Jeff and I finally got some company and added safety for our trip to Rainier. My good friend Matt was looking to spend some time in the mountains and asked if he could join for a trip. Having friends join for a trip by FKT standards classifies your trip as supported, but for our goal and ethics, having a friends join is welcome, so long as we still haul our own gear and food on bike to and from the climb.
Jeff's coaching responsibilities at state track kept us from leaving Ellensburg until Sunday morning (the 28th). We loaded the bikes and were on the road by 06:30. To get to Rainier, we rode up Shushuskin Canyon, over Ellensburg Pass to the Wenas, and then West following Rocky Prairie Rd (NF 1713) to Hwy 410.
Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) along NF 1713
More Bitterroot in bloom
Rocky Prairie Road is an extremely rocky road. I would not advise anyone go here if you're looking for a smooth outing. Steep grades and large loose rocks required us to push our bikes for many sections. However, blooming wildflowers, rolling meadows, and few other humans (even on memorial day weekend) made for a worthwhile adventure. And, it saved us 30 miles.
We met up with Highway 410 just north of Nile. From here, we rode 33 miles to Chinook Pass, stopping for ice cream at Whistling Jack's.
Our legs tired as we rode up Chinook Pass, but at the top, we knew it was all down hill to the ranger station.
Jeff riding over Chinook Pass at 15:15.
We picked up our permits and were humbled by the rangers' ability to frown at all our jokes. We rode the last five miles up to the white river campground. With Matt's truck, we had a safe place to store our bikes for the weekend. We loaded our gear into backpacks and started hiking towards Summerland around 17:30.
Crossing the White River
View of Little T and Rainier from Summerland
Good views and a cozy shelter greeted us at Summerland. Matt, with the freshest legs, went on a 20 minute adventure to find running water while Jeff and I stumbled around camp. Pad Thai for dinner and then some quality sleep.
We woke Monday morning around 05:00 and had a slow start. Hiking by 06:15, we headed up Meany Crest and towards Little Tahoma.
Leaving Summerland Camp
Hiking up Meany Crest
Jeff on Meany Crest
Matt on the Fryingpan Glacier
From Meany Crest, we roped up, and walked up the Fryingpan Glacier, crossed Whitman Crest, and ascended the Whitman Glacier to the SE face of Little Tahoma. From the last of the snow, we scrambled up a pile of crumbling choss towards the summit. I would grade this as mostly second class with some class 3 sections. However, there is some big exposure and very loose rock, so if that gets to you, it may feel harder.
Jeff with the Goat Rocks, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens (left to right on skyline)
Matt ascending the last of the snow
Summit block choss pile
Me climbing up to the summit
Me, standing on the summit taking a photo
Matt just below the summit. 1,500 ft down the north face to the Emmons Glacier
Jeff on the summit with a up-close view of Mount Rainier (11:24)
After realizing I accidentally carried my heavy toothbrush to the summit, I had to brush my teeth
From the summit, we descended our accent route to the pass at Whitman Crest, then crossed the Fryingpan Glacier to K-Spire, and descended onto the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the contiguous United States.
Quick stop at a nice waterfall to fill our bottles
Once on the Emmons Glacier, we traversed north towards Camp Schurman. In our excitement for the Camp Schurman Rave (which we had been joking about all day), we decided to try for a higher crossing of the Emmons to hopefully save dropping more vert than we had to. This proved a bad idea as after a half hour of trying to find a route through the ice fall, we found ourselves needing to backtrack and descend along our originally planned route.
The lowest elevation during our crossing of the Emmons (7,800 ft)
From here we had an easy climb back up the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman at 9,500 ft. We arrived in camp at 17:00
A bustling Camp Schurman
Our party could finally begin, and promptly end at 7:30 so we could go to bed.
After poor sleep, our alarms went off at 01:30. We quietly geared up, ate some oat bars and chocolate covered espresso beans, and started up the mountain by 02:20. Our goal was to start slow and try to maintain a pace of 1k vertical feet/hr. This would get us to the Summit in 6hrs. With a cold overnight freeze, the snow-pack was frozen and made for easy travel with crampons. The Emmons route was well filled in with few exposed crevasses or sketchy bridges. However, a skier had fallen into a large crevasse at 14,000 ft the day before so we were quite cautious.
Sunrise started at 04:45 (photo from around 12,500 ft)
Sun first peaked out at 05:07. Stuart and the Enchantments on the skyline just left of the sun
Summit ridge between the craters. Some guided guests looking much warmer than we were
Summit photo (06:40)
We reached the summit at 06:35, making our accent time 4 hrs and 15 minutes. The summit was very windy and cold so we didn't linger too long. Had a little snack in a protected snow feature, then started the descent back to Schurman.
Sheltered snack spot
Blue bag and snack spot on the way down
Descending with a beautiful view of Little T
A narrow but deep crevasse
Back at Camp Schurman around 09:30. We had some snacks, packed our overnight gear, and headed towards the trailhead. Starting to feel quite tired
Matt upon arriving at Camp Schurman
Our glissade track down the Inter Glacier
Back at Matt's truck
After a bit of a break and some snacks, we loaded up our bikes with all our gear and started the slog back home. It really wasn't so bad. We made it up Chinook Pass fairly easily and enjoyed the long downhill along the American River. About to fall asleep on the bikes, we pulled over by the river and took a 20 minute nap. We followed up with a bowl of hot green curry to get us moving again. Back up to Rock Prairie where Jeff lost his panniers dozens of times. Finally we were on smoother roads up to Ellensburg pass and by the Umptanum Falls trailhead. It was dark here, but we were close. Biked the last 10 miles home with dying lights and made it to our beds by 22:30. I think we both had very little left to give.
Biking over Chinook Pass. The last photo we had the energy to take
This wraps up phase 1 of the project. On this trip we climbed 2 peaks and traveled 185 miles with 28,000 ft of elevation gain in 64 hours. This brings our trip total so far to 12 peaks, 482 miles, and 70,350 ft of vert. We now have a couple weeks off to rest up and get ready for the next phase starting June 19th. After June 19th, we will not be returning to Ellensburg until we finish (hopefully).