Ascent of Mount Rainier on 2014-08-24

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:Daniel Dolan -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Duane Poslusny
Matt Dolan -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Sunday, August 24, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Rainier
    Elevation:14411 ft / 4392 m

Ascent Trip Report

Rainier Trip Report
by: James Barlow, Dan Dolan, Matt Dolan, Duane Poslusny

After picking up the guys from SeaTac, we headed to my apartment in Queen Anne to sort gear and pack for the climb. This would be the first peak that the Fab Four climbed together since Monte Cristo, UT on May 30, 1999. All peaks that we have climbed together since then have been 2 or 3 of us, but never all 4. A largely unimpressive scene awaited my guests, indicative of my tendency to spend much of my free time away from population centers, including my own home. Duane claimed the spare "mattress" that stores easily under my bed, leaving Matt and Dan to decide between the futon (yes, I actually own a futon) and the floor. A delightful 5 hours later, we emerged fresh as daisies, ready to hit the road. Breakfast provided our last glimpse of civilization before the cellphone-less mountain ahead. We piled again into the loaded-down Yaris (4 grown men and their respective backpacks and mountaineering gear) and headed toward the park. Road construction made the drive to the trailhead unexpectedly frustrating, even for a mild-mannered and courteous driver such as myself. Blue skies and warm weather greeted us, along with a great view of our goal. I tasked Matt to drive the car to the long-term lot while I waited with Dan and Duane at the trailhead. **NOTE: Since Matt is the one that parked the car, thus walking the extra distance below the trailhead, he has the highest elevation gain and distance traveled out of the 4 of us** After a few pictures at the parking lot, we were off. Start time - 10:22am on 23 Aug.

The beginning of the trek surprised us. The locals heard of our summit attempt and arranged a truly fantastic farewell! Ribbons were strung between trees, balloons were sent to the skies, and the park rangers showered us in champagne. The send-off from the locals was a magnificent treat, but our spirits remained steadfast as we gazed upon the unforgiving Mt Rainier. The sun was out and conditions were looking promising, but there are tales of this mountain showing her teeth. The slog up to Camp Muir was interesting as we watched the guided groups learn how to hold an ice axe and walk upright on snow - good times.

We arrived in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to excavate 2 tent platforms, relax, and practice crevasse rescue on our neighboring glacier. Luckily for us, we had some real practice as I failed to catch a flying sling from Duane that went right through my hand and into the crevasse. Matt volunteered to go in for it, a death-defying 10 foot drop and climb out... Dinner consisted of Shepherd's Pie for Dan and me. This meal would prove to haunt Duane and Matt later in the trip, as the digested menu items slowly resurfaced during the climb in aerosolized format. After dinner, we settled into our tents for the few hours rest that awaited us.

Our intent was to either wake up before the guided “noobs” and beat them to the summit, or leave well after them for the summit. Either way, we did not want to deal with passing them at any point on the mountain. We opted for the extra 1-2 hours of sleep and letting them get out of our way. We ended up being awakened by the jackass next to us at 1am who felt the need to talk louder than any other person at Camp Muir, specifically discussing nonsensical topics such as "has it been 13 minutes yet?" and "what should I pack in my bag?" Idiot. In spite of the fact that his group left for the summit 2 hours before us, they topped out at the same time as we did and arrived in camp 2 hours after we returned. But, I digress.

We were up at 2am to make breakfast and get ready to go. Since we all only brought the number of bottles we needed to summit and no extra bottles that could have been melted the night before, we ended up melting just enough water for breakfast and to refill our morning hydration bottles before we left camp at 3:38am, 38 minutes later than planned. Not to worry, the guidebook says 6-8 hours from Camp Muir to summit. We were confident that we would be in the faster end of that time bracket.

