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.
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!