Peak(s):  Mt. Rainier - 14,411 feet
Date Posted:  09/03/2012
Modified:  11/15/2013
Date Climbed:   09/02/2012
Author:  SnowAlien
Additional Members:   Pauliwog, Emily, hunterwf
 Late Summer on Mt. Rainier  

Dates: August 31 - September 2nd, 2012

Stats: distance ~17 miles, elevation ~9,500k, roundtrip time: ~20 hours total (summit day - 12 miles, 15.5 hours).

Breakdown: 08.31.12 - backpack from Paradise to Camp Miur ~5 hours, 09.01.12 – rest day and glacier travel/rescue practice, 09.02.12 – summit day and hike out - Camp Miur to summit ~7 hours, summit to Camp Miur ~5 hours, Camp Miur to Paradise ~3.5 hours.

Party: Natalie (nkan02), Will (hunterwf), Paul, Emily

While researching trip reports for the Disappointment Cleaver route on Mt. Rainier, I’ve noticed that there are none from September, so I thought I’d throw one in for comparison purposes. September is considered “late season” for glacier climbs – crevasses are noticeably larger and there is a higher risk of rockfall. Despite these drawbacks, Mt. Rainier remains climbable (at least by the easiest route).

Despite being denied an opportunity to summit via the Emmons glacier route back in June due to high avalanche risk, I had a good time on Rainier (hey, who would have guessed that weathering blizzard near 9,500 feet at Camp Shurman for 3 days would be so much fun?) and was looking for the first chance to go back. I did not think it would happen until next year though. But when Will reached out looking for partners, Paul found me through the CMC channels and Emily rounded up the team, the plan was set – Disappointment Cleaver route on Labor Day weekend. Yes, it is the easiest route on Rainier, but without guides, experienced rope leaders and relatively late in the climbing season, we decided it would be the safest option for our team with some classroom, but little field experience. As the day of the departure drew nearer, I kept pinching myself – the weather forecast was calling for several blue bird days in a row, quite the opposite of our June summit window. Being cautious, we essentially budgeted for 3 summit days. We took the early flight out of Denver on Friday morning, and after stops for breakfast and at REI, started a 2 hour drive from Seattle to Paradise. After sorting the gear in the lower parking lot - the upper one was full by the time we got there - we were ready to start the hike to Camp Miur shortly after 3pm.
Despite the stellar weather forecast, the mountain looked “interesting” - sun between 5,200 feet and 6,500 feet, clouds/fog between 6,500 feet and 8,800 feet and sun again above 8,800 feet - the mountain is so big that it creates its own weather.

Sunny in the parking lot

Sunny in the park

Not so sunny in the direction we are headed (Paul)

Approaching current snow line near ~7,200 feet

Definitely not sunny - I am having flashbacks to June, but still not terribly worried given the weather forecast

Good thing the route is wanded

Breaking through the maritime cloud cover

Seeing what we are climbing for the first time ever

Mt. Adams is looking good

Sunset from Miur snowfield

Camp Miur in sight

First look at the current conditions of crevasses

Will is approaching Camp Miur as Mt. Adams looks on

Reaching Camp Miur @8m after 5 hours of hiking, covering 4.8 miles and 4,800 elevation gain

We discovered some open sleeping slots in the Camp Miur shelter and decided not to bother with setting up the tents as the daylight was beginning to wane and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Sufficiently tired from the early flight, drive and backpack in, I got a decent night of sleep despite all the disturbances of being around 20 people, with 3/4 of them leaving for the summit attempt between 1am and 2am in the morning. Given the stellar weather forecast for the next few days, our late arrival, next day (Saturday) was our rest day.

We commenced our leisurely day at the camp by melting plenty of water for the crew - Will was mining snow from the snow pit with his ice ax and metal snow shovel, Paul was feeding the icy snow into two stoves (one of them fitted with the Jumbo Jetboil cup), and I was purifying the resulting Nalgene bottles with steri-pen. It worked like a charm! In two hours we had something like gallons of water and I could sneak in a nap before the shelter got crowded again.

Next morning - guided groups' tent city near Camp Miur with Gibraltar Rock in the background

Hey, I can see Russia from my house (a.k.a. Paradise parking lot from Camp Miur)

Mt. Adams

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helen (with its top missing)

Then it was on to the next task - practicing our glacier travel and crevasse rescue skills. We roped up, prussiked up and headed across the snowfield. The first 3 crevasses were quite small, however the one just before the rocky ridge was huge and what was left of the snowbridge was melting fast under the hot afternoon sun. It took me a while to compose myself and take the step across - however, it is amazing how quickly we would get used to this After setting up z-pulleys and anchors, as well as collecting beta from the returning teams (many of the teams did not reach the summit), it was on to the next steps - dinner, talking to rangers and getting ready for tomorrow.

Our practice run route (constant rockfall in the vicinity definitely caught our attention)

Little Tahoma

Hiking teams on the rocky ridge above Camp Miur

Rope teams coming down the steep section of the Cleaver (as seen from Camp Miur)

We were on in bed by 7pm, just as the fresh wave of Labor Day weekend arrivals was rolling into the camp. Despite generally being a good sleeper, I could not fall asleep for hours - the shelter was at capacity and the commotion was constant. I was also probably excited at the task at hand, as I was a rope leader on my first ever glacier climb. I "awoke" or simply opened my eyes at 1 am after an estimated 1.5 hours of sleep total and by 2.10am we were roped up and ready to go. We let the guided teams go first as we were concerned to be held up at the fixed line section.

