Russell Cliffs and Winthrop Glacier Route - 2006

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

K-Spire

K-Spire Conditions - July 21st

This report from Stoney Richards. There is another trip report on cc.com.

K Spire is a small spire in a grand location, and well worth the 7+ mile hike and 120' of rock climbing to the 8,849' summit. Sam and I left the trailhead at 9:00am and began the 4.1 mile hike to Summerland. From Summerland we headed up to Meany Crest. We followed snow gullies and crossed rock ribs to gain the Fryingpan Glacier at 7300'.

The Fryingpan is breaking up so we roped up and followed a fairly level traverse at 7500'. A higher route going to Little T looked less crevassed and climbing parties were traveling unroped on that path. We reached the scree slope below the spire at 1:30 p.m. There is a great bivy at the base of the S face, a good place to leave the packs and flake out the rope. We had a photo copy of an old Cascade Alpine Guide with two route descriptions of the East and South Faces. We had hoped to do 2 routes (as described in an old Cascade Alpine Guide) but did not find the route on the South Face (it's very loose there).

So next we tried the E face. After a loose start, the rock became much more solid and clean. The pitch was a quite good, with tricky face moves then some crack climbing to a final chimney. Good pro was easy to find (we had 3 cams and a set of nuts.) The pitch was 5.7 and I only placed 3 large nuts.

The summit has outstanding views of Little T, D.C. route, and the Emmons Glacier. The rappel station is a mess and needs some work. One 60m rope will get you back to the bivy. On the way down we spied a line directly below the rap station. It looked great (steep and hard.) After a few tries, we unlocked the problem at 5.11-. Soon enough, we were standing on top again, well worth the effort. We descended from the base to the car in under 3 hours getting us back at White River around 6:30 p.m..

Ptarmigan Ridge

Ptarmigan Ridge - July 29th

A pair of climbers recon’d the Ptarmigan Ridge in late July. They camped at the obvious rock bivouac (small wall) on the upper ridge around 10,100 feet, a short ways shy of the normal bivi in the snow col at 10,200 feet (below the ice cliff) which is mentioned in the route descriptions.

They,
"found the final knife edge ridge traverse of about one quarter of a mile totally devoid of snow, extremely loose, unprotectable, and dangerous to cross. The Ptarmigan headwall itself was getting out of condition, suffering from frequent rockfall from the upper cliffbands, and showing signs of debris scars particularly at the right-to-left traverse at the top of the long snowfield (after the bergschrund) and again at the narrow snow/ice gully going thru the final rockband to gain the rock headwall at 12,800 ft {where the finish goes left (ice chute) or right (snow
ramps to an exit gully)}.
They avoided the route, and opted instead for an ascent of the Edmunds Headwall...


Photo and updates by Keith Young & Jim Cullem

July 26th

After hearing Sam's report from Ptarmigan, we decided to go out and give it a try. After 10 days of scorching temps and high freezing levels the route is much worse. We did find a descent gully to access the base of the route from. We left our camp at 10,200 and went down the gully to the right. Once we got down to the level where you would either have to rappel or down climb, we traversed right along the ridge around the corner and were able to walk down to the North Mowich Glacier.


During the entire traverse up the snow ramp leading to the dirty gully at 11,000' we were dodging rocks with every step. We tried to hug the cliffs on the far left so that we had some shelter from the rockfall. We reached the top of the snow and had to cross a steep, dirty gully as we traversed to the left. The snow turned to rotten dirty ice and steepened to about 60 degrees. We continued climbing this nasty rotten ice/dirt/scree/water for the next several pitches. It was very hard to protect and every now and then you could place a "decent" screw. We chose to take the ice variation to the left, and after the final traverse out of rotten ice, we encountered a gully of 70-degree ice that was soft and plastic. We continued up this to the base of the ice cliff and then climbed straight up through vertical water ice to reach the top of the ridge. On the ridge heading toward Liberty Cap, we had to post hole for most of the next 2,000' to the summit. We had to weave our way around several crevasses and I even broke through one bridge and fell into the crevasse about 10 feet. It was tiresome and hot up there.

All in all I think the route is in pretty poor condition right now, however with all the water running down it I would expect it to come back in the fall and be a fun climb again then.

