By Steve Casimiro

Adventure Journal

Locals know it simply as The Mountain. It's a giant that rises behind the city on clear days, drawing the eye, then curiosity, and then maybe the feet. It defines where you are, even when shrouded in the frequent clouds, and it is a topographic, geographic, and cultural touchstone for an entire region.

The 14,411-foot summit of Mt. Rainier is just 59 straight line miles from Pike Place Market in Seattle. With a telescope, at night, you can see the lights from climbers' headlamps. In two and half hours you can go from the fish market to your first step on snow at the beginning of one of America's most famous alpine ascents. Nowhere in this country do so many people have such close proximity to the big, wild, mountain world, and Rainier inspires like no other. Two million pilgrims a year come to see it up close, and more than 10,000 attempt to climb it...

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