I summited Rainier (second attempt) on August 12th, 2004 as part of RMI's 5 day Expedition Seminar.
The decision to take the Kautz route was made the day we left Ashford (Sunday 8th). The climb began at comet falls (3600ft) and the first night was spent on the snow at 7000ft. Other than summit day, this was the most grueling part of the trip. Getting used to expedition sized backpacks, and the near fatal mistake of wearing ill-fitting boots caused me to question whether I was up to the demands of the climb. 7 hours later I was preparing to spend my first night on snow. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were spent moving further up the mountain, and training for crevasse rescue, minor ice climbing, and rope team practice.
The make-up of the group was fantastic, and though I decided to make this climb without knowing anyone in the group, I left the mountain with 11 friends.
Wednesday evening, at the top of the turtle snow field, we were awakened at 11:30pm and spent the next hour getting ready for the climb. We left camp at 12:30am Thursday and climbed an hour to the Kautz Ice Chute. There was nothing in my climbing past to prepare me for the next 5 hours, as our group climbed the chute in the dark, and on the ice. We emerged on the upper mountain just past daybreak, and probably two behind schedule. The guides said the chute was particularly icy this late in the climbing season, and the excitement would be there for us on the way down as well. We trudged up the upper mountain at a slow pace (I tried my best to slow us down, as the air was much thinner at 14K vs. my home in Tampa at 13ft.). We topped out at noon, and I think I had tears in my eyes for the next few hours; some tears from joy, some, from the knowledge that we were heading back to the Ice Chute. Oh Well. We made it back to camp at 10pm (22 hour climb...Geez) and then back down the mountain Friday afternoon (delay leaving the Turtle as climbers fell on the Chute around 3am and required helicopter rescue and monitoring from the RMI guides).
I was back in Tampa Saturday night to sift through the first 3 Hurricanes to bounce through the bay area. It hasn't given me much time to reflect on the whole Rainier experience, but I think it's safe to say that Rainier is as much a mental climb as physical. My wife asked me if I needed to do it again (after failing in 2002 it became all-consuming), and I replied "no" as we were leaving Ashford. But after my heels stopped bleeding, and the feeling has eased back into my toes, I would love to go back to Rainier.