The Rainier 9
Climbing Mts Hood and Rainier
July 2004
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Welcome climbers, friends and family.

The Rainier 9 was a team of 5 Americans and 4 Canadians with one degree of separation. They shared a love of the outdoors and a good adventure. Most had limited experience at higher altitudes and alpine climbing (crampons, ice axe, traveling roped together) but they committed to attempt Mt. Rainier in late 2003. Most trained hard and came to the Hill ready to give it their best in July 2004.

All the climbers made it to the summit of Mt. Rainier and back safely. They did in style by setting an RMI season assent record of 5 hours and 20 minutes from camp Muir to the Summit. Three of the climbers, Bryan, Ian and Alan also summited Mt. Hood a few days earlier.

Please enjoy the following pictures, videos and updated final reports. The discussion board remains open for any comments. Thanks to everyone for their wonderful support during the training and the climb.

Climb on!!

Alan and Cathy
Latest News and dispatches from the mountains
Mt. Hood - 11,200 feet
  • Bryan , Ian and Alan are climbing Mt. Hood on Wednesday, July 7
  • The Hood 3 have arrived safely ... they have checked their gear and are preparing to get a very early start ... arrive at trailhead by 2:00 a.m.
  • All three climbers have made it safely to the summit at 9:00 a.m. PDST! Alan reports that it is cold with approx. 40 MPH winds...more to follow after their decent
  • Here are a few pictures that Alan took today during the you can see, parts of the climb were very steep. It took them 7 hours up and 3.5 down. The winds were so strong that all three climbers were knocked off their feet several times but luckily calmed for the climb across the "hogsback" ridge. Once on the summit they had great views of Mt. Rainier and other west coast volcanoes jutting above the thick cloud layer.

Mt. Hood from Highway 35 looking West Summit routeSeeing the East side of Mt. Hood from Highway 35 for the first time. And this was the "warm up"!!

After 4 hours, we reached the final push to the summit. The 45 degree slope is called the "hogsback" and then we went through the "Pearly Gates" to the summit.

We roped up for this pitch up and down.
Ian at bottom, Bryan climbing to the summitThe Hood 3 on the top!Ian and Bryan (blue helmet) climbing toward the summit up the Hogsback.

The Hood 3 on the summit!!!
Mt. Rainier - 14,100'
  • Everyone arrived on Friday, July 9 in Ashford
  • Due to a mix-up by RMI with the lodging reservations, the guys will now be staying at the Gateway Inn at Mount Rainier (360)569-2506. The Inn is just down the road from Whittaker's Bunkhouse where they were originally staying. Also, coverage for their cell phones is very limited. Unfortunately, Alan's ATT Wireless phone doesn't work so the updates might be very limited.
  • July 10 was climbing school, a required one day lesson in the basics before attempting Rainier with RMI. A Nepalese Sherpa, named Phursumba Sherpa was the lead instructor. The climbers experimented with falling down, getting up. Next they mastered sliding down a snow covered hillside on their Gortex covered butts. Then a few lessons in stopping themselves while falling and sliding down the hillside. Finally, they experimented with walking, falling and sliding while tied together with thin nylon rope. It was quite a day for the intrepid climbers. Once the scores were in, all 9 passed with honors!
Paying attentionGoing to schoolThe Rainier 9 going to school. They all followed directions, as usual. Once there, they paid close attention to Phursumba, especially on the falling down and getting up parts.
PembaPhursumba pointed put the finer points of falling and getting back up and Bryan paid especially close attention. Click for the videos of the Rainier 9 practicing falling and another for them getting a little frustrated!
Going HomeRoped upThey were tied together with a nylon rope and had to master "not stepping on the rope" technique. After five hours, Phursumba had had enough and sent them home!
  • The Rainier 9 is leaving RMI for Paradise in the Park to begin their climb to camp Muir.
  • Alan reports that the entire team has made it safely to camp Muir. Everyone is doing well. They plan on starting the climb around 1:30 a.m. PDST Monday morning. Good luck to everyone!!!
  • The "Rainier 9" summit!!! Congratulations to all the climbers!!! Alan reports that the climb took 5 hours 20 minutes and all the climbers are doing well. It is cold on the summit so they are heading back down around 7:30 a.m. PDST. The decent should take approximately 3-4 hours.
  • The climbers have arrived safely back at the RMI headquarters.
  • New "Summit Speed Record" set by the "Rainier 9" for this climbing season 5 hours 20 minutes!!!
Rainier Climb Summary
First views of Mt. Rainier
The Rainier 9 started their journey at the town of Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. Clouds covered the mountain for the previous days and they were wondering if it really existed. As they began their walk to the snowfields and on to camp Muir, the clouds lifted and there it was. Everyone stopped for a few minutes to take pictures and reflect on the climb ahead. Upon this first sighting, there was excitement, nervous laughter and some quiet moments for everyone.
Walking up the snowfields towards camp MuirJJ talking the talkThe first part of the climb was to get to camp Muir. This involved a somewhat long but gentle walk from Paradise at 5420 feet. Everyone had their packs full loaded with clothing, sleeping bags, water, food and more. With our guides, Jeff Justman(JJ), David Conlan, and Corey Raivio we took several breaks to enjoy the views of Mt. Adams, Hood and St. Helens. Plus we heard words of wisdom from JJ such as "I'm a member of AA now so all I drink is beer." And "Anyone know where the route is?" Finally there was " No dry humping, please."
Lee preparing a wonderful dinner!Sifting through gear at the RMI hut at camp MuirOnce at camp Muir, 10000', we took off our packs and rested our legs. It was about 3:00 and had taken about 5 hours to climb the 4500'.

