Mt Rainier, towering above the Seattle skyline, is the tallest of the Cascade Volcanoes. In the summer it is swarming with all sorts of mountaineers. Hundreds of people will summit the mountain on some summer weekends, waiting in lines to follow a clear crampon-trail up the mountain. But in the winter, this all changes. At 4392m elevation, Mt Rainier is a serious mountain. Harsh weather, deep snow, complex avalanche terrain, challenging route finding, and short days are added to the relatively high elevation. In winter, Mt Rainier begins to resemble a remote Alaskan or Himalayan peak more than a crowded Cascade peak (not that I have any idea or have I've been to either of these regions).
I've attempted Mt Rainier twice in winter conditions (neither time in actual calendar winter). In early May 2010 we were turned around by terrifyingly unstable snow conditions at around 3500m. In November 2010, on my second attempt, we were moving extremely slowly due to inadequate acclimatization, deep snow, extreme cold, and a lack of sleep and decided to turn around at 3600m. These trips have taught me which routes should reasonably be undertaken in winter, and how much time is needed to complete such a climb.
Safely climbing Mt Rainier will depend largely on clear weather and reasonable avalanche conditions, so dates will likely change. Clear weather in the winter, however, is often accompanied by cold temperatures, so climbers should expect extreme cold.
The date is dependent on the weather. This trip will take 4 days though, so if it happens on a regular weekend, you might be required to miss some school or take a day or two off work.
Someone who'd like to join this trip should have the following skills:
- Avalanche rescue and terrain evaluation competence
- Glacier travel training
- Rope work and anchor building skills
- Intermediate to advanced skiing abilities
- Winter camping experience
- Navigational skills
- General fitness
The trip is not beginner friendly as a whole. If in one of the above skills, however, you consider yourself a beginner, that might be ok. If, for example, you've only done Glacier School in terms of glacier travel experience, that should be fine as long as are sure to do a bit refreshing before the trip, and are comfortable with all the other points. It is important that you are a good skier though. You will be responsible for making important decisions about your health and safety on this trip and speaking up when you have any concerns. Do not assume that following others is in your best interest.
- Gibraltar Ledges with an approach from Paradise parking lot. This is considered the standard winter route. Part of this route is very exposed, but travels through safer avalanche terrain than most others. We plan to spend one night at Camp Muir (at about 3100m), then move up to a high camp, high on the Cowlitz Cleaver (around 3600m elevation), then attempt to summit from there and spend another night at Camp Muir or at the high camp before returning to the car.
The dates of this trip will be very spontaneous. If you are interested in coming, put your name down. The forecast only is accurate a few days ahead, so I might send out an email only a few day before we plan to leave to see who is able to come. From there the group will have to be narrowed down to 6-9 people. Please also indicate whether you have a car and how many it can seat.
Email Skyler with questions: skylerdes at gmail dot com
- Skyler (no car)
- Geoff Martin (no car)
- Nick Gobin (4x4 for tight fit of 4-5 people w/ gear) (also has a job that could get in the way of taking weekdays off)
- Mike Duncan (car, can get my dad's 4x4 that could fit 5 plus all gear.
- Andrew Maurer (car, previously summited in spring, can't do Saturday 12th (LSAT))
- Knut Kitching (no car)