Furher Finger 2009

Fuhrer Finger- May 25th

On the 24th
Climbing Rangers Philippe Wheelock and Rachel Mueller took the early season approach from the Nisqually Glacier up towards the Wilson Glacier to the 9,200 foot camp below the Kautz with the intention of climbing and skiing the Fuhrer Finger. Leaving camp the following day at 6 a.m. they made a quick traverse underneath the Finger on skis.

Replacing skis with crampons they found excellent cramponing on good neve through the Hourglass. There was occasional rockfall but vigilance and speed were the best assets until they traversed left directly under the rockwall. At about 12,000 feet they traversed east (right) to gain the upper Nisqually and from there kicked steps up past Point Success to the summit. After a quick assist with a helicopter rescue in the crater they put skis on and at 12:30 pm schralped 5,000 ft. of velvety snow conditions back to 9,200 ft.

Following are a couple of notables
for people looking to climb the Finger or Thumb:

Early-Season Approach - The early season approach mentioned in 'Mt Rainier: A Climbing Guide' is currently in good condition and avoids the rockfall and avalanche activity on the east-facing wind-loaded slopes used to gain the ridge at a lower elevation. See photo for an example of avalanche activity low on the approach, Additionally, climbing parties reported that this early-season approach is an hour faster than the 'Fan.' That said, all approaches involve glacier travel, rockfall and icefall hazard, and some exposure to avalanche slopes. Please take proper precautions when moving on the mountain both above and below 10,000 ft. Flotation is strongly recommended if climbers are planning to move anywhere below 10,000' anytime after sunrise. Of course, freezing levels are a concern and should be checked prior to any approach. Skis or snowshoes are not necessary for the route but crampons and an ice axe are necessary for a safe climb. That said, the Finger is a rad ski line and anyone comfortable skiing big mountain lines at 45 degrees in variable conditions should take advantage of one of the best alpine descents in the region.

It appeared that parties are getting late morning starts and underestimating the effort of the approach. From Glacier Vista, you'll loose some vertical before climbing up the Nisqually Glacier. So, even if you're heading to camp at 9,200', you'll gain virtually the same amount of vertical as the approach to Camp Muir.

Many parties were taking over 6 hours to make it to 9,200ft and complained of postholing and hot conditions on the glacier. Set yourself up for success and approach early when conditions are firm, temps are cooler, and rockfall and avalanche hazards are reduced. Futhermore, an early arrival at camp allows for an afternoon nap, a chance to dry socks and boots, and plenty of time to eat and rehydrate for the summit climb.

Camping - Camping is not recommended at the base of the Finger or Thumb. First and foremost, this area is exposed to rockfall through the evening. Basing yourself on the Waypowety Cleaver will only require a few additional minutes, you'll be safer, and you'll have less impact on the glacier.

Pack it Out - Rangers noticed a significant number of lonely abandoned, used bluebags. This is WRONG!! Climbers are responsible for following the Leave No Trace ethic and violations may result in fines and/or forfeiture of climbing privileges. Please pack it out!!

Fuhrer Finger - May 13th

We received a trip report on the Fuhrer Finger from Cindy Williams and her partner Matt Hoffman on their climb around May 1st.

We self-registered on Thursday, April 30, 2009 and departed the parking lot at 9:30 a.m. The weather forecast was for high pressure for Thursday and Friday. The temps for the summit were expected to be single digit and winds to be low. We found snow conditions to be firm and consolidated with a dusting of fresh snow, up to 2” in some places. Due to the great snow coverage of the crevasses on the Nisqually Glacier, we took the direct route on the Nisqually. We encountered several narrow crevasses atop a large convex roll near 7,500’, otherwise no other openings were seen on the approach.

We saw two skiers descending the Fuhrer Finger and heading down the Nisqually around 1 p.m. on Thursday during our approach. By that time of day the snow conditions (due to the sun and solar warming) were getting a bit sloppy. We did a small amount of post-holing, but overall snow conditions for the entire approach were firm, but not icy.

We camped for the night and started out at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, May 1, just as the sky was lightening up. The snow had frozen solid overnight and we made easy progress up the Finger and through the Hour Glass. We could see the ski tracks and in a few areas the soft, slushy afternoon snow of the previous day had slid a bit, but just fresh snow sluff of an inch or two. We found easier travel in the untracked, less icy, areas to the side of these patches. Around 11,500’ we traversed right, back out on the Nisqually Glacier and headed directly to the summit rim. We paralleled one large crevasse as we began the traverse, and crossed one bridge, but otherwise the glacier was in easy travelling/skiing condition.

We climbed in sunshine and no wind until we reached the rim. At that point the wind hit us and it did not abate until we reached our car in the Paradise parking lot. We climbed along the rim to Columbia Crest and were greeted by five eastern European climbers. We were unable to locate the climber’s log book below the summit due to the snow cover.

The track coming down from the summit to the top of the Ingraham Direct route has a number of pretty substantial crevasses and large snow bridges. One sunken snow bridge was nearly five feet across.

The Ingraham Direct was in great shape and still had good coverage of crevasses. There were no crevasses visible at Ingraham Flats or down to Cathedral Gap. The Gap is still filled with snow, and we did not see any open holes on our way to Camp Muir.

The snow conditions and coverage was so good, we were wishing we had our skis instead of overnight packs. This was our first carry-over to the summit of Mt. Rainier and my body was starting to complain about the extra weight. Despite the winds, we had a beautiful and scenic walk back to Paradise.

The Fuhrer Finger is a great early season route, and especially for those who like to ski.

It has been climbed a few times this winter and there have already been some ski descents. I haven't got any trip reports sent to me on Fuhrer Finger this season so I can't really post much information. Please, if you climb it, send me an email!

Currently upper mountain conditions are quite good for climbing. However, many people are reporting less snow than normal for this time of year. So it will be important to get on it early this year.

The Fuhrer Finger can be avalanche prone, both in spring-like conditions where loose afternoon snow produces wet, slushy avalanches, and also in winter-like conditions where recent accumulations of fresh snow produces slabs and loose powder avalanches. There have been numerous fatalities over the years on the Finger.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center does not issue avalanche forecasts for Mt. Rainier in the summer time. You are responsible for assessing the snow stability yourself. Keep in mind that in chute systems (which the FF is), relatively small features that are above where you're climbing can accumulate wind-deposited snow and produce avalanche conditions that affect the chute where you are climbing.

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Success Cleaver 2009

July 13

Latest reports and observations of Success Cleaver show the route to be significantly melted out. This leaves climbers with the unpleasant experience of a Mount Rainier scramble: poor quality rock, loose scree, and extreme rockfall hazard. Maybe that's your cup of tea, but this time of year most climbers are better off staying on the snow and ice of the glacier routes.

Here is a Human Powered Trip Report by John Mauro from the 4th of July. Even though he had cycled all the way from Seattle, he made the wise choice to turn back when rockfall became too dicey high on the route. Nice work John!
I ended up getting to Longmire at about 3pm after riding my bike from Seattle (starting at 5am) with skis and full gear on Friday, July 3. I got as far as the Indian Henry's patrol cabin by dark, put on skis, and skinned another hour or so where I camped. Skinning from there along the side of Pyramid at sunrise, I was able to piece together snow until about 7000', where I had to choose between the cleaver and the remnants of the Success glacier. I dropped skis there, thinking I needed to make better time (I was doing about 1000' an hour, but hard in the up-down choss nastiness) over the rock. What followed is one of the most unfriendly choss pile climbs I've ever encountered-- very little snow and nothing was stable. Crossing over big drops was fine, though, in general, but the objective hazard from above started kicking off as the sun kept warming up. I noted a helicopter moving over toward the DC route, assuming there had been an issue and this, along with a massive ledge that let go across from the Success, gave me pause. I was hoping the snow slopess-- which I could somewhat see, but was puzzled by-- could take me there. Well, in short, they didn't quite. I topped out under some nasty 45+ degree slopes that should have been snow covered but weren't and everything I touched launched off the cliff down to the Sucess glacier. I was at the time making my way across toward where the route meets the Kautz, gaining quickly on Point Success when I had a feeling that, despite having 8-10 hours of sunlight and plenty of energy left, I should call it. It hurt, but I turned around. Even with an experienced team, I think I would have made the same call. The route just wasn't gonna work without a bit of snow in the gullies. Down was quick and I found myself in skis for some runs (I made some detours to take in the corn snow in the sunshine), then back over the Pyramid area to IH's hunting ground. Since I wasn't too keen on camping at Longmire or in the mosquitoes down from IH's, I went to bed very early and saved the downhill miles for Sunday, July 5. Hiked out sorta late, got to Longmire by about 10am, transitioned, and bombed back to Seattle on my bicycle (via Orting instead of Puyallup-- good call!), took a nice dip in Lake Washington and got in before 7pm. Overall, a great "independence" trip with about 43 hours of movement and transitioning over the long weekend and no cars involved.

Photos can be found at: http://picasaweb.google.com/johnmauro3/SoloRainierHumanPoweredApproach

This just in from Andy Magness. Thanks, Andy!

Full trip report can be found here.

Five of us climbed sSccess Cleaver last Thurs.-Sat.(May 14th-16th). Here's a brief report:

Left from Kautz trailhead Thurs morning. Encountered snow around 3,000 feet, then trail completely buried at about 3 miles in on the trail. Travelled on skis and followed flagging for a bit before losing that and just navigating via compass. About six feet of snow covering the ground above 4,000 feet in most places. Slow going. Skinned to old patrol cabin and the trees started thinning considerably. Proceeded to around 8,100 feet in a total whiteout - often not able to tell if we were going uphill or down, especially on low grades! Got above clouds just as we camped.

Next day climbed up the cleaver - making good time to around 10,000 feet. Then progress slowed as there were some steep traverses and more 'technical' sections on the narrow ridge. We weren't sure exactly where the route deviated from the ridge crest, and encountered terrain significantly steeper than the 35 degrees the route description suggests for this section. Snow conditions were generally favorable and made for good, if exhausting step kicking. We ended up traversing above the level indicated on the map, around to the Kautz Headwall section. Mostly kicked steps with short sections of front-pointing up the long 45-50 degree headwall. Perfect weather and great exposure - an awesome part of the climb. Team was exhausted and winds high so we found a small snow shelf to dig out for a camp near the top of the steep section, underneath a protective rock outcrop.

Next morning was clear again. A short steeper bit led us to the rounded snow slopes that climb to Point Success. Whole team had summitted by 10:30 or so (we slept in a bit). Traversed across the crater and skied down the Emmons Glacier, finding a mix of conditions - from hard snow, to ice, to deep slush. Overall conditions were great though, with the exception of a few sections of hard, wind-sculpted snow that made it difficult to get good edge purchase with the skis after turns - like skiing down a washboard.

Much of the lower glacier was stellar - awesome turns in corn or 3-5 inches of 'heavy powder' from the weekend storms. Almost no open crevasses, and ice cliffs easy to negotiate.

From Camp Schurman we intended to traverse to the Inter Glacier but found snow conditions on the traverse so unstable (I caused a small slab to release below me at one point) that we just continued down the Emmons and then skinned/bush-whacked over to the Glacier Basin trail around 4,800 ft. The trail was buried all the way down and one of our team was on skis all the way to the bridge over the White River below the campground (the rest of us were tired of ski boots and post-holed the last few miles in trail runners).

The adventure continued the next morning as we started pack-rafting down the White River, but this is another story entirely....

Hope this is useful. I'll try to send some photos soon or links to photos/websites.

Team YogaSlackers

Nisqually Icefall 2009

This report just in from Nate Farr & Marcus Donaldson, nice work, guys! They climbed on 5/30/2009.

Slots were mostly wide open in the icefall itself, with delicate but passable bridges. Took on three cruxes directly staying just left of center. Simul-climbed using two pickets and two screws.

Heard no rockfall or serac activity. The two took 5 hours from Muir to the summit. Overall, the reported the route to still be in decent shape and said the bridge crossings are the main hazard on the route.

This just sent to me by Jiri Richter. -Thanks!

I saw on the climbing blog you're looking for some info about the icefall. My friend and I climbed it on 5/1. Here are some pictures

Here's one that shows the route we took. We had some routefinding challenges due to big crevasses. We tried to go straight up to the middle of the upper Nisqually which appears on the pictures as an easy snow slope. We ran into a big crevasse with the opposite side much higher, creating an overhanging wall with a 4-5 foot wide gap below. From my picture you can see we went down and right between some seracs until we saw a ramp going to the top of the wall.

The ramp was a bit sketchy but the ice screws were solid. Once above this crevasse. we were forced to traverse back to the extreme left by another crevasse. After some more zig-zagging we were able to join tracks with the FF route. I found the most of the bridges a bit sketchy. And it's hard to say if the route is still climbable. I hope this helps.


Still Do-able?

It looks to me like the ice fall is still do-able. I'd like to get trip report from someone.

Just got down off the mountain from placing the glacier stakes with the glacier monitoring crew. It looks like there is an "average" amount of snow this year. So it's very likely that the routes are going to be in "average" condition.

Here's a picture of the Icefall. There may still be a way up onto the middle of upper Nisqually. Look on the left of the picture.

Little Tahoma - 2009

Little Tahoma - Fryingpan Creek - July 19th

A successful ascent of Little Tahoma by climbing rangers from the Fryingpan Creek trailhead on July 19th found great conditions. Despite being a bit later in the season, the approach is still in great shape and the routefinding/crevasse negotiation is negligible.

The trail to Summerland camp is 100% melted out and a good warm-up for the climbing ahead. From Summerland camp, rangers used two successive snow ramps with small rock sections in the middle on the far right side of Meany Crest to gain the Fryingpan glacier just climber's right of Meany Crest. These ramps are steep, but still in good form. Be prepared for a bit icier conditions in the early morning as the ramps are in shade until about 10 AM.

Once on the glacier, navigate through a crevasse here or there until the notch between the Fryingpan and Whitman glaciers is gained at around 9,000 feet. Be VERY wary of rockfall in the section from the cliffs to climber's left, several large rocks were seen cascading down by rangers.

The Whitman glacier has broken up a bit more, but a nice, steep direct line up the right side of the crevasses is one option as well as a bit of an end-around to climber's left of the whole area. The upper slopes to the rocks below the summit are moderate and in good shape. Routefinding should be no problem once on the Whitman. Obviously, be wary of rockfall for this entire part of the climb as well.

Pictures will be added to this post soon.

Come out and enjoy the climbing!

- S.H.

Little Tahoma - June 21st

Climbing rangers climbed Little Tahoma from Camp Muir and found great, straight-forward conditions. Teh route dropping down onto the Cowlitz Glacier to about 8,300 feet to a pass onto the Ingraham had some rockfall, but easy crevasse crossings. The traverse across the Ingraham was very direct. The pass over onto the Whitman Glacier from the Ingraham was rocky and a little unsecure - but no different from previous years.

Climbing up the Whitman Glacier was straight forward as well (see photo to the right). A couple of cracks are beginning to open, but the route appears to be intact for quite some time. The summit was still spectactular. Careful on the final scramble!

June 11th : Fryingpan Creek Approach (White River):

With White River road open and area trails melting out, a climb of Little Tahoma from the Fryingpan Creek trailhead is a great climbing objective in lieu of the bigger hill to the west.

Rangers climbed the route on June 11th and found fantastic conditions with plenty of snow still on much of the route which made for easy, direct travel. The east side approach begins from the Fryingpan Creek trailhead on White River road. The trail was approximately 40% snow covered to Summerland. Upon nearing the popular summer backcountry site, rangers were able to ascend to Meany Crest (~7,500 ft) directly via a moderate snow slope. Once on the crest, an easy traverse across the Fryingpan glacier gained the notch separating the Fryingpan and Whitman glaciers at just over 9,000 feet. Many routes from the basin below to the Fryingpan glacier are possible and a different approach could be fun.

Despite being a low angle glacier, the Fryingpan (as well as the Whitman) are both beginning to show several crevasses and roping up, as always for simple glacier travel, is recommended.

Once through the notch a traverse out across the Whitman glacier gains the final snowfield that takes climbers to the rocky summit block of Little T. When making the final push, rangers stayed to far climber's right to stay on slightly lower angled snow rather than climbing the snowfield directly.

In addition to crevasse hazard on the route, climbers should also be wary of rockfall especially when traversing the Fryingpan glacier (from the cliffs to climber's left, ~8,700 feet) and when ascending the final snowfield to the summit ridge and scrambling on Little T's notoriously loose summit.

See you out there!

- S. Hotaling

Early Season - 2009

There are several approaches to Little T. This post addresses the Camp Muir approach as the White River Road isn't open yet.

There are many ways of approaching Little Tahoma from the SW. Some people begin at Muir, cross the Cowlitz and descend to about 8,400 feet then ascend a snow slope with a short rock finish.

The route finishes by ascending virtually straight up the Whitman Glacier and accessing some rock slopes that eventually take you to the top peaks of Little T. Bear in mind that because of the recent snows we got up on the mountain, coupled with the really warm current temperatures, that these conditions could create perfect conditions in the afternoon for soft, loose, and heavy spring avalanches!

However, today I noticed that there may be a little more direct way of accessing the upper Whitman Glacier. This could conceivably cut a lot of time slogging along the flat bit of the Ingraham Glacier and get you up onto the Whitman nice and quick.

This gulley system, instead, begins at about 8600 feet and accesses the upper Whitman at about 9500 feet. Take a look and see what you think! The gulley system finishes to the right of the pyramid-like feature in the middle of the photo to the right.

Be wary of avalanche danger over the next couple of days. I noticed several loose-snow avalanches today in the 6000-8000 foot range.

Nisqually Ice Cliff 2009

Once again, it looks like there is a pretty good way up onto the Ice Cliff on the usual climber's left side of the ice cliff closest to Nisqually Cleaver. It's not often that this route stays in shape all the way into June, so get on it!
Keep in mind with the warm temperatures and the recent snow that was just dumped onto the upper mountain, that there could be a risk of later afternoon avalanches of mushy loose snow.

Disappointment Cleaver 2009

Disappointment Cleaver - October 7th

This route has not seen much traffic over the past two weeks. The guide companies have stopped running trips and are no longer doing route maintenance. With all of the fixed lines and ladders removed, the DC will have a little more adventure value. Getting on to the cleaver may be exposed, consider rockfall danger when choosing whether or no tot belay here. Some belays may be justified at the top of the cleaver and gaining the Emmons shoulder. Have fun, be safe and enjoy the solitude.

Disappointment Cleaver-September 28th

While climbers have been summitting via the DC regularly over the last few days it should be noted that the guide services are today removing all wands, hand lines and other accoutrements in place on the route. This will certainly bump up the skill level and tenacity required to make a safe and 'independent' summit climb.

While most of the route is normally free from artificial aid the traverse at the top of the Cleaver over to the Emmons is still the crux of the route and climbers have been using a ladder to move across one large crevasse at the end of the traverse. It should also be noted that more than one climber has slipped and fallen getting onto the traverse despite the use of hand lines. As of today those hand lines, ladders and pickets will be removed.

With poor weather forecast for the bulk of the week it remains to be seen if the DC will recover with new snow in the future or if it will remain in poor conditions. But for now rest assured it will be an adventure for the next few days.

Disappointment Cleaver - September 26th

The DC stills goes. Although not getting much traffic this late in the season, it's still a decent outing. At this time the main concern is rockfall, especially while traversing from Camp Muir to Cathedral Gap and on the lower part of the Disappointment Cleaver.

High winds have helped the upper mountain resist the recent warm weather and conditions up high have stayed in good shape. Traversing from the top of the cleaver to the Emmons shoulder climbers will find a hand line with chopped steps and a ladder crossing; both improvements were installed by the guide companies. The snow from the early September storm has helped fill in the crevasses up high, and a little route finding and judgment will help you get to the top.

Many climbers report the crux of the route to be gaining the cleaver. The route approaches the cleaver on a fin of icy snow and then traverses along fine glacial silt on a steep slope as one transitions onto the cleaver. This is a hard section to belay out because of the rockfall hazard above - climbers should be moving safely, but fast through this section. Come prepared for a little exposure.

Disappointment Cleaver - September 12th

After a frustrating few days the Cleaver route was pushed through, allowing multiple parties to summit beginning last Thursday. The route has been re-established towards the Emmons shoulder and with new cross-loaded snow filling in most major crevasses, it felt like mid-June conditions this weekend.

Warm temps helped stabilize the new snow-old snow interface reducing the risk of avalanche on the route and already the Cleaver itself has melted back to a 50/50 mix of rock and snow. Conditions were excellent over the weekend with a cool breeze keeping the snow firm and clear skies allowing for outstanding visibility with views all the way to Mt. Jefferson.

The most notable hazard as of Saturday was the amount of rockfall coming through the "bowling alley" where climbers traverse from the Ingraham to the base of the Cleaver. The freeze-thaw cycle has resulted in a steady stream of rocks coming through that area and helmets, swift climbing and good timing are strongly encouraged. Even so, the route from the top of the Cleaver to climbers right out onto the Emmons is in great shape with no need for ladder crossing at this time.

Looking for one last shot at the mountain? Come on up; with cool temps, clear skies and blueberries everywhere its a great time of year for mountaineering and the lack of crowds on the DC can't be beat!!

Disappointment Cleaver - September 9th

After the first real storm of late season, conditions have
improved slightly. The cleaver itself is much easier to access because the moat which had made it difficult to gain the cleaver has filled in with snow. The spine of the cleaver itself is now totally snow covered which lessens the rock fall hazard and makes for easier cramponing. The crux is still above the cleaver. Snow can be knee deep and crusty, making for slow climbing, and both routes (going left above the cleaver toward the top of Gibraltar Rock and going right above the cleaver toward the Emmons Glacier) have serious hazards.

Going left at the top of the cleaver can be done without much crevasse fall danger, but the two larger hazards are the steeper slope and the 'Texas' flake. The wind-loaded Ingraham has obvious signs of avalanche danger (both crowns and debris). Slopes on the Ingraham seem steep enough to slide. The 'Texas' flake which looms directly above the path to the top of Gibraltar Rock adds significant objective danger to the route as well.

Going right at the top of the cleaver, toward the Emmons Glacier, you find large convoluted crevasse openings which can be
complex to cross. At the first crossing (right above the cleaver) there is a rope 'hand' line in place. There are steep angles and corners of serac blocks to climb through with plenty of exposure. No one has been to the second crossing for the past week. There were ladders in place (two strapped together), but a climbing ranger, the last person to be up there, noted the ends of the ladders weren't touching the sides of the crevasses, but just hanging there by their picket anchors, and seemed to be in poor shape. After this storm cycle the ladders probably aren't in any better condition, if they're still there at all.

Though the route has complex difficulties right now, the changing of the seasons can be a rewarding time to be on the mountain. The route has much less rockfall and fewer icy sections, not to mention the mountain itself looking awesome with a fresh coat of snow. Fewer climbers attempt the route this time of year making solitude on the standard route possible. Bring a strong partner and have fun!

September 4th

Conditions on the mountain continue to change rapidly. The route description from Sept. 2nd still holds true. However there are a few new factors. The route onto the cleaver collasped this morning (Sep. 5th), turning around a commercial party. Climbers may have difficulty gaining the cleaver. It is currently snowing heavily at Camp Muir, and the forecast calls for up to two feet of snow. This new snow will of course completely erase all signs of the "trail" . With the current meandering nature of the route this will make route finding and navigation more difficult.

Disappointment Cleaver - September 2nd

The Disappointment Cleaver route has taken a significant turn as the end of the regular climbing season looms ahead. With a lack of precipitation and overall warm temperatures here at Mt. Rainier the mountain continues to be dynamic. That said, the guide services, working together, have done an excellent job maintaining the route all the way to the summit.

Yes, the DC still goes, but this time instead of rolling east (climber's right) at the top of the Cleaver the route has been re-directed southwest (climber's left) across the Ingraham Icefall towards the top of Gibralter Rock. It is still a long traverse but the consequences of a slip and fall have lessened with reduced exposure below and only a short ten foot step-up towards Camp Comfort requires the aid of a handline. However, you are exposed to a large serac at the beginning of the traverse. Consider this risk from the top of the Cleaver and move quickly underneath this serac. While not the only objective hazard it is certainly the most intimidating but thankfully the time spent exposed to it is short lived.

After traversing the Ingraham Icefall and intersecting Gib Rock, the route continues traversing southwest towards the upper Nisqually. From Camp Muir you can actually see climbers on the route as they make their way around the large crevasse that was causing such concern at 13,900 ft. The new route circumvents this crevasse and really does provide a more straightforward approach to the summit.

While the route has changed dramatically in the last few weeks do not be discouraged. It has seen plenty of traffic in the last few days and the late season conditions provide a great opportunity to navigate open crevasses on the way to the Cleaver.

August 25th
Despite continued warm weather, the DC route remains in fairly good shape as we move into the late summer climbing season. Continue to evaluate all snow bridges, crevasses crossings, and fixed protection as the stability of each changes radically throughout the day. The two handlines and two ladders are still in place but should be assessed by each party for anchor strength both on the way up the route and again on the way down. The guiding companies are planning on doing some route work in the coming days which may alter the current path and negate the need for these handlines/ladders. Be sure to check in with the climbing rangers at Camp Muir for the most current route condition.

One area to watch out for is the crevasse crossing at approximately 13,900 feet. The current route crosses this crack and has an opening of less than one foot across. However, both sides of this opening are overhanging by at least three feet. Consider placing running protection on both the entry and exit to this feature to protect your team if the undercut snow bridge collapses.

With that said, the route does continue to hold as the August temperatures seem to rise each day. The high pressure systems that have been gracing the mountain have led to a great summit success rate this season. We are crossing our fingers that these current conditions will stick around for at least the next month. Camp Muir has not been filling to capacity in the last couple weeks and the numbers seem to be less and less each night. Come on out and enjoy the terrific sunny days and a less crowded climbing route than we see in the high volume months of June and July.

Disappointment Cleaver - August 21st
The warm weather is back and the route is once again changing daily. Care should be taken, as always, to evaluate snow bridges and crevasse crossings. In addition to the hand lines the guide companies have placed two ladders on the route above the cleaver to cross two open crevasses. The cleaver itself is still bare of all snow and climbers are traveling close to the "spine".

Disappointment Cleaver - August 13th
The backside of this storm has brought better climbing conditions to the DC. T-shirts are back in fashion at Camp Muir (after you pass through the clouds at Paradise). Weather's looking better for the weekend - come on out!

Disappointment Cleaver - August 12th
Late summer weather and climbing conditions have been prevailing themes on Rainier recently. This has made for a high summit success rate and even some t-shirts on top of the peak! Rockfall and melting snow bridges are the two primary risk management concerns affecting the route currently.

The cleaver has completely melted out and all travel is now on rock. As you travel along the cleaver, aim for the spine and slightly left of the spine for the most efficient and least exposed route. This route is wanded but the flags can be difficult to see under headlamp before the sun rises each morning. Be mindful of those travelling above and below you. Avoid kicking rocks or snagging them with your ropes as you move up and down the path. If you happen to dislodge a rock, alert others immediately by yelling ROCK!

The recent string of hot, bluebird days have affected the mountain's snowpack drastically. Crevasses have been observed opening up by a foot or more in the span of a day during the warmest stretches of weather. Snow bridges are becoming very weak and the trail is becoming extremely narrow in places. The two fixed lines on the route, below and above the cleaver, have paths that are at most six inches wide. These thin routes require careful footwork with crampons to avoid accidental spike snags in gaitors and pant legs. The intense daytime sun has been weakening the picket placements that support the fixed lines. Be sure to test any gear that is in place on the route as its strength will vary widely throughout the day. The end of the traverse over onto the Emmons shoulder is beginning to break apart and requires running protection at this time.

With all of that said, the route is still pretty direct and generally in good shape as we near mid-August. Weekends continue to be near capacity up at Camp Muir and Ingraham Flats but the weekdays have been seeing much less traffic. Hopefully the weather fronts this week will bring some new snow and colder temps to help preserve the route for a while longer this season.

Disappointment Cleaver - August 3rd
The warm weather continues, with freezing levels above 14,000 feet. Wind has been the variable de jour. At the summit, winds have been calm on some days and blowing to 60+ mph on others. Recently at Camp Muir, half a dozen tents were blown over during the early morning hours. Plan for these changing conditions... and bring some good snow anchors for your tents!

About the route...

- While the Cowlitz traverse and Cathedral Gap are in fairly typical conditions, the lower section of the Ingraham (below the Flats) is full of cracks and rockfall here has been significant. While we sometimes see groups heading to the Flats casually, we strongly urge you to rope up here and travelling without a helmet is... well, just don't do it.

- Beyond the Flats, take a moment to assess the traffic on the route. A narrow 'one-lane' road, there is only enough room for one party to move at a time on the final ~100' before you get onto the Cleaver. A few suggestions for moving through this terrain: 1) Time your travel with other parties. If you need to wait a few minutes, find a safe spot to do so. 2) As you move, use the hand-line, but do not prussik into it, as this will further slow down an already bottlenecked area. 3) You may want to consider shortening the distance between members of your rope team to improve communication and to move more efficiently.

- For many climbers, the lower Cleaver is the routefinding crux of the route. There are a few wands to help you find your way, but be prepared to make decisions about how to move up the rock. Eventually you'll want to be on climber's left side of the spine of the Cleaver to pick up the switchbacks on snow for the upper section. As always, there is a chance of rockfall through this section. Keep your helmets on and be mindful of where you stop to take breaks.

- Above the Cleaver, another fixed hand line will help you begin your traverse right toward the Emmons Glacier. As with the section below the Cleaver, this is a 'one-lane road' with exposure and no means to pass. Use similar strategies as with the lower traverse (shortened ropes, use the hand-line without prussiking into it, time your travel with other parties to avoid congestion).

- Beyond the hand-line, the route becomes less exposed as it traverses to and eventually climbs the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier. There are several spots with open crevasses. Use good communication and crevasse travel belay techniques as the terrain requires (e.g., a boot axe belay) as you make your way up to the summit crater.

Thanks to the guide services for their hard work on the route - finding safe passages through the ever-changing conditions and providing the fixed gear to assist with our ascents!

Looking forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Disappointment Cleaver - July 22nd
The route continues to be good climbing and is still relatively quick overall (e.g., several guided parties are making the trip from Muir to the summit in just over 5 hours).

The summer weather is having a significant effect on the route by melting out snow quickly, particularly on the cleaver itself. The guide services are working regularly to keep the route safe and accessible. Currently, there is a ladder in place to assist with crossing the largest gap, about 50 m above the cleaver.

The warm temps have also encouraged folks to get up earlier and earlier (i.e., some folks are leaving Muir before midnight) to avoid climbing in the heat of the day. Sunrise on the summit, anyone? A sunset climb (e.g., often done by leaving the Flats midafternoon) is also a popular choice on crowded days.

