Ptarmigan Ridge - 2007

Ptarmigan Ridge Route Conditions - July 30th

RMI guide Clint Helander sent this thoughts on a recent attempt of Ptarmigan Ridge.

With a few days of high pressure in the air, we decided to go have a fun jaunt on Ptarmigan Ridge. We took care of logistics and arrived at Mowich Lake at about 9:15PM.

We had light packs since, intending to do a single push to the Disappointment Cleaver route. We made quick time to Spray Park and found the climber's trail heading towards the mountain; the mountain, btw, was illuminated by the full moon. We took a good break at ca. 8,400' before dropping down the left side of the ridge to make better time via the snow. We didn't rope up, but we did throw on our harnesses and rescue rack. We stayed close to the ridge and navigated without any difficulties, never feeling uncomfortable despite the sometimes steep and icy slopes. After an hour or so of elevation gain, we made it back to the ridge when the sun came up. The Stuart Range, Mt Baker, Mt Shuksan, and every other visible Cascade north of Rainier greeted us as we neared 10,300'.

We were prepared to take a short break and then begin the descent/traverse to the true start of the route but our hearts sank as we noted out path was through the “gun barrel” of death. To get on the route would be irresponsible and not worth the dire and deathly consequences. While snow still lined most of the route, the route was still covered with immense signs of rockfall and icefall. Most notably was the traverse under the 11,5K buttress (where the two variations begin). Even that left couloir variation was splattered with rockfall and icefall/slides. We explored every option from the Ice Cliff (Beckey) variation to the Mowich, but our time was up. We took a short nap and watched the Willis Wall rip a few times before descending.

It took us less than 8 hours to reach the 10,300' level and we had expected it to take roughly 24 hours in total. Next year, I guess.
For a party still looking to do the route, it could probably be done, but it would be wise to be at the 10,300' level in the afternoon and then hit the shrund at midnight, giving them optimal protection from the inevitable rockfall that is currently present on the stretches of the route under 12,500'.

On the way out, we were startled to see a FRESH slide on the left variation of the route (the ice couloir). Our minds raced as we wondered if it had occurred that morning, but it was clear that it was VERY new. It shined in the sun as we hit Spray Park and it was a clear sign that this route is not only physically and technically challenging, but extremely mentally challenging as well. We met two friends in the parking lot who were going to attempt the route as well. They ended up camping at 8,400' and paralleled our thoughts of the current route conditions.

Disappointing as it was to not even get on the fun parts of the route, it was a great trip with tremendous friends and will surely be attempted under better conditions next year with improved times and even lighter packs. Fresh ski tracks on the Russell and lots of hikers on the trail. Just goes to show that a summit isn't always the only reward of climbing.

July 8th

Another report of Sky Sjue.

Dan and I climbed Ptarmigan Ridge and descended the Edmunds Headwall this weekend. We left Mowich Lake Sunday morning at 1:45 am.

Ptarmigan Ridge was in great shape on Sunday. Lovely snow, big exposure, plus some ice and "snice" made for exhilarating climbing to the upper rock buttress. We took the climber's left variation and braved possible flak from Liberty Cap Glacier. Only one pitch was really exposed to the objective hazard, but it went quickly with wonderful plastic blue ice. It was that one-stick wonder where your pick goes "thunk" and visions of world peace fill your head. We belayed four pitches from the buttress to the mellow upper Liberty Cap Glacier. The fourth pitch featured a few tenuous vertical steps on rotten vertical bulges - unprotectable and heady, but not too difficult. Liberty Cap Glacier was easy to navigate to Liberty Cap, albeit arduous with never-ending rolling slopes toward the top, late in a long day.

We were hoping for good conditions to make a quick ski descent of the Edmunds Headwall. I made turns off the top on perfect corn, but became increasingly wary of blue glacier ice lurking beneath the corn. Sidestepping got old after several hundred feet so I changed into crampons - always fun to hack a platform and exchange gear on a fifty degree slope with blue ice. We donwclimbed the Edmunds Headwall because it wasn't in good condition to ski. It is, however, in excellent condition for an exciting climb. We reached the North Mowich Glacier by scrambling on some rock to get to a good bridge over the bergschrund on climber's left of the left rabbit ear. Photo of ice sections (climbers right variation).

We left our shoes by some rocks above 9,000 ft on the Russell Glacier, so I had the great pleasure of climbing more scree than usual up Ptarmigan Ridge. Dan and I parted ways on the Russell Glacier, where he was going to take a nap and wait for the snow to soften. I wanted to get home in time for an afternoon meeting at the lab, so I skied the Russell and hiked through Spray Park to reach my car by 11:30 am. Spray Park is really beautiful right now - the avalanche lilies are in bloom. This was a very engaging 34-hour push.

