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About Us > Adventures > Mt. Rainier/DC Trip Report July 14-16, 2007

Mt. Rainier/DC Trip Report July 14-16, 2007
Doug Schurman

My friend Scott was unsuccessful on reaching the summit on the previous trip 3 weeks earlier so we decided to go again. The time it was Scott, myself and two other climbing friends from the Mountaineers, Chris and Lori.

We met at the Jackson Observatory ranger station at about 10 a.m. where we asked for the latest weather forecast. Our plan was to hike up to Moon Rocks about 500 feet below Muir for camp for the first night, then move camp to Ingraham Flats at about 11,000 feet for the second night.

It was a very warm day and we were sweating from the start. We progressed at a leisurely pace up the mountain to our first camp. Shortly after arriving the winds started kicking up and the temperature started to drop. We went from major sweating to putting on most of our clothes. We set up camp and began our normal preparation of melting snow for drinking water and for cooking dinner. It turns out the wind screens for both our stoves were left in Seattle. We dug a pretty good hole in the snow to try to keep them out of the wind. As it turns out they seem to have worked very inefficiently and we ended up using about 2/3 of our fuel.

This was not good. Given our current rate of usage we would not have enough fuel. So we decided to check with people at Muir to see if anyone might have extra. If not we would all be eating cold dinners the next night.

During the night the winds were blowing pretty hard. Enough that the tent shook continuously. I think the winds were sustained over 30 throughout the night. During the night it seemed like a process of just waiting for the sun to come up at times. Not much sleep was had. When we finally got out of our tents it was clear some sort of weather system had rolled in. Clouds were all around and appeared that more were on their way in.

We packed up camp and hiked up to Muir. We wanted to see how the weather forecast might have changed and what the ranger might think. We spoke to the ranger and the forecast was very vague. It could clear up it might not, the winds might get stronger or they might drop. This was really minimal help in our decision making. We were trying to decide if the conditions even warranted going to the next camp of if it was best to go down. We hung out a while there being sheltered from the winds by a large rock wall. We met a fellow who had come from a small island off North Carolina to climb the mountain. He had told us of his adventure. While he did not summit he had a satisfying trip reaching the top of the DC. He mentioned that the rest of his party, now half of the original by this time continued on to the summit. This helped us decide. If some members of his party were making it in these conditions then we had a decent shot for the next morning.

While we were at Muir Chris came across a guy he climbed with on another trip that was heading down. We asked him if he had any extra fuel and sure enough, he did. That took care of our white gas stove. Just a few minutes later a group that came out from New York was heading down. We got to talking and it came up that they had extra fuel. They could not take it back on the plane so they were happy to give it to us. That meant less to carry down too. Now with plenty of fuel we roped up and crossed the Cowlitz Glacier to get over to the Ingraham Flats. It was pretty windy on out short journey. Going over the Cathedral rocks was not much fun but it was pretty short. When we got over to the camp area we were sheltered from the SW wind; however there was another wind appearing to be coming up the mountain from the North East. We could not escape it.

We settled into some pre-made tent platforms and got to work on the water. A fellow from a party of two came over and said that they were from Michigan and asked if they minded if they tagged along behind us. We said that's fine but were unsure of their skills and if they might be a burden. We went to bed at 7 or so with the plan to get up at 12:30 and try to leave about 1:30 assuming conditions seemed decent. Around 8 pm another party arrived with 2 tents. They made quite a ruckus and decided to camp about 10 feet from us in an area where you could fit many football fields. After a while Chris asked them to keep it down and it finally got quiet around 10pm.

We got up at 12:30 as planned and it was clear and pretty still. The conditions seemed perfect at this point. We got dressed and roped up. We were moving a little slowly and were finally ready to move at a few minutes after 2am. The group of 2 that asked to follow came right along behind us. We traveled only a few hundred yards when we had a bit of a wakeup. Even though it was dark we could still see with our headlamps that were traveling through a very heavily crevassed area that had large openings. For a while we had to go parallel between two big ones. This always makes me more cautious since multiple people could fall at one time if something were to give way. We always try to go perpendicular when possible to minimize risk.

Soon we came to a crevasse that had no snow bridge. It involved a step across a gap of 30 inches or so. Thirty inches does not represent a very big step but when it's dark and you can't tell how far the drop is your senses become heightened. After passing the gap we made out way to the base of the cleaver. From a distance it looked like the initial ledge running across the base might be very exposed. It turns out it was a big sidewalk. We made our way switching back up the cleaver with no issues to arrive at the top at about 12,300. The wind was blowing a little bit there and it was still dark. This made it kind of cold so we did not stop long. Since the crevasses directly above the Cleaver were very broken up the route dropped down a bit and traversed north about 1/2 mile before climbing back up and to the south. To begin the traverse we had to negotiate some ice fall area where large blocks of ice/snow were poking up in all directions. Through a section a little longer that a rope length were placed a few pickets. There was some exposure and drop-offs in places that required careful movement.

Once negotiating that part, we finished the traverse and started to gain elevation. The sun began to rise and things warmed up. It was nice. However shortly after sunrise we began to come around the mountain and started to experience a strong headwind from 13,000 up to the crater. The wind was so strong that it was blowing little ice pellets the size of BBs into any surface of our face that was uncovered. This made it very unpleasant travel for quite some time. Some times I would walk very hunched over just to keep from getting pelted. Others I would walk with my arm out in front of my face as a shield. Through much determination we made it to the crater and popped over the rim and behind some snow walls that were recently built. It was nice to get out of the wind. After some water and snack we headed over to the summit register. It's amazing how long it took to walk across the crater. After signing in we went up to the true summit. The wind was really blowing. I estimate it was over 50. It was so strong that we could put our back to it, hold out our arms and lean back against the wind. We did this for a few minutes and it was energizing. Then we snapped the standard summit pictures and Scott and I did our summit pushups.

Going down was pretty straight forward and we seemed to make it in good time. We left the crater at 9:20 and I made it to the car at 4:20, 7 hours later. We had a great trip and Scott was on cloud nine after having reached his long term goal.

Ready to climb, Chris, Lori and Scott

Apparently, these deer were on their way down from the summit

Looks at little windy at the tops

View up the Muir snowfield

Mt Adams

Windy at the top and starting to get windy near camp 1

hanging out at the rocks by camp at 9,500

Looks like some weather is moving in

Here we are chatting with a NC fisherman that made it to the top of the DC

Looking out on to the Cowlitz glacier adjacent to Muir camp

The route across the Cowlitz of Cathedral rocks

Disappointment Cleaver from Ingraham Flats

Some ice fall we traversed above the cleaver

crevasses the team was interested in near Ingraham Flats


The path through the crater from where the DC enters over to the summit register

Happy Summiters Doug, Scott, Lori and Chris

Scott achieves his long time goal of summitting

Chris and Lori

Scott and Doug

Scott's celebration snack, Circus Animals


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