In 2013, Mickey Eisenberg and friend Gene Yore wrote a guide to peak bagging at Mount Rainier that created a new bucket list for Northwest climbers.
“Guide to 100 Peaks at Mount Rainier” (The Mountaineers Books) not only gave route descriptions for climbing every peak (other than the big one) in the national park, but it rewarded readers who actually set out to visit the places on the list.
Those who logged their climbs on the website peakbagger.com earned medallions as they made progress. Medalions were awarded for 25, 50 and 100 peaks. Additionally, a medallion could be earned for reaching 15 peaks that required only a hike. In 2015, they added a medallion for finishing 76 scrambling peaks.
“It was established to let people of all skill levels experience Rainier,” Eisenberg said of the 100 Peaks program. “It’s worked out really well. We couldn’t be more pleased.”
On March 5, about 150 people are expected to gather at The Mountaineers’ Seattle headquarters for the third 100 Peaks celebration.
“It has been gratifying to see the interest,” Eisenberg said. “We just wanted to encourage people to explore one of the most beautiful places on Earth, a place that is right next to us.”
Eisenberg and Yore recently added Steven McClure as a co-author of the book and plan to soon release a fourth edition and smartphone edition.
Eisenberg, 70, is believed to be the first person to climb all 100 peaks. We recently caught up with him to ask a few questions about the perpetually evolving project.
Q: So, tell me about the new medallion. The 76 scrambles. Why did you decide to add that?
A: There are generally three different types of people exploring Mount Rainier. There are hikers, scramblers and climbers. Scramblers are really climbers doing nontechnical climbing. They are off trail, but there are no ropes or harnesses. So of the 100 peaks at Rainier, 15 are hikes, 76 are scrambles and nine are climbs.
Some of the scrambles are very challenging, I don’t want to minimize that. But they are not technical. So we created the 76 scrambles so people who are not climbers would have a very challenging goal.
Q: Is there one that you consider the most challenging scramble?
A: There is one mountain that is actually three mountains called Mother Mountain (near Mowich Lake). Second Mother is a scramble, but it is a challenging scramble. There is exposure and route-finding challenges with all kinds of gullies leading up. It’s challenging, but it’s beautiful.
Q: As the first person to do all 100, what do you do now at Rainier?
A: You know the answer to that question. I just go back and climb them over and over again. It’s glorious. Climbing a peak in different weather is a completely different experience. … Every time we go back we learn more. How to make a route description clearer and how to get there safely. So we keep tweaking. The nice thing about electronic publishing is you can revise very quickly. So, we will be coming out very shortly with the fourth edition of the book. We think a guidebook like this is the guidebook of the future.
Q: I love your description of Pigeon Peak in the book. “A terrible climb and definitely not worth doing unless you are absolutely determined to get the 100.” What’s the view like?
A: The view from Pigeon Peak is nothing to write home about. It’s actually not really a peak, it’s more of a rocky outcropping that’s covered with trees.
Q: I can think of some places with better views that are listed as peaks on some maps but are not on the list. So why include Pigeon?
A: It has to do with the original selection. If the USGS has a closed contour that was named, that by definition is a named peak. We started out by saying we were going to include every named peak other than Mount Rainier. That formed 70-80 peaks. Then there were some The Mountaineers consider peaks but the USGS doesn’t have a name for them, like Chinook Peak. And then we also wanted to include peaks used by the Tacoma branch of The Mountaineers. We didn’t want to contradict. And there is the name Pigeon on the USGS map. … (laughing) So it’s not my fault.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard Bellevue mountaineer Tim Hagan died last year on Sluiskin Mountain while attempting to finish the list?
A: It was very, very sad when that happened. I’m just filled with sadness. I have no other way to describe my reaction.
Q: So what’s the best way for somebody to get started on the list if they aren’t very experienced?
A: Wait until August and then go up (Sunrise) and hike first, second and third Burroughs. It’s a hike and there is a trail. It’s beautiful and you’ll be 1/33 done.
Q: Is there a good first scramble you’d recommend?
A: I urge caution, because it’s off trail and you need the skills. But in terms of an easier scramble, Mount Ararat. It’s a lovely scramble and it’s safe with relatively easy route-finding. That is a good introduction to scrambling if you have the skills to be safe out there.
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100 Peaks of Rainier Program
As part of the “Guide to 100 Peaks of Mount Rainier National Park,” eBook published by The Mountaineers Books in 2013, climbers and hikers can earn medallions for climbing the peaks in the park. This year a new medallion was added for 76 scramble routes in the park. There is no fee to participate, participants need only log their ascents at peakbagger.com. Medallions are awards for finished 25, 50 and 100 climbs. They’re also awarded for finishing the 15 hiking peaks or 76 scrambles. As of Feb. 1, only nine people had completed all 100 climbs, 44 people finished 50, 79 finished 25 and 24 people earned the hiking medallion.