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Mount Rainier is an activestratovolcano (also known as a composite volcano) in Pierce County, Washingtonmarker, located southeast of Seattlemarker. It towers over the Cascade Range as the most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and Cascade Volcanic Arc at .It is the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range.

The mountain and the surrounding area are protected within Mount Rainier National Parkmarker. With 26 major glaciers and of permanent snowfields and glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. The summit is topped by two volcanic craters, each over in diameter with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed the world's largest volcanic glacier cave network within the ice-filled craters. A small crater lake about in size and deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of , occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than of ice and is accessible only via the caves.

Mount Rainier has a topographic prominence of , greater than that of K2marker ( ).On clear days it dominates the southeastern horizon in most of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area to such an extent that residents sometimes refer to it simply as "the Mountain."On days of exceptional clarity, it can also be seen from as far away as Portland, Oregonmarker, and Victoria, British Columbiamarker.

The Carbon, Puyallup, Mowich, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers begin at eponymous glaciers of Mount Rainier. The sources of the White River are Winthropmarker, Emmonsmarker, and Fryingpan Glaciersmarker. The White, Carbon, and Mowich join the Puyallup River, which discharges into Commencement Baymarker at Tacomamarker; the Nisqually empties into Puget Soundmarker east of Laceymarker; and the Cowlitz joins the Columbia River between Kelsomarker and Longviewmarker.

Geological history

Mount Rainier's earliest lavas are over 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early lavas formed a "proto-Rainier" or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is over 500,000 years old.The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow 5,000 years ago.
Hazard map
In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows) due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to Puget Soundmarker. Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacomamarker and south Seattle.This massive avalanche of rock and ice removed the top of Rainier, bringing its height down to around . About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.

After the major collapse 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.

The most recent recorded volcanic eruption was between 1820 and 1854, but many eyewitnesses reported eruptive activity in 1858, 1870, 1879, 1882 and 1894 as well.As of 2009, there is no evidence of an imminent eruption. However, an eruption could be devastating for all areas surrounding the volcano.

Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property, as many communities lie atop older lahar deposits. Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity. According to Geoff Clayton, a geologist with RH2, a repeat of the Osceola mudflow would destroy Enumclawmarker, Ortingmarker, Kentmarker, Auburnmarker, and most or all of Rentonmarker. Such a mudflow might also reach down the Duwamishmarker estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattlemarker, and cause tsunamis in Puget Soundmarker and Lake Washingtonmarker. According to USGS, about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier. Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows as well as lava.

Human history

Mount Rainier was first known by the Native Americans as Talol, Tahoma, or Tacoma, from the Lushootseed word ("mother of waters") spoken by the Puyallup. Another interpretation is that "Tacomamarker", effectively means "larger than Koma (Kulshan)".(a name for Mount Bakermarker), cf. "Kobah" (Skagit: qwúbəʔ, "white sentinel", i.e. mountain").

At the time of European contact, the river valleys and other areas near the mountain were inhabited by many Pacific Northwest tribes who hunted and gathered berries in its forests and mountain meadows. These included the Nisqually, Cowlitz, Yakama, Puyallup, and Muckleshoot.

Captain George Vancouver reached Puget Soundmarker in 1792 and became the first European to see the mountain. He named it in honor of his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.

In 1833, Dr. William Fraser Tolmie explored the area looking for medicinal plants. Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump received a hero's welcome in the streets of Olympiamarker after their successful summit climb in 1870.John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888, and although he enjoyed the view, he conceded that it was best appreciated from below. Muir was one of many who advocated protecting the mountain. In 1893, the area was set aside as part of the Pacific Forest Reserve in order to protect its physical/economic resources: timber and watersheds.

Citing the need to also protect scenery and provide for public enjoyment, railroads and local businesses urged the creation of a national park in hopes of increased tourism. On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley established Mount Rainier National Parkmarker as America's fifth national park. Congress dedicated the new park "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people"and "... for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition."

In 1998, the United States Geological Survey began putting together the Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System to assist in the emergency evacuation of the Puyallup River valley in the event of a catastrophic debris flow. It is now run by the Pierce Countymarker Department of Emergency Management. Tacomamarker, at the mouth of the Puyallup, is only west of Rainier, and moderately sized towns such as Puyallupmarker and Ortingmarker are only away, respectively.

