We had good views of the Fuhrer Finger route from the Kautz Route on June 15/16. See the Kautz Route update for comments on the approach to high camp.
Crossing from the 9,600' camp on Wapowety Cleaver to the base of the Fuhrer Finger appears simple with no major crevasse obstacles. It should still be possible to find safe camping spots on the glacier near the base of Fuhrer Finger, too. The hourglass itself has quite a bit of snow and is in good condition for climbing. Though there is some evidence of rock fall, it looks fairly clean overall. See photo of the hourglass.
Looking down Wapowety Cleaver from 13,000' on the Kautz Route, the upper Nisqually Glacier above the top of the Fuhrer Finger hourglass is broken with some big crevasses. Parties ascending Fuhrer Finger should expect that navigating through these crevasses will take some time. As one of the contributors to this blog mentioned below, if the crevasses on the main part of the glacier (climber's right above the hourglass) look impassable you can consider staying to the climber's left above the hour glass, hugging the rocks of Wapowety Cleaver in an attempt to bypass most crevasses to their left (west) sides. But this is speculation based on what we could see from above.
We ascended the Kautz Route just after new snow, so we didn't see much of a boot track on the upper Nisqually. Though climbers on the Fuhrer Finger might intersect footprints from the more-popular Kautz Route above 13,000', you can't count on it. There are some big crevasses with questionable crossings and/or long end-runs in this upper section, so give yourself a bit of extra time to deal with these on your way to the summit.
~ Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton, NPS
Not a lot to report, but a photo of the route, taken by Mike Gauthier on June 13th...
This report came from a few members of a team last week. Photos are from the 5/30 report.
We camped immediately under the lower left lobe of the hourglass on a platform at 9,875'. It sort of seemed protected from rockfall and we had no problems. The hourglass is still in good shape, but it is beginning to show signs of spring melt. That said, it is hard to say how long before it melts out.
We left camp at 12:15AM. The route from the hourglass to ~11,800' was in good shape, we didn't need ice tools, an axe worked fine. There were a couple short sections where ice was starting to form, so conditions might change fast. At 11,800' we went into the clouds, and being dark, had a difficult time getting onto the upper Nisqually. We navigated several crevasses and snow bridges; one was particularly sketchy and we protected it with an anchor. Not sure how long that bridge will be there??? Because we couldn't see the route, it was hard to say how much longer it will be passable.
Other notes include:
Nisqually was very smooth - The approach was basically a straight shot across Nisqually and Wilson. There were some minor crevasses to navigate on the Wilson Glacier
There was some water running over the rocks and we could hear water under the snow but it was brown with dirt.
Saw lots of evidence of rock fall at the base of the route. At our bivy site, we saw minor rock fall on the lower portion of the finger just east of our site late in the day. We stayed to the left on the finger - as we were climbing, you could hear water running under the snow – very weird.
Topped out on the snow field at approx 11.3K - we still stayed left and circled around the seracs and onto the Nisqually glacier at approximately 12K Nisqually. There were a few dicey crevasses to cross high on the Nisqually. Above the last large crevasse, it was more or less a straight shot to the summit There were several crevasses to negotiate but nothing to major.
Post-Climb Thoughts: Fun route, challenging climbing conditions, good camping spot - we were on the route in minutes. If the warm weather continues, the FF route will be out before June ends.
Some "route beta" recommended staying right and joining up with the Nisqually glacier which we did - but we ran into the daunting crevasse. Unless we missed it, the snow bridge we used on the Nisqually will not be there soon. At this time, the best ascent route may be to stay to the left and ascent along the Wilson Headwall and meet up the Kautz route (I keep hearing this suggestion).
Contributed by: Ed Greutert and Dale Smith photos by Michiel Zuidweg and Sam Crary.
Michiel Zuidweg contributed this report, "thought you might like to know the route conditions of the Fuhrer Finger...
Sam and I left the car at 2:30 am. on Wednesday morning and found a great boot pack, and slushy snow to 7400 feet. Here some large group established a campsite, igloo and eating area. The boot pack continued up the Nisqually and forked, one route leading towards the high camp at the base of the Turtle and one leading towards the Fuhrer. At the base of the Wapowtey Cleaver, the boot pack diminished, and there were alot of undulations in the snow. There were a few small snow bridges to cross on the Nisqually, but nothing terrible at 4 in the morning. However, 4 in the afternoon, I wouldn't trust it.