~Andy Anderson & Adrienne Sherred

Ptarmigan Ridge - July 16th

I left the 10,200 ft camp at 6:30 am (on the lower part of Ptarmigan Ridge. I departed at 6:30 am, down climbing from camp (10,200 ft) to the North Mowich Glacier. There was a 20 foot rock step, about 5.6, that cleared out into a gully of loose rock. In all, about 150 vertical feet of 35 degree scree, with one section going at 45 degrees. Next time, I'd rappel from the top of the first rock step (though I found no rap slings) and make sure that I kept the rope out of the rocks.

Once on the glacier, I quickly moved out of the rockfall zone and then put my crampons on. From there, I traversed until I could safely climb past the Bergshrund (45 degree snow ramp) by angling left and up to the icy chute.. As the route turns left, it heads into the steeper crux pitches... Be careful of rockfall during this left-tending climbing traverse, a few grapefruit sized rocks whizzed by me!

Higher into the traverse, just below the chute, the snow turned icy. There was aproximately 400 feet of water ice to be climbed before reaching the base of the rock where the route can takes on one to two options. I choose the left option, which I felt was easier.


I climbed out left from the cliff and into the obvious ice chute. First pitch was aproximately 25 meters of 75 degree solid glacial water ice. If you kept left, the ice was softer and in some places and partially snow covered. I stayed left and gave my tools and crampons more purchase, as the area is extremely exposed! The second pitch was about 20 meters long, and maybe 70 degrees. It had softer snow and ice on the right.

After the second pitch, I topped out on the glacier. From there, I slowy navigated the glacier to the Liberty Cap. Most the snow was wind blown and crusty, with mounds of ice. The wind was 20mph with gusts up to 30mph.


I summited Liberty cap around 10am. It was an easy walk to Emmons Winthrop Glacier route via Liberty saddle and arrived at Camp Schurman close to 11:00 am.

The route is still in great shape! :)

~ Route report by Sam Wick, image by Kris Gorny

July 10th

This image today from Brian Kenison.

Finally, a Ptarmigan Ridge report. This is from Len Kannapell. July 7th

3 am: wake

4 am: depart camp. Scouted out the descent to the North Mowich Glacier the night before. It's a bit ugly, with a lot of loose rock, but from the bivy sites (10,200' altimeter reading in the "saddle" between the two high points on the ridge), descend 50' to the right of short 15' cliff bands, then go directly under the cliff bands, then easy descent (but quite loose) until you get to the glacier.

4:45am: cross 'schrund, didn't rope up until we got to the ice pitches. Very solid with one ice axe + one tool for each person.

6:30am: 12,500' rock buttress (left = regular ice route, right = rock variation route).

We went left, easy crossing, then finally roped up for the two ice pitches (pitch 1= 75' of 45-55 degrees, placed 4 ice screws, picket deadpan anchor; pitch 2 = 60' of same, difficulties completed).

9:30am: begin long traverse to Emmons Glacier. No troubles encountered at all with crevasses.

11:30am: Near whiteout conditions, 30 mph winds. Ugly.

1pm: Reached Liberty Cap, took bearing of 108 degrees (declination adjusted) to head for Emmons. Encountered a group that got lost in the whiteout on descent. Former climbing guide Liam O'Sullivan (in our party) did a great job, took bearing of 157 degrees from where we encountered this party to Camp Schurman, which worked well.

5:30pm: Camp Schurman

8:40pm: Car at White River

Note: Don't know about conditions on the rock buttress (right-side variation), but it looks like it works; we took a rock rack of 5 pieces in case. But the ice pitches were quite fun and protectable with four (4) ice screws used. Two guys in our party took skis for the Emmons descent, which wasn't too good. Inter Glacier excellent for skiing/glissading.


There is archived route reports on Ptarmigan Ridge here.

Edmunds Headwall

Edmunds Headwall Route Conditions - July 12

A three-day patrol to the Mountain's northwest side over the weekend unfortunately yielded no summit success, though there were plenty of photo opportunities.

The beautiful approach from Mowich Lake through Spray Park is highly recommended as a day hike even if you're not looking to climb. Also note ski tracks on the Russell Glacier (top photo, left of center) if you're searching for somewhere to make July turns.

