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Choosing a Mt. Rainier Guide Service

You’ve decided to climb Mt. Rainier, and are thinking about climbing the mountain with a guide service.  Who are the guide services on Mount Rainier, and how should you choose?

Do your homework when selecting a guide. Presumably, all guides who work with a guide service are skilled and experienced; but your actual experience with a service can vary greatly depending on who you climb with.  Talk to friends, read reviews, and ask a lot of questions when selecting a guide.  At a minimum, your climbing experience depends on it; at worst, your life depends on it!

The AMGA also hosts a good resource about the value of hiring a guide. The decision of whether to climb with a certified / accredited guide, or not, is completely up to you. Email me for my personal thoughts on this, if you’re really interested.

Choosing a climbing schedule

Each Mt. Rainier guide service has a suite of offerings for Mount Rainier climbs.  Some include one day of mountain school; others include more than one day.  Some involve only a few hours of rest at Camp Muir between your hike and starting to climb; others have programs that allow you to spend a day or longer at Camp Muir to acclimatize.  Evaluate these details for yourself, and make your own decision about what type of ascent will work best for your fitness level and experience.

The Mt. Rainier Guide Services

Three providers are presently operating guide services on Mount Rainier.

What does it cost to climb Mount Rainier with a guide?

Climbing Mt. Rainier with a guide will cost upwards of $1,000, when climbing with most services.  Some charge extra for food, and most recommend tipping your guides — the guide company will provide details on tipping and any charges not included in the cost of the package, but ask yourself to have that information as soon as possible.

Outfitting yourself through purchasing new gear is an expensive proposition.  Most guide services can provide rentals for the gear that you don’t have, at a reasonable price compared to acquiring gear you may only use for this climb.  I wound up renting an ice axe and avalanche beacon, and the rentals were inexpensive and quite easy to pick up and return.

My personal thoughts…

When I climbed Mount Rainier in August of 2010, I climbed with RMI, based in Ashford, WA.  I had a strongly positive experience, and can personally recommend guides Melissa ArnotSolveig Garhart and Carrie Parker who not only guided us to a successful and safe summit, but Melissa and Solveig delivered some of the most clear, helpful instruction on basic mountaineering skills I have ever received.

I haven’t climbed with the other services, but am favorably acquainted with all three.  I would climb with any of the three services currently operating on Rainier, but you should make an informed decision based on your fitness, training, experience, and budget.

Climbing Mount Rainier can be a fun, rewarding experience… it certainly was for me.  Our guides went a long way toward helping us feel competent and safe.  And, at the summit, Melissa reminded us of something very important, which clients should remember when choosing a Rainier guide service:

“We didn’t get you to the summit.  You got yourselves here.”

A great guide will help teach you the tools you need to summit and descent safely, and will help guide your way.  The steps you take are yours!