Russell Cliffs and Winthrop Glacier Route Conditions - July 19th
Climbing rangers ascended the left variation of the Russell Cliffs via the Winthrop Glacier which proved to be an excellent journey with sustained steep snow and ice at the top of the route. Russell Cliffs offers some of the best steep climbing above 13,000 feet available on Mount Rainier.
The route is straight-forward except for a bit of maneuvering to get onto the Winthrop Glacier. The best approach appears to be a traverse across the Winthrop Glacier from Camp Schurman a few hundred yards and then drop a few hundred feet of elevation to the big ice- and rockfall debris area (move quickly here). Then gain back the lost elevation and climb the clean steep snow and ice face which faces and is readily apparant from Camp Schurman. A large crevasse in the middle of this slope is reasonable negotiable. Above here the Winthrop corridor is wonderfully smooth sailing on firm styrofoam snow with few crevasses open below 12,700 feet.
At 12,700 the team made a rising traverse toward the left face of Russell Cliffs, moving quickly through an icefall zone. The team ascended the left side of the large central rock buldge of the left face on steep snow and ice. From there the team followed the steep arete to the lower cliff band. Here the team encountered a bit of water ice. Above the cliff bands several hundred vertical feet of 55-60˚ deep soft rotten snow completed the ascent to Liberty Cap. Cooler temperatures would have improved the final ascent
~Glenn Kessler and Stoney Richards