The Emmons
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Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!

August, 1998
September, 1999
September, 2000
The Emmons, July 2005
The Emmons, July 14, 2006

The Emmons/Upper Winthrop

I've meandered up the Emmons three times now. And while it is a longer walk, and an additional 1000' of elevation gain, I certainly prefer it to the standard Disappointment Cleaver route. I enjoy starting in the mature forests above the White River campground. The trees and streams are beautiful. And the way the mountain bashfully hides in the trees, and later behind the high ridges dramatically increases the excitement.

This is also my favorite route for climbers new to Rainier. I've climbed to the top on the Emmons with five different people, and for four of those, it was a first ascent of this magnificent Cascade volcano. The route breaks up nicely into three days: One day to Camp Curtis, one (short) day to Camp Schurman or Emmons Flats, and then a long day to the summit and out. The short second day can be augmented with self-arrest and prussiking practice at Emmons Flats. Make no mistake, though, Camp Schurman is only 9460', and Emmons Flats is just a bit higher at 9700'. Making a high camp at either place makes for a challenging summit day, especially for those who choose to descend from the summit all the way back to White River. I was pretty wasted after my only two-day ascent on this route in 1999.

Special Considerations

In late season it is about 4.5 miles to the toe of the Interglacier. Do yourself a favor and wear comfortable, lightweight hikers or tennis shoes and carry your plastics. It may not be an issue on the way in, but you will thank me and yourself when, after climbing 4700'+ and descending about 8000' in one day, you arrive back at your comfortable, dry shoes.
The Interglacier can be evil. The first 'hump' frequently melts out to water ice in late season. The upper section seems to become more crevassed each year. If you choose to glissade on the way out (and it is mighty tempting), be very cautious and keep it slow on the upper section. Many of the crevasses are invisible from above. Once you are past the first hump and can see the toe, it is usually safe to let it rip.
There is a (very) rustic facility at Camp Curtis. Better than a blue bag, but if you can wait until you reach Camp Schurman, you will be happier.
I think Camp Schurman is a miserable place. Others think the same about Emmons Flats. It is only a ten minute walk between the two. Check them both out and decide for yourself.
Camp Schurman and Emmons Flats both get VERY windy. Don't be fooled by windless conditions or the inattention of others. I've seen four season tents full of gear blow away at Emmons Flats. And I heard a rumor that the barbeque at the Schurman Ranger hut broke its tether and blew away in 1999. Those little wire stakes are worthless. Use pickets, axes, deadmen, or invest in a few of those outrageously expensive snow disks. They cost too much at $6.25 each, but a set of four is still a lot less than a tent full of gear.
If you have to poop at Emmons Flats, don't be an ass. Use a blue bag and throw it in the barrel.
Don't be fooled by the descriptions of this route as the "least technical" on the mountain. Expect big crevasses, thin, grim bridges, and some water ice. This least technical route on Rainier is much more technical than Casaval Ridge on Shasta. In September, 2000, the route included fifty vertical feet of front-pointing on a 60 degree+ slope near 14,000'.
While the route is frequently "stomped-in", don't expect it to be. A little wind and snow can obscure the boot track in minutes. The route never seems to be well wanded. Take your own and use them.

This page was last edited on Tuesday, August 16, 2005
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