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TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
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The following tips and suggestions were compiled while preparing for and experiencing my visit of Mt. Rainier National Park and my RMI summiting experience of Mt. Rainier. Please note that these are simply suggestions to consider, as each person's travel experiences are different. As well, these suggestions/tips are directed at those entering the Park through the southwest Nisqually entrance.
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General Preparation
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  • CLIMBING RESERVATIONS - If you are planning on attempting a summit of Mt. Rainier and you consider yourself a novice, I would highly recommend contacting Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. as your guide to the summit. Be sure to look at possible dates at least one year out from the present date and consider the three-day summit climb (one-day climbing school, two-day summit attempt).
  • TRAINING FOR SUMMIT ATTEMPT - If you are planning on using RMI as a guide service for attempting a summit of Mt. Rainier, be sure to follow all of their suggestions and advice - particularly, begin to get yourself in the best shape of your life. A helpful way to do this is to set specific goals in your training at least one year in advance. Set at least four specific goals for competition (i.e. competing in a cycle race, running road race, etc.) or four specific goals for conditioning (i.e. specific levels toward conditioning - increased incremental walking or hiking, increased periods of aerobic/cardiovascular exercise, etc.). This will help you on staying focused on your overall goal one year later: to be in the best shape of your life for your summit climb.
  • TRAINING MATERIALS - Should you feel apt to have a better feel for standard summit climb (i.e. Camp Muir-to-Ingraham Flats-to-Disappointment Cleaver-to-High Break-to-summit0, then I would suggest the following reading and view materials:
    • Climbing: Training for Peak Performance (Book) - By Clyde Soles
    • Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide (Book) - By Mike Gauthier
    • Alpine Mountaineering on Mt. Rainier (DVD) - Hosted by Peter Whittaker
    • Ascend Mount Rainier (DVD) - Hosted by Eric Simonson
  • WEATHER MONITORING - Take the time to track the ongoing weather conditions at least one week prior to your arrival to the Mt. Rainier area. It will give you at least a better overall weather forecast into which you will be heading.
  • TELEPHONE SERVICE - Should you be staying at in or near Ashford, WA (i.e. Whittaker's Bunkhouse), be sure to purchase a calling card prior to your arrival. There are pay phones available for use outside the Bunkhouse. [And there is no cell phone signal in this area just outside the park. A cell phone signal (roaming) was gained when the summit team reached Camp Muir, but no signal at the summit of Mt. Rainier]
  • SUPPLIES - There are two groceries stores in Ashford, WA - Ashford is your last stop for gasoline, groceries, and ATM before entering the Nisqually Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park. Feel free to purchase your food supplies prior to your flight and check those items that are non-perishable. Also be mindful that there are wonderful trail lunches available at the Rainier BaseCamp Deli in Ashford. Fill out the form to request one of these meals on the evening prior to when you will be needing it - you can pick it up in the refrigerator in the RMI Rental Shop on the following morning.
  • FLIGHT/TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS - When booking your flight, take the time to add possibly one day on the front end of your visit/climb and for sure, at least one day on the end of your visit/climb. It is wonderful to complete a climb (to the summit or not) and then savor it the next day, while watching the next RMI groups prepare for climbing school or the first day of their climb. Stick around to swap a few stories of your experience. If you're lucky (like I was), you may even run into climbing legends Lou Whittaker and Nawang Gombu at the Rainier BaseCamp.

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Hiking through Mt. Rainier National Park (Paradise Area)
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  • HIKING TRAILS - Stop by the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise before striking out on a hiking trail. The local park rangers will have a better idea of the trails and which ones are more conducive to your level of activity.
  • BREAKFAST - Be sure to arrive early to Paradise (before 8 am) so as to take advantage of a wonderful and leisurely breakfast at the Paradise Inn. Ask to sit by the window in case "the Mountain is out" (Mt. Rainier is visible).
  • CAMERA - Be sure to bring a camera - especially during the summer, the wild flowers explode with color and the local wildlife is very present (i.e. fox, marmot, etc.). And if you are lucky, the Mountain may show its face for you.
  • SKYLINE TRAIL - Take time to leisurely hike the Skyline Trail, being sure to stop at Panorama Point for a fantastic overall view of the southwestern portion of Mt. Rainier National Park and the Paradise Area.
  • PANORAMA POINT - Take time to leisurely hike the Skyline Trail, taking time to stop at Panorama Point to take in the incredible view of the Paradise Valley below. Breathe the fresh air and just enjoy the moment before hiking back down into the valley.