...The Fuhrer was straight forward and simple. There were numerous undulations in the snow, which was fine for creating steps on the way up but not for snowboarding down. The route was clean to the summit, no route finding or crevasse problems. Wands were placed from 12,500, where one has to navigate left around a large crevasse, to the summit. Morning conditions were firm and no rock fall. The boot pack from 13,300 where the Kautz meets this route to the summit was firm and well marked. No problems there.
The snowboard descent was incredible. The dents, undulations and concave aspects in the snow made it a little difficult/annoying for a snowboarder. But with the hot weather and warm afternoon, the slush was easily skiable. Snowboarding was great from 12000 to the car, but lots of rock fall in the afternoon. Basketball sized rocks tumbling down the Finger as you snowboard down.
The best snow conditions where from 10,500 ft to the car. Slope angle, still 40 degrees, great for skiing. Protection, pickets could have been pointless, too slushy in the late morning to early afternoon. No access issues or special navigation.
Thanks Michiel and Sam Crary for the great trip report.
The Fuhrer Finger is still in good shape. The middle of the route has started to melt out but is still passable and will be for a little while longer. Several parties have skied it recently and had no difficulties. Fuhrer's Thumb also still looks it could be passable for another week or so.
The approach across the Nisqually is still in great shape and route finding should be relatively easy. It's possible to climb the Nisqually Glacier onto the Wilson Glacier. There are a few icefalls and crevassed areas to navigate; there are several benches on the Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers for good bivy sites. The higher benches are more prone to rockfall and avalanche hazards from the Wilson Headwall, so be sure to pick a spot away from the runout zone.
Teams have reported firm snow in the morning on the Finger, softening quickly as the sun hits it. Above the top of the finger, parties have been traversing climber's right to get around the icefall on the upper Nisqually Glacier. There seems to be a fairly direct route to the summit up the climber's right. No reports of difficult route finding, but there are several crevasses between 12,500' and the summit. Drop us a note if you climb the route.
For more information on the Fuhrer Finger route, check out our 2006 reports.
Not much news, other than a number of successful-during-good-weather,as well as failed-attempts-during-bad-weather, reports. One thing that continually happens is that almost everyone can't do the route as fast as they think they can. Plan for it. Here is an aerial image by Stoney Richards, taken on June 26th.
~ Mike Gauthier
Conditions on the route were excellent during a climb on June 18-19. There is a good boot track from Glacier Basin up to St. Elmo's Pass, across the Winthrop Glacier to lower Curtis Ridge and the edge of the Carbon Glacier. Above Glacier Basin the approach is completely snow covered, with 60% snow coverage below Glacier Basin.
We encountered no significant problems ascending the Carbon Glacier to lower Liberty Ridge. There are a few snowbridges that may cause the route to change course over the next few weeks, but overall the glacier is easily navigable. Lower Liberty Ridge (from the toe to Thumb Rock) seemed more melted out than it normally does this time of the year. Not much snow remained on the western aspect of the lower ridge and quite a bit of rock was falling from that region as we approached during midday. In order to avoid the long traverse on the lower ridge, we continued ascending the Carbon Glacier towards the Liberty Wall, but stayed out of any danger from the seracs.
Crossing a snowbridge we then climbed the snow slope on the western side of the ridge that leads directly from the glacier to the Thumb Rock high camp. This seemed to expose us to less rockfall than our other approach options. This snow slope is shown in the photo at left. (Thumb Rock is the prominent spire.)
There was a well-kicked-in boot track leading left and up from Thumb Rock. Another option is to climb a short apron of good ice by ascending directly upslope from Thumb Rock. Snow conditions are solid, making for fast climbing. There is one fairly long section (500+ vertical feet) of moderately steep ice in the area around the Black Pyramid. Ice screws are required for this section if you intend to place protection.
A large snowbridge led easily across the climber's right side of the bergschrund (see photo below). If this snow bridge falls in there will still be decent avenues for crossing the bergschrund, though they may require short sections of ice climbing. Above the bergschrund there is one last section of exposed ice before you arrive at the snow slopes leading to Liberty Cap.
