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#10714 - 02/08/11 07:47 PM Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier
Feniantrekker Offline


Registered: 04/22/10
Posts: 14
Loc: Idaho
My daughter and I would love to climb Mount Rainier this June but realistically can't afford the per person cost of a guide service. While we don't have a lot of experience, we have climbed Castle Peak, Mount Borah and many other peaks near our home in the central mountains of Idaho. This past June we had the great pleasure of standing together on the summit of Whitney, after having to scramble up the snow-ice chute to the right of the switchbacks. This is the ONLY time we have been on ice with crampons. So....being of sound mind (she is) and if we were to use extreme caution, would we be foolish to give Mount Rainier a try? If so, are there any resources where we could find an experienced group that is climbing, that we could join? All suggestions are welcome, and Thank You! Feniantrekker

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#10718 - 02/08/11 09:48 PM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Feniantrekker]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
"So....being of sound mind (she is) and if we were to use extreme caution, would we be foolish to give Mount Rainier a try? "

Yes.

Rainier is a very different animal. It is not just that you are on slopes as/more severe than the chute for a couple of days straight, it is that the terrain that you are travelling over is far more dangerous.

On Whitney, it is pretty hard to get lost. On Rainier, you are on wide, exposed areas all the time, with little to orient on. Throw in a little whiteout, and it becomes grim.

You absolutely need to know snow travel skills. You need to know how to climb on snow with ropes. You need to understand, have practiced, and be skillful in crevasse rescue and rope management, which is much harder with only two people. Usually you want three on a team. Two would be for two experts.

You need to know how to read the snow, both for crevasses, and avalanche danger. You need avalanche transceivers, and have trained and be quite practiced in their use. You need to do all that on snow.

You need to have high-quality gear, not the stuff "you can get away with" on Whitney.

"Exteme caution" reveals what you are lacking. There are places on the route, where you are in serious danger of snow/ice falling on you from far above. You need to know how to recognize them. But when there, "speed=safety". You get your ass across those spots FAST. Good weather may actually be the more dangerous time, as things melt and fall.

If you don't already have it, Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide, by my friend, Mike Gauthier, former chief climbing ranger, and founder of the climbing ranger program, is must reading.

Also, take a look at his site: http://www.crevasse.com/

Here is the ranger blog:
http://mountrainierclimbing.blogspot.com/

Also good to give perspective:

The Challenge of Rainier: A Record of the Explorations and Ascents, Triumphs and Tragedies, on the Northwest's Greatest Mountain by Dee Molenaar

The local climbing board for Rainier is
www.cascadeclimbers.com

Rainer is a great mountain to aim for, but it is a serious place that deserves serious preparation, education, and training.

G'luck!

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#10719 - 02/09/11 01:12 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Feniantrekker]
Wayne Offline
deceased

Registered: 11/01/09
Posts: 45
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Good advice, Ken!

I've climbed Rainier, and the mountain is all that Ken says and more. I heartedly recommend you save your money for however long it takes so you can afford one of the guide services. Rainier makes its own weather and finding a climbing window can be a real problem. The dangers on Mt. Rainier are real and something you need to read about in the literature that Ken cites. Climbing Rainier is serious and needs serious consideration. If you really are serious about climbing Rainier, I recommend saving the money for a guide service. You'll be trained in glacier travel, crampon and ice axe use, and all the other critical skills you and your daughter will need for a climb of your life.

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#10722 - 02/09/11 03:05 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Feniantrekker]
+ @ti2d Offline


Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 830
Loc: Oh Cursed, USA
Guide.
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Have fun and enjoy the Gr8 Yd Opn.

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#10729 - 02/09/11 08:41 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: + @ti2d]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
anatomy of a fall on Rainier, and how one light person can put three people into a crevasse:

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/arctic-void-2275/Overview#tab-Videos/06859_00

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#10730 - 02/09/11 08:50 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Feniantrekker]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
I've never done Rainier, but I have several friends who have. Every one made comments similar to Ken's. All went with guide services, even though a couple are experienced with snow/ice travel. Even though they were familiar with reading snow for avalanche danger, it's a different animal on a glacier. The crevasse danger is very real.

One who went with a guide service pointed out that your legs and aerobic capacity need to be in tip-top shape for the extensive, sustained uphill march. He described it as an interminable slog, just putting one foot in front of the other on steep ice most of the way. He said there was virtually no break in uphills over the two days to the summit. His particular guide service set the pace, and if you couldn't keep up, back you went. No "fast" group and "slow" group. He didn't summit because of this, although he successfully summitted Shasta the year before by one of the longer, tougher routes.

Again, second-hand information, but from sources I trust.

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#10732 - 02/09/11 09:49 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Bulldog34]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
"John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888, and although he enjoyed the view, he conceded that it was best appreciated from below."

