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Climb Mount Rainier, Washington's Highest Peak via Disappointment Cleaver

Ashford, Washington



14 miles

Elevation Gain

9016 ft

Route Type



Added by Ted S

A climb of over 9,000' across glaciers, up rocky ridges, under seracs and often over open crevasses, to call Mount Rainier an exciting adventure would be a vast under statement. While the climb is highly technical and often requires enduring harsh conditions, thousands attempt to reach the stunning summit every season. Note: All routes to the summit of Mount Rainier are technical in nature requiring alpine equipment and climbing experience.

The standard climbing season on Mount Rainier starts in late spring and can run as late as early fall depending on snow conditions.

Starting from the Paradise Visitors Center Parking lot at 5,400', there are only a few feet of flat terrain over the next 7+ miles of climbing to reach the summit at 14,410'.

The route begins on the Panorama Point trail which can be snow covered to the parking lot or half dirt depending on the time of the climb. After passing the point, the route cuts back into the mountain, passing over the Pebble Creek creek and up the Muir snowfield to Camp Muir at 10,188'. The snowfield is a considerable hike in its own right, typically taking 4-5 hours with full packs and has a separate listing here on The Outbound.

Most groups stop at Muir to setup camp spending just a few hours before their climb or several days depending on experience, conditions, goals (and supplies). The camp has pit toilets but no water and no TP. A newly upgraded public shelter is available for those with wilderness permits in a first come, first gets a spot style and a large snow-camping area is located behind it. There are private buildings for the guide companies and a small ranger facility as well. A smaller number of permits are alloted to campers who wish to stay ~1,000' higher at Ingraham Flats which besides being quieter, positions climbers for a shorter summit day.

The summit climb takes place in true alpine fashion with groups leaving as early as 10 or 11pm and usually around midnight - 2am depending on the snow and weather. Departing out of Camp Muir, the route is glaciated to the top and rope travel is recommended from the start.

The route out of Camp Muir begins by crossing over the Cowlitz Glacier, moving fast to avoid the potential of rockfall above. Next a short dirt climb is required to cross Cathedral Rocks and reach the Ingraham Glacier before moving up to the flats, the usual first break spot.

From there, the route leads up to the bottom of Disappointment Cleaver which spans over 1,000-vertical feet though snow conditions change the exact route. Climbing the steep, loose rock & dirt of the cleaver is the crux of the climb for many and can bottleneck if groups unsafely stop.

From the top of the cleaver to the summit is another ~2,100 of snow climbing that can change drastically in a single day as the glaciers move. The guiding companies (RMI, IMG, Alpine Ascents) and Climbing Rangers maintain a set path up this route, installing ladder bridges and fixed lines at spots which can be exciting or boring depending on a climber's experience. While the maintained path certainly means experienced feet, it is no guarantee of safety.

After finally arriving to the crater rim, climbers must cross over the bowl towards the west to reach the true summit and the register under it.

The return path follows the same general route though the rising snow can warrant adjustments for better steps / routing.

Before attempting this climb be sure to read the National Park Service's requirements, regulations and important warnings at https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/climbing.htm

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