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Mt. Rainier as first climb
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By Gilad Stolarski
Jan 8, 2014

Can someone tell me how plausible this plan sounds? I have zero mountaineering experience. I want to summit Mt. Rainier in mid-to-late September 2015. I will be there for a window of about a week to 10 days. (Is there a problem with the season? Is there a problem with the window?)

I know many people don't need a guide for Rainier, but instead take a course at a local school and do the climb in a team without a guide. Do people find a team to climb with when they get there, or do they plan one beforehand? I guess the real question that I am asking is, what kinds of plans do I need to make before I get there?


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By Ben Beckerich
From saint helens, oregon
Jan 8, 2014
About half way up the East Arete on Illumination Rock

Why Rainier?

It's very common for people to ask this question. How many people actually end up doing it is anyone's guess, but the answer is basically always the same: It's not a good idea in general.

The thing is, you need to be able to be self-reliant to qualify for going up big mountains. You go with a partner, or a rope team, or even a whole group, for safety- but what happens when everyone gets hurt/killed/lost but you? Or if you take a slide and end up separated from the group? What if none of that happens, but you run into hunker-down weather or other stressful situation and your group just mentally dissolves? If you don't know shit about surviving on really big glaciated volcanoes with classically shitty weather, you're fucked.

And not just thinking about yourself, but what happens if shit goes down and it's on YOU to save someone else? Do you possess the skills to build a haul system on rotten September glacier ice and ratchet someone out of a shitty situation? Are you going to have the requisite crampon, self-belay, and self-arrest technique to prevent ripping your teamates off their feet?

Just some stuff to think about. I've taken new guys up who would be DEAD if anything happened to me, and I know wouldn't be able to do shit for me if I got into trouble. It's a risk both they and I have acknowledged and been OK with, so we did it. But my advice would be to start on something a little more forgiving.

As so how to go about finding a partner or team- you're just going to have to square that away. I certainly wouldn't just drive up to Paradise in the hopes of finding someone to tag along with. You'll need to post in the partners sections of the boards or get some friends or otherwise figure out a way to get people to go with you well in advance. Make sure you're very up-front about your experience level.

Or hire RMI.


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By Ben Beckerich
From saint helens, oregon
Jan 8, 2014
About half way up the East Arete on Illumination Rock

I'm definitely not saying don't get out there and climb in the alpine. I'm just saying I think it's generally wiser to NOT go straight to the biggest, baddest mountain for a first climb. Get some experience on more forgiving ground first, is my advice. 2015 is a long ass way away.


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By Gilad Stolarski
Jan 8, 2014

Thank you for the detailed response. There is no particular reason why Rainier; mainly I was asking because I didn't know how difficult Rainier really is. Can you recommend a better mountain to try, also in the Seattle area? Is Mt. Baker a realistic choice?


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By ElectricEric
Jan 8, 2014

If you have ZERO experience I wouldn't recommend Rainier or Baker. My suggestion would be Mt Adams with someone that can show you some basics like self arrests and some rope travel. The south side is essentially a hike but with a decent amount on snow. Its perfect for beginners but gives you a good taste of what you're getting into.


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By shotgunnelson
Jan 8, 2014

Get a guide or make a qualified friend and pay them in beer and handjobs. Guide service is easy to find for Rainer and you will have a pretty high summit shot. They will have all the gear you will need and your chances of thining out an overpopulated earth will be less slim. You could also look up roger roots who does winter ascents in New Mexico in dress pants and douchie leather jackets if you want the world to have less mouths to feed,


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By Gilad Stolarski
Jan 8, 2014

Thanks both of you. I knew Rainier was a long shot, but just wanted to hear for myself how much so. I am now planning on climbing Mt. Adams, then Mt. St. Helens.


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By Scott McAmis
From Lacey, WA
Jan 8, 2014
Eldo Canyon

If you are interested in learning more about mountaineering, you might also start by buying Freedom of the Hills. It's pretty much the bible of mountaineering, and it gives a decent overview of a lot of different skills you might need to eventually tackle bigger peaks. I also recommend taking classes from guide services (e.g. intro to mountaineering, crevasse rescue), and then practice those skills on some smaller climbs.


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By george wilkey
From travelers rest sc
Jan 8, 2014
me

I don't know where you live but you may want to start out with some of the easier Colorado or California 14ers. although most are not very glaciated, you will still get a feel for being high on a big mountain without a lot of the objective danger. it will teach you how your body reacts to high altitude, you'll learn what to watch for weather wise, and give you an idea of what your getting into.


