April 15 (make the date bold, no year needed. this should be the only formatting change you need to make)

stoke picture that shows conditions
This is the first paragraph in your update. This space should be used for general information on the route.This is a great spot to say how awesome the climbing is, how many people have been successful and other things of that nature. It is also a great spot to say whether the route has been getting stormed on, sun, ice, etc. If there is something out of the ordinary going on mention it here in the first paragraph. This could be anything from large avalanches, rockfalls, bears on route, etc. Details can be in following paragraphs. Photos are important. Try and get good quality photos that show conditions on route. Route overview pictures are great as are photos of specific cruxes. Please make sure photos are proper size (usually medium) and arranged neatly in the paragraph. Photos blow up when you click on them so their is no need for huge photos  in your post. Photos can be tricky to arrange so play around with it or ask for help.

Notice how picture is neatly arranged and proper size
This is the second paragraph of your update. Notice there is a one line space in between this paragraph and the first one. Also notice there is no indention. It is nice to start with approach issues, hows the road? where is the snow line? are there bridges out? is there bear activity at lower camps? The Muir snowfield and Inter glacier each have their own devoted pages, so on Muir and Schurman routes you don't need to spend a lot of time updating the approach, but anything significant should be mentioned. If you have a lot to say about the approach make it a paragraph, if not just continue on. This is also a good spot to talk about high camp/bivy sites and issues for the route.

possible route crux
Since the approach description was a bit lengthy I made a new paragraph for the route conditions.This is where you will write about the actual climbing conditions on the upper mountain. You should mention surface conditions, cruxes, variations, watch outs, possible changes to look for in the upcoming week. If protection or two tools are needed talk about it here. When you are writing these updates strive to write in the third person. Avoid the words "I", "We" and "You". Instead talk about the route as if it were it's own thing. Instead of saying "I climbed the DC this morning and know that you will find great conditions and cruiser travel above the cleaver" say "Conditions on the DC have been great recently and climbers should find very straightforward conditions above the cleaver." Avoid "we climbed left around the bergschrund on steeper ice" instead say "At the bergschrund the route goes to the left onto a pitch of steep ice" If you have to talk about yourself use "rangers". If there are missspled words they will be underlnied in redd. If you see anything underlined in red please correct it. If the route description is getting too long for one paragraph make two.

The last paragraph is a great way to give a short wrap up of everything you just said, or to reiterate points we are trying to get across. Things like please remember blue bags or don't forget to check out are nice to say here. Also things like happy climbing, get it before it melts or any other bro bra stuff you want to write.

When you are finished hit "publish" in the right upper corner and then actually look at the blog post and make sure it isn't weird. If it is weird fix it.

Little Tahoma 2011

A group from the Washington Alpine Club climbed Little Tahoma over the 6/7 AUG 11 weekend, using the Fryingpan Creek trailhead route to Meany Crest. We had clear skies and very warm temperatures. We saw no other climbing parties in the area. Only saw one other camper near Meany. Our approach to Meany Crest took about 4 hours. Some of the rock areas leading up to the Meany Crest have pretty good climber paths in them. We melted water and found running water within 2-3 minutes walk of the campsite at Meany Crest on some of the nearby rocky areas.
We departed camp just after 6AM and we summited around 1PM. It is a long walk across Fryingpan Glacier to the Whitman Crest. Uneventful and some just opening up crevasses were easy to avoid. Whitman Crest easy to get over and rest at. From Whitman Crest we traversed onto Whitman Glacier and then up! Negotiated two crevasse areas and then started the haul up the loose rock to the false summit area.
Some of us down climbed the snow a bit and others did well plunge stepping down the top third of the Whitman Glacier and all of us plunge stepped the remaining two thirds back to the low traverse across the Whitman to Whitman Crest. We got back to the cars by 8pm.

Little Tahoma remains a hidden gem within Mount Rainier
National Park. At just over 11,100 feet, it is one of Washington's highest peaks. A ranger patrol on Wednesday climbed Little Tahoma from Paradise. The approach up the Muir Snowfield to the traverse at 8,600 was uneventful. Crossing the Cowlitz Glacier took some navigating, but traversing up and around the ice fall in the middle was easy.

There's running water at Pebble Creek (at about 7,200 on the snowfield) and on the Whitman Glacier at about 10,000. Skiers had recently descended the snow field just below the summit rock spire. The snow hasn't started to "cup up" significantly. Climbers not on skis can always boot-ski. The snow conditions and slope angle make for an incredible run.

