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Climbing Mt. Rainier via Camp Schurman

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
Posted in Hiking by Joel Gross

I left my camera with my videos & pictures at my grandparents house, so you will have to wait on those till next week when I pick them up.  All the pictures below are from Adam & Steve and a couple are public domain pics of Mount Rainier.

I climbed Mt. Rainier this weekend via the Camp Schurman route.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my friend Adam Roberts about my desire to climb Mt. Rainier and he invited me to join him on his trip on the 4th of July.  I leapt at the opportunity; I had been thinking about spending $1200 to go with a guide group and this would be far cheaper and more fun because I could go with my buddy.

Mount Rainier picture from an airplane

Mount Rainier picture from an airplane

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mt. Rainier or who have not done any mountaineering, below is some general information on the climb:

  • Mount Rainier is the fifth highest peak in the lower 48 states (Mt. Whitney, #1,  is about 90 feet taller, but far easier to climb and there are 3 more peaks in the Sawatch Range of Colorado)
  • Most climbs to peaks in the United States are around 3,000 feet of elevation gain.  Climbs of 4-5,000 feet are considered very arduous and anything over 6,000 feet is devastatingly difficult.  Mount Rainier via the Camp Schurman route ascends from 4,400 feet at the White River campground to 14,411 feet at the summit- a monstrous 10,000 vertical foot gain!  For comparison, this is the same elevation gain from advanced base camp to the summit of Mount Everest.  Many people actually use Mount Rainier to train for Mt. Everest since the terrain is similar.
  • Mt. Rainier is covered in thick glaciers and thick glaciers mean deep crevasses.  A crevasse is where thick glacier ice, sometimes several hundred feet thick, cracks and creates a deep split in the mountain that people can fall into.  Below is a picture of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier:
Picture of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier

Picture of a crevasse on Mt. Rainier

My Mount Rainier climb was really tough, but I was fortunate enough to have gone with experienced mountaineers who gave me lots of help.  Our climbing group was led by Steve Schoch, a powerfully built man who used to successfully compete in iron man competitions and marathons.  Adam’s father, Steve Roberts- age 60, came along and was in better mountaineering shape than I am.  The final member of our group was a fellow Mount Rainier first-timer named Chris who was a good guy with really high energy levels.  Chris works for the Forest Service and does lots of hiking and had no troubles summiting Rainier and even basically pulled me for a couple of stretches lol. All five of us were on a rope team so that if someone fell down the steeps or into a crevasse, the rest of the guys could self arrest with their ice axes and stop them before it was too late.

From left: Chris, Me, Adam & his dad Steve

From left: Chris, Me, Adam & his dad Steve. Not pictured- Steve our guide

Mount Rainier pic by Adam

Mount Rainier pic of Adam and Steve

Chris, Adam, Steve & Steve

Chris, Adam, Steve & Steve

Adam and I at pretty high elevation

Adam and I at pretty high elevation

Climbing at sunrise... I am on the right

Climbing at sunrise... I am on the right

View from Camp Schurman

View from Camp Schurman

We are taking a break-Im in the middle

We are taking a break-I'm in the middle

Climbing Mount Rainier was really physically difficult for me. At around 12,000 feet I started having a hard time breathing and basically had to hyperventilate and take baby steps the rest of the way up. Fortunately, the other guys on the climbing team were patient and helped me out. Adam and Chris both work for the Forest Service, so this kind of thing is actually their job. If we reversed situations, it’s sorta like if they read a book on SEO and then had to build a website that ranked in the top 5 on Google for “real estate investing” haha.

I reached the summit! Chris is on the right.

I reached the summit! Chris is on the right.

Crazy Adam skied down!

Crazy Adam skied down!

I had a ton of fun climbing Mount Rainier and am now thinking about climbing other mountains locally and maybe even trying to do Rainier again at a faster pace. I love challenging myself and really testing my limits like I did on this trip. If you are interested in climbing Mt. Rainier here are 5 tips:

  1. Pick an experienced, understanding guide.  I was very lucky to have Steve and the other guys to take me up the mountain.
  2. Take a lot of time to pack well.  I wish I had brought more food and had learned how to properly secure my crampons before the climb.
  3. Climb in good weather.  Mt. Rainier is notorious for having very dangerous storms that can easily kill you, so make sure the weather is good and the forecast is clear.  You will need lots of cold weather gear even if you don’t use it.
  4. Leave early in the morning.  Our group departed from Camp Schurman at around 12:30 am Sunday morning and summited by 8.  You want to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier and start back down before the snow melts too much and crossing crevasses becomes even more dangerous than it already is.
  5. Be in excellent physical shape and train at high altitudes.  I made the mistake of going up after being sick and it made my trip far more difficult than it needed to be and without good fellow climbers I may not have made it.

If you feel like really, really challenging yourself try climbing Mount Rainier!  The views are gorgeous and after you have done it your perspective on yourself and the world may change.

6 thoughts on “Climbing Mt. Rainier via Camp Schurman

  1. Joel, Congratulations on your mountaineering achievement! A dear friend and I were praying for you and your safety during your ascent. I have enjoyed watching you climb the mountains of your life and hope to see you continue to do so. We love you and are so proud of you! Justin and Heather P.S. watch out Mt. Everest!

  2. Came across your write up after reviewing your other one the Si Haystack. I’m also considering climbing Rainier and appreciate your advice, it’ll help!

  3. hey good job man! what type of crampons did you have? i saw chris had some type of pro crampon and im just wondering what you had. THanks!!

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