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Climbing School
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  • INSTRUCTION - Be sure to follow ALL the instructions of the RMI guides and take in all their advice. They've been to the summit (in many instances, on several occasions). Summiting is VERY serious and the instructions are to ensure your well-being and life. Do not dismiss any suggestions or instruction that they give you - it is for your own well-being.
  • QUESTIONS - If there is anything you do not understand, be sure to ask questions. No question is silly or insignificant.
  • CLOTHING - Climbing school is a good way to try out the clothing you will be bringing on the climb. Ask about clothing needs and if you don't have the appropriate clothing, be sure to utilize the rental services of RMI at the BaseCamp.
  • RELATIONSHIPS - Whether or not that you're a "people person," be sure to get to know as many of the men and women in your climbing school group during the day and into the next day. You will not be attempting to summit alone - some of these individuals will be tethered to you and you will be counting on them in your ascent.
  • DINING - Take time to eat a good meal on the evening of your day of climbing school. A couple of cheeseburgers and Sierra Nevada beers at the RMI BaseCamp Deli (in Ashford) is a great way to fulfill this suggestion. Then top it off with an attendance of the nightly RMI slideshow shown in the RMI Guide Lounge - very educational and entertaining, mixed with wonderful pictures. If you are looking for higher end dining, might I suggest either Alexandra's or the Copper Creek Inn (between Ashford and the Nisqually Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park)?
  • SLEEP - Be sure to get to bed early on this day - the extra sleep is always helpful, as you may not sleep at all when you arrive to Camp Muir on the following day.
  • PERSONAL FOCUS - Promise yourself that you will ONLY concentrate on today. Focus on your climbing techniques and forget about the upcoming climb. Should inclement weather arrive, you may not get very far up the mountain (much less summiting it), so just enjoy the moment. Enjoy and concentrate on what is happening to you right now and then go back - after your experience - and regale the entire adventure.

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Day One of Summit Climb
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  • INSTRUCTION - Again, it can't be reiterated enough: be sure to follow ALL the instructions of the RMI guides and take in all their advice. They've been to the summit (in many instances, on several occasions). Summiting is VERY serious and the instructions are to ensure your well-being and life. Do not dismiss any suggestions or instruction that they give you - it is for your own well-being.
  • CLOTHING - Synthetic base layer. It cannot be stressed enough to stay away from cotton t-shirts and base layer clothing. The synthetics are great at wicking away perspiration. Should you have a question, email Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. [info@rmiguides.com] as to appropriate clothing choices PRIOR to your arrival. Otherwise, make a quick stop at the Summit Haus (in Ashford, WA), next to the Whittaker's Bunkhouse, for last-minute equipment and clothing selections.
  • FOOD/NOURISHMENT - The rule of thumb that worked best for me, and many others, is, "Eat what you don't eat at home." If you like candy bars and potato chips, bring them to eat. If you've never had a Power Bar prior to this trip, don't start digetsing them now. The important aspect is that you are taking in carbohydrates, regardless from what what food source they come. Once you reach higher altitudes (above 8000 ft. elevation), your appetite decreases, so bring only those food items of which you love to gorge yourself.
  • WATER/SPORTS DRINK - Don't worry about having enough water along the summit trip. There is ample water to and at Camp Muir (at 10,000 ft. elevation). When climbing above that elevation, be sure to bring at least two 2-liter bottles
  • SLEEPING - My suggestion, when you enter the RMI Bunkhouse at Camp Muir, is to select a sleeping area on the lower levels. Heat rises and the top level for sleeping got to be too warm for some individuals. Due to others' (or your) snoring, you may want to bring an IPOD to lull you to sleep - you will be going to bed around 6 pm and it may very well still be light out.

