I'm thinking about climbing Mount Rainier some time next summer, and I'm trying to find the best Guide company to go through. I'd want to do a 3 or 4 day climb, and make sure that I get adequate training on how to use the climbing equipment (you need to use ice axes, crampons, etc). Other than that, cost is my main consideration. I've looked at Alpine Ascents but they charge almost $1400 for a 3-day climb! The nice thing about them is they pick you up from Seattle and arrange your overnight accommodations for the night before the climb. That's a nice benefit, but I'd rather arrange my own hotel/transportation and save money. Is it possible to do it for less?
There are three guide companies available for climbing Rainier:
They are all probably pretty good. I've heard good things about RMI. I don't know about prices.
It's possible to do without a guide company, if you learn and practice the basics of glacier travel and crevasse rescue, especially self-arrest. However, it is a bad idea to go it alone with limited experience. Some parts are a little scary. In fact, the park service will likely refuse a solo climbing permit if you can't show proper experience. But if you can find someone to go with who's experienced and who you can trust, you can avoid the guide service.
I'd highly recommend the climb if you get the chance -- it's worth it. Incidentally, the public shelter at Muir Camp is not so comfortable to sleep in. If you don't use a guide service shelter, you might prefer your own tent.