It’s hard to get things on the first try, especially in climbing. That’s kind of the allure of the sport when the difficult routes, and less technical ones, can have similar success rates when conditions and other factors don’t line up. For me, Baker, Stuart, and The Brothers have all been failed first attempts. As it turned out on Saturday I kept this streak in tact by not summiting Rainier.
John, Micah and I started off on Friday morning from Paradise amid a thick fog and a full on search and rescue for a missing climber on the upper mountain, making it difficult to acquire climbing permits, as all hands were on deck for the search. A couple trips back and forth between Paradise and Longmire and we were three climbing permits richer, and set off about 930 am. Snow started just below Panorama Point, and if you’re looking to ski on the Muir Snowfield anytime soon the snow is continuos by the time you get to the top, around 7000 ft.
Between 8000 and 8400 ft we finally broke out of the clouds to a warm and sunny day on the mountain. We took our time getting to Muir stopping first for a long lunch and later to shed layers and just generally enjoy the scenery, showing up at camp around 300pm. Anticipating high winds on Friday evening, we spent some time digging a pit for the tent and I was calling it a night by 730 pm.
The wind did turn up at night but we stayed fairly warm. At 1130 pm we got up, anchored the tent, and were going by 1230 am. It was a super nice night, clear and a little cold. I was struggling to keep my harness tight around my waist most of the way up, so at Ingraham Flats we stopped for the first of many times so I could re-adjust it. From there the snow started to break up and just below the cleaver a ladder had been set to cross one of the wider holes in the snow. We went up the Cleaver and at 12500ft we started cutting over to Gibralter Rock, crossing a second ladder and then a fixed rope for about 150 yrds. The sun was starting to come up now and I was starting to feel the altitude kick in, causing me to slow down significantly.
From Gibralter Rock we went straight up the mountain, stopping at 700 am around 13400 when the altitude really started messing with my head. I decided that was enough for the day and any further was going to be a sad time for me. The day was getting nice at this point and as hard as it was to keep going, it was almost harder to turn around. When you get a window where the conditions line up as they did, it is a shame not to capitalize on it but such is life at elevation.
The snow on the mountain is really breaking up now so there are a lot of cool formations on a huge scale. We followed our same route back down to basecamp and after a short break packed up and headed back to the car. Typically these trip reports are reserved skiing but as we are in full on summer mode now, the touring set up for this trip seemed like it would be bulky and the turns seemed like they would be slow. We did see some folks still skiing the Nisqually Chute though, which is still continuos from the top but turns into a bit of a white ribbon down low.
So no skiing, no summit but it was no problem, because I think we all had a fun time and for my first time on the upper mountain at Rainier it was great, still it would have been nice to get it on the first try.