The DC is in about as good a shape as it ever is for October. Fresh and consolidated snow are the predominate conditions throughout the route. Snowbridges have been strengthening, making direct travel to the summit easier once above the Cleaver.
Remember to register before you climb, either at the Longmire WIC or at the self registration box at the Paradise Old Station.
Check out the Muir Snowfield post for approach and camp conditions.
Have Fun, Be Safe.
Here is a report from IMG guides. Note the interesting results from snow pits that were dug.
We arrived Camp Muir at 2:15 September 19th, after walking through about an hour of graupel coming up the snow field. The winds were a constant 25-30 mph and visibility was approximately 20 meters. We spent most of the day Monday the 20th waiting out a storm. During this storm approximately 6-10 inches of new snow fell. It was hard to tell what was falling from the sky or what was spindrift. Most of that day was spent trying to get a feel for how much wind transport and deposit we were getting. We were able to get a few glimpses of the Cleaver through Cadaver Gap and our initial impression was that the upper mountain was getting significant loading. Furthermore, places that have had no snow since mid- July were getting their bed surfaces for the winter.
Later, that day IMG Guides Mike Haft, and Tye Gimenez decided to go poke around in the snow on the backside of Cathedral Rocks in an area known to guides as "Dunn's Roll." It is a NE aspect at an elevation of approximately 11,000 feet. Mike Haft dug a test pit, which did confirm our forecast that there are slabs present on the mountain with weak layers. On Mike's first pit, his shovel gave us a glimpse of the graupel that had fallen on our ascent to Camp Muir. There is a 30 cm slab above this layer, with a Q1 shear. Next, Mike performed a compression test. The test indicated that the layer could possibly be widespread on elevations from 10,000-11,000 feet. His results were CTE 4, Q1. On the morning of Tuesday September 21, we returned to the same area to dig another pit. We had the same results on the compression test, but were surprised to find on the shovel shear that we would get a failure at 100 cm Q1 on an unidentifiable layer.
With freezing levels remaining low and a front building, north-northeast aspects could remain loaded until they get a couple more days of radiation to settle the new snow that has fallen. As far as route conditions, Disappointment Cleaver could benefit from the new snow after we have had a settlement, making the Cleaver resemble early season conditions.
International Mountain Guides
Another ladder was added to the DC route this weekend. It spans a crevasse, at about 12,700 feet, enabling the traverse onto the Emmons Shoulder to continue along a direct path. The route still seems to be in good shape overall. Be extremely cautious with the larger snow bridges in warm weather. A few snow bridges and plugs are large enough to have two or more rope team members on them at a time, depending on your team's spacing, so don't be shy about belaying partners across them.
The cleaver itself has melted out completely. Teams are now traversing onto the cleaver (the moat between the Ingraham and the cleaver is holding up well) straight to the spine. After hitting the spine of the cleaver, the route continues straight up the spine for approx. 100 m, then traverses out to climbers' left. The route previously gained the snow field on the side of the cleaver after this left traverse, but now it switches back to climbers' right and heads back to the spine of the cleaver, and climbers stay on the rock all the way to the top of the cleaver. Again, be extremely cautious of rockfall on the cleaver. Communicate with other parties and time your traverses accordingly.
Make note of the ladder at 13,900 feet shown in the photo, good rope management and conservative belay techniques should be considered.
Not much different than last weeks route though some of the critical snowbridges are looking 'paper thin' in places. In particular the bridge pictured below has seen some abuse and climbers and guides are anticipating a new route variation in the coming days.
Even so, the DC has seen plenty of successful summits and the guide services have done an excellent job of cleaning up odd wands and trash on the route. Currently the route on the Cleaver is traveling up the spine avoiding the snowfields. Look for the reflective wands put in place by RMI and when in doubt stay close to the ridge on climbers right.
Climbers are heading out to the Emmons Shoulder ever since a big "plug" of snow fell and the "direct route" was blocked by a major crevasse opening. The new route, which traverses at about 12.700 feet, from just above the cleaver to the Emmons Shoulder, is a little longer, but has a much more moderate slope, than the original route.
