of our group. We were followed by three rope teams from the RMI 5-day climb, and Ed Viesturs’ team. Knowing our guides and that Ed Viesturs was behind us, I was very confident we were in good hands.

We made it across Ingraham Flats and up Disappointment Cleaver with little trouble. But on top of Disappointment Cleaver at our break point, we almost met our own disappointment. Eric pointed out that a lenticular cloud was forming on Rainier and that it wasn’t a good sign. Up to this point, our breaks were always 15 minutes; but this one was taking longer. All of the guides were discussing the weather. I heard Ed Viesturs tell his team that the RMI teams were turning back, and he thought they should do the same. I sat on my pack in silence thinking this is it we are going down. After about 5 minutes, Eric instructed us to get ready we’re heading up. Yes!

The weather never cleared, and visibility was dropping with the wind steadily increasing. We made it to High Break. I knew we now had a chance. I got my first opportunity to take a picture for the day. Casey was preparing his pack for the summit push. With parkas on, we made our move for the summit.

At 7:15am, we were on the summit. As you can see below, conditions were a bit off to say the least. Here is the report my wife read from the RMI blog.

Mt. Rainier: July 21st - Summit!
Posted by: RMI Staff | July 21, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'
Our Four Day Summit Climb Team led by Casey Grom, and the Expedition Skills Seminar – Paradise led by Paul Edgren reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning. A cap covered the top of the mountain today making visibility low with wind gusts of 30 – 35mph. The teams started their descent back to Camp Muir at 7:26am PST.
Congratulations Teams!


Here is our summit shot! Even though we were covered in ice and had no views, we were all ecstatic. Our team was the first on the summit (Paul, Me and Chris).
On the way down, I did get some great pictures once we were out of the weather. This is one of my favorite shots. Below is Little Tahoma. If considered on its own, Little Tahoma would be the third-highest peak in Washington; however, it is part of Rainier. It gives you a idea of how massive the cloud system was behind it. All of the small cracks on the glacier below the peak are actually very large crevasses. Awesome!

Below is the rest of our group heading down Disappointment Cleaver. It might not look too steep from this angle, but check out the next photo.

This is what we were down climbing. You can see the climbers at the bottom of the fixed line. It helps with perspective. These crevasses are massive. Chris slipped a couple of times on this stretch, and Eric emphasized the importance of staying on our feet. He went on to tell us about a time he was bringing down a 6’6”, 280-pound climber on this section. The climber fell, and it took Eric self arresting six times before they stopped 30 feet from what you see below. Each time he stopped, the other climber would rip Eric out of his arrest. After the final arrest saved them, they came out with only minor injuries. The worst being a laceration to the climbers face from Eric’s crampon; this got my attention!

The area below is very close to site of the worst mountaineering accident in American history. Eleven climbers were sweep away by a massive icefall into the crevasses below. Their bodies were never recovered.

The exposure around this corner is dramatic, and the ice blocks on the glacier in the distance are the size of buildings. This area makes you feel very small in the vastness of beauty you are surrounded with.

On this trip we used every piece of equipment we had; Casey said that rarely happens. After all we went through, this photo of me standing on this ledge after descending from the summit says it all. This is the Rainier Effect!

I’d like to thank my wife for putting up with me while I trained and gathered gear. Also for her support every step of the way. Most of all I give praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who created this great peak and gave me the strength and desire to climb it. On the final push to the summit, I was struggling; but the thought of His walk to Calvary for me carried me to the top. I can’t wait to climb the peaks in His Eternal Kingdom.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
George James

07/25/2011 07:23
Great pictures and an even better story. Thanks for sharing it.


07/25/2011 14:40
All glory to the Lord! Nice story of your spectacularly blessed climb.


07/25/2011 14:51
This is perfect timing...your putting up this post. I am headed to Colorado for a few fourteeners this weekend as part of my training for the Kautz Expedition Skills Seminar on Aug 12th on Rainier. This was great to see your experience on the mountain. I would be thrilled to have Casey as a guide or even to meet Ed as you did. I keep reading how great of people the RMI guides are, aside from being great mountaineers. I actually hear that ALL of their guides are great, and that they are the best guide service anywhere, which is why my buddy and I chose them. I look to get a lot of the same out of the trip as and efficiency. As my youthfulness fades (41), these become even more important as my strength and agility slowly fade. Good luck to you in your mountaineering future!
Thanks again,


07/25/2011 15:38
Great story, awesome climb!

Exiled Michigander

Sweet Climb!
07/25/2011 18:11
Your grin in that last photo does say it all! Great work, man!


07/25/2011 21:08
I'm doing the same climb w/RMI in late August. Can you please tell Ed to hang out and wait for me, I'd like to meet him too!


Great TR - Congrats!
07/26/2011 05:48
looked like tough conditions up there for sure!!!!!!


Great tR
07/27/2011 17:16
really enjoyed thanks for posting


08/01/2011 00:08
The last paragraph you wrote explain it all , i have that feeling couple times. We're looking forward to hike with you and Kim.

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