Yes, there is still a boot path to the summit. And like the Muir Snowfield, it wouldn't take much for the path to become obscured during a storm. If you're climbing the mountain in the fall, don't expect to see many other parties (if any). Be prepared for the worst when it comes to storms, ice, and crevasse crossings.
As for the route, little has changed between Camp Muir and the top of the DC. Watch for the crevasses on the Cowlitz and Ingraham glaciers, but maybe even more so, watch your footing on the hard snow and ice conditions that dominate on the mountain. A small slip would likely leave you skittering into an exposed deep crevasse.
From the top of the cleaver, the route wanders to the Emmons and then back to the Ingraham. Expect large sun cups, large crevasses, and hard snow/ice most of the way. The RMI established boot path still exists, but they are done guiding for the season. That means that the route is no longer being maintained... In fact, it will probably deteriorate over time even w/ good weather.
If you're climbing, ensure that you mark your path and are able to handle rapidly changing weather.
The route remains relatively unchanged since the last few updates - still a long traverse onto the Emmons, still a couple of large crevasse openings. The nice weather in early September has made the summit success rate relatively high.
~ Theodore Cox
Disappointment Cleaver - August 30
A climbing-ranger summit team found an increasingly large foot path to the summit. It is actually a significant trench! Be careful stepping out of the trench on to the large sun-cups while other teams pass. We have had incidents of climbers stumbling onto other team's ropes. The route is still in great shape - with the long traverse onto the Emmons Glacier still intact and the entrance onto the cleaver still straight forward and safe. Enjoy!
~ Paul Charlton and Thomas Payne
Disappointment Cleaver - August 22
The route is still in good shape. Be cautious of crevasses that are beginning to open up at Camp Muir. One climber fell in a moat on the snow slopes at the base of the rocks on the north side (Cowlitz Glacier side) of the public shelter. This area has been roped off to keep climbers out of the area. Use caution when looking for a place to set up camp.
Getting to the DC is straightforward. However, be aware of rockfall coming off Cathedral Rock. The lower half of the cleaver is mostly rock. Please watch out for parties above and below you. The route above the cleaver makes a long traverse towards the Emmons. After a few switchbacks it makes another long traverse back towards the shoulder of Gib Rock.
Cracks are beginning to form on the crater rim so use caution when walking around the perimeter. There is also a large crack on the summit itself. Be aware of weakening snow bridges, especially during warm weather. The route crosses a lot of crevasses that can go unnoticed if you are not paying attention.
The climbing season is quickly coming to an end, so take advantage of the good weather while the route is still in shape!
~ Adrienne Sherred
Disappointment Cleaver - August 17
Conditions on the route remain enjoyable. Below the cleaver the route is very straight forward. The cleaver is mostly rock, so watch for other parties kicking down rocks from above you. Above the cleaver the route traverses right for quite a distance then switchbacks to an intersection up above 13,000. Left is the old trail with a long traverse to a large bridge that won't last much longer. Right is the new route RMI has established (well wanded). This route also has a large bridge that will eventually fail. Watch the weather and get off the mountain early before the sun weakens those bridges. Overall the route is in good shape, despite the deep trench from climbers and the flat traverses.
~ Sam Wick
Disappointment Cleaver - August 13
The route is in good condition. Lower freezing temperatures have kept the snow bridges in good condition, but if temperatures rise, be aware that the snow bridges will become unstable and the existing path may not be the safest route. Be ready to stray off the path to avoid newly unstable snowbridges.
The cleaver has now melted on the lower half, so exercise caution when approaching and climbing the rocky slopes. Be aware of other parties ahead or behind you that may have a potential to cause rockfall to fall your way. Also be aware that you may also potentially cause dangerous rockfall to rain on parties below. Move through these areas carefully but as quickly as possible and without stopping to minimize your exposure to the hazard.
Above the cleaver, climbers take the traverse to the Emmons shoulder. This traverse is about 12300' and crosses some steep slopes. The route then switchbacks up the shoulder to around 13,200', then it heads back to the southwest up to the summit. There are few small crevasses opening up on the shoulder, but so far they have been very easy to cross. Climbers in good condition have had no trouble reaching the summit.
Look here for more archived information on the DC...
These images were sent in by Rob Veal of Cascade Alpine Guides.
"Here are some quick notes about our Emmons ascent on Saturday... much of the boot track is
now melted out or obliterated by enormous (sometimes near man-size) suncups. We were unable to follow the track in the dark and ended up traversing far to the left of the track at around 10,500 feet. We traversed back right at around 13,000' and found our way back to the track. Above 13,000' the route is in pretty good shape to the summit. We managed to piece together the boot track line for the descent in the day, but it was tough going... in many places it is just a tilted, dirty channel through waist-high suncups. Several snowbridges on the track are now gone entirely, although alternate crossings (albeit a little sketchy) can still be found."
