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Four teen-agers explore a mountain and pitch camp in its towering crater

The coolest place in the state of Washington for a summer date is the summit of Mt. Rainier, which towers 14,408 feet above the Pacific near Seattle. Accordingly four youngsters set out recently to scale Rainier, listen to their echoes in its ice caves and peer down its crevasses. They planned to camp overnight in the crater of the extinct volcano.

Carol and Joan Marston, who are 16 and 18, are both skilled alpinists and have topped each of the state's major peaks at least once. Carol is the youngest ever to accomplish this. Their friends Gary Rose and Dave Nicholson, both seasoned mountaineers at 18, helped plan the 10-day trip.

From the start the girls proved as accomplished as the boys, leaping crevasses, stemming ice chimneys, and rappelling like veterans (next page). The party packed 180 pounds of food and equipment and the girls, slightly less laden than the boys, beat them to the summit by half an hour to stake out the best campsite.

Kicking his cramponed boot into hard surface of sloping ice bridge, Dave Nicholson gouges steps. At right, Joan Marston leads Gary, Carol and Dave across snow plain.

Climbing in roped pairs, the youngsters pass a giant ice wall of the Cowlitz Glacier. Later the boys and girls paired off for a friendly race to the mountaintop.

Rappelling from Pinnacle Peak, assaulted after Rainier (in background), Carol Marston kicks away from precipice to descend a few feet at a time on mountaineer's rope made of nylon.

Resting at crater's rim, the Marston sisters sun-bathe in temperature of 90-100°. At night mercury will drop to around 20.

Camping in crater was awkward but luxurious. Steam fissures warmed tents, cooked pot of prunes overnight.

Exploring a cool grotto beneath Paradise Glacier, Gary Rose lights the way with a torch. Scalloped ice caves like this are swiftly carved by warm air penetrating cracks in glaciers.