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About Us > Adventures > Mt Rainier 2002

Mt. Rainier, July 2002

Mt. Adams at Sunrise from Rainier

11 of us in the Mountaineers started up from Paradise for a leisurely 3-day climb of Mt. Rainier via the Disappointment Cleaver route on Saturday, July 27, 2002. Led by Doug Smart, the group consisted of 4 rope leaders (Doug, Doug Schurman, Courtenay Schurman and Ken Hahn) and 7 Basic students (Jill Bodnar, Christa Michel, Jacqui Sullivan, Jaime Scates, Brad Henshaw, Greg Strunk and Steve Springer). We met at the parking lot at 2:30 and were headed up toward Pebble Creek by 3:30 p.m. It started out as an overcast afternoon, but by the time we reached Pebble Creek an hour later (along with scores of day climbers and tourists) we’d climbed above the cloud layer and could see Rainier in all her glory.

Our permit had us camping on the snow at Moon Rocks, at about 8,900’, which we reached in about 2.5 hours of travel time. We had great views of Adams, St. Helens, and Hood, all above the low cloud layer. Christa had brought up a 5# box of huge brownies for everyone to have as dessert the first night, so nobody went hungry. Doug and I experimented with dinner and brought leftover Phad Thai from the night before – sure beats freeze-dried! Kind of like having take-out food on the mountain!! A new favorite!!!

Snug in our Bibler 2-person tent, we dozed off until about 10:30 p.m. when the winds began to howl in earnest. Doug Smart heard Brad and Christa still chatting in their tent, and since everyone else was asleep, he enlisted their help building a sturdy, high snow wall since his tent had already collapsed twice in the wind. Jaime was stuck mopping up an inch of water that had spilled out of her Platypus hydration system in the bottom of their tent. I admit that I’ll NEVER use one of those, since I’ve heard WAY too many horror stories including one bursting open from hot water, another freezing shut at altitude, and all of them being impossible to clean – a problem if you like flavoring for your drink, such as I prefer! Then, as quickly as it started, around midnight the wind completely shut off.

Sunday morning we were up at dawn (GREAT photos of all three mountains and the pink clouds above Rainier) and several of us headed up for Muir at 7 a.m. By 7:25, the gusts had returned, and as I struggled to race up to catch Doug, with several students clustered together behind me, I found myself being thrown off balance several times by the winds. While the altitude wasn’t yet an issue (the overnight stay made the trek up to 10,000’ a piece of cake for the lungs) the gusts were enough to take my breath away, and occasionally I had to tuck myself down over my ice axe and wait a few seconds for the wind to ease off. But some of us managed reach Camp Muir by 8 and took a break for a while to see if the wind would change. One of our group members somehow lost an ice axe on the way up, so we were able to borrow one from a fellow Mountaineer coming off the mountain, and once we were all re-organized and tied in to the rope, we headed up toward our camp 2 at Ingraham Flats at 11,200’. The winds only managed to get worse as we went higher, and as the rope team in front of me got farther ahead of me just above a particularly icy section of the lower DC route, I struggled to take a step against the wind now blasting me fully in the face, while also trying to keep the rope to my teammates tight behind me in case they needed a belay on the ice. What a relief to finally stumble into camp and drop our packs.

No rest for any of us, however – first order of business was constructing chest-high wind walls out of blocks of snow and ice in order to protect our tents from the ferocious winds. Fortunately it was sunny and clear, so we were able to stay fairly warm despite the wind. The difficulty was in getting stoves to work effectively without melting through the snow walls; several hours after building them, we had to reinforce them since the sun was quickly thinning them to close to collapsing. No wonder any walls built by other climbers don’t last long – the sun melts the thickest walls in a day or two.

The plan was to get up at 11:30 p.m. and head out by 12:30 a.m. and reaching the summit by 7 and camp again by noon. That was contingent on the winds dying down somewhat. But when 11 p.m. came around and the winds just seemed to get worse, the plan turned to waiting and checking on the half hour to see if by some stroke of miracle what happened the previous night (a calming period of 5 hours) would happen to us. No such luck. We called the climb at 3:30 a.m. and slept in until about 6:30 a.m. when we quickly packed up and headed back down to Camp Muir. As it turns out, nobody from Muir even headed up that morning, and the RMI group below us at the Flats had one day remaining of their training seminar and hoped to try on Tuesday. Even though we were acclimatized, poised, and in good position to summit easily, the mountain called the shots and decided she wouldn’t let anyone summit… Next time perhaps!

Jaime Scates with a shroud of clouds disintegrating at Pebble Creek.

Dozens of day hikers rest or refuel at Pebble Creek

Cloud bank below Camp Muir

Jacqui, Jaime and Doug Smart discuss climbing at Pebble Creek, an hour out of Paradise

Doug Schurman and Jill Bodnar exchange stories

Camp at Moon Rocks, 8900'

Mt. Adams at sunset

Mt. St. Helens at sunset

Doug and Court peek out of their tent like marmots!

Cotton candy summit at sunset.

Sunrise at 8900'

Snow wall set up at 10:30 p.m. when winds kicked up and threatened to collapse tents

Adams at sunrise, day 2

Sunrise day 2

(L-R) part of the Rainier group: Jaime, Steve, Christa, Doug Schurman, Jill, Jacqui and Doug Smart (photographer Courtenay)

Packs at Camp Muir

Passing another rope team on their way down from the summit

View of glacier

RMI students practice ice climbing

Route up the Disappointment Cleaver

Building snow walls at Ingraham Flats, 11,200'

Camp 2 in high winds

Little Tahoma at sunset in a sea of clouds

Rainier shadow

Can you see our tents??

Little Tahoma at sunrise. Winds gusting at 30+ mph made it impossible to continue up

Winds whipping cotton candy clouds at the summit. So close...

Winds continue all day Monday as we prepare to descend


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