Fifty four miles southeast of Seattle is Mt. Rainier. It is considered the most dangerous volcano in the world, at an elevation of 14,411 feet above sea level. Rainier is the highest point in Washington, and the highest mountain in the Cascades. On a clear day, Rainier can be seen from Portland, OR and Victoria, BC. It has 26 glaciers, making it the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states.
The summit is topped by two volcanic craters, each more than 1000 feet in diameter. The larger east crater overlaps the west crater. And geothermal heat from both craters keep the rims free of ice and snow. As a result, it forms the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave network, within the ice-filled craters with more than two miles of passages. In addition, a small lake occupies the west crater, the highest elevation in North America at 14203 feet.
Rainier is topped by three summits, with the highest called Columbia Crest. Second highest is Point Success, and lowest is Liberty Cap. On the eastern flank is a peak known as Little Tahoma Peak, an eroded remnant of a much higher Mt. Rainier. Rainer’s lava deposits are estimated to be over 840,000 years old. Rainier once stood at 16,000 feet before an avalanche and resulting mud flow about 5000 years ago.
The most recent eruption of Rainier was back between 1830 and 1854. Other eruptive activity was reported in the late 1800s. It is still listed as an active volcano. If Rainier erupted as powerfully as nearby Mt. St. Helens, the cumulative damage would be much greater. Up to 5 earthquakes are recorded monthly on Rainier.
Captain George Vancouver became the first European to see the mountain in May, 1792. John Muir climbed Rainier in 1888. In 1899, President McKinley made Mount Rainier National Park America’s fifth national park. The Washington state quarter features Mt. Rainier and a salmon. Climbing the mountain is difficult, and takes two to three days. Only half the attempts are successful. Just enjoy it from a distance!