John Guilford's Hikes
Camp Muir, Mt. Rainier on 1997-07-25
Location: Camp Muir, Mt. Rainier
People: (including myself): Joe Tarantino, Owen Carton
My Alt. Real Alt Miles
Leave Puyallup: 8:30?
Arrive Paradise 10:30?
Paradise Inn: 11:10 5420 5420 0
Panorama Point: 12:20 6560 6640 1.5
Pebble Creek: 12:45 7060 7180 2
(Lv Pebble Ck): 1:10
Rest break: 2:40 8920
(Lv break): 3:00 8800
Camp Muir: 4:15 9920 10100 4-4.5
Leave Muir: 5:15 9940
Pebble Creek: 6:10 7100
(Lv Pebble Ck): 6:20
Panorama Point: 6:40 6640
Down: 7:20 5500
Leave Paradise: 7:40?
Arrive Puyallup: 9:30?
This was a practice climb to Camp Muir to check it out and to check out the
rental boots. I had reserved (pre-paid) a pair of 10-1/2 boot at REI and
picked them up the night before. It still took a half hour to get the
boots. REI has two styles: Asolo and Kolflack (sp?). I had seen the Asolo
boots from a previous visit, but got the Kolflack ones instead (I hadn't
known they had more than one type). The Asolo looked like they might be
more comfortable boots, but the Kolflack ones seemed to do okay. After
picking up the boots, I picked up Owen and drove down to the Klouse's house
in Puyallup for the night (to get an earlier start than if I left Friday
morning and had to drive through rush hour to get there).
Friday morning was bright and clear and Joe met us just a bit after 8. We
got to Paradise and hit the restrooms at the visitor center (which is still
undergoing construction work). There it was somewhat cool and windy and I
was glad that I had my long pants on (I had on my convertible pants w/the
legs zipped on). We then drove up to the Paradise Inn and geared up (put
on sun-screen, boots, gaiters [my OR gaiters fit really well on the rental
boots], and adjusted packs.) There is was a bit warmer and Joe and Owen
opted to leave their shorts on. In hindsight that would have been an okay
choice as it was warm hiking up (unless you stopped, in which case it got a
bit chilly). Since my pants are relatively lightweight, the long pants
weren't a problem.
Paradise meadows were mostly under snow (still). There were patches of
trail that was out of the snow, but maybe 3/4 of it was under snow. The
sky was clear and blue with some clouds off to the south. We got a good
view of the Nisqually Glacier, Muir Snowfield, McClure Rock, and various
other features on the mountain. I packed a rather full pack (my internal
frame pack) though it wasn't as heavy as my pack on the previous hike (Goat
Lake). I'd guess it was about 20 pounds, but I didn't weigh it, so that
is just a guess. Owen and Joe had day packs. Joe had brought ski poles
(trekking poles, really) and decided to leave them in the car. Later he
wished he'd brought them (many or even most people had them).
Never having hiked with Owen before, I had wondered how well he'd do.
There was nothing to worry about as he was the fastest of the three of us.
He had to keep stopping to wait for me (the slowest).
As we climbed up the meadows, we could see a peak behind us. At first we
weren't sure what it was. It looked like it might be volcanic, which would
make it Adams, but it seemed too much southerly for that. As we got
higher, it unmistakably was an isolated volcano making it Mt. Adams.
Looking at a map later, it turns out that Adams is just slightly to the
east of directly south of Rainier while St. Helens is more to the west.
We heard a marmot as we went up the meadow, but didn't see it. Owen hadn't
seen them before and I hoped we'd catch a glimpse of one. Near Panorama
Point, where the trail to Muir diverges, we found a good example of a
marmot who wasn't terribly afraid of humans. I got pretty close and got
some good photos, even with just my point and shoot.
By this time we were almost entirely on snow. Somewhere above Panorama
Point, I had Joe take off my ice axe so I could use it for additional
support on the snow. The biggest problem with the axe is that it is
relatively short, and with the route going straight up a relatively flat
slope, I had to almost reach down to get the axe in snow. I think
adjustable ski poles would have worked better. I'm not sure about my XC
poles - I wonder if they would end up being too long for comfort.
At Pebble Creek (just to the west of McClure Rock) we stopped for a snack
where I ate my apple. We pulled off onto some rocks next to the creek and
took a break. We got to watch the guide service's "army" heading up
further up the snowfield. I put some more sunscreen on my arms here. I
should have put some more on my face as I ended up with a bit of sunburn on
my left cheek just below my glasses. From here to Muir it is pretty much a
boring slog up a relatively flat snow field. I was beginning to feel the
thinner air (getting tired easier) which just made me move a bit slower.
I'd like to blame it on the heavier pack, but I don't believe that to be
true. Clouds started coming up from the south and kept peaking over the
ridge behind the Nisqually Glacier but stayed below us the whole way up.
