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!