Mt.Rainier Climb Trip Report

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #69003
    Steve
    Participant

    Alright, sharing my recent time on Rainier with the group. @MarkPostle your friend was right the weather wasn’t our friend!
    So – first I didn’t quite make the summit got to 13,500ft and turned around. We went up the Ingraham Direct from our camp on the flats at about 11,100ft.
    Our hike up was as follows:
    Day 1: Paradise Trailhead to Camp
    Muir 5500ft to 10,000ft about 4.5 miles of ack weight 50lbs
    Day 2: Stuck at Muir due to weather
    Day 3: Camp Muir 10,000ft to Ingraham Flats 11,000ft via Cathedral Gap
    Day 4: Ingraham Flats to Summit(attempt) via the Direct Route 11,000ft to 13,500(turn around point) Pack weight maybe 10lbs

    I decided to turn around for a few reasons:
    1. My legs felt pretty dead – breathing was ok but my legs were really tired.
    2. The winds were gusting between 40-50 mph
    3. The last segment below the rim was pretty icey.

    When I added all those up I didnt feel secure leading my rope team the last 900 feet.
    Just for reference I have climbed to the summit previously via the DC route and done some other stuff at higher altitudes so don’t think that was a deal breaker.
    To me I think my legs did not fully recover from the hike up to Muir from Paradise. The climb is ~4.5 miles and 4500ft of elevation. My pack weight was 50lbs. In my previous climb we camped lower on night 1 (maybe 7500ft) and did not try for the summit until day 6 from Ingraham.

    For the Coaches:
    1. Should I focus more on heavy carries to improve this?
    2. Is the (lack) of acclimatization impacting ability to recover en route / at altitude?
    3. Does this just point to needing to improve base strength?

    Separate but related – I would love to hear ideas on how to fuel properly during this. The freeze dried backpacker meals were not my favorite! I did bring up about 3000 calories per day – didn’t quite consume it all but tried to force it once we were above 10k.

    For the group, love to hear your thoughts or any similar experiences.

    Happy to share more here in the forum, via email or during the next Zoom.

    Best,
    Steve O.

  • Participant
    Jeremy on #69012

    Thanks for sharing. I am a beginner so don’t have much input. But I would be curious of other coaches and experienced climbers.jeremy

    Moderator
    MarkPostle on #69033

    Steve,
    Thanks for the report and sorry the weather wasn’t ideal. Its been one of the best climbing seasons in memory this spring in Alaska and Himalaya for weather but definitely not on Rainer! We were just discussing in the coaches meeting the other day how much of a factor that is in summit success/failure. It does sound like you made it quite high though and came away with some lessons/food for thought.

    For the Coaches:
    1. Should I focus more on heavy carries to improve this?
    I think a lot of failed Rainier type climbs are “lost” on the heavy approach days. You do need to address this in training of course but you need to be thoughtful about it so you can recover well in training. You can attack this a few ways
    – Adding a moderate pack weight to more of the zone 1/2 volume days (20-25 pounds)
    -Getting in a really solid 8-12 week block of heavy Z3 weighted ME work before the climb.
    -Doing a couple of hard back to back weekend days with climbing goal pack weights and vertical. You can do a heavier Saturday then a long hilly Sunday to simulate the goal and demands on the body.
    – Use any possible lessons from previous trips to lighten up your pack!

    2. Is the (lack) of acclimatization impacting ability to recover en route / at altitude?
    -100% it affects you (and everyone else) I think a big part of it is a reduced ability to recovery at night between big days. Suboptimal sleep, nutrition etc adds up fast even on a 4 day trip. This is really common on things like Rainier where pretty much everyone is coming from sea level and immediately sleeping at 10-11K’. A really solid consistent training history of low intensity base to maximize your aerobic capacity will always be your #1 weapon to fight altitude. I.e. Show up fit as possible. Your CTL score in TP is a decent place to start thinking about this. A CTL of 80+ for a Rainier is where I start to get warm and fuzzy about an athlete being ready for something like a Rainier. If possible you may want to consider a bit of time sleeping at more moderate altitudes of 6-8k’ before jumping up to 10-11 but that’s logistically harder for big volcano climbs in PNW than things in the Rockies or Sierra. Lastly if you do happen to sleep poorly at altitude initially you may consider a low dose of diamox to even things out.

    3. Does this just point to needing to improve base strength?
    I think the most important kind of strength is the sport specific strength like the heavy weighted pack carries. This however is built a bit upon general strength in the “off season”. Chamfit, box steps, lunges, Bulgarian splits squats may be helpful here. That said it is very easy to struggle a bit at altitude with a pack and see the solution as needing to get “stronger” when you may just need to have a more developed aerobic capacity. The primary issue isn’t the pack weight its the lack of oxygen. If you were down at sea level that pack would no doubt feel way lighter.