The moat between the Ingraham Glacier and Disappointment Cleaver is holding up well. There have been no troubles gaining the spine of the cleaver at 11, 300. Please move quickly through this section, as it is one of the most objectively hazardous areas on the route.
Over all the route is in great shape. The ladder at 13,800 is still in, and anchored well. Please remember to be courteous and communicate with other parties when approaching possible bottleneck areas (traversing onto the cleaver, traversing onto the Emmons Shoulder, crossing the ladder, etc.).
Here's the GPS track of our trip up on the 18th. The route is going to change soon, but generally it is still traversing to the Emmon's Shoulder.
The DC is in prime August shape. It is currently very sidewalk-like and if you can't follow that footpath (it does seem like it might be a crevasse in certain places, but no it's just that well worn) there are wands about every 30' marking the route.
The route climbs up the the DC itself, which is still about half snow covered at the moment, and from the top at 12,300' traverses north for a while before splitting to go one of two ways. The more established way starts to ascend sooner and the route winds its way through some very large and impressive crevasses, over a ladder, and onward to the summit. The second and newer route continues the traverse longer, actually going out to the Emmons Shoulder before climbing to the summit. Both of these routes intersect around 14,000' so pay attention to this when you are heading down.
Even though this route is well traveled and maintained by guide companies, we still encourage people to think for themselves while climbing. There are at least two fairly steep sections that cross snow bridges between 12,600' and 13,600' on the route. Proceed with caution as a fall in these areas could be catastrophic...belays could be useful! Rockfall can be a big hazard this time of year so be aware of where your team is in relation to terrain features and other climbing parties. Please avoid knocking rocks onto climbers below you!
The DC is still climbing well and low freezing temps are keeping the route in good shape. While guided teams are working on an alternative route the current path to the top requires only one ladder at 13,800 ft and is still fairly straightforward.
Please follow good glacier travel protocols with pickets, prussiks, helmets and the requisite skills to make for a safe climb. Rock and ice fall is always a hazard on the DC and as the season continues more and more crevasses are opening up, including several right out of Camp Muir. If your skills are a little rusty take advantage of large cracks just below Camp Muir and take a day to review crevasse rescue skills such as mechanical advantage systems and belay techaniques on real crevassed terrain.
Steep terrain around 13,000 ft. Rangers witnessed at least one party fall down this short 20 ft feature. Please take the time to either belay or short-rope your team down dangerous sections including the rocky portions of the Cleaver.
It does not get a whole lot better than this: mostly perfect days and nights at Camp Muir and stellar climbing conditions on the DC! Check out the July 18th report below on the DC as it offers detailed Google Earth displays of the route that has changed significantly in the last ten days. A couple of reminders however....freezing levels have remained high and we encourage folks to stay roped up as soon as they leave Camp Muir.
The wily fox Slim Shady has made his presence known all over the mountain and climbers are reminded to keep their food zipped up tight in their tents, wrappers and bluebags picked up and kept in packs all the way to the summit and back. The climbing rangers at Camp Muir would much prefer that the fox snack on his natural prey of mice.
We had a nice climb of the cleaver. We started at Paradise at 3:00 a.m. Arrived at Camp Muir around 4:50. At 5:30 we left Camp Muir.
The route is in GREAT shape. Wow. I love all this snow this year. It's really holding the route together well this year. Across the Cowlitz, there aren't even a whole lot of crevasses showing, but trust me, they are lurking not too far underneath. With the warmer temperatures down here at this point in the climb, make sure to rope up through here.
There are now rocks exposed and a dirt trail ascending up to Cathedral Gap, so please watch who's above and below you! Time ascents through this area and work with other parties. Watch who may be coming down over the gap as you ascend.
Behind the gap, and starting up towards Ingraham Flats, the route is also in really great condition.
