Allen Hansen works in software development, and this summer he and two buddies took on Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot-tall peak southeast of Seattle, Wash. Mount Rainier is the most topographically prominent peak in the contiguous U.S., and its many glaciers require climbers be well prepared.
I sat down with Allen to discuss his ascent of Mount Rainier.
Andy: Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the lower 48. What made you want to climb this mountain?
Allen: I have visited family in Washington several times in the past, and Rainier always towers above everything else. In the summer, Rainier looks like such a different world with all its snow and glaciers. I wanted to explore that world, and to stand on top of such a prominent figure.
Andy: How did you prepare for this trek? Did you do a lot of fitness training? Did you have to practice safe snow traveling techniques?
Allen: I actually wasn't in the best shape when we decided to climb Rainier about nine months before we actually did it in August. Strength, aerobic fitness, flexibility, endurance, and balance are all important in mountaineering. I spent a lot of time at the gym working on those. I am also fortunate to live near some great mountains and hiking country, so I spent most weekends hiking around in the real deal. We practiced technical skills such as rope techniques and crevasse rescue in a safe environment before heading up.
Andy: What was your biggest surprise about this adventure? Was there anything you weren't prepared for?
Allen: I think we all underestimated the difficulty of the first leg of the journey, up to base camp. We were pretty careful to not get in above our heads, so we were prepared to turn back if we had to in order to stay safe. Because of that, after that arduous first day and after stories we had heard about the technical crevasse crossing on the route, I think we were all a little surprised that we were able to make it all the way!
Andy: What advice would you give someone considering their own ascent of Rainier or a similar adventure?
Allen: Research, research, research! Read about the different routes, the weather at different times of year, and the history of the accidents that have happened in the past (and what time of year they were). Going up Rainier in June is a much different experience than going up in August. The more aerobic fitness you have, the better prepared you will be to handle and perform at altitude. Also train by actually hiking smaller peaks as much as you can.
Andy: Is there anything else you'd like to share with the readers of the Sierra Social Hub about this experience?
Allen: The thing with adventures like this is you never remember the difficulty of the journey as much as the enjoyment of being in the experience and conquering your goal. I am very grateful to have had this experience. It was amazing to see the sunrise on the side of the mountain in the middle of our summit attempt (we left camp at 2:30 a.m.) and to stand at the very top!
Thanks Allen for sharing this experience with us. If you want to know more about their climb of Mount Rainier, watch this video. It tells the story and is filled with great shots of the scenery.