Washington State, US
14,411 feet 4392 meters
Summited July 10, 2004 and July 31, 2012
Washington State, US : Mt. Rainier (14,411'/4392)
Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899 and has around 1.8 million visitors each year with about 10,000 climbers. Rainier is the tallest US volcano having last erupted between 1820 and 1894 with another event expected at some point. The summit crater is over 1,000 feet wide with three summits, the highest being Columbia Crest at 14,411 feet.
It has over 35 square miles of snow and ice including 26 major glaciers. The Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier at 4.3 square miles and the Carbon Glacier is the longest at 5.7 miles and thickest, 700 feet, reaching as low as 3,500 feet.
The biggest issue on Rainier, like most mountains near oceans, is weather. The primary park town of Paradise receives 126 inches of rain annually. It claims to be the snowiest place on earth where snowfall is measured regularly receiving as much as 93 feet of snow in the winter of 1971/72 and boasting a record snowpack of 30 feet in March 1955. Climbers regularly get stormed out by Pacific fronts that dump rain and snow year-round making a summit of Rainier special anytime of the year.
I think a Mt. Ranier climb is one of the very best investments for anyone aspiring to climb higher and more difficult mountains. With easy access, ample guide services with climbs and classes or going with qualified friends, it can be both a learning as well as a climbing experience of a lifetime.
ClimbingA detailed look at the statistics provide by the National Park Service reveal some interesting insight. Over the past 10 years, roughly 9,000 to 11,000 climbers attempted the summit annually with about half reaching the summit. Sadly there are several deaths each year As you would expect, the prime climbing time is the summer but especially starting around early June with 300 to 500 climbers per week, peaking at the end of July with 800 climbers on the mountain each week and dropping off dramatically by late September back to several hundred. While Rainier is climbed year round, you could be alone from November to May - not a good idea!
Mount Rainier offers over 60 climbing routes ranging from moderate to world-class. All require proper training, skills and gear. Of all the routes, four dominate the mountain by a huge margin:
GuidesAbout 55% of the climbers on Rainier go independent but the rest use one of three companies authorized to guide on the volcano: Alpine Ascents (AAI), International Mountain Guides (IMG) and Rainier Mountaineering (RMI). RMI has a legacy since 1969 and guided over 2,700 people in 2011 made up of 725 guides and 1,992 clients. In 2006, the Park Service approved AAI and IMG to guide. In 2011, AAI: 356 guides, 710 clients and IMG: 393 guides, 732 clients. As for summit rates, The NPS did not publish separate stats for guided vs independent other than the generic 46% number for total climbers last published was for 2010 with 4920 out of 10643 summiting. The three companies do not make their rates readily available on their websites which is somewhat strange.
RangersSomewhat unique across the world is the presence of Park Climbing Rangers in the US National Parks. These individuals are there to protect the environment while supporting climbers through education, information and rescues. On Rainier, there are two permanently staff Ranger Huts at the high camps of Muir and Schurman. Each year, the Rangers do regular patrols reach the summit nearly 200 times. For Rainier, they maintain an excellent website for current information. Sadly one Ranger died from a fall during a rescue this year.
As usual, my climbs are to raise awareness and research funds for Alzheimer's Disease. Please learn more at this link.