So You Want To Climb Mount Rainier

©istockphoto/jeffhochstrasserIf you’ve ever trav­eled through the Pacif­ic North­west, you’ve seen Mount Rainier. At 14,411’, the peak dom­i­nates the Seat­tle sky­line, and it’s no coin­ci­dence that more than 10,000 peo­ple try to climb Rainer’s glaciat­ed slopes each year. If you’re think­ing of mak­ing a sum­mit bid, keep these tips in mind.

Plan Ahead
If you’re climb­ing with one of guide ser­vices that oper­ate on Mount Rainier, book ear­ly: most sum­mit climbs fill 10–12 months out. If you’re orga­niz­ing your own trip, set dates with your part­ners and reserve climb­ing per­mits with the Nation­al Park Ser­vice. On busy week­ends, the demand is so high that some climbers get turned away.

Get in Shape
Put sim­ply: you’ll want to be in the best shape of your life. Train­ing for moun­taineer­ing can be chal­leng­ing if you work a 9-to-5, but be cre­ative. Work on strength and bal­ance at the gym, go for long hikes on week­ends, and com­mit to mov­ing your body con­sis­tent­ly. Embrace the chal­lenge: the stronger you feel, the safer and more the enjoy­able your climb will be.

Dial in Your Nutri­tion
It might sound sim­ple, but con­sid­er this: on an aver­age 12-to-18 hour sum­mit day, you’ll need to con­sume sev­er­al hun­dred calo­ries per hour. There’s noth­ing wrong with nutri­tion bars and ener­gy gels, but chances are good that you won’t feel great if high­ly processed foods are your body’s only source of fuel. Plus, it’s very nat­ur­al to lose your appetite at alti­tude. On long train­ing hikes, fig­ure out what kinds of food you can stom­ach on hour 8.

Prac­tice With Your Gear
Moun­taineer­ing is a gear-inten­sive sport, and sum­mit morn­ing isn’t the time to be test­ing out your sys­tems. Break in your boots ahead of time. Adjust your back­pack so it fits you per­fect­ly. Prac­tice lay­er­ing for dif­fer­ent kinds of con­di­tions. Make sure your cram­pons are fixed cor­rect­ly. Show up with your sys­tems dialed.

Watch the Weath­er
Sum­mer con­di­tions can vary wild­ly on the Cas­cade vol­ca­noes, and by watch­ing tem­per­a­tures for the week or so before you climb you can make sure your gear choic­es are well suit­ed to con­di­tions. When it’s hot, bring extra water, lots of sun­screen, and a shirt with built-in SPF. When it’s cold, bring chem­i­cal hand-warm­ers and an extra lay­er or two.

Keep Your Cam­era Warm
Lots of climbers care­ful­ly hoard cam­era bat­ter­ies dur­ing days of climb­ing, only to reach the sum­mit and find that cold temps have drained their lithi­um-ion charge. Keep phones and cam­eras in a warm pock­et until you’re ready to take that sum­mit self­ie.

Think Care­ful­ly About How Your Define Suc­cess
Moun­taineer­ing is a com­pli­cat­ed sport, and it’s impor­tant to be hon­est with your­self about your goals for the climb. The sum­mit is nev­er guar­an­teed, and expe­ri­enced climbers take the time to straight­en pri­or­i­ties in their head. Hint: it’s safe­ty first, then the sum­mit.