Mount Rainier Diary:
Setting the Stage

I did not summit Rainier, though I tried. Winds gusting above 80 mph turned our rope team around just below 13,000 feet.

I had the challenge of climbing this 14,410 foot mountain between July 29 and August 1, 2002, in the company of guides and fellow clients of American Alpine Institute (AAI). If the strict limits of the permit issued to AAI by the National Park Service provided any leeway at all, it would have been a simple matter to descend to our high camp and try again the next day when the winds had died down. But we didn't have that luxury. We were allowed one attempt at the summit on a certain day (July 31) and if we didn't make it, we were out of luck. Even so, the experience of being on this massive mountain, covered in ice and glaciers, was worth the attempt.

Our route was via the less-frequently climbed north eastern flank of the mountain along the Emmons Glacier. We started from the White River campground around 4,000 feet, ascended to around 6,500 feet through mildly sloped forest trail up to Glacier Basin where we made our first camp. The following day we ascended a more demanding 3,000 feet up the Inter Glacier to our high camp (Camp Shurman) at around 9,500 feet. We began the summit climb at midnight: a vertical mile up the crevassed slopes of the Emmons Glacier. By sunrise, we were pounded by high winds that we felt were becoming dangerous, as we were repeatedly blown off our stance and flirting with an unplanned tumble down the glacier. So, we retreated. The climb from 13,000 feet to the summit was no different than the rest of the climb, so we didn't miss out on any unique technical problems, except to cross the bergschrund at the top of the glacier. It was disappointing not to summit, but better safe than sorry! The pictures tell the story. Begin by clicking here. Click on smaller thumbnail shots to see a bigger version.

Sorting our gear at the White River trailhead.
There were seven clients and three guides.

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