We opted to skip the rope for the initial crossing of the Cowlitz Glacier as it is immediately followed by a steep sandy section over to the Ingraham Glacier. Early in the climb, as referenced earlier, the Shepherd's pie resurfaced. Festering throughout waterproof shells from Dan and me, it slowly deposited a palpable stench to Duane and Matt following in the #3 and #4 spots on the rope team. We had to de-layer down to just mid-layers as it was warmer than expected once we were moving. Duane and Matt were happy with this shedding of layers, hoping that the shepherd's pie could vanish quicker with less clothing. Once we were on the Ingraham, we pulled out the rope. The other benefit of letting the guided groups leave before us is the fact that they tread down the trail for us to follow, saving us from any real thinking. To save some extra distance, we utilized 2 ladders in place to get across a few crevasses - thanks RMI/AAI/IMG! Our team headed across the lower Ingraham and made our way on to the Disappointment Cleaver, the worst part of the climb. We shortened the rope with kiwi coils to prevent the rope from causing any rockfall and to keep the group together on the slope, but also saving the time of untying and retying our prussik loops from the rope. The Disappointment Cleaver is a huge pile of loose choss, which was sweetened with an amazing sunrise. At the top of the DC, we took our first real break and re-created a few of the pictures from our 1999 ascent of Monte Cristo, UT, the last time that the 4 of us climbed a peak together. Since then, we have done a lot of peaks together, but with only 2 or 3 of us, not the full motley crew of 4. One of us was always missing until now. Not the same person every time, but at least 1 of the 4, sometimes 2, and sometimes 3. We untied our kiwi coils and began ascending the upper glacier.

The steep snow made for a steady climb, albeit slow with the rising altitude. Matt continued to bring up the rear, sometimes getting towed along like a slow kid on a leash at the mall. Several short stops were necessary on the way up, mostly to change layers, drink water, and pee. I kept making the "2 inches of dick through 4 inches of clothes" joke at every opportunity, because it's way funny. Yellow snow aside, the views as we climbed were incredible. We watched the broken clouds flow around us, both above and below our route, and the rising sun provided enough warmth by this point to climb with ease. Around 13k ft, most of us were noticing the altitude effects. Dan verbalized this, though I could barely understand him since he sounded like a wino with a broken jaw. Duane gave some over-technical explanation about the air quality and blood oxygenation or something. Matt just kept smiling and talking to himself. I pretended not to notice as I trudged along, dragging my feet in the snow, letting my arms hang limp like the tassels on a sad stripper's nips. We caught a boost of energy at one point near the crest, fueled by rage after seeing a few guided lemmings descending in hiking boots and microspikes. I almost expected them to be wearing jeans too. Jerks.

After less than 6 hours on the mountain, we finally entered the summit crater, a welcome view for weary travelers. A long slow march to the summit was the last obstacle between us and our goal. Multiple high points were visible from the upper ridge, but luckily the 14,411 point was a shorter walk than most, as indicated by our GPS. A short 30 minute rest and photo session was all we opted for on the summit, and our group photo made the stop worthwhile. All 4 of us were in the photo, the first time that had happened since 1999 when we all climbed Monte Cristo. Since then, we have hiked many a mountain (I've climbed the most, not to make it a competition), and sometimes 2 or 3 of us have been together for a summit, but not 4. Not until now.

Not long after we left the crater rim, I was the first and only member of the group to utilize one of the famed Mt Rainier “blue bags.” Pretty shitty business… After making the guys wait for what seemed like an eternity, we were on our way again, stopping again at the top of the Disappointment Cleaver to let Matt carry the whole rope down for us. We bumped into the climbing rangers here, which was a good thing in case we needed a first aid kit, which we didn’t. At the bottom of the DC, we roped up again for the next section of glacier. Having noted a water source on our ascent we stopped to top off all of our bottles to avoid melting snow in camp later. At the bottom of the next dirt patch right near Camp Muir Dan let me know that it was 8 minutes to 3pm. For no real reason, I decided to speed up the rope team to try and arrive in camp by 3pm. We missed our mark by 3 minutes. Whatever…

Once we arrived in camp, we all agreed to relax for a bit and then pack up to hike down. Naturally, within 3 minutes of pulling the rain fly off the tent that Duane and I were sharing it began to graupel, then snow, then snow more. After an hour and a half of this, we eventually decided to just pull camp down and hike down. We were down in 2 hours, packed and departing Paradise by 8pm, and in Ashford for dinner by 9pm. The local bar/restaurant agreed to keep the grill open for us - thank you!

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9011 ft / 2746 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:9011 ft / 2746 m
    Route:Disappointment Cleaver
    Start Trailhead:5400 ft / 1645 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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