Climbing Mt. Rainier alpine style, I’ve caught a couple incredible sunrises along the upper slopes of the mountain over the years but never had the chance to sit down and enjoy the view. This weekend after getting shut out on permits, I decided to fix that and set out in the dead of night on Sunday morning to make the 4,680′ hike up to Camp Muir (elevation approx. 10,100′).
Even heading up in the darkness, it was obvious just how much things have changed in the couple months since my last visit to Muir. Back then, Paradise and the lower slopes of Rainier were completely snow covered but all that remains of that now is a few slick patches of shaded in snow along the way (the switchbacks below Panorama Point remain half snow covered per my trip report.)
On the hike back down with the big light in the sky turned on hours later, I could full take in the changes from a month of summer as the lower mountain has come to life the creeks raging, wildflowers in full bloom, and more marmots than I’ve seen in all my hikes before combined. The upper mountain features have also changed dramatically with the winter coat melting away to reveal huge ice blocks and crevasses along the Nisqually Glacier while several seasonal waterfalls have popped up off along the various slopes off in the distance.
Of course there’s no shortage of snow higher up on Rainier’s and crossing over Pebble Creek at about 7,200′, it was great to have a proper climb and a warm, summer night. The near perfect temps made it easy to hike in little more than a baselayer while the practically moonless night meant the sky was lined up with stars. Sadly I’ve yet to master taking night photos to share along but really it’s something to see for yourself, even just from the parking lot at the Paradise Inn as many others were doing.
With compact but not frozen snow for much of the way (no crampons needed though a few degrees colder and that would have been a different story), I made my best time up to Camp Muir ever (wahoo!) and arrived well before sunrise to take in the first bit of the rising glow off the Cowlitz Glacier. Most of the climbers were already well on their way towards the summit for the day so I had camp practically to myself (or at least everyone else still around was still inside their tents save for a group that climbed up to catch the sun well above camp) for a long while.
Sunrise its self was well worth skipping a night of sleep with incredible views across the east side of the mountain and then glowing over the Southern view to Mount Adams, Mount Hood and the rest of the PNW. Much as I wish I had been able to snag a climbing permit (the mountain was full up for the weekend), it was an incredible adventure and one I strongly recommend, if you’re up for a in the dark, snow & dirt hike of almost 5k that is.