We left the vehicle at 7 pm, went straight through the night and reached thumb rock at 7 am. After a 1.5 hr rest, we continued up the exposed sections. 12,000 feet was reached at maybe 10:30, at which point I decided to shut it down. I wanted to same some energy for the ride down, and was skeptical about negotiating the upcoming icy section in my soft boots.
My technique for riding down involved a technical ice tool in my left hand and mountaineering axe in my right. If I came to an unexpected icy section, I would swing my technical tool into the snow, throw a picket in, use my mountaineering axe to chop steps, attach my board to my anchor, then gingerly take it off and use the steps to put my crampons on. Oh to not have hardboots...
It turns out that the tools weren't necessary as we didn't hit any ice patches.
I think we definitely could have pushed on, but sometimes you just have to trust your gut and turn around. We were both beat at this point anyways.
The descent was mostly hard snow rather than corn except where we hit the flats again. The car was gained again at 6 pm (we really took our time, naps, etc.), and the drive home was uneventful. Surprisingly, I didn't feel too exhausted - guess it just means I need to push it to the top next time.
All in all we did 10k of ascending and covered perhaps 16-20 miles (?). It went reasonably well for my first time trying to climb Rainier. Will I be back? Perhaps.
Nice old growth after being among the small trees of Montana
Ice cliffs looming above but out of our fall line.
The high point
A few thousand feet of exposure is enough to make you pucker