Emmons Glacier, Mt. Rainier

July and our trip up Mt. Rainier came quickly.  This year we choose the Emmons Route for our ascent of the Lower 48s most glaciated peak. The Emmons route is the second most popular route on Mt Rainier.  We choose to stack the cards in our favor by taking a total of five days to climb the mountain. Many other programs climb the Emmons in three or four days, making for a rushed ascent, a “death march” out, and no wiggle room for weather.  KMG is on the not rushed program!  For more details on the Rainier trip, please read that entry.

This years group was power house of a team!  The group consisted of;

  • Bill, who has climbed with us in CO, Mexico, and Alaska.
  • Brett who didn’t let us know until after the trip that he has run 24 Iron Mans!! He was on the cover of Runner’s World in 2006.
  • Bon who has bagged a ton of CO 14ers and was a collegiate athlete.
  • Liane who a kept the jokes rolling from when we met the group on Day 0 all the way to closing the bars down on the final night!

All in all we had a stellar team!  Everybody had trained extensively, was in great shape, and was ready for an expedition mentality of working together.

We began our trip in Seattle at a hotel close to the airport on Day 0. This was our gear check day.  It allowed for pulling everybody’s pack apart and going through each item to make sure we didn’t have extra weight.  Everybody was extremely dialed  due to extensive pre-trip contact. After the gear check, we finished up the food shop and grabbed some good food a close by Tap House.  The trip was off to a great start.

Day one was an early start.  We all loaded into our van (KMG provides transportation from Seattle to Rainier and back) and headed to the mountain.  There are a multitude of fireworks stands on the way to the White River Ranger Station.  Our Colorado based team discussed how it was just slightly different than the four corners region where everybody was from.

After finishing up with our climbing permit at the Ranger Station we divided up the food and gear and began the hike into our first camp at Glacier Basin.  Day one is often the hardest on folks.  It is the first day with a big pack, the packs weight the most, boots are fresh, etc.  We choose to camp in Glacier Basin in order to shorten our first day.  On a five day program there is no reason to rush!  When we arrived at camp our reserved group site had been poached!  It was an easy fix though.  We practiced full Leave-No-Trace (LNT) camping by choosing to camp on snow, a durable surface.  The afternoon was spent relaxing, watching the local wildlife (by local wildlife we mean bears in camp) and talking about what we could expect the following day.  After our dinner of bacon and cedar infused cheeseburgers we had some tea and hit the sack.

Day two began with hash browns and bacon with, of course, coffee.  After we all well caffeinated we headed to the Inner Glacier.  Once we hit the glacier, we spent the next three hours doing a full snow school.  This consisted of learning how to walk on snow, carry and utilize an ice axe (self arrest & team arrest), use crampons, and travel roped up.  Once a team ropes up on a glacier we dependent on each other in the case of a fall.  That being said, we spend as much time as needed making sure everybody is entirely confident in our ability to travel safely on snow.  KMG guides have spent a lot of time of glaciers around the world.  We have never heard anybody every say “gosh, I just felt to confident in my skills today.”

After finishing snow school we continued our ascent to Camp Sherman, the second most popular camp on the upper mountain.  It was a early evening arrival at camp with a late dinner, but we didn’t care because the day four was our rest day.  Cheehoo.

Day three was our rest day.  We slept in and had a late breakfast of cinnamon swirl French toast and bacon, and…coffee! The day was spent sipping tea and coffee, munching on cheese/crackers/salami, and just hanging out.  The weather was sunny enough that some folks even chose to sit outside and read for the majority of the day.  Modern technology was present in our group at Camp Sherman as several folks chose to watch movies on their iPhones.  21 and American Gangster were the two choices.  By the end of the day, we were all rested.  We fell asleep early to a light rain fall beating on the tents.

Day four was our summit day.  The guides woke up at 12:30 AM to a perfectly clear sky.  The stars were awesome and Seattle was just barely visible off in the distance.  After a quick breakfast of Oatmeal and Pop-Tarts (sorry Bill) we began our climb.  The route was in great shape!  Mt. Rainer is a living breathing mountain.  The route changes all the time, sometimes in a matter of just hours.  When we were there the route went up out of camp on The Corridor, then did a super fun traverse through an ice fall, and finally got on the Whinthrop Glacier shoulder.  All in all it took us 6 hours and 40 minutes to reach the crater rim, a great time.   We stopped for maintenance breaks about every hour.  Each break consisted of 10-15 minutes of eating, drinking, and reenergizing.

Like many volcano climbs, the spot we entered the crater rim is not the summit. The true summit, Colombia Crest is about a 15 minute walk from were we entered the crater.  The group was in great spirits and great energy so we decided to leave our packs and make the quick walk (although nothing is really quick at 14,000 + feet) and head to Colombia Crest for some hero shots.  From the summit we had wonderful views of the entire northwest.  We were able to look north towards Glacier Peak, Mount Baker and the North Cascades National Park as well as south all the way to south in the crater of Mt. St. Helens.  The views were spectacular!  An hour was all the time we needed though to snap pictures, drink, and eat before we were ready to head down.

The temperatures definitely heated up on the way down. By the time we reached camp at 12:30 everybody in our group was ready to peal some serious layers off!  The afternoon was spent hanging out with the Mt. Rainier National Park Climbing Rangers that live at the camp, rehydrating, and looking nearly 5000 ft up at what we had just climbed!

Day five we packed our tents, had a quick breakfast not forgetting to drink coffee and began the hike out.  The way out consisted of numerous methods of transportation.  Some walked, others boot skied, and then others glissaded (a fancy word for sliding on your butt on the snow). Once back at the van, we loaded up and began the (somewhat smelly) drive back to Seattle.  Folks were all derived to their hotels for showers (I use multiple because some of us needed more than one shower)  and a quick rest.  We met up at The Pink Door in Seattle for a celebratory dinner and drinks.  Great people, great food, and great beer finished off what could be classified as an absolutely great trip!

Getting ready to head out

Break Time

Snow School

Alec in the lead

Cook tent

Camp Sherman

Navigating the Ice Fall

Bon at sunrise on the way up

Alec loving the munch food!

The Group



Headed down

The Pink Door

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