The Climb – Mount Rainier National Park

This story starts in 1977 with my mom, Donna Hway. In that year, she herself summited Mount Rainier with Lou Whittaker of RMI Guides, a bit of a Rainier Legend himself with over 250 summits. Setting foot on the top of Mount Rainier isn’t easy even with today’s gear and technology, let alone nearly 40 years ago.

RMI Guides Rainier Summit

About six months ago, my brother and I finally decided to begin preparations for a climb of our own. And while there are many great peaks in the Rocky Mountains and Canada, we could think of no other mountain but the one that would be the beginning of a family tradition!


We started by taking a slight detour into the backwoods of Oregon.

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Breaking down our gear to make sure everything was accounted for.

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Being avid campers mixed with our extreme thriftiness, we camped for free five of our six nights out there. The views were better anyway…

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Training day. We hiked up a few thousand feet to the snow fields and got a rundown on mountaineering tricks of the trade.

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We tacked on some additional hiking that evening to try and score some views of the Mountain for the drone. …yes, I brought the drone.

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D Day.

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We had a surprise visit from the Blue Angels during some of their training maneuvers.


The beginning of the snow field as we continue up to Camp Muir.

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Mount Adams to the south.


Mount Adams left. Mount St. Helens right.

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Our overnight accommodations at 10,188ft. Camp Muir.

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Getting the low-down on our summit hike for the next morning at 12AM.

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Unfortunately, our guides insisted that I keep my Nikon in my pack during the summit hike in order for me to focus on safety and footwork. I was allowed to snap pictures during our three breaks on the way up, but we had so many other things to do during those breaks that I never had a chance to focus on photography. At each of our three scheduled breaks we had to: throw our parkas on to conserve heat, drink water, eat at least 300 calories, and do gear checks. All within about 10 minutes. There simply was no time to fumble around with a my 8 pounds of self-inflicted weight until we made it to the top.
Our summit hike consisted of 50-75mph wind gusts, total darkness, nearly half of our total crew turning back, rocks falling above us, traversing ladders over bottomless crevasses, and beauty I have never experienced before. I am heartbroken I could not capture more along the way, but I would rather be heartbroken than have my neck broken.
Jump to the summit below. While seven of nine people in our crew made it to the summit crest, that is not the true summit of Mount Rainier. The true summit is called Columbia Crest on the NW edge of the crater. Of our 7 summiters, three of us and two guides walked the additional 1.5 mile trek and 240 feet in gain and loss to truly reach the top. 14,411.


Photo of our mom from 38 years prior.

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Lots of fallen rock on this, the Cowlitz Glacier. When crossing these glaciers, the guides ask us to get the lead out and move quickly as it is a very unstable place to be especially when in rock fall zones.

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Good bro time was had.