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Contemplating Rainier in 17 hours...


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Hi, I'm new here. From WY; visiting friends in Puyallup.


A friend and I are considering altering our late July attempt up D.C.


Proposed schedule: depart paradise 7:30PM, arr Muir 11:00PM, boil water, dep Muir 12:00AM, summit 5:00AM, dep summit 6:30AM, arr Muir 9:30AM, boil water, dep Muir 10:30, arrive Paradise at our leisure.


Water per man - consume 2 liters enroute to Muir, make 3 there, consume 1 at Muir, consume 1 up & 1 down, again make 2 at Muir, consume 1 there and 1 down to Paradise.


Departing from parking lot, the packs would contain 2 liters, calories for 17 hours, harness, crampons, axe, bivsack, anchor, motorola bag phone, middle clothing layer, and not much else. 1 guy gets the rope, other guy gets the stove.


We'd prolly stash our stove at muir.


Whilst exercising recently, we made muir in 3:30 with 20lb packs, this without any obvious facial hemorrhage. We felt quite energized as we gazed at Adams and the wonderful PNW cloud deck.


So we're not speeders, but we are slightly lazy and wonder if perhaps we shouldn't just climb the thing with light packs and skip the nap.


Conditions permitting, of course. We have been turned back before, and did not cry long.


Anyone care to share their experience with similar efforts?




(Just kidding about the bag phone.)

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Do you have any experience with similarly fast ascents to such high elevations? If you've done it safely before, it's worth a go. Otherwise, I think you and/or your partner are begging for some form of high altitude illness, either acute mountain sickness, High Altitude Cerebral Edema or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. Some might counter that statement by arguing that by going up fast and getting down fast the risk for any of those occuring low. I would disagree. Even moving at a good clip, you'll be spending enough time above a sufficient elevation that any of those problems might occur. The heavy exertion you'll be doing will also further increase the risk of HAPE. Finally, being in good physical shape is no protection against these problems. The altitude doesn't care how fit you are or how motivated you are.


If you're still keen to go ahead with this plan, I'd make sure you know very well what symptoms and signs to watch out for and be heading down at the first sign of them.

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While acute mountain sickness is a distinct possibility, I think it's unlikely that HAPE or HACE would develop during the relatively few hours your party would be above 9000 feet (probably not more than 9 or 10 hours). HAFE however, is a near certainty (High Altitude Flatulent Expulsion).

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Greetings! ...and many thanks for the feedback!


I've been arguing for more rest for weeks, but my partner is ruthless. Regrettable only because he is 10 yrs my senior, the bastid.


FF - I have read about this route: go up FF, come down DC (or Ingraham if passable.) We will consider, thx! We just like the comfort of DC because even the well prepared light traveler is traveling light, so to speak.


Yes, we have adequate experience at elevation, many thanks. Cautionary advice should remain prevalent on the boards; surely it saves a few lives or wrecks every year.


HAFE - LMAO! A new acronym, but certainly not a new experience; especially with the other guy on this venture. ...if only his name were Arty...


More directly, we're confident that thousands have accomplished the feat in question: travel light, go up, go down, sleep later. We're confident, but also quite receptive to nuggets of wisdom from other light travelers...


Oh, and my buddy wants to smurf out caves while playing on top. Where are these caves?



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HAFE is really only an issue for those in back of you on the rope so no big deal there.


I disagree with the argument that 9-10 hours is too short for HAPE or HACE to occur. I've been involved with chamber experiments on high altitude physiology in which subjects have been exposed to breathing air that's the equivalent of 13,000 feet and within as little as 4 hours several of the subjects had symptoms of severe AMS which can easily progress on to HACE if someone continues to ascend. HACE and HAPE are definitely more likely with greater time at altitude but they can happen in short periods with very fast ascent rates.


HAPE has been seen as low as 8,000 feet and even lower in some case series in the medical literature. Throw in the heavy exertion associated with a fast ascent and the risk of it occuring on an ascent like this is real. A small risk, but not non-existent and, I think, should not be ignored for the sake of a "fast summit" especially if it puts others at risk trying to rescue one's butt off the mountain when sick.

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My only comment would be that I think you're headed for some serious dehydration. Maybe you can handle that okay, but I couldn't. It looks like from Paradise to summit and back to Muir will be 14 hours and 5 liters of water per man. I would suggest drinking much more at Muir on the way up, and either carrying more water to the top, or carrying your stove. Or carry extra water or the stove maybe to the top of DC and use it on your way back down. Or some other plan to get more water into you. I think you're past the point where saving water weight is going to be productive for you. I'd be drinking way more at Muir, and I'd leave both Paradise and Muir with 3 liters, even if I drank one of them right away.


