Climbing Mount Rainier via the Emmons Glacier route

Last weekend we finally managed to summit Mount Rainier!

After taking the Mountaineers’ glacier travel course last year and a first attempt later that year where we had to turn around we finally managed to stand on the summit!

We had had some reserverations for the Disappointment Cleaver route earlier this year but at the time the forecast did not look great and since our group had decided to follow the Rainier go/no-go matrix published by the NPS we decided to not attempt it then.

Luckily the forecast for last weekend looked great and everyone in our group of four had a free weekend. One member of the group volunteered to go to the ranger station on the Thursday before to get a permit. Originally we were planning to camp at Camp Muir and summit via the DC route, but even though he arrived early at 6:30, he was already 7th in line and once it was his turn the only permit get could get was for Camp Schurman and the Emmons Glacier route. Well, it’s less traveled but still considered one of the easier options to climb Rainier so we all agreed to give it a shot and to put that glacier travel training to use.

We started early on Saturday morning from a fully packed White River Campground parking lot, hiked into Glacier Basin

Glacier Basin

and then ascended a couple thousand feet via the Inter Glacier to Camp Schurman.

Camp Schurmann with our Big Agnes tent in the middle

We got lucky and there was running water at the edge of the glacier so we were able to save some time by not having to melt snow.

After going to bed at 7 pm and a good night’s sleep the alarm woke us up at 11:30 pm. As always, it took us a bit longer to get ready than anticipated, but we roped up and started walking at 12:45 am. It was quite icy but we were not the only group on the mountain (by far) so we could follow a relatively good boot track.

There were a few sections with harder ice and some exposure when walking directly above larger crevasses, so we concentrated on not dying and did not really have time to take pictures or to just enjoy the scenery. Even the sunrise a few hours later we only saw out of the corner of the eye, focusing on the next step ahead careful to not make a mistake. This was our first “big mountain” and I would hope that the next time we go up we take in a bit more of the surroundings and not just focus on the climbing/staying hydrated/eating enough part.

On our way up

In time, we made it to the summit. Everyone in the group was going strong, no one had any serious altitude related issues besides slowing down and losing some appetite. For me personally, I need to pack different food, I am not a really big fan of bars anymore even at lower altitude, but near the summit I really had to force myself to eat, the Clif bars tasted like paper at that point.

The wind at the summit was a bit stronger than expected and it was quite cold, I was certainly happy having carried my belay parka up the mountain.

Due to exhaustion and the wind we did not stay too long at the summit, but took a quick break, registered ourselves in the summit register, and got to enjoy the views for a bit.

Miriam and me at the summit (freezing)

Miriam on Columbia Crest

The way down went better than expected. There were some tricky sections where we had to improvise some sitting belays to downclimb, and at one point a team arrest but everyone made it down safely and in time.

After a way too short break at camp, we packed up and hiked out. Glissading 2000 vertical feet on the Inter Glacier we made it back to the cars at around 9 pm and were all back to work the next morning!

One last look on the way out

Overall it was an awesome experience and when we saw the mountain from Seattle yesterday, it still had not fully sunken in that we had been at the top. If the weather holds up, we are planning to summit once more this season via the DC route.


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