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Day Two of Summit Climb
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  • ATTENTION - The time has finally come for the most demanding part of your climb. Again, be sure to listen to any and all instructions by the RMI guides. They will remain your "common sense" and the barometer of your well-being.
  • AWARENESS: Be attentive to all that is going on around you at ALL times. It is very easy in your ascent to be lulled into thinking about family, work, life in general, or the view around you. There will be rests (about 3-4 along the way above Camp Muir) where you can pull out your camera and photograph the vistas. Otherwise, be attentive throughout your climb.
  • PRESSURE BREATHING - Be sure to practice your pressure breathing. Between Camp Muir and High Break (13,600 ft. elevation) you may need to pressure breathe once for every five breaths. Above High Break, you may need to pressure breathe every other breath. It will you maintain a clear head, so practice the technique and remind yourself eveyr few steps to pressure breathe.
  • PARKA - At every rest along the climb, be sure to pull out your parka and put it on and zip it up - even if you don't think you need it. Even if you're sweating, put it on. The down from the jacket will allow you to conserve as much energy as possible. The goal is to conserve as much energy as possible - it would be a shame to tank out at 13,600 ft. because you just don't have enough energy to finish the climb.
  • CAMERA - Be sure to bring a camera - any camera. You will kick yourself for years if you summit Rainier and don't photograph your accomplishment. Be sure to put the camera in the inside pouch of your parka. At all rests along the climb, you will have to take out your parka and put it on, so the camera will be readily available for your photographing.
  • TALK/LISTEN - Talk to yourself. Literally talk to yourself - whatever it takes to keep you clear-headed and focused. Self-talk can be crucial in getting you past those areas (i.e. rock scree on the other side of the Cowlitz Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver, the final 500 feet of elevation) that are the most demanding or scary. A good portion of your climb - from Camp Muir to High Break - will be in darkness, so some areas can seem quite daunting and overwhelming to even experienced climbers. So be sure to talk to yourself: "It's okay. One step at a time. You can make it. Take it easy. Pressure breathe..."
  • FOOD/DRINK - Be sure to drink plenty and eat plenty on your climb and descent as you will be burning a large quantity of calories. Mixed with the cold temperatures, you can run out of energy pretty quick. So bring snacks and food that you enjoy eating normally, because at higher altitudes, you will lose your appetite and may have to force yourself to eat.
  • GLOVES - I was thankful for bringing a thinsulate pair of gloves and a heavier climbing glove. During rests, it was nice to have the thinsulate pair on so as to be able to grab a water bottle and snacks wtihout having one's hands totally exposed. The layered effect was helpful for the hands, but not too bulky so as to not be able to grasp the ice axe.
  • HONESTY - Be honest with yourself. We were instructed, "The way you feel coming into a rest will be the way you feel leaving the rest." If you're exhausted coming into one of the 3-4 rest spots, you will be leaving exhausted. You are the best judge of your condition, so don't endanger others on your team if you're not able to complete your climb. And remember that you will need energy as well for your descent, so plan accordingly.
  • THANKFUL - Should the Mountain be gracious to you and you make it to the crater on top, enjoy your moment. It is a moment you will savor for years to come. You will not be on top for very long, so be sure to make the trek up to Columbia Crest. To climb all that way and not go the final elevation? You owe it to yourself.
  • CONCENTRATE - The majority of those getting hurt on most high altitude climbs are on the descent. So be VERY attentive of your step and pace. Be sure not to leave a lot of slack in your rope between you and the partner in front of you. Saefty first - there will be time to celebrate when you return to Paradise.

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Post-Climb Ideas/Celebration
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  • DINING - Regardless of whether you climb or not (or summit or not), be sure to stop by the Rainier BaseCamp Deli (next to Whittaker's Bunkhouse) for an awesome cheeseburger or pizza [order The Cleaver] and an ice cold draft beer. Might I suggest either a Rainier, Sierra Nevada or Moose Drool to quench your thirst?
  • RMI SLIDE SHOWS - Again, regardless of whether you climb or not, be sure to stop by the RMI Guide's Lounge for their nightly 7:00 pm slide show. Prior to the climb, they have a Mt. Rainier slide show that will give you a detailed idea of what's in store for you. Or better yet, check out their International Summiting slide show - a great preview of what's ahead of you, after Mt. Rainier.
  • COMMEMORATIVE WEAR - Be sure to purchase a t-shirt from either the National Park (Paradise Gift Shop has the best selection) or the Summit Haus (if you are looking for an RMI or summiting memorabilia). The Summit Haus has a wide selection in their store, but very little of it is available on-line. Don't wait until you get home to say, "I should get a little something to remember the trip."
  • NOTE OF THANKS - If you have a memorable climbing experience, be sure to send a note of thanks (including your guides' names) to RMI and also share your experience with friends and family. If your climbing experience left something to be desired, be sure to notify RMI as well.

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Lee Hoedl, Copyright 2005

leehoedl@yahoo.com