From the summit, if your car is at White River make sure that you are descending the Emmons Route and not the Disappointment Cleaver! This is becoming a frequent mistake made by Liberty Ridge climbers. Since the eastside highway at Mt. Rainier (Hwy 123) is closed this summer, it takes a very long time to hitchhike from Paradise to White River.
Presently the Emmons Route doesn't have a very noticeable boot track as it reaches Columbia Crest (on the west side of the crater) from due north. Hence, teams miss the proper descent and start down the DC, which traverses far enough towards the Emmons Glacier to deceive people into thinking that it will take them to Schurman. It doesn't.
~Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton, NPS
This report is from Dmitry Shapovalov
The conditions on the route (together with the weather) were ideal - tracks through the Carbon Glacier, then tracks on the ridge all the way to the two pitches of ice climbing below Liberty Cap. While ascending to the Thumb Rock, we noted four big avalanches from Ptarmigan Ice Cliff (all around noon to 2 p.m.). The dust cloud of the last one even reached people at the base of LR!! On the day of the climb we left Thumb Rock at 4 a.m. and reached the ice pitches around 10 a.m. Simultaneous roped climbing on hard snow was how we travelled all the way up. We did a couple of short belays while crossing bridges over crevasses at the upper snowfields.
First ice lead ("bergschrund") was excellent - good solid ice, which makes some people wish they'd left their soft trekking crampons at home. During the next lead ice changes to hard snow (ice axe or picket belay) and after this one can walk up to the Liberty Cap.
After spending a night in the summit crater we relaxed somewhat and left around 8 a.m., which happened to be wrong. We went down the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman. The tracks were rather vague and wandered up and down around big crevasses of the upper mountain.
We inadvertently dropped a pack while descending (it was not secured to the rope). After flying over one big crevasse the pack disappeared into a larger crevasse. We had no choice but to rappel directly down and recover it. That took 3 hours. First crevasse was pretty easy (10ft drop), but the second one required 40ft free hanging rappel to its bottom. There we found my pack. Luckily, nothing was lost.
Then we had to climb 20 ft up the other side of the crevasse and keep descending down the slopes to Camp Schurman. It was near noon and the snow was soft as hell; therefore we could not move fast. We had to clean our crampons from the snow every second step. In such a bad conditions we reached Schurman only at 3 p.m., after 7 hours of "adventures".
Photos by Dmitry Shapovalov
A team of two climbers recently climbed Liberty Ridge from White River and descended the Disappointment Cleaver to Paradise. Upon reaching Paradise they reported to the rangers that the route was in great shape with enjoyable climbing. The beginning of the approach trail from White River was broken (see Glacier Basin Trail); the Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers were well filled-in for relatively straight forward glacier travel (watch for crevasses). Interestingly, three large avalanches from the Willis and Liberty Walls were noted, so stay clear of possible runout zones as you approach the base of Liberty Ridge.
The Ridge itself was described as being in good shape with a mix of hard snow and ice. The bergschrund was fairly well filled in with snow and easy to climb. The slopes in the vicinity of the bergschrund provided the overall crux of the climbing. The ice was reported to be of good quality and the team recommended bringing 3-4 ice screws.
Aerial photo by Mike Gauthier 5-22
May 13th, 2007
Climbers have been getting up and down this route. Even though the road into White River is still closed, a party summitted Liberty Ridge last week. The approach is long and involves bicycling or walking to White River Campground (11 miles) then bushwhacking up the destroyed Glacier Basin Trail (extra 2 hours). From St. Elmo's pass the traverse to the Carbon Glacier across the Winthrop Glacier and over Curtis Ridge was reported to be straightforward.
The Carbon Glacier was reported to be relatively well filled-in so the route finding to the base of Liberty Ridge relatively easy. Once on the ridge, parties have found soft snow conditions up to Thumb Rock (typical). Above Thumb Rock the conditions are a mix of hard ice, wind-scoured hard snow, and soft snow to the top of the Black Pyramid. After the Black Pyramid getting through the bergschrund is reported to be fairly direct with styrofoam snow. Here is a CC trip report.
For more information on Liberty Ridge, check out our 2006 reports.
Here is an awesome trip report by Dan Aylward with photos by Tim Matsui, Chad Kellogg was the third climber.
