Mount Rainier Via Emmons – Oh Boy, That Mountain Is TALL

Post by blogger | June 10, 2016      
Booting up with glacier formations in the distance. The snow level is still pretty high but melting faster then usual.

Spring ski mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest, yes!

Over Memorial Day weekend, Louie and I skied Inter Glacier on Mountain Rainier. The road to White River Campground had just opened and we thought it would be the perfect activity for a nice sunny day. The skiing on Mount Ruth ended up being excellent.

From Ruth, we got a good view of one of the famous climbing routes up Rainier — the Emmons. Louie quickly decided that if the weather was right the following weekend, we should go for the summit.

Louie enjoying spring corn on Mount Ruth with Emmons route and Camp Curtis in the background.

Louie enjoying spring corn on Mount Ruth with Emmons route and Camp Curtis in the background, Memorial day.

The week went by fast. After prusiking up our deck in Seattle and other creative crevasse rescue refreshers, we found ourselves back at the White River Campground along with our friends, Skyler and Phil. Only now our packs were about 20 pounds heavier.

We left the campground late that morning. Our plan was to get to 9500 feet. After a quick two mile hike and some creek crossing shenanigans, thankfully dry, we were skinning towards Inter Glacier.

Enjoying a beautiful view from an marvelous camp spot, ready to get some quality rest before the big day.

A beautiful view from a marvelous camp spot, ready to get some quality rest before the big day.

We got into Camp Curtis around 5pm, set up our tents, ate dinner, melted water and headed to bed while it was still bright and early.

Skinning up as the sun wakes up behind us. Julia chasing the boys on the way up just past Camp Sherman.

Skinning up as the sun wakes up behind us. Chasing the boys on the way up, just past Camp Sherman.

Phil checking out the inside of a crevasse.

Phil checking out the inside of a crevasse.

Getting an alpine start, we headed out of camp at 4am with the sun rising behind us. The snow froze overnight so we threw on our ski crampons and skinned to 11500 feet. Once that high, we transitioned to crampons and booted up until about 14k.

We crossed a few crevasse openings, with solid snow bridges. There was one that really did mess with my mind — it was small enough to easily step over with skis, but looking down into it brought me the chills.

About 500 feet away from the summit, we took a long break and cooked ramen. Phil even took a nap. We summited around 1pm, with spectacular views of St. Helens, Adams, Baker and Glacier Peak, each brilliant with its own beauty.

Of course, we had to drink a Rainier on the summit. Mnt St. Helen's spotted in the distance.

Of course, we had to drink a Rainier on the summit. Mt. St. Helen’s tiny in the distance.

We were so stoked for the best part — the ski descent! The weather blessed us with freezing levels to about 15k, so only the first ~500 feet was a bit icy. The rest was quite the corn harvest, in some places with mash-potato-e turns that my fatigued legs did not appreciate. But mostly a really fine ski down. We got to camp around 3pm, took a quick nap, packed up and headed back to the car.

Skiing of the summit - excited for 9k of soft corn!

Skiing off the summit. Excited for 9k of soft corn!

We opted for a longer ski and a lower creek crossing, which we very soon came to regret. The river level had risen since our way up, leaving us with less then ideal crossing options. Enjoy the photo below for a good laugh!

Creek Crossing how-to, combined with heavy pack, ripped pants, and a lei (crucial part to success). Skyler showing us how it's done.

Creek Crossing how-to: heavy pack, ripped pants, and a lei (crucial part to success). Skyler showing us how it’s done.

Overall, an outstanding trip. We were all stoked to make it to summit, ski, and check Rainier off the list (first time for 3 of us). As I drove to work Monday morning and looked at Rainier from the I-90 bridge, I found it hard to believe that I can now say I’ve been on top of it.


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8 Responses to “Mount Rainier Via Emmons – Oh Boy, That Mountain Is TALL”

  1. Andy June 10th, 2016 10:56 am

    In retrospect, would you bother with skins/ski crampons above Sherman or not?

  2. Phil June 10th, 2016 12:33 pm

    Any better creek crossings higher up in Glacier Basin or is it all dicey now?

  3. Lisa Dawson June 10th, 2016 1:14 pm

    Bravo, Julia! Summiting Rainier is an impressive feat.

  4. Julia Dubinina June 10th, 2016 1:51 pm

    Andy —

    In my personal opinion, it was nice to skin the ~2k that we did instead of booting it, so the skins/ski crampons are worth it. Especially since we left most of our heavier gear down at camp, that extra weight was not too bad.

    There was a party above us who skinned 90% of the way from Sherman. There were also a few parties who booted 100%. I’d say it’s a matter of preference and the icy vs slushy snow conditions the day of.

    Phil —

    If you follow the Glacier Basin trail all the way up , there will be a mellow creek crossing. It’s maybe another 1-1.5 miles of walking compared to the lower point where we crossed. (~3 miles from the trail-head)

  5. Julia Dubinina June 10th, 2016 1:52 pm

    Thank you Lisa! It was an incredible experience 🙂

  6. Jim June 10th, 2016 2:47 pm

    I’ve always wanted to do the Emmons approach so I’m going to try it this weekend. Thanks for the detailed report.

  7. peter gold June 11th, 2016 2:44 pm

    Great inspirational account. Got a new hip two months back and all I do is fantasize about skiing again (this last winter was a little painful).

  8. Greg Louie June 11th, 2016 6:14 pm

    Great writeup, Julia, brings back some fond memories – and good to see you and Louie at the MTB event today!

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