I just noticed today is the 18th anniversary of my Mt. Rainier summit climb. Though I’ve been back many times to hike the Wonderland Trail (and other wonderful trails around my favorite mountain), August 5, 1995 is the only time I’ve ever stood on Columbia Crest, the very summit of Mt. Rainier.
In 1992, Carol and I discovered the Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier through 94 miles of incredible terrain and nearly 60,000 feet of elevation change. Over the next several years, the Wonderland Trail—together with it’s many connecting trails and cross-country routes—became my passion. By 1995, after completing my third trek around the wonderland, I joined an RMI Expeditions guided group for a Mt. Rainier summit climb.
We took the Disappointment Cleaver route, leaving from Paradise Inn on August 4th, spending a short night at Camp Muir, and then striking out for the summit just after midnight on the 5th. We arrived at the south rim of the crater shortly before 8:00 AM, which at that altitude, is about four hours after sunrise.
It’s about a quarter mile walk across the summit crater, and then a brief final climb to the top of Columbia crest. After reveling in the views for about an hour, we headed back the way we came, but this time, all in one day. We were back in Paradise Inn for dinner, drinks, and a great sense of satisfaction by 6:00 PM. (On the descent, I actually jogged several miles down the Muir Snowfield, a tangible reminder of just how much younger my knees were in 1995!)
Below are a few images I shot at the summit. As you may recall, 1995 was still the dark ages for digital photography. So, the images below are scans from 4×6 prints. The panorama view of the crater, was actually created by stitching together two 4×6 prints. (Click each image for a larger view.)
Anyone who knows me, knows Mt. Rainier is among my favorite spots on earth. I have continued to visit Mt. Rainier and hike the Wonderland Trail loop almost every year since 1992. I’m not sure if I’ll ever bite off another Mt. Rainier summit climb… we’ll see. (I am reminded of a sign my Father saw at the base of Mt. Fuji: “Only a fool never climbs Mt. Fuji. And only a fool climbs it more than once.”) In any case, my 1995 Mt. Rainier summit climb was one of the high points of my many visits, and I remember it with great satisfaction every time I walk around the The Mountain that Would Be God.