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Mount Rainier

From Portland Hikers Field Guide

Mt Rainier from Sunrise Visitor's Center (Steve Hart)

There are a lot of peaks visible from the Puget Sound area, but only one is referred to as "The" mountain. At 14,410 feet, Mt. Rainier towers over Washington state for a hundred miles in any direction.

Contents

Volcanic History

Mount Rainier has a long eruptive history dating back perhaps a million years. Most of the cone is made up of thin lava flows interspersed with volcanic ash and mudflows deposits. Rainier has been through numerous alternating times of volcanic activity building up the mountain and glaciation tearing it down. At its largest, Mt. Rainier probably stood 16,000 feet high. Glaciers have since torn into the mountain deeply and the Osceola Mudflow 5000 years ago may have been caused by a collapse of the earlier summit.

Mount Rainier is far from dead. The current summit cone, Columbia Crest, is a near perfect circular crater estimated to be about 2,000 years old. Small eruptions were recorded in 1820, 1843, 1846, 1854, 1858 and 1894 . Today, the summit crater emits enough steam and warm gas to maintain an ice cave system beneath the summit ice cap.

Mount Rainier is the most dangerous volcano in the northwest. There is a good chance that it will erupt again in our lifetimes and the ever growing population of the Puget Sound area stands in harms way. The Puyallup River Valley was buried by the Electron Mudflow to beyond Orting only 500 years ago. 5000 years ago, the Osceola Mudflow flowed down the river valleys and buried the current sites of Sumner and Auburn, creating the flat bottomed valley that is obvious today. Future eruptions could bring similar results.

Human History

Native Americans called the mountain "Takhoma", "Tahoma" "Ta-co-bet" and various other names. A fair translation of these names is "Where the waters begin".

The current name of Mt. Rainier was given by Captain George Vancouver when he named the mountain after his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. A local apocryphal story says that the mountain was named Rainier during a wet Puget Sound winter, when the area was rainier than anywhere else.

Climbing information

The first documented climb of Mount Rainier was in 1870. Mount Rainier is not an overly technical climb, but this mountain is huge. The climb is usually about 9000 feet of vertical elevation gain and the 14,000+ elevation creates its own weather patterns. The most common route is from Paradise. Climbers generally climb about 4500 feet to Camp Curtis and overnight there. The second day typically starts early at 2 or 3 AM with climbers summiting by 9-10 AM. That leaves the long hike 9000 feet down the mountain to Paradise.

Hiking notes

Mt. Rainier is a big mountain, much taller than Mount Hood or other Cascade Peaks. The extra height makes it visible from most of western Washington. Chances are, if you find a viewpoint anywhere in our hiking area, you'll be able to see Mt. Rainier. Mt. Rainier National Park is the home of many beautiful hikes including a 93 mile round-the-mountain trail called the Wonderland Trail. (That's over twice as long as Mt. Hood's Timberline Trail). Dogs aren't allowed on the trails in the park.

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Portland Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.