Camp was established at approximately 8500 feet on lower Ptarmigan Ridge the first evening. Day two consisted of route reconnaissance, skiing, and photographing. It was finally decided that the Edmunds Headwall was the route of choice for the following day, as it appeared to offer the best ski descent.

The next morning alarm failure precluded any semblance of an alpine start. We decided to make an attempt since the face was still shaded and softer snow is better for skiing anyway. Good time was made down the loose rocky slopes to the North Mowich Glacier and across the Edmunds Glacier to the base of the route, but our progress was halted when we reached the bergschrund.

At this point, finding no suitable way to cross the gaping crevasse and taking into account the late hour and rockfall hazard, skiing sounded like more fun than climbing, so that's what we did. This is not to say it's impossible to overcome the obstacle: options do exist, particularly if you enjoy steep, loose volcanic rock and overhanging snow. The rest of the route appeared to be in great shape; some ice was visible up higher but could easily be avoided. Most teams will choose to carry over and descend a different route.

~ Hannah Carrigan

Sunset Ridge

Sunset Ridge Route Conditions - July 11th

A climbing ranger patrol scouted Sunset Ridge and photographed it from 8600 feet. The patrol was turned around due to a compatability issue with crampons. The route looked like it was in late-season conditions. Rocky patches along the triangular base of the ridge made the straight-forward ridge climb hazardous due to rockfall. The upper portions (11,000-12,000) looked rocky as well - but a meandering climbing route could manage to avoid rocky patches and stay on snow/ice the entire way up.








-Thomas Payne and Andy "A-Two" Anderson

Liberty Ridge

Liberty Ridge Route Conditions - August 1st

No one has made an attempt on the route for the past few weeks. At this time, the Carbon Glacier is heavily crevassed, and the entire lower ridge to Thumb Rock has melted. By most standards, this route is considered "out," and not recommended.

July 8th report

A few teams are still attempting Liberty Ridge despite the difficulty of negotiating the Carbon Glacier and the rockfall on the ascent to Thumb Rock. This route is still "in" but has a high objective danger. The crux of the route continues to be the the ice pitches above the bergschrund just below Liberty Cap.

Here are a few excerpts of recent firsthand reports. We received a report from Greg Parker who climbed the route with partner Mark Stute June 23-25. Greg reports (with edits):
"The route, overall, was in exceptional shape once on it. The difficulties we found were one sketchy snow bridge on the upper Carbon Glacier . . . and the final 2 pitches exiting the Liberty headwall.

The lower ridge was in typical shape, crummy rock and sloppy snow, but getting onto the ridge proper was pretty straight forward. We accessed it from the West side of the ridge, fairly low, following a very prominent boot track.

From thumb rock, the main boot path went left (east) of the rock, but the center route looked doable with the first 15 feet on thin, but solid ice. We opted for following the somewhat decent steps around the East of the rock to get above Thumb Rock.

The condition of the snow up to the Black Pyramid was beautiful neve and very straight forward . . . The final 2 pitches of the ramp were bare, hard glacial ice.

The route up to the headwall was very easy on 3-4" of nicely consolidated wind blown powder and the route through the upper crevasses was easily negotiated.

We could see two routes exiting to Liberty Cap and chose the center (the other boot track was up the ice ramp above the rocks on the left).

I felt this was the crux of the climb, with a 50-60 foot, 65-70 degree face of somewhat consolidated glacial snow which was unprotectable until reaching the top. The bergshrund was easily crossed followed by a short pitch (60-70 feet) of WI2+/WI3 hard, glacial ice, which led to the upper snowfields below Liberty Cap.

We felt the climb was straight forward but challenging and fun."


We received a report from Jerry Dodrill who completed the route on June 21st. Here are highlights of Jerry's report:

"Access to Liberty Ridge is best from the right side of the toe. Watch out for rock fall coming up onto the ridge . . . Tracks go left above Thumb Rock. The ice straight up is a thin smear, not in shape. There was several hundred feet total of ice on the route, with the most steep/significant being at the exit onto the summit ridge. 65-70 degrees maybe? Made for a nice surprise finish.

We took four screws and two stakes. Should have had five screws and three stakes. Simul-climbed the whole route roped, using Ti-blocs. Pretty good conditions, route is in great shape. Nothing else super exciting, but it sure was fun."
June 8th . . .

I received this report from Sean Walker and Gill Bearnson.

