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Newbie

Newbie + RMI + Ranier + September = ?

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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...

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Newbie -

I've heard a lot of stories about RMI and I'm one of those guys who is likely to spout dissaproving remark, but my guess is that, no matter how many reasons there may be for more experienced or more snotty climbers to dissaprove of RMI, they can probably lead a successful climb in September. And as far as conditioning -- seven weeks is not too short a time to try to work out as much as you can so that you are in the best shape possible. Run four days a week (running with a small pack on is even better but be careful or you can hurt yourself), hike up Mt. Si with a pack on every weekend, even ride the stationary bike in front of the TV. You certainly won't regret it. Mt. Rainier is awesome.

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Do I dare comment....hmmm, I'll tread lite here. First, are you raising money or paying for the climb yourself? RMI doesn't get paid unless you make it beyond 12k or some ridiculous thing like that, now that may be a rumor, but wouldn't surprise me either. I suggest getting out and climbing other peaks and volcanoes in the area, you will find plenty of challenge. With your background and experience I would save your $$, bag some local peaks, get experience under your belt, before you attempt the bigger mountains...there need be no rush.

 

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First of all: do you already have reservations? Last time I checked they were all booked up.

If so, why the heck not? You can get in reasonable shape in that short of a time...assuming you're not so bad off right now. Much of climbing Rainier is up in your head, but having a good set of lungs helps you enjoy the view.

I agree with Lisa, too. It's more rewarding to learn the ropes by cutting your teeth on the less technical climbs before heading up Rainier. Even though DC is the trade route, it'll be a grind and may have some spooky sections.

Lisa - RMI charges $750 up front, which includes a one day intro to climbing course (or "how not to kill their guides" course) and they reserve the right to turn a group around at any point on the route - including Camp Muir.

[This message has been edited by EddieE (edited 07-25-2001).]

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Newbie,

If you want to climb Rainier in September I agree that it may not be too late to train for it if you are in reasonable shape the best thing to do is hike up Si or Granite Mtn. and running (6-8miles 3x to 4x a week). For me this is the best way to train. Aim for 1 1/2 hours up Si and 2 hours for Granite. I think that RMI will maintain the route up Rainier on the DC as long as they can get people up the mountain on thier schedule. Wow $750 to camp Muir or above, now that is a profit. I have been up many times, and the best way to train is to do all the above and rest the last week, it is the differance between making it up and making it up and having fun.

Bill

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No shame in using guide for frist time on Rainier. RMI has bad rap because they're cattle herders. Many really don't give a shit if you make it our not; many are burned out from climbing it day in and day out and dealing with all sort of people (read: idiots). I've heard horror stories from folks about their guides. The mountain is already in late season shape -- really broken up -- so September will really be pushing it this year. As for being is shape, this mountain is capable of killing you -- you want to be in the best shape possible. All that cardio is good, but the approach is the hardest part: spend adequate time schlepping a 55-65 pound pack up 2500 or more vertical feet. Take gingko. Have fun, it's a spectacular mountain -- I can't wait to try Liberty Ridge next year!

 

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We've been thru this before, but here goes again: TRAIN AT ALTITUDE (sorry for the all caps everybody). Jogging a whole bunch at sea level around the Sound doesn't do much to prepare you for 14 1/2 K in elevation. I think I saw something about you hiking up to around 8 K. Do that. And lots of it. Try spending several nights at higher elevations, too, helps a lot w/ acclimitization. As for schlepping a lot of weight around and doing hikes w/ lots of elevation gain, that's good too. Good luck and have fun.

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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?” smile.gif, 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.

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Newbie,

Go for it and have a great time. There is no shame in being guided up that big mutha in my opinion. I think with your experience it is probably a very wise decision to make. Just do some training and you will have a wonderful experience hopefully. Stick to your hiking and get out as much as possible. Remember the true experience lies out there following those original legendary footsteps in pure enjoyment as well as a certain amount of controlled safety which is more likely to be your case. I cannot stand going up there with some gung ho summit or plummet person in my party that may ruin my experience.

