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briejer

School me on soloing Rainier.........

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I would have to agree with pretty much everyone's comments on this thread. I would advise to bring snowshoes or skis (I would bring snowshoes) all the way up. From the top of the chute to the summit can be very deep snowdrifts. My winter experience involved quite inconsistent sastrugi. Waist deep snow for a five foot stretch where the wind deposited, and moderately fragile crust the next five foot stretch where it scoured. Repeat the cycle until you reach the summit. As Duchess said, going from waist deep snow and then trying to climb out of it onto a hard platform of scoured crust for 2000+ feet is extremely taxing - I don't care how strong of a climber you are, you will be completely noodled doing that all by yourself!! Not knowing whether or not you are going to break through the moderately fragile crust on your next step is frustrating at best. Snowshoes will help a bit in this case.

 

Our team of 4 very strong, very experienced climbers barely made it to the summit on a cloudles February day with relatively calm winds. Had we had one less person to trade trail-breaking duties with, I'm not sure we would have made it. Every move we made was without error, we didn't have any visibility problems, we didn't have strong winds, and we rarely stopped to rest. We were all in very good physical shape, and were a well-rounded team (one is a local avalanche instructor and exceptionally strong ski mountaineer). By the time we got back to Muir we were all completely drained.

 

Finally, I would not consider going light. In my opinion, if you feel forced to go light, you aren't in the kind of shape you need to be to climb the mountain solo in Winter. Bring the gear you'll need to survive at least overnight in a snowcave. Bring a GPS unless you are absolutely sure weather is not going to move in, and even then you might even consider bringing wands. Do not expect your tracks to still be there on your descent. Be through the ledges before dawn to minimize rockfall from Gib Rock. Have the skills to assess the chute before you dive in. As difficult as it might be, be prepared to turn around and head home even on a bluebird day if conditions in the chute aren't just right.

 

Obviously (or perhaps not) there is not even a remote comparison between the DC or ID routes in "good summer conditions" and any route on Rainier in Winter. Rainier is a serious mountain any time of year. Throw in what winter up there has to offer, and you're on a completely different level.

 

One more thing to consider: you don't see too many folks who are competent to climb Rainier in the Winter asking the kinds of questions you have in this post. I'm not saying you're asking dumb questions, just that you might want to gain a little more experience on an easier mountain. Maybe it was the "trudge on up" comment. I'll guarantee your Winter experience will not be that bubbly. Maybe give something like Klawatti a try first.

 

Good luck.

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I'd suggest you wand the route you ascend, if you are planning to descend via the same route. If you get caught in whiteout conditions, you can navigate between wands and have an idea of where you are in a featureless environment. It doesn't hurt to turn around and look at your descent route occasionally, it is nice to have that perspective. Don't forget to bring at least 3 days worth of extra fuel and food. You can probably do your fuel equation assuming you will consume 1/2 pint of fuel per day. Instead of going light, consider hauling a sled into your base camp with the necessary equipment, food, fuel, etc. Make sure your summit pack contains enough equipment and supplies to hole up high on the mountain and wait out a storm. Like others have suggested, Gib Ledges is a typical Rainier winter route. Call and talk to the rangers before you go. It might be hard to get a solo permit for the winter if you have never done a winter route on Rainier or any other mountain for that matter.

 

Also, do a forum search, there were several people posting last week looking for a team who wanted to do a winter summit. Maybe you could get on with a team of experienced people and try to get your winter summit in that way. Good luck and be careful out there.

 

Ps. I have either come back from winter climbs absolutely exhausted from the effort of the climb, or fully rested because I spent the entire time curled up in a snow cave, sleeping, waiting out weather. You might want to bring a book with you. :)

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I consider everything from my last post to this one to be excellent. Clearly the kind of stuff this board is good for.

These are all experienced climbers. IMO.

 

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You should solo it a few times in Second Life this winter, then cram in a few episodes of "Everest: Beyond the Limit" right before you leave. You'll be fine.

This one probably isn't that good.

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All the guide services and REI and the ski shops can point you to the current schedules of the AVI classes where-ever you are or are willing to travel to.

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I have a shovel and can dig a cozy lil cave. I pack Clif proien bars exclusivly for food, I was quite the ski bum in my younger years and am thinking a dumping some $$ on new Randonee Ski Gear.I would make for a easy descnt, but be btch to carry.

 

If I can get in a little better shape and pray to the weaher god, I think at least I'll have a memorable adventure, even if I dont summt

 

 

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The only thing about those protien bars, or any other "bar" on the mountain in the winter is they freeze and get rock hard. I can tell you, when you already don't feel like eating much due to various mountain ailments, it SUCKS to try and chew on a brick. Gu or shot blocks are a good alternative.