If you're camping at Ingraham Flats, PLEASE USE BLUEBAGS! On the way down, we had the notorious task of picking up other people's mushy turds just like you pick up your dog's in the park. It's disgusting. If you didn't get bluebags before your climb, please ask the ranger at Camp Muir. We keep a stock there, too.
The route stays very close to what is normal for this time of year. Access to the cleaver, right now is EASY, with no weird crevasses or seracs to negotiate. However, as you crest the little ridge in the middle of the Ingraham before you make the traverse to the cleaver, there has been a recent ice avalanche. A route has been established that circumnavigates around the bottom. It would be prudent to follow that, as other ice avalanches are likely to take the same path. Please use the top of this Ingraham pressure ridge to wait for other parties to get to the nose of the cleaver.
Getting onto the cleaver is the most dangerous part of the climb. Above the tip of the nose (a safe place to stop), there are rocks starting to show. This means that they can be kicked off from people above you. Please pay very, very close attention to where other people. Talk, and communicate with them. Coordinate with the adjacent parties.
Switch back and forth, up mostly snow, the rest of the way to the top of the cleaver. This is also a good place to rest and take a break. It is common practice that while ascending from the nose of the cleaver to the top to "short rope", which means to gather in a coil so you are about 10 feet behind the person in front of you, and carry that coil. There are no crevasses on the cleaver. Remember that it is customary to stay tied in (and not untie and unrope completely) because this would take a little too much time, especially for larger parties, and may cause back-ups on busy weekends!
Next up is the Ingraham headwall. Right now it's about as good as it ever gets. There are crevasses to cross and some have saggy bridges. This section will change frequently over the next few weeks.
The rest of the route just switches back and forth to the top.
If you'd like to download the (kml - google earth) file so you can view the route in 3D, I have posted it here. Once you have the data, there are ways to get it into your GPS. Please use this file only for historical and general navigational purposes only. As stated above, the route will change frequently in the next few weeks. Sometimes it does so dramatically - which would render using this file in your navigation misleading.
The DC is in!!! Climbers have for the most part given up on the I.D. due to serac hazard and focused their ascents on the DC. Despite high winds it has received ascents virtually every day over the last week.
Please be mindful of the many fixed lines on the Cleaver. These are put in place as hand lines by the guide services and are not meant to be prussiked into. Also consider short-roping or shortening your rope to 5 meters or so on the Cleaver and keeping your party tight.
There are some bridges above the Cleaver which may require a belay. Slam a picket in and belay your team across if you have any doubts. However, please be respectful of other teams and guide parties and step to the side if setting up or taking a break.
Ingraham Flats has seen plenty of traffic and as a result there has been an issue with human waste. USE YOUR BLUEBAGS and PACK IT OUT!! Fines will be levied if this sort of misbehavior continues.
Guide companies have been working on the traverse onto the cleaver in anticipation of switching their route toward the cleaver soon. Here's a photo of their progres...
No parties have been on the cleaver proper. See the Ingraham Direct's route report for updated news on the standard route out of Camp Muir. As soon as the standard route switches to the cleaver we'll put an update up here.
Just a quick note; this morning the guide companies turned around at the top of Catherdral Gap. The snow stability is still questionable. Stay tuned, with the forecasted decent weather this weekend we will get more info on the snowpack.
Here's a pic from Ingraham Flats looking over to the cleaver. There's been no major slide activity on the cleaver and no parties climbing it yet this season. This route is not recommended until avalanche dangers subside. Check out the Ingraham Direct - it's been the main route for climbers summiting from Camp Muir.
While the weather has been often times discouraging and difficult to predict, many teams have rallied and summited via the Ingraham Direct over the past week. Climbing just prior to the weekend was hampered by avalanche concerns particularly on the east side of Cathedral Gap but with some warm weather stabilizing the snowpack many climbers did indeed summit over the weekend. Guides from RMI, IMG, and AAI did a great job coordinating resources and worked together to put in a safe route to the summit that was very well marked.