Good luck,

-Cpt

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Like others, I agree to go for it, and there is no shame in using RMI your first time up. If afterwards you feel it wasn't enough of a challenge, plan another trip and put together your own team.

Just like the rest of us, I've seen RMI in action, and they really are an institution. But to their credit, they are highly, highly organized. Most of the guides appear to be good guys (or good babes smile.gif ), but yes, they must get burnt out guiding idiots and the same route all the time.

I also agree on fitness being paramount. The fitter you are, the greater your chances of success, and the more you'll enjoy it. Hike uphill as much as possible between now and then. Especailly long, long uphill hikes. Running helps too, but for cardio I prefer riding a bike, as it's easier to take a 3 hour bike than a 3 hour run to work your heart and lungs. Plus you'll get in much more scenery.

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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. smile.gif

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.

 

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Try the South Spur of Adams. Non-technical, straight forward route that will put you at elevation relatively quickly. Mid-week should equal less crowds, easier camping/permits.

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Newbie,

Quick suggestion: if your knees are bad like mine, cary big two liter water bottles up Li Si. Then dump'em out at the top. You'll save your knees on the way down.

Off of I-90, Snow lake trail is good. And, Ingalls Lake trail is fun. Good Luck!

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Another precinct heard from...

My .02 is that, the more you climb other mountains, the more you'll appreciate Rainier. Jogging around the neighborhood is nice and everything, but you'll do yourself a lot more good by going up to easy summits on weekends (or after work) McClellan Butte, Snoqualmie Peak, Kendall, Pilchuck, Pugh, etc etc. (For God's sake, don't waste your life on Mt. Si! Geez!) None of those are technically difficult, but they'll give you a feel and appreciation for altitude, what a mountain "feels like."

Go down and hike up to Camp Muir, to get a feel for what it's like.

Then, when you get up there, not only will your body be used to going up hills, but you'll know what you're seeing, and appreciating.

Rainier was actually the second mountain I ever climbed (the first was Baker) and I don't think I saw it as much more than a big heap of snow and rock. There's so much more there to be aware of, and only by spending time in the hills can you really see them.

And, I wouldn't haul around a 40-pound pack the whole time. Take a moderate pack, 10-15 pounds or so. No point in blowing out your knees.

</essay>

All that said, I'd guess September is likely to be frustrating. There'll be long crevasse end-runs, and your chances of summitting will probably not be great, even with the typically good weather of September.

So, don't go counting on summitting, and don't look at a failure to summit as a failure. Go counting on having an experience that most people you know will never know, and will never really be able to appreciate.

 

 

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I just wanted to wish you luck and hope that most importantly you stay safe and ENJOY yourself and the beauty around you! grin.gif

carolyn

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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.

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newbie,

congrats on following thru with something you seemed to want to do so badly. It must have been an incredible experience for you. I appreciate the thought you put into describing it for us. smile.gif

I spent a day on the nisqually glacier with a friend of mine who guides for rmi (in fact he was probly one of your guides) about a week after your ascent. this was the first time I had ever seen the mountain (I live in MN). I was in complete awe - just loved it! grin.gif

Im very very sorry to hear about your friends. Im glad you were able to keep them with you to help you achieve your goal. My guess is there will always be a piece of them on that mountain now.

A lot of people I ran into while I was out in the NW seemed to think being in the mountains during the tragedy was the best place to be. In a way, it was probably true. I spent a night on Baker with no planes flying overhead. On the other hand, I found it difficult to concentrate as much as I would have liked to. I wound up turning back on one of my trips - not JUST because of the turmoil- but reflecting on the days now, I think it played a big part in it.

I didnt realize rmi included so many people on their summit attempts. I would imagine that in itself is difficult. So many personalities, so many logistics. Your perspective was enlightening and I will definately keep it in the back of my mind. Im sure there will be a day that I will save up enough money and need to be part of a guided trip in order to accomplish a particular goal.

Anyway, best of luck in your future endeavors. I really enjoyed reading about your progress and success.

be well,

be safe,

carolyn

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