Disappointment Cleaver - Archive

Disappointment Cleaver - August 10

The only significant change from the August 8 report is that most (really all) of the climbers are now taking the Emmons traverse at 12,300 feet. It avoids a number of crevasse crossings, and one in particular that is very SKETCHY! In this image, you can see one of the questionable crevasse crossings... Only this pic was taken last week. Add more than seven warm days on this gaper crevasse and you have an accident waiting to happen.

Most teams seem to have no difficulty reaching the summit, if they are in good enough shape and leave early.

Image provided by Brad Allen

~ Mike Gauthier

August 3

It is the beginning of August and the Disappointment Cleaver is still in great shape! Over the past week temperatures on the mountain have been cooler, allowing for great climbing and also allowing a more direct route up the D.C. The route from Camp Muir to the top of the cleaver is still very direct with much of the cleaver still snow covered. On the lower third of the cleaver there is exposure to rockfall danger from parties traversing above. Above the cleaver parties have been climbing one of two main routes.

One option traverses out toward the Emmons just above the top of the cleaver at 12,300'. This route skirts around many of the large crevasses on the upper mountain, but is a less direct way to the summit. Another option that has been made available again due to the lower freezing levels takes a more direct line from the top of the cleaver. This more direct route is still fairly obvious with a good boot track, but travels under a few areas of potential icefall and weaves over and around the crevasses between 12,300' and the summit. With the low freezing levels the bridges over the crevasses have been solid, but expect this route to change and become more hazardous as temperatures warm.

All parties climbing the Disappointment Cleaver route should evaluate the conditions for themselves and be aware of changing conditions. Anytime parties are traveling on glaciers they should be roped up and prepared to deal with crevasse hazards. This also includes crossing the Cowlitz on the way to Ingraham Flats. Just because there is a well worn, deep boot track doesn't mean that it is always safe to travel there! There is also a great route description and good safety tips is the previous post, which is still worth the read.

July 26th

General Conditions: Don’t let the nice clear skies fool you! Along with the good weather have come warm conditions. Just this morning Camp Muir is reporting 50 degrees. This is doing what you may expect to the snow pack. Even during the evening and early morning, the snow is not freezing. On our descent down the Disappointment Cleaver route, on the 21st of July, loose, wet, and post holing conditions were encountered from about 13,500' down to Camp Muir. These unstable conditions make several advisories necessary.

1. Crevasses – There are many dangerous crevasses the route traverses, not just one ‘bad’ crevasse. It’s obviously easier to punch through in these conditions. Don’t trust the route at any time. Thoroughly inspect all crossings and potential crevasse areas before you cross. Make your own decisions about what is safe. The route to the summit changes on a daily basis.

2. Avalanches – Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we can’t have avalanches. I was very concerned on our descent yesterday about the potential for loose snow avalanches on steep slopes. As it continues to warm, be wary on steep slopes.

3. Descending – The deep, unconsolidated snow can make descending slippery and difficult to keep balance. It’s easy to slide off the trail or turn an ankle. At some point, you must decide where and when to take your crampons off.

4. Anchor Placements – Loose snow makes poor anchors. Take time before your climb to determine what sort of anchor systems you can build in these conditions. One picket placed vertically IS NOT going to work well.

5. Number of People On Your Rope Team – It’s easier to punch through snow bridges in these types of conditions and fall into a crevasse. Consider this when you rope up with your team. How close do you want to be to the next person on your rope? What sort of gear will the people on the surface have if you fall in?

Route Description:

The route up from Camp Muir is turning into quite a trough because of the warm and wet conditions. The route follows its standard path to the base of Cathedral Gap. There are few crevasses that have come to the surface on the Cowlitz Glacier, but the crevasses that are yet buried under the snow will be easier to find the warmer and wetter the conditions get! Don’t underestimate the Cowlitz just going to Ingraham Flats. Crevasse falls on the Cowlitz are not uncommon!

There is a well established route up to the top of Cathedral Gap. At the bottom of the rocks, it is advisable to ‘short rope’ in order to lessen potential for clusters and traffic jams. The top of Cathedral Gap is melted out far more than it usually is for this time of year.

The trail traverses out onto Ingraham Flats with few crevasses showing at the surface. There are several good potential flat areas to establish a camp. If you camp at Ingraham Flats, please make sure that you have been issued a permit for it and stick to your itinerary. There are no blue bag barrels or privacy screen at I. Flats. Use blue bags (away from the route) and take them back down to Camp Muir.