July 4th

Yet another fantastic route report with photos, by Joe Sambataro.

Einar Osterhaug and I climbed Ptarmigan Ridge on July 3rd to make up for last year's faded plans. With all the recent trip reports and with a week off, we felt hopeful to climb Ptarmigan. Despite Mowich Lake Road opening up June 28th, we went in via White River to avoid a car shuttle as there were only 2 of us. Leaving late on Sunday, we took a leisurely approach and camped at Glacier Basin the first night. We finished the approach to Point 10310 up St. Elmo's Pass and across the Winthrop, Curtis Ridge, Carbon, and Russell on the second day. Conditions were still good for the traverse.

After a windy (and sandy) evening at our bivy spot, we packed and headed up around 4:45 a.m. We took the standard start across the shrund (still easily crossable) and tended left. At the standard traverse into the gully system, we traversed high directly under the large roof. Einar belayed me out on snice and loose rock while I looked down at the easy snow traverse we could have taken (see photo of route and traverse). We pitched/simuled the right variation with some fine sections of snow and ice (see photo of Einar leading up right side). The short rock step provided some fun hooking on solid rock--I clipped the fixed pin and got a knifeblade higher on the left (see photo below on left).

Once on the lower Liberty Cap Glacier around 2:00 p.m., we unfortunately encountered 1-2 feet of unsettled, windblown softpack, most likely due to the snowfall earlier in the week when Paradise got 4" of new snow. It was slow going trying to plow through so we opted to bivy at 13,000' on the western end of Liberty Cap Glacier out of the wind (see photo lower right). One day short of seeing all the fireworks in the cities below, we finished the climb to Liberty Cap and descent via the Emmons back to the car and home.

Overall, the approach and route conditions were in great shape despite the relatively high freezing levels of 13 k. As for gear, we carried 2 pickets, 2 flukes, 4 screws, 4-5 stoppers, and 2 shorty knifeblades.

June 26th

Here is a close up aerial image taken on June 26th by Stoney Richards of the Ptarmigan Ridge crux, above the North Mowich Icefall. The route is still looking quite good for climbing.

June 21st

Presently the Mowich Lake Road is still closed (FYI, now it's open), adding approximately 4 miles to the approach to Ptarmigan if coming from the northwest side of the mountain. To mitigate this, a number of parties have been approaching the climb from White River, traversing the lower Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers to access lower Ptarmigan Ridge from the east. This approach remains in good shape. There is a solid boot track (made by Liberty Ridge teams) all the way from St. Elmo's pass to the Carbon Glacier. From there, straightforward ramps lead across the glacier and safe snowfields ascend to Ptarmigan Ridge at its 9,000' point. At some stage enough snow will melt that this approach may become more difficult and/or exposed to rockfall, but it should last a few more weeks at the least.

This approach route to Ptarmigan makes sense as it can help avoid a cumbersome car shuttle, assuming you descend the Emmons Glacier back to White River. Parties continue to routinely descend from their Liberty Ridge climb to the DC and Camp Muir by accident, at Columbia Crest mistaking the well-trodden DC for the barely noticeable Emmons route. Try not to do that if your car is at White River.

Photo by Tim Matsui, Dan Aylward leading out from Ptarmigan Ridge high camp towards the rock bands below 11,500 feet.

~Report by Paul Charlton, NPS

For more information on Ptarmigan Ridge, see our spring 2007 achieved conditions

Liberty Ridge - 2007

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.

July 8th

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

Tahoma Glacier 2007

Tahoma Glacier Route Conditions - July 7th

This report with photos was contributed by Scott Kindred.

We climbed the Tahoma Glacier and descended the DC on July 5-7. To do this, Tony dropped Tom and me off at the Tahoma Creek trailhead, then drove back to park the van at Longmire, where he then rode his road bike back to the trailhead. We expected the West Side Road to be paved and didn’t really think about the 800 feet of vertical Tony would have to climb on his bike. That gave Tony a nice pre-climb workout. Photo of Scott on Emerald Ridge with Tahoma Glacier behind.

I had decided to climb with lightweight hiking boots, which worked to my advantage on the trail to Emerald Ridge. The Tahoma Creek trail was is better-than-expected condition with excellent flagging through the washed out areas and almost all the blowdown cut away. Where the trail intersected the top of Emerald Ridge at 5,600 feet we decided to continue up the ridge over some easy rock scrambling rather than drop down on the glacier. Photo: Tahoma Creek approach (note lack of trail).