Here is the June 5th route conditions report.

A team from Nevada ascended Liberty Ridge last week, but not without excitment… One member "ended up with 10 fingers and 5 toes getting burned." It seems as though four of the fingers may have serious frostbite too, which is the result of a few unplanned bivouacs high on the mountain.

Overall the team felt that the climbing route was in great shape… if you like lots of DEEP snow. Chris Nunzir (with edits) found, “Waist deep wallowing from Thumb up to the top.” He goes on to say that,
“We knew we had weather coming in and bivied at 13K on Wednesday, but Thursday added 12-20 inches of new snow.” They noted a large avalanche had swept the upper route during the storm. It,

“cleaned out the chute above and right of the Black Pyramid, so we traversed one at a time across the main slope to gain the chute climbers’ right of Liberty Cap.”
There they found some dicey crevasse problems but travel was straight forward.

As the team reached the summit, the weather again closed in. Friday was miserable so the team made little progress. On Saturday, the weather finally broke enough for the team to descend the Emmons. They checked in at Camp Schurman and reported the frost bite.

A few important points here, Liberty Ridge is susceptible to avalanches. In 2004, 2 climbers were swept off the route at 13,000 feet and there have been reported problems in years past. With all the recent snowfall, climbers should consider the potential for avalanche activity. We have posted the Northwest Avalanche Center’s spring avalanche statement here.

Willis Wall

Willis Wall Climbing Report - June 29 to July1

First and foremost... We don't recommend this route... Unless you REALLY know what you're doing on Rainier AND are in EXCELLENT shape. Last week, NW climber Loren of Cascadeclimber.com had this to say.

"We're back- there was no serac with my name on it yesterday. I guess I'd say we climbed lower Curtis Ridge and upper Willis Wall... the route isn't entirely a death trap, but it certainly is dangerous and I'm going to be conservative about how I describe the 'safe' spots so as to avoid encouraging people to get in over their heads.

We belayed three pitches, the worst of which was down low in the dark on what Jens described as 'the worst rock I've ever climbed'. I'd agree. Thankfully the pitch was short.

We bivied at about 10,200 on Curtis, made a descending traverse onto Willis, and exited a few feet below the Traverse of Angels onto the top of the central ice cliff. I have quite a few pics and some video...?

Mowich Face

Mowich Face Route Conditions - Late June

This report is by Allen Sanderson. You can find about this ascent at the following two sites (i.e visit both.) Here and here.

Approaching the Mowich from Carbon River was very straight forward. The trail from Itsup Creek is clear until Seattle Park. Above Seattle Park there is fair amount of bare ground until you reach Echo Rock, which is a great place to bivy as there is running water. Above Echo Rock is it all snow until Ptarmigan Ridge.

Descend Ptarmigan Ridge at the shoulder which about 8200' Drop down the scree slope for about 200' then start traversing the slope which is both snow and scree, staying as high as possible so you come out near the large serac towers on the left side of the glacier (several seracs have recently collapsed). The snow slopes on Ptarmigan Ridge are firm snow. Once on the glacier pass by the seracs on the broad shelf - watch for cracks After head up slope to the left of the large buttress and then cross over the top of it. This brings you to the base of the Mowich Ice fall - pass under it (recent debris) and then turn up slope to the right of the rock ridge coming down. This slope leads to the "Hourglass" on the North Mowich Headwall where a bivy can be found at about 10k. The travel on the glacier was very straight forward on great snow and had very few cracks to deal with. We bivied under rocks just left of the bergshrund under the "Hourglass" And with all the warm temps we had running water.

The hourglass is melted out but to right there is a short vertical section of ice that will gain access to the upper snow field. The snow field is 45 degree or so and was firm. If we kicked hard enough we could bust through the crust to make great steps. A few times we just punched through.

Because of the warm temps we elected not to do the aid pitch to the ice tongue so above the rock buttress at about 12k we traverse over to the Central Mowich Face. The slope has similar snow but is a bit steeper. We traversed all the way past the rock bands and turned at the corner. Some of the steepest (and exposed) climbing was found in the next 350 vertical feet with brittle 80 degree water ice to 45 degree snow covered ice before topping out on top of the Liberty Ice Cap. From there it is straight forward to Liberty Cap.

