Edmonds Headwall 2010

Edmond Headwall Visitor trip report
Dave Welles


With a perfect weekend forecast Parker Montgomery, Jeff Tinnea and I of the set off to climb the Edmunds Headwall route on Thursday eve 7/29/10. We car camped near the Carbon River ranger station and got up on Friday to get our climbing permits. We were on the trail and moving by 10:15 a.m. and heading up the trail to spray park @ apx 5800 ft. , then onto Ptarmigan ridge past Observation Rock and then followed the ridge up to approximately 8400ft where we descended 800ft of a scree field down to the north Mowich glacier.

We traveled on the North Mowich through some crevasses and then the Edmunds and climbed steadily up to our high camp on a prominent saddle looking directly to the headwall @ 8600 ft.

We arrived at camp at 8:45 PM after approximately 10 hours of hiking. Parker and I pitched a tent and bivy on a good level snow patch on a saddle, while Jeff melted water and cooked a good ramen and tuna dinner for us.

We were bedded down by 9:30 with a wakeup time of 4am. We thought we would get a later start since the headwall is shaded all morning. Around 1am Jeff woke me up – (Jeff and I shared the tent and Parker had the bivy) and said that it had completely clouded over and a storm was coming in fast – I couldn’t believe it as had seen a clear sky with stars when we went to bed – just goes to show you that you should always be prepared for anything despite a good forecast.

The weather kept getting nastier and nastier and with much lightning – we consider here we might hide if it got worse – but decided there was nowhere we could go - just stay on our sleeping pads and hope if anything hit close that we would stay insulated – I the meantime it rained cats and dogs. We went back to sleep and when I woke up at 4 there were stars out again – later Jeff said the storm had ended about 2am.
We awoke at 4am, had a good breakfast, roped up and at 5:15 headed up towards the bergschrund at the base of the headwall just as we saw first light. We stayed to the west of a large rock formation for about 1400ft on the glacier with no open crevasses and good cramponing to the base of the bergschrund.

We debated the best approach and eventually at Jeff’s suggestion we went to the east side of the bergschrund. I led up through it being belayed from below and worked my way through mixed sift snow and ice through the crack as soon as I was up I belayed Jeff then Parker up.

We slowly worked our way up the headwall taking turns kicking steps – the slope was around 55 degrees.

We decided also to avoid skirting the Mowich face bergschrund to the right and instead went up the chute between the rocks just to the right of the face. We eventually topped out where sunset ridge meets the upper Edmunds headwall (it took us several hours to reach this point as going was slower than we anticipated – none of checked the time at this point) where we took a quick breather and climbed the rocks to our left leading right on top the upper Mowich face.
For about 100 feet we were able to traverse in snow well over the bergschrund along the ridge - we had originally projected the headwall to take us 5 hours but it took much longer.
Now we had to do a climbing traverse to the east over the Mowich face. We immediately encountered ice under a few inches of snow. We each had two glacier axes (ice tools would have been nice) and Jeff at least had good front point mixed ice crampons. We put in a screw and we made my way past the last section of rocks towards a large open face. We regretted not buying a 5th screw at this point as it would have made for less pitches. We had 30 meters of rope and it took us four pitches slow up the slope. We later estimated it much have been around 5PM when we started this section and it took a couple hours to complete. For every screw placed we had to dig down through about 4-6 inches of snow to get to good to marginal ice. As the temp dropped we also had a lot of trouble keeping the screws clear of frozen ice inside and it was quite difficult to get them started.

Eventually we topped out at the bottom of Liberty Cap as the sun set towards the north lower side of the cap.
The sun was setting and we found a good spot in some meter length rime and quickly dug and stomped out a camp. We estimated that it got down to 10 degrees or lower and all boots, gears harnesses were frozen solid the next day and covered with thick frost except for water we had left in our packs.
We all woke up several times in the night to check conditions as we had decided to go as soon as we could see – (when we bedded down it was clear but soon was white out) We wanted to wait to see the route so we couldn’t get off course in the white out – eventually getting breaks enough to see between 7:30 and 8 am – at which time we had packed up (miserable with the frost) and left. We slowly made out way over the cap - and at the flats by 10:30 am. and the only thing left was the summit cone. We traversed out way across the flats of the cap and then up through the scree of the cone and arrived on top at about 1:15. SUMMIT!

There we lingered until 2:30 and we started our descent down the Emmons. The Emmons was in good shape and still firm for midafternoon-and not too much balling up until we got about the flats where Jeff who was now leading broke through a snow bridge entirely – after some deliberation we jumped it as we could not end run the crevasse. We arrive at camp Sherman at 5:30 and left at 6 or so after giving the next parties a heads up about the blown out snow bridge. We filled up our water bottles at a good spring right near the saddle then the big glissade down the Interglacier – we encountered no open crevasses on the rout down the Inter. We went down the main trail to white river campground and arrived at the car at 9PM. The new trail section is awesome!!! – thanks for getting it open!!!
4 screws and one picket – route is in great condition, though I’m not sure how much longer - good snow ice cover and few open crevasses on north Mowich/Edmunds – headwall and face in good shape. - Dave Welles 8/5/10


Tahoma Glacier 2010

August 5th

Rangers recently completed an ascent of the Tahoma Glacier beginning at Kautz Creek below Longmire. A short afternoon hike brought them to the Indian Henrys Patrol Cabin for the night. The next morning they headed towards South Tahoma Glacier by handrailing north of Pyramid Peak gaining the glacier at 8000ft. Roping up to negotiate a jumbled mass of seracs and pressure bulges, it appeared that there was really only one way through to gain the Tahoma cleaver.

