5 days on Mt. Rainier

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 46.85280°N / 121.759°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 9, 1969
Three rope teams heading up...
By late summer, huge...Crevasses on the Ingraham Glacier

I recently picked up a copy of Ira Spring's book, "An Ice Axe, A camera, and A jar of peanut butter" and found starting on page 93, his story of "A climbing/photo seminar" It was interesting to me since I was one of the "students" involved in this seminar. However, I found that his date of the seminar was incorrect, he reported it to be 1970 when in fact it was 1969 (Aug 5-9). Minor point but in reading that he only did one of these seminars, I now feel that it was a pretty special event to be involved with. Lou Whitaker, Adi Weisensteiner, Erik and one other guide were part of the staff that were with us during the seminar. What made it special was we spent five days on the mountain with Camp Muir being our base camp before we attempted to summit via the DC route. For part of those five days, we spent a lot of time over on the Cowlitz glacier doing ice & rope training, self arrests, and lots of photography under the direction of Ira Spring, who I found to be great teacher. One thing I remember very well is being down on a snow bridge with Ira while Lou Whittaker jumped the crevasse four or five times to give us that special shot I have two of these pics posted and go to photos) I'm just wondering if any of you reading this might also have been involved in this seminar and could email me sometime.

Our group of twelve met at the Paradise guide center at 9 am on August 5th. After our gear was checked out some of us had to rent additional gear if what we had was insufficient. We met Ira Spring and Adi Weisensteiner and by ten we were all heading up the trail towards Pebble Creek, our lunch stop. From Pebble, we hit the Muir snowfield and made our way to Camp Muir. I was amazed that coming from Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri, the altitude gave me no problem while several of our group felt it just getting to Pebble Creek. As I went up Muir snowfield , I couldn't help but think of a Seattle dentist, Dr. James Reddick (a very experienced mountaineer), who had died not far from where I was during a freak storm that trapped him and his son in a whiteout. This had happened just two weeks before I'd had to leave Seattle for Missouri in June of the previous year. Even the benign looking Muir snowfield can be a deadly place to be during a surprise storm and whiteout. Yet as I climbed towards Camp Muir I was passed by several people going up in nothing but T-shirts and blue jeans. If an experienced climber like Reddick could die here and he was pretty prepared, what chance would idiots like these people have. Yet you see it all the time in the mountains. Oh well, enough posturing. Anyway,
by the time our group and a few of us tail end charlies made it to Camp Muir" it was late afternoon.
Camp Muir view: Mt. Adams...

The first evening was memorable as the cloud cover below us allowed just the tops of the major peaks such as Adams , St. Helens and Hood were visible floating above the cloud deck. The sunset was awesome. Night was in the stone hut in an oversized borrowed sleeping bag. I had borrowed all my gear from a friend in Seattle, the only thing I had to rent was crampons. Lou Whittaker came up and introduced himself to our group and brought his brother Jim, who spent the evening telling us (and answering tons of questions) about his climb of Everest just a few years before (1963) It was a great evening and I slept well that night. I didn't even know about the weather changing and 100 MPH winds hitting our ridge, flattening many of the tents outside. The next day dawned sunny and bright.

After three days of truly gorgeous weather, it was time to do the climb, the main event. Our group was divided into three rope teams of four, with one of the guides taking the lead of each group. I was thankful that Lou wasn't my rope leader as the man is such a greyhound. He actually didn't participate in the climb but I didn't know that he wouldn't be climbing with us. Erik, a young man who was to take a fatal mistep on Palisade Peak the following summer was our rope leader. Just a young guy, maybe 20 or 21 but fun and reasonable, a guy I really enjoyed. When I heard of his death, it was so sobering. People can and do die in the mountains, even when it's not expected. We left Camp Muir in the dark and and headed for Cathedral Gap. It was a neat sight to see a line of headlamps bobbing along as we all headed out. Once across the Cowlitz glacier, you climb up a scree slope for a couple hundred feet until you get to Cathedral gap. I found walking up the scree in crampons to be rather weird but when we topped the scree slope, we were moving over onto the Ingraham glacier, an area referred to as Ingraham flats. We hit Ingraham flats just as the sun came up, giving a beautiful sunrise to those of us with cameras. We had started a little later than normal as all of us were pretty well acclimatized and the guides seemed confident in our newly found abilities with the stuff they had taught us. Adi would say:
"don't stepp on zee rope" over and over and over. Hmmmm,
stepping on the rope would definitely be "Not gut"

