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Summit Mt Rainier - Tips, Tricks, Do’s, Don’ts

I will be climbing Mt Rainier in about 5 weeks. What tips/tricks about climbing a mountain do you have? What would you do differently if you had the chance? How do you stay in the right mindset during the climb? What do you wished you had packed and/or left behind?

4 Replies

@AM12588 Congrats on your upcoming climb. Mt Rainier is a formidable and beautiful mountain! I climbed it in 2008 and 2011(with attempts in 2005, 2009, 2010) before moving out of Washington. It is, and will forever be, one of my favorite mountains. I have tried with with a guide service and climbed it as the leader of my group. Whatever your chosen style you are in for a real treat!

Here are my top tips for climbing Mount Rainier (in no particular order):

  1. Pack food you really like to eat. Altitude affects everyone differently but exertion above 10,000 feet will make it hard to want to eat anything. Even though it cost me in weight I packed real food (not dehydrated meals) and made sure I carried more than I thought I needed. My go to was a ziploc bag with chocolate chip cookies.
  2. Choose your footwear carefully. Make sure its broken in and you're used to it. When I went on a guided climb all of the guides wore trail runners on the trail and then swapped them out for their boots once we hit the snow (it was a really low snow level year that year so there was miles of trail before we hit snow). All of the clients (including myself) were in double plastic boots that destroyed our feet before we even walked on snow. After that I wore Scarpa leather mountaineering boots and broke them in very well.
  3. I found that the best way to keep my mind in check is to practice breathing exercises prior to my trip. So much of your time climbing is breathing hard and looking at the five or six feet in front of you. Pressure breaths are your best friend!
  4. Also practice your rest step technique as that will save you a ton of extra energy that you are going to need!

That's what I can think of now. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Here is a summit photo for motivation! Best of luck!

Rainier Summit.JPG




At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@AM12588 I agree with all the things John said above. My biggest problem that I seem to have each time is not packing the right food. I definitely pack enough but dont do a variety so I get really sick of it really fast on the mountain.

  • Candy bars are great - high calories plus sugar.
  • Electrolytes in at least one of your nalgenes 
  • Clif Shot Bloks are usually a hit with everyone
  • Jerky

Another thing I've found helpful is to use a smaller nalgene to clip to the waistband belt of your pack. That way you dont have to take your pack off each time you want to stop for water. 

Happy summiting!! 


Awesome! Thank you both @REI-JohnJ and @Ammie.

I hiked up this past weekend to Muir and stayed the night. Altitude got the best of me for the first two hours or so, got sick a handful of times...but after that, I was good for the next 9hrs (bad on my part, I didn't eat or drink much else-just slept...that'll change for my actual climb-hopefully without the sickness). 

The one part I really struggled with, was being cold while sleeping! I had a 0 degree bag, plus a sleeping bag liner (since I know I run cold and have a hard time heating up). I also was wearing my wool socks, fleece pants, and upper gear (inc. wool tank, wick t-shirt, capilene long sleeve, atom jacket, beannie, buff, and glove liners). I would have thought I did overkill and would've been too hot, but I kept waking up shivering! Any thoughts?!? The feet were the coldest...maybe my wool socks werent allowing for circulation? I'm miffed!

@AM12588 congrats on making it to Camp Muir!

Here's the good news: we can solve your sleeping problem and get you warmed up. It may take some experimenting on your part to get it dialed but we can get there! First, a couple of questions:

  • Were you sleeping outside (in a tent or bivvy) or in one of the huts?
  • What kind of sleeping pad system did you have? Were you using a closed cell foam sleeping pad? (that becomes critically important if you were sleeping outside on snow)

Forgive me if this is information you already know, but I'm going to digress a bit into sleeping bag theory and application:)...

It may seem like a no brainer but it is worth remember that a sleeping bag doesn't produce heat, it merely insulates what is inside. So if you are cold when you get in your bag, it will not warm you up. It will merely slow or prevent the escape of any warmth you are producing which, in turn, will eventually warm you up. But if you're a person who runs cold and doesn't produce a lot of heat it can make for a long fitful night's sleep. The idea is that you want what's inside the sleeping bag (you) to produce enough heat to keep it warm and the sleeping bag to prevent that warmth from going anywhere. If you start out in a sleeping bag at the right temperature and find yourself losing that heat over the course of the night you either have a sleeping bag that isn't rated cold enough (as 0 degrees you should be totally fine!) or your body isn't producing enough heat (or any) to stay warm enough.

Here are my tips to keeping warm in a sleeping bag:

  1. Make sure you are warm before you get inside your sleeping bag. This could mean jumping jacks, sit ups, or hopping to get your blood flowing. It could mean a snowy tromp to the loo before bed. Anything to get warm blood to your extremities and get your furnace going. Then you get inside your cold sleeping bag and your body is at peak heat production.
  2. Eat or drink something warm that your body will burn slowly. This can be hit or miss depending on how your body handles food before bed. Sometimes I'll eat a small snack of cheese and summer sausage or, my personal favorite, drink a rich hot chocolate with a chunk of butter melted inside. Your body will slowly burn the fat and/or protien through the night and generate some much needed heat.
  3. Bring an external source of heat into play. Hand warmers or a nalgene bottle filled with warm/hot water usually does the trick. The best place to put them is in your armpits or between your legs. There they will be close to some major arteries and warm your blood as it circulates to your extremities.
  4. Make sure you don't have too much space in your sleeping bag. This isn't often the issue with sleeping bags nowadays because mummy bags are so prevelant. However, it bears mentioning that your body not only has to keep you warm but it will be also warming up all the air and space inside the sleeping bag. If you are in a sleeping bag that is too big for you and has lots of extra space and air, that can have an impact on how warm you feel. Also, make sure the baffle/draft collar is in place so you're not losing your hard earned warmth out of an unexpected opening in the bag.
  5. Lastly, make sure your clothing (ESPECIALLY socks) is loose enough to allow for circulation. This is particularly important if you have circulation issues and run cold. If my wife wears appropriately sized mountaineering boots her feet freeze. But if you put her in a size and a half too big, she's perfect. It is easy to think that more layers is better, however the more you pile on the more difficult it can be for your body to keep itself warm.

It is also important to remember that alititude exacerbates all of these issues so you want to make sure you are eating well, resting, and, most importantly, staying hydrated. I hope this guides you in the right direction. You may find some other useful tips in the REI Expert Advice artcle here. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help with or if you have any other questions. Best of luck on your upcoming climb!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.