After dorking with gear at the trailhead until after midnight, we finally embarked on our journey under a beautiful moonless but starlit sky. The trail to Glacier Basin was thrashed from the flooding last fall, and trying to follow the tied yellow caution tape through fallen trees, rocks and debris proved difficult in the dark. We lost the trail a few times, which slowed our progress, but we weren’t too concerned because we had plenty of time and were enjoying every minute. The trail become snow covered below the Glacier Basin camp, where we rested and ate in the last trees before the open slopes below the Inter Glacier. (Photo: below the buttress at 11,500, leading right towards the upper portions of North Mowich Face and rock gully) May 22nd
No recent reports, but lots of recent photos. Here is a close up aerial image by Mike Gauthier of the technical portions of Ptarmigan Ridge, May 22.
If you've any recent route reports, send those along.
Here is our first 2007 climbing conditions report for Ptarmigan Ridge. One team member shared this report asking to remain anonymous... Good news for us, b/c it's a great report and it's huge kudos to them... Here goes:
My friends and I had a very enjoyable and successful trip up the Ptarmigan Ridge last week (5/9 - 5/12). I would well argue that this route is better than Liberty Ridge: incredible high camp, relative safety from icefall (we got clobbered from breaking seracs in 2004 at about 12,500ft), aesthetic line, decent rock (!), and a snowpack generally unscoured by wind and unscorched by sun.
We approached via the White River Campground. We walked a portion of the road from the park entrance closure, but were lucky both on our way in and out to get rides from park rangers. Every one of these guys was friendly, conversational, and good company. We registered at White River ranger station and hiked the Glacier Basin trail. The trail was washed out in many parts. In some sections, particularly between mile 1 and mile 2, we were forced down onto the riverbed and had to clamber over and under log debris. We didn't have to get our feet wet, though. (image, High Camp on the on the ridge.)
At the end of the damaged section we bumped into climbing ranger David Gottlieb, who gave us very useful beta to return via an old mining path (moraine trail?) higher up on the hillside. When descending from Glacier Basin this path breaks off from the existing trail at the end of the old growth forest, right before the trail drops down to the river (this area is commonly called the "Sherwood Forest"). We followed this old path, often quite evident as an old cart track, through forest and scrub, until the path pretty much disappeared. We descended when we lost the trail and found that it dropped us within ~3/4 mile of the trailhead. This detour gets around all of the significant washouts (editors note, we're attempting to flag this trail, so stay tuned!) (Image, ascending the Russell Glacier to high camp).
Above Glacier Basin we experienced good sunny days, warm spring weather, and as expected plenty of sloppy snow after about 10am. We got up to St Elmo Pass late in the day, postholed the whole way up. The 2nd day we traversed Winthrop Glacier-Curtis Ridge-Carbon Glacier, getting a 3am start and hitting the far side of Carbon Glacier (7900ft) by about 7am. Hard frozen corn, good stuff. We then climbed the upper Russell Glacier to Ptarmigan Ridge, then followed the steep snow (slop) along the ridge crest to high camp at 10,400. This camp is extraordinary- rivals even Thumb Rock for beauty. (see photo above for high camp image, this image if of the traverse onto the technical portions of the Ptarmigan Ridge route).
3rd day we got going at 3am. Descended to cross the bergshrund at ~9,800ft, then straight up the broad snowfield to about 10,800. Knee deep powder snow pretty much the whole way, with harder snow underneath. The traverse (see photo above) from 10,800 up to the to big rock face was a mix of powder, styrofoam, and verglassed snow. Pickets made exceptional pro here. The second gully (see photo left, looking down the second gulley) was 6" packed snow on perfect water ice - great screw pro. I bet this turns to water ice later in the summer. The final gully (see photo below) started as snow then turned to water ice & rocks (50-55 degrees) followed by a 10' rock step. There's a pin in the rocks for extra pro, but also plenty of decent placements for nuts & screws. The upper Liberty Cap Glacier was uniformly shin-to- knee deep dense powder. Made for tough slogging to the summit.
The Emmons descent was uneventful. That glacier seems mostly blown out - hard styrofoam with thin patches of wind slab. All snowbridges were bomber. Aching knees. We camped at Shurman. 4th day we glissaded the Interglacier, postholed some to get to the trees, and made our way up along the slope back to the campground.
For more archieved information on the Ptarmigan Ridge route, see our 2006 reports.