This option worked out pretty well since it saved us from losing elevation and was a pretty good transition onto the glacier. We followed the obvious ramps on the climber’s right side of the glacier to our camp at about 8,300 feet.

Around 8:30 that evening we were surprised by a team of 5 climbers ascending the route. Turns out they had left their tents at about 9,500 feet and climbed the route several days earlier, expecting to down-climb back to camp. That climb, however, ended up being much more difficult than anticipated and they instead decided to descend to Muir rather than down-climb the Tahoma Glacier. We met them as they were climbing back to retrieve their gear. Talk about a major bummer! When I asked them about the route they told us of challenging crevasse navigation, a 50-foot rappel to get around a big crevasse, and a section of 60 degree ice. Hmmm… that didn’t sound right. We thought, “Maybe they just messed up and got off route. Maybe they’re just not very experienced.” Let’s just say that our respect for their abilities would grow over the next 24 hours.

At our first camp, we also discovered that it’s very important to shelter your stove from the wind. It took us three hours to melt six liters using a gas stove that has always worked well in the past. At this rate we would not have enough fuel to complete the route. After considering our options we decided we ask the other team if we could have their extra fuel, so that our climb would more likely succeed.

The next morning we slept in to 4:30 before breaking camp. Given the navigation challenges that we expected, our plan was to navigate in the daylight rather than dark. Last year we wasted several hours in the dark trying to find the repel point on the Kautz Glacier route and we didn’t want to repeat that experience. Furthermore, we didn’t want to wake up the other team too early since they would be sleeping in and we really wanted their gas.

We arrived at the other team’s camp around 6:00 and begged for fuel. They were very forgiving of the early morning wake up and graciously gave us half a bottle. All I can say to these helpful climbers is thank you very much. May good karma follow you on all your future climbing adventures. In addition to the fuel re-supply, their description of the route allowed us to avoid the aforementioned rappel.

We climbed onto a ridge that headed up the glacier (this ridge is apparent on the topo map). The previous climbers had continued up the ridge because it appeared to offer a crevasse-free route compared to the center of the glacier. Somewhere above 10,000 feet however, their progress was blocked by a huge crevasse that cut across the ridge. This was the point where they had to rappel to continue. Based on their info, we found a place around 9,600 feet to navigate off the ridge and down onto the center of the glacier. It was a bit tricky given the big crevasse that bordered the west side of the ridge, but doable.

We continued up the center of the glacier avoiding many crevasses and snow bridges. The snow ranged from hard to slightly soft and provided excellent cramponing. We stopped at 11,000 feet to make more water. This time the stove worked like a charm and we had another 6 liters in about an hour. We decided that the poor stove performance the previous evening was due to inadequate protection from the wind. The slopes in the 9,000- to 12,000-foot range were variable in steepness and seemed to max out in the 40-45 degree range. Here's a photo of Scott and Tom around 11,500 feet.

At 12,000 feet the slope steepened. We could see old faded steps from the previous party that went straight up the slope. Warm temps over the previous days had actually lowered the snow around the footprints so the footprints stood out in relief. Using two pickets for a running belay we did an upward traverse across an approximate 50 degree slope to a possible crevasse crossing. We encountered a short section of “white ice” on this slope before reaching a flat spot. (“White ice” meaning refrozen snow that you could penetrate about 1-2 inches with your ice axe and crampons.) We then debated whether to continue to our right across a rather shaky looking snow bridge and more 50 degree slopes with a huge gaper below or head left up a short section of 55-60 degree slope and no gaper below. We could see what appeared to be faded ski tracks on the slope to the right, suggesting the snow bridge was possibly more passable when it was skied 10 days previous. We decided to head left. Tony led and placed the two pickets for a running belay. The steep section was probably about one hundred feet of elevation that ranged from soft and stable snow to white ice. Tony wished for a second tool on the ice. With my lightweight hiking boots and aluminum crampons, now it was my turn to wimper. I comforted myself with the hope that the pickets would hold if things went bad. Things didn’t (thankfully) and I reached the top of the crux with no issues except tired calves. At that point, it was clear that the good samaritan climbers had provided us with accurate route information. Here's a photo of Tony and Tom on the steep section.

We continued up a continued steep (40-45 degrees) slope with crevasses on both sides that appeared to join above. Based on the previous trip report, we figured we needed to be further right and eventually found a snow bridge that crossed the crevasse to the right. Here's Tony leading across the snow bridge.

