Author: Conor Collins
** THIS IS THE “WRITE UP” THAT CONOR COLLINS DID FOR THE WASHINGTON TRAILS ASSOCIATION BLOG REGARDING A RECENT HIKE UP TO CAMP MUIR ON MT. RAINIER **
Camp Muir Hiking Detail. This message will be divided into three parts: 1) The Essentials 2) What to bring 3) The schedule.
The Essentials: Camp Muir is perched on the south side of Mt. Rainier and is nearly surrounded by glaciers: the Nisqually Glacier to the west, the Cowlitz Glacier to the north and east, and the Paradise Glacier to the south and east. 2.2 miles of the 4.5-mile ascent is unmarked and has a section that traverses 884 meters over the Muir snowfield. The 9-mile round-trip hike gains 4,680 feet with a max altitude of 10,100 feet. The National Park Service rates the hike “Strenuous”, breaks for altitude adjustment along the way are recommended.
What to bring: 1) Sunglasses and sunscreen (MUST HAVE for snow hiking) 2) Hiking boots or shoes that won’t give you blisters 3) Preferably non-cotton clothing (bring your most athletic clothes) 4) Sweatshirt or warm jacket 5) A hat 6) A pack with: a) a change of clothes (at least socks and underwear) b) WATER and a lot of it (at least a gallon) c) FOOD (Including snacks for the hike and a sandwich to eat at the top) d) Some cash ($x≥$20) e) hand towel 7) Ski or hiking poles (If you do not have some let me know and I’ll find a pair) 8) A charged phone or camera (And a charging cable) 9) A plastic bag to store garbage or dirty clothes 10) A positive attitude.
The Schedule: (Saturday the 27th) I will be picking each of you up rather early (Daniel: 0400, Sergii: 0405) I apologize for the very early start, but the early morning is the best time to hike. We will be on the road heading for Rainier no later than 0410. The roads should be free and clear in the morning so I am planning on starting the hike no later than 0550. The average round trip hiking time is roughly 6 hours, putting us back to the parking lot around noon. The forecasted high for Muir is 55° (by noon) with increasing clouds in the evening, so we should enjoy the best conditions the mountain has to offer. For the drive home there is a great ice cream shop in Ashford and a Subway in Eatonville if we’re hungry.
If you have any questions or concerns please let me know as soon as they arise. Share this information with your parents so everyone is clear on what we’re doing. This link (http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/upload/camp-muirroute-with-get-your-bearings-map-oct11.pdf ) will take you to a PDF that describes the hike in greater directional detail. On a clear day this is a specular hike and a mecca for aspiring summit trips and day hikers. Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit.
Hiking Detail General Overview:
When: Saturday, June 27th 2015
Where: Paradise to Camp Muir and back (Mount Rainier National Park)
- Pick up- 4am (Daniel), 4:05am (Sergii)
- Arrive at Paradise parking lot- 5:30am
- Begin Hike- 5:45am
- Reach Camp Muir- ~(general approximation)~ 8:20am
- Begin return to Paradise- (at most) 45min after reach time
- Leave Paradise parking lot- ~(general approximation)~ 11:30am
- Stops along the way- Ice cream in Ashford, Subway in Eatonville
- Arrive back home- ~(general approximation)~ 1pm
What to bring:
1) Sunglasses and sunscreen (MUST HAVE for snow hiking)
2) Hiking boots or shoes that won’t give you blisters
3) Preferably non-cotton clothing (bring your most athletic clothes)
4) Sweatshirt or warm jacket
5) A hat (wide rimmed preferred)
6) A pack with:
a) Change of clothes (at least socks and underwear)
b) WATER and a lot of it (at least a gallon)
c) FOOD (Including snacks for the hike and a sandwich to eat at the top)
d) Some cash ($x≥$20)
e) Hand towel
7) Ski or hiking poles (I will supply those)
8) A charged phone or camera (And a charging cable)
9) A plastic bag to store garbage or dirty clothes
10) A positive attitude
(A gratuity of $5 for gas fees would be nice.)
