What’s it like to stand at 14,411 ft. on top of America’s most glaciated peak? Well, as you can see from these Mt. Rainier summit photos, it’s quite a feeling. Not always a warm or comfortable feeling, mind you. But spectacular nonetheless.
These photos showcase some standout reasons to climb Mt. Rainier.
Getting up at 2 a.m. to start climbing sucks. Your body revolts. You can’t eat but strangely have to poop. Your stomach feels sour. You start your climb in the dark with a headlamp, knowing that hungry crevasses are lurking unseen.
Then the sun rises, and suddenly it’s all worth it. You’d get up at 2 a.m. every day of your life to see this! (Well, maybe not.) But these photos capture the moment beautifully.
They’re big and scary, and you know they can swallow mountaineers without so much a burp. And yet, they’re also strangely mesmerizing.
So what are crevasses? Think of glaciers as rivers of ice. In many ways, they flow like a liquid. Though much slower. At a glacial pace, in fact.
Crevasses form when the surface of the flowing glacier bends due to changes in slope angle or hidden terrain features below the ice.
The crevasses on Mt. Rainier range from just inches wide to monsters as big as several football fields. They’re best observed in August and September, when most of last winter’s snowfall has finally melted.
In order to climb Mt. Rainier safely, it’s important to know mountaineering skills like self-arrest, roped travel, and crevasse rescue. Most guided trips include basic instruction in glacier travel.
For more info, check out my post on the skills needed to climb Mt. Rainier.
Mt. Rainier is definitely the land of fire and ice. As you’re slogging up the glacier for hours and hours, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually climbing an active volcano that’s capable of erupting! (Erm, hopefully not without warning.)
As you climb, keep in mind a few Mt. Rainier facts:
- A major Mt. Rainier eruption would likely melt parts of the glacial ice cap, resulting in potentially catastrophic lahars (volcanic mudslides).
- The city of Tahoma, Wash., is in fact built on lahar debris from past eruptions.
- About 80,000 people live in the lahar hazard zone around Mt. Rainier, making it one of the world’s most potentially destructive volcanoes on earth.
- Geologic evidence suggests that the mountain experiences a major eruption once ever 500 to 1,000 years.
As you’re climbing, be alert for the scent of sulfur gas through vents called fumaroles.
This excellent Instagram post captures some excellent views of the crater near the top.
Mt. Rainier OGs
If they can do it without Gore Tex, what’s your excuse?
These early mountaineers didn’t have crampons either. They actually had hobnails embedded in the soles of their mountaineering boots to provide traction.
And until the invention of modern harnesses, mountaineers simply tied ropes around their waists.
Checking out historic Mt. Rainier summit photos always makes me feel lucky … and also like a bit of a wuss.
A Mt. Rainier is a good way to test yourself against the elements. While 14,410′ isn’t exactly massive altitude, the mountain is far enough north to deliver subzero wind chills year round.
While July, August, and September are relatively warm, climbers should always be prepared for freezing temperatures, screaming wind, whiteouts, and blowing snow.
A guy on our Emmons Glacier trip had previously summited the mountain on July 4. He thought it would probably be warm, but then he ended up climbing into a lenticular cloud. He said it was the coldest he’d ever been.
So if you happen to have a beard, there’s a good chance it will look just like this at the summit:
The fact that you can pose with a Rainier Beer on top of Mt. Rainier presents some awesome summit photo opportunities. A little about “Ran-yay,” the Pacific North West’s favorite dive bar beer:
- Rainier Brewing Company was founded in 1884, though Rainier Beer itself dates back to 1878.
- Black bears who raid PNW campsites are said to prefer Rainier Beer to other lagers.
- While snubbed by some craft beer lovers, Rainier Beer holds several Great American Beer Fest medals for “Best Light Lager.”
- Somewhat sadly, the beer is no longer brewed in Seattle. In 1999, Stroh’s purchased Rainier Brewing Company and later sold the operation to Pabst. So Rainier Beer is now brewed in California but still widely enjoyed in the PNW.
While summit beer pics are fun, remember that you still have half the climb to complete. Before you chug a beer in the thin air, remember that 80 percent of mountaineering accidents happen on the way down.
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There you have ’em. Some amazing Mt. Rainier summit photos to inspire you.
Got an amazing Mt. Rainier photo? Post it below to share!
Originally published Feb. 26, 2019.