I've entered the caves from two different entrances, but I think there are several and I'm sure accessibility varies year to year. We entered just east of Register Rock, and we entered almost 180 degrees opposite, just west of where the DC trench often hits the crater rim.


Good luck, and drink up!

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within as little as 4 hours several of the subjects had symptoms of severe AMS which can easily progress on to HACE if someone continues to ascend.

HAPE has been seen as low as 8,000 feet and even lower in some case series... A small risk... should not be ignored for the sake of a "fast summit" especially if it puts others at risk trying to rescue one's butt off the mountain when sick.

I agree that it's possible. Fast and light exposes a party to more risk all around. But the risk of HAPE/HACE are likely to be considerably less than the other objective hazards a party encounters on Rainier. Think of the rescue statistics over the past several years: can you recall the most recent death attributed purely to altitude illness? I can't but I think it's been a while. I recognize that acute mountain sickness is a common contributor to reduced physical and mental functioning at altitude, thereby contributing to various multifactorial rescue situationsbut IMO this supports my argument that altitude illness is not especially prominent on the list of Rainier's dangers. Six hours at Muir, instead of two, is not likely to make the situation better.

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HAPE or HACE at 14k?? Uhh...ok. I can't really see that happening to anybody in climbing shape, but who knows.


I would agree with the possible dehydration. I would just carry way more water and drink constantly. An extra 5 pounds of water will not make the difference between summiting or not. Here in CO i pretty much only climb peaks above 13,500 and no matter how used to the altitude you are, low water equals a nice solid headache. And there is nothing worse than bouncing down boulders or scree with a headache....ugh...



Edited by JoshK
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A couple of thoughts:

Susceptibility to altitude illness on this program will largely be affected by acclimatization directly prior to the climb. This factor hasn't been discussed.

Planning on resting at Muir in the middle of night after hiking up, know that whether you can find room in the hut or you're outside, you will be cold. All I'm seeing for protection from the elements is a bivy sack and a "middle clothing layer". You might want to think this bit through a bit more. That hut will be cold and damp.

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Uhh... yah... HAPE and HACE can definitely occur at 14K in unacclimatized individuals. HAPE has actually been reported quite often in the medical literature to happen at altitudes as low as 8K feet. In fact, it's a not uncommon problem where you live when people commonly fly out from the east coast and find themselves on top of Vail or Aspen the same afternoon. HACE usually occurs at higher elevations but can be seen at 13K.


I agree with the other point that crazy t made that some prior acclimatization will go a long way towards making this a moot issue. A few climbs to higher elevations in the days leading up to the 17 hour ascent will help as would a night or two sleeping at higher elevations.


The other thing that's important to remember is that the response to altitude varies dramatically between individuals. While one person may be able to bop up and down to 14K at will with no prior acclimatization and have no problems, other people going to the same elevation at the same ascent rate may get really sick. So... just because because you have no trouble going to 13K is meaningless for others planning their own trips. You have to know your own tolerances.


Finally, being in good shape doesn't protect against altitude illness. It helps you do the physical work of lugging you and your pack up the slopes when not much 02 is around but it doesn't protect against getting one of the altitude illnesses.... much as we wish it would.

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Thanks again.


The 5 lb argument is succinctly put. The stove drop at DC is also an excellent idea, but I'm also reminded that a stove doesn't weight that much anyway.


The hydration comments are well-received and we'll reconsider that aspect. I think we got sidetracked by the "hour". We've taken morning hikes to Muir and back on 3 liters round trip. We were "thirsty" back at the car, but we also thought that the "heat" of the day was a factor (more sweating etc). Perhaps that last bit is nonsense, and we shouldn't anticipate reduced hydration requirements because we're climbing at night.


We'll hike to Muir again twice before the climb. Combine these hikes with prior history of no problems at 14K = we don't consider risk of altitude sickness to be different than that encountered on the traditional 2-day climb.


I guided hunt clients for years from a lodge at 7300 to hunts at 8500 - 10100. My experience is that true acclimatization is something that occurs over weeks, not hours or days. I also believe that 8000 is the treshhold. I've never seen anyone sick under 8K, but I have seen sick people at 8400.


The "cold at Muir" comment is also relevant. I joked above about more rest, but our thinking has been that we're at Muir only long enough to boil water. We might even bring two stoves. Sitting = cold.


Reasoning : It's not for a race, or (obviously) a record. It's just a couple of guys who love the hill and wonder why that middle part where you camp and cook is absolutely necessary. We never slept well at the flats anyway.


So thanks for the comments!


BTW - our party of four turned back at 13600 a few years ago, because the fittest and youngest member discovered his personal threshhold on his first attempt. By the time we got him back to the Flats, he was again coherent, and unbelieveably, wanted to turn around and try it again. We didn't of course, but it cemented the lesson for us: Altitude sickness can hit anyone, doesn't care about fitness levels, and is cured only by going down.


