Climbing Mt Rainier (Part 1 of 3)

photo credit: Tectonics Etc blog


Flip, focus, feel. It was as simple as that.

Flipping the page of the Seven Summits book and focusing on the words Mt Rainier the training ground ignited a feeling THAT left me intrigued and glued to every next page until the book was marked DONE.

The book is about two middle-aged, undaunted, inexperienced mountain climbers; Frank Wells, the head of a major motion picture studio (Walt Disney) and Dick Bass, an energy and ski resort entrepreneur.

Two searching souls overcome obstacles to reach for their dreams — one which included the (at the time) unconquered 7 summits of the world.


AND just maybe, if I could make it to the top of Mt. Rainier …

Running, Treading On Mountaineering

This past year has encased the most eye-opening of my life’s experiences so far.

A foray into a marathon a month, and life-shaping encounters with the inspiring Bart Yasso and his book My Life On The Run AND the brilliant, master Paulo Coelho and his book The Alchemist, leave me wide-eyed and singing AH HA.

As a runner and quote addict, THIS journey has been strengthened by Bart’s words of wisdom:

[quote type=”center” style=”margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;”]Running is the ultimate faith healer, restoring belief not only in oneself, but life’s possibilites. ~ Bart Yasso[/quote]

So it is a natural progression, perhaps, that Paulo Coelho leads me with a leap and albeit nervous faith, into the mountain climbing abyss.

Mt Rainier — The Behemoth Beauty

June 29th, 2012 — FAR from middle-aged, unlike the Seven Summit boys, I expect Mt Rainier’s summit to draw me and my team UP like a magnet.

Our sendoff tugs hearts however, as our ascent begins at the same time as the memorial for Ryan Hall, the much-respected Rainier ranger killed in the line of duty a week earlier.

An obvious brush with bad luck sent experienced Ryan falling 3,700 feet to his death, after working to save four climbers from Waso, Texas who had a run in with a crevasse off Emmons Glacier.
Read More…

What comes to mind as we make our way UP with increasingly, unimaginable difficulty, very much unlike a magnet, is another quote:

[quote type=”center” style=”margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;”]It’s a hill. Get over it.
~ Anonymous[/quote]

This article is the first of a three-part series.

Subscribe to this blog and stay tuned, to follow along my journey up Mount Rainier, then lesson’s learned.

First, Fast Facts on Rainier

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  • There are five active volcanoes in Washington state:
    • Mount Rainier at 14,409 feet (4,392 m)
    • Mount Adams at 12,280 feet (3,743 m)
    • Mount Baker at 10,781 feet (3,286 m)
    • Glacier Peak at 10,541 feet (3,213 m)
    • Mount Saint Helens at 8,366 feet (2,550 m)
  • Mount Rainier, a giant stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, last erupted in 1894. It has erupted over a dozen times in the last 2,600 years, with the largest eruption 2,200 years ago.

    Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascade Range. It is part of a long range of volcanic mountains that stretches from Washington through Oregon to northern California.

  • The volcano was built up above the surrounding country by repeated eruptions and successive flows of lava.

    It is a relatively young volcano, only about 500,000 years old. By contrast the mountains of the Cascade Range that Mount Rainier looks down upon are at least 12 million years old!

  • Rainier’s summit has two overlapping volcanic craters, each over 1,000 feet in diameter.

    It also has a small crater lake that is 16 feet deep and 130 feet long by 30 feet wide. This is the highest crater lake in North America. The lake, however, lies beneath 100 feet of ice in the west summit crater. It can only be visited by following a network of ice caves in the craters.

  • Mount Rainier is the most glaciated mountain in the contiguous United States with 26 major glaciers as well as 35 square miles of glaciers and permanent snowfields.

  • Mount Rainier has three separate summits:
    • 14,411-foot Columbia Crest
    • 14,158-foot Point Success
    • 14,112-foot Liberty Cap

    The standard climbing routes reach the crater crest at 14,150 feet and many climber stop here, deeming that they’ve reached the top.