My week at Muir started with some crazy weather. Camp was surrounded by a cloud for two days with winds averaging between 45 and 60mph and temperatures just warm enough to rain. The highest recorded wind gust was 94mph. The picture to the right is of two independents (Mouser and Laura) making the best of the weather by using webbing as streamers in the intense wind. These conditions made for lots of book reading and not very much climbing.
The week progressed with a dramatic change in the weather. The sun came out and the wind stopped and it was time to climb. Mouser and Laura, the two independents playing in the wind, stuck it out through the storm and allowed me to climb on their rope. I have officially dubbed our ascent the ‘Climb of the Nerds’ because both of them had PhD’s in nuclear physics and I, although less educated, also consider myself a nerd. Our nerdyness was beautifully illustrated when one of us pointed out the international space station orbiting above us at the Flats just before dawn. This brings me to the first route update.
After leaving the flats the route ascends for a couple hundred feet before dropping down to the toe of Disappointment Cleaver. At the apex of this ascent there is an unfriendly crevasse crossing. It is difficult to protect until one is on the far side. From this point it is straight forward till the top of the Cleaver, which is half snow and half rock at the moment. At the top of the Cleaver, the route crosses several crevasses on ladders placed by the guide services, and then steeply climbs in between two crevasses (see picture to the left.) On this high traverse over towards the Emmons Glacier there is a 3 to 4 foot crevasse which also has a ladder over it. Parties have been belaying across this. After this crossing the route is fairly solid to the summit.
Things have been melting a lot and the route might be significantly different within the next few days.
Have a safe climb, Peter Jewell
After almost a week of rain and strong winds the weather finally broke yesterday. A party made it to the top via the Disappointment Cleaver yesterday. The rain has caused more crevasses to open, weakened the snow bridges, and increased rock and ice fall on the route. Most of the new crevasses opened on the Cowlitz and between Ingraham Flats and the base of the Cleaver. Navigating around or stepping across them is still fairly straight forward. Most of the snow has melted off the Cleaver and there is no longer any fixed gear on this part of the route. Near the top of this loose, rocky ridge most parties are still traversing out onto the SE side of the Cleaver onto some snow to reach the top of the Cleaver. One of the blocks that was bridging the large series of crevasses at the beginning of the traverse from the top of the Cleaver to the Emmons shoulder collapsed and has been replaced by a ladder. Most parties are still circumventing the crevasses at the other end of the traverse by going down a few feet to get around them. Once on the Emmons shoulder the route is still relatively easy to navigate as it traverses back to the crater rim.
No major changes have occurred to the route since July 15th. The crevasse crossing at the top of the cleaver is still passable. Stormy weather and low freezing levels have kept many teams from summitting this week. It even rained on Tuesday night much to most climber's dismay. The photo to the right shows the route crossing the Cowlitz Glacier after Camp Muir. There were two minor rockfalls coming from Cathedral Rocks right above where the route winds into Cathedral Gap. Parties should minimize their time in this area.
This past weekend started off with early morning thunderstorms that turned many parties around on Friday and Saturday. Today had a higher success rate but with high winds. Wind gusts up to 50 mph were reported at Muir. Currently there is little fixed gear on the route. There are a few pickets left by the guide service at the top of the Cleaver. These pickets are in a bad area and we expect some of the bridges here to collapse any day. Use caution.
Intense summer sun and temperatures that are well above normal are rapidly changing the DC. Rock and ice fall have increased and more crevasses are opening on the lower portions of the route.
Some small crevasses have opened on the Cowlitz Glacier between Camp Muir and Ingraham Flats. These are easy to avoid, but they are good reminders not to take the Cowlitz for granted. Rockfall off of Cathedral and Gibraltar Rocks regularly hits the route as it crosses the Cowlitz Glacier. Cathedral Gap is all rock right now and human caused rockfall is an issue as parties ascend the Gap. Between Cathedral Gap and Ingraham Flats rockfall off the other side of Cathedral Rocks is a hazard.
Ingraham Flats looks great this year. Most climbing parties are doing their best to keep this camping area clean and free of human waste. There have been a few instances of people not using blue bags at Ingraham. Remember that everyone has to melt snow here for cooking and drinking.