We descended the Emmons to Steamboat and the Winthrop the next morning. The lower Wintrop was in pretty good shape compared to the last time I went down it. But the warm temps bridge crossing got interesting - start early. By going down the Winthrop and traversing around we could return to Carbon River picking up the trail just above Mystic Lake.

We took three screws, three pickets, along with 4 nuts and 4 cams. Could probably leave the nuts. We simul climbed everything trading leads once.


Photos by Vince Poulin

Kautz Cleaver

Kautz Cleaver Climbing Conditions - Late July

Ok, time to call this one... roughly 5,000 feet of loose rock, scree and talus... Not recommended until we see more snow

July 4th

Climbing rangers patrolled the Kautz Cleaver on July 3rd and 4th and found tough conditions. Due to the high freezing levels over the weekend most of the route required at least ankle to even thigh deep post-holing.

The traverse from Paradise to the bottom of the cleaver was straight forward, even in the dark. Crossing the Nisqually and climbing the fan was quick and did not require crossing any sketchy crevasses. Traversing from the lower Turtle at the 8,500 foot saddle across the Kautz was also safe and quick, with no open crevasses showing or rock fall.

There was a bit of traversing near the base of the cleaver which did require the crossing of large
crevasses, and/or walking below rocky outcroppings which were actively eroding. We moved quickly across there!

The cleaver itself was in great shape. No rockfall was observed; the entire route was snow covered which made for great cramponing. A nice rock buttress at 10,300 feet gave shelter from precipitation and wind.

The upper part of the route (above 12,500 feet) was lightly sun-
cupped. Climbing through the top most rock band (right below Point Success) required ten feet of water ice 3, so bring an ice screw or two. FYI, the water ice was avoidable by traversing around the rock band.

Overall the route was in great shape minus the soft snow from the recent high freezing levels.

- Paul (Peach) Charlton and Thomas Payne

Little Tahoma 2006

Little Tahoma Route Conditions - July 29th

On July 28th climbing rangers climbed a variation of the standard route on the Whitman Glacier of Little Tahoma. The route remains in excellent shape. This is spectacular trip that should not be missed.

We began the climb from the Fryingpan Trailhead a few miles West of the White River Ranger Station. Taking the Wonderland Trail to Panhandle Gap, we ascended rock, scree and snow to the Fryingpan Glacier and made a direct line to Whitman Crest on snow. The Fryingpan Glacier provided easy, mostly crevasse-free snow travel to Whitman Crest. The downclimb onto the Whitman Glacier, however, consists of very loose small to large rock that moves easily with little encouragement. Caution should be used when descending and re-ascending this 200 vertical foot section.

The snow on the Whitman Glacier made for easy step kicking directly up the left side, skirting around several large and small crevasses. Routefinding was simple having surveyed the route from Whitman Crest. There is significant rockfall in several areas below Little Tahoma, most of which can be avoided by good route selection. We chose to take the central snowfinger to its apex and then ascend a 300' rock gully on climber's left which leads to the final snow-free approach to the summit. Several variations of route are available for the last few hundred vertical feet to the summit, few of which provide much difficulty. The views from the summit were spectacular.

Melting snow water was available at several sites along our approach, all the way to about 10,000 feet.

This trip was made in one long day, but may also be approached as a more-relaxed two-day experience.

~ Glenn Kessler and Paul Charlton

Little Tahoma Route Conditions - July 1st.

Climbing rangers climbed the standard route on the Whitman Glacier of Little Tahoma. The route was in excellent shape!

The Cowlitz Glacier was quite broken and looked technically difficult to traverse from below Anvil Rock, so we decided to leave from Camp Muir. The traverse from Muir across the Cowlitz to about 9,900 feet was accomplished with only a couple of minor crevasse crossings. The notch at 8,400 feet between the Cowlitz and Ingraham glaciers was easily found.

There were a few crevasses to cross on the Ingraham Glacier. The notch between the Ingraham and Whitman had a number of objective hazards, mostly from loose rock. Large parties should take caution and move expeditiously.

The Whitman Glacier made for easy cramponing early in the day. Later, the sun softened the snow and made crampons unneccessary. Melting glacier water was available at camp near 9,500 feet, as were a number of small trickles around 10,200 feet. The final rock ridge was snow free and also in great condition.