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The climb that Duchess, Tom, Oyvind and I did followed two weeks after a previous ascent that I did with Marek. The conditions could not have been more different. The snow was firm and Marek and I with a third fellow fairly flew up the mountain in 5.5 hours from Muir. The second trip with a stronger party took 8 hours of post holing and we only just made it.

 

Conditions have everything to do with success. You should start out with the assumption that you will let weather and snow conditions be the determinant of go or no go. You can expect one or maybe two weather windows each winter of suitable duration for a summit bid. Then, the snow has to be good during the weather window. There is good reason why Rainier has some winters with no successful parties.

 

Go look up the old trip reports. They are from February of 2003.

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Don't get too far ahead of yourself about how easy it is going to be on the skis. On winter climbs of both Hood and Rainier I have at times skinned up and carried the skis down due to a breakable crust that I could not handle with a pack on. Sometimes you get easy skiing, but sometimes not.

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don't forget that you actually have to GET a solo permit first... because you have soloed Rainier 5 times in the summer, I don't doubt that you have enough skill and experience to obtain such a permit... i do, however, caution you that rangers are going to look MUCH, MUCH closer at a solo permit request for the winter. Upper mountain search and rescues are enough of a bitch in the summer, much less the winter... I would contact Gauthier and talk over your plans before assuming it's a go... if ya don't get a permit, none of the above matters!

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true dat - gautheir's on this site a fair bit too (though perhaps not recently, or i'd imagine he'd of responded) - try pm'ing him (what's his avatar?) or check out his website for an address.

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From what I understand, they do not grant or deny a permit based on an attempt to determine someone's competence, and I think this is probably a good idea.

 

I believe the rangers know that they can't judge a book by its cover, for one thing. Years ago, they used to make you fill out a climbing resume and show them your gear before they would allow you to depart Paradise for a winter climb. I remember listing climbs back to when I was twelve and having to show them how much fuel we had, and explaining that we knew how to use our avalanche cords (before Pieps), wands, etc. It was a pain in the neck for both climbers and rangers, and I doubt it contributed to safety on the mountain except to the extent that it may have discouraged some of the most unprepared or at least those who were both unprepared and afraid to deal with authorities. You climb 5.11 and WI-5? Great stuff but, from reviewing your application I doubt they can accurately determine whether you know how to navigate in a white out or keep yourself warm in freezing rain.

 

Also, I think they rightfully worry that if they put themselves in the position of determining who is qualified or not they will be taking a step toward being responsible if they make the wrong call. What do you want to bet that they would have regretted it if the rangers at Mt. Hood had "pre-approved" the team's qualification for the ill-fated and media spectacular climb of the North Face last Christmas - and that a consideration of the qualifications or experience of the climb's participants would have led to the conclusion they were qualified?

 

 

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I did Gib ledge route on January 5, 1982-ish. We didn't experience any rock fall, though a few stones were visible in the fresh snow. We left muir around 2AM. Crossing the ledges under Gibraltar was very scary. We found nothing to anchor to, other than a snow fluke, and the ledges were full of deep snow, with long deadly drop offs if an immediate arrest didn't work. Typical no fall zone.

The ice chute/couloir at the end of the ledges leading to the summit was easy front pointing and french technique, we didn't have ice hammers, just our ice axes. I doubt if you could self arrest there as it's too steep. The dropoff there goes all the way down to the glacier below, several thousand feet of steep, icy couloir, very exposed. We had a couple screws, but didn't place them, trying to move fast.

 

we left an emergency tent at the top of Gib, and left wands as we hiked up the gentle slopes from the top of gib to the summit. All the crevasses were heavily snowed in. We ran out of wands.

 

On the summit, we saw clouds moving up from muir and ran down the slopes until we hit the last wand, or would have been unable to find gib in the whiteout... we had map, compass and altimeter, but whiteouts really suck up high.

 

Going down the chute beside gib was scary, but secure french technique. Someone got dizzy and slipped, but he'd asked for a boot axe belay in the hard snow/soft ice, and we caught him after a 60 foot slider. Wished we'd placed the screws for a running belay, but the other team had them.

 

I have no idea if the conditions are remotely similar after all these years. That climb sticks in my mind as we were pushing our limits, and came very close to taking the big ride when our partner fell.

 

I think I remember hearing that we were the only party to make it up that winter, but I could have that wrong. It was a mountaineer led party. Rick Powell was the leader, he died a couple years ago from Alzheimers.

 

That was one of the epics that led to my choosing rock climbing as the safer sport.

