Stats: distance ~17 miles, elevation ~9,500k, roundtrip time: ~20 hours total (summit day - 12 miles, 15.5 hours).
Breakdown: 08.31.12 - backpack from Paradise to Camp Miur ~5 hours, 09.01.12 – rest day and glacier travel/rescue practice, 09.02.12 – summit day and hike out - Camp Miur to summit ~7 hours, summit to Camp Miur ~5 hours, Camp Miur to Paradise ~3.5 hours.
Party: Natalie (nkan02), Will (hunterwf), Paul, Emily
While researching trip reports for the Disappointment Cleaver route on Mt. Rainier, I’ve noticed that there are none from September, so I thought I’d throw one in for comparison purposes. September is considered “late season” for glacier climbs – crevasses are noticeably larger and there is a higher risk of rockfall. Despite these drawbacks, Mt. Rainier remains climbable (at least by the easiest route).
Despite being denied an opportunity to summit via the Emmons glacier route back in June due to high avalanche risk, I had a good time on Rainier (hey, who would have guessed that weathering blizzard near 9,500 feet at Camp Shurman for 3 days would be so much fun?) and was looking for the first chance to go back. I did not think it would happen until next year though. But when Will reached out looking for partners, Paul found me through the CMC channels and Emily rounded up the team, the plan was set – Disappointment Cleaver route on Labor Day weekend. Yes, it is the easiest route on Rainier, but without guides, experienced rope leaders and relatively late in the climbing season, we decided it would be the safest option for our team with some classroom, but little field experience. As the day of the departure drew nearer, I kept pinching myself – the weather forecast was calling for several blue bird days in a row, quite the opposite of our June summit window. Being cautious, we essentially budgeted for 3 summit days. We took the early flight out of Denver on Friday morning, and after stops for breakfast and at REI, started a 2 hour drive from Seattle to Paradise. After sorting the gear in the lower parking lot - the upper one was full by the time we got there - we were ready to start the hike to Camp Miur shortly after 3pm.
Despite the stellar weather forecast, the mountain looked “interesting” - sun between 5,200 feet and 6,500 feet, clouds/fog between 6,500 feet and 8,800 feet and sun again above 8,800 feet - the mountain is so big that it creates its own weather.
Sunny in the parking lot
Sunny in the park
Not so sunny in the direction we are headed (Paul)
Approaching current snow line near ~7,200 feet
Definitely not sunny - I am having flashbacks to June, but still not terribly worried given the weather forecast
Good thing the route is wanded
Breaking through the maritime cloud cover
Seeing what we are climbing for the first time ever
Mt. Adams is looking good
Sunset from Miur snowfield
Camp Miur in sight
First look at the current conditions of crevasses
Will is approaching Camp Miur as Mt. Adams looks on
Reaching Camp Miur @8m after 5 hours of hiking, covering 4.8 miles and 4,800 elevation gain
We discovered some open sleeping slots in the Camp Miur shelter and decided not to bother with setting up the tents as the daylight was beginning to wane and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Sufficiently tired from the early flight, drive and backpack in, I got a decent night of sleep despite all the disturbances of being around 20 people, with 3/4 of them leaving for the summit attempt between 1am and 2am in the morning. Given the stellar weather forecast for the next few days, our late arrival, next day (Saturday) was our rest day.
We commenced our leisurely day at the camp by melting plenty of water for the crew - Will was mining snow from the snow pit with his ice ax and metal snow shovel, Paul was feeding the icy snow into two stoves (one of them fitted with the Jumbo Jetboil cup), and I was purifying the resulting Nalgene bottles with steri-pen. It worked like a charm! In two hours we had something like gallons of water and I could sneak in a nap before the shelter got crowded again.
Next morning - guided groups' tent city near Camp Miur with Gibraltar Rock in the background
Hey, I can see Russia from my house (a.k.a. Paradise parking lot from Camp Miur)
Mt. St. Helen (with its top missing)
Then it was on to the next task - practicing our glacier travel and crevasse rescue skills. We roped up, prussiked up and headed across the snowfield. The first 3 crevasses were quite small, however the one just before the rocky ridge was huge and what was left of the snowbridge was melting fast under the hot afternoon sun. It took me a while to compose myself and take the step across - however, it is amazing how quickly we would get used to this After setting up z-pulleys and anchors, as well as collecting beta from the returning teams (many of the teams did not reach the summit), it was on to the next steps - dinner, talking to rangers and getting ready for tomorrow.