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By mark felber
From Frisco, CO,USA
Jan 8, 2014

By mid to late September, the days will be getting a little shorter, the temperatures will be getting a little lower, and the odds of a snowstorm will be a little higher. This is not to say that a beginner shouldn't try it in late September, but August or late July might offer better conditions for your introduction to mountaineering. On the plus side, the crevasses will be easier to spot, and the mountain might not be as crowded in September.

I climbed Rainier with RMI in 1979, and had a blast. It was an excellent introduction to big mountains, I learned a fair bit and I got some supervised practice traveling in a rope team and using crampons and ice axe. I came back and did a solo ascent of the Disappointment Cleaver route (the easiest way up) in 1990, and had an even better time, although I did get fined $50 by the park service because solo ascents were illegal at the time.

If you're doing the climb in 2015, then definitely try to do as many other peaks as you can before then, whether they're walkups, snow climbs or real glacier climbs like Rainier. If 2015 rolls around and you feel like you've learned enough to tackle Rainier on your own, go for it. If not, a guided climb will be one more step in the learning process.


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Jan 8, 2014

Gilad Stolarski wrote:
Thanks both of you. I knew Rainier was a long shot, but just wanted to hear for myself how much so. I am now planning on climbing Mt. Adams, then Mt. St. Helens.


PLENTY of trouble to be found on Mt Adams...it's smaller than Rainier, but still a real mountain. If you're really up for getting into mountaineering, a few days with a guide would be money tremendously well-spent.

Check out this thread for more details on what can happen to you on a mountain less than 1/2 as tall as Mt Adams www.mountainproject.com/v/avalanche-in-tuckerman-/108544429

I guess the thing that pops up for me (perhaps an unwarranted concern, maybe you've got it covered) is that even the technically easiest mountain can experience a WHITE OUT, and indeed we did get just that when I climbed Mt Adams (by a harder route over on the East side). The guides we were with (I was 15 at the time) got us back to camp using an altimeter, a compass, and a topo map. Our white out was just fog, it was warm enough and we had some food and water, so our situation was more inconvenience than danger, but if we'd been wet and cold it would have been more serious. And, if we'd gotten off route on our descent and stumbled over the top of the Headwall, unroped, that could've gotten pretty serious too!

A major attraction of mountaineering is that it requires competence in a huge array of skills: weather, estimating avalanche risk, navigation, first aid (why not get your WFR between now and 2015?), route selection, all the climbing stuff (almost incidental on an easy snow route), camping skills, learning how to pick a safe partner, etc. Investing some time and money in the fundamentals, so that you feel in control on Rainier when you get there, will be really satisfying. George Wilkey's advice about taking all this out for a test drive on a big HIKE instead of a big CLIMB is an awesome way to do this.


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By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Jan 8, 2014

There is nothing wrong with Rainier as your first mountain. The guides take lots of gumbies up every year. IMHO your are probably safer on Rainier than any of the other mountains listed. That is because of the volume of people near by that can initiate a rescue. Not that you should rely on any of them to haul your carcass off the hill.

That said the time of year is the bigger issue. By September the hill is full of cracks and a bowling alley. Not really the time to be there.


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By Josh Allred
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 8, 2014
Pfeifferhorn via North Ridge

Little bit out of the way but I would imagine Shasta via Avalanche Gulch (if there is still snow in Sept) would be a better 14ner to start on (although you will want to try some 10s, 11s and a 12 if you can). No crevasses. Never done it but it seems like a good trade route to start. I echo what the first post wrote. Its even worse when someone gets away "lucky". Set themselves up for an epic failure down the road.

If you don't have friends or a local club to sign up with (try meet up.com, mp, sp, local colleges) I would recommend a course esp if you have 10 days. You'll come out a whole new climber in 10 days if you choose the right place to learn from.

Lots of people go up Rainier but never make it simply because they never do the work on their own to learn, just want to be guided up.


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By Aaron O
From Seattle, WA
Jan 8, 2014
Angel's Crest

I did Rainier as my first mountaineering experience and it went very well. Though I hadn't mountaineered before, I had spent a lot of time in the mountains, which certainly helped. We did Gibralter Ledges and I did it with a group of very experienced mountaineers, who had each climbed it 10+ times.

I did do a course before hand, taught by them, and they pushed me probably a little harder than I would have gotten in a normal course (we simulated some pretty wild scenarios in very controlled environments). Without doing that I would have felt very uneasy about the climb regardless of my teammates.