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I actually just talked to the rangers last week about what they wanted to see to pre-register a team for a winter climb. I have two friends who are flying in to climb as part of a 4 person team. Two of us are local, and the two flying in are from here originally. I was hoping to go up the day before they arrive and pre-register the team and get a parking space so we can take off (weather & conditions permitting) the day they get here. The rangers said they will want to know why type of equipment we are bringing, they don't need to see it though. Since I am coordinating the logisitcs behind the trip, I will just bring the pack list I emailed out to the team. I asked if they wanted any type of climbing resume, since two of the teammates won't be there the day of registration and they said no.

 

I did mention that we all have a fair amount of experience, to include guiding in the Cascades. But from what I can tell, the Rangers just want to make sure folks are prepared to be out in the elements. Also, the climbing rangers are off right now, so when you go to register or if you call in, you will get a general staff ranger. You can leave a message for the climbing rangers, but who knows when they will get those messages.

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But from what I can tell, the Rangers just want to make sure folks are prepared to be out in the elements. Also, the climbing rangers are off right now, so when you go to register or if you call in, you will get a general staff ranger. You can leave a message for the climbing rangers, but who knows when they will get those messages.

 

This is all true, but a solo climb requires an additional solo permit application. A climbing ranger, or other equally qualified ranger, will review your application, and the park superintendent signs it. This has to be done in advance, or you're right, you might not actually reach someone.

 

The comments about judging climber qualifications are pretty insightful, but solo climbing permits have been denied in the past. I recommend reading the park's climbing website, under climbing regulations (not the blog, but the actually website http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/climbing.htm#CP_JUMP_149861)

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Well, although it is completely obvious, be prepared for very cold conditions. On a trip up Gib Ledges in winter a couple years ago, I was surprised at the cold - Climbing in a baffled down jacket just to stave off hypothermia (-5F with 30mph winds above 12K). This was with about as good a forecast as one could hope for- you could have had a candle lit at Muir.

As was said earlier, the Ledges is probably the best way to go up in winter, although it is fairly steep to descend. We opted to go down the Ingraham and through Cadaver gap (watch for avi danger- it didn't get its name for nothing). We got boxed in in an icefall and ended up rapping over a serac off of an ice bollard we chopped. Very deep powder made the Ingraham a bit on the nerve racking side, as I never knew if I was falling in a crevasse or sinking into another powder pocket (sometimes waist deep). Solo would have been frightening to say the least. This is why the Ingraham might not be the best to descend- I think it gets loaded often from southerly winds. But I guess you have to take your pick of which is worse. . .

 

Soloing Rainier in winter is a tall order, as the many posts attest, but since you seem determined- Good Luck!

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I have solo'd Mt. Rainier twice, both times were in early May. I have done two winter climbs in January---not sure if I would do it solo. Mt. Rainier in Winter is a toally different climb than in the summer---weather can be unpredictable. If you decide climb it in the winter, prepare for a potential epic and pack accordingly---10 days of supplies in case encountering bad weather (worst case).

 

I have been fined for soloing----I think it was $150.

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Thank you all for the straight talk and infomative comments and suggestions. My plan is to first get over a slight chest cold, then start making day trips to Muir in every weather imaginable. Then see if freezing my buns bundled up in a tent in strong wind and heavy snow makes my desire lesser or greater. I can talk a strong climb in the warmth of my home, so it's time to have my thoughts meet the acid test. I will post my experiences and thoughts........good or bad.

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Just stay in the hut. That's what it is there for.

And bring some bud.

 

someone had to say it... :rolleyes:

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Thank you all for the straight talk and infomative comments and suggestions. My plan is to first get over a slight chest cold, then start making day trips to Muir in every weather imaginable. Then see if freezing my buns bundled up in a tent in strong wind and heavy snow makes my desire lesser or greater. I can talk a strong climb in the warmth of my home, so it's time to have my thoughts meet the acid test. I will post my experiences and thoughts........good or bad.

 

Good call !

 

In bad weather the hut may not be attainable. I thought that the "take a shovel for a snow cave advice" above is awesome too.

 

It's nice (and still damn memorable) to just dig in or huddle up for a weekend during a huge mountain storm and hang out someplace still relatively safe a short hike in deep snow up a draw next glacier over from the car. Keep the gps and other key items with you even is going for a short hike away from your basecamp if the weather is shit, I wouldn't underestimate it, even if you are low on the mt someplace only 1/2 a mile from your car. Do some day trips in the shit weather - maybe see if you can just stand up for more than 5 min. before crawling back to basecamp, grateful to be alive, wishing your girlfriend was there with a hot body and hot espresso, with your dripping frozen snot hanging from your nose, frostbitten cheeks and frosted eyebrows.

