One of my friends was really enthusiastic about the two of us trying to summit Mt. Rainier this year. I was a little hesitant and committed only to doing some regular hiking with him in preparation for a summit next year.
Last week we decided to do a hike this weekend to Camp Muir, the basecamp for Rainier.
I picked him up early this morning and we were on the road by about 5:40am. We got there a little after 8am and hit the trail at 8:40am. Within an hour we had completed the first 2.2 miles and about 2000ft of elevation gain. This was on a very well-maintained trail that is actually mostly paved. The next 2 miles and 2000+ ft of elevation gain through snow took us 3 hours (3.5 for me).
The sun was painfully bright. In my mind snow is always associated with extreme cold. So I was dressed totally inappropriately. It was HOT. The high altitude (in combination with the heat/sun) caused my temples to throb and I got a slight feeling of nausea that intensified as we went up. The last hour of the ascent was quite gruelling for me because every time I got out of breath, I would also feel nausea. Coming down was somewhat fun because we would do controlled slide/steps down the snow (also known as Glissading). However, my nausea still persisted so I'd have to stop every few minutes - even though I wanted badly to get out of the sun.
It was a full 8 hour day for me; I got back to the parking lot around 5pm. In order to summit Rainier, RMI recommends that you be able to hike to Camp Muir in between 3-5 hours, with a full load on your back.
4.5 hours with a day pack is pretty pathetic but it's a checkpoint at least. At least now I know where I am vs. where I need to be in terms of my fitness level.