I was there once, and wasted a week waiting for good weather, had to bag it and left. Never tried climbing anything north of California after that summer. Being so prominent, Rainer just begs to be climbed, so I can understand why people want to get to the top of it. One day I may just go back there and give it another shot.

Just imagine how calm Mt. Whitney would be today, if Rainier still was as tall as it was 4900 years ago (15,700 feet), before some big land slide/mud flow took 1600 feet off the top.
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#10733 - 02/09/11 10:02 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Fishmonger]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Originally Posted By: Fishmonger
Just imagine how calm Mt. Whitney would be today, if Rainier still was as tall as it was 4900 years ago (15,700 feet), before some big land slide/mud flow took 1600 feet off the top.


Doug posted something a couple of weeks ago about GPS surveying putting Rainier's elevation at a few dozen feet higher than Whitney - which would be a bummer, of course, for Sierra addicts. From what I was able to glean, it's not an official USGA survey measurement, so Whitney's status appears safe for now.

I've hiked a couple of trails in Rainier NP (Rampart Ridge, Fremont Lookout), but I don't think I'd ever try the mountain itself, due to most of the concerns listed above and my lack of ice/snow skills. From the Fremont Fire Tower at about 7500 feet - often above cloud cover in the PNW - Rainier looks like it takes up the entire freakin' world, climbing out of the clouds! That is one massively big mountain. A lot of that comes from it's apparent elevation of over 14,000 feet, but it's also just big.

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#10735 - 02/09/11 10:35 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Bulldog34]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Success Cleaver is the route I was aiming for in the late 80, but now I'd probably take a guide up one of the more interesting routes. But $1,600 for a 4 or 5 day climb buys me a lot of time in the Sierras.

Here's a good FAQ on Rainier -
http://www.tradgirl.com/climbing_faq/mountaineering/rainier.htm

I like their IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Trusting your life to something you read on the internet is just plain stupid. grin

and while we're talking about dangerous stuff - anyone interested in doing the MR on Whitney on the April 1 weekend? I better start another thread for that...


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#10738 - 02/09/11 02:24 PM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Bulldog34]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Doug posted something a couple of weeks ago about GPS surveying putting Rainier's elevation at a few dozen feet higher than Whitney - which would be a bummer, of course, for Sierra addicts. From what I was able to glean, it's not an official USGA survey measurement, so Whitney's status appears safe for now.

I think Doug was just playing with words.  His post is here.
Originally Posted By: Doug Sr, 01-31-2011
HI OK walked up yesterday and found another BM , sad news is I read a report about Rainier being resurveyed the third time and a reported elevation of 14,532 (POB) Survey mag.

If you Google Rainier elevation 14532 it turns up several links. They are from very old and not very accurate surveys.

1. The Olympian, August 12, 2010: Rainier still measures up: 14,411 feet

2. National Geographic Magazine, vol. 9, published 1898, Pg 98 ...yes, that's 1898!
 

By the way, I wish I could make sense of the "(POB) Survey mag." at the end of his quote. "POB" is a survey term meaning Point of Beginning. The translation of that last phrase is sure not clear to me.

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#10743 - 02/09/11 04:25 PM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Steve C]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Someday I'll learn to translate!

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#10757 - 02/10/11 06:56 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Bulldog34]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 591
Loc: Manchester, NH
The first time I did Rainier was with a guide service (not RMI) and went up from the White River Campground via Camp Sherman and the Ingraham (have also done it via Muir). About half of the group were prepared, having spent months/years with conditioning hikes, and many miles of snow travel, so use of crampons & ice axes were second nature to them. But, I was a bit naive, and only discovered that for the other half, this was the first time on crampons, roped travel, etc at 2AM and 13K' as we struggled to the top under challenging conditions. I don't know what scared me more - the cravasses/snowbridges around us, or the knowledge that one stumble from an inexperienced crampon-user on my rope team could send us hurtling down a mountain. To realize you're trapped on a rope team with newbies is nothing I'd recommend. And yet, this practice of allowing newbies to climb big mountains, even Everest, is common. I applaud those guide services with require their clients to have climbed with that guide service before in order to be included on certain mountains, as that assures not only the guides, but also the clients, that everyone on the route has a certain level of proficiency and experience. Unfortunately, this practice may be the exception, rather than the rule. I've learned over the years to choose your companions for big mountain climbs carefully, and only climb with those you trust with your life. If you do a climb with a guide service, listen/read very carefully the questions that are asked of you, and how they double-check the accuracy of your replies. If you aren't scrutinized, then realize that your companions aren't either.

If you're looking for a big mountain to climb with reduced risk, then consider Shasta via Avalanche Gulch, or Mt Adams (WA) via the South Spur. An added bonus of Adams is that is has the near-perfect glissade slope from the false summit to an area known as the Lunch Counter. It's a great place to learn glissading with minimal (but no zero) risk, and have an exhilarating experience to boot.