 

Maybe it's the huge bad weather window we just emerged from which has everyone feeling all cautious right now, I mean, freeways are closed, streams are full, snow dumped huge in the hills, and trees are down everywhere.

 

I wonder if you had asked this during a period of settled and clear weather if you would have received different answers and folks would be less cautious?

 

Sounds like fun! Enjoy.

 

BTW, I use to do exactly what you are suggesting when I'd get depressed or mentally jammed up, this seemed to happen more in the winter in periods of bad weather. I'd just want to go be alone. I headed out to all kinds of strange places alone.

 

On the food discussion front, I liked to take smoked oysters, cause you can drag it out, slowly let the oil drip off each one as you eat them, and then make a lil fire with a wick of a Cashew or Brazil Nut in the remaining oil, with the can tilted up, acting as a a reflector. It brought warmth to my soul and my fingers.

Edited by billcoe

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On the food discussion front, I liked to take smoked oysters, cause you can drag it out, slowly let the oil drip off each one as you eat them, and then make a lil fire with a wick of a Cashew or Brazil Nut in the remaining oil, with the can tilted up, acting as a a reflector. It brought warmth to my soul and my fingers.

 

Nice idea with the small fire. However, I would not recommend Sardines! Last winter (Dec 22-24) on an attempt of Mt Washington in central OR, my climbing partner and I got caught in a bad storm and ended up digging a snow cave to wait it out. We started our approach around 7:30 pm, heading in through the forest, towing sleds with base camp supplies. Around 12:30am the snow was coming down so hard we decided to stop where we were, and dig in to wait it out. By 5am with the snow cave built and some water melted, we were starving, cold of course, and ready to crawl in our bags and sleep. Not in the mood to cook anything, we decided to open a can of Sardines to munch on, in the snow cave mind you. Mmmm, delicious! Well, we spilled some of that nasty sardine juice inside the snow cave, and got to spend the next 36hrs with that wonderful smell. All of the gear I had with me on that trip reeked for months! A snow cave with two folks for an extended period of time smells bad enough as it is, sardines are definitely not needed.

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the "take a shovel for a snow cave advice" above is awesome too.

DITTO

 

..hot body and hot espresso, with your dripping frozen snot hanging from your nose....

 

TMI

 

BTW, I use to do exactly what you are suggesting when I'd get depressed or mentally jammed up, this seemed to happen more in the winter in periods of bad weather. I'd just want to go be alone. I headed out to all kinds of strange places alone.

I do that too. Sometimes I don't even leave the couch and I do it.

 

 

I liked to take smoked oysters, cause you can drag it out, slowly let the oil drip off each one as you eat them, and then make a lil fire with a wick of a Cashew or Brazil Nut in the remaining oil, with the can tilted up, acting as a a reflector. It brought warmth to my soul and my fingers.

That oil is often Cottonseed oil. It is not regulated by the FDA.

It is full of pesticides and other nasty stuff.

 

But it still tastes damn fine.

On the snowcave front, beware of smoked oyster farts.

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Nice call on the cottonseed oil Bug: that's in fact why I try to let most of it drip off each oyster and burn the rest. I had heard that when any processed food says "may contain soybean, cottonseed and/or canola oil", what that is saying is that the processor will be buying whatever is cheapest on the spot market at that time.

 

As cottonseed is a scrap by-product of getting cotton, they spray the holy crap out of the cotton to kill boll weevils and other nasties, and no one cares too much about it as they don't perceive it as a food crop. So one does NOT want to be ingesting much of that kind of stuff at all. I like the protein and the flavor though.

 

On the snowcave or tent oyster farts front though: truthfully, is it just me who likes that smell? :shock:

 

;)

 

Don't know about sardine smell. In Tibet, and also Nepal, those Sherpa and hill dudes will hang an animal, like a goat, in their entry way to keep it near the kitchen and eat on it over time. It's hanging right on the wall. When you first enter the building, it reeks like any old carcass, but after a few days you don't really notice it much at all. I do notice that every time I touch my ropes, even like just grabbing one in the basement and moving it over 6 inches, I have a memory of that smell and it is good. Not the smell itself which is not common or good: but what my memory associates with it.

 

It's been a long, long time since I've done the sleep in the snow alone thing....wonder if the snow is still as cold as it use to be?

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...It's been a long, long time since I've done the sleep in the snow alone thing....wonder if the snow is still as cold as it use to be?

I think you'd enjoy it a little more these days, bill. Snow has heated up a few degrees... that global warming thing, ya know. Water freezes at about 35 F now... :crosseye:

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