On the weekend of July 26, 2008, I climbed Mt Rainier via the Emmons Glacier Route with Tom Romary, Dan Pingree, Joe Heitzberg, and Mark Maunder. Tom was our fearless leader.
We met at the White River campground on Thursday night. Oddly, there were almost no mosquitoes. The weather was clear and warm, though there was a storm in the forecast. Fortunately, it was expected to hit Saturday night–we planned to summit on Friday night. Nonetheless, we were crossing our fingers.
We drank a few beers, reviewed crevasse rescue in Freedom of the Hills(best mountaineering instruction book available), and then went to bed, sleeping under the stars. We saw numerous satellites and a couple shooting stars–a great show. We awoke at 6am and were on the trail by 9am.
The trail between the White River Campground and Glacier Basin was totally wiped out a couple years ago b/c of major winter storms. The Park service has done a good job of constructing a makeshift trail, but this definitely slowed us down a bit.
The mosquitoes at Glacier Basin were horrendous. This was true also when I camped here in 2002 on our descent from the peak. We pulled out some pure Deet to ward them off. We had a quick snack here. Birds are aggressive here and we almost lost a bag of food.
Just before we reached the bottom of the Inter Glacier, Mark announced that he was having real trouble with his heels–major blisters. He actually had decided to turn back. Tom and I did our best to convince him to keep moving. Even if he only made it to Camp Schurman, that would be worth a little pain. He decided to keep going, which ended up being a great decision.
We made it to Camp Schurman at about 4pm (7 hours hiking). The space was very tight as there was a lot of snow–many of the typical sites were still buried under snow. Since we were one of the later parties to arrive, we had to make do and squeezed Tom’s expedition North Face tent between some friendly neighbors. We made a yummy dinner of pasta and canned chicken, packed our bags for the morning and went to bed at 8:30.
We awoke at 11:45 (I didn’t really sleep a wink) to clear skies. The sky was full of stars and we watched the orange half moon rise as we prepped for the climb. More shooting stars, more satellites… I must say the night sky is one of my favorite aspects of climbing Rainier. There are few times in my life that I feel the vastness of the universe–the Rainier night sky has this impact.
We gulped down some coffee and oatmeal to fuel up for the long day ahead. We left Camp Schurmann at 1am.
The first hour we kept a pretty good pace. The route was in great shape because of the big winter snowpack of 2008. Our pace was pretty slow as we had many stops for water, snacks and equipment issues.
I hiked with my headlamp turned off for most of the way as there was ample light reflecting off the snow from the half moon and stars. Most people did use their headlamps.
Mark had some problems on the climb with his stomach and generally feeling crappy. At one point he puked and kept on hiking. He definitely wins the award for most tenacity. Tom did a great job as trip leader keeping Mark going when the going got tough.
We ascended the Corridor and then the route veered right and climbed the headwall, where the route gets a bit steeper. The route then went further right traversing past the bergschrund. The crevasses and ice formations were very cool here.
We got to the summit mound where we took off our crampons to climb the remaining 200 feet or so on the dirt, dust and lava rock. Tom stopped here with Mark and Joe to make some soup to aid Mark’s condition. Dan and I climbed to the peak. We summitted at about 9:30AM (8 1/2 hours of climbing). Great views and a great feeling of satisfaction.
We started descending at about 10:30. The first hour tested the group’s patience as we had just a few too many stops and delays. We finally got moving after Tom got ornery. From then on, we made great time and whizzing down the mountain.
We arrived at Camp Schurman at 2:30 (4 hr descent) exhausted.
We debated for a long time what to do next. Tom really wanted to get home that night. I was more ambivalent. Others were the same. We lazed around, cooked some food, took naps, and finally decided to descend. We didnt leave Schurman until 5:30 and knew that we’d be racing the darkness.
We raced down the hill, glissading most of the Inter Glacier and got lost at the bottom of the Inter Glacier. I have no idea how this happened. It was probably my fault as I was in the lead trying to keep the pace fast. I think we went left too early off the snowfield at the bottom of the glacier. We crossed a band of dirt and rock and hit another snowfield. We decided to keep moving down the snowfield we were on, knowing that it all funnelled down to the same spot. It did. We hit the trail and kept going.
We arrived at the cars at 9pm (3 1/2 hours from Schurman), just after darkness. A very long day indeed… Aside from our 3 hour break at Schurman we had been moving since 1AM, 20 hours straight.
The drive home was brutal. Tom, Dan and I stopped in Enumclaw for dinner at a Mexican place. I almost fell asleep at dinner. Tom took the wheel, because I was toast. I finally got home at around 1:30, 26 hours after waking up to start our climb. Next time, I’ll camp.
Summit day I wore the right amount of clothing. What I wore:
gore tex bib pants & jacket
- fleece jacket
- long underwear top & bottom
- Scarpa Charmoz GTX boots–these were fantastic
- sock liners & wool socks
- some crummy ski gloves (lightweight mountaineering gloves would be better)
- balaclava & helmet
- Black Diamond Alpine Bod harness (I bought it for this trip to replace my 15 year old rock climbing harness. Perfect for this trip as its light and also inexpensive.)
- and of course crampons
John Cook wrote a story about this. Check it out here: http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/archives/145382.asp
Here is a link to Mark’s account:
Here are some pictures from Joe:
Here are some pictures from Dan: