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:

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