From the Cleaver the rangers traversed onto the Tahoma glacier. Ascending to 10000 ft the rangers set camp in the middle right side of the glacier digging a small bivy platform safe from serac fall and avalanche hazard. The following morning they roped up and traversed sketchy serac jumbles and crossed fresh serac debris for several hundred meters to the north before picking their way up the Tahoma main. It seemed that there were fairly regular end runs around large cracks every several hundred meters including some spectacular technical bridge crossings on the upper headwall. Around 12,500 ft the route was forced north again towards the top of the Sickle and involved steep traversing under large seracs and icefall. From the top of the Sickle it was a laborious grind through sastrugi and shoulder high penitente's to the west summit and then onto the east summit crater where they then descended to Camp Muir via the DC.

Overall the experience was radically different from other routes on the mountain primarily for its remote wilderness approach and difficult technical routefinding. The only tracks evident on the upper glaciers were those of mountain goats and though there have been climbers registered for the Tahoma this season there was no evidence of prior ascents. Those climbers looking for real routefinding challenges and a true wilderness experience need not look any further. The Tahoma Glacier is a perfect tune-up for routes like the West Ridge of Mooses Tooth or the West Rib of Denali with the NE fork start. While the steepness never exceeded 50 degrees, good route selection and solid glacier travel skills are key to this spectacular west-side glacier.

Climbing on the upper headwall above 12,000 ft. The route was forced north (climbers left) up high underneath some spectacular icefall and intersected the Sickle. The Sickle route (as approached by the guidebook beta, Puyallup Cleaver) was a definite no-go.

Mowich Face 2010

Mowich Face July 24, 2010

Rangers had a stellar climb of the Central Mowich last week, and dspite some high winds were able to easily summit the route.

From Mowich Lake the approach should be pretty fast right now. Ascend through Spray Park up lower Ptarmigan Ridge before dropping down onto the North Mowich Glacier and traversing to some excellent bivy spots in the 9200' area below the face. From here the climbing starts.

The route now is pretty self explanatory for the first bit. Climb the obvious central line through ever steepening terrain, taking a moment every now and then to marvel at the awesome wilderness surrounding you! When you reach the 12500' area it's time to make a decision. Either climb right around the rock on the obvious snow ramp, possibly encountering some ice...or climb right and work your way through the system of rock bands and snow ramps until terrain starts to mellow below Liberty Cap. Both ways go. Descend the Tahoma or Emmons.

Ptarmigan Ridge 2010

Ptarmigan Ridge 2010- August 4th

There is still excellent climbing on the route which now includes a good deal of ice. It looks as if Ptarmigan Ridge has at least a couple of more weeks of stellar climbing before the ice gives way to bare rock.

Our approach through Spary Park and the Flett Glaciers included an incredible wildflower show and an insolent goat. Access down to the North Mowich Glacier to begin the climb at 9,800 feet requires some good routefinding skills to avoid letting loose an avalanche of choss as the ridge at this point is a house of cards of boulders and scree. Once on the Glacier, however, stunning bivy sites are available.

The bergschrund remains easily passable at its far end. The next 2200+ vertical feet above the schrund include some of the best and most varied technical climbing on Mount Rainier. A mix of
ice, snow and rock greeted us and never failed to please. The line is always enjoyable and the views are stunning. If solitude and technical terrain is what you are looking for, try Ptarmigan.

Having completed the exit gully (see options below in the July 28th report), however, the fun gives way a slog to the summit on lower angle glacier. The last few hundred vertical feet is a treat if you dig winding through a never-ending field of penitentes.
Penitentes and loose choss aside, Ptarmigan Ridge is easily among the top climbs on Mount Rainier and is still go.

July 22nd 2010

Rangers climbed the route July 22th during a major wind event, experiencing gusts in the 70's and steady winds in the 50's. Despite Ptarmigan Ridge's blunt aspect with regards to the wind the route was in pretty good shape and climbers can expect another week or two of decent conditions before it becomes more trouble than its worth.

There are two or three decent bivy spots at 10,300 and the climbing through the lower 'schrund to gain the snow apron was holding together. Climbers should expect this to become more difficult as the days pass. It's a straight shot up and left for about 1000 ft. before either going left or right at the rock headwall. Rockfall should be considered a definite hazard here. Rangers climbed right at the headwall and found cool blue ice (50 degrees) before cresting the ridge and gaining the rock exit gully up and left.

There are two obvious exits; one leads directly through a steep verglassed step with a fixed pin up high. It looks about 5.8 but with icy windy conditions rangers climbed right of it up a lower angle slab/crack system for about 30 ft of what felt like 5.7. This also had a fixed pin at the crux and competent climbers should not feel the need for rock gear or bother removing their crampons.

Above the exit gully one regains the Ptarmigan Ridge and rangers found slow laborious isothermic sastrugi to Liberty Cap. That said the climb was excellent despite wind conditions that had other weaker climbers crawling on their hands and knees. Climbing on the northwest corner of the mountain will guarantee an excellent isolated wilderness experience with a great tour of a beautiful part of the Park. Enjoy!

