Date: 21 July 2012 (~17 hours car to car)
Route: Emmons Glacier from the White River Trailhead
Elevation Gain: 10,000ft from trailhead to summit
Route Type: Snow/Glacier
Basic summer route info: From the trailhead, follow the Glacier Lodge trail until you reach a snow field. Go up the snowfield and cross a small small glacier section between rock outcroppings until reaching Camp Shurman. Follow the ramp-like route up and to the left of camp until reaching a heavily crevassed and serac filled area. Traverse this area until reaching the right side of the area where there will be another well marked (in the summer) ramp-like section up to the summit. Once you reach the summit ridge, you will see the summit crater and the summit of Mt. Rainier.
Trip Account (written by Lauren, 22 July 2012): Hamik and I ended up summiting Mt. Rainier via the Emmons Glacier route in day trip yesterday!! It was my first 10,000ft day (trailhead was at 4400ft, summit at 14400ft) and I somehow miraculously kept form bonking halfway up the route! Hamik was supposed to do Liberty Ridge with another group but given that there was only supposed to be one good day of weather and they weren't sure they could do that route in a single day, they turned around and came back to camp Friday late afternoon. I had half-jokingly mentioned to Hamik that we should do the DC route in a day trip and he was worried that 9000ft might be a tough one for me since I had never done more than ~4600ft in a single day - before yesterday that is!
Anyway, he gets back on Friday night and suggests that we do the 10,000ft Emmons Glacier route in a day trip on Saturday so we packed up, slept for a few hours, and left the car at 1am on Saturday morning. By 4:30am, only 3.5 hours later, we had reached the 5,000ft half way point on the route, witnessing one of the most incredible sunrises I've ever seen. We hiked for a bit more to hit the glacier and then stopped to rope up, eat, suncreen, and get some water. We also lost our first and only item to a crevasse which was one of the bars I had brought to eat along the way. Shortly after, we reached Camp Shurman and started up the route which included some super scary glacier/crevasse/sercas crossings that seemed endless. I really wish I had gotten a picture of it but I was so adrenaline pumped with fear on the way through that I didn't want to stop. Plus, the giant sercas overhead and the crazy crevasses only feet below didn't seem to welcome a nice photo stop. We pushed through the crevasse area and wound up on an endless ~3000ft icy snow slope that we trudged up, me almost losing it and going painfully slow for the second 1500ish feet of that. There was lots of snowy and icy spindrift that came down on us which was actually kind of cool since I had never seen that before. We caught up to most of the guided tours either on the summit or just below.
Once I could see the summit I got my second wind and we pushed through and summited around 11:45am, only 10 hours and 45 minutes after leaving the car! Photos were taken but since it was pretty windy up there, especially on the last bit of ridge at the top (~45mph), we didn't hang out too long and I forgot to check in with the summit message on my SPOT and I forgot to eat my summit M&Ms. Worst. The crater looked pretty cool though and the view from the summit was great.
We descended at about 3000ft/hour so we made it back to Camp Shurman fairly quickly, where we took a quick break before the rest of the descent. Going back through the scary serac/crevasse heavy area above Camp Shurman was really much more scary in the early afternoon since it was warming up quite a bit but we made it though quickly, only having to stop once to wait for a guided group. My knees were pretty trashed by this point so once we hit the snow field, Hamik flew down it and I glissaded down and then hiked out slower by myself. I also almost glissaded into a giant hole in the snowfield but luckily I saw it coming so I stopped myself and walked over to another path that I could see went all the way to the very bottom and took that one instead. I was super tired and hungry on the way out, plus I shortly after ran out of water so I started hallucinating some camps/tents on the snowfield/trial on the way out but I shortly after realized they were just pointy triangle shaped rocks. I also saw some crazy rock/tree combos that looked very much like King Kong and another that looked like an elephant. I got back to the trailhead where were camping at about 6:30pm, which was surprisingly only about an hour and half after Hamik.
All in all, the day was a great success and I think that the Emmons glacier route was much more fun, interesting, and less crowded than the Disappointment Cleaver route, hands down. Plus, it was much more of a challenge for a day route than I think DC would have been.
Also, a huge thanks to the American Alpine Club for helping to fund this trip through the Live Your Dream grant program!