Mount Rainier - Disappointment Cleaver, August 2001
Mount Rainier as seen from the summit of Little Tahoma with the Ingraham and Emmons glaciers visible left to right.

With relatively short notice, Ben hopped on a plane from San Diego for the opportunity to once and for all summit Mt. Rainier with me. I picked him up from the airport after work and drove to the Ohanapecosh Campground within the national park.

The following morning we discussed our options with the park ranger. We had intended to climb the Fuhrer Finger route. However, it was in poor condition and we would have to navigate the lower Nisqually Glacier in a whiteout. Not having had any experience on the Nisqually Glacier before, we opted to climb the relatively straight forward DC route (AKA the 'Al Gore route'). Besides, by this point, we were desperate for success. After a huge breakfast at the Paradise Inn, we packed up and set off for Camp Muir. (Photos: BJ, SV)

Click thumbnails below to enlarge...
Camp Muir
Ahh...the lovely (and pungent) Camp Muir.
Setting up camp
High camp is made. This spot was already partially dug out when we arrived. Ben takes advantage of the perfect weather and works on his tan.
Above Disappointment Cleaver
We woke at around 12:00 that night. Ben wasn't feeling too hot...must have had something to do with the sleeping pills he took. I also had a bit of a headache from all the whiskey I consumed a few short hours earlier. I'm not quite sure what took us so long, but we started our climb just before 2:00am. We made good time until we got onto the cleaver and had to wait-out the usual RMI traffic. Fortunately, we were well above the cleaver by the time the sun began to rise.
Sunrise on Ingraham Glacier
Climbers traversing the upper Emmons/Ingraham Glacier with Little Tahoma below.
Mount Adams
Clouds boil over the valleys below. Mt. Hood can be seen to the right of Mt. Adams. To the right of Mt. Hood we could also see Mt. Jefferson.
Crater rim
The crater at last! The expansive summit crater had to be crossed in order to reach the true summit. It was a little windy up on top but it wasn't unbearable.
Gapers on summit
Finally...after seven attempts no less!!
Above the clouds
Way above the clouds.
Paradise far below
Paradise, as seen from near the crater rim (bottom of photo). Mt. Adams rises prominently from the horizon.
Resting at Ingraham Flats
Ben rests at Ingraham Flats.

As he put it, Ben was having "issues" getting down the cleaver. There were problems with his crampons coming loose. The sun, elevation, exertion and dehydration were also obviously taking their toll.

Access on and off the cleaver itself was facilitated by a sketchy staircase cut into the side of a wall of snow/ice. In the morning under hard snow conditions the staircase was a relative non-issue. However, the narrow and steep stairs had softened, melted out and turned very slick by late morning. The fixed line offered some measure of security, but not much. The narrow ladder/bridge spanning a crevasse just after the staircase also spiced things up a bit. Ben tripped while crossing the bridge and and nearly fell into the crevasse. I was taking in the slack as this happened and almost shit myself!
Little Tahoma
With the worst behind us, we relaxed at Ingraham Flats and enjoyed the views over toward Little Tahoma.
Packing up camp
Our neighbors pack it up. After reaching Camp Muir, Ben promptly passed out in the tent. I tried to sleep but was too energized to do so. We opted to stay another night instead of slogging back down to Paradise. Our neighbors did the same and offered us some of their extra food as we were getting low.
Hot afternnoon
The late summer sun burns strong throughout the afternoon. This is beach weather! Knowing what the heat does to weakening snow bridges this late in the season, I feared for the stragglers getting off the mountain safely. The forecast for late tomorrow was for stormy weather and possibly even snow. We timed this one just right for a change.
Crevasses on Muir Snowfield
Crevasses on the Muir uncommon sight. We took our time packing up that following morning and had a casual walk down the Muir Snowfield back to the parking area.
Altavista Trail
Pretty soon we were back beneath the clouds and indeed it appeared as if weather was once again moving in. For once we didn't mind, but let me tell ya, it sure felt good to have finally tagged the summit. Dare I entertain a Liberty Ridge climb now??
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