Climbing on Mount Rainier is difficult, involving traversing the largest glaciers in the U.S. south of Alaska. Most climbers require two to three days to reach the summit. Climbing teams demand experience in glacier travel, self-rescue, and wilderness travel. Ninety percent of climbers use the Camp Muir approach on the southeast side, and most of the rest ascend Emmons Glacier via Camp Schurman on the northeast. About half of the attempts on Mt Rainier are successful. Weather and conditioning are the most common reasons why climbers fail to reach the summit.
About three mountaineering
deaths each year occur due to rock and ice fall, avalanche, falls, and hypothermia associated with severe weather. The worst mountaineering accident on Mount Rainier occurred in 1981, when eleven people lost their lives in an ice fall on the Ingraham Glacier. This was the
largest number of fatalities on Mount Rainier in a single incident since 32 people were killed in a 1946 plane crash on the South Tahoma Glacier.
A few days before our climb on Mt Rainier, on July 6th, 2010, a man lost his life near the summit, due to the cold and extremely high winds. And then, three weeks later, after we returned from our climb, four climbers fell on the Emmons Glacier, and went into a 35 foot crevasse where one of the climbers lost his life in the fall.
To the left, you see a climber practicing on a steep snow and ice slope just outside the Camp Muir area. Mt Rainier is certainly a great place to practice your snow and ice skills. But be warned, Mt Rainier, as stated above, can be deadly and novice climbers should not attempt to climb Mt Rainier without proper training and guidance.
Even expert climbers are not immune to objective dangers when it comes to mountaineering
. Rockfall, ice fall, crevasses, avalanches, blizzards, altitude sickness
, just to mention a few, are ever present and can never be taken lightly. But most deaths and accidents are caused by improper or too little training, bad decisions, poor planning, inadequate conditioning, and so forth. This is why you need to first assess your abilities, but must also carefully select the people you climb with. Your very life may depend on your teammates.