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[TR] Mt. Ranier - DC 7/4/2015

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Trip: Mt. Ranier - DC


Date: 7/4/2015


Trip Report:




Quick conditions TR for the DC route on Rainier. I guess it can be a supplement to a recent post on NPS’s blog which has good info/pics.


I haven’t had much time to climb lately, so I’ve been mostly doing Tiger Cable trail weightless mid-week and Mailbox Peak on weekends with a heavy pack to stay in shape. I haven’t done anything that took longer than 3 hours round trip in a while, so I needed a bigger conditioner to test myself for some proper climbs I have planned for the end of the month. Doing the DC in a single push seemed like it would be a good conditioning test while not taking up too much time. Due to high temps I def. wanted to do the whole thing in the dark (or as much as possible).


We ended up taking a more leisurely pace and had to turn back just around 12.6k ft due to my partner getting AMS, but it was still nice to get out for a night and do something besides a local conditioner hike.


No pics as I sold one camera and the other is the shop + my cell phone can’t do night photos. Too bad because with how broken up the route is and with the full moon, the visuals looked spectacular.


  • Started climbing from the Paradise lot at ~6:15 PM sat night. Still warm, but cooling as the sun lowered. Brought 1L to Pebble Creek, then filled up 4 liters. 1 tiny patch of snow before Pebble Creek, then snow from the creek all the way up to Muir if you want. Sun disappeared behind Rainier shortly after leaving Pebble Creek. Ahhhhhh.
  • Aside: The lower Nisqually looks like it disappeared in a sea of rock/scree. What a transformation from our crossing during a Fuhrer Finger climb early May. The Finger actually still had continuous snow all the way up, although I imagine in these temps you’d surely get a rock-to-the-face partway up.
  • Very consolidated, but slightly softer snow from Pebble Creek to 9k-ish (skiable), then harder to Muir. Sunset lit up the Cascades to the south in soft, low angle light and was gorgeous per usual.
  • Arrived at Muir taking a leisurely pace by 9:30 PM. Darkness came, then headlamps, layer adjustments, harness on, etc. Our 2 friends were a bit behind so we decided to separate and maybe meet up later.
  • Muir was not very packed at all. Maybe 1 person was in the hut. Surprising. Wasn’t sure if it was due to the 4th of July holiday, the heat, or both?
  • We cruised across Cowlitz just after 10pm. A few savvy parties had already left early to beat crowds/bottlenecks and get down before the heat came the next AM.
  • Cowlitz had 1 tiny crack, super straightforward. No rope, no crampons yet. Surprisingly not a ton of rock fall evidence yet near the trail (but some).
  • Cathedral rocks has one of the best scree-ish switch-backy trails I’ve seen, very easy/straightforward compared to some years.
  • A tiny crack or two on the lower Ingraham, still no rope/crampons. Ingraham also was looking thin in terms of tents.
  • Everyone on the mtn. seemed smart though given the temps. While I typically see people leave around midnight-1am, almost everyone was leaving no later than 11pm. We arrived at the top of the flats (11k-ish) around 10:45PM to try and get ahead of everyone, but they had the same plan so we failed. I guess leave at 930-10 and you’re in better shape, but stuff hasn’t had much of a chance to freeze by then.
  • We used crampons + the rope under the Ingraham icefall + DC entrance. There are 2 ladders and a slightly sketchy opening right before you take the DC. It’s not too bad. We heard a lot of running water.
  • We took the rope and crampons off for the rocky DC, passed some parties, but them back on once back on snow. Passed more parties, top of the DC, then headed south across the Ingraham.
  • Once you got across a small ladder and around a serac corner, this stunning amphitheater of huge crevasses and seracs opened up, with the nearly full moon lighting it up and casting large shadows. Climber headlamps dotted the steep ascent up through this thing, with building-sized seracs handing over a narrow traverse up towards Camp Comfort near the top of Gibraltar rock. The DC boot path had been made through a bunch of huge seracs leaning on one another with large gaping holes and steep, icy fall-offs. We waited until the two parties ahead of us were past the area exposed to seracs hundreds of feet overhead, then cruised up behind them.
  • I crossed at least one really sketchy snow-bridge over a deep hole that I promised myself not to cross in soft snow. We set a 4:30AM turnaround, but we were on track to make that if we could manage to pass some parties.
  • There’s another ladder halfway up the exposed traverse that has a steep, direction-changing entrance and exit over a deep crevasse.
  • We got above Gibraltar Rock, my partner doubled-over and puked or tried to puke. He’d been doing OK and was in great shape, but AMS hit him hard up here. I was on a sketchy bridge so he moved 10-15ft. forward and then doubled over again. I knew immediately we were going down. This happened to me on the Fuhrer Finger in May, but this time I was feeling really strong. Didn't matter, I mainly wanted to get out and get some exercise + enjoy the outdoors.
  • A Nepalese solo climber w/o headlamp speed down past us. This was probably like a morning jog for him.
  • Our problem now was that we needed to get down asap, and that meant going back through this exposed, crux-y section which really felt like a one-way street coming due to the narrow boot pack having a wall of snow on one-side, and a steep drop on the other. We pushed through anyway, managing good timing to squeeze past some parties.
  • At the top of the DC we met our other two friends who were on their way up. We donated some extra water and headed down.
  • My partner took a 30 min nap at Muir, was feeling better, then we started down around 5:30 AM. We both eventually put on crampons after realizing the snow was gonna be rock hard until Pebble Creek this early.
  • By 7am it was hot, getting uncomfortably hot, but we were nearly at the car so it wasn’t too bad.


Skiing: You can probably ski from the top of the Ingraham flats to Cathedral Rocks, then across the Cowlitz, then from Muir to Pebble Creek. But only if you waited until the snow to soften. By that time you’d be in such intense heat I don’t think it would be worth it. You’d then have to ski boot it from Pebble Creek to your car in blazing temps. Doesn’t sound fun to me. Maybe at the end of the day around sunset would be good, but the snow felt too hard above 9k right as the disappeared behind the mountain.


Here’s a pic of a dad showing his son a deer:




Here's a pic I tried to take in the dark with my cell phone at around 11k:




Here's a cool shadow around 5:30AM before heading down:




Gear Notes:

Soft, comfy hikers.

Lightweight alum crampons.

7.7mm 30m rope.

3L camelbak bladder, 1L extra water from Pebble Creek.

Min. clothes + medium puffy.

Whippet + lightweight alum w/steel tip axe. Having a pole or whippet really makes the ladder crossings easy.


12 GUs. I brought wheat thins but I think a fox or marmot stole them at some point, I couldn't find them in the car or my bag and I ate one at the car. If you see them please turn them into the ranger station or call 911 and ask for the non-emergency line. There were about 56 wheat thins in that bag.

Edited by lukeh

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