The summit scramble is still in great shape. The rock is as solid as it ever is, and the views, plus exposure on all sides, make for an awesome summit experience.

Success Cleaver 2011

July 4th - The Success Cleaver is in great condition right now. The Tahoma Creek trail to the suspension bridge is all snow free. Above the bridge the snow starts - but it's still easy to navigate toward Pyramid Peak through the forest on snow.

There is still plenty of snow higher up on the route. As temperatures warm up, climbers may want to stay on the cleaver proper in order to avoid rockfall and traveling on soft snow. The picture below is of penitented snow at about 12,800 ft. At this point in the route, most climbers move to the right to avoid the steep cliff bands. The upper snow traversing and rock-band navigation is still very straight forward. Begin your climb early to avoid ice melting and falling off the rock later in the day.

It's possible to descend the route without any rappelling, but because of the distance required to exit via on of the West Side approaches most teams carry up and over.

Emmons-Winthrop 2011

September 9th

This last week saw the closing of the hut at Camp Schurman for the fall and winter. The Climbing Rangers that work Camp Schurman would like to thank everyone who climbed through the camp for a great and relatively safe season, and look forward to seeing many of you next year. That said, you are free to climb without our presence at the camp. Please remember to register at the White River Ranger Station before your climb. The route remains in great shape with the only difficulty being in getting off the Inter-Glacier and onto the Emmons. As we have been advising: please start low and traverse onto the Emmons. The moat at this time is still rather easy to cross. Above the camp the route is straight forward, and follows the route described in previous blog updates.

August 26th 

The Emmons route is still in fine shape! At the top of the corridor the route traverses to the right and then follows a relatively direct path to the summit.
With the past few week's warm weather, crevasses have been opening and widening on the Inter Glacier and on the traverse from Camp Curtis to Camp Schurman. So take note of these hazards on the approach and be aware of them while descending.

All in all, the approach to Schurman and the route on the upper mountain remain in good shape and many parties had successful summit trips over the past week.

August 17th

Climbers have been summitting via a very direct path to Columbia Crest, still. The E/W glaciers have been holding strong. Skiers have even been braving the less than ideal conditions on the upper portions of the glacier; as long as it's sunny the snow/ice/sun-cups can be shredded. Climbers are ascending up the Emmons "Corridor" until encountering a large crevasse, and then zig-zagging up and right (climber's right) toward the Winthrop. A direct path straight to Columbia Crest still exists - no need to traverse out to the Liberty Saddle.

Crevasses on the Inter Glacier (on the approach to Camp Schurman) have been opening wider. Please use caution! Watch where glissading paths lead, boot-ski under control, and consider the consequences of falling while traveling on the Inter Glacier. Though crevasses are opening, there are no large icy patches forming.Make sure to stop in and get current route beta from the rangers at Camp Schurman. Enjoy!

August 5th

This week brings the end of the big guided parties. We also had a unroped crevasse fall on the Inter Glacier this week. So the time is ripe to remind people to rope up for the Inter Glacier as things are starting to melt out. The trail down to the Emmons from Camp Curtis (the ridge above the Inter on the climber's left) is starting to be more challenging so use your head and possibly start your traverse into the Emmons a bit lower then the climber's trail. This will avoid the nasty rock crossing. The route above Camp Schurman is rather direct and still in really good condition. Come prepared for daily route changes as things melt further out towards the end of August.


July 28, 2011 The Emmons-Winthrop remains in stellar condition. The photo above shows the directness of the route with only a few minor detours to circumvent crevasse and snow bridge hazards. Surface conditions consist primarily of firm snow with some rime-ice near the summit. Many parties have been summiting over the last week.

July 1st - The route up the Emmons continues to be in great condition. A thorough boot track, ground in by the many parties making summit attempts, can be seen on the approach from White River camp ground. Keep in mind though, always be wary of old tracks; just because previous parties have crossed does not guarantee security.
The crossing from Camp Curtis to the Emmons and up to Schurman is still in good shape although some crevasses are beginning to emerge.

Be sure to start climbs early as the warming days make the afternoon snow on the lower Emmons and Inter glaciers soft and sloppy.
Additionally, the trail from the White River camp ground to Glacier Basin is now about 60 percent melted out with intermittent patches of snow becoming completely snow by Glacier Basin.