Little Tahoma 2010

Little Tahoma ~ 7/9/2010
If you're looking for some solitude and unparalleled views of Rainier, look no further than Little T!
Starting from the Summerland Trailhead near the White River Entrance, hike 3+ miles before switching to skis and then proceed either to camp at Summerland (6000ft.), or Meany Crest
(7600ft.). There are ample dry bivy/tent sites at Meany Crest while Summerland remains under several feet of snow. From Meany Crest, continue to ski or boot to the notch between the Fryingpan Glacier and the Whitman Glacier at 9000 ft. Just after the notch there is some running water where you can fill water bottles for either the rest of the trip up or back down. Continue traversing past the notch until the snow slope steepens and turns upward toward the summit. This portion can be either booted or skinned quite managably. Once at the first rock step at about 10500 ft., continue up on more snow until reaching 3rd class rock to the summit. With the current temperatures and low snow line (5000ft.) skis are still highly recommended for this route. Camping at Meany Crest is highly recommended over Summerland but be sure to check in at the White River Ranger Stations for the most recent conditions.

Ingraham Direct 2010

Ingraham Direct - July 22nd

No climbing teams have been passing through the Ingraham Direct route for the past week. The Disappointment Cleaver route has now become the standard route from Camp Muir to the summit. See the Disappointment Cleaver route beta here.

July 6th

With all of the warm weather over the last couple of days, and predicted freezing levels above 14,000 feet for the week to come, don't expect the Ingraham Direct to stay "in" past this week. Guide services have already been doing maintenance on the Disappointment Cleaver route, getting it prepped for future climbers.

The crux of the Ingraham Direct is the large crevasse opening at 11,600. A ladder is currently spanning the gap, but is losing purchase on both sides as the crevasse continues to widen.

Also, higher on the Ingraham Glacier, around 12,000, there has been recent serac/ice fall activity. Try not to take breaks underneath these ice blocks.

To the right is a photo of the ladder that spans the crevasse.

June 24th

The route is incredibly straight forward and fast right now. Teams have been going up to the summit from Camp Muir in faster time than they've gotten to Camp Muir from Paradise.

With all of the warm weather the snow on the ID has been softening up earlier in the day. Try to plan climbs accordingly - so your team is down before they're post-holing through slush and weak crevasse bridges. Look to the freezing level and cloud cover as indicators of how slushy the route will become.

June 15th

The ID is back in business!! Both guided groups and independent parties enjoyed excellent cramponing and sunshine on the upper mountain this weekend taking the route all the way to the summit. While conditions above 13,000 feet still had cold winter-like conditions climbers found no trouble making their way to the TOP of the Mountain.

(American Avalanche Institute owner Sarah Carpenter discusses conditions with IMG guides at Camp Muir)

While there was much concern over avalanche conditions during the past week extreme solar radiation penetrated the snowpack resulting in stabilizing conditions. This weather pattern relegated avalanche concern to just one of many objective hazards found in virtually all types of mountaineering. Concerns include but are not limited to serac hazard, climber slip and fall, crevasse hazards, weather, altitude, poor planning and preparation, rockfall, and yes, avalanche... Please understand that objective hazards will ALWAYS exist; it is up to the individual party to mitigate or minimize those hazards. That said, the route has been kicked in, wanded and climbed regularly over the past few days. Come on up and CRUSH IT!!!

June 13th

Ok, folks. Here's the deal! Camp Muir has been getting some sun for the last couple of days. Temperatures were creeping up into the 40s today. There was very little wind until midday. Philippe and I went up onto the flats at around 10:00 a.m. and up onto the first hill above the flats at around 11,500 feet.

There hasn't been a whole lot of new precipitation on the upper mountain in the last two days. Today the first independent groups headed up above the top of the Disappointment Cleaver. A few folks braved the winds near the top and summited.

Philippe and I dug a pit and did a pretty complete profile. There is that pesky layer of graupel down about 35 cm, but we couldn't get anything to move with a compression test or an extended column test. We did do a fully isolated rutschblock, and we did get it to fail on the first hop (rb4), but the failure was very poor, Q3, broken, and only the partial block. This was a 35 degree slope.

Granted, there's a great amount of spatial variability on the glacier... The ski penetration, even during the heat of midday, was only an inch or so. The boot penetration was about 15 cm. The top 10-15 cm was sun-affected and starting to get a little wet. Crampons were balling up. The guide service (RMI) went by us when we were digging our pit. Two guides were doing a reconnaisance to establish a new route up the Ingraham.

Here's a pit profile.

There's been a lot of these snowpits dug up high lately. In all my time at Mt. Rainier, I can't think of when I've known of so many people really worried about the avalanche conditions in June to this extent. This alarm is well warranted, indeed, it may be time to start making these pits a little more part of the operation while we're climbing. However, it's difficult to put these data into perspective because not many of us have made a habit digging full snowpits above 11,000 feet this time of year. It's hard to say what we've been climbing on all these years anyway.

Stick with what we know and fundamentals we've learned in training. It's been a cold and wet spring. The upper mountain has received a lot of snow in May and early June. We need to be wary of avalanche conditions. However, after a few days of warm, clear weather, it's time to start thinking about getting up the hill.

If you take a look at the historical data and compare it to the current snowpack at Paradise, you'll quickly see that we're almost 140% of normal. This is a huge snowpack for this time of year. We really made up for the drought this winter. As we've placed the glacier stakes this spring for the mass/balance studies, we've observed that there is at least a meter more snow than usual for this time of year (7.5 meters compared to 6.0 meters in the standard places).

