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Climbing Mount Rainier Jan/Feb, actual helpful input?

PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2019 4:43 am
by adlorey
Just a little background. Trained and experienced mountaineer, have done many climbs. Also have avy certification/experience, as well as crevasse/glacier travel training and experience. All of this goes for my group I am climbing with as well, minus one of the 6 of us and he is in for a treat :) really though it will be good learning for him. My goal here is not to get asked a bunch of questions, or told that my group shouldn’t attempt the climb in the winter and that odds are against us. We know that already, and we are going to attempt the climb, regardless of what is posted on here

My goal is to get and take what advice that I can that can be applied to our climb. We plan on doing the climb in Jan/Feb. And any and all tips, advice, experience knowledge or knowledge relating to a winter climb on rainier, possible best times for lucky weather, really any and all helpful advice would be more than appreciated. Even if we know something, it never hurts to hear it twice just in case we are missing something; important gear, prep, route, etc.

Thanks before hand to anyone who becomes a part of this post!!!

Re: Climbing Mount Rainier Jan/Feb, actual helpful input?

PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:02 am
by ExcitableBoy
There is typically a high pressure system that develops over the PNW around President's Day Weekend. Sometimes it persists for a couple of weeks, sometimes for a few days. The days are starting to get longer by then as well. If I were to travel for a winter ascent of Rainier I would plan for that time period.

In terms of routes, the only reasonable approach in winter is from Paradise as the road is plowed. I recommend staying in the Muir Hut. It can be a life saver and is much nicer than tenting it or snow caving it. Make sure to get a map with the compass bearing from the NPS as the Muir snow field is very disorienting in a white out. Also consider laying in a GPS track.

From Camp Muir you have several route options including Gibralter Ledges, Ingraham Glacier, and the Disappointment Cleaver. The prevailing winds in the winter track out of the SW and strip the snow off of Gib Ledges above Gib Rock creating dangerously thin snow bridges that are well concealed by sastrugi snow. I would personally be wary of that route in early winter. Ingraham Glacier and D.C are the other obvious choices, with many climbers opting for the more direct Ingraham Glacier route.

I consider a warm, hooded synthetic insulated belay parka to be a necessity, as the weather is typically wet and will wilt a down parka when you need it to work most. Wild Things Belay, Patagonia DAS and other, similarly warm parkas are perfect. You will also likely need flotation. Skis are the most efficient and work well on the open, rolling terrain below Camp Muir. Of course snow shoes also work. The cold temperatures and relatively low elevation work against butane canister stoves, although the MRS Windburner and Reactor are an improvement. I personally use the tried and true MSR XGK white gas stove. If you do bring a canister stove, take along a shallow plastic flat bottom bowl. Place the canister in the bowl and occasionally dribble warm water over it to improve cold weather performance.

This article has some pertinent information regarding winter ascents of Rainier with links to the printable map I mentioned. ... ier/507227

Re: Climbing Mount Rainier Jan/Feb, actual helpful input?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:30 am
by adlorey
Excitableboy....great response and much appreciated. I could not have asked for a better response. It sounds like you’ve got a great read on the mountain and it’s climate. I am new to the area as I just moved to Olympia a few months ago so just beginning to learn about many things. I agree with you on much of the points you made also as far as gear, I think white gas is the safest and best way to always go for extreme cold and high altitudes. I assumed flotation was a must, do you recommend skinning over snowshoes as far as effectiveness? And again, great response, and very very much appreciated!

Re: Climbing Mount Rainier Jan/Feb, actual helpful input?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:33 pm
by ExcitableBoy
Thank you, I'm glad you found it helpful. I have learned these lessons the hard way. My comments regarding crevasses on the Gib Ledges are because when I climbed Gib Ledges in January 2000, despite quite a lot of glacier experience, still managed to walk laterally across a crevasses that was very well hidden. I broke through and fell the entire rope length into the crevasse, the rope breaking the weak bridge behind me. When I ascended the rope I discovered my partner had self arrested at the very edge. Two more steps and we both would have been at the bottom of a huge crevasse, never to be found.

If you BC/AT ski then I definitely recommend skinning over snow shoeing. The terrain up and down from Camp Muir is very open and easy to ski. In my view, however, the entire party should be on the same page. If everyone can ski, then ski. If one or more folks do not ski, then you are better keeping the group together on snow shoes.

Not to be overly pedantic, but butane stoves do better at high altitude. It is low altitude combined with cold weather that is the problem. Think of Boyle's law that states the temperature of vaporization is inversely proportional to atmospheric pressure. This is why climbers use canister stoves on 8,000 meter peaks. It may be very cold, but the atmospheric pressure is low enough for the butane to turn to a gaseous state.

Also, I am kind of gear nerd and I would be happy to send you an Excel spread sheet of gear/clothing I use on Rainier in winter if you PM me with your email address.