Camp Muir Mt. Rainier Day Hike Trip Report

Sunday 9-10-17 Jim and I hiked up to Camp Muir and had the most glorious alpine adventure!

This hike is a strenuous, yet rewarding, scenic ascent from the Mt. Rainier Paradise Visitor Center to the Camp Muir base camp for many Mount Rainier summit expeditions climbing The Ingraham Glacier/Disappointment Cleaver. Climbers usually hike to Camp Muir the day before they climb to rest and acclimate to the altitude, a little over 10,000 feet. I’ve done this hike countless times and this was Jim’s first. We have been hiking all summer and he was fit and ready!

“The trek to Camp Muir is exhilarating but is not a hike to be taken lightly. It’s tougher than it looks and the weather can change unexpectedly. This hike is only recommended for strong, experienced hikers, who are prepare.” ~VisitRainier.com

To make your trip safe and enjoyable follow these packing tips. 

I have some valuable tips for your Camp Muir Day Hike here.

Jim and I arrived at Paradise at 830am. Temps were in the low 60’s. I elected to wear shorts, a wicking tshirt followed by a wicking long sleeve, a down vest and a fleece jacket. After 10 minutes, I took off the vest and jacket.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got our early start and were on the trail by 9 a.m. About 5 minutes into our hike, some hikers stopped to alert us that a bear was right off the trail. We easily saw the large black bear stripping berries off low bushes. We observed and photographed him then moved as a group past and he lumbered off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hike to Camp Muir starts on the Skyline Trail at Paradise, the nine-mile round-trip rambles innocently through gorgeous meadows, scrambling chipmunks and lolling fat marmots before climbing the strenuous (always) snow covered steep 2.2 miles and 2,800 vertical feet up the Muir Snowfield. This Skyline alpine trail contrasts to the world of rocky outcropping and the snow and ice of the higher mountain. We lucked out and despite starting the hike out chilly and in the low clouds with no view of Mt. Rainier, the clouds disappeared as we gained elevation and the sky was blue and the mountain, beckoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conditions for hiking in snow were perfect and there was a good track to follow and we found that we did not need traction devices called microspikes though we

 carried them.

We kept a steady pace with a few rests on one of the rock “islands” in the snowfield. While snacking, we took in the views of the mountain ahead and the Tatoosh range behind which were breathtaking.

It took us 4.5 hours until we could see Camp Muir in the distance. Those last thousand

 feet of the climb are the most difficult. The Muir Snowfield seems to stretch on forever before you see the buildings and when you do finally see Camp Muir, it looks closer than it is and feels like you’re making no progress at all as you climb. At this point we began the rest-step and pressure breathe to help to raise blood oxygen levels.

Once we got to Camp Muir, after 5 hours of steep hiking, we found it relatively quiet. There was a group of RMI climbers RMI just led up as we were climbing, a few day-hikers and a few men who were attempting the summit the next day. As we explored, I showed Jim the stone public bunkhouse, a bunk house for the RMI Guide Service clients to rest in, a NPS Ranger Hut, outhouses and typically dozens of tents set up between rock outcroppings; today only two. Jim and I took off our boots and had a snack. We lingered there in the sun for about an hour (temps in the low 70’s) enjoying the dramatic views from Muir that reach all the way to central Oregon on a clear day. We were able to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

On the way down, we decided to see how we were able to descend without microspikes. It turned out that he snow had softened enough that going down was as tiring as climbing up. The snow wasn’t soft enough to plunge-step and so struggled to keep our balance. Once we put on our microspikes it was easier. On the way down, we took advantage of some glissade chutes. (To glissade is to slide down the snow on your rear on a garbage sack). We had safe glissade conditions, speeds weren’t too fast and we had so much fun. Definitely the way to descend! What a wonderful day.

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Hiking Snack: Processed versus Real Food

Whether you are hiking or taking a snack to the office, choose real food not processed packaged foods.

Whole Wheat Tortilla with pesto and Swiss cheese, small amount of leftover chicken, banana, and a mandarin orange.

VERSUS

Protein Bar and 3 tablespoons trail mix.

Compare the nutrition of the snacks  in the table below.

For roughly the same amount of calories and protein, the real food snack provides more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber (12 g versus only 2 g). The real food meal is more nutrient dense. The real food meal provides more actual amount of food and will be more filling. The processed meal has more fat and sugars.

