So about a month ago my friend Paul started talking about a Rainier trip, lucky for me there was room for another. From there began the scramble to get ready. I hadn't done any glacier travel before so I had to track down all of the mountaineering supplies. Epic voyages, and the desire to return from them are good excuses to buy new gear so off to the store for a new backpack, BD three piece poles, shiny new XCR shell and pants and a GPS. We did have enough time to do a practice mission in the Spanish Peaks near Big Sky, which was further motivation to ditch heavy crappy gear. I fully suggest a practice mission to anyone planning on heading out on a trip like this with your group, we figured out which gear we could share, which should stay at home, how to rig a z drag should anyone end up in a crevasse, how to travel roped up, etc etc. We left Bozeman on the 16th and drove to a friend's place in Richland WA. We got up at a decent hour the next morning, ate a monster breakfast, and made our way to ranger station and trailhead at White River in the park. The word from the rangers was pretty good, as was the forecast.
Aaron says let's go! 4 guys, tons of gear and one ford explorer. She wasn't smelling so fresh by the end of the trip.
Mt. Rainier comes into view on the drive west. A hush falls over the explorer. That is one large mountain.
I brought a scale to the trailhead, our packs averaged 75 lb! And that was after ditching a bunch of junk on the practice mission.
From the trailhead it took us about 2.5 hours to make our way to the glacier basin camp. Good luck finding the composting toilets in the woods if you haven't had someone show you. Once there we pitched camp and ate our fill, pretty stoked looking up the inter glacier for the next day.
View up glacier basin:
Glacier Basin has the advantage of having a toilet (thus avoiding the blue bags) and there being a source of water nearby that doesn't have to be melted with the stove. There are some professional camp robbers nearby though, so watch your stuff. This guy says thanks to snoslut for the good meal the week before:
We froze our a$$es that night! I had a pretty new North Face 20 degree bag which I figured would work fine since the Rainier website recommends a 20 to 40 degree bag. I would recommend a zero to be conservative. I seriously had dreams about the -20 bag that was at our house all warm and cozy by itself. I was out in a bivy sack, but Paul in the four season was cold too. I slept in the tent the next night.
Sunrise on the interglacier:
Can you figure out how I took this one?
From GB we skinned our way up to Camp Schurman, leaving at about 9 am. We took a leisurely 5 hours to get there, stopping to duct tape hot spots, eat lunch etc. Some people who head up this way leave the split at home and crampon the whole way up the mountain. Skinning this section was pretty easy, especially with the ski crampons attached, and took about 17 lb off of my back. You would go lighter in total cramponing it in this section (I'd save about 5 lb leaving the split, skins and ski crampons at home and taking a solid board) but I feel really oppressed with a heavy pack on so spreading that weight around felt great. If I were cramp'n it for this section I would leave earlier in the morning to hike on firmer snow. Having the split along was handy towards the end of the trip as well, my poser tele style saved me quite a bit of walking on the way out.
The birdman cometh:
Skinning the interglacier, this is gonna be fun on the way down:
Why they suggest having a GPS: this took about a minute to blow in, and blew out again after about 5
We crossed over the ridge from the interglacier into the Emmons and the whole scene changed. The interglacier only had 3 little baby crevasses in it, once you cross into the Emmons it's a different story. We decided to get some roped up practice in for our summit attempt the next day. While roping up a rock about twice the size of a basketball came down from camp curtis, could have been a pair of broken legs or worse for someone if they were in the wrong spot. We considered ourselves warned and boogied away from any rockfall danger. A great place to wear a helmet.
Skinning has other advantages over cramp'n:
Paul looking tough:
The Ranger station at Schurman: two of the rangers had their splitboards there
Kickin' it in the sunshine: This is where I burnt the back of my ears, don't let your guard down
Home sweet home:
L' Evolution du Birdman:
Birdman and I took a little 500 ft hike to make a run during the afternoon, bringing on the amp for the next day. Sweet corn turns. After this we ate a mess of food and hit the sack around 9 pm planning on a 4 am wakeup.
Views around camp:
Well 4 am turned into 5 am, but that was still plenty of time to get where we were going. We got set and out of camp by 6:30. We talked to some skiers the day before who headed out at 7 and made it back in prime skiing conditions. Who wants to get ready in the dark anyway?
Aaron and I looking really excited to take care of our feet:
This is a great mountain to have an altimeter, there's about 10 sucker summits on the way up. I was really feeling great for about half of the way up, after that the wind raging from the north east and fatigue were getting to me, but the only way to the summit is to put one foot in front of the other. Traveling roped does have that advantage, when you see the rope tighten up in front of you it's time to take a step or you're going to yank your buddy. We hit the summit rim after six hours of climbing, and made it to the true summit about a half an hour after that. This was the only time I used my snow picket, to put my split on belay while we went to the summit so it wouldn't blow away.