Above the Flats, you ascend a prominent ridge in the glacier, at the top of which you encounter your first obvious crevasse. From here to the snout of the cleaver, you are traversing across first an area that is very prone to ice-fall from the Ingraham Icefall above, then across the rocks that are very prone to rock fall. It is very important to plan your traverse and coordinate with your adjacent parties at this point. Move quickly through this area to the snout of the cleaver.

The Disappointment Cleaver has a lot of snow on it still. The first usually-rocky area from the snout still is mostly snow, as is the rest of the ascent to the top of the cleaver. To lessen the potential for bottle necks, one can again ‘short-rope’ up the cleaver since the route does not traverse glaciated terrain. But just holding the coiled rope is not recommended, since you will still want to safeguard a slip by a ropemate. Tying off your short rope with a 'Kiwi-coil' or similar method is suggested.

From the top of the cleaver at 12,300' the route makes a long northeast traverse over to the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier. This traverse avoids a large crevasse at 13,100' and will add approximately an hour to your climb. The route is exposed to icefall from above and crosses a few suspect crevasses. Again coordinate your ascent with other parties allowing faster parties to pass in appropriate areas.

The slope angle lessens from 13,100' to the summit. The route switches back and forth to the crater rim crossing only a few visible crevasses.

~ Adrienne Sherred & Andy Anderson


July 17th:

Conditions on the Cleaver are still excellent for July. Accessing the Cleaver from the Ingraham Glacier is fast and easy with minimal complications from any moats. The bootpath zig-zagging up the Cleaver travels 95% on snow. Because of the snowcover remaining on the route, rockfall from parties climbing high on the Cleaver has been relatively uncommon.

Above the Cleaver the RMI-dictated bootpath navigates around some large crevasses and ice walls. Expect the route to change accordingly as these crevasses continue to open. Currently, the only noteworthy crevasse crossing is a large crevasse at 13,000 ft. The ladder which RMI put in last week fell out this morning. The crevasse can still be end-run further to the north (towards the Emmons Glacier side), though how far you need to go will depend on how much this crevasse keeps opening. This traverse adds some time to the route but overall the entire climb is in a direct and fast condition. Don't hesitate to clip in to any fixed pickets on the traversing sections if you feel your party needs the extra security.

Also, if you are camping at Ingraham Flats, PLEASE pick up your trash! If you carried it up with you, you need to carry it down, too. This includes uneaten food and blue bags.

If you are camping in the Muir Public Shelter, DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING! There has been an excessive amount of "junk" being left at high camp this climbing season. There is no garbage service on the upper mountain, including the Public Shelter. Please take down what you bring up. We genuinely appreciate your efforts to keep Mt. Rainier clean.

~ Paul Charlton

July 12th

More about the current conditions on Mount Rainier.

"I've done DC several times, and the route was in the best shape I've ever seen it this time of year. The DC in the past has always been a Class 3 scramble...loved all the snow going up! Overall conditions were superb and we had super weather, excepting the 60 mph+ winds at the summit.

There's a neat ladder bridge with a fixed line over a 2-3 yard crevasse at about the 13,000 foot level, give or take.

Photo by Gary Stone

July 9 th

This just in...

"The DC is in excellent condition, almost completely snow-covered save the toe.
Above the DC the route is still mostly "straight up," but this is going to change rapidly. Two large crevasses are opening up in the middle of the route that will be impossible to cross or end run within a few days. RMI has set up a temporary fixed line over one crevasse, but it won't last long. I'd expect the route to start meandering significantly towards the Emmons in the coming weeks."
Photo by Nick Swinhart of Montesano

July 7th

The DC is very well-established, with a beaten path and wands marking the route. The Cleaver itself is still mostly snow covered, though the traverse onto the nose is melted out. It's best to move quickly through this section as climbers are exposed to both rock and icefall. Above 12,300' the route remains fairly straightforward. Crevasse bridges are beginning to melt out and a number of teams have reported punching through hidden cracks. The snow has been getting sloppy and objective hazards increase as the day warms, so make sure to be up and down in the cooler morning temperatures.

July 5th

The cleaver has been seeing all of the traffic from Camp Muir for the past week from deteriorating conditions on Gib Ledges and the Ingraham Direct. Cathedral Gap is totally melted out and full of loose rock. Communication between parties while there is important to mitigate rockfall hazards.

The bottom of the cleaver has "melted out." The upper portion is still snow-covered and makes for easy cramponing. The route meanders around a couple of crevasses opening above the cleaver, but stays in a fairly direct path from the top of the cleaver to the crater rim. Beware of over-hanging cornices disguised as solid crevasse edges. High freezing levels and sunny weather have undercut many crevasse edges, and there have been recent reports of climbers taking large whippers into crevasses as cornices collapse underneath them. Take advantage of pre-placed pickets at the larger crevasse crossings.

~ Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton

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