Trip: Mt. Rainier - Disappointment Cleaver
In 2009, my sister got married to a climber (Bill). My other brother-in-law (Jesse) and I went climbing at the Gunks with him, and immediately signed up to go to Rainier. We trained and bought gear, and booked flights for July 2010. Then Bill got hit by a car while cycling, and Jesse broke hit foot playing Racquetball, so I ended up hiking Adams myself, and bailing on Glacier Peak.
For the last six years, we've been climbing ice and rock and alpine routes on the east coast, and got in some trips to the Grand, Mt. Meeker, and Squamish. But never Rainier. I work with a Boeing supplier and end up out here a decent bit, and every time I see Rainier from the plane, I think about getting up there again.
So, when work wanted to send me out in early June, and and I happened to have the weekend before free - I called up Jesse and asked if he could fly out to Seattle for a couple days. He could, and we made plans. We got out the pulleys and pickets and practiced up glacier travel, and decided on the Fuhrer Finger or maybe Kautz glacier.
Cascade weather rarely cooperates. Being from the East, we are familiar with this phenomenon, and had backup plans on backup plans. when we took off from Philly, I thought it was stupid that we'd packed the heavy boots, because clearly we were going to Stuart. When we landed at 10:30 on Saturday, I checked the forecast again: Sunday looked perfect, and the current conditions were just cloudy and a little rain, and some fresh snow from the night before.
We grabbed our crap and quickly drove to Paradise. Looking up into the mist confirmed that I didn't want to try and navigate to the Fuhrer Bivy in this soup and fresh snow. But, getting to Muir would be easy. We shouldered our packs at 3pm, and headed up into the fog:
Sometimes it was pea-soup, sometimes it cleared enough to get a photo, at least of us. Then the wind came up and pounded sleet into my ear for an hour.
But, around 10,000 feet, we popped out above it, which is my favorite thing about climbing the volcanoes.
Someone hiking down was nice enough to drop a big Gala apple on the bootpack, which I munched down.
We got to Muir around 6:30, kicked out a flat spot (shovels are heavy and I'm lazy), set up the tent, and were in bed by 8. Having woken up at 2am EST that morning, we were beat. The fact that I can wake up in my own bed in rural NE PA and go to sleep at high camp on a mountain thousands of miles away is pretty wild. The next morning, we got the forecast bluebird conditions.
After a leisurely morning around Muir, we got rolling around 5:30am. We made good time to Ingraham, and roped up. (My pack is only hanging off me like a dufus because I tossed the rope in there to get through the gap).
We made it across the Ingraham, got onto the DC, and shortened up. A party passed us, which doesn't happen to me much, so I was unhappy until I saw they were Rangers.
We got onto the upper mountain and stopped to take some selfies... of each other taking selfies.
It was pretty cool to see Adams, after staring out at Rainier from over there 6 years ago.
Another party who understood "Alpine Start" better than us was on the way down when one of their party slipped into a crevasse. It was a short drop and they handled it quickly and calmly. We stopped by to heckle them a bit.
Jesse is completely impervious to altitude. I am very much not. I am really fit, and lead the charge up to about 13,500, and then got hit with an AMS sledgehammer. Jesse took over the lead around there, and by 14,000 he was practically short-roping me. It had been less than 24 hours since I landed at SEATAC, so I guess I was asking for it.
I shuffled across the crater behind Jesse, topped out at about 11am, and did all the summit stuff that people do:
Then we crossed back over the crater and started down... just dropping a hundred feet had me feeling better, and I took the lead and literally ran down the upper slopes to thicker air.
We passed most of the other parties on the mountain in our hurry to get me down - I felt shortness of breath and fluid in my lungs, which I've never gotten before. Even with the Diamox and hydration, it seemed I pushed myself close to HAPE, which isn't to be toyed with.
We laid around at Muir for a bit, and then packed up and bombed down to the car, just about 24 hours after starting. As we drove off, we could see the weather window was already starting to close:
Overall it was a good trip. The DC is certainly a bit of a grind, but it's still pretty aesthetic for a walk-up (way better than Adams), and any bluebird day on a big icy peak is cool! I'm glad to have gotten to finally tick that box, and I'm sure I'll look back fondly every time I fly in and out now.
Thanks to everyone here for the advice over the years, and for sharing your cool mountains!
Rope, pickets and screws, beef jerky.
Hike up hill. Find apple. Consume.