I wear only the finest in late 80's glacier eyewear:
View of Mt. Adams from the summit, whatup to all the splitters over there. I'll have to hit that up on the next trip west.
It was cold up there if you can believe that:
He ain't heavy, he's Paul Gannon. Check out the horizontal daisy chain on his harness.
The birdman prepares to take flight
We took a few pics, had a group hug, and bailed below the rim, it was nasty up there. We found and signed the registry book while warming up in a steam vent. It's wild how just 20' below the rim it's calm and quiet even while it's raging above. From there it was 5000 vert of firm shredding back to Schurman, a solid hour. We were a bit spooked about the skiing as two people we talked to the night before had wiped out and had to self arrest, but our crew all skied it clean. That kind of survival riding has such a unique feel to it, kind of like lead climbing, where every turn counts and there can be some serious consequences. Skiing in crevasse country also makes you look where you're going like no other, it sure gets the blood going.
pre drop in shot: sadly my only shot with my board on off the summit, I just think these skier guys aren't as polite as splitboarders.
We hit Schurman all sorts of stoked and packed up our gear for the rest of the trip out. There's lot's of wiped out mountaineers hanging around camp this time of day with the thousand mile stare that says "damn, I've still got lots of walking to get out of here." Meanwhile we're hootin' and hollerin' dropping in out of camp with our packs on, 3500 ft of good shredding left to do.
Riding out with the pack on: not as bad as I thought it would be. Great turns down the interglacier.
Adventures like this make it hard to go back to work, gotta get the next one planned soon to have something to look forward to. I'd definately do another Rainier trip, or hit up one of the other fat peaks in the area, you Washingtonians have a great scene for summer skiing. Big thanks to snoslut and Nomad for their pre trip advice. Anyone who wants mine can send me a pm. This is one of those trips that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Oh yeah, and for all the MT riders, the Beaver Creek cabin west of West Yellowstone is schweeet, lot's o good riding. I've totally put off that TR. This was the final resting place of the Guiness that BCRider left in my car at splitfest. Thanks bud, cheers!
wow, 4 shaka dudes, gonna have to do something real serious to get 5
Definately worth the effort, get's me all sorts of fired up on doing more multi day missions like this. I think the mental preparation is the main thing, when you know you're in for 6 or 7 hours of travel you get pretty patient, as opposed to the "are we there yet?" feeling you get when trying to get 4 laps in on a 1500' run before the sun goes down in the middle of winter.
Joined: Wed Oct 06, 2004 10:57 pm Posts: 4958 Location: California
Wow, what an EPIC TR!!!
You did a great job on the pics and reporting Will!
Epic voyages, and the desire to return from them are good excuses to buy new gear so off to the store for a new backpack, BD three piece poles, shiny new XCR shell and pants and a GPS. We did have enough time to do a practice mission in the Spanish Peaks near Big Sky, which was further motivation to ditch heavy crappy gear.
Heavy, crappy gear is cheap and gets the job done but I've found taking the Ã¢â‚¬Å“light is rightÃ¢â‚¬Â
That there Shasta mountain looks awesome, I'll have to head out there some time and check it out with all the Californians. Viva la skins indeed, keeps well used knees happy. I was pretty stoked that I didn't tear holes in my pants with those crampons!
Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2005 12:26 pm Posts: 351 Location: bozeman
I hadn't done any glacier travel before so I had to track down all of the mountaineering supplies
So I get a call from the birdman about a day or two before you guys leave saying can you find me some dyanfit crampons. I did manage to track some down from BH's girlfriend seeing how I am no longer working at liflelink. Small world. I used to ski with mike and paul quite a bit when I first came to bozeman and got into the BC. Anyways nice work on Rainier.
Everyone loves the birdman, also coined by Paul as Dr. Ridiculo. Yeah it was pretty good when birdman pulled up in his house (a toyota tacoma) and started throwing gear all over the yard at Paul's when we were heading out. All he forgot was a hat so I loaned him the 99 cent do-rag. Birdman had the highest pack to body weight ratio, about 45%, and did just fine with it. Since Paul and I are less, um, "mass challenged" than birdman and Aaron, we were on a rope together. During our training mission Paul jumped off a windlip (from standing) while roped up to the birdman (all planned out for z-drag practice) and took him for a ride. I think our rope pairing up by weight was a smart thing to do. We did two ropes of two, which was no doubt faster than one rope of four, as the distance between our ropes could change, or we could easily change which group was in front. One rope of four might have been safer as there are more people to arrest in case of a fall, but we felt pretty confident with the level of difficulty of the slope.
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 2:23 pm Posts: 453 Location: Howell Mt., Napa Valley
Nice TR Will! I'm jealous. I climbed Rainier back in the early '90's. I was with my then-climbing partner on a month long trip which included Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. I was wishing I had my skis!
That was the last time I walked down a snow covered mountain