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Thinker

Rainier Ice Caves rock!

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My partner and I hauled our overnight gear, some caving gear, and some special photo gear to the summit Aug 3rd. We spent the night in the Eldo in the crater about 50 ft below Columbia Crest, howling winds and damn cold temps drove us into our bags as soon at the tent was set up. Morning was better, got the stove fired up in the vestibule. Spent part of the day Sunday exploring the ice caves below the snowfield in the east crater. In all, we descended about 150 feet below the caldera rim to a passage over 50 ft wide and 50 ft high. Our intent was to spend 2 days caving, but my partner was suffering from the altitude and the weather looked iffy, so we started down Sun afternoon.

 

Definitely one of the more unique climbs I've done lately. It would also be a great place to bivy if the sh*t hit the fan up there.

 

[ 08-06-2002, 11:15 AM: Message edited by: Thinker ]

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Do you need special "caving gear" to get around down there? I've gone under there, but not more than a couple of rope lenghts from the exit. It didn't look too difficult from there, but I couldn't tell what was beyond. What would you need in addition to perhaps an ascender or two?

 

Can you imagine the early pioneers who waited out weather or nightfall in those caves? Getting completely soaked and having to wear the woollen suit of ice on the descent? Muir was a monster.

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Pictures: no, we left the photo gear on the surface because we weren't sure were going to make it thru the first skinny passages. the original intent was to spend 2 days there and when that changed we decided to tap as much of it as we could in the morning before we headed out. by the time we realized we were actually going to make it into the main passage neither of us thought to go back up for the camera and light guns. definitely one of our misgivings about the trip.

 

Early climbers: my understanding is that Van Trump, Longmire, Fuller, etc. spent their nights in snow caves much nearer the surface, probably in the vicinity of Register Rock. some reports indicate the snow level in the crater was high enough then to have made caves there. those small caves would have been absolutely miserable without the volume to stabilize temps....freezing on one side, roasting on the other.

 

Gear: we took ice screws and ascenders, just in case. my partner has been a grotto member in London and Salt Lake City, and has extensive vertical caving experience. we just wanted to be prepared. the only use for the ice screws we had this trip was to anchor the tent. The ascenders may have come in handy if we'd have descended in to the 'bird room' or if someone was not comfy on 45 degree scree slopes.

 

[ 08-06-2002, 12:03 PM: Message edited by: Thinker ]

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Are there any huge ice roofs to practice for "Musashi" on?

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we'll get photos next time! We're already scheming ways to get away from work for another trip up.

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Sleeveless--yeah, thanks for showing off the fancy guy line hitch system you honed on Denali. I was a little concerned that we'd be up all night with our backs to the tent walls to hold them up, but all went well. Guess the winds weren't as strong as those Lambone was battling (the ones that snapped the cord on his I-Tent.)

 

Maps--my partner got the map from a study published in 1975 from the UW library. The entrances do change over time, but the main passage evidently doesn't change much.

 

[ 08-07-2002, 09:58 AM: Message edited by: Thinker ]

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quote:

Originally posted by Goat Boy:

Where can one find a map of the cave system? Does it change significantly from year to year?

I think there's a line drawing of the cave system in "Fire and Ice," a book about the Cascade Volcanoes.

Good going, Thinker, that's something I've wanted to do for a long time! Apparently before 1900, most summit climbers spent the night up there just as a matter of course, and eventually took to hauling along waterproof raingear so as not to get drenched by the steam.

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quote:

Originally posted by Goat Boy:

Where can one find a map of the cave system? Does it change significantly from year to year?

The book "Challenge of Rainier" has a very basic map of the caves (and a whole chapter devoted to them). There's a good story about the furry alien beings that live in them.

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quote:

Originally posted by philfort:

quote:

Originally posted by Goat Boy:

Where can one find a map of the cave system? Does it change significantly from year to year?

The book "Challenge of Rainier" has a very basic map of the caves (and a whole chapter devoted to them). There's a good story about the furry alien beings that live in them.

Furry alien beings like [sNAFFLEHOUND] hounds or what?

 

[ 08-07-2002, 01:58 PM: Message edited by: Dru ]

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Well, apparently the air in the Muir hut is piped right up to the caves, because this guy claims to have ventured down there an engaged in mental telepathy for a few hours with these beings - I guess like giant [sNAFFLEHOUND]

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The book Challenge of Rainier is a little old. What side of the crater is the entrance to the caves? With any luck I'll be up there this weekend coming up the Emmons. I won't have any special equipment with me, can I go down in there a little bit. Or is this unreasonable. In other words, do you have to lower yourself down into them with ropes?

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Yeah get Larson and scott'diculous up there to hotbox in da icecaves and seance with the snafflez

 

[sNAFFLEHOUND][big Drink][sNAFFLEHOUND][big Drink]

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The entrance we used is on the east side of the east crater. I used crampons and axe to move down about 6 or 8 feet of ice, then ditched them. We didn't end up using special gear, but we may have been lucky. There's always the risk of losing your way and trying to exit thru an exit that's just too small to wiggle thru.

 

Disclaimer: Your experience could vary significantly from mine....be prepared for anything.

 

A HUGE consideration is the unique environment there. Please acquaint yourself with caving ethics, esp re waste disposal. Take a pee bottle (DON'T pee in the cave) and blue bags.

 

[ 08-07-2002, 04:28 PM: Message edited by: Thinker ]

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For those interested in going in the cave, I was there a couple months ago and I had never been in a cave before, it's really quite mellow considering some of the shit cavers are doing these days. I had an ice axe and no crampons, a helmet and moonlight LED headlamp, wished I had a halogen though, but everything else was great, didn't need any spiffy gear. We exited after 40 minutes of tooling around, basically going straight, I think one could have kept going though, not alot, but a bit. The entrance is on the east as is the exit, it runs north and south. You could sleep in here but it's quite humid and I don't think you'd be very happy at the end of your slumber, pretty dark and boring in there. The ice was rock fucking solid though for those interested in prepping themselves for the X-Games over vertical competitions, HA.

 

Have fun and be safe, I don't think you could really get lost in the main cave.

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quote:

Originally posted by philfort:

quote:

Originally posted by Goat Boy:

Where can one find a map of the cave system? Does it change significantly from year to year?

The book "Challenge of Rainier" has a very basic map of the caves (and a whole chapter devoted to them). There's a good story about the furry alien beings that live in them.

>

A little late, but here's a scan of that map from Challenge of Rainer.

 

[ 10-07-2002, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: Alpine Tom ]

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Any sign of artifacts that have melted their way through from the surface snows of the crater such as old axes, climbing gear, airplanes, etc.?

 

Is there any danger, while sleeping inside the caves, of hydrogen sulphide, or other gas displacing the oxygen you would require....in order to wake up? ie: is there any history of "burps" that would be a problem for a cave explorer/visitor?

 

I've been to the summit 15 times over the past 20 years, and have yet to set foot inside a steam cave.

 

[ 10-07-2002, 09:42 PM: Message edited by: Fairweather ]

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quote:

Originally posted by Alpine Tom:

quote:

Originally posted by philfort:

quote:

Originally posted by Goat Boy:

Where can one find a map of the cave system? Does it change significantly from year to year?

The book "Challenge of Rainier" has a very basic map of the caves (and a whole chapter devoted to them). There's a good story about the furry alien beings that live in them.

-

A little late, but here's a scan of that map from Challenge of Rainer.

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