Northwest Climbing Trip: Part 2, Mt. Rainier

After climbing Mt. Hood and enjoying a much needed burger at government camp with the team, I headed back to Portland, picked up Linnea, and drove back to Olympia for a short 2 day rest at the cottage. With some much needed sleep, lots of good food, and plenty of time tooling around the Sound looking at Mt. Rainier, I was recharged and ready to go. Unfortunately, I was back just long enough to observe Linnea and Adriel lose another crab pot. The following day, Tuesday, I drove over to Glacier Basin to meet up with the team. We checked in at the Ranger Station around noon and from there completed packing and enjoyed a quick lunch before heading up around 3 miles to our overnight camp. The plan was to camp at Glacier Basin and the following day head up to Camp Sherman and ascend the next day up Emmons glacier to reach the summit on July 4. We could have made it to Sherman on day 1, but it was nice to relax and enjoy ourselves while heading up.


Glacier Basin was pretty quiet. I guess it is notorious for black bears looking for handouts and the CMC group after us saw one hanging around. I was just as glad not to see any, as I have had enough encounters with bears in the backcountry. We got our water supply together, rested up and had some supper. The weather up higher looked great, but we did hear some reports about high winds and broken tent poles.

The next day, we began our short trip up to Camp Sherman. This would include a section over the Interglacier leading up to Camp Curtis and then a short section to Camp Sherman. Again, the weather was great and pretty warm out. For this part, we split into a 3 man rope team and a 2 man rope team, which worked out great and we made good time up the mountain.


At “Camp Curtis,” more or less a small rib of rock, we took a quick rest stop and finally got some spectacular views of the upper mountain, glaciers, and route up Emmons. I was surprised at the amount of crevasses.


From here, we roped up as a 5 man team, since this would be our preferred mode of travel the next day. It was fun to get our first taste of glacier travel and there were some pretty wide crevasses, including one bridge, coming into camp.


At Camp Sherman, we poached some pre-dug snow sites from previous climbers and were set-up nicely for a relaxing afternoon. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too busy, with just one large guided group who were all sacked out following their summit bid. It was nice to sit in the sun and observe camp life and look at the route up the mountain. I had quite a bit of food with me too so it felt like we were living the high life. The only thing missing was my summer sausage, which somehow Linnea left out of my pack when she was helping me get my food together. For supper, I had another freeze-dried mountain house food and melted water for the following day. Later that night, we got are ropes all rigged and ready so we wouldn’t have to mess around with them in the dark.


Around midnight, I think, the alarms went off. I think we ended up departing camp around 1a, but I can’t really remember probably because I was half asleep still. Unfortunately one of our climbers wasn’t feeling well and decided to turn around near the start. One leader graciously accompanied him back down to camp leaving us to a team of 3. It ended up working out great, but really too bad the other two didn’t make it. I felt really fortunate to be with a solid group of guys and with exceptional and experienced leaders. Climbing around crevasses in the dark was a little different, but not rocket science as all I had to do was follow the rope in front of me and hope that Bruce the Moose chose the right route. The crux ended up being one open crevase that required a little hop, grab, and climb with a tricky hand hold. After some more weaving up the mountain, the sun started coming out and I got some great pics.


Right after the sun rose, the snow on the mountain turned a really cool pink color. I really enjoyed this part of the climb, knowing the summit was near with such pretty views and seeing the clouds below. We were making good time, with a steady pace by Bruce.


Finally we had reached the top and it was amazing. I kept thinking how the past two summers I had been staring at this mountain from the cottage on the Sound below and now I was on top of it. A little surreal. It was a little breezy but overall not too cold. Right as we reached the top, I think around 5:30a, another large guided group from the DC route topped out. They left right away though and we had the summit to ourselves. I was surprised at how large the crater was and we sat down a little lower while we ate our food. I think we ended up spending a good hour up top, something I did not expect. The views were almost perfect, I just couldn’t see the Sound due to clouds. I really had wanted to pack a big mortar in with me and light it off the top to celebrate the 4th, but I restrained myself. Probably wouldn’t be any good place to hide from the Rangers waiting for me on the way down!


The way down was pretty fun too, and it was nice to see everything in detail in the light. I took way too many pictures, but everything was just so scenic. My favorite areas were crossing narrow snow-bridges between crevasses.


Back toward the bottom, we had to make it across that one, open crevasse. This was a little tricky since the snow had turned to mush. I decided to the easiest way was to do a short down climb, followed by a pretty big hop over the hole. After this, the route was pretty straight forward, and I had fun checking out all the cracks. We had to stop frequently to load up on sunscreen!


Around 10:30 or 11a we made it back to Camp Sherman. It was a great day, and I couldn’t have been more happy and satisfied. I know realize why people often reclimb this mountain so many times and I already can envision a return trip. Life was bustling down at Camp Sherman, with new climbing teams just arriving, including the 2nd part of our HAMS group from the CMC. I enjoyed giving them a hard time while they set up camp. The wind had come back and the best place to be was up by the stone ranger hut, plus this gave the best views. Instead of napping, I hung out here keeping track of all the action. The only downside was that occasionally you would get whiffs of fumes from the latrine which was on the back-side of the hut.

Originally, we had planned to camp another night at Sherman, but with our efficient climb, there really was no reason to stay, plus the wind was all that pleasant. I think all of us had burgers, beer and beds in our minds. So, later that afternoon, we packed up and made the “Dawson Dash” back to the valley. I was pretty stoked that the leaders had packed cold celebratory drinks and food back at the cars, and that really hit the spot before the drive back to Olympia.

One thought on “Northwest Climbing Trip: Part 2, Mt. Rainier

  • July 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Beautiful over and over again! Congratulations and thanks to God for a very successful climb. I Was continuously praying for you. Just loved the sunrise pictures. Reminded me of our volcano sunrise in Hawaii. Carcasses looked seriously scared, but beautiful. Tops and award winning was the pink snow . Our God is an awesome God! Much Love, Mom

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