We took another break near the 9000' level on some rocks sitting above the
snow. When we stopped for a break, we had to put on more clothing as
otherwise we'd get chilled. I ate some of my bagel there. I don't know if
it was the stress getting ready for the hike or the altitude, but my
stomach was feeling a bit queasy. While hiking I sometimes got a bit light
headed and almost had to keep reminding myself to breath. It seemed that
even though my pulse would be pounding, I often didn't feel the need to
breath particularly hard or fast. Thus I tried to intentionally up my
breathing rate to make sure I got enough oxygen. After the break I fell
into a good (for me) rhythm. Step, slight pause, step, slight pause, move
ice axe ahead, and repeat. This is the first time I used the so called
"rest step" effectively. It wasn't a terribly fast pace, but it did move
me consistently up the mountain. It was a pace I could keep up for
extended periods. Up there the distances seem deceiving. Things look like
they are pretty close and that you could walk there in 15 minutes while
they are still quite a ways off with quite a bit of hiking to get there.
While plodding up the hill, time almost seems to stop, and your whole world
seems to shrink down around you until it is just you, the ground/snow ten
feet in front of you, and your rhythm. The ground was trampled all around
mostly from the people coming down. The people going up tended to stay
more in one track, probably because that had better (shorter) steps in the
snow. Going up people tended to use relatively short steps while coming
down people could come bounding down due to the snow. I got a bit
concerned about my conditioning as I was pretty tired coming up yet the
people coming down were talking and laughing and didn't seem to feel the
altitude at all. Later, on my way down, I realized that this is just the
nature of the beast. As I went down, I felt fine and not out of breath at
all. I passed people coming up who looked just like how I felt when I was
coming up - the short, halting foot steps. I think one just has to get
used to moving a bit slower at altitude. When my brother went up with the
guide service (in August of '90), they took 5 hours to get from Paradise to
Muir (10:20-3:20) gaining 4680'. The trip from Muir to the summit,
however, took 8-1/2 hours (midnight-8:40) gaining 4310'. I think that
getting to the summit just takes the desire to get there, will power, and
the determination to keep taking one more step.
About 1/2 way up, I passed one climber coming down who didn't look so good.
He looked completely wasted, staggering side to side a bit as he lumbered
down. I briefly wondered whether that would be me after a summit climb (I
don't think so). Further up, a couple hundred feet from Muir, I saw a
climber going up who didn't look so good. He was a ways ahead of me, but
he just collapsed in the snow, just off of the beaten track. Some one
coming down had just passed him and commented to me that he didn't look
very good. When I caught up with him I was going to ask him if he was
okay, but before I got there (which took a while at the rate I was going),
he had gotten up and continued on. He was going slower than I and when I
caught up to him, he got off the track and let me pass by. I think he was
just exhausted and resting when he lay in the snow. In several places on
the way up we passed blackened banana peels in the snow. It seems someone
had been eating bananas and just dumped the peel when he was through.
Perhaps he buried it a bit under the snow and it melted out (What else is
it going to do? It will take a very long time for it to degrade up there.)
The average slope of the Muir Snow field is about 16 degrees (2000' gain
over 7000' horizontal or a 29% slope). Approaching the summit is steeper -
about 34 degrees (gaining 1000' over 1500' horizontal or a 67% slope).
Finally I crested the ridge that begins Camp Muir. I was surprised at the
number of buildings there. I think there were something like 5 or so. One
would be for the ranger and the Park Service. One was the "solar powered"
latrine (a two holer). At least one more building was the shelter run by
the guide service. I'd guess that perhaps the guide service had more than
one building, but that would just be a guess. On a relatively flat spot
just beyond lies the tent city that was full of tents. This is technically
on the flank of the Cowlitz Glacier though it may not have been on the
glacier proper (it is hard to tell where the snow field ends and the
glacier starts.) Above Muir is the Cowlitz Cleaver and Gibraltar Rock.
Beyond the tent city was the well worn track across the Cowlitz Glacier and
up the side of Cathedral Rocks, disappearing over Cathedral Gap. There
were clouds below us and over to the east, though occasionally the top of
Little Tahoma appeared. Off to the SSW, we could see the very top of the
crater to Mt. St. Helens. It wasn't very spectacular as most of the crater
was hidden by clouds.
At Muir I was feeling a bit intimidated by the thought of going to the
summit. I was somewhat beat by the climb up to Muir and then thought about
getting a several hour rest and then doing it all again (i.e. climbing
another 4000') was almost frightening. However, I think it again just
comes down to putting one foot in front of the other and the next thing you
know (eight hours later :-), you're there. But I digress . . .
We had "lunch." I had brought a couple of tuna and cheese sandwiches.
