Mount Rainier National Park High Point Trip Report

Dates: February 14-15, 2002
Author: Don Beavon

solo winter ascent

I skied up to Camp Muir with a heavy pack on Thursday the 14th getting there in plenty of time to finish dinner before it got dark and to get plenty of rest.

I slept through my alarm at 2:30 and rose instead at 3:30. Departing at near 4 a.m., I got across the Gib Ledges and up the steep upper part of the Gibraltar Nisqually Chute before it got light enough to turn off my headlamp. I made decent time ascending at about 1000 feet per hour. The conditions were a perfect wind-slab with minimal crevasse danger. I made the crater rim at 8:20 a.m. and traversed to the highest point by 8:45. In my previous 15 ascents of Rainier never had I had such a wonderful wilderness experience. The 2 climbers I had shared the Muir hut with had decided against a summit attempt so I had Mt. Rainier all to myself (at least above 10,000 feet).

Leaving the crater rim at 9:00 a.m. I found I could make really good time plunging my heals into the wind-slab. There was a bit of rock fall from the intense sunlight while coming back across the ledges so I didn't waste any time. I was back at Muir at 10:20 a.m. feeling a bit fatigued. I drank a quart of water between 3:30 and 4 a.m. before heading out but drank nothing en route and had only eaten a few handfuls of licorice. I got the stove going, had hot fluids and tried to reenergize myself with calories. By noon I was finished packing up and switched to my ski boots for the downhill run. Fifty-five minutes later I was back at the parking lot at Paradise. It wasn't even 1:00 p.m. and I was a pleasantly mystified that a solo winter trip of Mt Rainier had gone without a hitch.

I had worked the phones for a day to get official permission from the park service for the solo jaunt and had been wanting to climb THE mountain solo for years. To do it solo in the winter under perfect conditions would be a bonus.