Tahoma Glacier - 2008

Tahoma Glacier Route Conditions - July 12
More beta on the Tahoma Glacier Route from some climbers who summitted a few days ago.
A teaching colleague of mine at Deer Park High School, and I summitted and descended via the Tahoma Glacier a few days ago. We approached via the Tahoma Creek Trail and camped near the glacier terminus. The next day we shifted half our load onto sleds and slogged around the right side of Glacier Island and up to the gap briefly joining the Tahoma and South Tahoma Glaciers. There we camped on the South Tahoma side, seeking cleaver shelter from high winds. The next morning we ascended the middle finger of the Tahoma, digging in below an ice fall about 11,200 ft, above a group of climbers camped at the base of the exit ramp off St. Andrews Rock. We watched that crew attempt a summit, only to bail at about 12,000 ft. from the Tahoma face at 4:00 p.m. This made our job remarkably easy, eliminating tedious route finding that resulted in our failed attempt a year prior. We left our tent at 1:30 a.m, descended to the lower left portion of the glacier, and followed a path well worn by those preceding. After crossing all the way to the right, we ascended a 1,000 ft. debris field and then continued up the face. The top was steep and the series of exit ramps were lined with large crevasses. We worked our way to the left and attacked the summit cone directly. We made Columbia Crest at 10:30 a.m.,and then descended the Tahoma, following our tracks. The warm afternoon temperatures made for a tough pitch at the top, but the rest was plunge-stepable. We returned to our tent around 4:00 p.m. The next day we left camp and made our truck parked near the Westside Road washout at 9:00 p.m.
As for the condition of the climb, crevasses were widening and bridges were thinning. I'd advise no further attempts this year. The approach to the Sickle appears to have been entirely broken up by a massive ice fall tumble, so I'd strongly discourage that option as well.
~ Jack Wood
July 7

There have been alot of requests for updates on the Tahoma Galcier Route and FINALLY we have a report to share, which provides some good information on the approach, snow and climbing conditions, as well as great pictures of the glaciers. Overall, the route looks to be in good summer climbing condition. Despite the longer approach, this route offers some spectacular views and great climbing. Thanks to Jack Barben III for sharing his trip report.

June 30-July 3 2008

The conditions were for the most part excellent, though there were a few spots where the terrain and navigation were difficult .

[Note: Our altimeters were reading low for the whole trip, reading 5,900 feet at the first camp (100 feet low) and 13,950 feet at the summit crater (500 feet low.) All elevations given in this report are the readings from our altimeters, so bear in mind the low readings.]

We started up the Westside Road in the early morning and quickly reached the Tahoma Creek Trail, which you can identify by a huge hole in the road filled with trees and stumps; it is also marked with tape. The trail is washed out in numerous places and some bushwacking is involved. After the first half-mile, the trail is in fairly good shape up to the junction with the Wonderland trail. We took a minute here to see the suspension bridge a few hundred feet south on the Wonderland trail, which was certainly worth the stroll over. Continuing north, we followed the trail to about 5,000 feet where snow made it difficult to follow. We then continued traversing the Emerald Ridge to the base of the Tahoma Glacier. The first night we made camp around 6,032 feet, near running water. There are other fairly flat places to camp along the glacier. I noted spots at around 7,300 and 8,200 feet that seemed ideal.

We woke up early the next morning and started up the glacier. The temperature never reached freezing, so the snow was quite soft. Nevertheless, the route was very straightforward and we quickly reached our high camp under some small seracs at around 9,800 feet.

We left at first light the next morning. We went up about 200 feet in elevation to the seracs and then traversed left and down, losing about 75 feet in elevation. There appeared to be a route through the crevasses straight ahead, but upon closer inspection we couldn’t find a way through. So, we went down and then traversed a few hundred yards left around a dirty, crescent-moon-shaped serac (about 10,100 feet) and made our way to the first difficult section of the trip. The key here is to find a way through the seracs to the crevasse-free snow field up and to the right. We had to go up a fairly steep (50-60 degree) slope and over a few snow bridges to reach the snow field.

After making our way through this tricky section, we quickly made our way up the snow field (maximum steepness of 35-40 degrees) to another ice fall. From below, there appeared to be a ramp leading to the next crevasse-free snow field on the right side of the glacier, but the ramp was a little more difficult than we expected. The elevation here was 11,700 feet. Again, the key here is to get up and to the right. We made our way through a few hundred feet of some sketchy snow bridges and steep alpine ice to the next snow field.