Happy 4th!

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did rainier in a day a couple years ago, roughly the same timeline as you describe...though we were a couple hours slower


left paradise at 8pm, muir at 11:30 and brewed up water, 1am started the climb, topped out at 8am, back at muir by 11:30, back at the cars early afternoon. we left the stove, some extra food, and trekking poles behind in the muir shelter rather than taking it all the way up.


the toughest thing was the sleep deprivation (harder than dealing with the altitude)...get a nap in before you start the climb from paradise and bring lots of caffinated gu.


We brough rather large poofy jackets (baffled construction with hood) and that was warm enough that we could nap on the gravel at muir while waiting for the snow to melt in the stove.


have fun!

Edited by pete_a
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It sounds as if you've thought about the altitude issues pretty well and know your personal tolerances which is the key. Also sounds like you know what you're looking out for in terms of symptoms and that will help too. Descent is always the best plan if someone has symptoms and the fastest way to resolution but in case you get nailed by weather and can't descend, will you be carrying along some Diamox or Dexamethasone?


While you are right that acclimatization doesn't occur in terms of hours, it doesn't take weeks either. It's generally something that happens over a period of days at a given altitude. In fact, if one stays at the same altitude, the risk of HAPE goes away after about 4-5 days.


You are also right that altitude illness generally doesn't happen below 8,000 feet. There is, however, a series of cases published out of France recently that described a series of recreational skiers who developed HAPE at altitudes below 8,000 feet.


Best of luck with the climb. wave.gif

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You are also right that altitude illness generally doesn't happen below 8,000 feet. There is, however, a series of cases published out of France recently that described a series of recreational skiers who developed HAPE at altitudes below 8,000 feet.


Unfortunately, I'm one of those. I start getting a headache around 7000 feet or so. It takes me a couple days to acclimate to Ouray, CO (7800 ft). I was also a subject in chamber experiments researching AMS. In both trials at a simulated 12,500 ft, I came out after 6 hrs feeling deathly ill.


Andrew can attest to that. wave.gif


And to repeat, the assertion that conditioning and AMS are related is macho BS. Read the medical literature.

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Thanks Pete, we'll check out the gu.


We walked to Muir Sunday eve with kid's torpedo sleds bungeed onto the packs.


We stopped about 5 minutes shy of the hut (sun setting), then sledded back to the bottom of the snow field in 13 minutes. Nothing crazy, just steady as she goes, and suddenly you're there. It only felt "too fast" during the early part of the learning curve. Much snow in the face on steeper sections, but steering capabilities were much better than we expected. We're taking goggles next time.


Round trip was just over 5 hours. More importantly, we eliminated a section of the dreaded walking down the damn hill. Maybe there's something wrong with us, but we just hate going down.


Time spent at Muir? I think we've decided to decide when we get there. Melt and treat water, then start immediately if we're froggy, or nap if we're not. We have fat ol' down jackets, so we'll stuff them in the packs.


A diuretic didn't really figure into our early plans, but caffeine makes more sense now that we've recently experienced an 11PM departure from paradise to drive 2 hours home. At 1AM, after 2 hours in the car, we were both pretty pathetic.


We're starting to get stoked for this.

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It's totally do-able, although when we tried last year we pooped out before the summit. You'll spend more time at Muir melting snow than you think- it's a good thing. Rest is the only advantage that the average climber who stays overnight at Muir has over your style, as the body does not undergo any significant acclimitization during such a short stay at 10K. Lots of literature from Hackett, Wilkerson & others if this is a concern. I say have fun and lift a pint when you're back!

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We use to do this as an "opening season hurray" way back when (early 90s). Just to make sure we were in shape for climbing season. We would leave Paradise around midnight and get back between 10 and noon. If the Muir snowfield is frozen solid and irregular footing, it can be quite tiresome. We carried a stove up to Muir for melting water (and leave it as you suggest)and would usually lie down for about 30 minutes or so. Just as a conditioning reference, it would take us (hubby and myself) 3 hours to Muir from Paradise carrying a full (overnight+climbing gear) pack. I'm older and wiser now cantfocus.gif. Have fun!

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For what it's worth, my wife and I were in Seattle for 15 days, never got about 6800 feet. Came back to Denver, spent two days here and then climbed up to 13,900. We felt the altitude just walking up the approach road, which was an incline any fit person could run up.


Point is, while feeling tired and definitely feeling the lack of oxygen, I think it's very doable to get up Rainier in that time. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you were just coming out from Wyoming and climbing it, that might help you. Remember your body acclimatizes in 48 hours, so any benefit from being at a higher elevation would be lost after that.

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