Monday, June 12, 2017

Mt. Rainier (14,411') - Disappointment Cleaver

My brother and I met up for our third annual summer climbing trip. This year we set our sights on Mt. Rainier in Washington state. I packed up the Subaru and set-out for the 15+ hour drive to Seattle. 

Mt Rainier emerges from the clouds

One of the problems with Rainier is that its famous for bad weather. In fact, my trip to climb it last year resulted in us bailing because of a complete whiteout on the summit.

The forecast was not looking great, so we lounged around Seattle for a bit, Kyle bought like 25 different coats at a variety of gear stores. 

Can you own too many coats? Probably not.
The forecast improved slightly so we headed over to the mountain to pick up permits, hike around some and do some "training" in crevasse rescue.  The weather was not looking great, so we decided to forego our ambitions of climbing Liberty Ridge. Instead we opted for the Disappointment Cleaver, which is the trade route on the mountain.

The weather is improving! We really should actually climb something.
The following day we packed up are bags and were off to the mountain. Despite being a weekend, the parking lot was not too busy. I guess the gnarly forecast scared a lot of people off. The cold weather was a blessing, the snow was fairly firm as we started up. 

Not too busy!
The weather was nice at first, but a white-out formed for some time while we climbed the Muir snowfield. I must say, its a bit of a boring slog up that snowfield to camp Muir. Low angle, and it seems to go on forever. 

Heading up the Muir snow field - whiteout starting to form

Kyle and an unknown skier heading into the cloud.

We reached Camp Muir. For some reason I didn't really take any pictures there. We chatted with some Colorado climbers, and headed off to bed at 6 pm. Our plan was to get an alpine start, if thee weather as good - climb the mountain, if not - sleep and try the next day. 

Kyle prepares for bed.
We woke up at 2:30 am to clear skies. We roped up (the rest of the climb is glaciated) and were off climbing within an hour. As the light started to arrive, we were treated to fantastic views. This is why I climb mountains, there is nothing else like it.

Climbing at dawn
We climbed the Disappointment Cleaver (a rocky ridge that splits the glacier), then moved onto the giant ice cap that covers the summit plateau. There were a few steep moves up a bergshrund and some seasonal snow-bridges across crevasses. It was extremely cold, around 0F (-18C). After the cleaver I put on my heavy down coat and kept it on for the duration of the climb. 

We were well above the clouds, with great views of the other Cascade volcanoes, Mt. Adam, Mt St Helen and even Mt. Hood.

More early morning views
Very cold climbing. See Mt Adams back there?

There was another steep section which had fixed pickets. We caught up to the Colorado climbers and chatted with them for a while. Since the sun was out, and the views were great, I stopped to snap some more photos. 

Endless beauty

Kyle is looking cool


Eventually we crested the ice cap and reached the crater at the top. We traversed across the flat crater towards the high point. There were some volcanic vents and dry rock on the other side just below the top.

Volcanic crater.

Volcanic vents and the register just below the true summit

We reached the summit! Yay! A guy kindly shared some very cold beer with us. We enjoyed the windy, cold summit for a time before heading back. 

Brothers on the summit!
 Due to me taking a short nap, we got stuck behind a large guided group, this slowed things somewhat until we could pass them. Once past them, we made good time back to our camp at the Muir snowfield. 

Guided party ahead of us on the descent

Yup - still looks purdy.
I took another nap, then we busted down camp and slogged our way back down to the parking lot. The temps were high, it was sunny, so the snow was slushy - it was really tiring, but at least we got to slide down some of the slopes on our bums.

Who's cool?
Descending the fun way
After 13 hours we were back at the car. Then is was off to RMI for some pizza a beer!

This is the best way to end mountaineering trips

We still had a few days, so we drove over to Leavenworth for a few days of rock climbing. 

Leavenworth - climbing or beering?

I was a little run down, so we mostly just went craging. We didn't end up climbing the famous Snow Creek Wall, but it was an enjoyable few days. Really nice crack climbing. We even had a goat hang out with us while we climbed one day. 

Gotcha - Goats are a problem

Hey buddy!
Kyle crushing it

I was too lazy to climb that
Sadly all good things come to end. I dropped Kyle off in Seattle, and he flew home. Hopefully we will have another adventure together soon. Its really nice that he and I get to share these annual little adventure together. 

See you next time bro!

I headed off to Victoria to meet up with Teresa and her family. It was her brothers' wedding, and we had a nice few days there before heading back to work and back to reality.

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