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best first routes?

Original Post
Carl Sorenson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 0

I am new to mountaineering. I have good background in backpacking and rock climbing. It's a goal of mine to summit Mt.Rainier. Some online resources recommended starting out with some more accessible climbs on St.Helen's, Adams, or Shasta etc. to get a feel for it before diving in. Any advice on how to get started or what resources are most useful? 

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 344

Carl, what is your location?  For starting out, the most important thing is probably convenience, because you want to accumulate time and mileage and it doesn't matter where so much.  Climb where you live.

I would recommend you focus not on mountains, but on routes, and that will allow you to take a skill-based approach to your climbing progression.  You say you want to climb Rainier; by what route?  Guided or unguided?  Once you answer these questions, you can assess what skills you might need to learn, and start building them.  For example:

Goal: Rainier via DC, Unguided, normal summer season
Skills: Glacier navigation, glacier rope techniques, moderate snow climbing, snow camping

So, knowing that you need to learn these skills, you could start figuring out a way to do some climbs to learn them.  Here's a PNW-based progression list that would work:

South Sister: General mountain awareness, fitness, possible easy snow
St. Helens via Worm Flows in winter/spring: General navigation, easy snow climbing
Hood via Hogsback: Steeper snow climbing
Middle Sister via Hayden: Simple glacier travel, moderate snow, scrambling, camping
Baker via CD w/ Heliotrope bivy: Glacier navigation, moderate snow climbing, snow camping

In addition to these climbs, you'd want to do some skills training to prepare you for them; for example, getting all the glacier stuff figured out before you set foot on Baker.

Hope this helps.

Chad C · · Seattle, WA · Joined Nov 2017 · Points: 0

Hi Carl, I am in the same boat as you. I have been doing some non-technical climbs over the last couple of years. I wanted to relay to you my plans with the idea that they may help you.

I climbed Mt St. Helens two years ago and Mt. Adams last summer (with a lot of hard hiking on the side).

My goal is to climb Rainier in summer of 2021/2022 unguided (if possible) via DC.

I am planning on getting there by climbing South Sister, Mt St Helens, Mt Ellinor, Mt Hood and Mt Baker in 2020.

Before Baker I am planning on doing a skills course with the American Alpine Institute.

Luckily for me I live in the Seattle area so most of my plans are accessible on a standard weekend.

Carl Sorenson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 0

I'm in Minneapolis, MN. There's plenty of winter camping options but the terrain is pretty flat.
A skills based approach makes a lot of sense. I'll have to start organizing a training plan.
Do you have any sites, books, classes you recommend for this? 

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 344
Carl Sorenson wrote: Do you have any sites, books, classes you recommend for this? 

Well, the point I was trying to make is to figure out what "this" is.  There are lots of good books and classes, but you should figure out what you need to know first.  For example, should you be focusing on glacier travel, or rock anchors?  C2C fitness, or expedition camping logistics?

That being said, "Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher" by Cosley/Houston is quite good.  It's a like a more modern, streamlined Freedom of the Hills, with more practical, useful information.
Eric Burrell · · West Saint Paul, MN · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 0

Carl I sent you a message. I live in the Twin Cities and have some similar goals in mind.

Meredith E. · · Bainbridge Island, WA · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 0

St. Helens and Adams are good warm ups, but don't have much of the technical stuff you'll encounter on Rainier.  If you want to do Rainier, I really really recommend doing Baker, as you'll encounter a lot of the same glacier hazards, but on a peak that's substantially more approachable.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Eric Roe · · Spokane · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 11

I'll start by saying I know almost nothing about mountaineering.  The one and only mountaineering style climb I've done is the DC, self supported with two guys who had a few similar climbs under their belt.  I think we ended up taking about 20 hours Car to Car?

The DC is a glorified walk up.  There's two short sections back to back that are dangerous, but you're through them in like 15 minutes and the best way to be safe is to just go fast.  The route is wanded the entire way up, and there's a boot pack to follow.  There are crevasses, but if you go early season they're small and mostly covered up, and you're unlikely to accidentally plunge into one.  If you go super early, I think the guides take the Ingram direct instead, and they mark / put down crevasse bridges.

I think you'd be fine if you read up on basic glacier skills, and are at least familiar with rock style self rescue -- the pulley system knowledge will transfer easily.  Maybe I'm underestimating it, but honestly it was underwhelming in terms of technical difficulty (not to say I wasn't properly whelmed by the views).  It's easy to build something up in your head.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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