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
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.