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.