3-Day Muir Climb, Mount Rainier

(14,411 ft) Washington


3-Day Muir Climb Day-to-Day Itinerary

Day Before the Climb: You'll be required to arrive in Seattle the afternoon before our trip begins. At 2 p.m., at the Alpine Ascents office, you'll get a climb overview, a gear check and a chance to have all your questions answered. We'll also instruct you in Leave No Trace practices and discuss the National Park Mission Statement.

Training: Review the functionality of each piece of gear, wilderness ethics, LNT and mission statement of the National Park Service

Day 1: We'll meet at the Alpine Ascents Office at 6 a.m., where we'll pack up a van and drive to Mount Rainier, to meet the rest of the Alpine Ascents guide team.

We'll start at Paradise (5,400 ft.). From this beautiful and popular hiking area, we'll hike park trails to the snow line and continue on snow to Camp Muir. The hike takes four to five hours and we will stop to rest several times along the way for instruction on topics such as moving efficiently on snow, and glaciology and volcanology. Prominent features of this hike include the ascent up and over Panorama Point (7,100 ft.), the crossing of the glacier-fed stream of Pebble Creek (7,200 ft.), and viewing the formidable Nisqually Glacier and Ice Cliff that spans from top to bottom on this southern aspect of Mt. Rainier. We'll have excellent views of the Kautz Glacier and Fuhrer Finger climbing routes from the Muir Snowfield. As we crest the final portion of the Muir Snowfield and arrive at Camp Muir (10,080 ft.), we'll have Muir Peak to our east and the massive ridge line of the Cowlitz Cleaver to the west.

That night, we'll sleep in our private hut at Camp Muir, where we'll have further discussions on mountain topics such as hydration, moving efficiently at altitude, and sleeping warm.

Training: We'll discuss the safety aspects of climb. Instruction includes rest steps, pressure breathing temperature management, hydration, and mountain physiology. During rest periods, we'll have short discussions on glaciology and mountain environments.

Day 2: After breakfast, we'll begin our training. We'll cover all aspects of self-arrest, crampon and ice axe use as well as proper rope techniques for climbing the mountain. Training in this setting affords spectacular views, to the south, of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood to the south, as well as the Cowlitz Glacier and Cathedral Ridge to the northeast. After lunch, we'll pack our gear and climb across the Cowlitz Glacier, over the rocky ridge line of Cathedral Gap, to Ingraham Flats (11,100 ft. to 11,200 ft., depending on where we camp). This two-hour climb will allow us to train in rope management and glacier travel skills while bringing us to a beautiful and remote location at the base of the Ingraham Glacier.

From this camp, we'll be able to see Little Tahoma (11,100 ft.) a prominent sub-peak of Mt. Rainier, and the North Cascades range, including the volcanoes Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker. Here we'll establish our High Camp. Our first goal will be to make good tent sites that will protect us from the elements while we make our summit attempt. Our guides will prepare the dining tent, boil water for our meals and give a detailed account of the next day's requirements.

Training: Rope management, crampon technique, use of avalanche transceivers, self-arrest and glacier travel.

Day 3: Summit Climb! We'll typically start our climb between midnight and 2 a.m., depending on the weather and conditions. Our route depends on the time of year and conditions. We will ascend either the Disappointment Cleaver or the Ingraham Glacier Direct Route (early season only). As we are far ahead of other climbers coming from Camp Muir, we will have the mountain to ourselves. Climbing up from our camp on the Ingraham Glacier or snow/rock slopes of the Disappointment Cleaver, we'll encounter a steeper pitch and apply our learned technique of precise footwork and regulated breathing. The pitch will moderate as we continue above 12,300 feet for the remaining 2,000 feet of glacier leading up the volcano's cone to the Crater Rim. It takes four to five hours to ascend from our High Camp to the crater rim and then another hour to Columbia Crest, the main summit of Mt. Rainier. Along the way, we'll route-find around crevasses and seracs, and make our way up the mountain, clipping fixed protection with our climbing ropes when necessary. We'll take short rests along the way to hydrate and eat. As it is often cold, these rest stops are frequent but short in duration. Our goal is to keep a moderate yet steady pace to keep warm. After reaching the Crater Rim, we'll take a longer break and if all is good, we'll head across the crater itself for another hour to Columbia Crest.

After celebrating the summit and taking photos, we'll descend carefully back to Ingraham Flats. Here we'll pack up our camp, rope up and travel back down to Camp Muir. Much of our gear will be left here for other expeditions that will be coming up. From Camp Muir, we'll carry our personal gear back to Paradise and then drive back to Seattle, stopping on the way for a meal and a chance to reflect on the trip..

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