Friday, August 16, 2013

Mt. Rainier Climb 7/4/2013 - 7/7/2013

The weather is good, the conditions are good, we have decent amount of time on hands. A perfect combination of elements for our Mt. Rainier attempt. This is the second time we are giving it a try. Two years ago we had perfect conditions while climbing the DC route; however one member of our 5 man rope team got sick and another felt completely exhausted when we reached elevation of 12,700 ft and for the safety of the entire group we decided to abandon the expedition and return to base camp.

This time we work with much smaller team. Dave and I leave Seattle on the Thursday afternoon, and drive to White River Campground. From there we hike to Glacier Basin where we meet with Darren who arrived first thing in the morning to secure our permits.

We spend the first night at Glacier Basin Camp. We do not see or hear the bear who kept campers company the night before, and enjoyed a good night sleep.

From Glacier Basin the path gets steeper. We climb up Inter Glacier, which is still in good shape with only one big crevasse opened and several smaller ones on the sides. Many people cruise the slope without roping, we choose to rope up both for safety and rope travel practice.

After learning the traditional traverse onto Emmons Glacier is exposed and not easy going, we opt for the alternative and head few feet past Camp Curtis from where an easy short scramble connects us with the path leading to Camp Shurman. The camp is now just a short distance away. It is nice to arrive early enough to have time to prepare for the climb, enjoy dinner and still catch few hours of sleep.

Midnight comes up fast, quick breakfast, and off we are on our way to the top of Mt. Rainier. The route is like a highway, we see beams of headlamps ahead of us and many follow.

To our liking, the route is rather straightforward. Several climbers we met mentioned it was much more crevassed than it usually is at this time of the year but we only end up climbing over one crevasse. Well, there is little bit of jumping involved too but otherwise we find the route in a good shape.

The summit is completely windless when we arrive, later a slight breeze picks up. It is cold up there but not the miserable kind when the frost bites you no matter how many layers you have on. Keeping pleasantly warm in our down jackets, we enjoy the 360 degree views. One party camps in the summit area. They are little bit off the summit so we do not have a chance to talk to them. Sunrise must be nice from here. Carrying overnight pack all the way up no so much.

With the nice firm snow at the top the descent, at first, goes much smoother than we expect.  It becomes more tiring once we reach softer snow and have to be careful about slipping. The sun is at full force at that time, the heat is exhausting.

It is nice to have one more night at Shurman. It would be brutal, long day, if we tried to walk out today.  Instead we chat with the ranger and his wife for a while and then decide to take a little nap - that lasts until 7:00 a.m the next morning.

On our way out we meet several groups equipped for a summit attempt. If the good weather persists many more will come and seek the challenge of Rainier. For us this quest is over but  the summer is just starting and plenty of other destinations await.

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