Climbing

A string of climbers cross a glacier.
Climbers on the Emmons Glacier.

NPS Photo

 

Mount Rainier, the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, offers an exciting challenge to the mountaineer. Each year thousands of people successfully climb this 14,410 foot active volcano.

Reaching the summit requires a vertical elevation gain of more than 9,000 feet over a distance of eight or more miles. Climbers must be in good physical condition and well prepared. Proper physical conditioning can offset the effects of fatigue that lead to mistakes and injuries.

Weather, snow, and route conditions can change rapidly, making the difference between a pleasant and rewarding experience or a tragedy. Before beginning a climb, obtain a current weather forecast. During your climb, turn back if weather conditions deteriorate. Severe winter-like storms on the mountain are not uncommon during the summer.

Official Route Descriptions & Minimum Requirements
Guide Services, Solo Permits, & Minimum Age
Climbing Resources

 

Changes to the 2020 Climbing Season due to COVID-19

Last Updated: June 22, 2020. Check here for additional updates.

The upper mountain has opened for climbing. Remember, travel above high camps and/or glaciated travel still requires a climbing permit and payment of a climbing cost recovery fee. Some temporary restrictions will still remain in place. Here is a substantive list of temporary use restrictions:

  • Climbing party size limited to 6 climbers
  • Camp Muir: 36 overnight non-guided users
  • Ingraham Flats: 12 overnight non-guided users
  • Muir Snowfield: 0 overnight users
  • Camp Schurman: 12 overnight non-guided users
  • Emmons Flats: 12 overnight non-guided users
  • All other wilderness zone camping quotas are normal with a max party size of 6
  • The Public Shelter at Camp Muir is CLOSED for visitor use and for emergency-use only

Changes on the Disappointment Cleaver Route

For an indefinite period this summer, it will no longer be a novice climbing route.

Each year, roughly 10,500 people attempt to climb Mount Rainier. About 85% of those choose to attempt the Disappointment Cleaver route. Roughly 4,000 of those Disappointment Cleaver attempts are with one of the guide services.

The guide services are permitted to put in temporary features and mitigations along the Disappointment Cleaver route to minimize the risks for their groups of climbers. Among these features are ladders over crevasses, wands marking the route, fixed rope lines through steep/exposed terrain, and shoveled/chopped trail-like surfaces that make it possible to walk normally instead of using more difficult French crampon technique. This is what makes the Disappointment Cleaver and attractive option for those wanting to travel a well-worn route to the top.

Guide services are not expected to resume their full schedule of guided climbs immediately.

As the Disappointment Cleaver opens for climbing, climbers will find very different conditions this season. Without these features and adjuncts, the route will be much more difficult to climb, akin to other routes like the Kautz Glacier or the Tahoma Glacier Routes. The Disappointment Cleaver and the Upper Ingraham Headwall are nearly 45-50 degrees in places. A much greater repertoire of skills by all party members will be required to climb the route including expertise in French Technique, route finding, step chopping, setting belays, and crevasse rescue.

During poor or marginal weather, climbers normally have some assurance that they can find their way back down because of this well-worn trail with wands marking the route and its switchbacks. There will be no established route! Tracks are likely to fan out all over as climbers attempt to find ways around crevasses and seracs. Guides normally put in hundreds of hours of effort each summer attempting to find the best (or only) route to the summit. This includes adjusting the route throughout the season as crevasses open and conditions change. This is time and effort that non-guided climbing parties will not have.

There is also normally a ‘community’ of climbers attempting the mountain each day. There is a certain amount of safety in this number of climbers as non-related groups will often help each other along the way. In the absence of the guide services running at full capacity and fewer non-guided climbers on the route due to the increased difficulty, it is much more likely that you’ll be alone on the route on your summit attempt. So please take enough gear that you can thrive if you are forced to bivouac due to an injury or losing your way on the upper mountain.

If you would not normally consider climbing the Kautz Glacier or Tahoma Glacier routes, then this may not be the right year for your Disappointment Cleaver trip due to the increased difficulties.


Your Search and Rescue

Mount Rainier National Park maintains a team of rangers who are responsible for search and rescue operations on the upper mountain. The park also maintains aviation staff and an exclusive-use helicopter based at Mount Rainier in support of search and rescue. Our teams are trained and in place to conduct operations this summer.

