Preparing for Mt. Rainier: The Ultimate “Suffer-Fest”

The majestic beauty of Mt. Rainier, located southeast of Seattle, Washington.
The majestic beauty of Mt. Rainier, located southeast of Seattle, Washington.

Article written by: Will Nagengast

Edited by: Chloe Tennant

“If we can make it work, I am so down for a suffer-fest!”

         That’s the sentiment my good friend Robbie expressed when I talked to him last. We were talking about a tentative schedule for climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington. Robbie lives in Olympia, Washington, which is about an hour away from Seattle and Rainier. When he’s not at school in Olympia, he’s been working as a climbing ranger on Rainier. It’s a job he loves enough to volunteer for. When he does get paid, it is just a nice bonus.

          Robbie is the one who introduced me to climbing during my sophomore year of college, near Wichita, Kansas. It immediately felt right, and I’ve been rock climbing religiously for the past five or so years. Rob, however, wasn’t content to just stay on the rock. He loves snow, mountains, ice and cold. This led him to move to Washington. I’ve never really gotten to experience the mountaineering side of the vertical world, and I’ve always been curious. I recently decided that there’s never been a better time to start than now!

          With that in mind, Rob and I began tossing around ideas about me flying out to Seattle, gearing up, and bagging Rainier. It’s a mountain that sees approximately 5,000 summits every year. Most of these occur during the summer months, however, when the weather is more predictable. During the rest of the year, Rainier’s weather typically consists of either snow, or lots of snow. The average snowfall for Rainier is 635 inches, or over 53 feet, per year. This is what Robbie was talking about when he mentioned a suffer-fest. Sure, we could try for the top in the summer. But it’d be so much more impressive, difficult, and straining to do it in the winter! To be quite honest, a suffer-fest seems like it’s exactly what I need.

The activity of Mountaineering can be as grueling as it is rewarding! Cold and wet conditions coins the term "suffer-fest"
The activity of Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing can be as grueling as it is rewarding! Cold and wet conditions coins the term “suffer-fest”


           Single pitch sport climbing in the South is SO easy. There are incredibly difficult routes, yes, and I am frequently giving 100% of what I have at that moment that I’m on the wall, but in the end the car is 15 minutes away. I’ll have brats over the fire in the evening, maybe sip a warm beer, and get a nice shower in a couple of days when I’m home again. That wouldn’t be the case with a winter ascent of Rainier. We’d be hiking uphill for miles, for several days, with heavy packs, in potentially sub-zero weather, with LOTS of snow. It would be exhausting, draining, probably one of the harder things I’ve done in my life so far. And that sounds great to me right now. I think I need to push my comfort zone, in a way I haven’t done before.

           Rob and I are still trying to figure out when might work for both of us to meet up for Rainier. We’ll probably need a week or longer, so that he can give me some tutoring on glacier and snow travel, avalanche conditions, the technical aspects of executing a multi-day ascent of a big mountain, and of course, maybe a week to do the actual climb. Rob’s schedule is always subject to change. He might be in Panama, or somewhere in South America, or in school. But if we can swing it, we’ll try and meet up, perhaps in February, and give it a shot. Hopefully the weather cooperates and allows us on the mountain, but if not, there are plenty of other things to climb in that corner of the world.

While planning ahead, I started picking up pieces of gear that I’ll need on Rainier. My first piece was the Arc’teryx Beta LT; it’s a nice, lightweight but durable, hardshell. It has pockets that are accessible even with a climbing harness on, which lends to its utility in the mountains. It’s a Gore-Tex Pro shell, so I’m not worried about getting wet or wind-blown. Last but not least, it looks pretty awesome too.

          My next target is the Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoody. It’s a lightweight fleece that has a great hood meant to fit under a helmet. I’d use this as a layering piece, with some much heavier insulating pieces, on Rainier, but I think it’ll really shine on multi-pitch alpine climbing, where the intense cold isn’t quite as much of an issue, and when I’ll really want to be wearing a helmet. The hood is the best I’ve ever seen as far as fitting snugly underneath a climbing helmet.

I’ve got many more things to look for as well. Pants are an under-appreciated part of the whole “keeping warm” system. Everyone has tons of jackets, but how many pairs of cold weather pants do you have? Poor pants just got the short stick for not being as sexy as a new, awesome jacket.  One pair of pants that is on my radar is the Arc’teryx Stingray Pant; Recco Reflector, Gore-Tex hardshell pant can do it all.  The waterproof and breathable fabric will help keep you warm, dry, and comfortable. The Recco Reflector is an awesome spec that is important while in the mountains. In the event of an avalanche the Recco Reflector within the garment becomes visible to the Recco Detector (which are used by resorts and rescue teams) making it one of the best safety features aboard a trip of this nature.  Underneath the Stingray Pants I’ll layer starting with a 260 weight Icebreaker Baselayer Legging and a pair of Patagonia Piton Pants. Both will be highly useful in staying super warm and comfortable!

       I’ll also end up borrowing and renting some of the more specialized equipment, to save on some money. Eventually though, if I discover I like mountaineering and alpine climbing, I’ll save up and get everything I need in a piecemeal fashion.  I really hope that Rob and I are able to work out a time to meet up and do something awesome. Nothing makes for better stories than the times that you were the most miserable. A suffer-fest is just what I need, and I have zero doubt that the experience of pushing my limits in that manner will be something I’ll be able to reminisce fondly of for many years to come.

Donate a Coat & You Could Win a $250 Gift Card.

Alpine Shop's One Warm Coat Drive
Coats and sweaters line Alpine Shop’s conference room during the 2010 One Warm Coat Drive.

In just the past five years, Alpine Shop customers have donated over 6000 coats to help those in need in our St Louis and Columbia communities during the winter. We’re asking for your help once again this year as Alpine Shop kicks off it’s eighth annual One Warm Coat Drive on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.