Lastly, weekends have been crowded. Last weekend, Ingraham Flats, Muir, and the Muir Snowfield were all sold out from Thursday night through Sunday. While this is typically a busy time for the mountain, the weather seems to contribute to a full house.

We love to see you here, but we encourage you to call ahead and make reservations if your schedule doesn't have flexibility (see the Reservations information here on the blog for more information). Or, better yet, have you checked out conditions on some of the other routes? Maybe this could be your year to branch out from the DC to explore a new part of the mountain.

Disappointment Cleaver - July 14th

Its a good day to be alive! For the first time in two days the clouds blew away and the mountain is calling. Rangers at Camp Muir have been climbing the DC almost daily and with a few route corrections worked-out by the Big 3 Guide Services the climbing is smooth for everyone. Starting at Camp Muir, cruise across the Cowlitz with ropes on, short-roping on the rocks so as to avoid kicking them down below while on your way up to Cathedral Gap. Next is an easy trip by Ingraham Flats and end-running one crevasse before heading over to the the base of the Cleaver itself. The Cleaver is simple to access and in no time you'll be upon its spine and switching back along its shoulder until you can access the upper glaciers. A quarter-mile traverse North out to the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier, a turn towards the summit and a bit of a climb are all that's between you and the crater rim. Good rope management, communication between rope teams, wicked situational awareness and responsible climbing have aided great climbers to be out here climbing--come join em'. Be safe, wear your helmet, bring your sunscreen, your common sense and your sense of humor. Let's climb!

Disappointment Cleaver - July 4th

With the warm temps here on the mountain, rockfall is a significant hazard, particularly on the lower section of the cleaver itself. Keep your 'brain buckets' on!

Disappointment Cleaver - June 23

The DC is now the preferred standard route from Camp Muir. All the wands and ladders have been pulled off the Ingraham Direct. The Cleaver is beginning to melt out, but is still mostly snow-covered. Atop the Cleaver, the route traverses under broken seracs northward onto the Emmons (see photo of the traverse on the right).
Watch out for areas of potential ice fall on the traverse and try to minimize time there. There's one less stable crevasse crossing on the traverse, but after the traverse the route seems solid all the way to the crater rim. [ed. note: avid Mount Rainier blog readers will recall that the speed record from Paradise to the summit and back was broken, rebroken, and rebroken again during the summer of 2008. The DC route was much more straightforward last summer, which should make record attempts considerably harder in years such as this one with a more devious route. Think safety first and foremost!]

Enjoy long, early summer days on the mountain!

June 11th

With the Ingraham Direct becoming more and more broken up a few climbers have elected to start climbing the DC. The DC is still mostly snow covered. This makes for easier access to the upper mountain because there's no walking on loose rock with crampons. Even Cathedral Gap (the access point to the Ingraham Glacier from the Cowlitz Glacier) is still mostly snow covered.

The two most objectively hazardous areas on the DC route are Cathedral Gap and the toe of the cleaver. These areas commonly see rock and ice debris falling from above. Two major techniques climbers can use to minimize their exposure to these hazards are climbing quickly and starting early. Don't stop for water, food, or to take off layers in these areas. Begin your climb early enough to avoid being in these areas in the heat of the day on the descent.

The upper mountain route is still direct and straight forward. A crevasse at around 13,100' looks to eventually force climbers further out onto the Emmons, but is currently still passable.

June 5th

As the Ingraham Direct begins to suffer from icefall hazard and opening crevasses, this route is prime to replace it as the 'standard route' to the summit. While less direct, the Disappointment Cleaver route provides a path with fewer objective hazards than the ID and beautiful exposure as it overlooks the Emmons Glacier.

While some independent parties are choosing this route rather than the ID to ascend from Ingraham Flats, guides are also preparing to use this route as standard with their clients by establishing a solid bootpack, setting up wands, and putting in fixed hand lines.

As with previous years, please move quickly as you traverse across the Ingraham Glacier to the base of the Cleaver, as the seracs hanging above you need to take priority over digging that Clif Shot out of your pocket or putting away your headlamp right then and there!

Once to the base of the Cleaver, you'll find a fixed hand line. This line is put in by the guide services to use with their clients. While you are welcome to use it (with your hands), DO NOT attach your prussiks or ascenders to it. This is not the rope's purpose and it brings the pace of the climbing down to a screeching halt.

Once atop the Cleaver at ~12,200 feet, you'll find a pleasant place to look over the Emmons Glacier as you assess the terrain above you. The travel on the upper mountain will require crevasse travel techniques as it rejoins the Ingraham Direct route. Expect to find snow bridges, small gaps, and small steps of climbing (or downclimbing) as you move up the mountain. Suggestion: make use of that down time at Camp Muir to go over crevasse travel and rescue techniques!

Keep your eyes on the weather! Climbing rangers watched the upper mountain become engulfed in cloud cover in only a few minutes yesterday. This cap on the summit can change your climb from a 'walk-up' to an epic in no time flat, as navigation becomes challenging, particularly above the Cleaver where there are no clear natural landmarks to assist with navigation. Your best bet? Bring up that GPS so that you have breadcrumbs or waypoints to follow, should they become necessary.