Our practice run route (constant rockfall in the vicinity definitely caught our attention)
Hiking teams on the rocky ridge above Camp Miur
Rope teams coming down the steep section of the Cleaver (as seen from Camp Miur)
We were on in bed by 7pm, just as the fresh wave of Labor Day weekend arrivals was rolling into the camp. Despite generally being a good sleeper, I could not fall asleep for hours - the shelter was at capacity and the commotion was constant. I was also probably excited at the task at hand, as I was a rope leader on my first ever glacier climb. I "awoke" or simply opened my eyes at 1 am after an estimated 1.5 hours of sleep total and by 2.10am we were roped up and ready to go. We let the guided teams go first as we were concerned to be held up at the fixed line section.
We cleared through the first snowfield with relative ease as the crevasses did not look nearly as intimidating at night as they did the previous day in the broad daylight and commenced the route finding in the first rocky section towards Cadaver Gap (one of the teams we interviewed the day before got lost in this loose and relatively poorly cairned/wanded section). We did not have any major problems and soon found ourselves near Ingraham Flats with the tent city lit up. Our timing could not be any better - with nearly full moon I barely needed a head lamp. All the parties ahead of us created a conga line with head lamps, similar to the one up Keyhole route on Longs peak, so the general direction of the travel was pretty clear. We started catching up and passing some parties, so we knew we were making reasonably good time. Route finding was fairly obvious except for a few key spots. We saw one of the tricky sections (just above the Ingraham flats but before the Disappointment Cleaver) later on the descent and were amazed at what we bypassed in the dark.
Upon reaching the top of the Disappointment Cleaver, we took a short break. Then came the best part of the day (at least for me) - watching first light and sunrise from near 12,000 feet.
Fixed line section - crossing the major crevasse with lots of icy patches
On the steep and icy side (Emmons glacier route below)
Paul is waiting patiently for me to be done with pictures as I continue to be mesmerized by the giant crevasse
Mt. Adams as seen from the upper slopes
The remaining route (some mere 1,500 feet left to go)
Another big crevasse
Approaching the top
Up and up and up
Soon we noticed a "small" problem - there is a big cloud sitting on top of the summit as we were approaching it
Visibility is dropping the higher we go (East rim)
Crossing over to the west side
Paul on the summit of Mt. Rainier
Natalie on the summit on Rainier (holding SurfNTurf's ice tool which came very handy in a few spots)
Will on the summit of Mt. Rainier (2nd attempt & 1st summit for both of us)
Proper summit - but where is the register?
After barely 5 minutes on the summit, we are heading back (it is cold & very windy)
Reaching the east rim again
Weather starts to improve almost immediately as we descend
This is what Mt. Rainier looks like at this time (seen from Mt. Adams, photo courtesy Boggy B). The cloud is sitting on top of the mountain, covering it like a helmet.
Mt. Adams is suffering similar fate - there is a circular cloud on the summit
Just about 1,000 feet below the summit it is sunny & warm
Tricky crevasse crossing on the descent - there is nothing but air below the middle step
Glaciers from above
The ice field and fixed line area
Crevasses on the other side of Disappointment Cleaver
Our route traverses the crevassed slope
Our route and Camp Miur as seen from above
Snow is heavily sun-cupped - skiing that late in the season won't be good
Another look at the route
DC route by-passes the giant crevasse in the middle by going to the right of it
Descending the Disappointment Cleaver (Paul)
close-up of the crevasses
Snow figures on the glacier
Bypassing some big crevasses
and this is how
Last look before descending into Camp Miur - perfect weather on the summit (Will)
Camp Miur below the rock glacier and across the snowfield
Almost back to the camp
We did it!
Me ready for the hike back to Paradise (big thumbs up to my new Deuter 60 pack!)
A few thousand feet (and a few glissades later) - this is what we missed on the hike in (the mountain was shrouded in clouds)
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