White River campground

0400 Saturday. I saw the route yesterday for the first time. It was easy to pick out the boot track of the previous Emmons Glacier climbers from below the Corridor continuously to the bergshrund as it weaved around crevasses. The Corridor now seems more aptly named, or at least more obviously advantageous: to the left and right of it are the largest icefalls I’ve seen on a mountain I plan to walk on.

There are much, much larger and more thrilling ones on the Annapurna range, of course. But even from here, where the Rainier fills as much of the skyline as Annapurna South and Fishtail combined fill from Pokhara, I don’t feel the same kind of longing I do looking up at those. I don’t think that’s because my deep love of staring up at mountains has faded by living near them. I think it’s both because this mountain feels attainable and because my mind is filled with thrill and anxiousness more proximate to the task at hand.

Yesterday, the mountain looked smaller from here than it does sitting by itself as viewed from home and from Seattle. I know we are just about exactly 10,000′ below the summit, but it just didn’t look like it. Seeing the tiny lights of other parties make their way through and above the Corridor just now brought it back to scale. That reminds me that this is my first time seeing that. Other than the flags on the top of Annapurna, I’ve never seen evidence of climbers above me on a big peak, and just like Annapurna, their tiny showing of existence makes the mountain look even larger.

Camping here last night in the NPS campground was an accommodation to the forecast. We can’t climb in lightning, and lightning is forecast for tonight through tomorrow night. It’s probable that we will delay a night at high camp to let it pass, though we will get up and ready at 2300 tomorrow to see if the time is right.

Today will be an easy hike, though with heavy packs, to our low camp at Glacier Basin. We are taking our time on the approach. We could push to high camp in a single day, and many parties do, but that would likely tire us enough to hamper our ability to summit and descend to the cars the next day.

Rope teams are set. Bob, Micah and Bill on the first;, Michael, John and I on the second. I don’t really care where I end up. Pace on the rope will be what it is, and this route is sufficiently non-technical and our respective experience levels insufficiently differentiated (other than Bob’s, since he has climbed Rainier three times among other things) that it does not much matter whether one is leading. Regardless of position, no one can fall without self-arresting, roped or not. We’ve trained for recovery from a fall, but we don’t want to use that.

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