The views were awesome. With a "lights out" time of 6 PM, each person made dinner, usually a freeze dried treat

There were three teams of 9 climbers plus guides at the hut. Also, this is a public area so non RMI climbers are around. All in all about 50 people milled around the area.
Sleeping (or trying to) in the hut - by Patrikc VallRobert in the HutThe RMI hut at camp Muir is a wooden box that holds 35 people. That is if they are lying down on the wooden bed slats. There is very little ventilation and with the cheek to jowl sleeping configuration, you hear every noise (internal and external), smell every smell (internal and external) and feel every nail and bump on the wooden mattresses.

Reinhold had tried to warn us but noooooo! Having music to listen to while falling asleep seemed to be the key to getting some sleep in the box.
Bryan ready for the climbroping up for the climb at 1:00AMJJ made his entrance about midnight with a "Let's rock and roll, Ladies." It was like a fire station drill with everyone jumping out their bags, getting dressed and trying to grab some of the hot water for breakfast meals.

Once out of the box, crampons went on along with harness and rope and helmets. We turned our headlamps on to see in the moonless night. Away from city lights and pollution, the stars and Milky Way were spectacular!

In three teams of four climbers, we began the real climb
sunrise for the Rainier 9Break at High Break, 13,000'The initial climbing across the Cowlitz Glacier and the Cathedral Rocks was straight forward with the Rocks seeming longer than anticipated. After about an hour and a thousand feet we stopped for a break on the Ingraham glacier. It was cold and windy so everyone donned their down jackets to preserve the warmth.

The "crux" of the climb was the loose rock on the Disappointment Cleaver. This is about 1000' of loose, crumbly rock. With crampons on, each step was two up and one down. It was good that it was dark!
Mt. Adams behind the Rainier 9Lee on snowridge at sunriseThe sun began to rise about 5 AM. It was breathtaking as the climbers were bathed in a soft dawn glow.

The climbing was at a steady pace of 1000' an hour. At each break the Rainier 9 did an excellent job of eating drinking and staying warm. Also avoid having to use the infamous "blue bags". The training and good fitness was paying off as we worked our way up the mountain.

With more sunlight, Mt. Adams soon appeared to the South.
rainier 9 on Columbia Crest - 14, 110' - by JJ|Walkng into the summitAfter another two breaks and 2000' higher, we made it the summit crater! The crater itself was snow covered but vents of steam could be seen.

Everyone was tired but glad to be here and a little surprised at the additional 20 minute to reach the "true summit" at Columbia Crest. But not to be denied, the team climbed the additional 50 vertical feet to get summit poses before signing the summit log book back in the crater.

