Mountain Climbing

Mount Rainier Expedition

Northeastern face of Mount Rainier

Location: west-central Washington state

Elevation: 4, 393 meters

If one wishes to climb a mountain that hits the records, Mount Rainier is the summit to beat! Other than its distinct geologic and astounding glacial features, it is the highest volcanic peak of the contiguous United States. At 14,410 feet, it is known as the most significant volcanic glacier cave system (in the summit crater) of the world. Outside of Alaska, it’s the most extensive alpine glacial system!

The key to successfully reaching the summit is to understand more about this mountain and strategize everything. Since it’s a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Mt. Rainier is an active volcano and has always been an example of Cascade Volcanism. It has had eruptions and mudflows throughout time. These pose as one of the things any hiker needs to be wary of.

But to climb this mountain, it’s essential also to decide which routes and when.

What Routes to Take

  • Disappointment Cleaver Route

This is the most popular route and can be taken by entering the Nisqually Gate of National Park. From Paradise to Camp Muir, the trail is quite enduring. Once at the top of the Cleaver, hikers can climb to the craters. Because of the glacier movement, it is most challenging.

  • Emmons Glacier Route

Beginning at the White River Entrance Station of the National Park, a four and a half mile would be taken to reach the White River Campground to Inter Glacier. From here, hikers gear up for the ascent. The route is around 10,000 in vertical feet and can be strenuous.

  • Liberty Ridge Route

Mostly recommended only for the more experienced mountaineers, this is a more technical route that requires maintaining focus and month-long preparations. It begins in Glacier Basin Trail. It exceeds 10,000 vertical feet. Considered by most as the exciting part of the climb, the bergschrund is found at the top.

The Best Time to Climb Mt. Rainier

South face of Mount Rainier with the Kautz Ice Cliff

Often considered as the best months to climb Mt. Rainier, people usually choose May and June. During these months, the mountain is said to be most pristine, and it is beautifully covered in snow. The routes are more straightforward and direct. There are a less number of mountaineers compared to July or August.

This is because July and August are Mt. Rainier’s Peak Climbing Months. The chances that the weather is perfect for climbing are very high. However, most visitors come during this time, and the route seems to become more circuitous as the season progresses. Speaking of a multitude of visitors, how many often hike Mt. Rainier?

Average Number of Visitors of Mt. Rainier

Generally, Mt. Rainier greets 2 million people every year. The number of visitors who visit by bus increased by 56.5% in 2017 (compared to 2016). When it comes to climbing, around 10762 people have attempted to scale the mountain in 2018, but only 5135 (47.7%) were successful. It was the year before that they met the most number of hikers at 11455 climbers. 5499 of them reached the top. Many factors amount to why some have failed, and those who wish to climb Mt. Rainier can learn from them.

Challenges in Climbing Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier with Columbia Crest, the main summit

Generally, hiking to the peak of Mt. Rainier is much harder than the usual climb. It’s essential to understand why so that needed preparations can be made.

  • Special Technical Skills

Mt. Rainier will require mountaineers, a combination of crevasse movement, glacier traversing, and technical climbing. The mastery for equipment utilization, like ice axes, ropes, crampons, must be mastered. Crevasse Rescue Training is another helpful thing to take note of.

  • Weather Conditions and Environmental Hazards

Depending on the time chosen to make the hike, some unexpected weather conditions make the trek more difficult. Utmost caution is needed. There are some crevasses on the way, and there are icy slopes. This is because as ice flows downhill, it breaks into these crevasses and blocks or seracs. Some are hidden by snow.

  • Personal Preparation

Hikes usually spend a long time, and most groups use 1-2 nights camping on the glaciers. Winter Camping can be labor-intensive because there is the need to melt drinking water, dig tent platforms, handle the conditions, and much more. Most campers have to carry heavy packs of around 30-60 pounds during the first half of the hike. Some hikers experience altitude sickness.

Although it now seems quite discouraging to climb Mt. Rainier, all the strife will become worth it because of the many things that make the climb a spectacular feat! Here’s why.

Reasons to Climb Mt. Rainier

Besides the fact that it holds records to so many, it has 26 major glaciers that hikers can appreciate. As one of the most prominent peaks in the world, it is a rewarding achievement. It is arguably one of the best alpine climbs for many experienced hikers among the lower 48 states of the United States. There are a majority of climbers that don’t necessarily need to be accompanied by a guide. However, with or without a guide, the breathtaking panorama, incomparable victory, and journey, Mt. Rainier is the mountain to climb.

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