This worked out well and we continued up the 40-45 degree slope. The crevasse navigation continued to be interesting, particularly given the warm afternoon temperatures and soft snow. Although the soft snow provided secure footing, we did have to post-hole in places and some of the snow bridges were fragile. We often employed boot-axe belays across the bridges for security. This turned out to be a wise practice.

Somewhere around 13,000 feet, Tom set up a boot-axe belay so I could test a thin snow bridge. Keeping the rope tight and holding it with my right hand, I moved onto the snow when suddenly the bridge gave way beneath me and I was swinging in the air. My right hand was still holding the rope and my head was above the level of the crevasse. By digging my crampons into the icy sidewall of the crevasse and a helping hand from Tom, I was able to swing my leg up and over the edge of the crevasse. As we stood there panting, Tom reassuringly pointed out that, “Hey, those boot-axe belays really work.” It was the surprise in his voice that bothered me a bit.

The slope eased off around 13,400 feet and we headed for the top. Although there are a few small crevasses in this area of the mountain, we figured the snow bridges were bombproof and just motored along towards the top. Somewhere around 14,200 feet we passed about 100 feet west of an open crevasse. I was in the back with my head down slogging when I heard Tom (middle of rope) yell out only to see him sunk into the snow up to his pack. He had broken through a crevasse and all that he felt was air below his feet. Leaning forward and sinking in his ice axe, he was able to extricate himself quickly. Tony had crossed this area without problem (he’s about 30 pounds lighter) and there was no sagging or other indication that the snow bridge below… This was a good reminder for everyone.

We reached the summit at 7:30 p.m., after a very long day. We encountered really strong winds and figured that the crater would offer some amount of protection from the wind for camp. After exploring the west crater (no shelter there), we headed to the east crater and an abandoned site with snow walls. We enlarged to site to accommodate our tents and discovered that shoveling at 14,400 feet is not like shoveling closer to sea level. Tom melted snow while Tony and I crashed in our sleeping bags. We woke up to the first climbers entering the crater at 6:00 and headed down to Camp Muir. Here's a picture of our own little crater in the crater:

All in all, an excellent climb with just the right amount of challenge for us. The lack of people (except friendly souls with extra fuel) and moderate challenge makes this route special. I think we took the best route but it’s not certain how much longer it will be feasible given the current warm spell. If you approach from the Puyallup Cleaver, follow the skier’s advice and cross onto the Tahoma at 8,000 feet. It doesn’t look real good at 9,800 feet with steep snow and gapers at the bottom.

June 26th

Jordan Lipp contributed this report on the Tahoma Glacier. We've been short on west side-of-the-mountain updates, so this report comes at a great time.

Last week (6/24-26) two of my friends and I skied the Tahoma Glacier. I thought I'd pass along this information and a couple of photographs for the climbing blog.

The route was in great shape. We came in via St. Andrews Park and up the Puyallup Cleaver, which I would not recommend right now. We ascended to about 9,000' on the Cleaver before we decided that it was not passable, and skied down the Cleaver to about 8,000' (near Tokaloo Spire) where there was an easy descent onto Tahoma Glacier. It was an easy skin up the Glacier to 10,000'. We climbed mostly up the center of the glacier. Both the center of the glacier or far climber's right were in great shape. The climb above 10,000' was also straightforward. We climbed on the climber's left side of the glacier on the steeper section. The Sickle also looked good. (photo looking down- glacier)

Skiing from the summit was quite straightforward. We followed our ascent path down to 8,000', and continued skiing on the Tahoma Glacier to almost the toe of the glacier at 5,600' where we were only a couple hundred yards from catching the Wonderland Trail (near Emerald Ridge, opposite of Glacier Island). Photo looking up glacier, note ski tracks of ascent/descent line.

I think that for the next few weeks, the way to climb the Tahoma Glacier is to ascend the center or far climber's right up to 9,500', then ascend the climber's left side between 9,500' and 13,000'.

Another quick note, the snowbridge from the Puyallup Glacier to the Tahoma Glacier below St. Andrews Rock looked passable, but not in good shape. Further, we saw a decent-sized avalanche triggered by icefall on the climber's right section of the glacier on the steep section (photo of avalanche off Tahoma Cleaver).

Thanks Jordan for sharing a great route report and selection of images.

For more information about previous attempts and route conditions on Tahoma Glacier, check out our 2007 archived information on the Tahoma Glacier climbing route.

Gibraltar Ledges - 2007

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.

June 26th

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

June 15

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.

May 13

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.

