The DC is now the preferred standard route from Camp Muir. All the wands and ladders have been pulled off the Ingraham Direct. Hindrances on the ID including large crevasses that run all the way from Gibraltar Rock to the Disappointment Cleaver and ice fall potential from large seracs looming high on the mountain have climbers avoiding this route.
Climbing Rangers Philippe Wheelock and Rachel Mueller descended the ID in poor weather (near white-out conditions). While the team found the bootpack and wanding barely solid enough to follow, parties descending only minutes later (in white-out conditions) found the descent challenging and disorienting.
This is one of the great paradoxes of climbing on Rainier - in good conditions the route is clearly laid out in front of you; but in the blink of an eye, weather can move in that paralyzes experienced climbers who had ascended the route hours earlier. A GPS with pre-set waypoints or breadcrumbs to follow can be worth its weight in gold in conditions like these.
Despite predictions that this route would be out of shape quickly due to the warm temps, guided parties are still using this route regularly to ascend from Camp Muir.
That said, this route has crevasse hazards to navigate - snow bridges, gaps, and some minor climbing (or downclimbing, depending on your direction). Suggestion: Use that down time at Camp Muir to practice your crevasse travel and rescue technique at Camp Muir before making your ascent!
The icefall debris continues to lay in the path of the route, so please move quickly when traveling in this zone.
An ascent of the Ingraham on 5/29 saw conditions of the route deteriorating due to recent stable, warm weather. Crevasse gaps are widening throughout the route and numerous new smaller cracks are appearing above 11,000 feet. With some notable larger gaps above 12,000 feet.
Sometime on either 5/27 or 5/28, a large serac collapsed above Ingraham Flats, scattering a large amount of debris throughout the area and across the route. To cross this section of the route, rangers stayed to climber's left of the debris and ascended until a direct traverse across the debris could be made to minimize exposure to more ice fall.
But, the "summer" Disappointment Cleaver route will likely become the predominant summit route up the mountain in the coming week or so as the Ingraham Direct deteriorates further and traffic on the route drops off.
The Ingraham saw more ascents this last week than any other route on the mountain. The three guide services as well as most private parties were using this route from Camp Muir. It is proving to be very direct with quick ascent times being recorded be most groups.
The traverse across the Cowlitz is fast and crevasse free and at the moment. Watch out though, some climbers have literally had to dodge rocks on the eastern half in the hot weather. From the flats the route ascends straight up the glacier (slightly left of center) to the 12'000 foot level. From here it makes an ascending traverse right until you are a few hundred feet above the top of the cleaver. Watch for an area of ice fall in this traverse. The route from here to the Columbia Crest is relatively direct.
There are many large crevasses in the Ingraham Direct. And, with the heat and snow conditions as they were for memorial day weekend, climbers were punching through holes every day. Two falls resulted in injuries, one at around 12,300 and one in a steam cave on the summit. The crevasses may prove to be too open and too wide for most people to continue using this route by this next weekend. The guide services were already making plans to use the Disappointment Clever a couple of days ago.
Make sure to check in with the rangers at Camp Muir for the latest and don't forget your helmet.
Ingraham Direct - May 17th
This weekend seemed to be the official start to the climbing season on Mount Rainier. With warm temperatures and clear skies, there were numerous summits from both Gib Ledges and the Ingraham Direct (I.D.).
The conditions on the I.D. were just about perfect over the weekend with full snow coverage. The snow actually extended from Camp Muir all the way to the summit minimizing the hazards of rockfall and awkward cramponing up the normally loose rock chutes under catherdral gap. Once past Cathedral Gap, the route wanders up through the icefall of the Ingraham until reuniting with the standard Dissappointment Cleaver route at the top of the cleaver itself. From here the route zigs and zags its way to the summit avoiding most crevasse crossings and steeper wind exposed pitches .
Although there were a few obvious snow bridges to cross throughout the route the most eminent hazard was the potential for icefall from the top of the Ingraham Glacier... so be sure to get an early start.
The Camp Muir scene was also in full swing this weekend with a plethora of skiers and boarders making the hike as well as sunbathers and photographers. Currently, all systems are go at Camp Muir including the opening of the Public Shelter and additional outhouses.
See you on the mountain...
Ingraham Direct - May 13th
We had only a couple climbers summit again early this last week. Reports of deep unconsolidated snow were turning climbers around. Climbers without some type of snow flotation were reporting post-holing up to mid-thigh at 12,750 above the cleaver. After a couple of climbers punched through to the top the going was easier.
The glacier itself is still in decent shape. The route does not end-run many crevasses making for relatively quicker access to the upper mountain. With all this new unconsolidated snow remember to be aware of larger avalanches. This next weekend of better weather looks to be a great time to be up on the route.
Over the last week eleven climbers were successful on the ID. All climbers were using Cathedral Gap to access the Ingraham Glacier. The snow conditions were variable - soft grainy powder in some places and wind-swept packed snow in other places. Careful of wind swept snow masking crevasses. Climbers reported the upper part of the route to be in solid shape.
Bands of rock and avalanche debris in Cadaver Gap seem to be indicating that Cathedral Gap might be a better approach up to the Ingraham Flats. Not many parties this spring have attempted this route yet. Enjoy the solitude!