Obviously everyone in Seattle sees Rainier all the time, which is part of why it's such a popular climb. I was slightly fooled by this, thinking that popular = easy. But it turned out to be anything but!
Our first day started with a multiple hour wait to get into the park. I guess the parking lots had been filling up quite a bit and getting there on a Saturday afternoon was a prime way to have to wait. But eventually we got in and started hiking in. Our plan was to hike up to the Inter Glacier and set up camp there. Ultimately we ended up camping just below the glacier as we found a nice bivy spot. We went to bed early and prepared for a very chill morning hiking the 2000 feet up to Camp Schurman.
Sunrise at our low camp
Day 2 was chill as expected, although we had to rope up at the end as the section of the Emmons below Schurman was quite broken up. Eventually we set up camp, did some rope team practice, and hung out for a couple hours before turning in to try and get some sleep before our 11 PM wake up to start towards the summit.
Our "third" day (really the end of the 2nd) started off strong as I had miraculously managed to sleep for 5 hours beforehand. We got started and made strong progress for the first few hours. It was very dark and we could see the Seattle city lights off in the distance as we ascended (this is a nice feature of the Emmons that you don't get on the more populare DC route!). In the darknes we could see the snow falling away into bottomless black crevasses, occasionally just a few feet below us. And we had to step over a couple crevasses. Luckily this time of night everything was quite frozen.
A crevasse in the light of day during the descent
Eventually, around 5 am we made it to the crux of the climb, a crevasse where the uphill side was about 6 feet higher than the downhill face. It was at this moment that my headlamp froze! Luckily Nate had an extra one. He also bravely volunteered to lead the "pitch", and he hopped across the crevasse and spidered his way up the other side, setting up a top rope system for me and Brian to follow. We made it across as well although it took us a while. We were really starting to feel the elevation at this point, and the wind had started to pick up as well.
With the wind getting more and more extreme, often to the point where we essentially had to hunker down and hold onto our ice axes for dear life, our progress slowed substantially. But we kept pushing on until we reached the bergschrund (top of the glacier where it meets the snowfield on top of the mountain). We traversed down the bergschrund and then picked our way up to the dirt summit cap.
The bergschrund at ~13,000 feet
At this point it was so windy that we could barely walk, even on the flat dirt of the summit. But we made it around the crater rim to the "true" summit (I could not have told you if it was actually higher than the rest of the rim but we trusted Gaia) and took a very quick selfie. I also managed to pee and watched it vaporize instantly in the wind.
Another summit pic
Finally we began the slog down. It was pretty cool and also scary to see some of the terrain we had traversed in the darkness. There were a couple sketchy crossings but we made it down eventually. Rope management on the descent was much more difficult than going up which, combined with general exhausation, put everyone in a bit of a bad mood.
Tired out on the way down
Eventually we made it Camp Schurman and took a quick rest. Then we packed up and dragged ourselves out to the car. I think we ended up getting to the car around 6 pm, making for a nice 19 hour day of moving. Seems like all the big volcanoes get you on the way down, Glacier peak similiarly didn't hit me hard until the final 4 miles of exiting.
Overall it was much harder than I anticipated and slower. I had also grown used to skiing at least a big chunk of the descents so having to hike the whole way down was more of a mental struggle than I anticipated. Hopefully next time I'm up there it'll be with skis (and in better snow conditions!).
As always thank you to the mountain for not killing me and to my climbing partners for the same.