This report was sent in by colin sherman
James Garnett sent me this, from an ascent on 8/28
The cliffs above the Inter Glacier present a serious rockfall hazard. They're spitting rocks in sizes from pebbles to HUGE blocks. We witnessed several potentially deadly rockfalls that went far below the current base of the glacier, and fresh tracks from rockfall are all over it (including going across the present boot path on climbers' right). Right now, stay right and follow the boot track, and it's possible to get up the glacier without crampons. Do anything to minimize the time spent in the rockfall area, including time spent putting on crampons if they aren't necessary.
The Emmons boot track went all the way to the summit with only three minor gaps, all of which could be circumvented easily. The first is just above the Corridor, then one around 13,100', and finally the suncups: if you stray off the path, expect to spend a lot of time negotiating them.
It seems that many of the parties we met were going up the route for the first time... Their ascent times range from 9 to 12 hours. One team we talked to had spent 17 hours on the route, from Schurman to Schurman.
The Inter Glacier is a tilted ice rink, so bring your crampons and ropes. Though most of the crevasses on the Inter are quite obvious, there is always the chance of slipping on hard ice that dominates much of the glacier below Camp Curtis.
The climbing route above Schurman has a few variations. The word: "the main/direct route still goes, but has numerous sketchy crevasse crossings" (as reported again and again, see below.) But better yet, some have found an alternative route up the Winthrop Glacier. The traverse begins mid route, 12,500 or so... It travels climbers right (towards the Winthrop) and ascends mellower glacier terrain to the Col. That said, there are some large crevasses to cross, and remember that the Winthrop may be icier than the Emmons, as it sees less direct sunlight. Furthermore, this variation isn't quite as "fast" as the direct route.
~ Mike Gauthier
Oddly enough, it appears as though the route actually improved over the past week. Very little has changed below 11,500 feet; there is a wide boot track, but few wands. The corridor is relatively straight forward, but watch the crevasses between Emmons Flats and the entry to the corridor. One is particularly large, you may not notice it on the way up, but you'll see it in the daylight.
Between 11,800' and about 13K, there are a few sketchy crevasse crossings. But surprisingly, some of the wider crevasses near the top have pinched closed. For the most part, the route remains VERY direct. If you don't like the crossing, search for a better bridge; they do exist.
If you're climbing the Emmons, be cautious of hard glacier ice. This route is often icy later in the season when much of the winter snowpack melts off. The route is very beautiful these days, lots of amazing crevasses to see, and VERY few climbers.
~ Mike Gauthier
For the most part, the route remains rather direct, but there are a number of dicey crevasse crossings between 12K and 14K. See the Aug 1 report. Sooner or later, the route will need to deviate, as a few of the crossings are about to give way. That said, the upper reaches of the Winthrop Glacier are looking pretty good. When the bridges on the Emmons finally give way, climbers will probably traverse to the Winthrop.
~ Mike Gauthier
We have archived Emmons Glacier Route Reports for 2006 here.
Climbing rangers recently visited the lower Tahoma Glacier area and were able to look up the entire route. Somewhat surprisingly, there still appears to be a relatively straightforward line of ascent through all of the crevasses. Approaching the route from the east (Tahoma Creek Trail side) might be the easiest, with access to the glacier from the Emerald Ridge area. If approaching via the Puyallup Cleaver expect difficulties exiting the cleaver onto the glacier. However, just below lower St. Andrew's Rock there is a snow chute leading off the cleaver onto the edge of the glacier. From this point, weave through the crevasses onto the steeper upper section of the glacier, which still appears fairly direct.
It is exciting and rewarding to visit the Tahoma Glacier region this time of year. Expect challenging route finding plus beautiful scenery in the meadows and above, no matter how high you go.
~ Cooper Self and Paul Charlton
An independent party reported that the Tahoma Glacier was badly broken. Although this party did not summit, climbers who are looking for a more technical climb and want to work on their route finding skills, may find this to be an interesting option.
For more archived information, go here.
The Kautz is in good shape. There has been a lot of work done establishing camp sites on the route. There are excellent campsites at the top of the fan at 7,200 feet, at 9,500 feet above the two towers, and at 10,900 feet. These sites all have running water. There are a few other campsites on the route with snow that can be melted for water. All of these sites are very visible, with nice rock walls for wind protection.
The fixed line in the notch at 11,300 feet is still in place. Do not linger in the chute between the bottom of the fixed line and the base of the route. The chute is exposed to rockfall and serac fall from the ice cliffs above. After you cross the chute the technical climbing starts. The first pitch is a stair-steppy 45 degree ice ramp leading to a second pitch(approx. 70 meters) of quality ice up to 70 degrees in steepness. There is a small section of firm snow separating these two pitches.