We cleared through the first snowfield with relative ease as the crevasses did not look nearly as intimidating at night as they did the previous day in the broad daylight and commenced the route finding in the first rocky section towards Cadaver Gap (one of the teams we interviewed the day before got lost in this loose and relatively poorly cairned/wanded section). We did not have any major problems and soon found ourselves near Ingraham Flats with the tent city lit up. Our timing could not be any better - with nearly full moon I barely needed a head lamp. All the parties ahead of us created a conga line with head lamps, similar to the one up Keyhole route on Longs peak, so the general direction of the travel was pretty clear. We started catching up and passing some parties, so we knew we were making reasonably good time. Route finding was fairly obvious except for a few key spots. We saw one of the tricky sections (just above the Ingraham flats but before the Disappointment Cleaver) later on the descent and were amazed at what we bypassed in the dark.

Upon reaching the top of the Disappointment Cleaver, we took a short break. Then came the best part of the day (at least for me) - watching first light and sunrise from near 12,000 feet.



Mt. Adams


Fixed line section - crossing the major crevasse with lots of icy patches

On the steep and icy side (Emmons glacier route below)

Paul is waiting patiently for me to be done with pictures as I continue to be mesmerized by the giant crevasse

Mt. Adams as seen from the upper slopes

The remaining route (some mere 1,500 feet left to go)


Another big crevasse

Crevasse crossing

Approaching the top

Up and up and up

Soon we noticed a "small" problem - there is a big cloud sitting on top of the summit as we were approaching it

Visibility is dropping the higher we go (East rim)

Crossing over to the west side

Paul on the summit of Mt. Rainier

Natalie on the summit on Rainier (holding SurfNTurf's ice tool which came very handy in a few spots)

Will on the summit of Mt. Rainier (2nd attempt & 1st summit for both of us)

Proper summit - but where is the register?

After barely 5 minutes on the summit, we are heading back (it is cold & very windy)

Reaching the east rim again

Looking back

Weather starts to improve almost immediately as we descend

This is what Mt. Rainier looks like at this time (seen from Mt. Adams, photo courtesy Boggy B). The cloud is sitting on top of the mountain, covering it like a helmet.

Mt. Adams is suffering similar fate - there is a circular cloud on the summit

Just about 1,000 feet below the summit it is sunny & warm

Tricky crevasse crossing on the descent - there is nothing but air below the middle step

Glaciers from above

The ice field and fixed line area

Crevasses on the other side of Disappointment Cleaver

Our route traverses the crevassed slope

Our route and Camp Miur as seen from above

Snow is heavily sun-cupped - skiing that late in the season won't be good

Another look at the route

Ingraham Flats

DC route by-passes the giant crevasse in the middle by going to the right of it

Descending the Disappointment Cleaver (Paul)

close-up of the crevasses

Snow figures on the glacier

Bypassing some big crevasses

and this is how

Last look before descending into Camp Miur - perfect weather on the summit (Will)

Camp Miur below the rock glacier and across the snowfield

Almost back to the camp

Busy camp

We did it!

Me ready for the hike back to Paradise (big thumbs up to my new Deuter 60 pack!)

A few thousand feet (and a few glissades later) - this is what we missed on the hike in (the mountain was shrouded in clouds)

Wildflower season is not over in Seattle

A busy Labor Day weekend in the park

Will and our packs. The end.

Thanks for reading.

Many more pics are here

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

 Comments or Questions

Proud owner
09/04/2012 06:05
Of an ice ax that has been to the Rainier summit twice. Congrats to you and your team, Nat. Sadly, the summit doesn't count unless you wear brighter colors.


09/04/2012 07:08
September conditions dramatically different from June/July. Thanks for posting. Gaining the summit of Rainier is a truly unforgettable experience. Even more importantly though, you looked badass while doing it!

Brian C

09/04/2012 12:12
Wow! Looks so different so late in the season.


09/04/2012 13:02
Natalie, Thanks for posting the report and pictures. I had a great time climbing with you. Will

I Man

09/04/2012 14:23
Way to persevere and get back out there this season! That takes dedication. Well done.


09/04/2012 15:17
Great success. I'm writing from Whittakers Bunkhouse right now.


09/04/2012 15:51
Glad you were able to get the summit this year, after all, Nat!


09/04/2012 15:59
Congratulations Natalie, and the same to your team, Will, Paul and Emily!


”I can see Russia from my house!”
09/04/2012 21:05
That's so funny. Congrats and awesome pictures.

Doctor No

Nice work!
09/05/2012 00:10
Looks like a great day to be up there - everytime I see a Rainier TR, I'm ready to move back home.

Boggy B

09/05/2012 02:08
photos and great job! I think I have a shot of you from Adams.


09/05/2012 15:46
Thanks, Natalie, for the detailed trip report and excellent photos. We had a great team! -Paul


04/02/2015 19:45
Thanks everyone for your comments and the ”likes”.

Jeff - you may want to consider renting the lucky ice tool for a small fee to interested parties. I did have a bright purple coat as a mid layer - sadly it was all covered with rime...

Lynn - I am glad you had a chuckle

Michael - thank you for your encouragement. I am glad you said it was still climbable that late in the season and I am glad I believed you. Btw, I am going to ”steal” your Rainier photo from Adams for this report. Our summit coordination was indeed pretty spectacular.

Will, Paul & Emily - it was a pleasure climbing with you. Let's do it again sometime.

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