Foods
Calories
Carbs
Fat
Protein
Sugars
Fiber
1.5 oz. Chicken Breast
60
1g
1g
11g
0g
0g
1 Multi-grain Tortilla
150
23g
4g
4g
2g
5g
1.5 Tbsp Basil Pesto
66
2g
6g
1g
0g
1g
1 oz. Swiss Cheese
80
1g
6g
7g
0g
1g
1 Banana
105
27g
0g
1g
14g
3g
1 Cuties  Mandarin Oranges
40
8g
0g
1g
7g
2g
TOTAL:
501
62g
17g
25g
23g
12g

Foods
Calories
Carbs
Fat
Protein
Sugars
Fiber
Gatorade Whey Protein Bar
360
42g
13g
20g
31g
1g
3 Tbsp Kirkland Trail Mix
160
12g
10g
5g
9g
1g
TOTAL:
520
54g
23g
25g
40g
2g

 

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Camp Muir Mt. Rainier Day Hike Tips

On The Move Pebble train hike 51405This route isn’t for everyone since it does involve substantial snow travel and may require good route finding skills. Fierce storms can come in and can bring a whiteout. It can get cold fast and the route can be obscured. Hikers have wandered blindly over cliffs so please be prepared by checking the weather forecast and road conditions before you go. Even if you expect good weather be prepared for sudden weather changes.

Refer to this packing list for what to bring on this hike.

Sunburn

It’s easy to get very sunburned when hiking on snow. The rays of the sun bounce off the snow and into places you’ve mostly likely never been burned before such as up your nose, inside your ears and up your shorts. Once an hour, stop, pat to dry off any sweaty areas and reapply a sunscreen containing zinc oxide to these frequently overlooked areas in addition to all exposed skin. Be sure to use sunscreen on your lips and parts in your hair.

Altitude Illness

Some people get altitude sickness and some people don’t, and some people are more susceptible than others. Most people can go up to 8,000 feet with minimal effect. If you haven’t been to high altitude before, be cautious. To prepare and minimize the effects: hydrate well the day before and stay properly hydrated during your hike. Eat and drink something at each rest stop. Take a dose of ibuprofen as you are gearing up. Utilize the rest step and pressure breathing.

Rest Step

The rest step that is used by mountain climbers to slow their cadence, rest their leg muscles and preserve their energy during a climb on steep terrain at altitude. Essentially, the “rest step” takes pressure and strain off quad and glute muscles and transfers it to the bone structure.

As you step forward, lock your rear knee and rest all of your weight on that rear leg. As you’re swinging your other leg forward, relax the muscles in that leg. Once your forward foot comes to rest on the ground, keep it relaxed so that there’s no weight on it. You can stop in that position for as long as you need to.

When you’re ready to take the next step, shift your weight to the front foot, step forward with the other and lock the rear knee again. Get into a rhythm much like a wedding march. Another tip: lead with your hips instead of your feet.

Be sure to walk slowly, steadily and take smaller steps. By walking more slowly, you can walk continuously without taking breaks. Walking more slowly prevents you from getting sweaty too quickly, keeping you warm and better hydrated. Synchronize breathing with this sequence.

Pressure Breathing

At higher elevations you’ll need to make a conscious effort to breathe deeply and often. Pressure breathing is used to provide extra oxygen to the working hiker at altitude.

During your rest step, inhale quickly, and fill your lungs completely, expanding both ribcage then exhale explosively through pursed lips, emptying your lungs in one big “whoosh” as if you were trying to blow out a giant candle.

Trekking Poles

Use trekking poles with a snow basket. This shifts effort from legs to arms, reduces shock on knees and back and help you keep your balance with a pack on ice and snow.

To determine the correct length:

When hiking on level ground, adjust the length of the poles so that when your upper arm is hanging straight down and your hand is on the handle, your forearm should be parallel with the ground.

If you are going uphill, a pole at elbow height or shorter may be preferable.

If descending a steep slope, lengthen the poles.

To put your straps on, put your hand through the appropriate strap from the bottom (straps are right- or left-specific) so your hand rests snugly around your wrist.

Helpful Resources:

Map: Green Trails Paradise No. 270S

Please print this and bring with your compass:  https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/upload/camp-muir-route-with-get-your-bearings-map-oct11.pdf

Information about the hike: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/camp-muir

 

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