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Early Season Rainier Routes

Original Post
Dylan Colon · · Eugene, OR · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 340

A friend of mine and I were considering heading up to Mt. Rainier in 2 weeks, and we still aren't entirely sure which route to try. We are both fairly experienced, but don't want to get on something highly committing like the Liberty Ridge for our first time on the mountain. That said, we are willing and even slightly prefer to try something a little more off the beaten path than the DC or Emmons routes. We were thinking of Gibraltar Ledges, Fuhrer Finger, or Kautz Glacier as potential options.

I think the Kautz looks really cool but I assume we'll be far too early in the year to get in on the ice climbing that route offers later in the season.

Anyone have any good recommendations for this time of year? Any aspect of the mountain is fine, as long as we can get to it without spending several days of extra hiking. As it is we have about 3 days give or take to make the climb happen.

christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 235

i'm not in the PNW right now, but the access for lib ridge/ emmons probably isn't open yet.

I've done the fuhrer finger and DC,

FF was nice, even better if you are on skis. Fuhrer finger up to DC down would be a nice time.

Even though the DC route gets alot of traffic, I do think it is special and I kind of like it more than the fuhrer finger. it is very scenic, the sun rise over little tahoma is pretty amazing, and the route is more interesting than the FF.

Camp Muir is a great place to hang and chat with other mountaineers and has a nice expedition base camp feel to it.

As far as Gib ledges, you don't really get away much from the crowds, and add significant objective danger on a warm spring day.

Kautz is about the same as the finger, just moderately angled glacier climbing, no reason in my mind to go over there, unless you've done the other routes.

Rainier really is a skiers mountain, ski descents of all those routes can be an amazing time.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,135

This time of year the route that gets most climbers' attention is the Gib Ledges. Later in the year there is typically not enough snow. A nice enough route as the view along the ledges is pretty cool. Once on top of Gib rock it is a straight shot to the summit.

The Finger is great skiing and the defacto route for that as it lacks lots of cracks. The route itself is straight forward. Good camps at about 9.5K. I would not worry about missing out on any ice on the Kautz. There is not really that much, a couple of short 100 foot sections that are low angle that people make out to be way more than it really is by hauling a second tool.

As for the Emmons, check for when the White River Road is going to be open. It might be open in a couple of weeks:…

The Emmons is one big plod of a route. Not really that interesting. The DC is far more interesting and this time of year there are not too many people.

kerwinl · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 130

The climbing rangers update route conditions here all the time:…

Morrismc · · Portland, Or · Joined May 2010 · Points: 650

Ha. Allen, didn't know you were still trolling the PNW forums! Currently in Joseph, Btw lots of rock and snow in the wallowas!

Thanks for the beta everyone!

Dylan Colon · · Eugene, OR · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 340

Thanks for all the help people!

Based on what I've seen here, Disappointment Cleaver or Fuhrer Finger seem like the way to go. Camp Muir sounds like it could be a fun experience, particularly before things get really crowded later in the summer.

This may not be the best forum (climbing not skiing) for this question, but are there any special considerations that people make for skiing either of those routes, other than the obvious things about crevasses and avalanche danger?

christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 235

if you are skiing, do the FF.

You need to time it so the snow is nice and soft in the coulior, but not too soft or it can cause a big wetslide. Depending on the temps, probably between 10am and 1pm. Timing the corn o'clock is a learned skill that comes from skiing dozens of days on cascade volcanoes.

Getting over to the other side of the nisqually glacier can have huge wetslides too. You may need to wait until the sun is off "the fan" to ascend out of the glacier basin.

The crevasses extend alot further down into the fuhrer finger coulior than one might think.

Be careful of where you stop.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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