Disappointment Cleaver - 2007

Disappointment Cleaver Route Conditions - Oct 18th.

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.

September 16

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

September 11

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

Sept 3rd

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

Aug 17th

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.

August 16th

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

August 6th

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

July 30th

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

Emmons Winthrop Glacier w/ Inter Glacier and Glacier Basin Trail - 2007

Emmons/Winthrop Glacier Route Update - August 24th

Not too much has changed on the Emmons since the last posting. Last weekend the mountain received about 3 inches of snow, which didn't do much to the route except cover the old boot pack and make a couple of teams have to think a little harder about where they should climb.

On the approach the Inter glacier is becoming icy and there are a few large crevasses up high. So parties should be prepared to rope up and use crampons for the approach. Also be careful right at Schurman, as there are large crevasses all around camp and the bridges are not getting any stronger. As for the route itself it is still in good shape. There are some large crevasses to negotiate but they can all be done in a safe way. With the cooler temps we had over the past week, parties reported very firm snow conditions up high on the route.

Finally, know your party's ability and be observant of conditions when you climb. I watched a very slow moving group on Saturday morning ascending as the weather was obviously deteriorating. They ended up summitting but had to descend in a whiteout with fresh snow falling over their tracks. They almost made it back to Schurman by 11 p.m. that night, but could not negotiate the last set of crevasses for some reason and ended up bivying at the flats until daylight. That was a long day/cold night that could have been easily avoided if they had been a little more in tune with the events and themselves.

Aug. 17th

The Emmons Glacier is in great condition for this late in the season. But where are the climbers? The weather has not been super stable but we had some warm days this past week... and some new snow. Camp Schurman has been quiet all week long and the climbers that showed up had the mountain all to themselves. Summer is coming to an end but this route will probably hold up nicely, well into September.

The Glacier Basin Trail is in good shape and easy to follow after a summer of hikers. There is flowing water at the base of the Inter Glacier. Its a good place to tank up and get ready for the snow. There is ice at the top of the first steep slope. Crampons are useful here. This is a good spot to rope up on top of the steep slope. The glacier has some cracks that are easy to step over or walk around. The trail is still fairly direct. The Lower Emmons is mellow. When you get to Camp Schurman take the UPPER bridge NOT the lower bridge. See photos below.

The biggest problem area has been between Camp Schurman and Emmons Flats. See right photo. There have been a few crevasse falls in this area. The route to the summit has been changing slowly but still follows the same route it has been. At the top of the corridor the route traverses up and right to about 12,800 feet. The bergschrund is not too bad and is traversed on the right. From there it is easy travel to the summit.

Aug 10th

The route is still in great shape. From Camp Schurman up to the Flats the glacier is a little broken but the bridges are still passable. This might be changing soon if the weather gets hot like it's supposed to be in August. Until then be safe while crossing, especially if you are carrying all your gear to the Flats. From there the corridor is straightforward up to a traverse at 11,700 feet. The route then switchbacks up to 12,400 feet and traverses on the level for a while. From there it is straightforward up to another small traverse at 12,800. Past this traverse the route is great up the the bergschrund which is easy to cross on climber's right and continues with a straight shot to the crater rim.

The Inter Glacier is melting out more and more as the season goes on. We chose the Mt. Ruth way, albeit adding a little more distance and a lot more rock. Otherwise refer to the post below for more specific details about passage on the Inter Glacier.

Have a safe and fun climb, Peter Jewell

Aug. 3rd

Great weather made many teams happy to be out on the mountain this last week. The Emmons Glacier is still in great shape but changing quickly with all of the sunshine. The approach up the Inter Glacier only has one major crevasse crossing right now which most parties are just jumping (it's about 14" wide). The snow on the Inter Glacier is melting quickly, and a large section of hard glacier ice is protruding through. Skiers will find better snow from the top of the Inter to the base of the glacer if they stay to skier's left.

Almost every team is choosing to access the Emmons Glacier from Camp Curtis, which involves a descending traverse from the campsites. So far, the way isn't too rock-ridden, but later in the summer as the glacier melts the path can be subject to lots of loose rock. There are BIG crevasses on the lower Emmons below Schurman, so rope up. Photo by Heather Thorne

Climbers are leaving Camp Schurman early (2:00 a.m.) to try for the summit and return to camp before the hottest part of the day. The full moon on the 29th helped out a lot by lighting up the route. Despite generally good climbing conditions, there are three areas in which parties have been noticing major hazards.

  • The first is right out of Camp Schurman before the Emmons Flats. There is a weakening crevasse bridge and when it goes it will go big.
  • The second is at the top of the corridor at around 11,800 feet. There is a jumble of hard ice, weak snow, and vertical as well as horizontal crevasses. This makes it hard for parties to assess whether or not their entire rope team is over a single crevasse or not. Please be careful here and don't just assume the "beaten path which has turned into a trench" is safe.
  • The third major hazard on the route is the crevasse at 13,500 feet. A climber relayed that he destroyed the bridge/step most teams were using to cross this crevasse. Yesterday (Aug. 2nd) some teams reported using a narrow but deep (thick) bridge 15 yards to the climber's left to cross it. Other teams said they kept traversing to the climber's right and found a wider bridge, but with an unknown thickness, to cross. No teams started traversing all the way toward the Liberty Cap Saddle although this action might happen soon if all the crevasse bridges start to fail at 13,500 feet. Image at left shows climbers crossing the bergschrund (image by Heather Thorne.

Jim Springer, a former Mount Rainier climbing ranger and now a climbing ranger at the Tetons, climbed with his son last Tuesday. They made great time in excellent style (see photo to the right). It was great to hear all of the interesting bits of history he shared.

~ Tom "House of" Payne

Look here for 2007 archived information.