Above the Flats the route ascends a few hundred feet before traversing towards the base of the Cleaver. As it turns towards the base of the Cleaver the route crosses 2-3 open crevasses. The route passes under a very active ice and rock fall zone as it reaches the Cleaver. So far the moat between the Cleaver and the Ingraham Glacier has not opened. This fact makes getting onto the Cleaver relatively easy. There is no longer any fixed gear on the Cleaver. Once on the Cleaver most parties are staying close to the nose of the ridge at the base and then traversing out onto the snowy faces to make switchbacks near the top. Snow melted off 1/3 of the Cleaver this week. This trend should continue and soon climbing the Cleaver will mean more scrambling over loose rock than kicking steps in the snow.
At the top of the cleaver large crevasse crossings and melting snow bridges replace the rockfall hazard. Between 12,400' and 13,200' there are several large crevasses on the Ingraham and Emmons glaciers. To avoid these crevasses the Cleaver route is traversing 1/4 mile towards a ridge on the Emmons Glacier. At the beginning of the traverse (top of the Cleaver) there is a series of bridges over several large crevasses. (See the photo on the right). Some sections of these bridges are steep and offer little space for good footing. Many parties are choosing to place gear and use running belays to cross these bridges. On busy days this area creates a bottleneck for climbers. After this crossing the traverse continues towards the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier. Near the end of the traverse there is another large crevasse with a rapidly thinning bridge. Some parties are even choosing to avoid this snowbridge by descending around it onto the Emmons' shoulder. Those who are crossing this bridge are again using some sort of belay to protect the crossing.
After these two sections of crevasses the switchbacks up the shoulder of the Emmons are a welcome change of pace. Near 13,200' the route begins to traverse back to climber's left towards the crater rim. This upper section of the route is still relatively straight forward.
The DC route is in for a change. With the warm temperatures we have been having throughout this weekend and those we are forecast to have for the rest of the week, it will cause some of the already hazardous snowbridges to be melting out a lot more. This will mean more wandering in the route especially above the Cleaver. Most parties have been setting anchors and belaying across the less desirable snow bridges. That being said, the DC route is always a fun adventure and although warm days mean melting snowbridges they also mean awesome summitting weather.
This is really a great time to do the DC. The Cleaver itself is still almost entirely snow covered which makes traveling on it much nicer. If you are planning on staying in the public shelter at Camp Muir, we have been having issues with people leaving their trash, so PLEASE pack out anything you pack in. What you leave the rangers must pack out, and that makes for unhappy rangers! Please stay safe and have a great climb.
I would like to send out a big word of thanks to Brian, pictured above, for bringing a watermelon to the summit and then sharing a slice with us. Rumor has it that he also cooked an amazing salmon dinner for his group at Camp Muir the night before. Kudos.
~ Peter Jewell
The recent snows, now solidified, have helped fill in the DC route and its crevasse crossings. Both of the snowbridges on the traverse look better than they had earlier. (The photo at right shows an RMI team traversing back to the top of the Cleaver after a successful ascent.) There is still excellent snow cover on the Cleaver itself. When added to the better conditions on the traverse and straightforward ascent of the upper slopes to the crater rim, the DC is in great shape! A few people have even skied/snowboarded from the crater rim to the top of the cleaver over the past few days!
~ Paul Charlton, NPS
Since the storm on Friday night (June 29th) both independent parties and the guide services have been turning back from their climbs at the top of the Cleaver due to high avalanche danger. Saturday morning there was slab fracturing activity with a 14" layer of fresh snow on top of a slick icy layer which was dangerous on the slope/bowl feature right after the Cleaver. Sunday morning the snow had begun to stabilize. Parties found a 3" crust but also started breaking through around the top of the Cleaver on the traverse (some reported sinking in up to their knees). Hopefully with the next couple days of sunny weather the snow will consolidate and become safer. [The photo above shows climbers conferring about the snow conditions from the safety of the top of the DC.]
~ Tom "House of" Payne
More and more climbers attempt the DC as mid-summer approaches. There are several areas where "traffic congestion" could occur if climbers are not mindful of their pace and the pace of those around them.