Naming controversy

Although "Rainier" had been considered the official name of the mountain, Theodore Winthrop, in his posthumously published 1862 travel book The Canoe and the Saddle, referred to the mountain as "Tacoma" and for a time, both names were used interchangeably, although "Mt. Tacoma" was preferred in the city of Tacoma.

In 1890, the United States Board on Geographic Names declared that the mountain would be known as "Rainier". Following this in 1897, the Pacific Forest Reserve became the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve, and the national park was established three years later. Despite this, there was still a movement to change the mountain's name to "Tacoma" and Congress was still considering a resolution to change the name as late as 1924.

Subsidiary peaks

The three summits of Mount Rainier: Liberty Cap, Columbia Crest, and Point Success
The broad top of Mount Rainier contains three named summits. The highest is called Columbia Crest. The second highest summit is Point Success, , at the southern edge of the summit plateau, atop the ridge known as Success Cleaver. It has a topographic prominence of about , so it is not considered a separate peak. The lowest of the three summits is Liberty Cap, , at the northwestern edge, which overlooks Liberty Ridge, the Sunset Amphitheater, and the dramatic Willis Wall. Liberty Cap has a prominence of , and so would qualify as a separate peak under most strictly prominence-based rules. A prominence cutoff of is commonly used in Washington state.However it is not usually considered a separate peak, due to the massive size of Mount Rainier, relative to which a 492-foot (150 m) drop is not very large.

High on the eastern flank of Mount Rainier is a peak known as Little Tahoma Peakmarker, , an eroded remnant of the earlier, much higher, Mount Rainier. It has a prominence of , and it is almost never climbed in direct conjunction with Columbia Crest, so it is usually considered a separate peak. If considered separately from Mt. Rainier, Little Tahoma Peak would be the third highest mountain peak in Washington.

Climbing and recreation

Mountaineers descending from the summit avoid crevasses above Emmons Flats Camp
Mountain climbing on Mount Rainier is very difficult; it involves climbing on the largest glaciers in the U.S. south of Alaskamarker. Most climbers require two to three days to reach the summit. Climbing teams require experience in glacier travel, self-rescue, and wilderness travel. About 8,000 to 13,000 people attempt the climb each year,about 90% via routes from Camp Muirmarker on the southeast flank.Most of the rest ascend Emmons Glaciermarker via Camp Schurman on the northeast. About half of the attempts are successful, with weather and conditioning being the most common reasons for failure.

About three mountaineering deaths each year occur due to rock and ice fall, avalanche, falls, and hypothermia associated with severe weather. The worst mountaineering accident on Mount Rainier occurred in 1981, when eleven people lost their lives in an ice fall on the Ingraham Glaciermarker.This was the largest number of fatalities on Mount Rainier in a single incident since 32 people were killed in a 1946 plane crash on the South Tahoma Glaciermarker.

Hiking, photography, and camping are popular in the park. Hiking trails, including the Wonderland Trail (a circumnavigation of the peak), provide access to the backcountry. Mount Rainier is also popular for winter sports, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In summer, visitors pass through vast meadows of wildflowers, on trails emanating from historic Paradise Innmarker.

Washington state quarter

Washington State Quarter.
The Washington state quarter, which was released on April 11, 2007, features Mount Rainier and a salmon.

See also


External links

University of Washington Libraries, Digital Collections:
  • Lawrence Denny Lindsley Photographs, Landscape and nature photography of Lawrence Denny Lindsley, including photographs of scenes around Mount Rainier.
  • The Mountaineers Collection, Photographic albums and text documenting the Mountaineers official annual outings undertaken by club members from 1907-1951, includes 3 Mt. Rainier albums (ca. 1912, 1919, 1924).
  • Henry M. Sarvant Photographs, photographs by Henry Mason Sarvant depicting his climbing expeditions to Mt. Rainier and scenes of the vicinity from 1892-1912.
  • Alvin H. Waite Photographs Photographs of Mt. Rainier by Alvin H. Waite, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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