June 24, 2011

The deep snow is persisting in many parts of the mountain making for excellent climbing conditions on many routes. Many climbers have been successful on the Emmons route due to a direct route and stable snow bridges, though climbers should always be roped on the upper mountain and aware of changing conditions. This photo (taken from the top of Steamboat Prow) shows a well-defined boot pack heading up the corridor and to the summit!

The snowy conditions are also making for excellent skiing with perfect corn on many aspects. The following photos were taken from a ski tour to the Fryingpan Glacier - where we skied all the way back to the car on on the 2nd day of summer! Bad news for Wonderland Trail hikers, but excellent news for ski mountaineers.

Little Tahoma and Mt. Rainier from the Fryingpan Glacier

Sun cups in the corn at the head of Fryingpan Creek

Emmons-Winthrop ~ June 15, 2011

The Emmons-Winthrop route on Mount Rainier remains in stellar condition. As can be seen from the photo, the line of ascent climbs nearly a straight line from the "the corridor" all the way to the upper bergschrund, which at the moment can be circumvented either to the climber's right (standard variation) or to the climber's left (a bit steeper but more direct), and then on to the crater rim.

Surface conditions as of late have been following the typical spring/summer trend of firm during the night and soft during the day under direct sun with the freezing heights hovering around 9,000 to 10,000 ft. Cramponing conditions have been excellent in the early morning hours and as summarized above, have allowed for a variety of routes between the corridor and the bergschrund ...some perhaps faster than others.

Additionally, numerous people have been summiting Liberty Ridge lately and have been descending the Emmons Glacier without any problems. The only real change worth mentioning from previous years to this line of descent is that the "shortcut", typically taken from the summit saddle between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest directly to the Emmons, has finally succumbed to gravitational force and no longer really exists (unless you want to jump for it!). There is now currently a very wide crevasse that extends all the way across the top of the Winthrop Glacier from Russell Cliff to where the normal Emmons route joins. This makes for a short ascent up from the saddle towards the crater rim before being able to turn back down hill towards Camp Schurman.

And finally, the approach from the White River Campground is now considered to be 65% snow from the trailhead to Glacier Basin and 100% snow from Glacier Basin to Camp bring your skis if you are so inclined.
See you on the mountain!

Emmons-Winthrop~May 2nd, 2011

Climbing Rangers made it up to Camp Schurman and the summit over the last couple days travelling strictly on the Emmons Glacier. Access to the White River trailhead is still a bit problematic as the road remains snowed in... not due to open until May 21st. Once at the White River Trailhead however the route finding up the newly improved Glacier Basin trail (opened last summer) makes early season route finding on the snow a non-issue. (Hooray!) Due to avalanche concerns for the Inter-Glacier approach and overall aesthetics, a traverse was made approximately 1.25 miles up the G.B. trail over to the toe of the Emmons Glacier proper. This made for a very leisurely yet long skin up to Camp Schurman taking roughtly 6-7 hours total. This route was also used for the descent and will likely remain as a reasonable option for another month or so.

Reaching Camp Schurman, it became evident what kind of winter it had been on the upper slopes of Mt. Rainier as the Schurman hut was completely buried and blown over with snow. Ironically, the outhouse was not nearly buried as least not on the outside! (see photo)

The next day, May 1st, brought appropriate conditions for a summit attempt which indeed panned out. It was an excellent opportunity to get a close-up look at the avalanche conditions on the upper mountain as well as get some of our new rangers more familiar with the route. As can be seen from the photos, the Emmons route is essentially in a "go anywhere you please" type of condition, in terms of coverage. The avalanche danger however was found to be on the scale of moderate with pockets of considerable in the more wind-loaded versus wind-scoured areas above The Corridor. On the upside at least was the lack of any significant wind-loading directly above the climbing route. Nearing the infamous "Bergschrund" at the top, the climbers left side was taken on the way up and the climbers right side on the way down. Both options seemed reasonable at the time although it was a bit dis-heartening for this troublesome glacial feature to already be so visible this early in the season.

All in all, it was a successful trip to begin digging out the high camp and checking on the climbing conditions for an anxiously anticipated climbing season on Rainier.

See you on the mountain!

Check out last year's photos and condition reports here.

Ptarmigan Ridge 2011

August 9th, 2011

Yes, Ptarmigan Ridge is still remarkably "in"!!! The route
has full coverage from top to bottom and is probably 60% ice and
40% firm snow. We climbed while the freezing level was up to
14,000 ft. making for a comfortable night's stay at the high camp and since the sun doesn't reach the upper portion
of the route until 11:00am, we were able to sleep in a little bit.

