A renewed passion for the outdoors has overcome me the last few years. Maybe it is being exposed on a daily basis to state parks and all the amazing things they have to offer… consider it a workplace hazard. Maybe it is a mini-revolt against living in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Maybe it is the fact that I find myself overcome with happiness when surrounded by the breathtaking beauty only to be found in nature. Regardless of why, I now find myself exploring the local mountains, heading into the Sierras and more recently embarking on a trip to try and summit Mount Rainier.
After months of training I found myself in Seattle with 3 close friends & 4 strangers at the Alpine Ascents office for our gear check. Our trip leader checked off our gear and gave us a quick rundown of what to expect over the next 3 days. Excited and a bit nervous we repacked our packs and left to try and get a good nights sleep before returning to the office at 6am the next day.
Arriving at 6am we loaded up and tried to get some extra sleep on the way to the Mount Rainier National Park. Our journey started on a gloomy day at the visitor center at Paradise. The first day we hiked from the visitor center (5,400’) to Camp Muir (10,080’). Cloud cover prevented us from seeing the vistas that I am sure exist, but we were able to enjoy the flower filled meadow until we reached the snow line. The first part of the hike is on very established trail with close to a billion “stairs”, okay maybe not a billion but with a 45lb pack it felt like it. We climbed through the clouds and as we came above the cloud line we had reached Camp Muir.
The whole thing was surreal as the huts and stone structures on the ridge appeared out of no where. We loaded our gear into the hut and relaxed before heading to the cook tent for dinner… the best burritos ever.
Wake-up was 4:30am and as we headed to breakfast we were greeted with a stunning sunrise. The morning as spent focusing on the snow skills needed for the next part of the trip, walking/climbing in crampons and learning how to self-arrest with an ice-axe if needed. Due to a weather system that was supposed to come in our guides decided that we would try for the summit on this day. Leaving Camp Muir we roped up in teams of 3 (1 guide – 2 climbers), crossed the Cowlitz Glacier and heading to Ingraham Flats (11,100’)where we dropped our extra gear at the high camp tents before continuing on. Due to the time of year, the route took us up Disappointment Cleaver and then on to the switchbacks of the Upper Ingraham Glacier to the crater summit at 14,410’. Despite being one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done it was also the most rewarding. Every member of our team made it to the summit.
After a long night of trying to sleep in the tent with 40-50mph winds blowing, we packed up and headed from high camp all the way back down to Paradise. The journey off the mountain was a long hike on tired legs through snow, freezing rain and good ol’ Pacific Northwest liquid sunshine. The visitor center at Paradise was a welcome site. The café and big comfy couches were just what the doctor ordered.
For those looking for an epic adventure, to challenge themselves to new levels or for those looking for a simple day hike, Mount Rainer National Park has something for everyone.