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UL up Rainier in the summer?
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Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
UL up Rainier in the summer? on 02/19/2008 08:24:38 MST Print View

Now this may be a silly question from some of the things I have read, but I figured if anyone would have the answer it would be someone on this site. My fiancé and I are thinking of our 2009 big trip and I thought it would be cool to summit Rainier. We do a very good amount of hiking in the Whites of New Hampshire in the winter so we know what the cold is all about. My question, is it possible in the summer to climb Rainier simply with warm clothing, a pair of trail runners with Kahtoola's and an ice axe or is it a more intense experience than that? Every site that I have seen says you need plastic mtn boots which I am pretty sure is for liability more than anything. I understand that the climb takes several days, but we do not have an interest if it requires technical mountaineering caution. Any experience/insight would be much appreciated.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Possible? Yes. A good idea? No. on 02/19/2008 10:54:02 MST Print View

IMO it might be possible to go up Rainier in warm clothes and kahtoola's, but I wouldn't do it --- it is indeed an intense experience. To put this in context, I plan to thru-hike the PCT this year in trail runners, including the Sierras and climbing Mt. Whitney. And no overshoes, I'll just use goretex socks.

IMO for Rainier you don't want a lot of weight compromises on gear, for example, I wanted excellent crampons, and of course boots that work with those.

You said: "we do not have an interest if it requires technical mountaineering caution". I think then that you do not have an interest ...

It is a technical climb, and I agree with the majority opinion that you need to wear a helmet and be part of a rope team. An experienced rope team, with someone leading it who knows the route and is willing to turn back when the whether dictates that.

There's a substantial difference between different mountains in terms of what's needed to summit with what most would consider a reasonable degree of safety. The death toll from unprepared climbers going up Mt. Rainier is a whole lot higher than for those going up Mt. Adams, which is the second highest mountain in the state. What you propose could work for Adams (I'd still be inclined to go with more, but it could work). And BTW, Adams is a fun climb, I have to say that while I'm glad I climbed Rainier, I *enjoyed* the climb up and down Adams a lot more !

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Rainier in summer on 02/19/2008 10:54:57 MST Print View

Technical mountaineering skill is required, as all routes are on glaciers, and you need to be prepared to perform crevasse rescue. Ropes are required, along with all the associated skills. There is no walkup route that avoids glaciers. BTW, Rainier is one of the most heavily glaciated mountains in the world.

Sometimes early in the season all the crevasses are well covered, so it feels like a simple walk up. But you can always fall through.

Late in the season the crevasses may be all open, so it's just a matter of routefinding around them. But you can always slip.

Also, as the previous post noted, Mt. Adams is walkup, no ropes required.

Edited by ewolin on 02/19/2008 10:56:08 MST.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Possible? Yes. A good idea? No. on 02/19/2008 11:01:46 MST Print View

Ah ha, I appreciate the insight. I was not sure if it was one of those mtn's that everyone makes a big deal out of but does not amount to much so I am glad to know it is the real deal and that we can cross it off our list. I am sure it would be a great trip going in a classic style but we have really grown to just be UL hikers and tend to stay away from anything that requires technical gear. That being said a really hard climb is always a good time, but the ability to throw on a simple pack and pair of sneaks has become our primary source of enjoyment. Thanks for the feedback guys.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Rainier in summer on 02/19/2008 11:03:32 MST Print View

brian and elliiot are correct. I've led two climbs and this requires swrious mountaineering skills and equipment. I think plastic boots are overkill but they sure work!

adams or st. helens would be great choices but kahtoolas might not have the bite for adams- i'd use gtx runners with camp strap on aluminum crampons at the minimum.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Think about a guided climb. on 02/19/2008 12:13:03 MST Print View

I agree with all of the previous posts. I know the mountain well; I have climbed Mt. Rainier over 20 times, from all sides. Even the easiest routes such as Disappointment Cleaver and the Emmonds Glacier require basic mountaineering skills such as rope handling, roped climbing, ice axe arrest and use of crampons. Also, the weather can change quickly and drastically, for the worse, so you need to be prepared for cold, fog and wind at the least.
If you really want to climb the mountain and have a limited amount of time, I suggest that you contact one of the local guide services. They are practiced at taking beginning climbers up and down the mountain in safety. Some of the guides are brash, arrogant young people but most are pleasant and all are competent. REI can put you in contact with a guide service IIRC.

James Schipper
(monospot) - MLife
Mt Shasta on 02/19/2008 13:08:27 MST Print View


Mt. Shata might be an option. There are several routes that could be climbed in the manner you described.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Mt Shasta on 02/19/2008 13:11:02 MST Print View

thanks James, I will put it on the list to research.

buzz burrell
re: Rainier on 02/19/2008 19:55:06 MST Print View

As is often the case, the answer is inherent in the question: if one is asking this question, then the answer is definitely "No, forget it". But the truth is, some skilled mountaineers (who wouldn't be asking this question) can do Rainier quickly and easily.

As others have noted, Rainier is a full-on mountaineering experience; there is nothing resembling it anywhere else in the Lower 48, let alone the Whites. Mt Adams is a good alternate suggestion, as well as all the other NW volcanos (Mt Hood however, is a little tricky near the top).

But if you know what you're doing, Rainier goes readily in one day with Kahtoola's and running shoes. I've soloed it in a little over 7 hrs.

Note that Kahtoola has two new, really interesting products for light and fast climbing/hiking: The FlightBoot, and the MicroSpike. I've tried both, and they are great for specific situations. And CAMP and others have introduced new lightweight ice axes.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
If you are set on Rainier.... on 02/19/2008 23:24:31 MST Print View

And not so concerned with a summiting a mountain, you might try backpacking the Wonderland Trail at the park. It's about 95 miles and takes you completely around Mt. Rainier. There are some terrific views, the hiking can be challenging (lots of gain and loss), and if the weather cooperates (think mid August), a fantastic journey.

Permits are lottery based, and given that the trail was closed through most of last season because of flood damage, having flexible start/end dates helps during the permitting process. I'd personally suggest taking around 10 days to do the hike. There will be plenty of time for exploring and you won't feel rushed. Plus, the ranger stations accept food drops, so you only have to carry two to four days of food at a time.

Of course, if you prefer to climb a mountain, please by all means ignore this posting. If you would like more information, I'd be happy to provide you with it.

Edited by dirk9827 on 02/19/2008 23:25:14 MST.