Dominating the horizon as the highest peak in the Cascade Range at 14,411 feet, Mount Rainier offers alpine climbers a plethora of route options ranging from steep snow fields and crevasses to expansive walls of ice. The Disappointment Cleaver route is anything but disappointing. The explosion of subalpine wildflowers, breathtaking vistas of the neighboring Tatoosh Range, and intimate glacial crevasse experiences keeps the hearts of climbers pumping as they climb high into thin air. Don't be fooled by the easiest route on Rainier: the 9,000 foot overall elevation gain, rapidly changing weather, and potential for crevasse falls leaves this climb suited for the physically fit, experienced alpine climber.
In the early summer months climbers can expect the route to be snow-covered right out of the parking lot. By late summer the trail offers colorful meadows blanketed in pink mountain heather, lupine, western anemone, and scarlet paintbrush. The well-marked route leads climbers through Paradise Park and up the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir, where most climbers establish their basecamps. For climbers trying to escape the crowds, consider a shorter day to camp at Moon Rocks or push beyond Camp Muir to Ingraham Flats, two great basecamp options.
Heading into crevasse country on Cowlitz Glacier just beyond Camp Muir, climbers begin the summit approach between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. roped up and ready for action. Following a scree scramble through Cathedral Gap, climbers return to crevasse hazards on Ingraham Glacier, where late season ladder bridges installed by the Rainier Mountain Guides provide for safe crossings of otherwise impassable crevasses. Reaching the Cleaver, ice and rockfall become a hazard as teams scramble up the ice covered boulder field above Emmons Glacier to the rim of the East Crater. An easy stroll above 14,000 feet brings climbers to the summit at Columbia Crest.
As the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Rainier attracts a large number of visitors each year. Please practice low-impact and leave-no-trace traveling to help preserve this paradise of a park for future generations. In addition to the inherent hazards of traveling on a glaciated alpine mountain, inexperienced climbers may pose the greatest threat. Please gain proper training, climb with experienced climbers, and use a guide service if you have any doubts regarding your skills and abilities. As always, be sure to liberally apply sunscreen when you travel into thin air, and watch for storms that roll in quickly on unsuspecting climbers.
A Mount Rainier National Park Climbing Permit is required and should be reserved and purchased well in advance of your trip. However, 30% of all campsite permits are kept aside for same-day purchase. They are sold on a first-come, first-served basis for last-minute planners. Permits can be purchased and picked up at the following ranger stations: