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.