PARADISE ARRIVAL AT CAMP MUIR THE SUMMIT
raincrev.jpg (8575 bytes)
Wow, A big crevasse we had to detour around!
Mount Rainier Accent

July, 2000 

The Ingraham Direct Route


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About 13,000' in the Ingraham Glacier
About 13,000' in the Ingraham Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking down at Little Tahoma, 11,138'!
Looking down at Little Tahoma! The third highest peak in Washington and a challenge to climb!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doerte and Cameron at the summit register
Doerte and Cameron at the summit register. It was cold!

 Mount Rainier July 08/09 2000

Doerte and I needed a third or forth for our rope team, so we went by REI and Feathered Friends in Seattle to see if there were any ads for partners on the bulletin boards. There was one at Feathered Friends, which I called as soon as we arrived home. It was from Cameron, on the road near Mount St. Helens, on his way to Seattle. After a quick two-way interview we determined that we all had the skill, equipment, and endurance necessary to make the trip. We were now a three-person team.

Since on a previous trip we had summited via Camp Schurman we decided to use the Ingraham Headwall Route this time. The Disappointment Cleaver Route was not in yet, and the Gibraltar Ledges were not recommended. Our first plan was to get a spot at Camp Muir, and Cameron could sleep in the hut, thus saving having to carry a tent up. However, all 125 spots were taken for the weekend already on Thursday! We were able to secure a spot at Ingraham Camp on the Ingraham Glacier, 1,000’ and two miles farther on.

We left Paradise under bright blue skies at 9 a.m. Friday morning. At 5,400’ Paradise, on this July weekend, was still covered in snow. We put on our gaiters and used trekking poles, but left the ice axes and crampons in the packs. It took us 4 hours to climb the 4,600’ to Camp Muir. There we toured the hut, and found a spot well away from the two bathrooms to have our lunch. Camp Muir is like another world, perched near the bottom of the Cowlitz Cleaver, protected from the Cowlitz Glacier. I couldn’t imagine it with over 100 people running around. Sunscreen and water being the order of the day.

We were pretty tired from our heavy packs, but had to continue on to our camp. We roped up, and took out the ice axes, but left the crampons in the pack. On the Cowlitz Glacier we crossed the first few crevasses before we climbed up the steep rubble of Cathedral Rocks. Now it was only 300’ more and we would finally be at the camp! The route steepened, we crossed a couple more small crevasses and finally gained the Ingraham Glacier.

Ingraham Camp, at 11,000’ is safe and well situated, far enough away from the rockfall of the Cathedral Rocks, above the crevasses of the Ingraham Glacier, and below the icefall hazard of the Ingraham Headwall. There were 5 or 6 parties there already, and we were immediately glad that we were not at the zoo of Camp Muir. We also realized that we might actually get some sleep since Camp Muir wakes up between 1030 p.m. and midnight to begin their ascent.

A couple parties practiced self arrest and crevasse rescue, but we needed to get the stove going, hydrate, and make sure we melted enough snow for the climb tomorrow. It was extremely hot on the Glacier and short and t-shirts were the order of the afternoon until the sun dipped behind Cadaver Gap. Suddenly the temperature dropped and the wind came up. We put all our clothes back on. The stove had trouble staying lit and eventually gave it up entirely! The matches wouldn’t even light and the neither would the lighter! The water was freezing within minutes of being put in the bottles! Luckily, the friendly neighbors lent us their stove to finish dinner, drinks, and top off our water bottles. We put everything in the tent to keep from freezing.

We climbed in the tent about 9 p.m. and battled to stay warm. It was very cold! It seemed like almost immediately we began hearing parties pass by on their way to the summit. Doerte and I started the stove, made a drip coffee and oatmeal, and hand delivered the hot stuff to Cameron next door. We had planned to awake a 3 a.m. so we were a little ahead of schedule. At 3:30 a.m. we put on the crampons, helmets, and roped up. I led, with Doerte in the middle, and Cameron bringing up the rear. We could see many headlights above us, and some below. The first two returning parties passed us before we left camp, both mad and frustrated because they were turning around. An RMI party also turned around at this point.

Less than 30 minutes above camp we met our first big crevasse, about 10’ wide, bottomless as far as we could tell, bridged with a shaky aluminum ladder. It was probably easier to cross in the dark! We continued slowly, keeping the slack from the rope, and taking a breath a step. We were passed by a party of two female climbers, and one solo guy who had started at Paradise at 10 p.m. The predawn was cold and a light wind had us wishing we had worn another layer. Stops were brief since it only took a few minutes to get chilled to the bone. Starting again brought warmth. The sunrise was spectacular, the sky an ever-changing panorama of colors. Crevasses were crossed easily.

We had the misfortune of having to follow a three-rope team party of RMI who refused to let us pass or even communicate. Some of their clients said, "Yeah, we call him Jason the jerk!" in reference to their guide. We were shocked that "professional" guides would behave in a rude, unhelpful, and arrogant manner. One client asked if she could go to the bathroom, and Jason told her she would have to wait until the Crater, which was more than one hour away! The RMI teams had excessive slack in their ropes. We can only hope that these clients didn’t pick up to many pointers from Jason.

Finally, we passed them when they stopped for a breather about 13,500’. An hour later the Crater came into view and we could scarcely believe we were there. We climbed into the Crater to drink and try to eat some snacks. It was 7 a.m. Cameron brought some peeled oranges that was a huge hit. The powerbars were frozen and dry and tasted like ancient cardboard. After rehydrating, we walked across the Crater to the true Summit, 14,411’, the Columbia Crest, and then signed the register. We had fantastic views to the south with Mounts St. Helens, Adams, and Hood, to the east to the Yakima Valley, and even to the north with Glacier Peak and Mount Stuart. The three RMI parties finally reached the Crater, but not the Summit! How terrible to go so far and not really summit Mount Rainier!  

Descending, Cameron remained in the back to arrest Doerte and myself if we fell. The snow was still quite frozen. There were a couple small parties ahead of us and a couple behind us, but we all traveled about the same speed. A few crevasses had to be jumped across, but we felt very safe and secure that our team members would not allow us to fall far. About 13,000’ the sun came out and the Ingraham Glacier became like an oven for the rest way to camp. We stripped down a couple layers and still were cooking! It was odd finding all new neighbors at Ingraham Camp. And more of them!

Ingraham Camp was no cooler. We dropped the ice axes, took off the boots, stripped down and climbed in the tents to escape the sun. The tents were still extremely hot! We rested, napped, ate, hydrated. At 2 p.m. the big afternoon cloud came up cooling the Glacier by 30 degrees in the blink of an eye. We bailed from the tents and broke camp, to head for Camp Muir.

Camp Muir was in the sun, but we soon entered the cloud again as we descended to Paradise. We were glad to have the cool clouds all the way to Paradise to keep us from overheating on this long day. We arrived at Paradise at 6 p.m. and immediately headed to the Paradise Inn for the celebratory beer!

We were amazed at how friendly and cooperative the many climbers on this route were. Everyone was glad to share information, technique, encouragement, tent sites, and even stoves.

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