View Full Version : Mt. Rainier Experiences

04-04-2004, 08:39 PM
I would like to know if any of you have been to MT. Rainier and what your experiences have been?
My brother has moved to Seattle and I will visit every 1-2 years.
I was thinking about enrolling in the RMI 1 day school and two day summit trip.
I know I would have to train quit a bit before going
but is there anything in particular I should know about?
I would be going in August which has the best weather.
The rmiguides.com web site is pretty thorough
but I wanted some North East perspective.
Thanks in advance

04-05-2004, 06:24 AM
Hi Al,

Iíve been up Rainier 3 times, and had a great time. I know you will too. In all three cases I went up the standard route through Camp Muir located at 10K. The first day starts from the parking lot at Paradise taking 4-6 hours to reach Camp Muir. The snow pack starts about 7200 and you can usually bare boot it. At Muir a camp is set up either by bringing your own tent, or staying in the hut. Iíve done both and it is recommended to bring a tent since the hut can be full.

I did not use RMI for any climbs since I went with my regular climbing partner and between us there was good experience. On our first trip we practiced self-extraction from crevasses by lowering one climber into a crevasse and using ice axes to extricate. The one day RMI class sounds well designed and I am sure will learn many techniques not normally used in the Northeast. One note of caution; pack carefully and do not over pack, the hike to Muir can beat you down should you carry too much. I went the first time carrying 55 pounds but my last two times I reduced the pack to 45 pounds.

As for the climb, we left around 1:00 a.m. and there is always many groups heading up. If you have a climbing partner, you can rope up and pace yourself along the way. By August, the routes are well traveled and in some cases ropes are in-place which you can follow. The advantage of the RMI summit bid is the success rate is higher as you will have the energy of a large group and leader to help you on the final push. Rainier is a lung buster and well worth it. Good Luck.


04-05-2004, 09:31 AM
The main drawback to using RMI is it's a one shot deal. This is because they have a tight schedule, and they use their own hut at Camp Muir. But I believe if summit day is cancelled they offer another trip at half price. (which is still pretty $$).
I would look to find a small group and hire a private guide, and have him/her meet you at Camp Muir.

I think RMI is required to mark the standard route as part of their contract with the Park Service.

04-05-2004, 06:31 PM
August has the best weather but the crevasse/rockfall danger is at its highest because of the higher temps.

Crowds are also at their peak in the "summer".

Since weather keeps about 35% of the climbers from making summit it is great if you have the option of timing your trip somewhat.

Ranier is on my "must do" list - was hoping for this June but our group can't pull it off this year.

Hope you have a great experience!!!:D

04-05-2004, 06:35 PM
I went with RMI last summer and was happy with the experience. At the time I did not know anyone from the East who I could drag with me - someone who had the experience for the climb. We were in tents just below the bunk house, and took the standard route up "Disappointment Cleaver" - you get the name at the top! We pressed on with high winds and pretty much a whiteout at the summit (end of August). Yes, a turnaround would cost you money, but it could also save you.

04-05-2004, 08:19 PM
I have attempted Rainier 3 times, made it to the Crater Rim the 3rd time. I turned at Ingraham flats(~11K) the first 2 times. I went with RMI all 3 trips. I have a very positive view of the guide services and would recommend them if you are inexperienced on glaciers and can afford the fees. I found the experience very different from even winter hiking in the northeast as that I could not stay warm on Rainier. When the wind wips up the the northeast I just head for tree cover or duck behind the rocks. In glacier terrain that is the last thing you want to do since 1.) There are no trees high on Rainier 2.) areas with rock ledges for shelter are rockfall hazard areas. I also has difficulty adjusting to a rope team where you walk at others pace. Another trick I have to keep warm in the northeast is to simply walk faster. Rainier DC route is an incredibly beautiful climb, I would like to try Rainier again some day to 1.) hike to the true summit, 2.) try a new route and 3.) see the summit view, when I made it to the Crater the 3rd time with the RMI group the mountain was capped the last 1500ft or so, and the only reason I knew I was at the Crater was I was told and the ice leveled off.

If interested in a guide services these guide services offer trips as well (this year out of White River side of the Mountain)


An ongoing power struggle has other guide services asking for more permits for more trips.

Do not overlook look Mt. Baker to the North for another long glacier climb, I climbed that last summer as part of a 6 day glacier Mountaineering course (which I have probably forgotten everything they taught me by now).


04-06-2004, 06:55 PM
Thanks everyone for your input I will look into it a little more.