Weather was variable with one or two decent windows over the weekend and plenty of fresh snowfall and considerable wind loading. The skiing was also variable with windscour and some glaze ice above 12,000 ft, excellent cream cheese from 11-8000 ft and the classic NW 'guanch factor 12' conditions at lower elevations. Approaching Camp Muir and even continuing up the Ingraham or DC with flotation is still advised and certainly can facilitate a much faster descent if the weather turns poor.
The weather has been the biggest deciding factor this season with unseasonably wet conditions and yet another 4" of precipitation predicted this week. Make sure you register at the CIC at Paradise for your climb and get the updated forecast before setting off. The CIC is open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Departing from Camp Muir please rope up as new snow has obscured crevasses and there are certainly plenty of obvious hazards as soon as you cross over Cathedral Gap. While it may be possible to end-run the crevasses around 13,000 ft., currently the route does step across several openings. Please practice safe glacier travel. Consider also if you have three days to make the climb and want to avoid the usual busy scene at Camp Muir; camp one night on the snowfield, the next night at Ingraham Flats ( a super classic glacier experience which can cut two hours off your summit day) and then descend all the way from the summit back to Paradise.
The latest storm cycle dropped about two feet of wind packed new snow. Climbing conditions are great - and skiing conditions are even greater! Parties have summited the last couple of days via Ingraham Direct. Still no parties have been climbing along the spine of the Cleaver. See the pics, taken Saturday.
Crrently climbers are staying almost centered on the Ingraham Glacier until they reach about 12,400, where they are traversing climber's right toward the top of the cleaver. The route to the summit from the top of the cleaver is still very direct. Come by the ranger station for even more current info.
The route is "in" with the Ingraham Direct actually being the path of choice for most parties. The upper mountain is still in full winter condition, with a foot or more of new storm snow covering a more consolidated base. Be wary of increased avalanche danger on loaded lee aspects. Snowshoes or skis are recommended for the approach to Muir.
Logistics: The Climbing Information Center is open on weekends currently and will open full time on May 28th. The Climbing Rangers will be in and out of the office and up on the mountain over the next several weeks but will be returning calls if messages are left at (360) 569-6009. Climber registration is currently available only at the Longmire Museum or the Paradise old station (little gray A-frame in front of the CIC) self-registration box (and and the Climbing Information Center on weekends). Please be diligent and make sure you register and purchase 2010 climbing passes. Unregistered climbers run the risk of not being rescued if overdue simply because there would be no record of them on the mountain.
If approaching the Park from the east side to climb the DC or other routes beginning at Paradise, be advised that 410/Chinook Pass is scheduled to open May 21st. Stevens Canyon Road is scheduled to open May 28th. It is highly recommended that before heading towards Paradise one calls the Park for updated road conditions as they are highly weather dependent at this time. (360) 569-2211.
While there have been multiple attempts on the DC already this season, the success rate has been quite low. Climbers should be prepared for DEEP snow, avalanche conditions, and full winter expedition-style climbing. Paradise continues to receive significant new snow almost daily as of this post. Skis and snowshoes are strongly recommended if one wants to travel a good deal beyond the parking lot. Avalanche beacons, probe poles, shovels and the knowledge to use them are also strongly encouraged when venturing into avalanche terrain. Those areas prone to climber- and naturally- triggered avalanches, such as Cathedral Gap, the Cleaver and other aspects of the upper mountain should be approached cautiously and with ample understanding of the snowpack on that day.
See the updated Muir Snowfield and Camp Muir route conditions site for information on approaching and camping at Muir. However, climbers should expect that a reasonable two-day ascent of the DC can and probably will turn into a longer battle under the current conditions. Proper use of map, compass and GPS are essential.
Bring your super fat boards and schralp the DC for a memorable and unparalleled ski and climbing experience!! With proper terrain management and avalanche awareness the climbing rangers have been enjoying STEEP and DEEP conditions around the Paradise area. The DC could offer 9000 ft. of SICK skiing for the avid ski mountaineer. We will keep you posted on changing conditions over the next few weeks....