I would suggest you don't do it alone, or with someone who doesn't have a lot of mountaineering experience. If you want to get up the mountain, book a climb with RMI. I have a lot of friends who have done this for the first climb, and if you do an easier route, and are fit, you would probably have no problem summiting and enjoying it thoroughly. Even on the easier routes you will be crossing crevass fields, especially that time of year.

Also, among all of the other mountains you have named (Adams, Baker, Hood, Shasta, etc.), none compare to how wild and beautiful Rainier is. Those are all cool mountains, but Rainier is the sickest.


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By clay meier
Jan 8, 2014
Thats Me

I say go for it. What's the worst that could happen?


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By Eli Harry
Jan 30, 2014
Bad Bannana's

Mt.rainier would be Ptobably more scary than enjoyable as a first trip... Honestly... In mid July as long as you get on the right cow path and don't get lost you'd probably be fine. But still risky... A lot more risky in September due to lack of people and bad weather


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By Cale Hoopes
From Sammamish, WA
Jan 30, 2014
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I did it with RMI in 2000. However, I've returned to climb it multiple times since them using some of the other guide services and leading climbs myself. I'd say, that for a first timer - I'd go with a guided climb. I'd encourage you to look at one of the OTHER guide services as well. Look for schedule, experience, price, etc. IMG, AAI and/or some of the single-use permits guide companies get give you many options. I think you should also consider route.

September is a challenging time to climb Rainier. Some years it's fantastic, some years it's impossible. The guide services close up shop near then, so you are sometimes getting late-season service. You'll need to work with them on the scheduling options. Additionally, your choice of route really dwindles that late into the season. So, you will likely be visiting the Disappointment Cleaver route. The routefinding is much more challenging late season making for a longer ascent (usually) in order to traverse around crevasses that you can walk over in early season. All of these will have an impact on your late-season climb.

Finally, for your "first" climb... if you're not going to get experience through a club, I'd not just wing it. I would shy away of the "meet-up" at the bottom of the mountain or the airport in Seattle. These trips can be really easy or can be really dangerous. A lot can happen and having interpersonal relationships with your climbers can be a factor. A guided climb is an opportunity for learning and an opportunity to have some guarantee that you have experience on the trip to mitigate some risks.

Also, what do you want to accomplish? Do you have a dream of being a mountaineer and/or increasing your experience? Or are you just trying to tick off a single bucket list item? Look for reviews of the guide services. Some of them are really only about getting you to the top and some of them will invest in your learning with an understanding that growing you as a climber may turn into repeat business for them. I'd encourage you to think about the latter.

As for logistics, the guide services will also help you. Accommodations, rentals, training, logistics of travel are all extra services they advise to make your experience successful. And you'd be surprised about how the relationships you build will impact your experience later. Go to the climb to learn and it will benefit you more than you know.

Finally, I'd encourage you to ask about whether the guides you go with are AMGA or IFMGA certified. This certification is helpful in determining their experience and what you can learn from them. It's totally worth it to consider them not as guides, but as instructors.

That's all. Can you climb after joining a club or taking a class? Sure, but keep in mind your time window will be effected.

Good luck!


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By Brian Prince
From morro bay, ca
Jan 30, 2014
The Seward Highway is really beautiful.

To add a bit... I did Rainier with a friend after only just getting into climbing the winter before, and it was my first big mountaineering experience. I think the real question is whether you want to get into mountaineering/climbing for real or if you just want to climb Rainier. If the latter, then just get a guide. If the former, yeah, like someone said, 2015 is a long way away. But yeah, time of year probably isn't the greatest in the op's specific case..


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By Ivan Stoyanov
Mar 10, 2014

It is very possible. My first Rainier climb was 4 years ago. The only training I had was I hiked Mt. Si twice with about 35-40 lbs. on my back. I went with my girlfriend at the time and she had experience. It was a shit show but we submitted. Granted I was in shape from playing soccer about 3-4 times a week. Do it but be careful.


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By Adam Burch
From San Dieger
Mar 11, 2014
Mexico, Mang

shotgunnelson wrote:
...You could also look up roger roots who does winter ascents in New Mexico in dress pants and douchie leather jackets if you want the world to have less mouths to feed,


I seriously about crapped when I read this, isn't this the guy who posts up TRs about doing Grand Teton unroped in crocs or something?

Lulz Patrolz, baby


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