    Separate but related – I would love to hear ideas on how to fuel properly during this. The freeze dried backpacker meals were not my favorite! I did bring up about 3000 calories per day – didn’t quite consume it all but tried to force it once we were above 10k.

    -Yup freeze dried is easy to work with but is expensive, calorically lousy, and can be hard on your guts. Especially for a 4 day trip its hard to get enough calories down. Commonly with the limitations of the environment and reduced appetite at altitude you’ll be running a deficit no matter what. I tend to eat freeze dried only for dinner and bring a small jar of olive oil or butter to add some quick calories to every meal. You can also add things like cheeses, salami, smoked salmon etc. You can also branch out from strictly freeze dried into things like Ramen noodle dishes and instant mashed potatoes. While you’re at it make sure your stove/pot/fuel/utensil system is getting the job done but isn’t overkill. Experiment at home and dial in a couple of meals that are super easy and work for you. If it does taste OK at home it definitely won’t at 11k’!

    Participant
    Steve on #69034

    Thanks Mark. Appreciate the feedback.
    Sounds like I was a little (or maybe more than a little 🙂 ) Shy on fitness level. CTL the week before was in the 60’s, so probably didn’t time the work ramp up to coincide.
    Is there a good way to estimate / predict what CTL might be after a given schedule? I missed the Zoom on metrics.

    For the adjustment of the Z1/2 with weight of 20-25lbs would that shift it from a run / jog to more of a hike?
    I definitely felt good carrying both 20-25lbs on my Sunday long hikes with 3500-4000ft of gain no problem here at 1000-2000 above sea level in NY. Also felt fine doing heavy carries with 50-65lbs or box steps with a 70lb pack and a barbell to get my step up weight over 100lbs – which I guess points to not a general strength problem as you noted but an aerobic capacity one.
    I did not try doing a heavy carry on Saturday then longer lighter hike on Sunday to simulate trip demands – will definitely do that in the coming weeks.
    I didn’t think about the impact of sleep. We slept in the bunkhouse nights 1 and 2 which was loud with folks coming in and out all night so not great rest there and then on day 3 we “napped” in the tent for a few hours prior to heading up for the summit so again pretty poor sleep quality.

    7 weeks until my next mountain attempt – Chimborazo so I will definitely get a sense of the altitude impact but won’t have a heavy carry prior.

    Best,
    Steve O.

    Moderator
    MarkPostle on #69078

    The easiest way I think for folks to wrap their head around the CTL score is that to have a CTL of say 80 then your daily TSS score needs to average 80 for 6 weeks. This obviously is a weekly TSS total of 560. Assuming your consolidation/rest weeks are lower (which they should be) then you need to be doing 600+ TSS for the big weeks. Again don’t let the cart drive the horse but I do think all thing being equal you’ll see more success with CTL closer to 80 than 60.

    I think you’re plenty “strong” enough for these goals but I do use the heavy weighted ME pack carry with good success with folks that have goals that don’t have a heavy pack component. It just makes your more fatigue resistant and durable. Keep them down to 1 hour of total “up” time maximum and hit it hard.

    With few exceptions I don’t program the 25# weighted aerobic work as a jog, pretty much only hiking. The abuse generally isn’t worth the benefit IMO. Youll likely still have a couple days a week with unweighted jog/runs which is totally fine

    Participant
    Steve on #69084

    Is there a reason I cannot see all the replies? I know Victor replied but I cannot see it here in the forum.
    I have the email notification for it and I just replied myself and I cannot see it.

    Participant
    Victor Grijalva on #69085

    Steve,

    I don’t see my post anymore either so I’m reposting it. Did not have comments on the training but had some ideas for the food!

    Victor

    Repost:
    Steve,

    Thanks for the report, good luck on Chimbo. About the food, I can’t stand freeze dried anymore so have had to find other solutions. Here are a few of my alternatives.

    1) Ramen noodle that I just add boiling water to and then also add in chicken (see attachment) and spices. You can get bags you can add boiling water to at Pack It Gourmet.
    2) I also do the instant mash potatoes and just add boiling water using the same bag in 1) above.
    3) Indian meals by Tasty Bites (see attachment), I really like these, you just add these bags to boiling water and then pour into bowl. I also add rice that you just boil the bag. Little bit more effort with this and the Tasty Bite bags are a little heavy.
    4) Bagels with cheese. I also add beef jurkey, the bacon kind so it is a little softer. Bagels keep are light abut a little bulky.
    5) Bring some fruit, apple, banana, orange.
    6) bring tortillas, cheese and smoked meats/salmon.
    7) Have hot chocolate after dinner to get in more calories. Add electrolytes to your water, some will add 100-200 calories to your drink.

