"Looking for solitude?"
With the long awaited opening of the Mowich Lake Road, so comes a long awaited route update for the Mowich Face... as well as a close-up look at the other seldom scene west facing routes of Mt. Rainier. The overall synopsis for the outing is basically that all the routes on this side of the mountain have sadly gone out of shape, with the exception of the Central Mowich Face...which still gets four out of five stars! Read on for more details.
Approaching from Mowich Lake, the trail to Spray Park was mostly clear of snow and trees which made for fast hiking. Somewhat hard to believe with the several feet of snow still lingering around the lake but nonetheless cruiser conditions to Spray Park. Once at Spray Park, you are back on the snow with little reason to even try to continue following the trail as the path of least resistance is simply up and left to Observation Rock and the lower portion of Ptarmagin Ridge.
From Observation Rock you can either continue up the final sub-ridge and make the descent to the Mowich Glacier, continuing on with the approach, or find several pristine and dry camping options above Observation Rock. Making the descent to the North Mowich Glacier from here is a bit of a chore but once on the glacier itself the route finding and crevasse negotiation was very straightforward all the way to high camp at 9600ft.
Once on the lower snowfield you will begin adding stars to the route with fast climbing on only partially sun-cupped neve snow. Gaining altitude around 12,500ft. you get a really cool view of what may be Mt. Rainier's only natural arch? More importantly, however, what you will probably be more focused on is that this is also where the ice on the route begins. Here there are two options...one is to climb straight up the ice sheet and go for the real calf burn or you can trend left to the base of the upper cliff band and then traverse back right underneath it traveling more on snow than ice.
On the upper portion of the route, the exit left through the cliff band as described in the guidebook looked to be completely out of shape or at least very dicey at best. Continuing out to the right and around the cliff band yielded only one steeper pitch of water ice and seemed to provide a much more aesthetic and direct line to the top of the face.
See you on the mountain.
~ Kevin Hammonds & Sam Wick
Mowich Face Route Conditions - May 19th
We don't have any trip or route reports yet, but we did get an aerial photo of the Mowich Face routes.
Let's hope for more snow, or these routes may melt out fast. Photo by Stefan Lofgren.
Check out our archived conditions on the Mowich Face.