Rainier in a Day (via DC)
After our stifled attempt on the Fuhrer Finger in late May, we deliberated on whether or not to attempt Rainier again and if so, what route to try. We considered the Kautz, but our feeble ice climbing skills left us feeling hesitant after reading a variety of trip reports. Climbing the Disappointment Cleaver route in two days was not very palatable to us, primarily because it felt so tame. Do not mistake this for ego or elitism- we knew that we could fully get shut down on the DC. Rather, because many guided parties took this route, we knew we would be surrounded with many other people and would like adopt a casual pace over two days. These elements seemed to steal the sense of adventure from the ascent. Success was almost too guaranteed. We thrive on the unknown, the 'maybe possible', the likelihood of things going awry, and attempting the DC in a day seemed to bring some of these elements back into play.
We launched at 11pm from Paradise in a dense fog. The snow had greatly retreated compared to our previous attempt and we found ourselves walking more often than not for the first 2 miles. We prematurely donned skis several times in the patchy snow and missed several switchbacks which cost us valuable time. Regardless, we hit Muir at about 3am and took a short break to re-fuel, stash our skis and watch the horizon begin to glow. We roped up here not because we necessarily needed to, but more to capitalize on having our packs off and already being stopped. Traversing the upper Cowlitz to gain Cathedral Gap went quickly and the crevasses were benign. Up to, across, and a little ways after Cathedral Gap was exposed rubble and scree which is never fun (or fast) in ski boots. The sun crested the eastern skyline as we topped the Gap and gave us a beautiful view of Little Tahoma. The route from here up to Ingraham Flats and across to the base of the Cleaver was relatively casual with a few larger crevasses that needed skirting or required a careful walk across a snow bridge. Upon reaching the Cleaver we resumed our scree walking and scrambling. The path up the Cleaver was fairly well marked with flags, but rock fall is almost inevitable given the very loose terrain.
From the top of the Cleaver to the summit was nothing more than a few crevasse crossings and a few steeper (35-40ish degree) slopes, but a very well-used path made the terrain very easy to move through. We encountered a few pickets that were set up for us as running belays through some spicy sections which were very convenient. Although the climbing was technically easy, the altitude and fatigue began to catch up to us around 13,000’. We persevered and finally stood on the Columbia Crest at 12:30pm. We didn’t stand (or stay) for long because the winds were bitterly fierce, and we quickly initiated our descent. We reversed our path the entire way, ecstatic to be done crossing very soft snow bridges and finally clicking back into our skis at Muir. We reached the parking lot at Paradise around 8pm, 21 hours after we started. It was a long, beautiful and challenging day – exactly what we were looking for.
For additional info and/or more trip reports from our adventures in the Cascades, check out the full trip report here:
Have fun gettin' after it!
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