Gibraltar Ledges Route Conditions - July 6th
This report was contributed by Brent Nixon:
A friend and I climbed the route on Friday July 6th. We ascended the Cowlitz Glacier (5:20 a.m.); the snow was styrofoam so the trip went very fast to the ledges. There was one significant crevasse on the steeper section, but there was a nice bridge on the right hand side. Afterward, we shot to the ledges and arrived around 6:30 a.m.
Once on the ledges (we short roped this section) we didn’t use pro. I found the route pretty straightforward and easy to follow. It was mainly loose dirt and rock, however there were some sections of frozen dirt (from the drips above) and a small section of frozen snow leading into the exit chute. We hugged tight to the wall and did not hear or see any falling rocks except for the few we dislodged. Our crampons worked great, and allowed us to dig into the loose and frozen dirt. We mainly used our hands for balance and kept the axes stashed. That said, if you grab a hold (i.e. a rock) there is a chance you might take it with you.
There were great views from the ledge, and it was a fun traverse. The exit chute had a short technical section over the 'schrund. One axe placement high got me off the bridge and I hauled over the nasty hole to the upper snow slope. My second opted for a 20 foot rock section just right of where I climbed - perhaps a bit safer considering the bridge...
My partner had a headache at the top of Gibraltar so we traversed over the Ingraham headwall to top of the DC. This really wasn’t that straightforward. At one point, we dead-ened on top of a serac with the DC clearing in site yet steeply below (there was a crowd watching our progress). We ended up down-climbing into the crevasse, then uphill to a large snow bridge where we had to scamper across to the DC boot path. BTW, there are some big crevasses opening up on that route. From there, it was just a matter of following the main track to the summit.
We descended the DC about 1 p.m. – the snow was really soupy and gross with the heat, borderline treacherous with our crampons balling up. ALL of the fixed pickets were severely melted out. Also, there was some amount of rockfall under the cleaver (on the traverse) out onto the Ingraham.
INTERESTING NOTE: There is a great little stream pouring down the dirt and rock about 200 yards north of Muir out along the upper edge of the snowfield where we got drinking water instead of melting. Really easy to find.
This route, for the most park, has largely melted out. That said, here is a recent aerial image of the ledges and Gib Chute, taken by Stoney Richards on June 26th. If things were to cool off, the Chute may be a nice climb from Camp Muir, if you're a fast moving team, or a great skier looking for a fine line to carve.
~ Mike Gauthier
This route is starting to melt out, but recent snow and cooler weather are allowing the ledges to stay in shape longer than usual. The approach to the ledges is very straight forward via the Beehive Ridge or the Cowlitz Glacier. On the Beehive ridge there are a few steps of 4th class scrambling. The Cowlitz has some open crevasses and some steep snow sections. The ledges themselves are about 1/3 rock, 1/3 snow/ice, and 1/3 "snirt" (snow - dirt). The rock and snirt sections are fairly easy to navigate, but almost impossible to protect. The snow section of the ledges is the last part of the traverse and extends all the way into Gibralter Chute. There are a few crevasses to navigate through between the end of the ledges and where the chute meets the end of Gibralter Rock. From that point the route is almost a straight line to the summit. The largest crevasse to cross is close to 13000'. Right now there are a few snow bridges that cross this crevasse. At about 13600' this route meets up with the DC and follows that to the top.
At least one climbing party has summitted via the ledges this spring. They reported the route to be in good condition, although they did have to navigate through some technical rock and ice sections on the traverse (low 5th class). The snow sections were reportedly nice and "styrofoamy".
If you choose to climb this route, be aware that you are very susceptible to rockfall and icefall from above. The best time to climb is in early morning during freezing conditions. This is an early season route. Drop us a note if you climb the route.
For more information on the Gibraltar Ledges route, check out the 2006 reports.