Notes, the schrund at the bottom of the ramp
appears like an obstacle at first but is actually easily climbed up some easy rock and pumice without much deviation from the direct line. Making the traverse from the top of the ramp to the first snow/ice chute was probably the crux, requiring a horizontal traverse on steep water ice with great exposure. Once past the
traverse however, the climbing is classic with a mix of ice and snow that is well protected. The rock step at the top of the route, although tedious to access, was easily climbed in crampons on the right hand side where you can find one fixed pin for the 5.7 move. After this, you top out on the Liberty Cap Glacier and have a couple hours left of glacier travel
before reaching Liberty Cap. The route finding here was pretty straight forward but be sure to re-rope for glacier travel as several large crevasses are crossed or schrund bulges climbed.

Gear, 3-4 ice screws for simul-climbing and possibly a couple more if you want to actually pitch out the ice sections. We only used 2 pickets, which seemed adequate enough, and although not required, a small selection of
small to medium nuts could prove useful and on occasion save the use of an ice screw. 2 ice tools also make for a much better time while climbing.

All told, Ptarmigan Ridge is still in great shape and highly recommended...particularly over Liberty Ridge as the approach
for this climb has become troublesome at best. The photos above
and right more or less tell the whole story. Come check it out
while it still lasts.

See you on the mountain!

July 10th, 2011

Ptarmigan Ridge is in fantastic shape right now! The approach from Mowich Lake was mostly on firm, consolidated snow (in the am) and travel along the lower ridge (above spray park) was relatively efficient. The route above 10,3 camp (standard route, not ice cliff) had some awesome climbing on snow/ice. There were multiple sections of solid water ice and steep snow, you will definitely swing your tools. The climbing on the upper Liberty Cap glacier was straight forward, no major difficulties. The route seems like it will be in for a while longer, so get up here and enjoy some of the best steep climbing on the mountain!

June 15th -

Route appears to be in great shape. Prepare for a long approach through deep unconsolidated snow for a while still. The Mowich lake road is scheduled to open July 1st, but that is condition dependent. Check the Mt. Rainier road report for further information.

Kautz Cleaver 2011

Thanks to Olympic Mountain Rescue for this route condition update. The Kautz Cleaver remains one of Mount Rainier's best but least traveled routes.

We approached via the Comet Falls trailhead at 3,600 feet starting at 2 pm on Friday afternoon, expecting to find very soft snow conditions. However,generally consolidated snow was found, with only a few stretches of shin-deep post-holing through Van Trump Park on our way towards the toe of the Cleaver.
With the late start we chose to make camp on flat terrain at about the 8,000’ level directly below the Cleaver. The clouds had parted above 7,000’ and we were rewarded with nice views and the promise of more good weather to come, backed up by a forecast which predicted calm to lights winds up high over the following 2 days.

After finally stirring and setting out around 7:30 am we decided to take the Middle Success Glacier alternate start. It was a toss-up with the Cleaver itself, since both looked equally filled in and straightforward. We reckoned the more westerly aspect of the Middle Success would provide more sun shade and stay firmer longer. At around 10,000’ the snow ramps merge in with the Kautz Cleaver. Firm snow conditions held out until around noon when things began to rapidly loosen up. We decided to dig in a camp at 11,500’ directly on the Cleaver in the early afternoon and have an early go at it the next morning. The views from this perch of the Kautz Glacier and Icefall are superb especially since we had another evening of gentle winds and clear skies. The location afforded a direct view of the Kautz Glacier just to the east, where we watched 2 parties of 4 descend from the mountain and spend over 2 hours to get down the first, steeper portion of the glacier. All 8 eventually ended up doing controlled glissades down the snow covered ice pitch. These were the only people we saw until reaching Point Success.
Several long pitches of crust over unconsolidated snow around 12,500’ did little to dampen the spirits of climbing higher on such a calm morning. Route-finding was real straightforward as the snow still has a very complete coverage up high. The airy traverse pitches above the Kautz Headwall were easily protected by long pickets. We found only a few short sections up towards 13,000’ of post holing, due primarily to leeward accumulations of wind-blown snow. The first sign of any wind was seen shortly afterwards by light spindrift coming off the rockbands higher above. The rockbands above 12,000’ were covered in rime ice. At 13,400’ we traversed westward around the rockbands above the South Tahoma headwall to reach a ramp leading to Point Success around 10:30 am.

We crossed to the main summit over a thick layer of loose dry snow carved into patterns by the summit winds. We began our descent of the DC route around 3 pm, which was by then loosened up by the long day’s full sun exposure. Following the wands was uneventful. The DC was particularly sloppy, and we noted that a couple pickets placed by the guide services for their fixed lines were quite loose.

We dropped down to Paradise at 8:30 the following (Monday) morning, where we checked in with rangers.

Sunset Amphitheater 2011

June 18th - Courtesy of Seattle Mountain Rescue

With partly sunny skies, on the morning of June 17, 2011,Seattle Mountain Rescue members Gordon Smith, Keith Schultz, and Kellie McBee set out to climb one of the Sunset Amphitheater Headwall routes. Planning to carry over the mountain, we left one car at Paradise and drove a second car to the gate on the West Side Road. We hiked up the West Side Road more than a mile to the Tahoma Creek Trail, and ascended that trail. A flood event a couple years before had substantially re-arranged the valley bottom and deposited several feet of rocks and sand in an area several hundred feet wide and several miles long. Quite impressive to think about the force of water needed to move bea
ch ball size rocks down the valley.

We reached the Wonderland trail and headed north on the trail. At about 4,400’ of elevation the trail become more snow covered than not. Once the snow became deep enough to hide the trail, the only sign of human presence was one set of tracks in the snow that ascended to a bit above 5,000’.

At 5,600’ we crested Emerald Ridge, between the tongues of the Tahoma Glacier, then ascended the ridge to its upper end. The clouds thinned, revealing fabulous views of the upper mountain. On other sides of Mount Rainier, it is a relatively monolithic bump. Below Sunset Amphitheater one has views south and east to the cliffs of Glacier Island and Success Cleaver, north to Tokaloo Spire, and up to Sunset Ridge, the Sunset Amphitheater Headwall, and Tahoma Cleaver. St. Andrews Rock is a distinct peak within the Amphitheater, and Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest appear to be separate peaks. With all the cliffs and peaks, it is almost like being in a mountain range, rather than being on a lone peak. The icefalls of the Tahoma Glacier add to the ruggedness.

Looking up Tahoma Glacier, from about 6,500’. St. Andrews rock is the symmetrical peak in front of the cloud near the center of the photo. Liberty Crest is obscured by the lenticular cloud on the left, and Columbia Crest is obscured by the lenticular cloud on the right.

We enjoyed the problem solving of choosing a route in the absence of wands, trails and tracks. Above 5,000’ we found the snowpack to be substantial, allowing clear paths up the glacier with alternatives avoiding the faintly darker bands of snow that suggested the shading of sagging snow bridges.

A major lenticular cloud formed over first Liberty Cap, covered both summits, then faded, then returned. We thought about the winds aloft, and thought about the weather forecast for generally decent weather until the next night, and the small weak system forecast to come through the next night. Hopefully, the weather would hold until we got high enough for the precipitation to be snow rather than rain, and hopefully the winds indicated by the lenticular cloud would fade before we got onto the headwall and the summit plateau. We did not think it odd that as the day got later and we gained elevation, the snow became softer. By late afternoon, at 7,500’ we were sinking shin deep with each step, and the winds were picking up.

We found a relatively sheltered camp on Puyallup Cleaver and were happy that the temperature was dropping as the sun descended. Hopefully we would have firm snow in the morning.

Some time around the middle of the night we awoke to the sound of rain on the tent. No big deal—the forecast included the chance of some small amounts of precipitation. However, it kept raining. Steadily. In the morning, the rate of rain decreased, but the rain continued. The temperature was well above freezing, the snow resembled a giant slurpee, and the visibility varied from a few hundred feet to a mile plus. We thought about snow bridges turned to slush. We thought about route finding with poor visibility. We thought about packing up sodden tents, and how wet our sleeping bags could get by nightfall, and how wet the feet of the person with non-plastic boots could get. But mostly, we thought about slogging in the rain.

We concluded that we had all been to the top of this hill before, we had accomplished the Park’s goal of assessing resource conditions (no sign of human-caused damage), and recognized that there was recent information on route conditions from other parties. Mostly we concluded that it would be really unpleasant to hike in the slush and rain, with the rain eventually turning to sleet. We decided to head down. With the rain, we did none of the sightseeing we had done on the hike up, and it took us only about four hours from our camp on Puyallup Cleaver to the car, without feeling that we were rushing.

This outing did provide benefit as a reconnaissance. All of us were impressed by the ruggedness of the scenery and appreciated the adventure of finding our own route rather than following the tracks of others. A descent of the Sickle Route looked very reasonable, and it appeared that one could see the entire Sickle Route (with the possible exception of the very top) as one ascended into the amphitheater, and scope out a descent route. Early season, one might ski most of the approach to a camp at 10,000’ or 11,000’ in the amphitheater, and ski out. With good visibility, one could choose a line up the headwall, tag the summit and avoid a carry-over by descending the Sickle Route back to a high camp.

As we wrung water out of our wet clothes at the car, all of us vowed to return again for an aesthetic climb.

June 16-

Rangers spent several days exploring the Sunset Amphitheater on the west side of Mt.
Rainier and enjoyed excellent weather and climbing conditions. The Sunset Amphitheater is one of the most spectacular terrain features on the mountain as well as one of the most remote parts of the entire park.

There are two main established routes in the Amphitheater; the Sunset Head
wall Couloir (pictured right) and the original Sunset Amphitheater Ice Cap route, which climbs between the two major walls forming the amphitheater.

The Rangers bivied at 11,200 ft and woke to clear skies above and set out for an ice-line on the right side of the Sunset Icecap. The climb was excellent technically and suspenseful as the top of the route was invisible from below and there were doubts as to how to exit onto the plateau above.

The climbing was classic, steep ice steps with some good easy mixed terrain and a spectacular traverse pitch on the ice cap.

Surprisingly the route gave an easy exit after the exciting traverse across the ice cap. A simple walk out onto the plateau above through a notch in the cap (below right) led quickly to the Sickle variation of the Tahoma Glacier and back to our camp.

Rangers spent the next day climbing directly up the Sickle route and carried over to Camp Muir via an excellent ski down the DC.

If climbers are interested in Westside routes this or a carry over to Camp Schurman offers a great full tour of the mountain. Sunset Amphitheater and the surrounding areas offered some interesting features including St. Andrews Rock, a natural ice arch forming below the ice cap and spectacular rime formations.

Tahoma Glacier 2011

August 3rd

If you are looking for a route that offers stunning beauty, solitude, and something that will challenge your glacier navigation skills then the Tahoma Glacier is for you! With the summer temps finally starting to ramp up, some of the winter snow pack is finally receding, providing for easier access to remote routes. Access to the Tahoma route via the westide road is open finally, and the trails leading to the glacier are melting quickly, offering easier access to this hidden gem.

There are several approach options from the westside road, teams can approach via the Saint Andrews Creek trail and up to Klapatche Park, and on up to Saint Andews lake and finally onto the glacier. This option involves more road walking, but offers a direct line to the glacier, and access at a higher elevation, with excellent bivy sites along the Puyallup Cleaver.

Climbers may also choose to take the Tahoma Creek trail and access the wonderland trail. Next teams ascend the lower Success Cleaver, and cross the South Tahoma glacier over to the main body of the Tahoma itself. If you opt for this route get excited for some excellent glacier travel and route finding!

Get out and climb this remote and beautiful route before the summer temps melt the fun away!

June 16

This route is a northwest classic offering some of the longest and most varied route-finding of any glacier climb in the lower 48. Right now the route is in great shape, steep but not too steep, broken but with many opportunities for an ascent with good route finding.

The approach is typically done via the Westside Road and offers over 12,000 feet of vertical gain in one of the most remote regions of the Park. Plan on 3-4 days of approach and climbing and expect to see nobody else the entire time. This is a true wilderness experience not to be missed.

Fuhrer Finger 2011

September 19th

This route is seeing very little traffic as of late. A large section of bare rock in the gut of the finger has running water will require a few storm s to fill in. The 3 inches of snow we got over the last few days is just a start. Climbers have reported that they bypassed the waterfall on some moderate mixed terrain.
The Van trump approach, starting at Comet Falls is a good choice for this time of year. You will start from a lower altitude, but you'll get a pleasant walk transitioning from forest to alpine
Carrying over and down the DC is recommended due to rockfall concerns.

August 11th
Although we didn't climb the route, while passing by the Fuhrer Finger and Thumb the access couloirs did not appear to be in good shape. Rock fall looks to be a significant objective hazard to get on either of the routes. The finger is probably the safer of the two. The crevasses above the Wapowety Cleaver have opened up and require you to traverse way out to the right. The attached photo is of the Thumb and Finger at sunrise on August 10, 2011.

