Not too much has changed on the Emmons since the last posting. Last weekend the mountain received about 3 inches of snow, which didn't do much to the route except cover the old boot pack and make a couple of teams have to think a little harder about where they should climb.
On the approach the Inter glacier is becoming icy and there are a few large crevasses up high. So parties should be prepared to rope up and use crampons for the approach. Also be careful right at Schurman, as there are large crevasses all around camp and the bridges are not getting any stronger. As for the route itself it is still in good shape. There are some large crevasses to negotiate but they can all be done in a safe way. With the cooler temps we had over the past week, parties reported very firm snow conditions up high on the route.
Finally, know your party's ability and be observant of conditions when you climb. I watched a very slow moving group on Saturday morning ascending as the weather was obviously deteriorating. They ended up summitting but had to descend in a whiteout with fresh snow falling over their tracks. They almost made it back to Schurman by 11 p.m. that night, but could not negotiate the last set of crevasses for some reason and ended up bivying at the flats until daylight. That was a long day/cold night that could have been easily avoided if they had been a little more in tune with the events and themselves.
The Emmons Glacier is in great condition for this late in the season. But where are the climbers? The weather has not been super stable but we had some warm days this past week... and some new snow. Camp Schurman has been quiet all week long and the climbers that showed up had the mountain all to themselves. Summer is coming to an end but this route will probably hold up nicely, well into September.
The Glacier Basin Trail is in good shape and easy to follow after a summer of hikers. There is flowing water at the base of the Inter Glacier. Its a good place to tank up and get ready for the snow. There is ice at the top of the first steep slope. Crampons are useful here. This is a good spot to rope up on top of the steep slope. The glacier has some cracks that are easy to step over or walk around. The trail is still fairly direct. The Lower Emmons is mellow. When you get to Camp Schurman take the UPPER bridge NOT the lower bridge. See photos below.The biggest problem area has been between Camp Schurman and Emmons Flats. See right photo. There have been a few crevasse falls in this area. The route to the summit has been changing slowly but still follows the same route it has been. At the top of the corridor the route traverses up and right to about 12,800 feet. The bergschrund is not too bad and is traversed on the right. From there it is easy travel to the summit.
The route is still in great shape. From Camp Schurman up to the Flats the glacier is a little broken but the bridges are still passable. This might be changing soon if the weather gets hot like it's supposed to be in August. Until then be safe while crossing, especially if you are carrying all your gear to the Flats. From there the corridor is straightforward up to a traverse at 11,700 feet. The route then switchbacks up to 12,400 feet and traverses on the level for a while. From there it is straightforward up to another small traverse at 12,800. Past this traverse the route is great up the the bergschrund which is easy to cross on climber's right and continues with a straight shot to the crater rim.
The Inter Glacier is melting out more and more as the season goes on. We chose the Mt. Ruth way, albeit adding a little more distance and a lot more rock. Otherwise refer to the post below for more specific details about passage on the Inter Glacier.
Have a safe and fun climb, Peter Jewell
Great weather made many teams happy to be out on the mountain this last week. The Emmons Glacier is still in great shape but changing quickly with all of the sunshine. The approach up the Inter Glacier only has one major crevasse crossing right now which most parties are just jumping (it's about 14" wide). The snow on the Inter Glacier is melting quickly, and a large section of hard glacier ice is protruding through. Skiers will find better snow from the top of the Inter to the base of the glacer if they stay to skier's left.
Almost every team is choosing to access the Emmons Glacier from Camp Curtis, which involves a descending traverse from the campsites. So far, the way isn't too rock-ridden, but later in the summer as the glacier melts the path can be subject to lots of loose rock. There are BIG crevasses on the lower Emmons below Schurman, so rope up. Photo by Heather Thorne
Climbers are leaving Camp Schurman early (2:00 a.m.) to try for the summit and return to camp before the hottest part of the day. The full moon on the 29th helped out a lot by lighting up the route. Despite generally good climbing conditions, there are three areas in which parties have been noticing major hazards.
- The first is right out of Camp Schurman before the Emmons Flats. There is a weakening crevasse bridge and when it goes it will go big.
- The second is at the top of the corridor at around 11,800 feet. There is a jumble of hard ice, weak snow, and vertical as well as horizontal crevasses. This makes it hard for parties to assess whether or not their entire rope team is over a single crevasse or not. Please be careful here and don't just assume the "beaten path which has turned into a trench" is safe.
- The third major hazard on the route is the crevasse at 13,500 feet. A climber relayed that he destroyed the bridge/step most teams were using to cross this crevasse. Yesterday (Aug. 2nd) some teams reported using a narrow but deep (thick) bridge 15 yards to the climber's left to cross it. Other teams said they kept traversing to the climber's right and found a wider bridge, but with an unknown thickness, to cross. No teams started traversing all the way toward the Liberty Cap Saddle although this action might happen soon if all the crevasse bridges start to fail at 13,500 feet. Image at left shows climbers crossing the bergschrund (image by Heather Thorne.
Jim Springer, a former Mount Rainier climbing ranger and now a climbing ranger at the Tetons, climbed with his son last Tuesday. They made great time in excellent style (see photo to the right). It was great to hear all of the interesting bits of history he shared.
~ Tom "House of" Payne
Look here for 2007 archived information.