The Cascades 2002...
        Mount Rainier & Mount Shuksan...

Itinerary For Mount Rainier & Mount Shuksan
9  August Arrive Seattle - Travel to Paradise Inn
10 August Climbing on Mount Rainier - Move to Muir Snowfield
11 August Move to Ingram Flats
12 August Ingram Flats- 1st Summit Attempt Window
13 August Ingram Flats- 2nd Summit Attempt Window

14 August

Travel to Mount Shuksan
15 August Climbing on Mount Shuksan
16 August Climbing on Mount Shuksan - Summit Attempt
17 August Climbing on Mount Shuksan - Summit Attempt
18 August Depart Seattle
Mount Rainier - Disappointment Cleaver Route

Mount Rainier is without a doubt the most prominent feature in the Northwestern United States. Itís immense size is not merely a factor of its summit elevation (14,411 ft.), but the fact that the base of the mountain is virtually at sea level. Itís prominence also makes it a prime target for climbers. There are more summit attempts on Rainier than any of the other Cascade peaks, as many as 10,000 per year. That makes for a lot of climbers on the mountain, especially during the regular climbing season ( May-September ), and on the popular routes.

The route to the summit that our group has chosen is the Disappointment Cleaver Route. This is the most popular route on the mountain for several reasons. The main reason is the route's proximity to the Paradise area, and the RMI ( Rainier Mountaineering Inc. ) guide hut. RMI is the oldest, and largest guide service on the mountain. For years it was the only company allowed to guide the mountain. RMI guides a three day summit climb on an almost daily basis. Their route takes them through Camp Muir at 10,000 ft, and on to the summit via the Disappointment Cleaver. At Camp Muir RMI has several huts, there is a public hut, a ranger station, a solar toilet, and room for numerous tents. Camp Muir can be a crowded place. All of this means that there will most likely be a lot of traffic on our chosen route ( Bad ). However, our planned itinerary on the mountain hopefully will allow us to dodge most of them, especially on summit day ( Good ).

There are three reasons we chose this route. The first is that our team leader spent a week on the that side of the mountain in 1999 with RMI during a 5 day expedition seminar, and is familiar with the route. The second is that the climb starts at the back porch to Paradise Inn (5400 ft), which is where our team will be spending the first night after we all arrive. The third is that Paradise is the highest trailhead on the mountain.

The route starts at the Paradise area, and heads up toward Camp Muir via the Muir Snowfield. Along the way to the snowfield the route passes Panorama Point, and Pebble Creek. After crossing Pebble Creek the route climbs the Muir Snowfield. As we ascend the snowfield we plan to find an area for a good campsite somewhere below Camp Muir. We will spend our first night here, somewhere around 9500 ft. By camping on the snowfield we will avoid the crowds at Camp Muir. This will probably be the hardest day on the mountain. We will be trying to acclimatize, it will be our biggest single day elevation gain, and we will be carrying the heaviest loads of the climb.

The next day we will break camp, and move up to Ingram Flats. On the way we will pass through Camp Muir, and at this point rope up for glacier travel. Above camp Muir we will not move unless we are roped. From Camp Muir the route traverses across the Cowlitz Glacier to Cathedral Rocks. Click Here During this traverse we will encounter our first rock fall hazard below Cathedral Rocks. Once we pass through Cathedral Gap we will turn up the Ingram Glacier, and on to Ingram Flats (11,000 ft.). Ingram Flats is a section of the Ingram Glacier bounded by Cathedral Rocks, the Ingram Headwall above, Disappointment Cleaver, and the heavily crevassed Ingram Icefall below.It is here below the headwall that the Ingram Glacierís angle shallows, the crevasses close up, and a low angle slope is formed that makes for a great area to camp. It is here that we will make our high camp. Even though this is a relatively safe area, we will still be on the glacier, and camp will have to be probed, and its boundary marked with wands. Movement outside the wands will only be while roped. We have the option to spend up to three nights at Ingram Flats, and it is from here that we will make the last dash for the summit. By climbing out of Ingram Flats for the summit we will have a 1000 ft. head start on the climbers coming out of Camp Muir. As long we leave for the summit on time (1:00 - 1:30 am ) we should not have to worry about being caught behind a slower team. If anyone catches us from behind they will be moving pretty fast, and we will let them kick trail for us to the summit. It all looks good on paper doesnít it?

