I am extremely happy to announce that I successfully summited Mt. Rainier last Saturday!! It was the hardest thing I've done and I'll never ever forget the experience!
I went with IMG. We had 8 clients including me, and 4 guides. The guides were extremely professional and knowledgeable and friendly. I felt very well taken care of safe the whole time I was on the mountain, even on Disappointment Clever with crampons!
I HIGHLY recommend IMG to anyone looking at a guided summit attempt!!!!!!!! The accommodations and food were also great!!
I really appreciate everyone's feedback here, it helped me a lot with my decision to attempt this endeavor and to go with a guide. THANK YOU!!!
Two things I would change if I do it again would be:
1. I rented my plastic mountaineering boots from IMG, and ended up getting shin-bang and two black toe nails on my big toes on each foot due to them knocking against the front of the boot on the descent. This is mainly due to me not ever having worn this type of boot before and not training in them. They require the muscles of the lower body to be used differently than normal hiking boots. I suffered through the painful shin-bang on the way up and the guides did all they could to help me, but once you have shin-bang you aren't getting rid of it till you take off your boots, and I couldn't take my boots off till I got off the mountain.
2. I would figure out a way to access drinking water at all times. I bought a blatter but the guides said not to use it and I'll be able to drink when we take a break. I live in Texas and was training in 100 degree weather most of the time. I was used to having access to water at all times. Once I was on the mountain and climbing up to Camp Muir, I soon became very thirsty but had no way or time to stop for a drink. I carried my water in two 32 oz. naglene bottles and had another 32 bottle of Gatoraid in my pack. I could get the naglene bottle from the side pocket of my pack, but I had no way of putting it back without taking my pack off. It's also hard to climb and drink out of those bottles at the same time without spilling a lot of the down your front. We were told to drink at least half a bottle at each break but I easily downed a full bottle at the first break and was thankful I at least had the Gatoraid backup in my pack, otherwise I would have ran out of liquid before I reached Camp Muir.
There's no way to really train for a alpine climb in hot, flat, Texas but I discovered physical endurance is only part of what I needed. I trained for this climb for 4 months by putting 60lbs in my pack and hiking up and down a 300 ft. hill I live sort of close too. It's the biggest hill in my area and since I work a full time job, it's all I had time to make it out to on a regular basis. I would also go on 15 mile - 5 hour long hikes on the weekend, just to get my body used to having that weight on my back for an extended period of time. I found the hill repeats did nothing for me on the climb. Hiking up and down a rocky hill in hiking boots is one thing. Hiking up a 45 to 50 degree snow and ice covered incline in plastic mountaineering boots with crampons using rest stepping is something completely different. The 15 mile - 5 hour hikes helped me much more in that doing them helped me prepare to be alone with my thoughts for hours on end. During my summit attempt, I quickly discovered the endurance needed it more mental than physical. You have to focus on where you're stepping, where you're planting your ice axe, and if you're in the middle or end of your rope team, making sure the rope stays out of the feet of the person in front of you. You can try to look around as you're climbing, but you'll find you may misstep and trip. You can try to look up, but looking up takes away your hope because the top never seems to get any closer. So you just look ahead and watch your step, and monitor your breathing, and feeling over all, for over exertion. It's like that till you take a break or reach the next switch back.
There were many times I thought about telling the guides to leave me at Camp Muir or high camp and I'd meet them on the way down. There were many times, when I thought I couldn't make it to the next switch back, but I just kept going. When part of my mind screamed to quit, I'd start counting steps, telling myself I'll see how I feel after 100, but then I'd lose count. Other times I'd really concentrate on my rest stepping technique and found I could gain my strength back by doing that - sometimes. I didn't think I was going to make it till I stepped over the crater rim. The feeling of elation, of accomplishment, of knowing is sometime I can't describe with words, and they wiped most of the memories of the suffering. I couldn't stop laughing once I reached the summit and my eye lashes froze with tears of joy.
Coming down was the hardest part for me, mainly because my shins and feet were killing me. Disappointment Cleaver was dry and climbing down on it with crampons on, sucked. So was Cathedral Gap which also sucked. I was totally hobbled at the end and would have had to crawl into Paradise if not for my trekking poles. Still, as I got closer to Paradise and saw the tourist try to walk in the snow with flip flops or canvas tennis shoes, I smiled. When I was in the middle of a bunch of them and a Ranger asked me if I summited and I said yes, and she congratulated me, I was able to temporarily forget about pain in my feet.
It’s been about 4 days since I completed descent and my legs are still sore. My left foot is staying a little swollen and my toes still hurt. It was totally worth it and I'm already thinking about when I'll be going back.
Thanks for your advice!