August 4th

The Fuhrer Finger has been reportedly "gnarly for skiing" for quite some time, but climbing on the Finger has still been great. The hour glass feature toward the entrance to the "finger" has been getting noticeably smaller each day, but still remains in good enough condition to climb. The upper mountain above the "finger" has become more circuitous, but climbers have found that staying close to Wapowety Cleaver and just bumping out to skirt crevasses has lead them on a fairly direct path toward the summit.

July 23rd -

Here's a great trip report from Tacoma Mountain Rescue:
We set out via the Skyline Trail and down to the Nisqually Glacier crossing, then over to the Fan, encountering lots of folks above Paradise in sunny, warm conditions. Foot penetration was generally boot-top deep when stepping outside of the established track. The Nisqually crossing was straightforward. The view of the recent rock and ice fall up glacier was impressive! We were pleased that the existing boot track had not softened too badly, considering the strong heat of the day.We made our first camp on the western edge of the Wilson and settled in for the night. Tuesday turned out to be another sunny, clear day with lots of lowland cloudiness and occasional horsetails/lenticular formations near the summit. We encountered several parties, moving up or down from Camp Hazard.
We packed up that morning and moved to our high camp on the very western edge of the Wilson Glacier at about 9200 ft. The rest of Tuesday was spent relaxing in the warm weather and scouting the approach. We had a nice stream flowing through the rocks near our campsite. From here we had a great view of the Fuhrer Finger chute and a good look at most of the approach. Unfortunately, the traverse across the Wilson glacier looked quite broken from below our campsite; a common starting point from information collected earlier. We chose to start our route higher on the Wilson Glacier to make a more direct and lateral traverse to the Finger.
After watching the weather signs and listening to the weather reports, we decided to try for the summit the next morning. We ate and drank steadily, monitored the weather (and the radio), and settled in for a rest.
We awoke at midnight to calm winds, a partial moon, and a clear view of the mountain. A perfect morning for climbing! We started climbing Wednesday morning at 1:30 a.m., moving up the hill from our camp to the point we thought would be best suited for a drop onto the Wilson Glacier (about 9600 ft.). In the dark, the best we could see involved a downclimb of steep snow and a traverse over an old slide debris path. Following three careful, belayed descent pitches, we were able to walk across a narrow snowbridge and gain the traverse. Just this portion of the climb ate up a fair amount of time but we were determined to ‘do this right’ as the runout from a fall would have ended in one of several huge crevasses lurking below. We did take a moment to consider bailing on this route and heading over to the Kautz route prior to starting the descent but concluded that if the line would not go, we could climb back out and revise the game plan. We moved quickly through the old debris field, taking the occasional glance uphill at the monsters that created it (the Kautz Icefall and the Wilson Headwall).
Once we reached the base of the chute, we paused for a break in order to get ready for the big up. The weather was spectacular with no wind. The climbing from that point was excellent! Lots of suncups and firm snow in the chute made for ideal crampon conditions. The slope angle stayed consistent at 50-60 degrees. We moved steadily without setting any protection for about 1500 ft. before stopping at some running water on climber’s right near 11K. As we approached 12K, we could begin to see why we had been advised NOT to move climber’s right onto the upper Nisqually. Things were breaking up badly with many huge and open crevasses. The best looking line continued straight up, with the rock ridge on our left and the broken Nisqually to our right. By this time we were in direct sunlight and things were heating up fast. The snow was beginning to deteriorate, but climbing was still good and the slope angle had moderated a bit. We remained roped together as we started moving into more crevassed terrain. What had been a fairly straight line up was now turning into a series of switchbacks and more and more route finding through open and hidden crevasses. It's important to communicate to other would-be climbers of this route that it would be very difficult to bail off the route from this point on and up to around 12600'.
Our decision at that point was NOT to descend this route because we believed that a down climb in what was now rotten, steep snow would be difficult if not downright dangerous. We had talked earlier about the possibility of jumping on to the Kautz route for the descent and it seemed clear now that this was our best option. At about 13,200 ft. we topped out and paused to look across the snowfield to the Kautz route bootpath. It was late in the day, we were smoked, there were no other climbers in sight, and we were low on food and out of water. Although we had a stove and considered making some water and turning for the summit, we chose instead to head down with a feeling of great success despite not tagging the top. We traversed over to the Kautz track and made our way downhill. The path was very straight with just a few crevasses showing and the views were incredible!
Downclimbing the steep Kautz chute required no protection/belays but was a bit challenging in the very soft snow conditions and because of our fatigue levels. We traversed quickly under the icefall and over to the hand line to gain the ridge above Camp Hazard. Once over that ridge the winds became very strong but the skies remained clear above with lots of lowland cloudiness. We descended to camp and put a close to a very long but successful day.

