Liberty Ridge Route Conditions - July 28th
Michael Picard sent me this trip report. His team didn't summit, but they wanted to share their experiences.
My friend Brett and I attempted Liberty Ridge this last weekend. We were making out attempt Friday night to beat the report of yet another cloudy weekend arriving Saturday. We couldn't make it onto the route, but thought others would be interested in this info.
The top of the Carbon looked really broken. After we descended onto the Carbon we crossed the crevasses to the other side and ascended a half icefall, half snow ramp on the Ptarmigan ridge side to access the upper Carbon. We zigzagged through crevasses on a "direct" line to the base of what used to be the snow ramp accessing the base of Liberty ridge in the July 8th shot on your site.
We became marooned on the edge of a 30' wide crevasse that spanned from the rock base of liberty ridge to the rock of Ptarmigan ridge. We went all the way to Ptarmigan ridge and there was no exit on the uphill side without vertical ice climbing. We couldn't get close enough to see because of the piece of glacier we were on were separated; it looks like the only weakness in this wall might be the loose rock against the base of Liberty ridge. If we descended into the crevasse it would have been about 40-50 of vertical ice on the uphill side. If we had made it past that crevasse it looked like there was another just as big beyond.
The snow ramp, mentioned earlier, is gone. There is an 8-10 foot step (visible in photo) where the ramp used to be. It looks like the best access might be the icefall to the right of the step.
The rest of the route looked great, but we didn’t get to really check it out. There were clean snow slopes leading all the way up to the Black Pyramid.
It is early July and the temperatures are soaring, but Liberty Ridge is still in good shape. Climbing rangers ascended this route over the weekend and found it quite enjoyable. The route is still very much snowcovered and should continue to offer a rewarding climb to those people willing to put forth the effort.
The approach from White River and over St. Elmo's Pass is very straightforward. The Glacier Basin trail is all snowfree now and the trail re-routes are easy to follow as long as you keep your eye out for the four foot strips of caution flagging placed every 15 feet or so by our dedicated trail crews. The Winthrop crossing is in great shape with very minor crevasse dangers. Access onto the Carbon Glacier from Curtis Ridge is very nice right now with a great entrance point just above 7,000 feet. Heading up the Carbon towards the route became increasingly difficult for us since the warm temps have started to melt our fine snowpack and expose some large crevasses. We ended up finding a route that went along the right side of the glacier and then traversed to the ridge at around 9,000 ft. The access across the Carbon and onto Liberty Ridge itself, although still very passable at the moment, is going to be the determining factor as to how long the route will be climbable.
We got onto the west side of Liberty Ridge around 9,200 and found a great snowslope heading up to Thumb Rock. We had to keep our heads up and dodge a few rocks, but we made it to the bivy area and enjoyed spectacular views of the sun setting while the Puget Sound metropolitan area was lighting up for the night.
The next morning we started climbing as the sun came up and found conditions to be warm and soft but still enjoyable. We climbed around the left side of Thumb Rock and then took a direct line to the east side of the Black Pyramid. There was some significant rockfall hazard in this area but we minimized our exposure and made it through safely. Once we were on the large snowfield on the east side of the Black Pyramid the climbing became much more enjoyable since we were out of the rockfall hazards and onto a nice sustained snowslope that took us the rest of the way up the route. We stayed on the ridge the whole time and found a very nice set of snow ramps leading to a very short ice "pitch" (really just about three moves) that allowed us to gain the gentler snowslopes of Liberty Cap. From there we continued up and then descended the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman and finally back to our "Hannah Van" (named in honor of the injured) at White River Campground.
~ Cooper Self, NPS
For more information on Liberty Ridge, see our archieved conditions for spring 2007