    The actual summit at Columbia is a quarter mile away and reached by a 45-minute hike across the crater.


Scintillating Sliding Shots

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Cool Climbing Catalysts

You’ve never climbed before, and the mountain pictures above haven’t DONE ANYTHING to EXCITE you into summiting.

Perhaps some cool climbing stats may get you moving?

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  • The first ascent of Mount Rainier was thought to be in 1852 by an undocumented party. The first know ascent was in 1870 by Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump.
  • The great American naturalist John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888. He later wrote about his climb:
    “Of all the fire mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”
  • The first woman who climbed the mountain: Fay Fuller, a teacher, in 1890.
  • Number of people who try to climb Mount Rainier each year: 8,000 to 13,000.
  • Number who make it: 50%.
  • 90% ascend via Camp Muir routes on the southeast side. The next route to receive largest ascents is Emmons Glacier via Camp Schurman on the northeast side.
  • Number of North American peaks taller than Rainier: 32. Tallest of them all: Mount McKinley (20,320 feet).
  • Year in which Helen Holmes (an American silent film actress) became the third woman to reach the summit of Mount Rainier: 1894.
  • Age at which Jim Whittaker (first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest), 70, first climbed Rainier: 15. Frequency with which Whittaker now climbs it: once a year.
  • Number of guide services authorized by the National Park Service to lead climbs to the summit last summer: five.
  • Elevation of the solar toilet on the mountain: at Camp Muir, 10,188 feet.
  • Fastest climb documented to the summit, round trip: September 17 2009 Mountain Madness guide Willie Benegas made the car-to-car trip in 4h40m59s.
  • The worst mountaineering accident on Mount Rainier occurred in 1981, when eleven people lost their lives in an ice fall on the Ingraham Glacier.
  • About two mountaineering deaths each year occur because of rock and ice fall, avalanche, falls, and hypothermia associated with severe weather (58 reported since and including the 1981 accident through 2010 per American Alpine Club Accidents in North American Mountaineering and the NPS).
  • An 82-year-old Richland man broke his own record on July 23, 2005 as the oldest climber to reach the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier summit. Only very rarely — once or twice a year — are the climbers under 10 years old or over 70. Read More
  • The youngest person to reach the Mount Rainier summit was a 4-year-old boy, Johnny Collinson who climbed the peak with his family in seven days in 1999.
  • They youngest female, Laurie Ann Johnson, age 7, climbed Mt. Rainier with her family, in 1972.
  • The number of times record-holder:George Dunn with 500 summits and 600 attempts.
  • Date of most recent major climbing death on Mount Rainier: June 21, 2012
  • Fastest woman up and down Mount Rainier: Katie Bono


Steely Summit Approaches

About half of the 10,000 people that attempt to summit succeed annually.

Join a professional guiding company and the success rate increases, approach the summit independantly and the success rate decreases.

The most popular climbing routes are broken out by the four sides

For a detailed breakout of success rates by route, click on the following graph:

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  • West Side
    • Tahoma Glacier/Icecap
    • Sunset Amphitheater
    • Sunset Ridge

  • North Side
    • Mowich Ridge
    • Ptarmigan Ridge
    • Liberty Wall
    • Liberty Ridge
    • Willis Wall Route
    • Curtis Ridge

  • East Side
    • Emmons Glacier
    • Little Tahoma
    • Disappointment Cleaver
    • Ingraham Glacier Direct

  • South Side
    • Gibraltar Ledges
    • Nisqually Routes
    • Fuhrers Finger
    • Wilson Glacier Headwall
    • Kautz Glacier
    • Kautz Headwall
    • Kautz Cleaver
    • Success Cleaver
    • South Tahoma Headwall
    • Tahoma Cleaver

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    Stay tuned for the next edition of My Mt Rainier Experience

    This is the first of a three-part series — Subscribe to this blog!

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