This means that the less common / non-standard routes that so many of us love to climb may stay in shape longer. Gib Ledges look great, which is crazy for this time of year! The Ingraham is largely unbroken; this is about the time of year when we go over to the DC, but we'll be on the ID for a while yet. The Kautz looks sweet. Nisqually Ice Cliff is doable still. The Emmons-Winthrop looks awesome! The Finger looks nice.

The weather over the next 48 hours looks good. The snow got baked today up to about 12,000 feet. This is good. Over the next 48 hours, colder air is moving in, and there will be a marine layer in the sound.

So be cautious, but be out there! Take a shot, but take it all in and consider all the variables.

Ingraham Direct - June 9

After a major avalanche on Saturday, June 5th, there's been significant wind loading again on the Ingraham Direct. Snow pits dug at the base of the headwall on the route (approx. 11,500') are finding a couple of noteworthy layers. See the NWAC website for special warnings and pit profiles at Mount Rainier.

See the photo to the right of the Ingraham Glacier taken from Ingraham Flats on June 8th - after the major avalanche.

Also, please check in with the rangers at the Paradise Climbing Information Center and Camp Muir when you arrive for your climb.

Wilson Headwall 2010

Wilson Headwall 2010 - May 11th

Like all the other routes at the moment, the Wilson Headwall appears to be in excellent condition. The headwall appears to have routes that go on both the left and right sides at the moment, with both routes looking filled in and direct.

Check out the Kautz posting for approach details.

Fuhrer Finger 2010

Fuhrer Finger 2010-July16th

The Fuhrer Finger is still a go! Rangers climbed and skied the finger late last week and found excellent climbing conditions. The skiing, however, is close to being done. The skiing down from 14k, to about 11k was fantastic, but the lower elevation skiing brought grabby, mushy slush! The high freezing levels the past week or so have taken a toll on the snow, and caused in increase in rock fall through the finger.

The approach to the finger is still in great shape. The lower Nisqually Glacier is slowly starting to open up, and roping before crossing would be recommended. Once across the Nisqually, there is a solid boot track leading to the bivy sites at 9,200 feet, near the "Castle". All of these sites are melted out and in great shape. There are several great, flat sheltered spots, with easy access to snow for melting water. Once you take off from camp, be cautious on the Wilson, as there is a system of fairly large crevasses open just northeast of the 9,200 foot bivy spots.

The entrance to the finger itself is still very straight forward, and all snow. Once in the finger be sure to wear your brain bucket, and don't take too many breaks. As we climbed, we noticed very little rockfall with the prevailing firm, cold conditions, but upon our return in the late morning we noted several very large rocks that had fallen while we were on the upper mountain, and the snow had softened quickly to the point of being mid-shin deep while on skis. The upper exit from the finger still presents the climber with two choices: climber's left, along the Wapowety Cleaver, or climber's right out onto the main Nisqually Glacier. Both appear to be a "go." We chose right, and found smooth travel, but noted that several of the snow bridges had recently collapsed, or would do so soon. Good glacier navigation skills are necessary, especially on your return. There is one large crevasse around 12,800, which may require protection to cross in the near future. From here, continue straight up and join the folks coming up from the Kautz route for the slog to the crater rim. All in all, we found pleasant conditions, but make sure to move early, and travel safe! Get on up here and get some of the corn harvest, and enjoy the sunny weather that has been persisting on the upper mountain the past week or so!

Fuhrer Finger 2010 - June 26th

Two locals skied the finger today and said it was in great shape.

Fuhrer Finger 2010 - May 11th

The Fuhrer Finger and Thumb look to be in great shape at the moment. Everything is filled in with a foot or so of new snow falling in the last 24 hours. Conditions are prime for some ski descents!

Check out the Kautz posting for information regarding the approach. Also check out that crown below the finger! Be conscience of what and who are above and below you.

Wooo hoo! Skiing!

Emmons-Winthrop Glacier 2010

October 6th

Conditions on the Emmons should be great right now. The upper mountain surface conditions are predominately consolidated new snow and the route should be in good shape for fall climbing.

There are no rangers staffing Schurman at this time and the toilet has been "winterized". This means if you go up there and use it, please leave it like you found it...very secure with ratchet strap fully around the structure. Remember to take Blue Bags with you, they are available at the White River Ranger Station.

The road to White River Campground should be open until October 31st or until snow prohibits keeping it open. Stay tuned to the park website for details.

Self registration is in effect all winter. Please register at the White River Ranger Station if you climb. The White River WIC will be open until mid October from 7:30 to 4:30 if you would like to register with a ranger.

September 6th

A few strong teams attempted and summited via the Emmons this weekend. Despite broken weather and some high winds the route offered good cramponing on styrofoam neve with no exposed ice. Route finding becomes difficult above the corridor with some crevasse bridges out. When in doubt trend towards the Saddle to the east of Liberty Cap. There are no wands on the route and tracks are hard to discern especially with the few inches of new snow that seems to appear every few days now.

Still, the climbing is excellent, temps are cool on the approach and things are mellow at Camp Schurman. Come up for the day or stay and climb. The Emmons is still a great climb with a fracition of the traffic of the DC.

August 19th

Climbers are still summiting via the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier route. There are two larger crevasse crossings, one about mid-way and the other at the top, on the corridor. Most parties are traversing at a mellow slope angle from the top of the corridor to the saddle between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest, and then heading for the summit.

