Mount Rainier Summit Attempt via the Gibralter Ledge Route

From Eric's Alpine Journal

January 15th, 2001

8:10am: The climb is on, everything is packed, there are ants in my climbing pants.

9:50am: Two fully loaded packs, 180 wands, one Rage Against the Machine CD, Andy Johnson, myself and one overloaded Geo Metro depart Pheasant Run Apartments and disappear into the fog.

11:30am: After two coffee stops, the Geo has been retrofitted with the required snow chains, a climbing permit has been acquired and we are on the way to Paradise.

1:00pm: Double plastic boots are on, liberal quantities of sun screen have been applied, the last flushing toilet has been visited. We are on the way.

2:10pm: We have made it to Pan Point. About 12 inches of fresh snow has fallen in the past 48 hours. Mid level cloud are moving in. Stopping for water and candy bar.

3:30pm: We have climbed through the mid level clouds and have stopped for another break just above Moon Rocks. The wind is beginning to blow from the NE.

Mount Adams from the Muir Snowfield

The Upper Mountain from the Muir Snowfield

4:45pm: About 200 yard from Camp Muir, two climbers sitting in the snow are passed. They say, "We have seen better days, but we are okay." The wind is now sustained at about 15 miles per hour with stronger gusts. No cloud of spin drift seems to miss us as we ascend the last 200 feet to Camp Muir.

5:15pm: Stoves are lit, parkas are on.

6:00pm: Hmmm? I wonder wear those two climbers are? After a drink of hot chocolate, I exit the shelter to retrieve snow to melt for water. The wind has increased, the sun is long gone. A stuff sack containing a sleeping bag has been deposited at the foot of the stairs outside the shelter. Looking down the Muir Snowfield, I see two lights.

6:15pm: A climber appears at the doorway and asks where the shelter is. We inform him that this is the shelter. After finishing his seafood chowder, Andy descends with the climber and returns with both climbers and several hundred pounds of gear.

8:00pm: We have obtained the following information about the two climbers:

They are Marines from South Carolina

Neither has climbed Rainier before and have no idea what an avalanche, crevasse, glacier or an alpine start are

Both are having trouble dealing with the altitude

They don't know how to melt snow

They should not be here

Andy and I have agreed that the probability of reaching the summit are slim at best and decide to sleep until 4:00am and make the goal a recon of the Gibralter ledge with a possibility of trying for the summit if things are just right.

9:00pm: Candle lantern is blown out

10:00pm: One marine exits shelter to throw-up.

January 16th, 2001

4:00am: Alarm sounds. Wind is still blowing. Sleeping bag is warm. Shelter is cold. Alarm is reset for 5:00am.

5:00am: Alarm sounds. Andy and I get up, eat breakfast and gear up. Marines sleep.

6:10am: The wind has nearly stopped with the exception of an occasional gust. We begin ascending Cowlitz Cleaver.

7:15am: Just above the Beehive (c10,800'), we stop and drink water. The snow on the upper Cowlitz Glacier is in good condition. The wind has removed most of the fresh snow.

8:15am: We have reached Camp Misery (c.11,600') and stare at the slanting ledge leading out across Gibralter rock. There is very little snow on the route.

The beginning of Gibralter Ledge

8:30am: We have arrived at the "eye bolt", the location where a portion of the ledge fell away in 1936, and a question is answered. Some sources indicate that a rappel is necessary to continue, while others insist that you should not rappel. Why anyone would want to rappel is beyond me.

9:00am: Close to Gibralter Chute (c12,000') we have decided that we have seen all that we need to see. The Chute is filled with fresh snow and looks very unstable.

10:15am: Back at Muir, greeted by Marines. They inform us that they have decided not to try to reach the summit. Andy and I are both glad to hear that. A loud rumble is heard in the direction of the Nisqually Glacier and a plume of snow rises above Cowlitz Cleaver. Hmmm, Gib Chute?

12:00pm: It is HOT. Gear is packed and we are outta here.

1:40pm: Back at Paradise.


Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 1, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; pages 93-95
Mount Rainier-A Climbing Guide; Mike Gauthier; pages 84-88