They got pretty warm in the pack. However my stomach was still queasy and
I only managed to eat half of one sandwich before I gave up. I wasn't
hungry, but I figured I needed the food. I just didn't have an appetite.
After making a pit stop at the latrines and getting some photos (Jim had
trouble with his Olympus Infinity Twin when we went up Rainier - it will be
interesting to see if mine has the same problems - I doubt it as I've
always had good luck with my camera) we headed back down. I number of
people brought skis up and that would be the easier and faster way back
down. While I as hiking up I thought to myself, "Gee, these people must be
die hard skiers to climb all this way up just for one quick ski run in
July." My next thought was, "What does that make me? I climb all the way
up here just to *walk* all the way back down."
While at Muir, I decided to see if my cell phone would get out. It did and
seemed to have plenty of signal (though it was "roaming"). I called Pam
and left a message on the answering machine, but the machine beeped and cut
me off after 10 seconds. For some reason, it didn't keep the message and
Pam never got it.
The trip down was (not surprisingly) much faster. Owen and Joe were again
faster than I, mixing almost a jogging pace with some slight standing
glissades. I tended more to just plunge step down the slope. I found the
quicker, shorter strided "jogging" pace to bounce my pack around too much
and the jarring gave me a headache. Part way down the snow field we
entered into the clouds, but they were rather diffuse so one could still
see quite a ways. The biggest impact was reducing the intensity of the
sun. We went down roughly parallel to the trail up, through we tended to
drift towards the right. One doesn't want to get too far to the right as
then one might run into the cliffs that drop onto the Nisqually Glacier.
The trail up was periodically wanded and we used that to keep us from going
too far afield. [ A number of the wands had fallen over, probably due to
melting out. We replaced them as we found them.] I had a little concern
that if the clouds got thicker and if Owen got too far ahead that I might
lose sight so I told him to stay in visual distance. It turns out that
that wasn't a problem as we soon got below the clouds.
My feet were doing pretty well in the rental boots. My Achilles tendon was
getting a bit sore (more of a bruised feeling (it wasn't really bruised)
than a rubbing feeling). The boots were rather wide for my feet (perhaps I
should use an insole or more socks next time) but not too bad. Since most
of the way down was on snow, I didn't have too much of a problem with my
toe hitting the front of the boots. My toes were a bit sore (remember to
cut nails next time) but not bad at all.
When we got down to Pebble Creek, I decided to change boots. I carried up
my normal hiking boots which had my new gaiters attached. I had gotten
some Barge cement and glued the toe of the gaiter to the toe of the boot,
and I wanted to see how well that would work. I changed boots and rinsed
the rental boots off in the creek before packing them. The new gaiters
were a mixed failure. The glue did keep the gaiters on and in place.
However, the gaiters failed in the primary mission. It seems that snow
would slowly "leak" in past the rand, probably near the instep area of the
boot where it is slightly concave. Apparently the rubber on the bottom of
the gaiter didn't pull in tightly enough to keep the snow from forcing its
way in. As I hiked down, the snow would build up between my boot and the
gaiter, till I had something like two cups of snow in there. When the snow
started getting into the top of my boot, I'd have to stop and dig the snow
out (which is somewhat of a pain, as I couldn't take the gaiter off - I had
to reach in between the boot and gaiter to grab the snow with my hand). I
had to stop something like 4 times between Pebble Creek and the bottom to
clean out snow. I think if I glued the rubber down all along the bottom,
or at least at the toe and instep, the gaiters would work just fine.
Probably a better solution would be to get a pair of the OR gaiters that
are the right size (medium, instead of my large) as they seemed to work
fine with the larger boot.
Somewhere around Panorama Point we again met up with a not so shy marmot.
Coming down through the Paradise meadows, Owen and Joe saw a deer, but I
couldn't make it out. When I got there, the deer was quite a ways off in
some brush and wasn't moving, which made spotting it difficult.
We took one wrong path at the very bottom of the meadow and almost came out
to the parking lot below the lodge (we were parked next to the lodge) and
had to traverse across to get to our car.
Back at the car I took off my boots and gaiters. I ended up peeling the
gaiter off the boot to make it easier to dump the snow. It peeled off
pretty easily, but left adhesive residue on both the gaiter and the shoe.
At home I started peeling the adhesive off. It comes off okay, but it is
very tedious and would take a long time to clean it all off. I was pretty
disappointed by these gaiters.
All in all it was a good trip. The weather was almost ideal. I got a
little sun burn on my face and Owen got a stripe of sunburn between his
shorts and the top of his gaiters (he borrowed a set of gaiters from me.
These had the snap at the bottom of the gaiter broken on one of them. This
meant that it wouldn't seal as tightly around the boot, but it seemed to
work okay for him. I should make a note to fix that gaiter before using it
Owen in front of Nisqually Glacier.
Joe, John, and Owen at Camp Muir.
Please send comments or corrections to
Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015