Peak(s):  Mt. Rainier - 14,410 feet
Date Posted:  08/04/2011
Date Climbed:   07/26/2011
Author:  PDavis

 Disappointment Cleaver  

I've been wanting to climb Mt. Rainier for a long time now, so when I brought it up to Tony and he was in, I knew that it wouldn't be to long until we finally had our chance at it. Neither one of us had any experience with glacier travel and crevasses, so I signed up for the crevasse rescue class through the Colorado Mountain School. After taking that and with us practicing a few times we felt confident in our abilities, but we decided that it still would be wise to do the Disappointment Cleaver route since it is the easiest route up the mountain.

We are both on a tight budget right now so we decided to drive the 1,300 miles to Rainier. The drive went pretty fast considering and as we were getting closer to Mt. Rainier neither one of us could get over how massive it looks once you see it in person compared to the 14ers in Colorado. It does look a little intimidating, but then you just get excited to get up there and start climbing.

The view from a lookout nearing the national park

We decided just to camp out at The Cougar Rock Campground just about 10 miles from the trail head. We pulled in Sunday afternoon, set up camp and then headed up to the visitors center and to check in with the Ranger Station.

Sorting through some of our gear at camp

When we woke the next morning, we were a little worried about the weather. It was really cloudy and started to rain as we drove up to the trail head. We decided to go to the Ranger Station again to see if the forecast had gotten any worse through the night. It was pretty much the same as the day before, but still not good. Thunderstorms that evening with snow above 11,000 feet and cloudy and stormy for the next day as well. We came all this way so we at least had to head up to camp and hope for good weather for our summit.

We hit the trail at about 9:30AM. There is still an insane amount of snow up there this year. The trail is dry for just about 20 feet and is buried in snow the whole way to the summit, except for just a few bare spots here and there. Even in the snow and our partial white out the trail is pretty easy to follow thanks to the rangers placing wands marking the trail the entire way. If it wasn't for them we would of had one hell of a time navigating in the weather. For parts of the day we couldn't see for more the 80 or 90 feet, but just enough to keep track of the next wands ahead.

Our views for a good portion of the hike to camp

We made good time on the hike in, its pretty straightforward and with no views to look at we just kept an eye out for the trail and kept plugging along. There was just a couple of times when the clouds would break just for a few seconds. Just enough time to see our objective and to keep us excited for the climb.

One of the quick breaks in the clouds

Once we hit the Muir Snowfield it seemed like it would go on forever and as soon as I was thinking that it would, the clouds broke ahead of us again and there was Camp Muir. Even though we were going to continue past Camp Muir and head for the Ingraham Flats for the night, it was still nice to see. Once we hit Camp Muir we took a short break to get roped up so we could cross the Cowlitz Glacier and the Ingraham Glacier.

Tony getting geared up for the glaciers

Once we got out on the Cowlitz Glacier the clouds rolled back in and we couldn't see much. We could hear the sound of rock fall all over the place, but we couldn't see any except for the rocks all over on the trail that had already fallen. Then I heard a really big slide that sounded like it came down right on the trail ahead of us. I stopped for a second and talked to Tony about heading back and just staying at Camp Muir and as soon as we were about to turn back for whatever reason the clouds parted again right ahead of us, but only for a few seconds, but just long enough to see that the end of the glacier and us being out of the shooting gallery of rocks was just a little ways away. So we hurried, but continued on.

Crossing the Cowlitz Glacier with the recent rock fall all around

From Camp Muir to our camp at the Ingraham Flats was only about an hour. There was only 2 other groups up there. One that had quite a few people with them and just one other group of 2. So we set up camp and I started to melt snow for our dinner and breakfast.

View from camp looking up the mountain

Melting snow inside the tent to stay out of the wind

After we had enough water we went to bed around 8PM and got up about 1AM. We checked the sky first thing in the morning and all we could see was stars above us. We knew then if we hurried that we would have a really good chance. We got roped up and got right behind a big group of ten people that made it up from Camp Muir. In about 15 minuets they took a break and we past them staying ahead of all the other groups that morning also. Even above camp the trail was still easy to follow with the trail cut good from all the people plus the route was still wanded.

The actually Disappointment Cleaver section is still covered in snow, so it was just a steep now climb. I'm not sure when, but some where above the Cleaver earlier this season a guide fell through a crevasse and broke his leg, so they change the route to traverse pretty far out onto the Emmons Glacier and then from there the route had many, steep switch backs up to the summit.

Other climbers making there way up from below

Tony on the well cut trail

I've seen a lot of sunrise pictures of Rainier, but to be there in person and to see the ocean of clouds below us as the sun rose was truly an amazing experience and I can't wait to go back to see it again.



We made it to the crater rim just a little after 6AM and was on the summit at 6:30AM. On the summit the wind was blowing pretty hard and it was cold so we just took some pics and headed back down into the crater to get out of the wind and have our celebratory shot. Then we headed back down, now getting a chance to see all the amazing views we missed in the dark earlier that morning.

Sun peaking over the crater rim

Tony on the summit



Heading back down



Looking into a crevasse

Standing over a crevasse as it expands out

From the top of the Cleaver you could see our camp

A huge ice fall over the path of the Ingraham Glacier. I wouldn't have wanted to be standing there when that went

Another shot of our camp. We're the farthest one on the right

Once we got back down we took a short break and I melted some more snow for the hike out. We packed up and headed down. We were hoping for a nice, long glissade down the Muir Snowfield, but once we got there the snow was to soft to make any progress, but we still made good time. Making it back to the Jeep in 2 and a half hours from Camp Muir.

Relaxing at camp before we packed up

Mt. Rainier was by far an amazing trip and we both can't wait to go back and climb it again. Only maybe from one of the more challenging routes.

One last shot from the hike out

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice pics!
08/04/2011 14:25
Hoping I can make it up there next year. Nice TR!


Great TR
08/04/2011 14:48
Is that the REI Mountain 2 Tent that you used? If so, how do you like it?


Exellent Style!
08/04/2011 17:24
Drive to Washington, no guide. Bravo.

Matt Lemke

08/04/2011 17:29
Way to bring my home state to the peoples of Colorado.

The Cascades rock!


Beautiful photos
04/02/2015 19:45
Congrats on the amazing summit


sounds like
08/04/2011 21:37
it was a great trip!! congrats on that amazing summit


08/06/2011 01:15
Yeah I drove up to Rainier also. Your report brings back fond memories of a fun ascent. I have to get back up there for Baker/Hood/Adams or all three at some point. The Cascades are a totally different animal. Thanks for the pics and report and congrats on your ascent.


08/06/2011 16:42
Thanks everyone for all the nice comments. It was an awesome trip

reff1198- Thats the tent except it's the mountain 3. I like it a lot. It is a little heavy, but other then that I have no complaints


Great Climb!
08/07/2011 22:33
I was out there at the same time and summited on the 29th via the Emmons Glacier Route. It was great. Looks like you had similar weather to the weather I experienced. Great pictures, especially like the one of the climber downclimbing and the clouds filling in the valleys down low. Great job.


08/08/2011 15:30
Congrats on the summit. I agree as well, great style.

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