A few injuries have occurred with climbers trying to jump across crevasses and landing on uneven terrain. Please take caution whenever a "jump" seems necessary. Try to down climb or "scoot" whenever possible.

July 28, 2010

Not much to report in the last ten days except that it is still seeing plenty of traffic and offers a sweet direct line straight to the top.

Please stop by the ranger hut and have one of the climbing rangers point out the direct line to the summit. With so much traffic from carry-overs on the north-side routes some climbers are getting distracted and finding themselves on the saddle between Liberty Cap and the summit and adding an extra hour hike to their climb.

Please understand that despite favorable conditions and a well-worn path up the route that the potential for severe crevasse falls and weak snowbridges exists ALL THE TIME. Please use appropriate glacier travel protocols.

July 18

Over the weekend the Emmons route saw many climbers successfully summiting Mount Rainier, and fully enjoying some of the best conditions we have seen in mid-July in a number of years.

As with the rest of the mountain the Emmons route is in spectacular shape. The approach to Camp Schurman up the Inter Glacier consists of a very well worn and very direct line straight up the glacier before traversing toward Camp Curtis and continuing over onto the Emmons and into Schurman or up to Emmons Flats. Early travel is recommended during these warm days to avoid postholing in the deep sloppy snow. Even before noon the glacier is getting warm enough to make travel slow.

As of now there are no open crevasses on the Inter Glacier. The Emmons, however, is starting to have some larger crevasses open up on the approach to camp, and roped travel is recommended at all times. The Inter Glacier is still very skiable to just above the glacier basin camp, and many people were out enjoying the July corn.

The route above Schurman is still as direct as it can be. Climbers have been gaining the corridor by one of three large ramps above Emmons Flats, and from there going basically straight up the rest of the route. There are a few crevasses to navigate around between 12,500' and 13,000', and then it is smooth climbing to the summit, with most climbers still choosing to go directly over the bergschrunds as opposed to traversing to Liberty Saddle. The 'schrund crossings are all very solid right now and should stay that way for the near future. Once above the 'schrund continue on to Columbia Crest, take a photo, high five and return the same way, or descend via Liberty Saddle for a little variation.

Come on out and stop by the ranger hut for all the latest info!

July 10, 2010

Summer has finally arrived on the upper mountain! Freezing levels for the past week have been between 11,000 to 14,000 feet during the night providing for exceptionally comfortable climbing conditions and summit cat-naps.

The Emmons route remains in stellar condition with only minor crevasse negotiation near the top of the route. From the top of the Corridor the route trends slightly right until crossing the first bergschrund directly and skirting the second a little farther right. Snow conditions have been perfect for cramponing in the early morning and softening significantly by the afternoon.

Ski conditions from the summit have been quite variable at best above 12,500ft. but creamy below. The skiing on the corridor has been particularly good and skiers from around the country have been showing up in droves as of late.

Also, be advised that the Glacier Basin trail has melted out all the way to the Glacier Basin campsites and the new re-route section of trail is due to open any time. This new section of trail will likely still be under some sort of fine tuning so please be respectful to the trail crew when passing and don't just "play through" without letting them know you are there.

June 27, 2010

Excellent skiing and climbing conditions!! The Emmons is super-direct and can be skinned virtually the entire way to the summit. Snow has melted out from the White River Campground but ski mountaineers shouldn't be discouraged. Carry your skis until the snow coverage is adequate and come up for some great touring out of Schurman or punch it to the TOP for a summit/ski descent. Regardless, flotation is encouraged once past Glacier Basin. For a great wilderness experience take as many days as you can up here to facilitate a comfortable and relaxed acclimatization and enjoy the excellent scenery surrounding the Emmons-Winthrop.

Remember, the route is typically not guided or wanded, leaving it up to you to route-find and decide which way to go. For extra fun think about climbing and skiing multiple routes from Schurman. Crisscrossing the mountain on skis will reduce your carbon footprint, so you could even park at Longmire, take the bus to Paradise and carry over the top, cruise down the Tahoma, and use your best mountain smile to get back to your car. - options abound! Enjoy the late spring corn harvest

June, 18 2010

Super clean line up the Emmons/Winthrop. Lots of groups made it to the summit last weekend.

Looking down from the prow last weekend and the route up to Emmons flats.

Looking up the Inter-Glacier


June 11, 2010 ~ Straight Shot

The Emmons route (as seen in this most recent photo) remains to be in stellar condition although few parties have had good enough weather windows to summit thus far this season. The route basically follows the fall line of "the corridor" all the way to the top where a short dog-leg right will get climbers around a short ice step, then straight again to the summit. It is not every year that the June version of the Emmons route is in such incredible shape with only moderately objective hazards from above.

On the topic of snow stability... it seems as if we are finally going to be getting our first shot of summer this weekend after much anticipation. With the warmer trending weather and freezing levels rising, it will be imperative for climbing parties to get early starts from Camp Schurman as the potential for avalanche activity will be likely to increase drastically in the afternoon sun.