Conditions on the route remain good for the most part. Crossing the Cowlitz to Cathedral Gap is clean and free of any large crevasses. The biggest hazard through this section is the rockfall off Cathedral Rocks and scree kicked down Cathedral gap by other climbing parties. After that the route continues to be straightforward all the way to the base of the Cleaver. Most of the crevasse crossings above Ingraham Flats have not posed any problems for climbers. A "fixed" line is in place on the traverse from the Ingraham to the nose of the Cleaver. From there the route up the Cleaveris almost all snow and stays close to the spine of the Cleaver.
At the top of the Cleaver where the Ingraham and Emmons Glaciers split there are several large, interconnected, deep crevasses that are currently bridged by discrete blocks of snow wedged against each other. This web of blocks is narrow and steep and many parties chose to belay this crossing. After this spicy crossing the route traverses climber's right towards the Emmons shoulder and crosses one more series of large crevasses before it gains the shoulder between 12500' and 12900'. Once on the shoulder the route traverses slowly back to climber's left to eventually reach the crater rim. This upper section of the route is relatively easy to navigate due to most of the crevasses being filled in or bridged by thick, wide snowbridges.
Climbers coming off the DC. Second image, climbers crossing the loose network of crevasses above the DC. Photos by Mike Gauthier
~ Andy Anderson
Disappointment Cleaver Route Conditions - June 21st
Conditions remain great on this route. The photo at right (taken from Little Tahoma yesterday) shows the entire route. Click it to see its full size; climbers are visible all along the route.
Parties have been summitting even with the recent windy conditions. Teams report a few bottlenecks that you should look out for if you are climbing at the same hours as most other parties: 1) traversing onto the cleaver; 2) zig-zagging up the snowy sections of the Cleaver (some parties are clipping pickets to protect their teams); and 3) crossing the large crevasse as you leave the top of the cleaver traversing towards the Emmons Glacier. Try to communicate well with other teams as you approach these areas and be considerate of the needs of others. Your helpfulness and good attitude can help make the climb enjoyable for everyone.
Otherwise, conditions haven't changed much. A boot track is well-established and snow cover remains good. The sketchy snowbridges across the two crevasses at the beginning and end of the traverse towards the Emmons are changing a bit but haven't fallen in yet. Don't be afraid to place your own pickets, clip the fixed ones, and give your team a running belay across these areas. The photo at left shows the crevasse at the top of the DC as seen on the descent while traversing back towards the Cleaver.
~Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton, NPS
As the June 15th post mentioned, parties are using the DC instead of the Ingraham Direct. Presently covered with good amounts of snow, the Cleaver is safe and direct. There is a fixed-line in place as you traverse onto the nose of the Cleaver from the glacier above Ingraham Flats (see photo at right). Presently there is little rock hazard on the DC because of the snow cover. Some parties are ascending/descending more atop the spine of the Cleaver than in previous years; this is faster but do watch for party-inflicted rockfall on the spine as the snow continues to melt.
There is a disconcerting crevasse crossing as you leave the top of the Cleaver to begin the traverse towards the Emmons and a second thought-provoking snow bridge over a gaping crevasse near the end of that traverse. Take responsibility for your own decision-making and your own safety while addressing these crossings. Conditions will change quickly with these crevasses so make your own assessment (on both the ascent and descent) as to how best to deal with them. Most teams are using some type of belay and paying close attention to the positioning of their rope teams to mitigate the effects of a fall.
Above the traverse the route heads up towards the crater rim, passing no significant obstacles. The photo to the left shows the first part of the traverse heading toward the Emmons.
There are many wands on the route above Ingraham Flats, though the boot track often disappears completely following even small snow/wind events.
~Thomas Payne and Paul Charlton, NPS
Most parties have switched from using the Ingraham Direct to going up the Disappointment Cleaver due to several large crevasses opening on the Ingraham. These make the Ingraham very difficult to navigate. From Ingraham Flats the traverse over to the cleaver is very straightforward; however, it does cross through a very active rock and ice fall zone that extends all the way over to the nose of the cleaver. Once on the Cleaver the route is 90% snow.
At the top of the Cleaver the route traverses toward the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier (climber's right) for nearly a 1/4 mile. This traverse is necessary to avoid several large, open, deep, and scary crevasses. The traverse cannot avoid all the crevasses, and there are two significant crevassed areas between the top of the Cleaver and the Emmons shoulder. The first of these areas is at the start of the traverse at the top of the Cleaver and the other is at the end of the traverse where it meets the Emmons shoulder. A web-like series of thin and narrow snow-bridges wind across each of these areas. Most parties are setting up belays to cross these sections. From the Emmons shoulder the route traverses back to climber's left. At this point the route becomes very straightforward to reach the crater rim.
