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Five Day Emmons Climb

Five Day Emmons Climb

The Five Day Emmons Climb ascends the Emmons Glacier route, covering 10,000 vertical feet from trailhead to summit.


  • An expedition-style climb, establishing successive tented camps on Mt. Rainier's Inter and Emmons Glaciers.
  • The opportunity to review basic mountaineering techniques and skills on the extended approach to high camp.
  • Make a summit attempt on the largest glacier in the contiguous U.S.


The Five Day Emmons Climb is an expedition-style climb of Mt. Rainier's Emmons Glacier. Following an afternoon orientation, climbers depart for the two-day approach up the Inter Glacier to our high camp at Camp Schurman. We ascend through the thick forest along Mt. Rainier's Glacier Basin Trail and onto its glaciated flanks. Our summit bid ascends the Emmons Glacier, an intermediate route up the largest of Mt. Rainier's twenty-six glaciers, in a long and challenging ascent. This climb is ideal for climbers in great physical condition with an understanding of basic mountaineering techniques or those who have previously climbed Mt. Rainier and are looking for another adventure on the mountain.


The Mountain Guides at RMI have a reputation as top guides in the United States. RMI Guides participated in some of America's first ventures into the far reaches of the Himalaya. Years of expedition guiding and climbing around the world have built a core of consummate professional guides.

Our guides are celebrated teachers and trainers, known for their leadership as well as their character. They possess the compassion, enthusiasm and ability to empower others and inspire them forward. Such qualities may only be found in people at the top of their profession. Despite their vast experience, RMI Guides still remember their own first steps into the mountains, and enjoy helping other climbers reach new heights.

Our exceptional focus to detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures make our programs truly memorable.


RMI strives to create the safest mountain experience possible. Our experienced team of guides focuses on leading fun and successful climbs without compromising safety. Each climb includes careful pre-trip planning, daily weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts, and diligent attention to detail. All RMI Guides are highly trained in remote medicine and rescue skills and carry comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio communication equipment throughout the program. Regardless of the objective or the destination, safety remains RMI’s top priority.

As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or info@rmiguides.com.

NPS Authorized ConcessionerAuthorized Concessioner

RMI Expeditions is an authorized concessioner of Mount Rainier National Park.

Climber Reviews

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All four guides were great and I really felt that they had everything under control. It was nice to be able to climb and know they were running a tight ship. They watched out for everybody and showed interest in everybody, which I think is really important. I liked the connection of the whole team.
Linnea O.

The RMI guides really made this trip a memorable experience. All four individuals are first class mountain guides! The itinerary and the route that we followed on the Emmons Glacier was also excellent.
Dave S.

Great group dynamic
Marco A.

The scenery and vistas were amazing. I also really enjoyed getting to know each of the guides and learning from them. They were all very knowledgeable and I really learned a lot from each of them.
Dustin S.

Eli L.

  • All Dates Full

    All of our Five Day Emmons Climb dates are currently full. If you would like to receive information when our 2017 dates are announced, please sign up for our email alerts.

    Upcoming Climbs

    • Please call our offices at 1-888-892-5462 to inquire about availability.
  • Price
    5 days
    Level 3
Table of Contents

Day 1


3:00 - 6:00 p.m.: We will meet at 3:00 p.m. at Rainier BaseCamp in Ashford, WA. Please dress casually and bring your climbing equipment and clothing.
*Note: Whittaker Mountaineering Rental Equipment is available for pickup after 12 p.m.

We begin our Pre-Trip Orientation with a welcome and introduction of team members and guides. The afternoon is spent providing a focused introduction to a variety of topics and preparing climbers for the ascent. This includes a detailed personal equipment discussion and gear check; an introduction to safety practices including use of helmets, harnesses, and avalanche transceivers; and instruction regarding Leave No Trace practices and environmental considerations.

Please make your own arrangements to stay in the Ashford area this evening.