Perhaps a more real, yet underestimated concern, is on the approach via the Inter Glacier...There has been daily avalanche activity coming off the steep slopes of Mt. Ruth and the other steeper, rock lined areas adjacent to the Inter Glacier approach. Most climbing parties traveling to Camp Schurman have been wise enough to give these areas and run-out zones a wide birth sticking to the very center of the Inter Glacier where there has been no observed avalanche activity making for much safer travel. The skiing conditions on the Inter Glacier have been quite phenomenal as of late, and skis can currently be kept on approximately a mile below Glacier Basin during the descent making for a quick trip out. If planning to camp at the Glacier Basin campground on the approach, there has been one pit toilet dug out that is ready for use, although all tent camping remains on snow.

See you on the mountain!

June 9 2010

After a week of storms intermixed with beautiful sunny days, the mountain is snow covered and ready to be climbed. The Emmons Glacier with its relatively low objective dangers has been a great route to the summit for many parties recently, even throughout the stormy weather we have been receiving. Teams have been summiting via the Emmons on a regular basis and it seems the most successful parties have planned on spending two or three days at Schurman waiting for the best opportunity to hit a weather window and go for the top. The extended trip also offers advantages of just being able to soak up the scenery and enjoy your surroundings. It's way better up here than at your office.

Currently the route itself is as straightforward as it gets. There is snow everywhere and very few open crevasses to navigate through. The route ascends from Schurman to the corridor and then basically straight up with variations going either left or right around the seracs above 12,000'. Parties have been forgoing the long traverse to Liberty Saddle and climbing directly to the top crossing the bergschrund on either of the two large snow ramps. Early travel helps to avoid the postholing that will eventually happen when all that new snow gets direct sun exposure or when the temps warm up.

The approach to Schurman is in great shape going straight up the Inter Glacier, over Camp Curtis and up the Emmons. This is another trip that is best done early in the day to avoid the warm sloppy afternoon snow conditions. Be wary of the steep slopes on Mount Ruth and Ruthless ridge that like to send wet point release avalanches down into the basin on warm days after new snow. That being said the skiing conditions on the Inter Glacier have been exceptional lately. Come check it all out.

June 2

This is a picture looking up the Emmons from mid-way up the "Corridor". The route is in great condition with no open crevasse crossings yet. There is great skiing at this time.

The Inter Glacier is also looking great with no open crevasses. Point-release slides are evident on the cliffsides as well as some large slides off Mt. Ruth.

There is still lots of snow on the trail up to Glacier Basin, but also lots of dirt patches are appearing so don't put your skis on until you get up about 2 miles.

Park in the climber/day-use parking lot at White River Campground.

Registration is at the White River Ranger Station.

Sun - Thur 0730 - 1630

Fri 0700 - 1900

Sat 0730 - 1630


Emmons-Winthrop Glacier 2010 - May 28

The road is open to White River campground, please park in day use parking. The trail up to glacier basin is mostly snow free. New snow this week, so bring your skis if you have some. The route is in good condition. Expect deep snow drifts on the upper mountain and Inter-Glacier.


Emmons-Winthrop Glacier 2010 - May 25

Here's a trip report from last weekend:

Trip report Emmons-Winthrop 5/22 - 5/24:
I picked up my buddy Joe from N. Carolina at SeaTac Friday night and we headed to White River Saturday morning. Contrary to the information given to me by the park service on Friday, the gate was closed, but Dave Gottlieb was there in a truck and let us in and got us checked in for the climb.
The route from the campground to Glacier Basin was in pretty rough shape and took a long time in our rando boots. Patchy snow, sketchy bridge coverage, lots of post holing while carrying our skis. We saw 3 other skiers and one boarder coming back from day trips to the Interglacier. All reported good skiing, but said the vis had gotten really bad. When we came out of the woods at Glacier Basin we could see maybe 50 yards and it got progressively worse. We decided to camp in Glacier Basin rather than heading to Schurman that night.
Sunday was more of the same. We headed up the Interglacier and got a few degrees off line in the fog and ended up on climber’s far right at the top of the Interglacier. I had only been up to Schurman once before and was having trouble visualizing where we were in the fog. It finally cleared a bit and I could see where we were well enough to head to Schurman. We descended and then started climbing back up to Schurman and then the sun broke through and the skies cleared completely.
It got very cold when the sun went down but no wind to speak of. We got up a little after 2 a.m. (too late in hindsight) and ran into some stove issues. It took a couple hours to get the stove fixed, melt enough snow for water and gear up, but it was a beautiful day for climbing. Joe had a flight to catch that night so we set a noon turn around time. We started skinning up the Corridor and made pretty good time for the first 1,500 ft or so. Then we started hitting patches of ice and wind blown hard pack that was pretty slippery on skins. Joe took a little slide as we were turning (we were roped) so we decided to switch to crampons. The conditions were pretty variable and we ended up going from ice to mid thigh post holing back to ice. At around 12,000 we started running into small crevasses that were very hard to spot with all the windblown snow ridges around and we slowed down considerably. After punching through a few times, we then tried switching back to our skis to speed up our progress through these small crevasses a bit but the angle and the surface conditions slowed us more. We got to about 12, 500 and realized we were never going to make the summit before our turn around time, so we decided to enjoy the skiing, have lunch and head down at a leisurely pace. So, we did not summit, but I think if we had had another night to stay at Schurman we would have made it up no problem. From what we could see above us, the route is fine – it just takes a lot of time due to snow depth etc. (at least for us).
The ski down to Schurman was good with the last 800 ft or so being excellent. We packed up and headed to the Interglacier and the skiing there was outstanding. There was evidence of some small slough off slides on skier’s right but nothing major. All in all the snow pack seemed pretty stable for our whole route.