I have never been on a glasier and leanring on my own at 14000 ft I dont think is a smart decision.

As far as endurance and strength is concerned is there anything
here taht can compare?
It is certainly different than hiking and upper body strength will come more into play. This will be the highest I have climbed by more than double; how much did the altitude affect your performance?
I am afraid I might not be in the proper shape to handle this climb.
If this is something I have to train for a year from now instead of 4 mos. I can set that as a goal.
Any feed back would be appreciated.
Thanks Again

04-07-2004, 08:29 AM
Originally posted by ajtiv

I have never been on a glasier and leanring on my own at 14000 ft. I dont think is a smart decision.

That's a good plan. Glacier hiking/climbing isn't that difficult, but there are some things to learn that you don't do winter climbing in the Northeast even if you do technical ice climbing. Crevasse avoidance / rescue is just something we don't worry about here. Some instruction / guiding makes a lot of sense. Our group all had rock climbing / ice climbing / winter backpacking experience in the Northeast and still found 3 days of glacier travel instruction on Mount Baker very useful in preparing for Rainier.

As far as endurance and strength is concerned is there anything here that can compare?

Depending on the route you'll do 9K to 10K feet of climbing over 2 days, with half of it carrying a full pack and half of it above 10000 feet. Doing Mount Washington with similar weight back to back on two days would give you an idea, but still won't have the altitude effect.

It is certainly different than hiking and upper body strength will come more into play.

Not really, it's just snow hiking for the most part. We climbed the Emmons Glacier route which has an extra 1000 feet of climbing vs. the Camp Muir / Disappointment Cleaver route but has less traffic and really no technical difficulties. I believe there is a bit of rock scrambling on the DC route, but nothing too difficult.

This will be the highest I have climbed by more than double; how much did the altitude affect your performance?

All 3 of our group felt the altitude pretty severely on summit day. One had a bad headache, I had a very frothy cough, and the other felt great until he started vomiting regularly on the descent. All the symptons went away once we dropped a few thousand feet off the summit. Given the low lands around the mountain you climb it much faster than you can acclimate.

I am afraid I might not be in the proper shape to handle this climb. If this is something I have to train for a year from now instead of 4 mos. I can set that as a goal.

Fitness is the key. It's a long slog!

Any feed back would be appreciated.

Climbing the mountain was good, but don't overlook all the hiking in the park. I think it's one of the 3 or 4 best places I've ever been for hiking. There's lots of great trails that don't require any technical skills or guides.

Michael M
04-07-2004, 12:52 PM
I have climbed Rainier a number of times and most recently with my 13-year-old son.

Consider the following

Spend a night on the mountain at 5500 feet in a campsite, then leave early and hike past Camp Muir and the entire hubbub and make a high camp at Ingram Flats. (11,000ft) Make sure you are not over a crevasse or subject the frequent nearby stone falls. Sleep in a bit and wait for the heard to pass (2amó3am) and follow them up. This should be quite safe, especially if they are not taking Disappointment Cleaver route, which has some stone, fall risk. Go light and move fast to stay warm the sun will eventually come up. Most of the guides will turn around if the weather looks bad.

I would also recommend taking Diamox three days before and two on the mountains for HACE/HAPE and stay very hydrated. This is very effective and I use it all the time for short hops. Get enough drugs to experiment on a local hike to see how well you tolerate them.

Make sure you know/understand the mountain drill because this is basically a walk, and possibly a walk into trouble if you donít have the skills.

Also donít go falling into any crevasses because that will really complicate your day.

Have a great trip!

04-09-2004, 07:01 AM
Paul and Michael thank you for your
advice I will put it to good use.
Peolpe like yourselves
make this board a great resource.

Dennis C.
04-09-2004, 10:29 AM
A friend and I did Rainier in mid July last year on our own. We met and joined up with two other (two person) parties at Rainier on separate ropes. Meeting people is easy at Muir. In season, it's a constant parade of climbers, up and down. RMI is great for learning the ropes, but if going at your own pace is more important, then I'd suggest you find climbers you know that you'd be compatible with. If you have problems with the altitude, for example, and need time to stop and catch your breath (too often), you may find yourself "bagged and tagged" (left in a staked sleeping bag along the way) until the party returns from the summit. And even the RMI designated "summit" (just reaching the rim) has been under question from time to time, especially if you want the highest point, Columbia Crest, as your goal. These are just a couple more tidbits to add to some fine information offered here.

