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mountaineer38

camping above "traditional" high camps on Rainier

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I'm a relative newcomer but noticed that: 1) most climbers know summiting Rainier is not easy, and 2) most using the DC route start their summit bid from Muir. Mike Gauthier in his excellent Rainier climbing guide says in part: "Ingraham Flats is a great high camp for a shorter summit day". Excuse my sarcasm (which is not aimed at Mike) but; Is summit day too short and easy of an experience for most? I'd like to start a summit bid from a camp even higher yet than Ingraham Flats and would take any of the many other routes if somebody could confirm my theory that there has to be somewhere to camp on that big mountain at 12,400 ft or so in order to make summit day just 2,000 ft and 3-4 hours to summit. Anyone able to confirm my theory (or offer a reasonable warning/theory to keep me from killing myself)? Thanks in advance!

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You could carry all your gear up to 12,000. But it's probly easier just to cruz up with a light pack.

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why in hell would you want to carry all of your crap that far up the mountain? confused.gif

unless you're going up and over, at some point i'd think you were almost better off making a one-day push.

no?

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I've been lead to believe that in case of an emergency I should have my pack, sleeping bag, and more gear than I'd like to carry on the summit bid. A guide in europe seemed to be OK recommending nothing but a bottle of water, a power bar and ice axe to the top on a climb I scheduled that got cancelled. If that's safe on Rainier I can understand leaving from so low on the mountain; but if not, I do not want to climb 4,000 feet on summit day. I also like the idea of a day of acclimatization at 12,400. Any further advice? Thanks.

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I don't mind the heavy load if I'm only climbing 2,000 feet a day. I'd be happy to spend 4 days getting to the top and a least 2 getting down. I like the idea of acclimatizing a little each day. The climbing would be easier and I'd have the luxury of having shelter, stove, food, etc. with me nearly every moment except for the final short summit push up and down. Any comment to help and keep me safe? Thanks.

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Fort Meyers at sea level isn't much difference from most Pacific Northweesterners at a few hundred feet above it. We usually do it in a one day push like Hood and Rainier, or a two day push. The more you carry up the harder it is to acclimate, which you aren't really doing on these climbs because you are only up there for such a short time. Camps are established for a number of reasons: protection from weather, elements (ie. avalanche, rockfall, covered crevasses, etc.), a good point to stop, etc. It is good to have enough gear to survive, but on Rainier, I doubt you will need to carry over everything unless doing a route like Liberty Ridge, and then you are trying to go as light as possible anyways. For dog routes like DC or Emmons, there are the main camps like Sherman and Muir and higher camps like Ingraham Flats.

 

All in all, you can only go as high as your body will allow. You may find that you get to Muir and can't go another step, or you feel fine and can push on to Ingraham Flats.

 

You can camp anywhere you'd like, just as long as you trust your reading of the elements and have a good understanding of where you are making your camp (ie. Do you know that there is not a huge serac waiting to fall over that cliff above you at 12k?)

 

Mountains are unpredictable. Unless you know the terrain, why risk camping in an area you are'nt familiar with to make your summit day "easier" (which I could argue carrying a full load 2,000' higher may not -since you may be so trashed from the previous day)

 

Most people do Rainier in two days, more are starting to do it in a day. My rec. to you is hike up to the camp of your route on day one and prep. to summit next morning. If you don't feel acclimated enough, hang out for another day, go explore, whatever, and summit the next morning.

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um ... summiting with just a water bottle and power bar is definitely NOT safe. you should be prepared for a bivy in case of an emergency.

 

i'm interested in seeing what other people say, but here are a few of my thoughts: i'm not trying to tell you what to do ... but imho it would seriously suck to sleep at over 12,000 feet. much better to sleep at a lower elevation. if you want to acclimatize more at higher elevations, you could spend a day or two making non-summit trips up from an established "lower" high camp and back. and as for not wanting to carry a whole bunch of stuff on a 3,000/4,000-foot summit bid ... i would suggest more physical training.

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I think Rainier is much more enjoyable when done in three days. The elevation is a butt kicker, and having a short day before summit day makes the slog to the top less work and more fun.

 

We may live at sea level here, but we have lots of hills on which to train: West Tiger 3 (2100' gain), Si (3200' gain), Granite (3800' gain), Mailbox (4200'? gain). There isn't anything like that gain or steepness in Florida. Besides, living here makes it less significant: If we feel like shit we descend and go back the next weekend. It's a different story when you're burning vacation time and flying in from 2000 miles away.

 

My Dad came out from Michigan in 95' and we climbed the Kautz together. We took three days and made high camp at Camp Hazard. The result was that everyone had a good time and got to the top.