The Summit Climb takes place over the course of four days. On the first day we climb to our first camp at Glacier Basin or on the Inter Glacier, on the second day we ascend to our high camp at Camp Schurman along the edge of the Emmons Glacier, on the third day we make the attempt on Mt. Rainier, and on the fourth day we descend from high camp and return to BaseCamp.

Day 2


Meet at 6:00 a.m. at Rainier BaseCamp. After an early team meeting a shuttle takes our group to the trailhead at the White River Campground (4,400').

We make the 3.3 mile hike, passing through beautiful mature forests, to Glacier Basin, or ascend a bit further to the base of Mt. Rainier's Inter Glacier, to establish camp. As we move towards camp, we work on the foundational skills that make us more efficient and capable climbers, including pressure breathing and using the rest step, dressing appropriately for the weather and workload, kicking steps and climbing in balance on snow, and efficient pacing that allows us to climb comfortably.


Day 3


We ascend the Inter Glacier and climb over the flanks of Steamboat Prow onto the heavily crevassed Emmons Glacier as we move our high camp, Camp Schurman, 9,440'. We make time during our ascent to continue with skills training as necessary and as opportunities present themselves. At Camp Schurman, we establish camp and prepare for the summit bid.


Day 4


Today we put it all together and make our attempt on the summit. The Emmons-Winthrop Glacier route climbs the northern edge of the largest glacier in the lower 48 states, the Emmons Glacier. The spectacular 35-degree central ramp of the glacier offers a route by which we access the crevassed slopes of the upper mountain. We thread our way through these immense crevasses toward the summit of Mt. Rainier!

At 14,410', Mt. Rainier is the highest point in Washington. The summit is spectacular with panoramic views from the Pacific to the eastern side of the Cascades when the weather is clear. A large crater dominates the summit, with steam rising out of the cavernous summit vents and the bare ground near the summit is often warm to the touch.

After reaching the summit, we descend back to Camp Schurman. The descent typically requires half the amount of time of the ascent but requires significant effort as we retrace our route down the mountain. The duration of the climb depends on many variables including snow conditions, the time of the year, the route conditions, the weather, and temperature among others. It is a long and challenging, but rewarding day!


Day 5


The final day of the program is spent descending from high camp to the trailhead. Our shuttle takes the team back to Rainier BaseCamp. In Ashford, we gather as a team to celebrate our adventure.

The duration of the climb depends on many variables including snow conditions, the time of year, the route conditions, the weather during our climb, the temperature, etc. Those variables often affect our arrival time to Ashford, which might vary dramatically from climb to climb. For this reason we do not recommend scheduling an airline flight before midnight on the last day of your program.



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This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition with previous climbing experience. Prior knowledge of, and comfort with, rope travel, the use of crampons, and ice axe arrest are required. A minimum of one previous glacier climb is also required.

Qualifying Programs

Recommended climbing experiences prior to the Five Day Emmons Climb include:

  • Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life
    And Then Go
    Climb A Mountain

    Create A Fitness And Training Program

    Go To Fitness Resources

Physical Fitness Training

Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.

  • Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
  • Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
  • Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.

For the Five Day Emmons Climb, you are preparing for:

  • Steep climbing and glacier travel with a 50-60 lb load
  • A 12+ hour summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques requiring core strength and flexibility

Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!

Below are approximate outlines of the program's physical demands that will be helpful in planning your training schedule and goals:

Total Hiking Time
Elevation Gain / Loss
Total Distance
Pack Weight
3 - 4 Hours
Gain = 3,100'
4 Miles
50 - 60 lbs
3 Hours
Gain = 2,000'
2 Miles
50 - 60 lbs
12 + Hours
Round Trip
Gain = 5,000'
Loss = 5,000'
8 Miles
Round Trip
20 - 25 lbs
3 Hours
Loss = 5,000'
6 Miles
50 - 60 lbs

Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.


Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.