04-09-2004, 11:43 AM
I agree with Dennis:) ;) :cool:

04-09-2004, 01:59 PM
I would also recommend taking Diamox three days before and two on the mountains for HACE/HAPE Don't want to be nit-picky, but also want to make sure that the correct info is out there...

I researched this extensively last year while planning some solo hikes in Colorado. Diamox (acetazolamide) helps with altitude sickness (hangover-like symptoms), but most studies show it does not help prevent HACE/HAPE. You either get HACE/HAPE or you don't... no rhyme or reason to it. Once you have HACE/HAPE, Decadron (dexamethasone) can help with symptoms, but only enough so that you can get off the mountain. If you're going to get Decadron and you'll be in sub-freezing temps, get the pill form... the syringe will freeze.

I started taking Diamox on my trip, but it made everything taste weird (typical side-effect), so I went off it. Gladly didn't have to take the Decadron.

04-09-2004, 03:38 PM
Hi, my husband and I climbed Rainier in 1992 with RMI; also did the one day prep course. We were somewhat under-equipped, but we enjoyed the experience. It is a long slog; being fit and able to walk comfortably in crampons is important. Altitude adjustment is also very significant I have been fortunate to be able to adjust well at least (up to 16,000 or so, haven't gone beyond yet), but those who take longer to acclimitize tend to have trouble on Rainier; it is a big mountain and it is hard to acclimitze locally. If you can, I would recommend doing a local "high hike" or non- techical climb to get up higher .

At the time, I thought RMI did a pretty good job; with the benefit of more climbing experience since, I have some reservations about their methods, especially the large size of the rope teams and the huge range of the fitness and ability within a group. RMI does try to organize rope teams by ability in that they observe you en route to Camp Muir, but the reality is they are leading large numbers of inexperienced climbers up a large mountain with notorious weather issues. That said, their success rate is decent and there are some very good guides.

It is true the crater rim is the goal, but those who want to and feel up to it can go across to the true summit; a guide will go with you. I did that.

Despite quite a bit of experience, I still usually climb with guides because I don' t have time to develop all the necessary skills and route finding, but I tend now to hire independent guides or go with smaller groups.

Rainier is a beautiful peak and an accomplishment; it is fun to go back to Seattle after and see it in the distance.


P.S. I don't know if it is relevant to you, but RMI did not allow spouses to be on the same rope teams; we had a funny sandwich chopping scene the night before! bring plenty of food.

Michael M
04-09-2004, 05:58 PM

You are not nit picking and I appreciate your concerns regarding drugs on this mountain. So we can all be responsible adults here, don't take ANY drugs without consulting your physician. That said, I must confess that the mountain community for decades has been using diamox well before it was indicated for performance enhancement in the Merck PDR.

In the sliding scale of altitude related sickness the continuum from AMS to HACE and HAPE is defined by degree. The headache in AMS is undoubtedly from the same swelling of the brain, which cases HACE. Same idea with HAPE.

In my experience, while dex is very effective for HACE and Nifedipine for HAPE and while I also might carry both even at this much lower elevation I would not expect to have to take either to climb Rainier.

And yes Champaign and all forms of bubbly will taste quite different and this is unavoidable. If you get the blue squigglies and the tingling fingers take less. But again consult you physician, and experiment to dial in the experience.

For me Diamox just works

04-16-2004, 01:24 PM
My doc suggested Diamox for a trip during which I would be scrambling around at 10k - 12k in the Sierras. I tried it, starting, as recommended, two days before going high, but got strong tingling in my lips as well as the bad-taste experience with carbonated beverages. I didn't have time to go back and adjust the dosage, so I just stopped taking it. As it turned out, I acclimated pretty well and had no real problems.

04-16-2004, 02:09 PM
Diamox is a diuretic, and causes you to urinate much more. This can be annoying, especially when sleeping. I've experienced diarrhea whenever I took it, and many others I've spoken with have had the same experience.
The tingling in extremies is dangerous, since you cannot tell if it's the drugs, or if you are getting dangerously cold.

So I never use it anymore.

I would try it before you leave on your trip. I think it merely helps to acclimate faster, but nothing works as well as spending time to acclimate properly.

04-21-2004, 01:35 PM
I also got the tingly fingers on Diamox... forgot about that. Wish I knew that it also caused diarrhea... which I got at 13,000 ft.:eek: Even without taking Diamox, you'll pee like a racehorse at altitude. When I spent the night at Barr Camp on Pikes Peak, I must have gone once an hour. Has something to do with the fluid balance between the body and bloodstream.