Towering above the skyline of metropolitan Seattle, mystical Mt. Rainier's presence can never be missed. Being this close to a major population center brings many people to the mountain, but this heavily glaciated peak should be left for those experienced in technical mountaineering. With elevations to 14,410 feet and positioned in the turbulent weather streams of the pacific northwest, the quickly changing weather conditions on Rainier pose serious objective hazards that require full climbing gear and the experience to use it. When temperatures are a comfortable 68 degrees in Seattle, the air temperature at the summit may be 20 degrees.
The trad route most commonly followed on Rainier leads up from Paradise Campground up the Skyline Trail to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. This part of the climb brings climbers to a point from which summit bids can be launched in the early pre-dawn hours. Sometimes crowded, well conditioned groups may opt to climb another thousand feet to Ingraham Flats to establish their base camp. This first day's climb may require four to eight hours depending on conditions.
From Camp Muir the route traverses upward across the Cowlitz glacier and then ascends though Cathedral Gap and onto Ingraham glacier. Climbing to about 11,000 feet the route leaves the glacier at the base of Disappointment Cleaver, a prominent ridge of rock that seperates the Ingraham and Emmons glaciers. Gain the top of the cleaver crest snow field at 12,300 feet, and from there continue up toward the East crater rim while negotiating various crevases. You must cross the East crater to the western rim to reach the true summit at Columbia Crest. The summit route from Camp Muir can require over eight hours of climbing.
Mt. Rainier is used by expert mountaineers as a training ground for expeditions to many of the world's highest summits. However, guided climbs are available to climbers who are new to the mountain or who's skills may not be quite ready to lead a climb on Washington's most formidable volcanic peak.