~ Thomas Payne

General Backcountry and Mountaineering Information

There is roughly 80 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise (5,420 feet.) For a while there, the snow pack was melting fast, but cooler temps have slowed things down.

There have been a number of reported ascents on the upper mountain. Even though summer is around the corner, all backcountry travelers should expect, and prepare for, fierce and adverse weather and climbing conditions. Conditions may include high winds, heavy precipitation, low visibility, avalanche, difficult route finding and sub freezing temperatures.

The seasonal climbing rangers started the season. That said, all parties should be prepared to do their own route finding and avalanche hazard assessments.

Despite a considerable amount of snow accumulation at lower altitudes, climbers should be cautious of hidden crevasses while on the glaciers. Also, helmets are strongly recommended on all summit attempts! So is roping up on glaciated terrain.

All parties should carry the necessary clothing and equipment for winter weather conditions. Each person should have a shovel and the "ten essentials.”

Summiting Rainier in the winter is a matter of timing and endurance. Good weather and stable snow conditions are key for a safe climb.

Success Cleaver - Archive 2006

Success Cleaver Route Conditions - Aug 1st, 2006

If you like scree, talus and volcanic rock, this route is for you. Most of the cleaver has melted out.

July 22nd

Success Cleaver is mostly rock and to actually climb the ridge would require some serious traversing on steep loose cliffs. The Success Glacier however does "go." A climbing ranger patrol climbed this version of the route on Friday the 21st. We approached by traversing from Paradise at about 8000'. The only tricky part of this traverse is geeting across the Kautz to Success Glacier. We had to descend a couple hundred feet of scree to get onto the Kautz to traverse over to the Success Glacier. If you stay high the glacier was extremely broken and would have been hard to cross.

Going up the Success Glacier was straight forward. We found good camping at 9800' in the middle of the glacier. We found a very easy way to cross the
bergshrund at 10,500' on the far right side (as you are looking up) of the route next to the Kautz Cleaver. For the next 2500' we kicked steps in the snow and followed the far right couloir until we came to a cliff band at about 13000. We found that the snow in this section was very soft, and we often poast-holed up to our thighs hundreds of feet at a time, ughhh. From here it would be easy to traverse over to the Kautz and avoid having to climb through the upper cliff bands. We chose to climb up through the cliff bands. The first one we found a 4th class rock scramble that was about 30' long. We also found some running water here to refill our water bottles with. Above this we followed snow up and right until we could see a notch in the ridge on our left. We traversed back across steep snow to this notch and found an ice filled chimney that we climbed to gain the upper Success Rdige line at 13,500. The ice in the chimney was vertical and nice. It was easy to get good tool placements in the ice, and toward the top of the gully the climbing transitioned from vertical ice to easy 5th class rock. I protected this pitch with screws and used a tool and a mountain axe to climb it. From the top of this pitch we kicked our way to the top of Point Success on nice firm snow.

~ Andy Anderson

July 17th

With the recent warm weather Success Cleaver is now presenting large portions of melted-out scree and rock in the lower half of the climbing route. However, teams will still be able to climb the route if they are comfortable dealing with these sections of scree. Expect increased hazards from rockfall. Once above 11,000 feet parties should be able to connect snowfields through short rock steps for enjoyable climbing to Point Success. Depending on enthusiasm and comfort level, teams may want to consider descending a different route to avoid downclimbing the rocky sections.

The approach through Indian Henry's is snow free with patchy snow above Pyramid Peak.

~Paul Charlton

Success Cleaver Climbing Conditions - July 8th

Success Cleaver is still in good shape. Access to the base of the cleaver is still snowy with several feet of snow at Indian Henry's. However, from Pyramid Peak to 10,700 feet, the route is mostly rocky. Along the way, frequent patches of snow, for water and tent platforms, exist.

There are two major gendarmes on the lower ridge. One near 9,000 feet, the other near 10,200, both easy to get around. There are a few campsites between the gendarme at 10,200 to the traverse into the gully at 10,700 feet.

Our team was unable to summit (a thundershower dumped a substantial amount of rain on the team all night) but did feel that the route was in good climbing shape. Most of the upper route was still snow covered. Watch for rockfall along the route, and loose slide avalanches on warm days. Several runners for anchors and running belays would be a boon. Depending on conditions, you may want an ice screw or two.