 

A 3200' summit day from Ingraham Flats isn't too bad, especially if you take two days to get there. There is an alpine zone at 12,500(+/-) on the Emmons where I've seen encampments. Just remember that you'll likely have to do some work to make a flat spot if you get away from the usual camps.

 

My advice: Take your time, enjoy every minute you're on the mountain, and let the summit be secondary to an overall positive experience. Also have a backup plan in case the weather is awful, which it can be at any time of the year: When the weather is bad up there a tent provides a means of survival, not comfort.

 

Have fun, climb safe.

 

-L

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I'm with Cascadeclimber on this one. I should say I've never made the climb as a day trip, but I've made the climb on two, three, and even four-day itineraries. By far the most enjoyable trips I've had on the mountain were on the three and four-day plan. Mount Rainier is cool. It's worth spending the time to get to know it a little bit, and it makes summitting LOTS more fun if you aren't so tired you have to crawl to the top.

 

I can understand the draw of doing it as a day trip, and I have been told that it might even be a good way to avoid alititude illness because you aren't going to be at high elevation long enough to get sick. However, I enjoy camping, watching the sunset, and taking pictures. If you have the time and the weather is good, I think it's worth while to carry food and equipment sufficient to stay a day or two. I'd actually like to haul camping gear to the summit some time and spend an entire day up there.

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What is the highest you have climbed before, Mountaineer38? Just curious to know how your body reacted if you had climbed to a similar elevation before. If you have not done 14k before then you might want to try and dump the heavy pack as low as possible to avoid any potential altitude problems that would be aggravated by a heavy load up high. Plus, you might enjoy the climb more by going long and light for a summit day. The best feeling on multi day climbs is when you can finally dump that damn heavy pack and go for the summit good and light. Freedom, ya know?!!!! I would have to say that doing 4k light from Muir would be easier than 2k in heavy pack,ya know? Just kick back in Muir for a whole day or two after you arrive and another after you summit. Going any higher won't speed your acclamitization up any.Muir is a blast and a great place to people watch on a nice summer day. Enjoy it, for sure. Anyway, if you do decide to break it up then CascadeClimber has the best idea of Paridise-Muir-Ingrham Flats-Summit. You really should be able to easily climb 3k in a day if you are serious about Rainier...if not then I agree with TLG in that you should start hitting the stairmaster hard. Good luck on your climb. bigdrink.gif

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Carrying your gear to a higher camp would be harder but then you get a better view. If you are willing to do extra work, go for it. You will probably have higher winds and have to dig a platform for your tent or dig a snow cave, but if that doesn't matter to you, it would work. If you do not know how you will react to altitude, go up to 8 or 9 k for the first night and aclimate a little bit. You will not get into the park until 9AM anyway. Might as well take it easy and take in some tourist stops to get some nice views of the mountain and potential routes. All the guide books show camps and bivy spots and if you are willing to dig a lot, there are a lot more possibilities. Just remember, people have died from altitude sickness on Rainier. The first time I ever heard of it was when two guys age 18 and 19 did a foced bivy on the summit. The younger guy died in the middle of the night. They were in good shape, warm, watered and fed. They just weren't acclimated.

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I would agree with CC and Bug. FWIW - Here is a schedule that has worked well for me is:

Day 1 - Leave late in the afternoon and sleep right below Muir.

Day 2 - Pack up and head to Ingraham Flats. Hang out, acclimatize and drink lots of fluids.

Day 3 - Summit and descent day.

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my 'summit bid' begins when i first manage to leave town (often the crux of any trip). wave.gif

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many of the "bivy" sites above 11,000 ft. are not good camps, just decent bivy sites. There are usuallu exposed to winds and weather. As such camping higher than 11,000 ft. may not help you at all.

 

If you really want a good camp site higher than 11,000 ft. that is SOMEWHAT well protected, camp in the summit caves in the crater. Then your summit day will be really short...say about 200-300 ft.

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From my experience most of the problems on Rainer are weather related. If you are truely interested in summiting I would be prepared to wait. I for one would not want to be exposed at 12K+ when a storm comes in. Muir is bad enough, but higer and you will likely have issues.

 

If you have the time plan for 4-5 days. And by plan I mean bring fuel and food. Climb to Muir the first day. Drink lots and see how you are feeling. Get up early (most likely won't have a choice there). Is there a strong wind? Clouds? Do you feel sick? If so go back to bed, and get up at 7:00 and re-evaluate. If the weather has cleared go for Ingerham.

 

The point is, be relaxed and flexible about it. If you have good weather and feel strong, push on for the summit. If not hunkerdown and acclimitize. Don't miss a weather window just to stay on scheule, likewise, don't push on if the conditions are not right.

 

If you have the time and are flexible you will be both safer and more likely to summit.