How It Works

From Wed., Oct. 23 through Sunday, November 10, we’ll accept clean, gently-used coats, jackets and sweaters at each and every Alpine Shop location.

  • For each coat or sweater donated you will get one entry into a drawing for one of four $250 Alpine Shop Gift Cards.
  • You will also receive a $10 off coupon to Alpine Shop for your total donation. Meaning, not only do you get to do a good deed, but for once you’ll get double rewarded for doing it!

NOTE: Alpine Shop will only give away one coupon to each customer during the coat drive no matter how many different times you donate. However, each item donated will still earn one entry into the gift card drawing. 

How to Donate

Alpine Shop has made donating simple. Just bring your clean, gently used coats, jackets and sweaters to any Alpine Shop location. Bring your coats inside the store and check them in with one of the store’s outfitters to make sure you receive your coupon and get entered into the drawing. Then, Alpine Shop and One Warm Coat take care of the rest. Donated coats will be split among organizations in St. Louis, including: Sunshine Ministries, St. Patrick Center, Coats for Kids and Edgewood Children’s Center. In Columbia, all coats will go the Salvation Army.

Donate Unsold Swap Coats, as Well

Once again, we’re also giving Swap participants the opportunity to join in the giving, as well. If a coat or jacket you entered into this year’s Winter Swap (October 18–21) didn’t sell, you can choose to donate those goods into the One Warm Coat Drive and receive your coupon! When you pick up your swap credit and unsold items following the Swap, simply tell the friendly Alpine Shop outfitter working with you that you want to participate in the One Warm Coat Drive and they’ll take care of it for you.

Help Make a Difference

Here’s a little bit of what your donations have meant to the St. Patrick Center in St Louis.

Thanks again for thinking of SPC for your One Warm Coat Drive. The 300 coats we received were distributed immediately. Case Managers were able to support their clients and families as were people in the community in need. All of the coats were distributed within 2 days of receiving. It was especially gratifying with the quality (gently used) coats that clients received.

Thanks again to you and your customers for your support of our clients and community.

Gene Smith
St. Patrick Center

About One Warm Coat

One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that supports and encourages coat drives. It helps individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the country collect coats and deliver them to local agencies that distribute the coats free to people in need. More than one million coats have been provided to those in need at no cost since its inception in 1992.

Give a Little. Save Big. Sip & Shop Event 10/17 to Benefit Cardinal Glennon

You’re invited to save 20% on all regularly-priced clothing and outerwear (and 10% off all regularly-priced hardgoods like boats, bikes, tents, skis & snowboards) at a special Cardinal Glennon Card pre-sale Sip & Shop event tonight, Thursday, October 17, 2013 from 5 pm to 8 pm at our Kirkwood location. All you need to do is either bring in your previously purchased Glennon Card or buy a card from us tonight to participate.

Featuring complimentary Straw-ber-Rita and Lime-a-Rita beverages for Glennon Card holders along with the deals above, this is a great opportunity to benefit the kids at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. 100% of your Glennon Card donation is tax-deductible.

And the card isn’t just good on this evening. Buy a $50 Glennon Card tonight and you’ll receive the same deals listed above from Friday, Oct. 25 through November 3 at Alpine Shop as well as offers from 285 participating merchants throughout the St Louis area. Click here to see a complete list of merchants to choose from–like Alpine Shop!

Alpine Shop’s Marketing Director, Todd Oswald, was interviewed by Show Me St. Louis on KSDK-TV to discuss Alpine Shop’s involvement with the Glennon Card, along with his own personal story about his daughter’s experience at Cardinal Glennon. You can see the entire video by clicking on the photo below.

Alpine Shop Marketing Director Todd Oswald invites customers to participate in the 2013 Glennon Card Promotion.
Alpine Shop Marketing Director Todd Oswald invites customers to participate in the 2013 Glennon Card Promotion.


Help a Vet. Get a Free Pair of Smartwool Socks.

Have you ever loved a pair of socks so much you told your friends about them? (Yes, I know we’re talking about socks here.) Have you ever actually gotten mad at someone in your family who “borrowed” your socks and “forgot” to return them? That’s the type of thing we hear all the time from our customers about their Smartwool socks.

Now, thanks to Smartwool and Socktober, we’ve got the chance to let you find out for yourself just how good these socks are. Get a FREE pair of Smartwool socks for a very limited time just by bringing in two pairs of your own gently worn, clean socks to any Alpine Shop location. We’ll put them to good use, donating them to veterans who have served our county through the Grand Chapter of Missouri, Order of the Eastern Star. We have a total of 200 socks across all four Alpine Shop locations to give away. Act quickly!

So, to recap: You bring us two pairs of good, clean, gently used socks. We give you a FREE pair of Smartwool socks. (We’ve got 200 to give away!) Your used socks get donated to veterans who need them.

Find Out Why People Love Smartwool

Here's your chance to get a free pair of Smartwool socks.
Here’s your chance to get a free pair of Smartwool socks.

If this is your first pair of Smartwool socks, we KNOW you will fall in love with them. If not for the fit, then for the merino wool that keeps your feet dryer and more comfortable all day long. And to top it off, unlike a lot of wool products, you can even toss these in the washer AND dryer.

(If these aren’t your first pair of Smartwools, I’m surprised you’re still reading this. I would have thought you’d have gone to find two pairs of socks already.)


Please note: One complimentary pair of socks per customer. (Although we’re happy to accept more donations from you if you decide to switch your entire sock wardrobe to Smartwool’s. We understand. We’ve done it ourselves.) Complimentary socks will be chosen from promotional selection provided by Smartwool, not from Alpine Shop’s store stock. This deal is only good while supplies last.