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

For more archived information...

Emmons Winthrop Glacier Route - Archive July 2006

Emmons Winthrop Glacier Route Conditions - Aug. 1st

The Emmons route remains in fair shape. Climbers will need to deviate from the current very direct boot track between Camp Schurman and the summit, however, because several very tenuous snowbridges connect this route. Climbers blindly following the boot track place themselves in harm's way. At minimum, climbers should protect the dozen or so crossings over questionable snowbridges.

Climbing rangers recently completed a more acceptable route that traverses over to the Winthrop Glacier which is in far better shape. This route also minimizes time spent below the towering loose seracs (at ~13,300') that have recently been raining down blocks of ice along the route at around 12,500'. Scope out the obvious looming seracs on the upper mountain and move quickly when in their line-of-fire. This Winthrop Glacier route, however, has no evident boot track at time of writing


If there is one thing to keep in mind it is: DON'T TRUST THE BOOT TRACK. A good trail on one day may prove a poor route the next based on the rapidly changing conditions. Routefinding is still an important piece of the climb.

If you place wands on your way up, please remove them on the way down.

THE APPROACH:

The trail to Glacier Basin and the route above up to the base of the Inter Glacier at 6800' is snowfree. The Inter Glacier remains in good shape with a good boot track leading to Camp Curtis. On the Inter Glacier watch for several crevasses which are open and a few weak snowbridges which will collapse shortly. Ice is now exposed on the first pressure ridge of the Inter Glacier and the amount of exposed ice travellers to Camp Schurman will need to negotiate will certainly increase. Right now, staying to climber's right at the breakover (@7200 ft) will minimize the amount of ice one will need to climb. Above here make a steadily rising traverse left to Camp Curtis. While ascending the Inter Glacier one cannot help but notice the giant glisade/luge track leading from the upper Inter to the ice band. Take care if you choose to partake in the more daring, higher-velocity descent track, as ankle breaks from crampons and uncontrolled tumbles on ice commonly occur here. It is best to remove crampons if glissading.

The rock and scree ramp onto the Emmons is marked on the ridge at Camp Curtis just above campsite #2 with several wands sticking out of a cairn. There is no snow on the downclimb and the final 50 vertical feet onto the Emmons may prove challenging for some as it is steep and contains
loose rubble. Scope your route and use caution here.

Once on the Emmons Glacier, take a wide berth around to the east to avoid the jumble of crevasses forming just east of Camp Schurman. Follow the track that leads you into Camp Schurman 40 or so vertical feet above the camp to avoid a dicey snowbridge.

The Winthrop Glacier route is in great shape, but has seen only a handful of climbers this season. A climbing ranger ascent of the Winthrop the week of July 19th proved quite straightforward except for the approach. The best approach is to traverse the Winthrop from Camp Schurman a few hundred yards and then drop a few hundred feet of elevation to the big ice- and rockfall debris area (moving quickly here). Then gain back the lost elevation and climb the clean snow and ice face which faces and is readily apparant from Camp Schurman. Above here the Winthrop corridor is wonderfully smooth sailing.

July 27th

The trail to Glacier Basin and the route above up to 6700' is snowfree. A short traverse from there along patches of snow will take you to the base of the Inter Glacier.

The Inter Glacier and access to the Emmons from Camp Curtis is in fine form. The Inter Glacier has a good boot track leading to Camp Curtis. Watch for several crevasses which are open on the Inter Glacier. More slots are appearing daily, especially on climbers' right of the glacier. While ascending the Inter Glacier one cannot help but notice the giant glisade/luge track leading from the upper Inter to the base. Take care if you choose to partake in the more daring, higher-velocity descent track, as ankle breaks from crampons commonly occur here.

The lower (and preferred) rock and snow ramp onto the Emmons is marked on the ridge at Camp Curtis just above campsite #2 with several wands sticking out of a cairn. This route has melted out considerably and has upon it significant loose rubble. Scope your route and use caution here. Once on the Emmons Glacier, take a wide berth around to the east to avoid the jumble of crevasses forming just east of Camp Schurman. Follow the track that leads you into Camp Schurman 40 or so vertical feet above the camp to avoid a dicey snowbridge.

