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  1. Newbie + RMI + Ranier + September = ?

    I reached the summit at 830am on Thursday 9/13. Many things about the trip were excellent. First, we had great route conditions. A storm had recently dumped a whole bunch of snow, so the route was shorter than it had been just few weeks earlier. The weather was very clear; at 3am the night of the ascent, we saw Little Tahoma lightly silhouetted by the Aurora Borealis. It wasn’t too cold; I don’t think it ever got below 20F or so. The wind was fairly calm. We had some of RMI’s more experienced guides; 3 of the 6 had been guiding on Rainier for 13+ years. Each of the 23 people (+ six guides) who left Camp Muir with us reached the summit. Apparently that’s quite rare. It was very cool that the whole way down, and in the bar afterward, and in the shuttle back to Ashford, everyone could congratulate one another and talk about the trip without someone feeling left out. My physical conditioning for the ascent was adequate. Certainly it was the toughest physical activity I’ve undertaken. Toward the end of each stage of the climb I was quite fatigued' although after each brief rest I felt much better. Until we reached the summit, my sole focus was to complete only the stage of the climb that I was currently on; I never felt strong enough to focus beyond what I was currently doing, I never felt sure I’d make it to the top. I never felt physically maxed out during the ascent but I’m also not sure how much I had left in reserve; maybe not much. My thinking seemed very clear the whole time; I never lost motivation. I was lucky in that I had almost no problem sleeping at Muir, and no noticeable difficulty from the altitude until 12500 feet or so, and even then only a minor and quickly transient headache; many people on the trip suffered more than me from these things. It may be that I focused more than they did on breathing correctly. No physical trauma during the decent or afterwards, modulo sore toes from the descent from Muir. We began the climb to Muir the day after the hijackings, so we spent the next two days with no news of world affairs; kind of a weird place to be but in many ways a good one. We may have been the first people in many decades to spend two days on Rainier without seeing a single airplane flying overhead. Unfortunately, on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before heading down to Ashford, I learned that my college roommate & close friend had died that day on the plane in Pennsylvania. I taped a picture of me & my friend to my ice axe, and wrote a brief dedication to him in the book when I reached the summit. He was one of my best friends. So for me the climb was a bit melancholy; if also perhaps a bit healing. That aside, I enjoyed the climbing; I loved being on the glacier the feeling of walking on the snow. I wish I could have gone slower and taken many more pictures of the mountain and its glaciers. I definitely want to climb some more; I’m looking into whether I can include Kilimanjaro & Cotopaxi in some future travel plans. But for the most part I think I’ll need to find less physically taxing climbs (and local ones); it won’t be practical for me to stay in the shape required to get up Rainier; although I’m certainly glad I did it at least this once. Going with RMI was pragmatic for me. In retrospect it’s clear that the key assist is that RMI reduced the skill and mental overhead required of me to where I basically only had to focus on the physicality of what needed to be done, with no route finding, almost zero assessment of danger, frankly, very little independent thinking required of me at all; mostly just following some fairly simple instructions. I'm not accustomed to being professionally guided while hiking & didn't entirely like it. By way of contrast, I can imagine the differences between the climb I had and a climb where everyone on the rope really had to be present & skillful. I imagine there would have a significant qualitative difference in the experience, and corresponding sense of accomplishment. But I don’t feel bad at all for going with RMI the first time. With my previous lack of experience and other logistical obstacles it wouldn’t have been practical for me to go up with friends. And given the other context, I really didn’t mind feeling the added security of having guides there who really knew what they were doing, & who had skills to deal with a bad situation if something had come up. For me RMI was a reasonable and successful compromise. Thanks all for your replies. I took a lot of the advice, and your encouragement helped me make the decision to go and try it. And I’m glad I did.
  2. Newbie + RMI + Ranier + September = ?

    Appreciate the advice, this makes a lot of sense. I have a slot reserved with RMI for mid-September. Sports doc & physical therapist okay'ed my knees for the trip. So, no more obstacles; now six weeks left to train. Went up Si yesterday in 88 minutes & felt great. In future I'll bring a weighted pack. Tomorrow, Granite. Let the games begin. Looking at going up to Camp Muir with friends in a few weeks. Any other ideas about places near Seattle where I can hike and perhaps camp at altitude? Especially interested if there are places where I can safely go solo, since I'll have some time to train on weekdays, while friends are working.
  3. Newbie + RMI + Ranier + September = ?

    Thanks all for your encouragement, cautions, and advice. Fitnesswise, right now I’m in “low reasonable” to “reasonable” shape. I’m certainly not overweight or lazy or anything like that. But I work in an office & haven’t been working out regularly. It’ll take a few weeks for me to run 6-8 mi at a stretch; I’m not there yet. But, I don’t think it’ll be very hard for me to hit 90 min up Si or 120 min up Granite, at least w/o a pack; I’ve always been a much stronger hiker than runner. I’ve picked up a book on outdoor conditioning & will put together a training routine from the advice here and in the book (adjusted for the fact that I can’t stand exercising indoors). I’m on the third day of eating foods that are higher in carbs, lower in fats, than my normal foods, and damn, I feel good. Objectivewise, I’ve no doubt it’d make more sense to try smaller peaks first. In fact I do hope to be able to go on a smaller climb in mid-August. But it’s Rainier that I can see from my apartment whenever the mountain is out, it’s only Rainier that’ll provide the inspiration for me to train hard the next seven weeks. Training for Rainier right now means *not* doing some other things I'd really like to do. So if I don’t target Rainier in September, I won’t begin training until next year. I think (?) I understand the reaction toward RMI. In a sense, it’s an assist that lowers the bar of the accomplishment, enabling me to attempt something I couldn’t do this year with my own skills. And I imagine it’ll be less fun to do this with a commercial guide & a group of strangers, than doing this with friends or solo; at least, I can analogize to camping, where there are big trade-offs involved in camping with groups of strangers, friends, or solo. I regret but am willing to accept these trade offs, at least on this trip, for the chance to do this sooner rather than later. And yes, it sure is a lot of money. These things aside (“Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” , I’ve heard only good things about RMI; that they’re total pros, provide as good an experience as can be had on a commercially led trip. If there’s some other aspect to this that I’m not aware of, I’d love to hear about it. It’d also be great to hear about pros/cons of climbing in September versus other times of year (sounds like earlier in the summer is better?), and what is likely to be spooky about climbing Rainier. Again, thanks.
  4. Just wondering if anyone here has any insight as to whether this is a reasonable plan or a dumb plan... I'm looking for a challenge & am looking at a mid-September climb of Mount Rainier with RMI. I've done a fair amount of hiking and some backcountry camping. But, I've never done any climbing or any hiking in snow or above 8000 ft. I've heard this is a terrible year to climb Ranier due to little snowfall, I've heard there's no way to train adequately in the seven weeks or so that I'd have before the climb, etc. I want to go on the climb, and I'm willing to work hard for it; but I also want to listen to reason/experience if this is foolhardy, or otherwise unlikely to be rewarding for me to go on this trip. In theory at least it's possible for me to wait until next year if I need to; but for a number of reasons, September is MUCH more practical for me. Thanks in advance for any advice or any other info you'd want to pass along...