Rainier, Baker, Hood - Proximity?

12:46 p.m. on April 6, 2010 (EDT)
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I am considering a trip out to Washington to hit some peaks. As an East Coaster, I would by flying in. I am guessing my only chance at hitting even one peak is by renting a vehicle? What kind of drive would I be looking at to these mountains and between them? It looks like Baker and Hood are somewhat close, but I'm guessing Rainier is a lot closer to the airport.

Is there a way to do even one peak without renting a car?

1:15 p.m. on April 6, 2010 (EDT)
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There's a free shuttle that runs from the town of Ashford into the town of Longmire. You then transfer to another shuttle in Longmire to take you to Paradise and the Jackson Visitor Center. I believe that's where the peak routes begin. Getting to Ashford is still a problem though, as it's 70-ish road miles from Sea-Tac. A cab ride to Ashford would be well over $150 each way.

More info can be found here:

The best option, according to them, seems to be group travel. A 10-passenger van can be hired for $250 each way. $50-per person for the round trip is the steal I think.

2:03 p.m. on April 6, 2010 (EDT)
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All 3 mountains have routes beginning on all sides. The mob scene on Rainier is starting from Paradise, so I do not recommend that approach (unless you are going to hire RMI to take you up on a hunnert-person rope - just a little exageration, since they will do 2 or 3 people). I would suggest going up via Camp Schurman as a less crowded route (Emmons Glacier), assuming you want one of the easier routes. You come in on the north side to Sunrise.

"Everybody" does Hood from the Timberline Lodge side (south side, Government Center), though you can pick several routes from there that are less crowded than the "standard" route and not really any harder.

Baker is best approached from the north (Mt Baker Highway). The Coleman-Deming Glaciers route is pretty easy.

But there is a lot of driving involved for any of them. For Baker and Rainier, each time it was a day from Seattle (friend's house) to drive and hike to the campsite. Then a day's climb, and a day hike out and drive back to Seattle. Hood is close to Portland (several hours south from Seattle), with the car campground up the hill close to Timberline Lodge. Lots of people do the Timberline to Summit and back to camp in a day, but lots camp a ways above the top of the ski lift (which runs all year around, in case you want to ski while you are there - except for a couple weeks in Sept when it is closed for maintenance).

But I think you could do all 3 in a week to 10 days (depending on the typical murky PNW weather, of course). Baker and Rainier are NOT solo peaks (big slots on the glaciers, some hidden, some weak snow bridges). Hood can be done solo, IF you have the experience wandering glaciers and climbing ice and pick the right route. Still, I would strongly recommend having at least one partner, with both of you having crevasse rescue experience (having helped haul several people out of slots on Baker and Rainier).

3:42 p.m. on April 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Having climbed all three multi times i will just add a few things.Stay off the "tourist" routes if you can.Both Baker and Rainier have some locomotive swallowing crevasses so solo travel can be dangerous.If you have a partner out hear it will open up some more interesting routes.Also the weather on these bigger peaks can change in a heart beat and being so close to the ocean it comes in hard and fast.Often these mountains create their own local weather and it is not always friendly.Living in Portland Oregon i have seen all these peaks take the lives of those unprepared and unknowing of local conditions.Be safe and do your research and you will have a ball.ymmv

10:44 a.m. on April 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I forgot to add something.The statement was made as to Mt Hood being an "easy" climb.The south side route is the easiest route but it has claimed many lives,both with and without experiance.At over 11,000ft and starting at 6000ft from the lodge it is still a large undertaking.Also there are several technical routes on this peak that deserve attention.You can avoid the crowds if you do one of these other routes just make shure it is in Condition on your dates.ymmv

12:02 p.m. on April 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I did not use the term "easy" with respect to the Hood climbs. I did suggest that there are alternatives on Rainier to the popular routes from Paradise that are still among the "easier" routes. I probably should have qualified my comment about the Coleman-Deming on Baker being "easy". "Easy" is a relative term, of course. First question the rangers will ask when you get the permits for the climbs is "How much and what kind of experience do you have?" As big, glaciated mountains go, there are "easy" routes on all three. But, as Skiman notes, big, glaciated mountains do require a fair amount of skill and experience.The easiest, "dog" routes on all three are nothing to sneeze at. Weather is a big factor for any PNW climbing, and glacier travel always requires a lot of experience and skill, with currency in crevasse rescue.

The major accident on Hood a few years ago on the "dog" route involved people who were tired and less experienced falling and catching other people in their rope, with a cascading of hitting other people and entangling more ropes. Plus an attempted helicopter rescue that included a pilot inexperienced at mountain rescue conditions. The crowded conditions that were on that route on that day definitely made the accident a huge one, with several fatalities and many serious injuries.

That's the reason I suggest avoiding the "standard" routes on Rainier and Hood. Baker is generally less crowded.

This brings up the whole topic of judgment, which requires a lot of experience to develop. On mountains like Rainier, Baker, and Hood, on a perfect weather day, the trade routes offer no serious technical difficulties, just a lot of hours of slogging up the hill and back down in your crampons. But experience makes the difference in avoiding the crevasses, selecting the snow bridges, knowing when the weather says "turn back", extracting someone from a crevasse when they lost balance or tripped crossing a snow bridge (or the bridge proved weaker that expected), judging when a companion is suffering from AMS (or worse). This is something you can not learn from a book or from posts on the web. Even a single course from a good climbing school only gives you an introduction.

So, here is the question that I (and Skimanjohn) should have asked - what is your experience with big, glaciated mountains, the glaciers having big, truck-sized crevasses?

11:56 p.m. on April 7, 2010 (EDT)
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Questions regarding your ability and route-choice aside, cascadeclimbers.com has some good info and other stuff regarding alpine objectives in the PWN. Maybe even find yourself a partner on there - and if you're exceptionally lucky, someone with a car who doesn't mind driving.

3:49 p.m. on April 8, 2010 (EDT)
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So, truck sized crevasses or locomotive sized? Either way, I do not have experience with crevasse rescue. My experience is probably best summed up as winter backpacking, including some rough days above treeline. Since July seems like the best time to go, there is a very good chance this trip will have to wait until next year, as I will not head out there without a firm handle on glacier travel.

Thanks for the site Skibum, I will check that out. As of now, there are only two of us, and the chances of us bringing a third is slim. I hope we can come up with a third, I understand two person crevasse rescue can be quite an undertaking for the inexperienced.

June 20, 2018
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