Mt Rainier Summit via Emmons Glacier

Mount Rainier National Park

July 19th-21st, 2008 Trip Report

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We attempted this climbing route last August but were foiled by high winds, poor visibility and dangerous crevasse conditions. This year we started a month sooner and were were greeted by perfect climbing conditions. The Emmons Glacier is the second most popular route on the mountain and the excellent weather and nearly full moon on a weekend guaranteed a crowd. All the campsites at Camp Schurman (48 climbers) were occupied and tents spilled out onto the Winthrop Glacier and crowded together on a safe spot above Schurman called Emmons Flats.

Mike camped at Glacier Basin Friday night (3.5 miles from White River Trailhead) with his daughter Sarah and wife Pat. Chance and I caught up with him Saturday afternoon at Camp Curtis on Steamboat Prow where we spent the night under the stars with a perfect view of our climbing route.

Sunday dawned clear and calm and after a leisurely breakfast and crevasse rescue refresher on a nearby snowfield we roped up and traversed the Emmons to Camp Schurman where we actually had reservations for the night. The camp was almost deserted after all the climbers from Saturday night returned and headed down the mountain.

After a short nap we started our climb at 1215 am on Monday morning and zigzagged our way up the Emmons for almost seven hours to the summit. Conditions were nearly perfect: temps near freezing which kept the snow firm for crampons, Breezy with excellent visibility. Mt Hood, the Olympics and Mt Baker were clearly visible from the 14,411 foot summit.

The descent turned warm and slushy which increased our concern about some of the crevasse crossings but we arrived uneventfully back at Schurman before noon, took a break and continued down to the trailhead at White River Campground. That is a 10,000' descent in one day followed by a six hour drive home to Eugene. Mountaineering is all about testing your limits, including sleep deprivation!

This was a nearly perfect climb with skilled and prepared companions and I look forward to our next adventure. Enjoy the photos. -rm 

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Actual GPS Track on  USGS topo map


Climber's map



Aerial view of route. Steamboat Prow & Camp Schurman are visible at lower left.

Photo credit: mb

Inter Glacier and Camp Curtis - Follow the boot track.

Photo credit: mb

Another aerial view of the top of the Emmons and Columbia Crest.

Photo credit: mb


The climber's parking lot at White River CG was a zoo on Saturday morning!

The mountain beckons...

The trail to Glacier Basin is still washed out in places from the floods of November 2006.


Glacier Basin is full of wildflowers. Here is a Pink Monkeyflower.

Yellow Avalanche-lily (aka Glacier Lily)

Subalpine Daisy.

Alpine Shooting Star. Ram's Horn Pedicularis. Long Leafed Phox.

Wood Violet.

Subalpine Lupine.

Mountain Heather.

Tall Lungwort ("Bluebells"). Alpine meadow.

So much for the wilderness experience! Climbers head up the Inter Glacier.


Burroughs Mountain with the North Cascades in background.

Chance on the Inter Glacier.

Camp Curtis (8,650').




The Moon and Jupiter from Camp Curtis.

Climbers headed up the mountain by headlamp at 2 am Sunday.

Sunday we marched across the lower Emmons to Camp Schurman. Roped travel is essential on glacial terrain.

Check out the Ranger's footwear! The crevasses on the Emmons are dramatic. This is the largest glacier in the contiguous United States. Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch. Only seen above timberline in western N. America.
Sunset on Sunday. Looks like a good night to climb! Note the mountain's shadow extending into Central WA Mike gearing up at Midnight. The Moon made headlamps almost unnecessary.
Some sections are like climbing a stairmaster... With a pack... for hours... in thin air. Nice steps Mike! Dawn is a beautiful event at 13,000'. The party of four ahead of us left Camp Schurman over an hour before us. We passed them to be the first party to the summit on this route Monday morning. We had to make a long westerly traverse below the Bergschrund which is the top crevasse on a glacier. It was massive!
These strange snow formations are called neve penitentes . Just past the neve is Columbia Crest the highest point on Rainier at 14,411'. Summit Pose with Pt Success in background. Photo credit: cf
Why not? Strange things happen on Rainier's summit. A couple got married in the crater a short time earlier. The dots in the crater are climbers coming up from Camp Muir. A quick bite at the climber's register and then back down the hill. Look carefully at the closest part of the rock and you can see Camp Schurman. It took almost four hours to reach it.
Now we got to see some of the dramatic scenery we passed in the dark on the way up. The scale of the crevasses is difficult to capture. We crossed a large icefall area. Those seracs can shift violently so we moved quickly through here.
There were several cracks that required a short jump and an attentive belayer on the other end of the rope. Mike caught Chance midair on one jump. Photo credit: mb Green is a welcome sight after two days above timberline. Chance's victory dance!
The hike out was beautiful but tiring. I wanted to spend Monday night at Glacier Basin but my companions heard the siren call of cold drinks and warm showers. Mining detritus at Glacier Basin. This camp was home to hundreds of copper miners from 1914 to 1930 and the trail was actually the Starbo Mine road. Til next time...

Motionbased GPS analysis     Summit video 1     Summit video 2 (huge file)     Fumarole video
(Videos are in .avi format. Right click... save as... open with compatible media player)


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