Success Cleaver 2007

Success Cleaver and Success Couloirs - July 9th

This East Success Glacier Couloir report and photo was provided by Tacoma climber Terry McClain. Terry has 15 one day ascents of the mountain, via 10 different routes. His climbing partners were Marek Wencel and Mike Cook.

We departed Paradise at 6:40 p.m, on Monday hoping to get to the base of the route and avoid any route finding issues on the traverse. We crossed the Nisqually and headed up the fan (no slots open yet), moving slowly because it was still so hot out. We took a break from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. in a rock band at a point where we thought we could easily traverse onto the Success Glacier.

This was at 8400' by my altimeter. It ended up that we were too high and still on the Kautz. We lost several hours trying to get across some pretty dicey icefall and crevassed terrain (see line in photo). Backing up, we traversed below a rock band (7600'?) and finally traversed onto the Success Glacier. Temps were very warm, snow was still soft, and there was some rock fall coming down. Once we started up the east couloir we saw very little rock fall and the snow firmed up nicely. The bergschrund at approx. 10k was easily bypassed on right. One minor rock step around 12,000', and two more on upper Kautz Cleaver. Upper two rock bands had some ice below and above.

There was running water over rocks in many places along the route. We placed a few screws for running belays near the rock steps and a couple of pickets on the upper 'steep part' of the traverse in rocks below Point Success. There were a few spots where we sank to our hips in soft snow in this stretch, but for the most part it was easy step kicking. Eighteen hours up (including the 3 hour break) - 23 hrs. car to car.

Here are more of Terry's photos from the trip.

July 4th

Despite a 14,000'+ freezing level, my 4th of July NPS patrol of Success Cleaver brought overall fun climbing conditions with minimal rockfall. The route was a mix of scree, rock, and snow, with some sections of soft ice under under a shallow snow layer. Although all of my time on the ridge was during warm daylight hours (so that I could reach the crater in time to watch the fireworks), I only witnessed one section with falling rocks, which I was able to avoid. There is most certainly the potential for dangerous rockfall on the route, but conditions right now are very enjoyable. (Photo at right showing snowcover on Success Cleaver [sun/shade line] and Kautz Cleaver [center]).
The Wonderland Trail from Longmire to Indian Henry's was in good condition. Both of the bridges (over Kautz and Pyramid Creeks) are in. I made it to Indian Henry's wearing tennis shoes, but beyond there switched to boots. During the final two miles on the approach to Indian Henry's there was snow on the trail. The path is a bit difficult to find under the spotty snow cover, at least in the dark. There is now a faint boot track in the snow from Indian Henry's to lower Success Cleaver, but that, too, would be difficult to find in low-light conditions. However, if you are making these approaches during the daylight hours, attentive hiking should deliver you from Longmire to Success Cleaver without too much distress.

Expect that the approach via Kautz Creek to Indian Henry's will be similar in length and snow-cover to that approach from Longmire. If approaching from the Tahoma Creek Trail side, the suspension bridge is again open but the Tahoma Creek Trail is reportedly in bad condition. Call the Longmire WIC for up-to-date conditions on this trail.

The walking from the Pyramid Peak area to 10,000' on Success Cleaver alternated between firm snow slopes and stable scree. (See photo at left of scree at 8,000'.) Though this takes a long time, the terrain is straightforward and the footing steady. Above 10,000' I traversed on relatively steep and exposed snow slopes to the climber's right (east) of the rock crest, when such snow slopes were available. However, the terrain did require a fair amount of scrambling on the crest itself; though easy, this rock was exposed and occasionally loose. In some places the snow had melted away from the rock buttresses on the crest proper. In a number of places I found myself on 35 degree hard gravel or loose rock/sand, just below the rock buttresses. The variety of mediums (rock, scree/sand, snow) in this section of the ridge made the climbing interesting. I did not witness any rockfall in this section, even during the warm daytime temperatures.

As the climb started traversing climber's right (east) towards the Kautz Cleaver there was one snowy gully where rocks started to fall, but this was easily avoided by scrambling through short, 3rd class rock bands onto snowfields well out of harm's way. The snow in this section was hard, with some low-angled (30 degree) areas of glacier ice. After joining upper Kautz Cleaver, straightforward snow fields interspersed with rock bands lead to the upper snow slope that becomes Point Success. (The photo at right shows typical terrain in this section.) There appeared to be numerous options for navigating through the rockbands. The one I chose kept me towards the climber's left; it was less than 20 feet of 3rd/4th class rock, with some 40 degree ice above and below. This upper section was fun, relatively fast, and not stressful.
~ Paul Charlton, NPS
For more information on 2006 route conditions, go here!