Before I get into mountaineer school today, I should probably tell you a bit more about this climb. The program Lori and I signed up for is the four day summit climb through Rainier Mountaineering Inc. RMI is the original guiding service on Mt Rainier, and they have an excellent reputation. There are two other guiding companies, Alpine Ascents and International Mountain Guides, that are authorized to guide to the summit as well. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Each company offers slightly different options for getting to the summit, so it’s really about choosing which one works for you (or has availability). You can also do the climb without a guide service, however, if you don’t have any experience with mountaineering, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.
Our itinerary for the four day climb is as follows:
Day 1 – Orientation
Day 2 – Mountaineer school
Day 3 – Hike Paradise > Camp Muir
Day 4 – Climb Camp Muir > Summit > Paradise
So really it only takes two days to get to the summit. But to put it into perspective, I climbed 12,000ft up Kilimanjaro over seven days. On Rainier, I’ll be climbing nearly 9,000ft over two. That’s kind of a lot. The only difference between the four and five day climbs is a day of rest at Camp Muir. It also costs $400 more for that extra day.
But back to today. We meet our group at 8:15am near the visitors center where we had our orientation yesterday. We have a lot to learn today on how to be safe mountaineers. We’ll learn how to self-arrest in case of a fall, rest step to conserve energy, and walk as part of a rope team on a glacier.
We load our packs into the trailer in the back and shuffle on to the bus.
There she is! I can’t believe we’re going to climb her tomorrow!
It takes about 45 minutes to get to the Paradise Lodge parking lot at 5,420ft. This is the same place we’ll start tomorrow on our journey to Camp Muir. But today we’ll take a different trail to where we’ll have mountaineer school. We need a safe place on the snow to learn how to glissade and walk in crampons, among those other skills I mentioned.
We gather in the parking lot to briefly go over what route we’ll be taking and what to expect from the day.
And we’re off! It’s only 9:30am and already it’s too hot for me. But I’m determined to keep up with everyone.
Looking back at Paradise Lodge. Someday I hope to come back and stay here. To relax, of course. None of this mountain climbing nonsense.
10 minutes later, we come to Myrtle Falls. I wish we had time to stop and enjoy this spot, but we’re on a tight schedule. I settle for quickly snapping a few shots as we walk by. In fact, that’s how I take most of my photos today – on the go. I brought my DSLR in my pack, but I end up only using my point and shoot. The DSLR is too cumbersome to take out, and I can’t access it while we’re moving. I originally thought I would take it on the climb with me, but after today, I quickly decide the less weight in my pack, the better. I’m bummed to leave it, but am please with out these shots came out.
I’m still keeping up at this point, but the heat is really getting to me.
There’s the five day climb ahead of us.
After this stop, I fall behind the main group. The heat is really starting to slow me down and I can’t seem to keep up. Lori and another guy in our group are further behind with our assistant guide, Jordan. Fortunately I catch up towards the end and manage to keep up until we get to the snowfield where we’ll have mountaineer school. Can’t beat the view!
Oh hey there Mt Adams. Call me crazy, but one day I hope to climb this volcano as well. At 12,300ft, it’s the second highest mountain in Washington.
Dave has us “walk this way”. Every time he says it, I start singing “WALK THIS WAY! Talk this way!” Thank you Aerosmith.
By this point, I have a pounding headache. I can tell I’m dehydrated and overheated, despite drinking two liters of water. I cannot wait to get down, not that that stops me from taking pictures the entire way. Might as well pass the time somehow, right?
Can you see Mt Saint Helens in the distance? I have some closer pictures I’ll share tomorrow where you can really see the crater from the eruption.
The trail going up to the right is the route to Camp Muir and the way we will go tomorrow. Only 2 more miles from here! Except we have to go back down before we go up again.
It’s way too hot for there to be this much snow! In another month or so, most of the snow on this trail will be gone, but Rainier’s glaciers and some snow fields exist all year round. In fact, if you ever have the desire to ski in August, the Muir snowfield is a popular place to make it happen. Side note – it’s possible to both ski and surf in every month of the year in Washington. Crazy!
Finally, we get back to the parking lot. I chug some water, but it’s another 45 minute winding ride back to basecamp. Frankly, I’m so nauseous I’m hoping to need to throw up as an excuse to get off the bus for a few minutes. But I make it back with my stomach contents intact. Unfortunately, I’m still feeling miserable. Dave instructs Lori to help me back to our room and get me into a cold shower. Afterwards, I lie in bed trying to feel better until, sure enough, the nausea wins out. I’ll spare you the details, but I do feel a million times better afterwards. Enough so that I’m able to join Lori and most of the rest of our group at the grill to listen to Dave tell Everest stories.
Even though I feel better, I’m still weak from my ordeal earlier. I go to sleep early and hope to feel stronger in the morning. Tomorrow the real thing begins! I’m SO nervous!