While the key to climbing high is proper acclimatization, this climb effectively moves up and down the mountain at a rate that exceeds our body’s ability to adjust (acclimate) to the high altitude. This is true whether a program spends 2 days or 5 days on the upper mountain (elevations above 10,000 feet). During our short climb, our bodies simply do not have the time to completely adjust to the altitude, and because of this short stay, our bodies do not typically succumb to altitude’s ill effects. In short, climbers generally experience the mild but uncomfortable, yet normal, symptoms of their bodies beginning the adjustment process. While climbers will feel better rested on the slightly longer programs, fitness remains the key factor in a climber’s performance.

In addition, physical performance at altitude is often related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are usually key factors in an individual’s success on a short-term visit to altitude.

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What You’ll Need

The following is a list of required equipment. We may encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout our climb, including rain, wind, snow, sleet and extreme heat. Skimping on equipment can jeopardize your safety and success, so we want you to think carefully about any changes or substitutions you are considering. If you have questions regarding the equipment needed for your upcoming climb, give us a call and speak directly to one of our experienced guides.

Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering when they use code RMI2016 at checkout. This offer excludes sale items.

  • Use Code RMI2016
    To receive 10% off
    All New Equipment

Shop Your Equipment List // Rent new equipment for your climb

Equipment List

Provided Equipment

RMI provides the following equipment for your program: tents, group cooking gear, shovels, climbing ropes, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).

Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a cell phone for emergency contact.

    • Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!

    • ICE AXE

      The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.


      The 10 to 12 point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. We highly recommend anti-bot plates to prevent snow from balling up underfoot. Rigid frame crampons designed for technical ice climbing are not recommended.


      A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.


      You will need protective sunglasses, either dark-lensed with side shields or full wrap-around frames. Almost all sunglasses block UV-A, UV-B and infrared rays adequately. Pay attention to the visible light transmission. The darkest lenses (glacier glasses) only allow approx. 6% visible light to get through, while lighter lenses (driving glasses) let in as much as 20+ %. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the wearer’s pupils through the lenses, they are too light for sun protection at altitude.


      Be sure to begin the program with fresh batteries.

    • Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.

    • We recommend a minimum of five upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, one light and one medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.


      This expedition-style heavy parka should extend below the waist and must have an insulated hood. While the parka is worn primarily at rest breaks on summit day, it serves as an emergency garment if needed. We recommend down rather than synthetic fill as down weighs less. The parka does not have to be waterproof, though that is a nice feature.

    • We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.


      Insulated mountaineering boots with completely rigid soles are needed to climb Mt. Rainier. While both leather and plastic boots will work well, each has strengths and weaknesses. Plastic boots will work all season long and are particularly useful for climbers with colder feet.  Appropriate leather boots (stiff-soled, insulated and designed to hold a crampon) are appropriate for warmer weather climbs.
      The freezing level forecasted for the time of your climb will be the best guideline for which boot to wear.  A freezing level below 10,000' will dictate the use of plastic boots.  A freezing level above 10,000' will provide the option for either plastic or leather boots.
      Whether leather or plastic, mountaineering boots are designed to remain stiff for kicking steps and working with crampons. To ensure that your feet do well, mountaineering boots must be comfortable right from the start. If renting boots, consider bringing personal orthotics or foot beds.


      We recommend small tubes of SPF 15 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.

    • 2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES

      Hard-sided, screw-top, one-liter water bottles with wide mouths are required. Plastics made with high post-consumer recycled content and BPA-Free are recommended.


      We recommend lining your backpack with garbage bags to keep items in your backpack completely dry.


      Please use the Zip-Lock as your personal trash bag.

    • CAMERA
    • Purchase travel insurance.

    • Arrange lodging in Ashford.

    • Reserve rental equipment.

    • Arrange transportation to Ashford.

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What is the Climber-to-Guide Ratio on this program?

Our climber-to-guide ratio is 2:1 on the Emmons Glacier route.

What is the maximum group size?

The maximum group size of any program anywhere on Mt. Rainier is 12 individuals, including guides.


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