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Winter Mt. Rainier
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Aug 17, 2012
Tried to google this a bit, poor results.

I am planning to spend some time on Rainier doing a winter ascent + skill course with a guide.. I have three months to choose from.

Would January, February, or April be more desirable? I am not familiar with weather patterns or general conditions and was hoping that one of those three months would be decisively more conducive to a "good trip". It could be very possible that there is no rhyme or reason and they are all pretty much the same. I am just looking for someone with winter rainier experience to point me in a general direction. Any other recommendations would be welcome.


This is my first post and I hope I have it in the correct area. apologies if it is not. PNW seemed correct.
Wes T
Joined Aug 17, 2012
0 points
Aug 17, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Me on top of Chianti Spire
Very hard to plan this so far in advance. The best way to climb Rainier in the winter is to wait for a good forecast a couple days in advance and then go when it shows up. The last few years there have been periods each winter when you could easily climb to the summit in pretty warm temperatures. I think there was a weekend a couple years ago when we had a fierce inversion set up and it was nearly 70 degrees at Paradise.

Also the last 2 years we had La Nina conditions (which should mean cold and wet), but we had a very long, stable high-pressure system set up from mid-January to mid-February. Bad news for skiers, good news for alpine climbers. Then the jet stream showed back up and just pounded us with snow from March through April. But, this is not really predictable.

All that said, if you have to choose now, I think April is a better bet. It should be warmer than the dead of winter and the days will be longer. Remember, it's not a winter ascent if it happens after the 21st! ;)

Ah, by the way, have you climbed the mountain in the summer? I would consider it a prerequisite.
Eric Fjellanger
Joined May 8, 2008
779 points
Aug 17, 2012
I have not climbed it, no.
I will be taking a winter Alpine skills course with one of the major guiding companies and be attempting a summit. I want to be able to work towards an Aconcagua and Denali summit down the road. Since winter is coming this looked to be the best option, and it coincides with some vacation time I have coming my way. If I had time now I would be out there going for the top Aug/Sept but I unfortunately do not.

This is the start of a transition from years of trad climbing to alpine climbing for me. And while many of my skills built up over the years are applicable... I certainly understand that I need to develop new skills/"time on the clock" to become proficient (hence the guide company + courses etc...) Ill be scrambling a bunch in 2013 summer. Probably go back up Rainier at least once. This winter is just the closest.

And I do understand your point the weather being however it may be. They just have 3 months to pick from.
;) thanks.
Wes T
Joined Aug 17, 2012
0 points
Aug 17, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Moab
I grew up in western wa and have been to camp Muir multiple times. I went up one time in January and boarded back down. The weather is very hit and miss. We went up on a beautiful Monday morning, stayed the night becuase a storm rolled in and left the next afternoon. If your looking for a true alpine expierence I would head up January or febuary. either way you will have a blast.

Here is a link you may or may not have.
From St. George
Joined Aug 1, 2010
116 points
Aug 17, 2012
great link. thanks.
Wes T
Joined Aug 17, 2012
0 points
Aug 17, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Mountain Bandito
Ask your guide. Taylor-B.
From Valdez, AK
Joined Oct 20, 2009
3,101 points
Aug 18, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Red Rock, Cannibal crag
Rainier in winter is quite dangerous. I think 5 died of exposure last winter, not found afaik. With a guide you're obviously on the right track but I'd keep expectations low if you don't have a lot of weather days built in. It's common to have 1-2+ weeks of constant weather on the upper mountain.

Remember you're talking about going 11-12,000' above the winter snowline with consistent, powerful storms aiming directly at your target. I haven't climbed it in winter but I do nerd it up when it comes to reading about Rainier & conditions.

Without a guide it's considerably more dangerous than summer b/c of less traffic, less beta on avy danger, serious frostbite risk, etc. Your guide will mitigate this risk increase but he can't eliminate it all, and he/she will likely tell you as much. Gl though.
From Cottonwood Heights, UT
Joined Jul 18, 2012
81 points

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