Click on these pictures for the summit videos
downclimbing toward glacier - derren Johnsondown climbing the CleaverIt took the Rainier 9 only 5 hours and 20 minutes to climb from camp Muir to the summit of Mt. Rainier. This was the fastest team assent for RMI in 2004!

The down climb was very different in the light of day. All the potential hazards the Guides pointed out in the dark became very real.

The Cleaver was especially interesting with the loose rock and steep slopes. Once back on the Ingraham Glacier, we saw the huge crevasses we avoided in the dark.
Crevasse - Derren JohnsonLenticular clods forming over the summitWe were back in camp Muir by 11:00 AM. After an hour to rest and pack the gear we left in the box, we made the swift hike back to Paradise.

The weather had been almost too good. Temperatures in the 20's, clear skies and moderate winds. The previous days saw nothing but rain. As we were returning to Paradise, a lenticular cloud formed on the summit indicating very high winds. No teams summited for the next two days.
Derren Johnson- click for video|Robert LeClair- click for video|Patrick Vall- click for video|Ian Fowler- click for video|Lee Barker- click for video|John Reinhold - click for video|Darrly Mekechuk- click for video|Bryan Mekechuk- click for videoAlan Arnette - click for video
How was your climb? Click on each person to see the video and hear in their own words!
Quick Facts about Rainier and the climb
The Mountain
  • Formed only 500,000 years ago, Mt Rainier is an active volcano located 67 miles southeast of Seattle Washington in the Mt. Rainier National Park. It is 14,110 feet high or 4,275 meters.
  • Geologists consider this mountain to be an 'episodically active' volcano, meaning one that will erupt again some time in the future even though it may be quiet now. Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano and fifth highest peak in the contiguous United States. The last eruption was between 1820 and 1894
  • In 1999, 10,919 people attempted to climb Mount Rainier; 5,255 of them actually reached the summit, a 48% success rate.
  • Overlooking the Pacific ocean, Rainier gets brutal weather. Often this is the deciding factor in reaching the summit.
The Climb
  • Rainier Mountain Guides was our guide service. 4000 climbers a year attempt Rainier with them with a 60% -70% success rate.
  • Day one, July 10th, was training and education day where we learned about using crampons, traveling roped together, breathing techniques and, of course, how to stop a fall on a steep icy snow slope!
  • Day 2, July 11, started at the small town of Paradise at 5,500' where we will started our climb to a primitive hut at 10,030' named camp Muir. This was about 4.5 miles and took about five hours. We carried all our gear plus sleeping bags. About 40lbs worth.
  • The 4.5 mile Summit day, July 12, started around 1AM. For the next several hours we crossed deep crevasses, climbed 45 degree ice slopes and then snow slopes at about 40 degrees. We took the Disappointment Cleaver route to the summit.
  • We went around all the deep crevasses. On the steep snow slopes, we used fixed ropes. We were roped together in teams of four most of the time.
  • The summit itself is the crater of the volcano. Steam rises through deep vents but snow was still on the ground. The "true" summit was another 20 minute climb from the crater, about 50 more feet.
  • We follow the same route down. Summit day will be long -12 to 18 hours depending on conditions and other factors.
  • Click here for a topo map of the mountain

The Rainier Nine
Alan Arnette Lee Barker Ian Fowler

If I push real hard ... no pull, pull!!

I have to get out more ...

I'll bring the wine.
CO. - Technology - likes to climb hills CO - Home builder - backpacker, 14'er climber Alberta - Oil & Gas biz - former alpine skier, heli-skier
Darren Johnson Robert LeClair Bryan Mekechuk

Pants? I don't need no stink'n pants!

Is that Big Foot behind me?

Guess what is in my pack!
B.C. - manages commercial construction projects - accomplished Dragon boat racer, expert alpine skier. CO - GIS business - avid cross-country skier and general outdoorsman CA - Consultant - international cyclist
Darryl Mekechuk Patrick Vall John Reinhold

I hope my TV works up here since I brought antennas.

Hi Girls. Need a Guide?

