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Mt Rainier via DC Route



This trip was a whirlwind filled with roadblocks, determination and success.


Noah called me 2 weeks before departing saying, "Hey so I bought a ticket to Portland are we gonna do this thing or what?"


I had the flexibility to be able to book a corresponding flight without much trouble so, well, I did and we had a trip planned.


We flew into Portland rather than Seattle to stay with Rachael's sister, Lindsay.

I picked Noah up from the airport at noon and we drove off to Paradise, stopping a few times to grab more food and water for the trip.


The drive was supposed to take 3 hours but took us closer to 4 with traffic and by the time we picked up our permits, made the call to bail on starting up to Camp Muir today.


We got a room in a descent little motel in Morton where we were able to reorganize and get a good nights sleep (we had yet to realize how important that would become).


Morning came and we were read to roll after fully taking advantage of the complimentary breakfast. The drive up to Paradise put our boots on the ground at around 9:30am. We were accompanied by hoards of hikers and sightseers. Although, looking back, we were also tourists and sightseers, but for some reason I succumbed to the entitlement trap that carrying a couple ice axes and rope can have.



The hike up through the Paradise Park was gentle, and slow. I was feeling good. The heat was clearly going to be an issue and I stripped down to shorts.



We were able to talk to a couple groups who were descending that said the route had collapsed early this morning at around 13,200ft and basically nobody summited via Disappointment Cleaver today. This news heeded our positive spirits but came with word that one of the guiding companies would reroute around the newly opened crevasse so that they could still get their high-paying clients to the summit.



Noah and I separated and went at our own pace once we made it to the Muir Snowfield. I got into a good rhythm and made up to Camp Muir about 45 minutes ahead of Noah.



We were hopeful that we could sleep in the main hut and avoid setting up our tent. Upon inspection, I found us primo spots right up against a corner towards the back of the hut where we would put our things.





I waited for Noah to arrive and we got to work melting snow and talking with other climbers.

I had underestimated our cooking fuel consumption so in effort to avoid running out of fuel, Noah rigged up a Lifestraw to a plastic bag which we suspended over a catch-bottle to gravity filter the melted snow.


This was not an ideal situation and took us many hours to melt enough water and filter it through this contraption. It did, however, work seamlessly. We were both impressed with Noah's invention and were kicking ourselves for not bringing a proper Sawyer or Platypus filter.

We filtered drinking water from 3pm until 6pm, when we eventually boiled some and ate our dinners.

I was worried if I had brought enough food.


After discussing departure times with some other groups we decided to leave camp at 10pm. This meant that we had about 75 minutes to lay down and pretend to get some rest.


Admittedly, I've never done an alpine start so early. Or...late? It really was a pointless amount of rest and we were basically just killing time so that we didn't summit in the dark.


We left Camp Muir and we roped up to ascend the first section above to. The snow quickly let way to Cathedral Gap which was separating us from the Cowlitz. We passed under what I noted mentally to be "a lot of places to fucking die from rockfall."


The overhang of Cathedral Rocks was quick and we continued trudging onward past one of the guide's camps on the Ingraham flats. The reflective strips on the tent walls flapped in the nighttime breeze. The night sky was clear and the weather was still pretty warm.


After crossing a couple ladders around the icefall of the Ingraham glacier, we moved onto the start of the Disappointment Cleaver itself.


We were holding a good pace and passing slower, larger parties. The Cleaver was completely melted out and was pure rock and moondust. It seemed cumbersome to navigate roped up so we took our crampons off and I carried the rope.

If one of us fell here, the other person couldn't have helped much. It just would've meant that we both die. The route was well marked and we were both confident in our scrambling ability so it didn't seem like much of a risk.

I must say, it was disorienting to ascend the route in the dark, not sure what the surroundings outside of the beam of our headlamps were. Head down, keep working. Just moving forward kept my mind from wandering. We finally topped out and had passed 4 groups in the process.