The trip across the Ingraham glacier made me very nervous as I kept looking up at that huge ice wall that towers above you and thinking "Please don't let loose now" A few years later, eleven people crossing this same area weren't so lucky. Getting across to the Cleaver was interesting as a big schrund separated the glacier from the cleaver but the 'cow path' had
found the one good snow bridge still present and we carefully crossed it over to the crappy rock of the Cleaver. The climb up the cleaver went easier than I anticipated as quite a bit of the route was up a suncupped snowfield which acted like stairs to ascend. These suncups gave us some great pics
Intense solar radiation...Suncupped snow
and we made good time to the top of the cleaver. From the top, the 'cow path' veered left (southerly) and worked its way back and forth among the Large open crevasses that mark that part of the upper Ingraham. One of our group started showing signs of high altitude sickness so he was sleeping bagged and staked to a level spot by the guides at about the 13,500 foot mark. The remaining climb to the summit went faster than I had anticipated and soon the summit rocks were under my feet. What a great feeling. We had to trek across the crater to the high spot to actually stand on the absolute highest spot on the peak but several in our group had elected to stay over on the rim as they were pretty tired and was concerned about the trip back .

The descent went great although about the time I hit the base of the cleaver my legs were starting to abandon me. The sewing machine legs I'd heard about and I found the remaining effort to get back to Camp Muir to be very exhausting. I really think in retrospect that you need to make sure you don't become dehydrated as there was no way that I had enough to drink for the effort that is required to climb to the summit and back. The other thing I would really make sure was taken care of is having adequate sun screen protection. I paid for my lack of attention on the summit day for about ten days after the climb. I slept well that night however, since I was as bone tired as I had ever been in my life. In fact, it was probably at that time, the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.

Anyway, the book is worth a read as Ira Spring is an entertaining author and you get a feel for some of the history of climbing and photography in the northwest. One other special event occurred as I was decending from Camp Muir, I met Dee Molenaar and his son and had a chance to visit with Dee for a few minutes. Dee wrote a fine book called "The Challenge of Rainier" and is famous for his drawings of the northwest mountains and route diagrams that are used in many of the climbing books. I've always felt a little kinship with Dee since my name, Dean Molen, is so similar to his. A little Dutch in both of us. This photo seminar was one of those events I'll always remember fondly. Getting to the summit wasn't too bad a deal either.

This pic from the net shows the route I followed on my 69

I am hoping to climb Mt.Rainier before I'm 70 again with my niece's husband. Got to be in top shape at my age. It'll have to wait until after I've done Gannett, The Grand Teton, and a host of others. The goal is not to repeat a climb until all other goals have been met. Right now, I want to do all of the county highpoints in the western US and that is a full meal deal.
Heading down from the summit...On the way down


User Profile ImageHeading up the DC route.

In the trip report above, many of the underlined words will lead to a picture or a link to a book. I hope you have the time to check them out.

Lou Whittaker

Nice to learn basics from a master
Lou Whittaker giving glacier...


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Viewing: 1-6 of 6

Dean - Mar 26, 2006 9:46 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Sweet

Thanks Tazz for your comments and vote and not only is the gear and packs dated, so am I. No one wore helmets in those days, hard to believe. We also wore leather boots but sno sealed the heck out them so they wouldn't get wet. The ropes were made out of goldline and our harnesses were homemade diaper slings. The ice axes were wooden and it was such a great adventure to be up there with Ira Spring and Lou Whittaker.


lcarreau - Dec 5, 2007 4:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Great company !

It was Ira Springs book, 50 HIKES in Mount Rainier National Park, that got me started with many fine adventures on Mount Rainier. I was actually a member of the Tacoma Mountaineers for 8 years, and I worked at Mount Rainier in 1989. In my humble opinion, it was AMONG the BEST of TIMES. Thank you, Mister Dean!


gimpilator - Apr 26, 2009 12:22 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Report Dean!

It sounds similar to my first experience on the mountain except that you met a handful of amazing people while you were there. I hope you do go back and climb it again. There is something new and totally amazing to see each time.


Dean - Apr 26, 2009 7:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Report Dean!

Thanks for the comments and maybe someday it'd be neat to return and revisit the summit of this one.


Deltaoperator17 - Jul 21, 2009 4:21 pm - Voted 10/10

I love Reading this

I feel like I was right beside you all the way.


Dean - Jul 26, 2009 10:45 am - Hasn't voted

Re: I love Reading this

Thank you Steve, it was one of my truly great mountain experiences. I was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood the summer I participated in this experience.

Viewing: 1-6 of 6

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