|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Need proof that Washington's iconic peak deserves its rep as the Lower 48's biggest and baddest mountaineering challenge? Ponder these two figures: 9,000 (the height, in feet, it rises above the lush foothills where you start hiking) and 26 (the number of glaciers on the massif, many of which you'll see from very, very close up). First-time climbers typically follow the Disappointment Cleaver Route, the mountain's most popular and least technical ascent. But you'll still need avalanche smarts and advanced glacier travel and rescue skills.
No experience? Go with a guide (rmiguides.com). The DIY plan: Ascend to Camp Muir, a mountaineers' camp at 10,000 feet. The next day, start early (by 2 a.m.), crest the crater rim by midmorning, cross to the true summit (14,410-foot Columbia Crest), and shoot hero video for post-trip bragging rights. Descend before afternoon temps increase avalanche and crevasse danger.
INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-camping-and-hiking.htm.
PERMITS: Backcountry permit (free) and annual climbing pass ($30): 30 percent reserved for walk-ins (not more than 24 hours prior to trip). In summer, get permits at least a month in advance. (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/mora.
CONTACT Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/mora
-Mapped by Shannon Davis