I only climbed Mt Rainier twice and might not have even done that... but if you live in the Pacific Northwest and mention that you 'like to climb mountains' the inevitable rejoinder is... "So you must have climbed Mt Rainier". To avoid the embarassment of explaining why you haven't climbed the pre-eminent peak in the Northwest you are forced to climb Rainier. The only question is... when and by which route?
Gibraltar Ledge Route on Mt Rainier
Kim on summit of Mt Rainier
BY THE GIBRALTER LEDGE ROUTE
Kim and I got lucky and did the Gibralter Ledge Route on a December 30th... a calm, clear, cold day...
well not completely clear... there was some high cloudiness that had kept the overnight temperature
from dropping precipitously. Because of the extensive rockfall this route is generally only climbed during the cold months.
We got endlessly 'hung up' behind another party at the 'ledges' but found a way to overcome this obstacle.
The party ahead of us were busy trying to rig a rappel anchor... hard to do with the mixture of rock and ice that makes up Gibraltar Rock. Out of respect for their lead position Kim and I waited 10-15 minutes then decided to look around for other possibilities. Just below us we found a 1-inch steel cable that obviously had been placed for a rappel to the ledge that led around the rest of Gibraltar Rock.
The other party was still fiddling with their anchor so we just grabbed the cable and slid down the 30 feet or so to the ledge and were soon off the ledge heading up the steep snow gully. The gully was steep enough to slow us down and we stopped to rest for a bit at its top about even with the top of Gibraltar Rock. We expected the other party to come charging up the gully at any
moment but they did not. In fact, we never saw them again.
We slowly toiled up through the crevasses stopping often to rest. The summit finally came into view and none too soon as we were getting very cold and were near exhaustion.
We were not in any mood for any celebration at the summit so after a short rest we headed back down. After a seemingly endless descent following our 'up tracks' we arrived back at the top of 'The Rock'. After a bit of speculation about the 'missing party' we self belayed (facing into the slope) with our ice axes and carefully descended. After 'dodging' a few rocks we were soon using the cable to get back up on the ridge. A short descent to the Camp Muir shelter to pick up the rest of our gear and we made the run back to the parking lot quite pleased that we had been successful not only on our first try at Mt Rainier but by a winter ascent of the Gibraltar Ledge Route.