Mt. Rainier (Washington Cascades; 14,410')

At 14,410', Mt. Rainier is the highest volcano, and the fifth-highest mountain in the contiguous forty-eight states. (Only Mt. Whitney in California, and Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive, and Mt. Harvard in Colorado are higher by a few feet.) Its proximity to the ocean causes massive glaciation and often unstable weather. As a result, Mt. Rainier is often underestimated as a climbing objective, especially by climbers used to gentler fourteeners. Although the easiest route to the summit, Disappointment Cleaver, is often derided as a dog climb, it still produces a fair number of accidents due to crevasse falls, avalanches, and occasional rock fall. Camp Muir at 10,188' provides an easy snow hike and ski descent from Paradise, with phenomenal views.

The first westerners to set sight on Mt. Rainier were Capt. George Vancouver and his crew in 1792. Vancouver named the mountain after his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.

Topo Map

Mt. Rainier from Point 6,479 in the Crystal Backcountry in mid-March
Routes: Disappointment Cleaver (moderate glacier travel)

References: Fred Beckey, Cascade Alpine Guide, Vol. 1 , The Mountainiers (Seattle, WA 1987)
Fred Beckey and Alex Van Steen, Climbing Mount Rainier , Alpenbooks Press (Mukilteo, WA 1999)
Alan Kearney, Classic Climbs of the Northwest , Alpenbooks Press (Mukilteo, WA 2002)
Jeff Smoot, Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes , Chockstone Press (Evergreen, CO 1992)

Date: June 10-11, 2006

Party: Dietrich and Paul Belitz

Route: Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir (ski descent)

Time: Paradise - about 6,800' 1 hr 20 mins
about 6,800' - Camp Muir 3 hrs 20 mins
Camp Muir - Paradise 1 hr 15 mins

Comments: Lots of good snow. Time down includes breaking camp.

Trip report:

After attending Paul's graduation party we headed towards Rainier. The Paradise web cam had shown sunny skies earlier in the day, but by the time we arrived at 4pm it was mostly cloudy with isolated rain showers. The forecast for the next day was not great, but we started out anyway. After a bit over an hour of boot packing it started to rain, so we pitched Paul's betalight and took a nap. After another hour and a half or so the sun came back out, we moved just a little bit higher, and set up camp in a spot that was sheltered from wind from the west.

The next day we woke to flawless weather. The snow was very hard, so we took it easy and did not get going until 8:20am. Shortly before noon we arrived at Camp Muir and had lunch. The first 3,000' of the descent were extremely enjoyable on perfect corn. Below our camp site the snow got somewhat heavy, but the skiing was still fun, and we could ski all the way back to Paradise.

I was not in good shape, but it was still a nice trip, and skiing the Muir Snowfield was something I had always wanted to do.

Photo Gallery: Click the thumbnails to see a higher resolution image

Mt. Rainier from the approach to Camp Muir.

Paul skinning.

Rainier behind a snow bank.

A makeshift camp to wait out the rain.

View South from our camp site.

The Tatoosh range at sunset.

Dietrich near camp after sunset.

Mt. Rainier in the morning.

Mt. Adams over the Tatoosh range.

Mt. Rainier from the Nisqually moraine.

Paul posing in front of the mountain.

Dietrich skiing with the Nisqually icefall as a backdrop.

Date: August 6-8, 1997

Party: DB and Thomas Vojta

Route: Disappointment Cleaver

Time: Paradise - Camp Muir 4 hrs 30 mins
Camp Muir - Ingraham Flats 1 hr 30 mins
Ingraham Flats - Summit 6 hrs 20 mins
Summit - Ingraham Flats 2 hrs
Ingraham Flats - Camp Muir 30 mins
Camp Muir - Paradise 2 hrs

Comments: Still decent amounts of snow

Trip report:

Whereas everything had gone wrong on my previous attempt, this time everything just clicked. I had just returned from Colorado and was still acclimatized, which did not hurt either. We drove to Paradise the afternoon before and spent the night in the campground. The next morning permits were supposed to go on sale at 8am. By 8:45 a ranger finally showed up and sullenly started to do business. Since there was no other way to get a permit, I swallowed my anger, shelled out the outrageous fee, and we got going. Conditions were good and we made it to Camp Muir in 4 1/2 hours. After a lengthy rest stop we roped up and started towards Cadaver Gap. Once we were on the Ingraham it got surprisingly cold, and we set up camp in a hurry. During the night the wind picked up, but it was clear, very cold, and the weather looked good when we peeked out of the tent at 2am. By 3am we were on our way up the Cleaver. The climb went smoothly, and around 9am we stood on Columbia Crest, where we could lean into the wind at a 30 degree angle. After admiring the views we ran back down to Ingraham Flats, somewhat worried about the tent. Indeed, the anchors were about to melt out, but everything was still in place. After lunch at Camp Muir we glissaded back down to Paradise in 2 hours. Great trip!

Date: June 15-16, 1997

Party: DB and Dave Cohen

Route: Muir Snowfield

Time: Pardise - Camp Muir 7 hrs
Camp Muir - Paradise 2 hrs

Comments: Lots of snow

Trip report:

The plan had been to climb Rainier via Ingraham Direct, but the weather did not cooperate, and our logistics sucked. We drove up to Paradise and started climbing into deteriorating weather. At 9,000' we broke through the clouds, but there was a second ceiling at around 11,000', and visibility was still poor due to spin drift. It took us forever to reach Camp Muir and cook dinner. During the night the wind further intensified, and we were worried whether Dave's tent would hold up. When the alarm went off at 2am we did not even bother to get out of our sleeping bags. The next morning the wind had died down, but the mountain was shrouded in an ominous lenticular cloud. We explord Camp Muir a bit, and then headed back down. Determined to come back, I went to REI a few days later and bought a sturdy tent (a Walrus).