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Mount Rainier, South Route

Hi SACsters,

With the summer nearly done, four SAC climbers - Rich Margosian, Gregg Huld, Kipp Bajaj, and Doug Adair - decided to tackle that big marshmallow up in Washington. On Friday we hiked up from Paradise through a heavy mist that miraculously cleared to brilliant sunshine at about 8,500'. At Camp Muir, we found the Muir Shelter clean and nearly empty, so we moved in for the weekend. Saturday was another absolutely gorgeous day with views to Mt. Jefferson and beyond. We took a short recon hike up to Ingraham Flats to stetch our legs and check out the route. After chatting up the throngs of hikers and climbers (someone actually hauled a big propane-fired barbecue up to 10,100' and grilled burgers and hot dogs), we turned in early along with the rest of the now-full hut. Sunday morning we left Muir at about 12:30 with several other rope teams under a star-filled sky. Once on the Disapoinment Cleaver, we mistakenly took the early season route up the north side of the nose, an "interesting" variation apparently not recommended for September when the snow is long gone. After an hour or so carefully working our way up 60+ degree rock and ice lit only by headlamp and a sliver of a crescent moon, we regained the main route and continued up in the middle of a succession of rope teams and their dancing headlamps. Above the Cleaver, the route weaved through the upper Ingraham Glacier and then, to avoid cavernous crevasses, swung far north to join the upper Emmons Glacier. We were at about 13,000' feet when the sun rose on yet another stunning day. Slowly but surely, we pushed up and up, finally reaching Columbia Crest, the crater rim, at about 8:30. After a rest, we hiked accross the crater to stand on the true summit - oh what a feeling! From the top, we could see all of lower Puget Sound, Mt. Baker to the north and all of the Oregon peaks as far south as the Sisters. After a few quick summit photos (the wind was sustained at 30+ mph making for sub-zero wind chill) we headed back to the Crest for some sustanance and the descent. We took our time descending in a little over 4 hours to Muir, rested and rehydrated with Kipp's traditional "summit beers," then down to Paradise savoring the warm late day light on the alpine panorama, and safely home in Oregon by days end. Congratulations to my teammates for a well earned summit and thanks for pulling off the "interesting" route variation with confidence and style - all in all, it was the perfect capper to what has been a fantastic climbing season.

Doug Adair


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