4-Day Emmons Glacier Climb Day-to-Day Itinerary
Upon sign-up, we will send you our richly detailed, pre-trip planning package.
The Day Before the Climb
Climbers are required to arrive at Alpine Ascents’ Seattle office the afternoon before the climb. At 2 p.m., a guide and gear manager will give you an overview of the climb, answer your questions, and make sure you have all your equipment or rental gear you’ll need for the climb. The guide will also instruct you in Leave No Trace practices and discuss the National Park Mission Statement. You will then return to your hotel.
We’ll meet at the Alpine Ascents Office at 6 a.m., where we’ll pack up the van and drive to Mount Rainier. We begin at the White River Campground (4,300 ft.). We’ll hike a few miles on a comfortable trail through the forest following the inner fork of the White River and reach Glacier Basin, a wide-open meadow with great views of Rainier. From Glacier Basin, we’ll begin climbing steeper, snowy terrain up the Inter Glacier to our first camp at about 8,500 feet. We’ll build camp and enjoy stunning and expansive views. This will allow us to acclimatize a little and have an easy move the following day. We will review walking on snow and ice, glacier travel skills, ice axe use, and learn breathing techniques for use on our ascent.
We’ll make a short move up to Camp Schurman (approx. 9,500 ft.) and establish our camp. This short day will begin with a brief climb up the Inter Glacier and onto the Emmons Glacier, and then on to Camp Schurman. This brief day of climbing will allow us to relax in the afternoon and get as much rest as possible before our summit attempt early the next morning. We’ll also have ample time for more review of the glacier climbing techniques necessary for our summit day.
Summit day. For safety and better traveling conditions on the glacier, we’ll rise early to get us near the summit by sunrise. The summit climb should take nine to 12 hours, depending upon the speed of the group. We’ll ascend the Emmons Glacier “Corridor,” a moderate sloped ramp to the upper slopes of the glacier. We will encounter crevasses and snow bridges that we must negotiate on our way to the top, as well as a mix of moderate and steeper snow terrain. Our pace will be moderate and lead to a spectacular summit day. Weather permitting, we will take a brief break to enjoy the view, snap photos, and eat and drink to fortify ourselves for the descent back to Camp Schurman. Back at camp, we’ll relax, eat dinner, and rest for our final day on the mountain.
We’ll descend to the trailhead. After we descend off the Emmons glacier and onto the Inter Glacier, we may deem the conditions suitable to glissade individually down this moderate snow slope toward Glacier Basin. At this point, we’ll trade climbing boots for tennis shoes (conditions permitting) and finish our hike back to the White River Campground, then drive back to Seattle for a shower and a night of dining and celebrating.
This four-day trip is extremely rigorous, and being in strong physical condition is mandatory. One day of skills review is included in the climb. Note that the guide retains the right, at any point, to determine whether a climber is sufficiently fit to continue.
I deeply enjoyed my expedition, it was a fantastic and, in most ways, ideal introduction to technical glacier travel. My guides were rock stars, the weather was superb, the route was challenging and gratifying and yet accessible, and I felt I was adequately prepared in some part thanks to AAI’s clear insistence on fitness preparation.