Peak(s):  Rainier - 14,111 feet
Date Posted:  08/30/2009
Modified:  09/02/2009
Date Climbed:   08/07/2009
Author:  jimlup


On August 5th my buddy Jay and myself began our attempt to summit Mt. Rainier via the Muir/Dissappointment Cleavor route. We had been planning the trip for over a year. Both of us were on an unsuccessful guided trip on August 1, 2008 in which we encountered gail force winds (100 mph recorded at camp Muir!) and white out conditions. Because our knowledge base and fitness had increased since that time we decided to make this trip unguided. We carried heavy packs up to 10,200 feet of camp Muir from Paradise (5700 feet). We stashed extra food in order to assure as long a summit window as possible. Jay arrived ready to climb but I required a nights rest before considering a summit push.

Jay and Jim resting at Camp Muir.

Rainier was in all of its glory. Having successfully summited just a month prior I was started by the amount of melting that had occured on the mountain. A week of +100 F days in Seattle had taken their toll on the snow pack and we both worried about the crevasses that must have opened up as a result of the heating.


Smoke from several nearby forest fires obsurred the normally excellent views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helen's

Mt. Saint Helens from Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier August 5th, 2009

We rested the first night in the public shelter at Camp Muir. The other group in the shelter made a summit attempt and returned shortly after breakfast. They had taken a wrong turn going up Dissappointment Cleaver and gotten into a pickle. Unfortunately, rockfall caused them significant problems and by the time they had climbed out their rope team leader had sustained a minor injury which prevented their summit. We interagate them carefully to be sure not to make the same wrong turn.

With information about possible instablity in the weekend weather we decided to move our summit bit up to that night. Since the moon was full we decided to make a night climb with a summit very early in the morning at first light. First however was needed ground school. We meet a solo climber named Nathan who was intereded in joining us for both ground school and our summit climb. We worked on snow assent, self arrest and most importantly Crevasse rescue. After a bit of work we had built the standard Crevasse rescue Z-pulley and worked through a Crevasee rescue senario.

Anchor used in Z-pulley rescue simulation

The mountain was calling. We departed Camp Muir around 8:30 PM PDT on the night of August 6th. Our climb through Cathedral gap up to the Ingraham glacier was uneventful. We passed a rockfall quickly and reached the base of Disappointment Cleaver at around 9:30 PM. Unexpectedly Jay reported bad news. He was not feeling well due to altitude and had decided not to continue his climb. His decision was based on his experience and his recognition that to continue would likely cost the whole team the summit since we would have to decend with him for saftey reasons if he climbed any higher. After a careful deliberation it was decided that Jay would descend alone. Nate would take point on the rope and I would take anchor. Jay headed down as we all remined each other to be safe. With apprehension Nate and I watched Jay begin his descent towards Cathedral Gap.

The climb of Disappointment Cleaver was challenging. A couple of slightly tricky Crevasse passes and one small jump were needed to actually get on the Cleaver. We carefully noted the location of RMI's flags and knew to first go towards the left side but not to cross over but rather remain on the ridge of Cleaver as we ascended. This we did carefully in the dark. The winds began to pick up substaintally as we moved up the Cleaver. Some of this was due to the wind tunnel effect of the rock but some of it was just unstable weather moving in.

Clouds covered the moon as we ascended in darkness, headlights on. Several large Crevasses and precarous ledges above the Cleaver required that we set self belay anchors with our ice axes. A couple of the jumps were non trivial as glacier jumps go. Not hard jumps on the local playground but when jumping a glacier crevasse that drops several hundred feet the stakes are much higher. With axes in ready position we proceeded.

Then the long climb began. The winds were furious. The moon would come and go as the winds ripped the clouds in front of it. The cold began to seep in to us. We found that rest stops were difficult because we chilled quickly. Added layers helped but after each rest stop the only way to remain warm was to keep moving. We ascended at a slower pace than we anticipated. The climb streched on into the pre-dawn hours.

Then first light and the crater rim appeared almost simultaneously! We were in the crater. Needing rest, we decided to hunker down in the windward side of the crater - hoping the wall would give us some protection. We took a rest but the wind protection proved fleeting. Quickly chilled we moved on to the summit.

What a fantastic sight! Sunrise on one side and moon set on the other we were on the summit of Mt. Rainier!

The winds howled! I guess the wind speed was around 60 mph.

Nate celebrates standing on Columbia Crest - the summit of Mt. Rainier

Jim on Columbia Crest

We did not linger long on the summit. A few quickly snapped photos and then we were off traversing the crater.

Nate crossing the summit crater of Mt. Rainier.

The crater of Mt. Rainier at sunrise is quite spectacular. The cold however prevented any thoughts of lingering to enjoy the view.

We roped up and quickly began of descent of the glacier. The clouds on descent were spectacular.

We were the first team on the summit that morning. We passed IMG and RMI teams as we decended.

Several Crevasse jumps later we were descending the Cleaver.

This morning we were extra careful to avoid dislodging rocks that could shower teams below. Full sun felt great and as we got below Disappointment Cleaver the winds quieted.

Still more careful Crevasse jumps and some tricky snow ledges and we were on the Ingraham Glacier and headed for Cathedral gap. Our return to Camp Muir was successful. Rainier unleased her full show for us.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

09/01/2009 02:46
Way to go! I especially like the shot with the penitentes.


09/01/2009 04:39
Congrats, I hope someday I get up there

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