COVID-19 has prompted our teams to alter the way we conduct incidents and take precautions against the spread of this disease within our own workgroups. These precautions may slow our response down in several ways. It is very important for each climbing party to consider a delayed rescue response and equip themselves on summit attempts with gear to last comfortably if they should experience an emergency.

The National Park Service’s policy on search and rescue states that a reasonable attempt will be made to conduct search and rescue operations. For each field rescuer, there are usually 2-3 people in a support role in the incident command center. COVID-19 precautions effects all levels of any search and rescue operation.


COVID-19, Personal Protective Equipment, and Your Climb

We very humbly ask you to stay at home if you feel you are sick or are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The rangers who staff the high camps are also the rangers who clean the toilets each day. These are also the same rangers who perform the searches and rescues on the upper mountain. If you know you’re sick and you attempt to climb anyway, you may not only get other climbers and park visitors sick, but you may also transmit this sickness to rangers.
During your climb, we ask you to:

  1. Descend if you feel you are getting sick and stay at home if you experience COVID-19 symptoms
  2. Bring your own bottle of hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes and use them before entering toilets and after leaving
  3. Separate yourself as you are hiking/climbing and breathing forcefully
  4. Maintain your distance from other climbing parties

Thank You!

 

Official In-Depth Route Descriptions

Use the Route Briefs to familarize yourself with these two routes. Produced by park climbing rangers, they contain the latest information needed for planning your climb.

Plan Your Climb - Minimum Requirements


Two things are required to climb Mount Rainier:

  1. Each individual must pay the Climbing Cost Recovery Fee (good for the calendar year). You must pay this BEFORE coming to the park.
  2. All climbers must obtain a Climbing Permit for their climb (one per party, one per climb). This includes climbers who are attempting single push climbs or ski mountaineering.
 
Climbing Cost Recovery Fee

A new climbing fee payment system is now in effect. Physical climbing passes will NO longer be issued. Climbing passes were the little business card-sized vouchers that had been in use since 1995.

Pay the Climbing Fee

You must pay for the fee at home before you arrive at the park. Payments are processed on Pay.gov.

Please do not send any more fax purchase forms in! The old purchase forms are no longer accepted.

Please keep your receipt. Rangers will check to confirm that your fee has been received before activating and issuing your permit. Anyone climbing on glaciers, or above 10,000 feet, must register and pay the climbing fee. All climbers must also check out upon their return.

The fee is:

  • $51 for adults (25 years old and older)
  • $35 for youth (24 years old and younger)

Climbing Cost Recovery Fee Frequently-Asked-Questions

 

Climbing Permit

After you pay the fee, you will need to obtain a wilderness permit. A wilderness permit is required even if you do not plan to overnight on the route. You can obtain a permit by following the instructions on the Wilderness Permit page. This year, permits will only be issued by advance request until further notice. Permits will not be issued at Ranger Stations.

 
A climber braces against a rope as he ascends a steep cliff.
Historic photo of a Mount Rainier climber.

NPS Photo

Guide Services, Solo Permits, and Minimum Age

Guided Climbs

Climbing instruction, multi-day summit climbs, multi-day climbing seminars, and private climbs are available through:

There are also 15 single trip guide services authorized to perform only one guided trip per year. Check the list of Commercial Use Authorizations for approved guide service companies. Engaging in any business in park areas except in accordance with the provisions of a permit, contract, or other written agreement is prohibited. Leading or participating in an unauthorized guided climb of Mount Rainier is illegal (Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations). Learn more about regulations for guiding on Mount Rainier.

Solo Permit

Solo travel above high camps or anywhere on glaciers is not permitted except with prior written permission from the Superintendent. You may submit a Solo Climb Request Form or you may request this form by writing: Superintendent, Mount Rainier National Park, 55210 238th Avenue East, Ashford, WA 98304.

Commercial Non-Profit Climb

Some guided climbs qualify as charities. This type of climb is allowed, but requires a Commercial Use Authorization. Paying the climbing fee is still required.

Age Limit

A climber must be at least 18 years old to climb Mount Rainier. Anyone younger than 18 years of age must have the permission of a parent or legal guardian before climbing above normal high camps. Permission must be provided upon registration the day of your climb. Please have the necessary note signed and ready for us to include in our records.

 

Climbing Resources

If you would like more information, contact Mount Rainier Climbing Rangers at (360) 569-6641.

Last updated: June 22, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

Phone:

(360) 569-2211

Contact Us