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You guys are really making Rainier sound like a siege type summit. Two days is plenty of time to make it with good weather. If you can't make the summit in 3 days (with good weather), you should probably get off the mountain and do a little more training before you get hurt.

 

If someone is truly worried about the nature of the climb, you could always plan a day hike with your ful pack to Camp Muir, just to see how you do.

 

BTW - Camping at Ingraham Flats cuts 1-1.5 hours off your summit day.

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Fenderfour,

Nobody is saying that you or anybody else "can't" make it in two days or even one. There can be advantages to doing it on a longer itinerary, though, and I bet there is a higher rate of success for parties who allow extra time.

 

To each his own.

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At these altitudes is there really any benefit to acclimatizing for 3 days? You could actually be risking getting sick since you aren't involved in a comprehensive acclimation schedule. I think there was an incident in the latest edition of ANAM describing a research party spending too much time on Rainier to avoid getting sick (as most 2 day ascents do) and not enough time to properly acclimate.

 

On a related note: is it acclimate or acclimatize?

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Like I said: to each his own.

 

The most fun I've had on the mountain were two four-day climbs. You don't have to do it that way, but your suggestion that anybody who "needs" that much time ought to go back to Kansas is a bit much.

 

I don't know the physiology, but I know that I enjoy making an intermediate level camp at, say, 8,000 feet. While 11,000 feet may be a little high on most routes for good camping, I don't think it is nuts, irresponsible, stupid, or otherwise a bad idea to consider camping at Ingraham Flats or at the flats at a similar elevation on the Emmons.

 

For most parties on Mount Rainier, altitude in itsself is not the biggest problem. Dehydration and exhaustion may be reduced if one doesn't climb 5,000 to 6,000 feet in the hot sun within several hours' prior to their starting on their summit climb. In addition, while you are more likely to experience high winds or wake up in a cloud cap if you camp higher on the mountain, you are also closer to your tent during your summit climb if you camp higher on the mountain.

 

Yes, people HAVE died from altitude illness on Mount Rainier and I'm aware that soem advocate a speed ascent where the idea is to get up and down before you have a chance to get sick.

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Hell, I've hauled overnight gear to the summit twice and spent 1 or 2 nights ON the summit each time.

 

In my opinion, spending one night around 8k, and another around 10k or 11k is plenty of time to acclimate for most people. If you want to hedge your bets a little, spend an extra night at one of those camps and enjoy the scenery....14,000 is just not that high unless you hustle right up from sea level.

 

It's really nice, too, not to have to hoof it all the way out on summit day. Consider spending another night at your high camp and starting down fresh in the morning.

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I've done one-day, two-day, and 3-day Rainier climbs. The 3-day climb was a lot more fun, because there was a lot more time to just enjoy the fact you're up there in another world. Especially if you're coming from another part of the country, you don't want to treat it like a marathon route. Take the extra time, get more/better photos, enjoy yourself, talk to other climbers in the camp.

 

That said, I do like Ingraham flats a lot more than Muir; there's much more of an alpine feel there than at Muir.

 

And... don't forget spare camera batteries!

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Thought about this for a while:

I don't know your skill level, but if you're ok with 40 degree hard snow and have a few days to play around on Rainier to get used to the altitude you might try this - hike in to the Turtle, (9,400')and camp there. The next day climb the Finger to the top of Wapowety Cleaver (11,800?') and descend the Kautz back to camp. Next day climb the Wilson Headwall to the same destination and back down the Kautz. Third day climb the Kautz all the way to the summit. You will have done three "routes" that are reasonably different from each other, camped low enough to be comfortable/enjoyable/protected, and had enough time/altitude to be prepped for the summit with a light(er) pack.

Condition your evaluation of such advice by the fact that I've never heard of anyone actually doing it this way. However, my experience on all three routes would lead me to believe that it would work and you would enjoy it and accomplish your goals.

What do others think?

BDS

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dlofgren, you might want to reread the thread. Sounds like you missed the guy's point entirely. He's looking for a very kicked back climb at a slow pace... not doing three rts on one outing.

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griz, you're right.

I just picked up on his comment: "I don't mind the heavy load if I'm only climbing 2,000 feet a day. I'd be happy to spend 4 days getting to the top and a least 2 getting down. I like the idea of acclimatizing a little each day. The climbing would be easier and I'd have the luxury of having shelter, stove, food, etc. with me" and thought that my suggestion might be a way for a guy from Florida to accomplish his goal of acclimatizing and at the same time maximize his limited time on The Mountain all, without the risk of being caught by bad weather in a higher-than-normal camp.

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If the Rangers notice you camping outside of the established and approved campsites they will probably make you move back down. I think Ingraham Flats is your highest "official" bivy.

 

Enjoy. fruit.gif

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