It's never too late or too early for the DC. But over the years, I've noticed that people often don't know the difference between the DC and the Ingraham Direct or when to climb either.

This time of year (January through May-June), the most commonly climbed route through Camp Muir is the Ingraham Direct. This is because the terrain in less steep than the DC, and snow avalanche danger is slightly less.

However, relatively early in the summer climbing season, the Ingraham Direct becomes too much of an icy-seraky jumbled mess, and the main route transfers over a few hundred yards to the Disappointment Cleaver. This transition happens usually sometime in mid-June.

So right now ( first week of May), if you're planning on climbing Mt. Rainier up the "standard" route, that route is likely to be the Ingraham Direct. However, you'll have to make a "split" decision at Ingraham Flats, the point at which the two routes diverge. As always, the DC is always a go. You can head that way and get off the glacier for a while, or you can go up the Ingraham where it is less steep and slightly more direct.

Climbing conditions are great right now on both routes. Be prepared to make your own snow stability assessments as there are still avalanche conditions on the upper mountain in general, especially after a storm.

There have been quite a few summits over the last few weeks on Ingraham Direct and that is likely to remain the "standard" route until mid-June.

Kautz Glacier 2009

Kautz Glacier August 25th
Both independent and commercial groups have climbed this route within the last week. Each of these groups mentioned that it is best to camp below Camp Hazard as rockfall has been significant at Hazard and any camps higher up. Teams have reported that there are currently about five pitches of ice climbing on the upper route and that numerous crevasses have opened up on the upper slopes. The route is in late season condition but these recent successful parties benefitted by planning extra time for negotiating crevasses below the summit.

Kautz Glacier ~ July 14

Conditions on the upper Kautz remain in excellent condition .

The approach via the Wilson Glacier is slowly going out of shape and is becoming more and more exposed to rockfall and ice debris with each warm day that goes by. The approach up "the fan" however is a reasonable and straightforward way to gain the upper cleaver.

Currently, there is running water at the 9200 foot camp, but not at Camp Hazard. Climbing through the ice chute, there are a couple of different variations. The most obvious line follows the middle of the chute on melt/freeze water ice that is perfectly clean and seeing relatively little traffic. Another variation ascends through the neve penitentes on climber's left of the ice chute. This route looks to be a little steeper but is possibly more protected and with more rests while climbing.

Once above the ice chute, the glacier traverse remains in great shape all the way to the true summit.

Kautz Glacier - July 7th

Three teams climbed through the Kautz Glacier route and all reported great conditions. The two ice pitches are still straight forward. Above the ice pitches the upper mountain offers an almost direct line to the summit.

Many climbers are using V-threads to rappel the ice pitches instead of downclimbing them. Don't forget your V-threader!

June 15th

The Kautz is in great condition! The Nisqually and the Wilson are easily passable, and parties are discouraged from approaching via The Fan because of rock fall danger. There are nice bivy sites all along Wapowety Cleaver, some even as high as ~11,300, directly below the fixed lines. The ice chute itself is in good condition; the lower pitch is 50 degree snow and ice while the upper pitch is roughly 60 degrees and mostly ice. Ice penitentes along the right side of the upper pitch provide nice rests as well as good rap anchors. Above the chute, the route is direct, and few large crevasses are open. Have fun!

Kautz Glacier - June 7th

On the approach to the Kautz, we traversed the Nisqually to the Wilson. The Fan is exposed to bad rockfall, so most groups are ascending onto the lowere flanks of the Wilson at about 7200'. We camped at 9400' "Wilson Beach"--the perfect place to take in sunset over the Success and Kautz Cleavers. Remember: treat your water and be sure to camp on snow.

On summit day, we ascended the Turtle and roped up at the 11300' notch (there is a short fixed line here). We moved quickly from the notch to the base of the first pitch. The first technical pitch was firm, dense, 45 degree glacier ice with slight fractures and small penetentes to navigate. The second pitch was exciting 65 degree blue ice and solid glacier ice under a thin layer of melt freeze ice. Brittle ice conditions here were somewhate frustrating, but we usually had a solid stick on the second swing. The left portion of this pitch is exposed to icefall from above. To the right, the climbing is a little sportier through larger penetentes. Overall, the route was steep enough to frontpoint and we used two tools. Four to six srews should be sufficient for most parties. Atop the technical portion of the route, we found the upper Kautz intact to Point Success and took a short walk to the summit crater.

Enjoy the high-quality ice!

June 6th

High camps at 9,200 feet are beautiful spots to bivy, but please remember to pack out your trash (and your BLUE BAGS). This has been a persistent problem throughout the season; and it spoils the experience for other climbers.

Independent parties report difficult climbing through the two pitches of ice. Expect WI2+ conditions and be prepared to build v-threads or another anchor for descent.

Lastly, if you decide to descend another route, you will need to climb back to your high camp to retrieve your tent and gear within the next day or two. While climbing rangers are patrolling the area more regularly this season, they are not equipped to carry out your belongings.

May 3rd

No trip reports yet, but from scoping the route from the Longmire area, it looks like good snow all the way up the Kautz chute past Camp Hazard. The snow will soon be receding, so I encourage climbers to try the Kautz out before it forms its "ice chute" crux. Crevasse navigation on the upper route looks minimal this early season.