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In 1995, Dave made two efforts to climb Mt. Rainier. Rainier has been known for many things, each of which attracts climbers to
the mountain. At 14,411 feet above sea level, Rainier is the highest point in Washington state. It is the most heavily glaciated peak
in the contiguous 48 states, and it was used as a training ground for the first American climbers who successfully climbed Mt. Everest. This
page contains a brief textual account and photos from Dave's first Rainier attempt.
Go to the Second Attempt page for additional photos.
Rainier is considered by some to be the premier alpine climbing challenge in the 'lower 48'. Guide service on the mountain is provided by Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI), which maintains a permanent (in season) training school at Paradise, inside the national park. Having had no training or experience in alpine climbing, I signed up for an RMI 5-day Camp Muir seminar in June. RMI would provide several days of skills training in the use of an ice axe, self-arrest, walking roped-up, crampon techniques, and crevasse rescue. One of the 5 days would be dedicated to a summit attempt to put our training to the test.
The popular 'Disappointment Cleaver' climbing route begins near Paradise Lodge, elevation 5500'.
RMI's Camp Muir seminar was a comprehensive 5-day mountaineering course involving 7 guides and 24 clients.
Situated on the side of Rainier about halfway up, Camp Muir becomes a base for the clients and guides during the training seminar. At 10,000' elevation, snow persists year-round and the weather is sometimes unpredictable. Our group arrived during a windy snowstorm. Facilities at Camp Muir include a bunkhouse for the clients, a guide house, a cookshack and an outhouse. In spite of the seemingly rustic accommodations, the crowded bunkhouse felt like a castle compared to the harsh conditions outside. The maximum sleeping capacity of the bunkhouse is 24, and we were full. Needless to say, we all became acquainted very quickly.
|Blizzard at Camp Muir *||
The bunkhouse housed 24 clients.
After a couple of days of instruction in roped glacier travel and crevasse rescue, our group was ready to make a summit attempt. Weather conditions
had been less than ideal, with gray skies and daily snow higher up on the mountain. There was really little chance of successfully reaching the summit
due to threat of avalanches. Nevertheless, an attempt was in order.
Summit day came and our group was up and going by 6:00am. This is much later than the normal starting time, but the guides knew that we wouldn't make the summit. We had plenty of time. The weather was clear as our rope teams marched across the Cowlitz glacier and climbed to the corner at Cathedral Rocks. We were strong and in good spirits as we climbed to our first rest stop at Ingraham Flats, on the edge of the Ingraham glacier.
From Ingraham Flats, we ascended into dismal, gray clouds. We continued across the Ingraham glacier and up the steep, snowy and somewhat scary ridge of Disappointment Cleaver. At the top of the Cleaver, the decision was made that conditions were too miserable to continue on. After several pictures, we turned around and headed back to Camp Muir.
Rope teams travel across the Cowlitz glacier. Camp Muir is at the low spot on the ridge in the background.
|Near whiteout conditions prevented a serious attempt at the summit. *|
The sky began to clear later that day and then cleared completely the following day. The weather was warm and sunny at Camp Muir, but obviously still dismal at Paradise, down at the base of the mountain. The distant peaks of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Saint Helens each poked their heads up through a fabulous sea of clouds that lay before us. I knew then that I wanted to come back and visit Rainier again....
Mt. Adams pokes up through a sea of clouds, as viewed from Camp Muir.
The story continues. Go to the Second Attempt page....
* Snow applet by anfyteam.com