May 5

Hwy 410 (Chinook Pass) is now open so you can get as far as the turn off to the White River entrance. Leave your car on the north side of the road behind the monument. The road up to White River Campground is snow free (5 miles). We are planning to open the road by May 21st, but check here for updates as we may get it open a few days early. Twenty- four hour self-registration is still in affect at the White River Ranger Station a half mile past the closed gate.


Emmons-Winthrop Glacier 2010 - April 20th

No reports yet, but the route should be in great shape. Check out the road access and registration info below.

White River Approach:

Currently the road is closed at the park boundary on 410. You can park in the snowplay parking lot and start your climb there; turn left on Crystal Blvd and the parking lot is just to your right. (Do NOT park in front of the gate on 410 itself - you may be towed). Self-registration is available 24 hours a day at the White River Ranger Station.

Highway 410/123 may be open as early as April 30, check with the Washington state DOT web site for more up-to-date info.


Gibraltar Ledges/Chute 2010

Gibraltar Ledges/Chute 2010 - July 22nd

The ledges have melted out significantly since the 6th of July. Now, instead of walking all on snow, there are talus patches climbers must traverse to gain the upper section of Gibraltar Chute. The rocky/gritty surface of the snow on the ledges and in the chute are a sign of increased rockfall hazard. Access to the ledges via the Cowlitz is still fairly direct and smooth, and the route above Gib Rock on the upper mountain is still in great shape - a nice direct path to the crater rim.

July 6th

Rangers climbed the ledges and found great conditions on both the ledges and chute. The upper elevation snow seems to be sticking around longer than most years.

A couple of crevasses are opening up on the approach to the ledges. When ascending the Cowlitz Glacier, watch out for these cracks. Above the ledges the route is still very straight forward, offering fast and direct summits.

The chute has multiple crevasses opening up at the bottom. It's prudent to rope up for this section of the route. Also, stay climbers right and move quickly to avoid ice/rock fall down the chute.

June 24th

With no parties reporting successful summits via the Gibraltar Ledges there has been no official update. There has been a boot track climbing up from Camp Muir to the ledges, on the Cowlitz, over the past couple of weeks though. The ledges still have snow and are definitely climbable, and appear to be "in good conditions" for at least a couple of more weeks.

Be sure to assess snow stability before entering terrain where any kind of slide could have catastrophic consequences.

April 10th

Reports have been positive with regard to Gib Ledges this year. There have been a handful of successful parties summiting within the last couple of weeks. With all of the new snow accumulation use caution when exiting the ledges into the chute. The top part of the chute can be unstable.

With the wintry conditions, this route is probably the most direct way to the summit. Advanced skiers have even skied the chute after climbing the ledges. Another option is to ski to the top of the chute, downclimb the ledges, and then ski the upper Cowlitz back to Camp Muir.

The same registering logistics apply to Gib Ledges/Chute as for the Disappointment Cleaver. Use the link to the right to check them out.

Liberty Ridge 2010

Liberty Ridge 2010 July 28th

Reports from Lib Ridge indicate that the route is still climbable but that rockfall hazard has picked up significantly since rangers climbed the route two weeks ago. Furthermore, the large devestating slab avalanche has reduced the aesthetic quality of the route despite offering 1500 ft of front pointing on 50 degree terrain.

Independent teams reported that the safest climbing was to be found directly on the ridge whereas climbers working their way up the flanks of the ridge experienced heavy rockfall, enough to induce retreat for a team after one climber had his helmet shattered.

The upper portions of the route above the Black Pyramid are still in decent shape and the 'schrund still offers interesting climbing but unfortunately may not be worth the hazard at this time. If you were planning on Lib Ridge, consider other classic routes such as Ptarmigan or the Mowich Face. Stay tuned for more photos.

July 20th

These photos of a massive avalanche on the lower half of the ridge were taken from the air on the 20th.

Liberty Ridge 2010- July 14th

Liberty Ridge is in great shape and seeing lots of traffic in the last week including multiple teams of climbers and one almost complete ski descent by a party of three. Despite some soft snow on the approach and the lower route due to abnormally high freezing temps the route and approach was super straightforward.

The route should be in good conditions for several more week as our late season snowfall has finally shaped up on the north side of the mountain.

Fresh debris from serac fall off the Liberty Wall. Both the Willis Wall and Liberty Wall provided ample entertainment at the Thumb Rock bivy with lots of rockfall and avalanches; wear your helmet!

The 'schrund at 13,200 ft. goes at AI3 and is really only about 50 ft. of technical terrain. An ice screw or two would provide sufficient protection.

These Google Earth shots show the rangers' route along the Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers as well as the top out on Liberty Cap and the long mile to Columbia Crest. Rangers carried over the top to Camp Muir but most parties prefer to forgo the true summit and descend the Emmons to Camp Schurman.

The approach from White River is mostly snowfree on the new and improved re-route to Glacier Basin. From there it's all snow for the rest of the route. The camping at Lower Curtis Ridge is on exposed rock but please be mindful of your impact. USE YOUR BLUEBAGS. Rangers approached via the west side of the icefall to the toe of the ridge and did not have any trouble with the lower 'schrund.

Virtually the whole route is on snow with some bits of rock and a little ice on the way up to Thumb Rock. The climbing was quite easy but be mindful of the potential for rockfall. At Thumb Rock we did notice some human waste and disposed of it properly. Please use BLUEBAGS and PACK IT OUT!! Thumb Rock bivy is awesome, but be advised our GPS calls it 10,500 approx. rather than 10760 ft. Don't be discouraged, it's easy climbing up to the Black Pyramid; we went left out of camp. Above the Black Pyramid there was no exposed ice and while some parties pitched out the steeper climber with pickets, we still managed with a ski pole and one ice tool.

The climbing above the 'schrund was still fairly steep and some parties pitched this out while other climbers felt comfortable unroped. Unfortunately, you do have to top out Liberty Cap to go anywhere else and the traverse to Columbia Crest is a long mile. That said we managed to climb in t-shirts all the way to the summit and down to Camp Muir in what were some of the best conditions of the year.

May 14

Rangers just returned from an attempt on Liberty Ridge, having approached from White River through Glacier Basin. They reached approximately 9800 ft. before turning back due to what appeared to be high avalanche conditions on the ridge itself. That said, with high temps and sunny conditions the route should come into good shape in the next week.

We approached via the Glacier Basin trail at White River. Keep in mind that White River is still closed at 410, so this approach involves several miles of plowed road before reaching the campground and trailhead. The approach was made on skis and while helpful eventually the first mile or two on the trail was an exercise in patience as the trail has melted out in places and involved perhaps 15 stream crossings. Were we to do it again I might get a super-early (frozen) start and bootpack the first mile or so before putting on my skis.

After entering Glacier Basin we took the obvious right towards St. Elmo Pass. Again be considerate of your timing as this is an east-facing slope loaded with snow so wet-slab avalanches are a possibility. We made good time across the Winthrop and Curtis Ridge but don't be fooled. You will need to cross Curtis Ridge completely on the far side at 7200 ft. As nice as it seems to gain some elevation on the traverse there is no way through the sheer cliffs on the far west side of Curtis Ridge.

Once on the Carbon we picked our way up towards Liberty Ridge trending on climber's left of the ridge. We began to encounter new unconsolidated snow at around 8000 ft. After traversing under the ridge to the west side we gained the ridge on skis at 8700 ft. The snow was deeper and steeper and became a real concern in terms of avalanche potential. Once on the ridge we switched to crampons hoping that just a little higher we would find compacted frozen neve. We quickly found out that there was even more snow higher resulting in thigh-deep postholing. The snow was 3-4 ft. deep with a shallow windcrust on top and a firm icy bed surface. With the sun just coming over the ridge we decided that climbing 5000 ft. of hanging snowfields under these conditions was not a good idea. We beat a hasty retreat of the ridge and skied excellent corn down to 7200 ft. on the Carbon.

Temps Wednesday-Thursday-Friday were abnormally hot without any wind. I would assume that the sun should either settle or slough any unstable snow in the next few days. However, if you want to climb this route this weekend please consider the avalanche potential on the route and either time your climbing with temperature and aspect or maybe push it back a week or two.

Freezing levels have been abnormally high, in the 9000 ft. range the past few days. I would hope that temps will cool off to normal and one should be able to approach and climb in boots without the need for flotation given early alpine starts. Definitely check freezing levels before heading out.

Liberty Ridge 2010- May 5

Hwy 410 (Chinook Pass) is now open so you can get as far as the turnoff to the White River entrance. Leave your car on the north side of the road behind the monument. The road up to White River Campground is snow free (5 miles). We are planning to open the road by May 21st, but check here for updates as we may get it open a few days early. Twenty- four hour self-registration is still in affect at the White River Ranger Station a half mile past the closed gate.

The info. below is still current for the Carbon approach.


Liberty Ridge 2010 - April 21

We have had no reports yet, but the route should be in great shape. Check out the road access and registration info. below.

Carbon River Approach

If approaching from Carbon River, consider that at present the road is closed at the entrance station. Park there and secure your things in a way as to not invite thieves into your vehicle. Twenty-four hour self-registration is still in affect. There is very little snow left on your way to the base of the Carbon Glacier. The trail to the Carbon River camp is washed out, so Cataract Creek will have to be forded
. For the route beyond this point, we have no info. at this time.

White River Approach:

Currently the road is closed at the park boundary on U.S.410. You can park in the snowplay parking lot and start your climb there; turn left on Crystal Blvd. and the parking lot is just to your right. (Do NOT park in front of the gate on 410 itself - you may be towed). Self-registration is available 24 hours a day at the White River Ranger Station.

Highway 410/123 may be open as early as April 30; check with the Washington state DOT web site for more up-to-date info.


Liberty Ridge 2010 - April 8th

Conditions are snowy right now!

There hasn't yet been anyone in the Liberty Ridge area this spring. This is probably due to the White River road still being affected by the winter closure. However, before long the road will be open and north-side climbing will commence.

Now for the vague details. Highway 410 and the White River road will open sometime in the mid-May time frame. Stay tuned to the park website:

or the DOT website:

When the White River road opens the WIC will be open for climbing registration from 7 to 7 on Fridays and 7:30 to 4:30 all other days. If anyone gets the urge to hike, bike or snowmachine(only as far as the campground!) in before then, please self register at the White River ranger station.

As for all early season climbs be prepared for deep sloppy snow, avalanche hazards and sudden storms when venturing out into the m0untains. Stay tuned to this post for more info as we get closer to climbing season, and if anyone gets to this route before we do, drop us an email and let us know what you find.

For previous year's conditions check out this link.