The established route that the guides maintain is gone. :) It's been snowing a lot since mid September, and we're all wondering what the upper mountain is looking like. If you summit, we'd like to get your report. You can send photos and stories to me!
On Sept 20th, a team of four tried to reach Ingraham Flats, but didn't like the terrain. They mentioned numerous crevasses, hard ice, and unfavorable conditions betweeen after Catherdral Gap.
Parties have reported the "step" portion of the climb has become much easier due to lots of use. Large foot holds kicked into the icy "step" allow for solid footing. Crowds have definitely died down; only two or three independent parties and the guide services climbed this last weekend. The picture to the right shows the toe of the cleaver and the faint switchbacks where the climbing route starts up the Emmons. Lower freezing levels and a high probability of precipitation the next couple of days will mean stronger crevasse lips and bridges. Winter conditions seem to be setting in...
~ Thomas "house of" Payne
The DC is still climbable via the Emmons shoulder variation, and the teams that have climbed it have noted the late-season conditions that have developed over the past weeks. The route still goes below the Cleaver and onto the Emmons. The most notable change to the route recently has been the water ice as climbers access the Emmons shoulder. This is a large section of hard water ice and will make travel through this section slow on both ascent and descent. Parties have been using pickets and V-threads as running belays through the whole section. Maybe teams should think about ice screws on the DC these days! In other news the weather forecast is excellent through the weekend and crowds are minimal. Autumn on the mountain can be a great time, but just be prepared to maybe spend a little more time on the route than you normally would.
~ Cooper Self, NPS
Many teams summitted via the Disappointment Cleaver route on the Labor Day weekend. High winds deterred a few parties, but the overall weather was better than the forecast. The route is still well marked and easily followed. Many international climbers showed up over the weekend as well - teams with climbers from Russia, Poland (thanks for helping clean the Public Shelter), India, and South Africa. There are still poor skiing conditions, but hopefully we'll get some snow soon.
~ Thomas Payne
This update comes from George Dunn... Mr. Mount Rainier Guiding...
"A brief update on route changes as far as I know them to be at this time:
We (IMG) have been monitoring the existing route and word was that it was not destined to last too much longer. AAI and IMG each sent up one guide to work as a team on the route yesterday. RMI had (earlier) broken off two guides to start a new line. Our guides followed that line and finished it, then were rejoined by the two RMI guides who came up and helped to shovel a track in over to the Emmons shoulder.
The initial report is from our guide, who says the route diverges from the old trail at approximately 11,400 feet at a flat area just above the 25 foot step with fixed line (AKA - Hillary Step). The route contours and zig zags over and up to the Emmons shoulder, then cuts back at around 12,300 feet to eventually rejoin the old route. I understand that about 3 pickets were left as running belays at an exposed section and 3 more up higher at exposed spots. Ice screws may also be useful at a couple of places where the old glacier ice is exposed. All in all, the new changes seem to have made the route a bit easier and safer, but longer.
Not much has changed with the route over the past two weeks. Teams are climbing, summitting successfully, and enjoying the novelty of the aesthetic, all-glacier Emmons Variation of the DC. As far as route conditions go, the only practical climbing option remains beneath the DC and through the crevasses on the Emmons Glacier side of the cleaver. Some of the crevasses on the Emmons side are widening, leading to a few suspect snow bridges. There are a number of crevasses that are still passable with a step-across but as these widen the route may change again. Also, a third fixed line has been added near 12,600 feet protecting a questionable section just before you intersect the Emmons shoulder. Above there, the final slopes remain straightforward.
On the whole, teams are averaging 7-8 hours on their ascents and 4-5 hours on their descents.
~ Paul Charlton
Many teams summitted during this week's warm, stable weather. August is a busy climbing month that historically has high success rates for climbers. The Emmons variation of the DC currently does not present any significant routefinding hazards but it IS longer. You gain and lose elevation on both your ascent and descent. Expect ascent times to be roughly 1 hour longer, add about 1/2 hour on the descent. Consider bringing extra water or a stove because of the length of this route; many teams are running out of water before they return to camp.
There are two sections with fixed ropes on the route. Both are short and straightforward but it is important that teams be efficient through these sections and communicate well with other teams in the area. In order to avoid clogging the route at key points, before climbing make sure your team knows how to quickly clip in to fixed pickets and/or a fixed rope to provide a running belay. Common courtesy will go a long way if you happen to find yourself stuck at a bottleneck. (See photo at right, of the first fixed section.)
Though there are a few places where passing other parties is difficult, for the most part there are ample opportunities to navigate around other parties. If you are friendly and communicate well with the other teams, they will likely accommodate your wishes.
Crevasses continue to open on this route and parties should be inspecting crevasse crossings themselves. Since the crevasses change daily, it is entirely possible that the sketchy-looking section the boot track crosses did not look that way the day before. Don't hesitate to walk outside of the boot path. Photo near 12,700 feet, by Mike Gauthier.
Enjoy this variation with its great views of big crevasses. Entry photo (with labels) is compliment of the folks at cc.com. Check out this sunrise photo by Phil Edmonds taken on 8/4.
~ Paul Charlton, updated by Phil Edmonds
Lots of changes on the DC route... In fact, it's not really fair to call it the Disappointment Cleaver route anymore, as the route now climbs the Emmons Glacier. This Sunday, RMI guides pulled 2 ladders that previously enabled climbers to by-pass some very wide crevasses above the cleaver (12,500 K+/-). For the past few weeks, there has been a growing number of crevasses in this area. Each day, climbers have been reporting larger crossings, until finally, even the anchored ladders couldn't span the icy abysses.
For the most part, things are relatively normal when leaving Camp Muir. The traverse across the Cowlitz Glacier is really straightforward and there are few crevasses to deal with. Climbers, guides and rangers have noticed a number large rocks on the Cowlitz Glacier, which indicate that rockfall is INDEED a serious hazard to consider in this area. Move quickly and wear your helmet.
Once at Ingraham Flats (see sunrise photo above), look for the boot path that leads climbers right towards the base of the cleaver. It cuts right shortly above the camp at 11,100 feet and heads towards the DC, before descending 400 +/- feet towards Little Tahoma and gaining the Emmons Glacier.
From there, it's a glacier climb to the summit. Along the way, there a number of crevasses to cross. Again, most are really straightforward, but some involve a fixed line and deserve attention and possibly belays. Look for those crossings between 11,000 feet and 12,800 feet. Once you're above 13K, it's a long ascending traverse towards the crater rim. It seems that I've experienced a headwind in this section on each trip.
~ Mike Gauthier
For more archived information, see your spring 2007 reports