A few days without snow, rock climbing. That is a problem for me that may require medication. Fortunately Mount Rainier exists and has so much snow coating it this summer you can hear the glaciers singing alleluia. On with the skis, put away that chalk bag and leave those pills alone!
Muir is a nice, mostly low angled tour of around 4,000 vertical feet. Endpoint is a logical spot known as Camp Muir (10,000 feet), where a few mildew ridden shelters are used by the guide services, and hundreds of people tent camp during busy times. After days of fun and travel, we didn’t feel motivated for a big summit push so we just skied the Muir for a few days. That was probably best, as doing a summit with the mountain this crowded would have been frustrating or even dangerous with inexperienced rope teams that could fall and rip you off the mountain.
Below, a vid from ‘Tube showing the June 25 landslide that made the huge scar you can see in our photos.
While Camp Muir has a few structures deemed historic, what dominates the place are the big brown weathered privies. Understandably, at Muir the Park Service provides toilets to prevent what could easily become a turd apocalypse. Yes, the Armageddon of human waste is just a toilet malfunction away because literally thousands of individuals trudge up and down this area, day in and day out. And of course, humans have digestive systems, and…
Indeed, the second day we toured up here, Saturday before July 4, you could see an almost steady stream of people from the trailhead to Camp Muir. I’m talking about, yes, what appeared to be upwards of around a thousand human metabolisms. The crowds were truly stunning, way more radical than anything I’ve seen in Europe, and making the West Buttress route on Denali look totally deserted.
My contribution? As luck would have it, I didn’t need to visit the pits. That’s luck with a big L, because according to reports those things are possibly the most disgusting privies you can visit this side of the Santiago Barrio. Oh well, might as well keep the climbing experience exciting. Just remember your hand sanitizer.
One of the weirder things that happened while we were at Rainier involved the climbing information center. We went over there to find out what phone numbers one would use in an emergency, assuming one had a satphone that wouldn’t work for a simple 911 call. “We don’t give out our dispatch number,” sniffed the public servant. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll depend on my cell phone but look up some phone numbers in the phone book just in case.”
Funny thing, my Colorado/Verizon phone didn’t work up there. I guess that’s punishment for not being a local.
I grabbed a phone book and did look up some phone numbers for Pierce County (seemed like the right county for Rainier). No idea why the so called “Climbing Information Center” couldn’t give us this information. Perhaps county phone numbers don’t help with getting a rescue to some kind of childish politics between the National Park and local authorities. Anyone know the details?
Whatever. In the case of SAR and getting the fastest rescue possible, it is frequently best to call as many phone numbers as possible. You never know when your needs are going to get hung up in politics or bureaucracy. Thus, for what it’s worth, if you’re visiting Rainier and need some emergency phone numbers other than 911, we list a few below. As for the so called “Climbing Information Center,” I’d ask why the heck they can’t give a functional phone number one can use with a sat phone. Just ignorant bureaucrats, or something more sinister?
– Pierce County SAR Info, 253-798-6175 or 253-531-8530
– Pierce County Incidents, 253-798-6363
– Pierce County Sheriff (non emergency, call for emergency contact info), 253-798-4721
Another note about climbing logistics on Rainier: You need a climbing permit/registration if you go above 10,000 feet. But permits are only available during business hours (no self-registration), so don’t expect to get there for an alpine start and be able to register. We found that to be weird, but then, if they can’t give you phone numbers then one would expect other weirdness, eh?