The Emmons route remains in good shape. While the route has been extremely direct for the past few weeks, the suggested route now traverses toward the Winthrop Glacier to avoid the towering loose seracs (at ~13,300') that have recently been raining down blocks of ice along the route at around 12,500'. Scope out the obvious looming seracs on the upper mountain and move quickly when in their line-of-fire. It may take a few days before the new route has an obvious boot track. Even then . . . DON"T TRUST THE BOOT TRACK. A good trail on one day may prove a poor route the next based on the rapidly changing conditions. Routefinding is still an important piece of the climb.

The Winthrop Glacier route is also in great shape, but has seen only a handful of climbers this season. Our ascent of the Winthrop the week of July 19th proved quite straightforward except for the approach. The best approach is to traverse the Winthrop from Camp Schurman a few hundred yards and then drop a few hundred feet of elevation to the big ice- and rockfall debris area (moving quickly here). Then gain back the lost elevation and climb the clean snow and ice face which faces and is readily apparant from Camp Schurman. Above here the Winthrop corridor is wonderfully smooth sailing.

July 12th

Six of us set out on a one-day climb of the Emmons from White River Campground. We found conditions to be very fine, as reported by various parties in this space from earlier in the season. However, be watchful on the Inter Glacier, particularly if you choose to glissade or ski or board on the descent, as significant crevasses are starting to show (but little if any ice yet). The lower, wanded-at-the start descending traverse to the Emmons is indeed best, starting from just above site #2 at Camp Curtis, but even it is melting out rapidly and will soon be all loose rubble. Avoid a loose, shallow wet gulley just before reaching the glacier by dropping a little lower on the rubbly slope, where it is at present an easy step across. The best route is obvious if done during daylight.

There is a crevasse with a narrow bridge just yards before reaching Camp Schurman, but if in doubt, there is an easy bypass around it to climbers' left accessed by climbing a few tens of yards uphill. Above, the route in the Corridor has been pretty well trampled as if a herd of buffalo came through. It is courteous to others if when the snow is soft you try to avoid stomping out the ascent trail on your descent. Further up, a few crevasses are showing but are still rather easily bypassed, but don't trust previous tracks, as evidence is there of people stepping through soft thin bridges into the void. Although we didn't summit because we were climbing into what looked like a major developing storm, and because at least half of us had some altitude sickness issues due to a rapid ascent, a one-day climb of this route is feasible for sea-level dwellers if one is willing to put up with a touch of altitude sickness and put in a rather long day!


~ Doug McKeever (Bellingham)

July 12th

EMMONS AND WINTHROP ROUTES IN GREAT SHAPE!

The trail to Glacier Basin is snowfree for the first two miles and has easily negotiable patches of snow on the last mile.
Travel from Glacier Basin to the base of the Inter Glacier can be made on the mostly snowfree climbers' waytrail.

The Inter Glacier and access to the Emmons from Camp Curtis is also in fine form. Several old boot tracks are in, but you may want to make your own custom track that works for your team. The lower (and preferred) snow ramp onto the Emmons is maked on the ridge at Camp Curtis with several wands sticking out of a cairn. Once on the glacier, take a wide berth around to the east to avoid the jumble of crevasses forming just east of Camp Schurman.

The
Emmons route is in as good a shape as I can recall. It is extremely direct with only a few meandering end runs. Beware that the route is changing daily as the rapidly shifting Emmons opens up. The bergschrund remains easily negotiable.

The ski descent from the summit has been in fine shape. It is a bit rough for the first 1600 vertical feet, but is creamy and delighful below that if you seek out the right aspects.
Use caution on the firmer upper-mountain snowpack as there have been several impressive yardsales in the past few weeks.

The Winthrop Glacier route is also in great shape, but has seen only a handful of climbers this season.

July 2nd

EMMONS AND WINTHROP ROUTES IN GREAT SHAPE! The approach to Glacier Basin is easy and straightforward. The first two miles is snowfree and has been cleared by the Trails Crew. The last mile to Glacier Basin is on consolidated snow with a good boot track. Travel on the Inter Glacier and access to the Emmons from Camp Curtis is also in fine form with a good boot track up the Inter and an easy snow and rock ramp onto the Emmons.

There are now two snow ramps, the lower one being the preferred one. Once on the glacier, take a wide berth around to the east to avoid the jumble of crevasses forming just east of Camp Schurman.