Mount Rainier, WA


Peak No. 8 of 8

  • Day 6
  • Start 6:45am July 20
  • Elevation gain ~9,000'
  • Summit 14,411' , 3:30pm
  • Team: Brian, John, and Gugi

The morning after our Three Sisters marathon, we were tired and hungry. We had climbed seven peaks in four days. We didn't get into bed until close to 11pm, making for a 19 hour day with over 9,000 vertical feet of scree slogging. Our feet were sore, and we couldn't get enough "real" food in after four days of energy bars. The next day, we drove from Sisters to Hood River, picked up my pickup and dropped it off at Brian's house in Washington, cleaned the motor home, and then drove towards Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. And we had to stop and eat many times. As we drove up to the mountain, the weather became a concern. Although the prediction was for clearing, it was windy, foggy, and cold at Paradise. We knew the weather had been perfect for days, and the odds of it continuing like that in the Northwest are very slim. One of our biggest concerns was poor visibility; Rainier is a big mountain, and on the snow in a white-out, landmarks are impossible to find. But we would only carry on.

When we finally arrived at Paradise, we found that unfortunately our constant stops for eating had got us into trouble. We had understood there was self-registration for Rainier, and hadn't worried too much about the time. We got to the lodge at Paradise at 7:10pm, only to discover 2 facts: There is no self-registration, and the Park Service (a.k.a. the "Green People") are very strict about closing registration at 7pm. Although they would talk to us, they would not register us, even for a special case (we thought our promotion of Men's Cancer Awareness put us in this category). I helped Brian control his red-headed temper, assuring him we had three options: poach the route by not registering, poach the route by stuffing money under the door, or waiting until the official registration the next morning at 6:30am.


Normally, the 6:30 registration is for parties heading up to spend the night at Camp Muir (10,000'), who then attempt the summit on their second day. This method avoids sun-softened snow that can be both dangerously slippery, and quite a bit more effort. The sun hitting the snow is particularly a problem on the route we were following, Disappointment Cleaver, because the route faces almost due East. Originally, we had planned on climbing in a day, but with a departure from Paradise around 2am. Brian and I had been climbing hard all week, but we reasoned we could still make the summit in a day, even with a late start.

But Gugi had not been training, nor had he been at altitude. Was it wise to try push him? There was only one way to find out. As the saying goes, you only truly know your limits when you exceed them. After our experience with the Green People the night before, we were prepared for more trouble in the morning. It could be argued that our late start would make the route more dangerous. And it's a common occurrence to have your ability questioned. I was eagerly awaiting the question "How many mountains have you climbed?" To which I was planning to respond, "Do you mean this week?"

Instead of a Green People, we were registered by a climbing guide, who was actually enthusiastic about our one-day attempt. He remarked enviously that as we got high, we would have the mountain to ourselves.

Having paid our money, we casually headed out in the early morning light at 6:45am, and then struck off at a horrendous pace. It's almost 5,000 vertical feet to Camp Muir, and we covered that in just over 2 1/2 hours. There we roped up for glacier travel, and had a bite to eat. It was quite warm, and some parties were already returning from the summit. We took advantage of the conflicting traffic in the narrow and cliffy areas by resting and eating. Finally, at about 11,000' we got around the last of the descending climbers.
From there to the summit we had the mountain to ourselves, as the guide had predicted. We reveled in another glorious sunny day, climbing in T-shirts. As the air got thinner, our hard pace up to Muir took its toll on Gugi. He also ran out of water. He offered to wait for our return, but I simply gave him all my remaining water and then we put him in the lead with orders to set his own pace. We were on the rope as a team, and would not summit unless he did, too.
It was clear and calm until we arrived at the windy crater rim, but it was still cloudless. After walking across the relatively flat crater to the actual summit, we took a few pictures. It was 3:30pm.
Peak number 8 in six days. Time to head down.

It seemed to take an awfully long time to get down to the car. On the long descent, we were each enveloped in our personal thoughts, having been blessed with the essence of Jeff's spirit: comradeship, love of nature, appreciation of adventure, and purification through effort.


Gugi had a beer cache.

Rest in Peace, Jeff


Read about the Celebration of Life, which explains these climbs and honors Jeff.

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