Above the ice chute at 12,100 feet the route eases off in steepness and there were a few open crevasses to cross, as well as some thinning snow bridges. The route then angles up to the right across a large crevasse on an adequate snow bridge. Then the route continues up a steeper snow slope towards the top of the Wilson Headwall. From the top of the snow slope continue on gentle slopes to the summit.
~ Philip Edmonds
We don't have any first hand reports, but there is a trip report over on cc.com. For archived information on this site, look here.
Keith Young and Jim Cullem made a successful ascent of the Edmunds Headwall on July 29th.
They camped at 8,600 feet on lower Ptarmigan Ridge, in a walled bivy site which was easy to find. Look for it after you pass Observation Rock, along the spine of
Ptarmigan Ridge. From the bivy, the pair descended 900 feet of scree in a gully (near their bivi) to the snowfield above the North Mowich Glacier. Use caution here, as the rock is very loose (i.e. wear your helmet!)
From the snowfield, traverse and climb towards the Mowich Face. The team pushed across the North Mowich Glacier and a few glacier islands towards a large gendarme at the base of the Edmunds Headwall. They camped at the base of the gendarme, near 10K, which marks the upper part of the Edmunds Glacier (9 hours from camp.) The gendarme also offered some protection from rockfall off the face.
The ascent began at 3:45 a.m in an attempt to minimize rockfall issues. Note, however, that the route is protected from solar radiation until the mid to late morning. From camp, they crossed the bergschrund in a red scree gully. This involved 40 feet of climbing over loose, unprotectable rock, before ascending right into the snow and ice of the headwall.
There was rockfall on the route, so the team moved quickly from rock band to rock band which provided some shelter. The ice conditions on the face were described as GREAT: firm neve for ax placement, and sun-cupping for flat-footing and rest positions.
Up the face they went. There are some break and rest points along they way, and an eastward traverse near the bench at 12,500 feet. The team was able to use buried pickets and ice screws for protection when needed. From the top of the face to Liberty Cap, things went smoothly. The two pitched camp on the summit plateau between the top of Curtis Ridge and Columbia Crest after 18 hours of travel. The next day, they traversed onto the Emmons route and descended to Camp Schurman.
Both climbers really enjoyed the route, but agreed that it may be near the end its climbing season.
Photos and some text by Keith Young & Jim Cullem
If your favorite route up the mountain is melted out, or you still can’t come up with the 30 bucks for the climbing fee, or you just want to look at the Rainier routes from afar instead of slog up them, head for the Tatoosh. On a clear day, you can take in most of the range looking south from Camp Muir. I’ve spent the better part of many days staring at the Tatoosh from the Butler Hut and listening to Tatoosh traverse stories. Some call it a “meadow run” (B.S.). Others call it an “ ___ buster” and all agree it’s “an easy place to get lost or cliffed-out”. The ridge line extends more or less continuously from Eagle Peak in the west to Stevens Peak at the east end. The eleven peaks range in height from 5,958 ft (Eagle Peak) to 6971ft. (Unicorn) and on a good, long day or better yet two days, you can tag all eleven. The trail, which mostly sticks to the ridge from Boundary to Plummer, is well worn but rarely traveled. Some peaks, like Pinnacle (6567 ft) for instance, have trails to the summit block. Other parts of the traverse require some route finding.
Last week the meadows were in full bloom and there was still just enough snow pack remaining to refuel with water along the route. We started from the Tatoosh Lake trail head, outside of the park off FS road 5270. The Tatoosh Lake trail takes you to the ridge at 5200 ft. From there, you can either descend to the lake for water, or you can head directly to Boundary. From either the ridge or the lake the way to Boundary requires some route finding. The terrain is mixed and gorgeous in every direction. We went around and under some obvious cliff bands, through meadows and across a couple steep scree fields on the way to Boundary. Along the way, we disturbed grouse and deer, and stepped over bear scat and porcupine remains. We hiked through glacier lily, paintbrush, beargrass, and red columbine.
Leaving Unicorn toward Foss (6534 ft.) involves a short scramble down some rock onto a snow field (ice ax is handy here). People have reported that the way to Wahpenayo (6231ft) also involves some cliff-hanger route-finding moments, but we ran out of time and descended to Snow Lake and Stevens Canyon Road after Plummer. The nice thing about this traverse is that there are plenty of exit options before Eagle Creek trail should you run out of time or fair weather.
Here’s a few tips for the trip:
- Bring some serious bug killer or prepare to be eaten alive
- Bring a GPS, map, compass, and someone who knows how to use them.
- Refill your water containers at every opportunity. In later months, be prepared to bring lots of water with you.
- Pack light and wear some trail runners or light hiking shoes.
- Take it easy on the tender meadows.
- Get a backcountry permit for overnight.
- Be in excellent shape or prepare to suffer.
- Be happy on Class 3 terrain.
~ Lynn Finnel