From here, wind your way around small ice falls, heading generally toward the left skyline (up and left.) There is a very large crevasse that looked to run the length of the glacier at approximately 13,000 feet. If you have been aiming to the left skyline up to this point, you should find a fairly solid snow bridge that crosses the crevasse (the only snow bridge we could see.) From here, head straight up towards the summit.

We chose to descend the D.C. route and were very happy with this choice. The Tahoma is tricky to navigate and crossing some of the snow bridges we crossed in the afternoon would have been spotty at best.
Gear List: We brought an ice tool with us, as well as an ice screw and two pickets. We would recommend bringing along at least this much gear to get through the difficult sections.

~Jack Barden III

May 17th

This report is from independent climber Andy Johnson. Just wanted to let you know what things are like on the West side of the Mountain, if you haven't been out there.

Ed Hobbick and I headed out the West Side Road on Thursday with the thought of climbing the Tahoma Glacier and descending the Ingraham. We tried to approach via the Tahoma Creek Trail, but got pushed up onto the side of Emerald Ridge by the river and ended up scrambling over the top onto the North side to finish the climb to camp at the Wonderland Trail's crossing at 5600.

The Tahoma was still well filled in, but as you know, the snow was soft and melting fast. We woke before sun rise, and you could still push a full length picket to the hilt with the palm of one hand. We noticed numerous wet sloughs on multiple aspects that had come down over night, but did not see any slabs.

We decided that we had seen enough and returned via Emerald Ridge to Round Pass, which is definitely the preferable route at this time. There were several new slides that had come down to the West Side Road along the Creek with a lot of debris.

~ Andy Johnson

Check out our archived information on the Tahoma Glacier.

Ingraham Direct - 2008

Ingraham Glacier Direct Route Conditions - May 17th

It seems like this route has rapidly lost its privileged early season preference. Most teams (all this weekend) are now climbing to the summit via the Disappointment Cleaver route. The main reason why is because crevasse navigation has increasingly become tough, and the risk of being clobbered by icefall is great.

Last Tuesday IMG Guides Liam O'Sullivan and Greg Vernovage scouted the Ingraham Headwall. Here are some notes from Liam's experiences.

Significant crevasse and sustained exposure to icefall along the route greatly reduce the margin of safety. I was already reconsidering whether to guide inexperienced climbers up the Ingraham Glacier, when "The Mountain" sealed the deal...

A large crevasse traverses the glacier, forcing the climber's left and climbers' right variations to converge at a huge bridge that spans a crevasse near 11,700 feet. While crossing the bridge, I suddenly heard what sounded like a canon shot, plums of snow flew up around me, and a 30' x 12' chunk of the bridge fell away beneath my feet. I instantly dropped my ski pole, which I had been using to probe suspect bridges, and dove back, aiming for more solid ground. With the ground disappearing below my feet, I didn't have much to push off of, and just missed the newly-forming lip of the crevasse with my ice axe. I somehow ended up falling head first into the crack, as large cooler-sized chunks of snow/ice fell over me. I'm very glad I was wearing my helmet, very glad the Kiwi coils wrapped across my chest held, and very glad Greg -- a pretty big guy -- was on the other end of the rope. After all the commotion nothing seemed to hurt, I quickly palpated my C-spine, hollered to Greg that I was okay, uprighted myself, and climbed out. The wall was slightly sloped, and I was only 12 feet or so down. All in all, I got a sore neck for a few days and lost a ski pole but I gained one more unplanned but valuable experience on the mountain. All that was left of the bridge was an extremely delicate thread of snow (with a solitary wand, of all things) that I hope no one would even consider walking on.

If things change, we'll let you know. ~ Mike Gauthier

May 11

The Ingraham Direct is thinning out quickly (see photo of entire upper glacier). Snow bridges crossing major openings are thin. Make sure climbing partners are in a good spot to self-arrest on the steeper crossings. There is a lot of "Styrofoam" quality snow on the route currently. Rangers found post-holing conditions up to mid-shin on Sunday. With recent high winds rangers were expecting wind-loaded slopes to be less consolidated than they were. The slopes seemed quite stable. The route is wanded sporadically all the way to the top, but don't depend solely on them for navigation. Crossing the Cowlitz into Cathedral Gap is straight forward without any crevasses opening up yet. Many parties have been inquiring about Cadaver Gap. There is a large bergschrund at the bottom of the gap that is opening up wider every day. Currently it is still passable - even skiable - but use extreme caution. Cathedral Gap is a much safer option this time of year, but requires popping off your skis.

Check out our 2007 and other archived for this route.