This update is from Ian Litmans' June 8th ascent.
The cross over the Ingraham to the DC was without hazard or issue. At the base of the Cleaver, there are three fixed ropes that gain access to the bottom of the DC. All were in good shape & solid. Once on the cleaver we climbed up the spine (rather than climber’s left snowfield) moving through the rock and snow.
Once off the cleaver there were four crevasse crossings and the first had dedicated pickets that were solid. Bridges were all very solid despite the unseasonably warm weather and full sun. The Bergschrund had a fixed line. Unfortunately the setter knotted it at three spots or so for use as a handhold, making running a prussic up it for protection cumbersome. In general the route was straightforward and conditions solid.
Coming back down it seemed as though many parties were choosing to descend the DC via climber’s left/skier’s right rather than going down the spine or the Ing Direct which reportedly had required a solid 4ft jump. Descending the snow on climber’s left was a mistake for us, in retrospect. I think it would have been safer, faster and easier to descend via the spine. The conditions at the time of our very late descent resulted in exhausting, deep postholing all the way down climber’s left side of the cleaver.
IMG kicked in the DC last Thursday, and both guided and independent parties have said it is in good shape. On Thursday and Friday, parties reported that conditions were good on the way up but that it was very soft later in the day. Some people reported sinking up to the waist at nearly every step. The guide services are beginning to shift to this route, as crevasses on the Ingraham Direct are really starting to open up.
One of the guide services recently installed a fixed line accessing the rocky spine on the lowest section of the Disappointment Cleaver. The route is still not being used so do not expect to find anything resembling a boot pack on the upper cleaver should you decide to try the DC instead of the Ingraham Direct. That said, the snow conditions on the Cleaver are reported to be good. Be prepared to place a few pickets as a running belay in places, both on the Cleaver and above it, should your party feel uncomfortable.
Parties may start shifting to the DC soon but at present the Ingraham Direct is the route in favor.
~ Arlington Ashby
I don't have any updates to the route. It seems that most climbers are ascending the Ingraham Glacier Direct. But here is a nice aerial image of how things looked on May 22nd. If you're adventurous and would like to earn the distinction as "the team that booted in the DC for 2007", it's all there for you.
Aerial image by Mike Gauthier
The DC is in good condition. Another climbing ranger and I skied the route after ascending the Ingraham Direct. The cleaver had excellent snow coverage most of the way down, so we decided to time our descent based on the ski conditions. The turns were great, with a nice consistent 35 - 45 degree slope on the skier's right side of the cleaver. Be wary of avalanche conditions! We avoided the cross-loaded skier's left side of the slope. At about 11,200 ft. we traversed skier's right off the cleaver and onto the Ingraham. The snow was sufficient to ski, but we could tell it was starting to get thin. This is a spot to be careful as the moat at the edge of the Ingraham Glacier is often hazardous.
We traversed skier's right onto the Ingraham Glacier Direct route, and then skied excellent corn down to Cathedral Gap. Cathedral Gap was melted out at the top, so we walked across 5 feet of rocks, with our skis still on, and then skied down to Camp Muir on the nicely filled in slope below.
If you plan to ascend the Disappointment Cleaver, be aware that the route is not yet wanded and the Ingraham Direct is currently being used as the standard route up from Camp Muir. At the top of the Disappointment cleaver, most climbers traverse climber's right all the way to the Emmons Shoulder to avoid the large crevasses at the 13,000 ft. level.
For more information on the Disappointment Cleaver route, check out our 2006 reports.
If you would like to attempt the summit during this off season, you'll have to start at a park boundary. Keep in mind that all of the roads into the park are closed to vehicular traffic. Starting a climb at a park boundary will add a number of miles to your trip. Plan for an extended stay: bring extra food, fuel, and supplies.
For routes on the south and west side of the park (i.e. access via Paradise or Westside Road) you will need to register in person at the Nisqually Entrance Ranger Station. If you're serious about climbing the mountain, I welcome you to email me with registration, route conditions and other climbing related questions.