Climb Mt. Rainier via Disappointment Cleaver

Paradise Ranger Station, Ashford, Washington, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:


  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    13 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    8790 Feet


Climb the most glaciated volcano in the contiguous United States, reaching the summit of the highest peak in the Cascades at 14,411ft. This is considered the best mountaineering/climbing in the lower 48 states.

Mt. Rainier is a technical climb on all routes and is covered with glaciers all four seasons. It is not a mountain to learn mountaineering unless you hire a guide service who will help guide you up the mountain. With good weather and previous mountaineering experience, Mt. Rainier's Disappointment Cleaver is a very doable climb without guides. Previous glacier travel and crevasse rescue experience is necessary. Take time to go over crevasse rescue procedures with your climbing partners before heading up the mountain so that everyone is on the same page in the event that someone falls into a crevasse. Wilderness permits for camping on the mountain and climbing permits to summit Mt. Rainier are required in advance.

The Disappointment Cleaver trail head starts in Paradise, Washington, located at approximately 5,400ft above sea level on Mt. Rainier's south slope. Most climbers break the climb into 2-3 days.

Day 1: Climb from the trail head at Paradise (5,400ft) to Camp Muir (10,080ft)
Day 2: Climb from Camp Muir (10,080ft) to the summit (14,411ft), return to Camp Muir and pack out or stay an extra night
Day 3: Camp Muir back to Paradise

From Paradise, follow the Skyline Trail to Camp Muir. The beginning of the route starts on asphalt and is easy to follow. Once the trail disappears in the snow, look out for flags that will help guide your way. The trail is traveled frequently enough so it's easy to follow foot tracks. If mountaineering is not for you the hike to Camp Muir is a great day trip and does not require any technical skills; just be prepared to hike in snow with the proper footwear.

Camp Muir is a popular base camp for climbers with huts for climbers to stay in. If you want to be guaranteed a spot in the huts, arrive earlier. If not then make sure to bring your own tent to pitch on the snowfields. Many guide services have their own private huts for their clients on Camp Muir.

As the weather warms it's important to get an early alpine start as rock and ice falls are one of the dangers one needs to consider as the weather warms up throughout the day. We started the climb before midnight as it was a particularly warm week. From Camp Muir onward, rope up in your rope team for glacier travel. Traveling in a rope team takes more effort and time so be prepared to travel slower than the usual speed.

The climb is a great challenge and is very rewarding. A lot of climbers use Mt. Rainier as a training ground for bigger high altitude climbing in the Himalayas, South America and Denali. One of the great things about climbing this route is meeting incredible mountaineers as it's very popular. Camp Muir is a great hub for climbers on the mountain to meet and hear stories.

Pack List

  • Mountaineering Boots
  • Backpack
  • Ice Axe
  • Crampons
  • Climbing rope
  • Climbing helmet
  • Headlamp with extra battery
  • Glacier glasses
  • Glacier traveling/ crevasse rescue: carabiners, prusik cords, ice picket
  • Food
  • Stove
  • Fuel for melting snow and cooking
  • High altitude sunblock
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
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Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

This route in high season (middle of summer) can be extremely popular and therefore crowded. If you can plan to avoid a weekend or set out even just a half hour earlier than the rest of the teams at Camp Muir, you'll do yourself a huge favor. Nobody likes being stuck behind lines of large climbing groups on the treacherously rocky outcrops of the Cleaver. Also, manage your expectations appropriately. When we summitted it was completely cloudy and we couldn't see anything resembling a view, but the sense of accomplishment standing at the summit plaque was WELL enough for us!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Two days and a beautiful sunrise summit with amazing views all around!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

What a great climb! We were blessed with a clear and relatively calm day so the views were soectacular! We did this unguided but if you have limited glacier travel/mountaineering experience I would recommend a guide for this strenuous climb. Can get crazy up there!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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