Normally, the route would be a meandering, yet direct, path zig-zagging up 2000ft to the rim. However, due to yesterday's collapse, the route made a large detour about 1200ft to the east, around the crevasse.

Up until this point, the weather had cooperated and I was comfortable without a down layer on.

As soon as we moved around towards the Emmons Glacier, the wind started.

Howling from all over, the temps were noticeably colder than when we started the route at 10pm. Granted we were almost 3000ft higher and it was approaching 4am.


Noah was feeling the altitude. He had slowed considerably and was responding less and less. This had been a big effort so far and we had been moving for a while. The pace dropped and I was just at an advantage living at elevation. I felt fine, but due to the slower pace, was getting very cold. The newly acquired wind was ripping through my clothes and I was regretting my decision to leave my shell in the car.


The other teams had caught back up to us.


We were making progress but not quickly. The cold and the sleepless night were weighing on me heavily just before sunrise. I was counting the seconds until the light would hit and the sun would return on the horizon.

For now though, I was freezing and so sleepy that I was falling asleep leaning on my ice axe whenever I would come to a stop.

I yelled back to Noah that I had to talk to stay awake. I tried telling various stories but the wind was only getting worse. It was clear that he would never hear what I was saying no matter how loud I was.




We Yo-Yo'd with a trio of guys in their 20s who were climbing at about the same pace as us. We lamented about the wind and the cold and it helped to have some others with us.


These last 1,500 vertical feet were rough. They were slow and we wanted some sign that the end was near.


Fortunately, the sun DID in fact rise again and I was elated to soak in its warmth and to be less sleepy again.


The summit rim looked so far, until it didn't. Then it was right there, within reach. We were gonna make it. I couldn't believe we would actually get our redemption.


We crested the rim and dropped down into the wind shadow of the mountain. It was obvious we still had to traverse the caldera to get up to the true summit of the Columbia Crest. No risk of crevasses here, though. We followed the other teams' suit and unroped to move at our own pace. I made it up to the summit, signed the log book and Noah arrived a couple minutes later. He was pretty unwell. We got our obligatory summit photo and started our descent.



Noah attempted to lay down behind a rock and sleep at 14,300ft. Which set me off in fear of him suffering serious altitude-related trauma. With the right mixture of coaxing and forcing, we got moving downhill again.

We moved fast through the upper 1000ft and the warmth of the morning and lower altitude were much welcomed.



Another 1000ft to just below the diversion that the guides had put it around the crevasse, and we were both feeling much better. Noah was perkier. My stomach had calmed down and I got something to eat. We were both feeling like we were out of the danger zone.



We cheerfully downclimbed Disappointment Cleaver and the crevasse crossings at the mouth of the Igraham Glacier. Once we made it back to the high camps on the Ingraham Flats, we new we were basically in the clear.


We did have to make it underneath the Cathedral Rocks (I ran). But that was not as bad as I would've guessed at 9am. Good thing it wasn't 2pm.


Walking downhill blows but we were glad to be back at Camp Muir with just one final section ahead of us to endure - getting to Paradise.




After repacking our packs with all of the gear we cached at camp, we started down the Muir Snowfield. To our surprise, we had a GREAT time glissading and skate-skiing down the slushy and soft snow. Maybe not as fun as skiing down would've been, but hey, it is what it is.


Hiking down through Paradise Park felt like it took twice as long as it took coming up the day before but we eventually did make the parking lot.

Jamming my toes into the front of my boots descending 10,000ft really sucked. And I lost feeling in my big toes for about a week. I've never had a deep and meaningful experience taking boots off and putting on sandals but it was truly relief like I had never felt before.


We got our overpriced ice cream from the Visitor's Center and basked in the glory of redemption.


It felt good to do what we came out there to do.

I would have been okay had we not made the summit.

Sometimes, not making the summit just gives you the opportunity to go back with more experience and beta.


But sometimes it is just nice to actually fucking make it.





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