I think I forgot to clip in!!
Alberta - Engineer in the Oil & Gas biz - mountain biker, Canada Rockies climber including Cotapaxi (19,348 feet) in Ecuador. Colorado - owns his own veterinarian business - aspiring mountaineer with several Colorado 14'ers under his belt. See his SummitPost page. California, a high tech refugee who recently bought a stairbuilding business. Climbed 20 or so 14k+ mountains including Orizaba (18'700) in Mexico, Rainier, Grand Teton, Whitney, Shasta, and many in Colorado. Lately into surfing.
We wanted to stay at Whittaker's Bunkhouse but a mix up on their part put us up at the Gateway Inn a few miles up the road on July 9 and 10th. On the Hill we spent the 11th at camp Muir, then returned to the Gateway on the 12th. Our celebration dinner was on the patio at the Copper Creek.

In thinking about arriving on July 9 for the ice climbing school on the 10th then the climb on the 11/12, there is not much time to get used to 5,000 or 10,000 or 14, 411 feet! How about a nice warm up climb, say Mt. Hood near Portland. It is only a few hours from Rainier and is about 11,200. It is a day climb but involves some limited snow so crampons are required. Just a thought. Otherwise, arriving a day early in Ashford, say the 8th would be a good idea. Bryan and Robert have expressed interest.

We needed to arrive in Ashford Washington no later than July 9 for our July 10,11 and 12 climb. Ashford is 67 miles southeast of the Seattle airport and takes about 2 hours driving time.
RMI has sent us a list of gear, but I found it confusing, especially all the layers. Basically, we need three layers: base, warmth and wind. If you promise not to yell at me if you get too cold or hot, here is my suggested gear list. Also, take a look at my complete gear page . I will select my items from the "climb" column.
Why What Brand
Wicking body moisture and 1st layer of warmth capiline long underwear Patagonia or Smart Wool
second layer for warmth windstopper tops and bottoms Mountain Hardware, Arc'Teryx
outer layer for wind and temperature protection wind suit or Gortex bibs and top or Gortex paints and top. Also some type of warm jacket -down or dry loft. I use the Mountain Hardware Chugach and never get cold. Mountain Hardware, Arc'Teryx
hand protection 3 layers: base, warmth, wind Manzella
eyes protection 100% UVA/B Glacier glasses Julbo or
head warmth baseball cap for lower, windstopper skull cap for higher North Face
feet warmth socks, boots, gators REI, Koflach, Mountain Hardware
gripping the ice and snow crampons, ice axe, ski poles, helmet Grivel, a, Leiki
sleep warm 20 degree light weight sleeping bag (pad provided by RMI) Mountain Hardware
comfortable carrying 4000 cu in pack
10 essentials (already mentioned but do not forget!) map, compass, sunglasses/sunscreen, extra food and water, extra clothing, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, matches/lighter, stove (not needed on this trip), knife
lights Headlamp Petzel
water 2X water bottles 1 liter each Naglene
Misc toothbrush/paste, spoon, cup, altitude watch
Have you done your workout today? I know it is a hassle and you tell yourself "I'll get into it after the holidays" ... But it takes time to get your body in shape - at least 6 months. This means January 1 is the absolute last day to start your training. As the RMI site states:

Mount Rainier is considered to be one of the toughest endurance climbs in the lower 48 states. Regardless of the route chosen, the climb is difficult. The two-day climb is eighteen miles round trip, with an elevation gain and loss of 18,000 vertical feet. On summit day, be prepared to climb for 12 to 18 hours while carrying a backpack.

AAI has a nice program for Denali that I think will work well for Rainier. Here is a suggested training schedule:
January Get into the routine 1 hour aerobic exercise3X a week : 70% max heart rate: (220-age)*.70). 300 sit-ups a day.
February Aerobic above plus 3x 20lbs biceps, trapezoids 5X a week
March Endurance all above but double weight routine, add 8 mile run at 10 minute pace once a week
April Mental add running, 5 miles at 8 minute pace 3 times a week. Push yourself when you want to stop
May Focus keep it going but increase lower back exercises e.g. sit ups
June Rest and Maintenance light running and weights