US Airways - July 2013 - 36



Climbing Mt. Rainier means
walking slowly and breathing hard in what feels like
another world.

By David Hanson



july 2013

and ice that makes the surrounding Cascade
mountains look like foothills.
It feels like we’re alone on this July night, the
sole spectators to the celestial midnight show. But
we’re not. A line of headlamps dots the Ingraham
Glacier “Flats” that we crossed to access Disappointment Cleaver. The tiny blue circles moving
in a rope line of three or four look like alien forms
plodding their way upward. This is how you climb
Mt. Rainier: under the cover of night before the
sun heats the snow, which creates a slushy mess
and increases the risk of avalanche and rock fall.
The climbing ranger who checked our permit

Above: pausing
to admire the
view over the
Muir Snowfield
on the way up
Mt. Rainier
Right: The
author takes
a break.

photos by Michael hanson

The steep, snow-covered slope
beneath my boots ends, and I step
onto Mars-red volcanic rock. I coil the rope
attached to my waist harness as Nathan
approaches. Then he does the same as
Michael, the end of our three-person rope
team, comes up. It’s one o’clock in the morning. We turn off our headlamps and stand in
the darkness on a flat resting spot the size
of four telephone booths. The northern
horizon pulses in faint yellow streaks: the
northern lights. Jupiter and Venus follow the
half moon rising farther east.
We’re at about 11,500 feet, halfway up
Disappointment Cleaver, a wide buttress of
rock and snow that’s regarded as the standard
climbing route up Washington’s Mt. Rainier.
The half moon that started out as an orange
wedge on the horizon 30 minutes ago has
risen enough to shed a silver light onto the
Lower 48’s most dramatic big-mountain environment. Five-hundred feet below us on either side
of this ridge, thousand-year-old glaciers bulldoze
downward in slow, methodical fashion, their deep
crevasses like black, menacing smiles.
At 14,410 feet, Mt. Rainier is not the Lower 48’s
tallest peak; California’s Mt. Whitney holds that
honor, though not by much at 14,494 feet. But
Rainier is the beefiest and the most glaciated. The
most Himalayan or Alaskan. And definitely the
most otherworldly. On a sunny day in my hometown of Seattle, Rainier towers over the downtown
skyline like a mirage, a dominating cone of rock

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of US Airways - July 2013

US Airways - July 2013
Table of Contents
CEO Letter
From the Editor
Did You Know?
Making It Happen
Hot Spots: Family-Friendly Vacations
Wine & Dine: The Other Portland
Great Tastes: Benjamin Steakhouse
Wine & Dine: A Crafty Measure
Diversions: Fresh as You Please
Great Tastes: Savor
Great Escapes: Now Resorts & Spas
Adventure: Climbing Mt. Rainier
Travel Feature: Grand Cayman, the Epicure's Island
US Airways: Top Dogs
Special Section: Northwest Arkansas
Golf: Primland, a Course Apart
Special Section: North Carolina High Country
Readers Resource Index
Your US Airways Guide
Video Entertainment
Audio Entertainment
U.S. and Caribbean Service Map
International Service Map
Airport Terminal Maps
US Airways Fleet/Customs & Immigration
Passenger Info/Contact US Airways
US Airways MarketPlace®
Window or Aisle?

US Airways - July 2013