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Frank Swenson

Looking to join a summit of Rainier group.

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I'm a life time resident of WA, avid runner and hiker who has been hiking lower Rainier for years, including yearly trips to Muir. I am looking to join a group of climbers that are going to summit Rainier this spring/summer. I am open to all suggestions, questions and information that this forum can give me. I would really prefer to climb with an experienced group versus a commercial group. Please help me make this lifelong dream come true. I am recently 50, a distance runner and coach in very good physical shape and not afraid of hard work, but I want to be safe and successful in making this climb. I am willing to listen and learn and to prove that I'm ready and capable of being a productive part of a climb group, not an anchor. Thanks in advance for all the help.

Frank Swenson

 

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It sounds like you are describing is a guide service, it is not that bad. What you are asking someone to do is take a huge risk of an unsuccessful climb or worse a dangerous situation. I am not trying to be a jerk but I want to recommend you do exactly what I did. I paid a guide service to get me up and down the first time. Then I went unguided with some friends and then I looked on this website for partners for other climbs.

 

If you can find someone to show you the way that is fantastic but if this is going to happen I recommend you learn everything you can from a book. I taught myself how to do all of the glacier travel skills. A partner is not needed for practice, perhaps just a wife standing around ready to call for help if you end up stuck upside down while trying to practice self rescue. :)

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I have had the pleasure of climbing with a number of newer, enthusiastic climbers this year. What I really appreciate is that these new climbers spent some time educating themselves - reading books, (Freedom of the Hills is a good one), taking some guided courses, and practicing book knowledge in the hills.

 

It is one thing to ask to tag along as a less experienced climber, quite another to show up expecting to be taught everything. At a minimum, teach yourself to ties knots (Prusiks, clove hitch, rewoven figure eight, butterfly know, double fisherman's knot), how to walk in crampons, use an ice axe, self arrest, ascend a rope with Prusik slings, set snow anchors (dead men, pickets, bollards).

 

Do some easy peaks so that you are not totally clueless - folks will be more amenable to take you up something like Red Mt or Sliver Peak and give you some pointers on ice axe/crampon use and then you will have some bone fide experience to advertise when looking for Rainier partners.

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Is it just me or does this seem to be a bit of a trend on this forum? Everybody and their dog trying to get a free, basically-guided trip up Rainier. Maybe it just comes with living in close proximity to such an iconic climbing objective.

 

Either way, I agree with the previous comments. Hire a guide for your first time and let a professional assess the risk OR if you still don't want to spend the money on a guide: learn the skills on your own through reading and practical application so you can prove yourself to potential partners on something less risky first. Baby steps. A safe progression like the one I just outlined can be accomplished in under 2 years. I know that might sound like a lot but, if your goal is to do it without a guide, remember that big mountains require a big commitment and take time. If you're still gung-ho check out a copy of The Ledge by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughn to see what can happen to experienced climbers on a standard route.

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...Either way, I agree with the previous comments. Hire a guide for your first time and let a professional assess the risk...

 

I agree, my take on this is that a guided trip will cost *far* less than say, a broken leg or the like, if things go wrong, even if you have good insurance. Things might go well, they might not.

 

I first saw, and started watching that mountain when I was about your age, and finally summited it on my 61st birthday, using International Mountaing Guides in Ashford for the guide service. That was money VERY well spent. And even though it was a most perfect day, weather wise, had I tried it on my own with some "online climbing buddies" of unknown capabilities, I can think of a few times things might not have gone well at all. I learned a lot that I didn't know that I didn't know by going with guides.

 

Prior to making the decision to go, I read a LOT; (Freedom of the Hills, various other books, nwhikers.net, Cascadeclimbers.com, Summitpost.org), and took a few trips up the trail to Camp Muir prior to making the decision that yes, I can do this, but with someone who knows HOW to do it.

 

I have no doubt whatever that you can do it. I did and I'm not in the same conditioning category as you appear to be, but there is more than physical conditioning and good weather to make it up and (more importantly), back down Rainier. That is a serious undertaking.

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Washington is packed with wonderful 'easy' peaks, but you have never climbed ANY mountain? Fitness level is not a qualifier, and 'lifelong dream' is not qualifier. If Mt Rainier were a serious goal, you would have at least read FREEDOM OF THE HILLS, and climbed at least five 'easy' peaks. How about climbing Mt Ellinor in April, on snow, as a substitute for glacier experience? If you want a shortcut to the summit, a guide service is the way to go.

 

 

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If you want to get on Rainier consider setting a goal like a day trip to either Steamboat Prow or Camp Muir. Both are good for snow skills practice and give you an objective to work for.

 

Keep in mind, especially if you choose an ascent to Muir, map reading and navigating may be required. If the forecast calls for 100-percent chance of sun it's a relatively easy ascent/descent. On the other hand white out or near white out conditions require good map reading and navigating skills.

 

Via standard south side routes, climbing to the summit of St. Helens and Adams are options as well. Being able to navigate in sketchy weather may be a requirement on both routes.

 

My suggestions include some minor crack/crevasse crossings at times, but they are minor league and good training.

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If you want to get on Rainier consider setting a goal like a day trip to either Steamboat Prow or Camp Muir. Both are good for snow skills practice and give you an objective to work for.

 

Umm, if you read the original post you will see that Mr. Swenson has completed day trips to Camp Muir multiple times. Also nowhere does he state whether or not he has been practicing glacier skills, crevasse rescue and other mountaineering topics. Unfortunately everyone seems to have jumped to the conclusion that Mr. Swenson hasn't done anything practically to prepare for such a trip. I don't know him so I don't know if he has or not. But just because someone didn't list any book or skill practicing doesn't mean they haven't done it.

 

Good luck on your quest Frank! I hope you can find a group to go with. Be sure you have a long enough weather window, so your chances of success will be greater.

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Also nowhere does he state whether or not he has been practicing glacier skills, crevasse rescue and other mountaineering topics. Unfortunately everyone seems to have jumped to the conclusion that Mr. Swenson hasn't done anything practically to prepare for such a trip.

Nobody 'unfortunately' jumped to any conclusions. People, including myself, made a reasonable assumption that since the OP specifically mentioned he had done some hiking and was a runner, that if had done additional skills training he would have mentioned it. The advice folks gave is all solid, conservative, and encouraging.

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Sorry I didn't note previous Muir ascent(s). While a good thing to have done it is one of several stepping stones. As noted in my post there are cracks in the Muir snowfield at times, but it isn't real glacier climbing. Any ascent of Rainier requires experience with glacier travel.

 

Every group climbing the mountain is different. Adding a new member to the group without glacier or related climbing experience implies you are willing to accept a new level of risk. Perhaps he can find a willing team or group, but you increase odds of finding climbing partners with greater experience.

 

If Rainier is the one and only climbing goal paying for a guide is a better and often safer way to go.

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Agree with DPS and Feck. My first attempt on Rainier was only after doing one climbing trip, and not on a glacier. Looking back, I was woefully unprepared and when we woke up that morning at Muir, I knew I had made a mistake, even if my partner was experienced. I had no business up there and I knew it, no matter bad I wanted it, the shape I was in, and my years of backpacking, etc.

 

The following year I had graduated from a climbing course, read books, and had more than a few climbs under my belt. Made a huge difference and I had confidence that I knew all the important stuff to be successful and not kill myself or teammates. Ended up doing two summits within a few weeks.

 

Frank: read Freedom of the Hills, do a few non-glacier objectives where you can practice your skills (and knots like DPS suggested), and be sure to spend a good chunk of time on crevasse rescue. Mt. Adams is a great learning objective. If you can demonstrate that you know how to tie the knots, perform rescue, and arrest yourself, you'll find it much easier to find a group if you don't want to go guided.

Edited by SeanO

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Thank you for your comments, yes. Have been reading, and I have done 4 St. Helen's climbs, been to Muir many time, both in groups and solo. I have claimed on Mt. Hood and have done Mt Elizabeth both in snow and summer conditions. These things I didn't elaborate on cause I hate sounding like I know it all. I DON'T. Thank you for seeing what I was about and not just joining the band wagon.

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Thank you all for the thoughts and advice. Which is the biggest thing I wanted to get. Sure I'm looking for a way up the mountain and I'm willing to learn and I am attempting to do that as we speak. I felt it would be a better trip for me by not going commercial and that is why I was looking for a private group to go with. For me I felt it would be a better all around experience. All of you have added to the list of things I need in my bag of knowledge to make this happen. Thank you.

Ps. Jeffwestly this is a dream and a non conventional attempt at it, not me attempting to get everything for free or a round about way. I always pull my own weight, be it in knowledge or sweat or action. Please don't be a glass half empty guy instantly.

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Sorry Frank, didn't mean to jump to conclusions about you. It just seems like every time I go in the climbing partners forum there's another post by someone from Kansas or West Texas or Florida looking for a non-guided group to join to make their dream come true. Given your experience, I think you'd do fine on a private party with partners experienced in crevasse rescue techniques. Good luck on your summit attempt.

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P.S.

I forgot to mention (just for conversation sake) that guided parties do have a much higher summit success rate than private parties on Rainier.

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