Camp Muir Hiking Report (WTA Hike write up)
When the five-day forecast calls for a week of consecutive sun and warm temperatures in the highlands, the alarm is set for 3:00 AM (on a Saturday) for a spectacular day in the mountains. Camp Muir was this Saturday’s spectacle.
Arriving at the Paradise parking lot at 5:40, we gathered our materials and were venturing up the grand John Muir steps toward Camp Muir not later than 5:50. There was little discussion about clothing for the hike, as the Paradise temperature had already reached 63° F. The sky was incredible, mostly clear with a few wisps of thin clouds just above the rising sun’s horizon. We took the Skyline trail for the first half of the hike, experiencing stunning views as the light of the new day slowly ventured down Rainier’s glaciered slopes. Small Paradise deer were roaming through the meadows along the early paved portions of the trail, adding some great company to an otherwise deserted path.
After reaching the On valley lookout and the junction between the Skyline and Alta Vista trail the path takes a new look as it turns to gravel and shoots skyward. The snowfield gets closer (although much higher than it should be at this point in the year) and a few minor patches of snow cross the trail to give the unprepared hiker an idea of what is to come on the 4.4 miles of snow hiking ahead (2.2 miles one way of snow hiking to Muir, 4.4 round-trip).
Upon reaching Pebble Creek and carefully traversing the hopscotch rocks that divide the trail the edge of the snowfield, you get a glimpse of the immensity and uniqueness of the Camp Muir hike. I highly recommend you bring hiking poles and a great pair of waterproof hiking books for the snow portion. Gaining traction, even in the morning when the snow was refreshed from the nightly temperature was a chore, but undoubtedly fun. Many hikers completed the hike in their tennis shoes, something I would not recommend; it adds difficulty to the hike that a boot would alleviate, but no trouble a will to seek the destination won’t overshadow.
If you pause for a moment about halfway through the snowfield, in the absence of any wind or ambient human-caused noise, you will most likely hear the ominous cracks and rumbles of the nearby glaciers. As the sun and the rising temperatures reach the glaciers the crevasses open wider and create those precarious tremors through the air.
After at least an hour of probing, sliding and stabilizing your steps on the snowfield you gain a glimpse of the camp. Perched on a ledge between the exposed south face of Rainier and an inner “protected” bowl of the high Cowlitz Glacier, the fatigue of hiking on snow is surpassed by the motivation to rest on such a spectacular ridge.
I suggest you spend at least 45 minutes enjoying the amenities of the camp (don’t sit by a solar toilet… you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there). The temperature at the camp was rather chilly, but nothing a tough dayhiker can’t handle after the rigor of the 4.5-mile ascent. I managed rather adequately with a basic T-shirt and athletic shorts, and a buddy of mine did just fine with an open tank top.
The descent off of Muir adds the fun to this hike. As you will probably notice during the ascent people quite literally slide down the mountain back to Pebble Creek. Bring a plastic bag, or at least a change of pants, as you won’t want to miss out on the thrill of sliding 2.2 miles down Rainier. A fair warning though, some of the slopes have very steep downgrades and drops, as well as drifts that can send you into rocks or dangerously close to the edge of the snowfield. If you’re sure-footed and comfortable with sliding you can gallop down the slopes as well—equally as fun!
The descent speeds by, you’ll be down the 2.2 miles that seemed endless as you hiked upward in no time at all. Once you get back to Pebble Creek the hike will seem practically over. Just make it back to the parking lot and you’ve hiked over half to the summit and back and maybe, if you’re like me, you’ll get the itch to go all the way (one of these days).
A notice for all: There are no places to fill your water bottle along the way, a filter or boiling water is recommended for using stream water or snow along the way. The only toilets are those up at Camp Muir, and I’m warning you, hold your breath (no offense to the maintenance people at Muir, but the smell is horrible).
Don’t forget to appreciate the utter beauty of Mount Rainier, I’m not sure if there’s something in the world that parallels it’s stand-alone beauty.