Once we reach camp at Ingram Flats we will have three nights that we can launch for the summit. This will give us a lot of flexibility to work with as long as the weather holds. The first night at Ingram Flats will be on a Sunday so the weekend climbers will be gone, and there will be fewer people on the mountain. If we all feel good, and the weather cooperates we may strike out for the top the first night. If that happens we will evaluate the weather, and decide if we want to stay at high camp a few days, or descend to move on to our next objective.

Summit day will start around midnight. We will get up to make a quick evaluation of the weather. The decision will then be made to go, or no go. If the decision is to go for the summit we will cook a fast breakfast, pack our bags, turn on the head torches, and launch from camp around 1:00 am. Once we are roped up we will move out of camp across the Ingram Glacier, and into an area above the Ingram Icefall, and below Disappointment Cleaver. This area is the biggest hazard on the route, and the main reason you donít want anyone ahead of you. It is an area that is very prone to be hit by rock fall, and avalanche triggered from above by climbers ascending the Cleaver. This has been the site of numerous accidents, some fatal. In 1998 an avalanche was triggered by a climber late in the day on the Cleaver. It swept two rope teams off the route below. Several climbers were injured, and one was killed. It is an area to be moved through as quickly as possible. Once out of the strike zone the route climbs onto the spine of Disappointment Cleaver, and relative safety. The climb up the Cleaver can vary depending on the snow conditions. If it is snow covered it can be fairly easy, but if it is dry it is a rock stumble in crampons. Once we arrive at the top of the Cleaver we will have our first rest break. Unless we are moving excruciatingly slow it will still be dark, and hopefully we can enjoyed the view of a clear and star filled sky. The weather is always clear in the Cascades, right?

From the top of the Cleaver the route to the summit is mainly an exercise in crevasse avoidance, and snow bridge crossing. It roughly follows the interface between the upper Ingram, and Emmons Glaciers. This late in the season there will probably be a boot track that is waist deep all the way to the summit. The crevasses will most likely be opened up, and snow bridges melted out as well. Somewhere along the way to the crater rim the sun will come up. Head lamps off, glacier glasses on. Once the route reaches the rim of the summit crater it is a short, and low angle walk across the crater to the true summit. Whoo, Hoo! Are we counting our chickens before theyíre hatched?

After all the pictures are taken, and the summit register is signed we will descend the way we came. The most important thing to remember is to strike out from the summit in the reciprocal direction from which you ascended. It would be embarrassing to end up at Camp Shurman instead of Ingram Flats. Again the crux of the descent is to avoid getting caught below the Cleaver with a party above you. Once back in camp at Ingram Flats we can contemplate our next move. When we decide to leave we will pack up to head down through Camp Muir, to the trailhead ( and the bar ) at Paradise Inn.

Mount Shuksan - Sulphide Glacier Route

Mount Shuksan is a completely different mountain, and a completely different climb than Mount Rainier. Rainier (14,411 ft) is a huge glaciated stratovolcano that dominates the skyline of the most populated area of Washington State. Shuksan (9,127) is a remote, and rugged peak not unlike a summit you would expect to see in the Alps. And were Rainierís summit is a low angle rounded crater, the summit of Shuksan is a steep pyramid of rock. Also Rainier is almost a pure glacier climb, but the climb on Shuksan starts deep in the forest, moves onto the glaciers, and then an alpine rock climb to the summit.

The differences in the these mountains will run in parallel with the differences in the way we plan to climb them. We will climb Rainier expedition style, carrying heavy loads, spending multiple days on the mountain with intermediate camps along the way, and summiting out of our high camp as conditions permit. In contrast Shuksan will be climbed alpine style. We plan to travel light, move fast, and spend only about 24 hours on the mountain bivying somewhere on the way up.

The trailhead for the Sulphide Glacier is at 2500 ft where FR1152-014 ends, and turns into an overgrow trail. The trail winds through the trees up, and onto a ridge crest at 4600 ft. From here the views of Mount Baker to the west are said to be spectacular. The route finally climbs out of the last of the trees at 5400 ft in a small col. After exiting the col the route turns upward toward the Sulphide Glacier through snow, tallus, and slabs finally reaching the glacier at 6000 ft. There are opportunities for campsites at the col, and also on the west edge of the glacier at 6500 ft.

From this point the approach ends, and the climbing begins. The route ascents the west ( left ) side of the Sulphide Glacier across a broad col at the top of the upper Curtis Glacier ( 7800 ft. ). Beyond the col the route steepens, and leads to the base of the summit pyramid. From the base of the pyramid the route ascends the central gully ( class 3-4 rock ) to the summit. The descent follows the climbing route back to the trailhead.

Dan Pate - Expedition Leader 6/7/2002

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