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#10760 - 02/10/11 09:13 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: KevinR]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
A few quick comments on Rainier:

Taking a guide is a good idea. You will be safer, you will learn something, and your chances of success are higher than if you go on your own. On summit day, the guides may send the totally unprepared clients back to camp (with a guide) while the stronger clients make the summit. Wimpy clients aren't likely to spoil your summit bid.

If you don't hire a guide, find a third person for your team. It's safer that way. You can hike unroped on the lower part of the mountain. Rope up when you're high enough to encounter avalanches or crevasses. Learn how to do a crevasse rescue. You don't need avalanche transceivers when you're roped together, since you can simply follow the rope to the victim. If one avalanche buries your entire rope team, it's probably a body recovery anyway. RMI (2x Rainier), Mountain Trip (Denali) and AAI (Denali) didn't bring transceivers.

Practice on Shasta (or something as similar as possible) before you attempt Rainier. Practice more than once. Practice in terrible weather. Practice regardless of whether you hire a guide for Rainier. Using crampons and axe should be second nature, not something you learned at the required class the day before the climb.


Edited by bobpickering (02/10/11 01:02 PM)
Edit Reason: typo

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#10762 - 02/10/11 10:56 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: bobpickering]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 591
Loc: Manchester, NH
One follow-up point re: that Rainier climb - while the composition of the group was less than ideal, and conditions difficult (we were on our hands and knees the last few hundred yards going over the Crest due to high winds), everyone summited and returned safely.

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#10765 - 02/10/11 01:57 PM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: bobpickering]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
A few quick comments on Rainier:

Taking a guide is a good idea. You will be safer, you will learn something, and your chances of success are higher than if you go on your own. On summit day, the guides may send the totally unprepared clients back to camp (with a guide) while the stronger clients make the summit. Wimpy clients aren't likely to spoil your summit bid.

If you don't hire a guide, find a third person for your team. It's safer that way. You can hike unroped on the lower part of the mountain. Rope up when you're high enough to encounter avalanches or crevasses. Learn how to do a crevasse rescue. You don't need avalanche transceivers when you're roped together, since you can simply follow the rope to the victim. If one avalanche buries your entire rope team, it's probably a body recovery anyway. RMI (2x Rainier), Mountain Trip (Denali) and AAI (Denali) didn't bring transceivers.

Practice on Shasta (or something as similar as possible) before you attempt Rainier. Practice more than once. Practice in terrible weather. Practice regardless of whether you hire a guide for Rainier. Using crampons and axe should be second nature, not something you learned at the required class the day before the climb.


Bob is right about the avi transceivers, I misspoke. You sure do need to know how to "read" snow, though. I like his advice about terrible weather.

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#10773 - 02/10/11 05:10 PM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Ken]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1012
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Rainier is often considered good practice for Denali.

The open crevasses were not the dangerous ones.
Hudson Stuck, The Ascent of Denali, page 29

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#10775 - 02/10/11 06:35 PM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Feniantrekker]
Feniantrekker Offline


Registered: 04/22/10
Posts: 14
Loc: Idaho
A sincere THANK YOU to all who responded to my query, I appreciate all of the prudent and well thought-out replies!! After reading your posts, my daughter and I have decided it wouldn't be in our best interest to climb Rainier alone. However, as we both live in "climbing communities" we will have our ears open in hope of finding and joining a group with experienced climbers. Thanks again, Feniantrekker


Edited by Feniantrekker (02/10/11 06:38 PM)

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#10952 - 02/18/11 06:59 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Feniantrekker]
John P. Offline


Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 52
Loc: Palmdale
I'11 be on Rainier in late May as part of an 8 day mountaineering course. Although many of the veterans who frequent this board seemingly lean heavily on the overly cautious side - I for one have have taken this advice to heart and so should you. My intial plans were to go with a guide service for a summit only bid but realizing my skills were sorely lacking the full on course, for me, made better sense. The knowledge I take with me will keep me safe in my mountain adventures for the rest of my life so it's like an investment and I've saved my pennies accordingly. Enjoying the mountains is downright fun, but also carries with it a certain amount of awareness of the risks involved. However IMO ingnorance of these risks through lack of knowledge/experience is pretty much suicide on a big mountain such as Rainier.
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#10957 - 02/18/11 09:03 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: John P.]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
I am suprised that no one commented on who was in the NatGeo link that I'd posted about a fall into a cravasse.

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#10959 - 02/18/11 11:11 AM Re: Questions concerning climbing Mount Rainier [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
I did note that it was Kurt Wedberg in the video. Pretty cool. When did the fall occur, and when did they make the video?

Originally Posted By: Ken
anatomy of a fall on Rainier, and how one light person can put three people into a crevasse:

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/arctic-void-2275/Overview#tab-Videos/06859_00

That short video makes me think I'd never really want to be roped together with others on a steep section of snow and ice.

By the way, Kurt obviously survived, but is there a followup video or a conclusion? It kind of leaves us hanging.

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