Ascent of Mount Rainier on 2019-05-11

Climber: Jonathan Foster

Others in Party:Spencer Kirk
Kart Ertler
Date:Saturday, May 11, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Rainier
    Elevation:14411 ft / 4392 m

Ascent Trip Report

Private climb on Tahoma utilizing the ID route. May 11-12, 2019.

Myself, Spencer, and Karl all met at the Paradise overnight lot at 0700 on May 11th to sort out group gear, obtain our climbing permit, and be on our way. The plan came together in little over a week and a half, surprisingly fast in my estimation. Karl, having done the route twice before in preceding years, was confident that we could smash and grab over a favorable high pressure weekend. So we went for it.

We weighed our packs (all between 44lb-49lb), laced up, and excitedly departed Paradise. The main lot was abuzz with skiers, boarders, and early morning onlookers, but the overnight lot was quiet with plenty of parking. We hoped this was indicative of a quiet night to come at high camp.

I will be transparent, I was by far the weakest member of our team on this climb. Having just come off of a 60hr work week I was beat and running behind. I spent Friday night quickly putting together my kit but only ended up getting 2hrs of sleep Friday into Saturday. Perfect recipe for a rough climb - overworked and inadequately rested.

Working our way up the Muir snowfield we made excellent time, even with me lagging behind. We took two breaks - one at the top of Pano Point, the second about half way up the snowfield. Bootpack was in good condition all the way to high camp. The only shade to be had was directly out of Paradise, and on the SW face of Pano, aside from that it was total sun exposure until we made camp.

The afternoon and evening at Camp Muir were fantastic, a busy afternoon with lots of skiers, boarders, and day trippers, but once they cleared out camp was very quiet and we were able to get some rest. We boiled snow, refilled on water, ate what we could get down, and hit the hay. We slept from 1900-2330.

It was an oddly warm night on the mountain, we slept with the tent doors open, only the fly zipped, and in our base layers ready to slide into our climbing gear as soon as the first alarm went off. We were not terribly concerned about any slide activity on the route, but given the week before had recent accumulation, and given the higher than normal temperatures, it was certainly possible. The warmth and still air that we woke to at 2330 was very disorienting.

Tied in and off we went at 0000 sharp. We were the first team out of camp and made short work of the Cowlitz traverse out to Cadaver Cleaver. There were six commercial rope teams fixing to leave Ingraham Flats as we approached, so we poured on the steam and quickly made our way up to the base of the route. The lead climber for the first rope team out of camp was not thrilled about that, tossing slighted words over the increasing winds. We wouldn't see them again until our departure from the summit.

The route was in great condition, being towards the end of its seasonal lifespan. There were 3 ladder crossings, 2 of which had hand lines. The first 2 crossings were short enough, only a step or two each, but the third crossing (coincidentally the one without the hand line), was four or five solid steps across. During the early hours you really cannot tell just how large of a distance it is across, exponentially more so down. This section was by far the most technical on the entire route. Roughly 11,200' - 12,500' was where the larger cracks existed, further up the route the technical aspects of the climb mellowed. That being said, the route lives up to its name in an unmistakable manor.

We clipped along at a good pace, though we did have to patiently wait through some higher wind gusts. Stopping was difficult, with 30mph winds in our faces, you are simply forced to close your eyes, that mixed with stopped movement, and running on a collective six hours of sleep over two days, I was falli.....YANK. Whoa. Moving aging. Blink and shake it off, keep moving, one foot in front of the other.

We had lost track of our elevation and began primarily focusing on a consistent pace, which served us well, ultimately too well. We reached the west crater by 0445. We had made blue hour on the highest point in our home state. We untied, offloaded our rucks, and humbly sauntered to the true summit, and let me tell you, walking the crater at that hour is a humbling, sobering moment. No one else around. Everybody in their right mind is still asleep. Winds now pushing 45mph sustained across the crater. Fingers numb. Tears freezing as fast as they are welling. And then just like that, it's done.

Colombia Crest, 14,411', 0510.

This was Karl's third summit, Spencer's first, and my first. A special moment for the three of us Tacoma Mountaineers. Fellow Basic grads, current Intermediate students in the Tacoma program, and we had just completed a 2 day private climb of Washington's crown jewel. While nothing remarkable by record standards, it was a special moment. Any first on Tahoma is a special moment.

We hugged, high-fived, collected ourselves and descended back into the crater. 0550, we tied back in, saddled our rucks, waited for the first wave of commercial teams to filter into the crater, and began our 8,000' descent. While the summit was by far the most impactful moment, coming down Ingraham Glacier may be the most beautiful moment of this entire outing. Because of our haste on ascent, we took in blue hour and first light from the summit, but we were graced with sunrise on our descent. Boy that was enough color to knock your socks off. The entire eastern horizon lit up with purple, red, orange, and yellow, all cut by the piercing spire of Little Tahoma. It was a task to dodge traffic on the way down, but you could not have caught us arguing, we were fully content to side step and watch the show while teams swayed their way up the route next to us.

Returning the the lower Ingraham, just above the flats, we enjoyed our time crossing the crevasses and peering into the cracks below the ladder crossings. We really are spoiled to have this level of mountaineering available to us in our backyard. While most have to seek out Denali and Himalayan peaks for these sights, we have them three hours from Seattle. The ladder crossings were stable, though noticeably waning. We were told by the MRNP climbing ranger the night before that this would likely be the final week of the season for ID, and in this moment it crystallized why.

Moving as a team of three, we quickly found ourselves back at high camp. "Wait, it's only 0800", Spencer realized aloud. What a trip. We hydrated, fixed a proper breakfast, called our mother's from the helipad (it was mother's day morning), and sat quietly letting it all sink in.

While breaking camp we were spoiled with the unique opportunity to witness Jason Dorais and Tom Goth scream through camp on their would-be record setting FKT ski attempt. It was unreal how fast these guys were moving both on the ascent and descent. To put it in perspective it took us 4h24m to get from Paradise to Muir (granted with full packs), it took Jason and Tom 3h24m from car to car. An absolutely blistering pace. Inspiring work, guys!

We finished loading our rucks, and began the last leg of our weekend boot skiing and plunge stepping down the Muir Snowfield. We arrived back to Paradise just as the forecasted low pressure system came sweeping into Paradise Meadows. It was humid and the air was dense as the heavy, early spring rain began hitting the hot pavement. Snacks and a clean cotton tshirt never looked so good.

We rounded out our 32~hr excursion with the finest calories we could find at the Base Camp Grill in Ashford. A proper ending to any day at the mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9106 ft / 2775 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13.1 mi / 21.1 km
    Route:Ingraham Direct
    Trailhead:Paradise  5305 ft / 1616 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Headlamp, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:7 Hours 44 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 2 Minutes

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