Liberty Ridge Route Conditions - June 26th
Not much news, other than a number of successful-during-good-weather,as well as failed-attempts-during-bad-weather, reports. One thing that continually happens is that almost everyone can't do the route as fast as they think they can. Plan for it. Here is an aerial image by Stoney Richards, taken on June 26th.
~ Mike Gauthier
Conditions on the route were excellent during a climb on June 18-19. There is a good boot track from Glacier Basin up to St. Elmo's Pass, across the Winthrop Glacier to lower Curtis Ridge and the edge of the Carbon Glacier. Above Glacier Basin the approach is completely snow covered, with 60% snow coverage below Glacier Basin.
We encountered no significant problems ascending the Carbon Glacier to lower Liberty Ridge. There are a few snowbridges that may cause the route to change course over the next few weeks, but overall the glacier is easily navigable. Lower Liberty Ridge (from the toe to Thumb Rock) seemed more melted out than it normally does this time of the year. Not much snow remained on the western aspect of the lower ridge and quite a bit of rock was falling from that region as we approached during midday. In order to avoid the long traverse on the lower ridge, we continued ascending the Carbon Glacier towards the Liberty Wall, but stayed out of any danger from the seracs.
Crossing a snowbridge we then climbed the snow slope on the western side of the ridge that leads directly from the glacier to the Thumb Rock high camp. This seemed to expose us to less rockfall than our other approach options. This snow slope is shown in the photo at left. (Thumb Rock is the prominent spire.)
There was a well-kicked-in boot track leading left and up from Thumb Rock. Another option is to climb a short apron of good ice by ascending directly upslope from Thumb Rock. Snow conditions are solid, making for fast climbing. There is one fairly long section (500+ vertical feet) of moderately steep ice in the area around the Black Pyramid. Ice screws are required for this section if you intend to place protection.
A large snowbridge led easily across the climber's right side of the bergschrund (see photo below). If this snow bridge falls in there will still be decent avenues for crossing the bergschrund, though they may require short sections of ice climbing. Above the bergschrund there is one last section of exposed ice before you arrive at the snow slopes leading to Liberty Cap.
From the summit, if your car is at White River make sure that you are descending the Emmons Route and not the Disappointment Cleaver! This is becoming a frequent mistake made by Liberty Ridge climbers. Since the eastside highway at Mt. Rainier (Hwy 123) is closed this summer, it takes a very long time to hitchhike from Paradise to White River.
Presently the Emmons Route doesn't have a very noticeable boot track as it reaches Columbia Crest (on the west side of the crater) from due north. Hence, teams miss the proper descent and start down the DC, which traverses far enough towards the Emmons Glacier to deceive people into thinking that it will take them to Schurman. It doesn't.
~Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton, NPS
This report is from Dmitry Shapovalov
The conditions on the route (together with the weather) were ideal - tracks through the Carbon Glacier, then tracks on the ridge all the way to the two pitches of ice climbing below Liberty Cap. While ascending to the Thumb Rock, we noted four big avalanches from Ptarmigan Ice Cliff (all around noon to 2 p.m.). The dust cloud of the last one even reached people at the base of LR!! On the day of the climb we left Thumb Rock at 4 a.m. and reached the ice pitches around 10 a.m. Simultaneous roped climbing on hard snow was how we travelled all the way up. We did a couple of short belays while crossing bridges over crevasses at the upper snowfields.
First ice lead ("bergschrund") was excellent - good solid ice, which makes some people wish they'd left their soft trekking crampons at home. During the next lead ice changes to hard snow (ice axe or picket belay) and after this one can walk up to the Liberty Cap.
After spending a night in the summit crater we relaxed somewhat and left around 8 a.m., which happened to be wrong. We went down the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman. The tracks were rather vague and wandered up and down around big crevasses of the upper mountain.
We inadvertently dropped a pack while descending (it was not secured to the rope). After flying over one big crevasse the pack disappeared into a larger crevasse. We had no choice but to rappel directly down and recover it. That took 3 hours. First crevasse was pretty easy (10ft drop), but the second one required 40ft free hanging rappel to its bottom. There we found my pack. Luckily, nothing was lost.
Then we had to climb 20 ft up the other side of the crevasse and keep descending down the slopes to Camp Schurman. It was near noon and the snow was soft as hell; therefore we could not move fast. We had to clean our crampons from the snow every second step. In such a bad conditions we reached Schurman only at 3 p.m., after 7 hours of "adventures".
Photos by Dmitry Shapovalov
A team of two climbers recently climbed Liberty Ridge from White River and descended the Disappointment Cleaver to Paradise. Upon reaching Paradise they reported to the rangers that the route was in great shape with enjoyable climbing. The beginning of the approach trail from White River was broken (see Glacier Basin Trail); the Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers were well filled-in for relatively straight forward glacier travel (watch for crevasses). Interestingly, three large avalanches from the Willis and Liberty Walls were noted, so stay clear of possible runout zones as you approach the base of Liberty Ridge.
The Ridge itself was described as being in good shape with a mix of hard snow and ice. The bergschrund was fairly well filled in with snow and easy to climb. The slopes in the vicinity of the bergschrund provided the overall crux of the climbing. The ice was reported to be of good quality and the team recommended bringing 3-4 ice screws.
Aerial photo by Mike Gauthier 5-22
May 13th, 2007
Climbers have been getting up and down this route. Even though the road into White River is still closed, a party summitted Liberty Ridge last week. The approach is long and involves bicycling or walking to White River Campground (11 miles) then bushwhacking up the destroyed Glacier Basin Trail (extra 2 hours). From St. Elmo's pass the traverse to the Carbon Glacier across the Winthrop Glacier and over Curtis Ridge was reported to be straightforward.
The Carbon Glacier was reported to be relatively well filled-in so the route finding to the base of Liberty Ridge relatively easy. Once on the ridge, parties have found soft snow conditions up to Thumb Rock (typical). Above Thumb Rock the conditions are a mix of hard ice, wind-scoured hard snow, and soft snow to the top of the Black Pyramid. After the Black Pyramid getting through the bergschrund is reported to be fairly direct with styrofoam snow. Here is a CC trip report.
For more information on Liberty Ridge, check out our 2006 reports.