    I try and bring as much normal food as opposed to freeze dried but every now and then you need the convenience of freeze dried so for freeze dried I use Pack I Gourmet, I find their food way more palatable but it is more expensive.

    As Mark said, experiment at home to see what you like before trying it out on the mountain!

    Victor

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    Participant
    Victor Grijalva on #69087

    Steve,

    As you pointed out, Chimbo will not really have a heavy carry, it will be steep but the altitude is the big challenge. Building your base is key which for me the bread and butter is the runs and the weighted carries. But in addition, I also like to do one High Intensity Interval training session per week. It could be run up a hill for 30 seconds, or run on a treadmill, or run a lap on an outdoor track. I use work to rest ratio of one to one, meaning if I run for 30 seconds then I rest for 30 seconds and then I repeat for however many sets I’m doing. These sessions generally last from 20 -30 minutes for me and I often incorporate it into my runs.

    Also, I tend to dial up my aerobic training a little but by adding in one or two sessions of stationary bike. I’m a bit older so my joints cant take all the runs so I add in a session of bike to keep my heart rate in low zone 2, high zone 1. I usually put on Youtube and watch something or listen to a podcast as I crank away.

    Finally, if you can get there a day or two earlier to Quito that may help acclimatize but this is often a tough one given our schedules!

    Small things like becoming more efficient on your steps help too, the less energy you can use up the more you have in reserve.

    And stay hydrated.

    I’m not a coach so those are just my 2 cents!

    Participant
    Steve on #69089

    Thanks Victor.
    Yeah. I am planning to dial up the runs a bit to add some more volume at AeT. My wife and I will be touring around Ecuador for 7 days prior to my climb so I will have a few days at higher altitudes than my current average of 1500 ft here in NY.
    I have been staying away from the higher intensity work – because I tend to overdue it – I generally like it alot! 🙂
    Hydration is always a challenge – melting snow takes time (nd bunches of fuel to carry…) at least on Chimbo I won’t have that chore. Side note for the Coaches…I think I heard a comment from Steve H. on a podcast that we should explore more of what we can do with less water – care to expand on that concept?

    Steve

    Moderator
    MarkPostle on #69129

    Hydration is a challenge for sure on these harder climbs both during the day and in camp. I tend to focus on hydration a bit more in the evening and the morning than during the day when climbing (you have to melt it but at least not carry it around!) As the climbing becomes more technical the more I use this strategy. Try and travel in the coolest parts of the day when appropriate to minimize fluid loss, If possible melt snow when its still warm in the late afternoon early evening (its more fuel and time efficient), and make sure your stove/cooking system is as efficient as possible so you’re not wasting fuel. I like the MSR reactor if needing to melt snow for water unless the trip is very long in duration then I just use a white gas system. Starting the evening meal out with an instant soup is a really good way to jump start your rehydration before dinner.

    Participant
    Steve on #69245

    Hi Mark,

    Looking back on this.
    Is it worth the effort to try and capture the training load for this trip in TP’s?
    I have the hikes listed in my calendar and was wondering if it was helpful to use the thumb rules listed here:

    Understanding and Using the TrainingPeaks Metrics CTL and TSS 


    to try and estimate the load so that my CTL is closer to reality.
    Just trying to project out that CTL score and my ability to be ready for future trips.
    None of my workouts (to date) have been adjusted for weight OR elevation – am I making a big conceptual error here or is that already captured in the base plan estimates that are loaded?

    For reference this was my trip overview:
    Day 1: Paradise Trailhead to Camp Muir 5500ft to 10,000ft about 4.5 miles of pack weight 50lbs
    Day 2: Stuck at Muir due to weather – verry little activity
    Day 3: Camp Muir 10,000ft to Ingraham Flats 11,000ft via Cathedral Gap – 1100ft of gain and maybe 1 – 1.5 miles – 50lb pack
    Day 4: Ingraham Flats to Summit(attempt) via the Direct Route 11,000ft to 13,500(turn around point) Pack weight maybe 10lbs and return all the way to Paradise so 2500 vertical and 8000 on the descent (ish) – pack weight maybe 35 – 40lbs on the descent (we did eat some food!!)

    Thanks,
    Steve O.

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