June 2

The Fuhrer Finger is still in great shape for both climbing and skiing and should remain so for quite some time. Both the Wilson Glacier approach and the standard Wapowety Cleaver approach have seen traffic this past weekend and multiple parties have been making attempts on both the Finger and the Kautz. Consider taking your time and establishing a basecamp around 10000 ft in order to climb and ski a 'twofer.' Access from basecamp at this elevation includes the Kautz, the Finger, the Wilson Headwall and Success Cleaver. With so much late season snow the routes are in great early May-like conditions. Come on up and schralp some of the best skiing and climbing in the Northwest!!!

May 13th

The FF has been the line of choice for years, as an absolutley classic ski descent of an iconic peak offering up to 10 - 12,000 vertical feet of skiing. This year is no different with multiple parties having successful and enjoyable climbs and ski descents this spring. While snow conditions give the appearance of a heavy late spring snowpack, be aware that conditions are variable throughout with thin snowbridges over hidden crevasses, sastrugi and rockfall hazard through the lower half of the route. Do not think that being on skis is a substitute for proper glacial travel protocols with a rope, anchors, and the knowledge of how to use them. Please entertain roping up for the bottom and top glacier portions as well as wearing a hardhat throughout the route.

The skiing has generally been good with challenging, variable conditions. Watch the weather, plan and train appropriately, and come on up to GET SOME SOON!!!

Kautz Glacier 2011

September 11th

The Kautz Glacier is great late season climb for those looking to get a little ice climbing in, and avoid the crowds. Right now there are several approach options to get to the Kautz. The Fan is still a viable option, however, it is melted out meaning teams would need to walk up through the scree. Option number two is the Wilson Bench approach, which is further north. The chute leading to the bench is still roughly 40-50% snow, leading teams to the broad Wilson Bench. The third option is approaching through the Comit Falls trail, and up through Van Trump Park. This approach adds 1,500 feet of vertical, but also takes climbers through several beautiful ecosystems, from the deep forest, and waterfalls to high alpine meadows and wildflowers. The high camps at both the Castle (9,200 feet) and the top of the Turtle snowfield are melted out and provide excellent bivy sites. Please remember to clean your camp well and use your blue bags while here.

The upper portion of the route and the two ice pitches are melted out, with a small section of snow remaining between ice pitches. Two tools are recommended for the ice, and some ice pro as well. Above the ice pitches there are several large cracks that offer fun glacier navigation. The route trends climbers right across the Wapowety cleaver and out onto the upper Nisqually before switch backing to the crater rim. The Kautz is still a great late season option for a fun, and quiet summit trip!

August 18

Rangers climbed the Kautz glacier route on Aug 15 and 16th. The Fan or Wilson Bench can still be used to approach (keep an eye out for rockfall), or the Comet Falls trail head adds another 1500' of vertical to the climb. The campsites at The Castle (9200') and the top of the Turtle Snowfield (10,800') are melted out and contain established bivy sites. Please continue to use these existing sites and make sure the area is clean when you break camp. The picture below is looking out across the lower Nisqually at the Fan (left) and Wilson Bench (center).

From the start of the climb at the top of the Turtle, the snow has melted enough that the rappel down the cliff band is now 10' to the glacier; two fixed lines exist but use at your own discretion. The lower chute is completely free of snow and a second tool is recommended even though the ice is very featured. Above the first pitch the bowl contains large penitentes which make for easy stairstepping to the base of the second pitch. This pitch still contains a small amount of snow on climber's left, but it will be gone soon. The picture below is from the top of the 1st ice pitch looking up the ramp to the second ice pitch.

Above the ramp the route heads left around a large crevasse and then can go several ways to the summit as described in earlier posts. The picture below is from halfway up the 2nd pitch looking down onto the lower Kautz glacier.

August 11

Approaching the Kautz via the Fan or the Wilson Bench is still in good shape but beware of rockfall. The traverse across the lower Nisqually is also still in good condition. A great place to camp is at 9,400 feet just below the Turtle Snowfield at the High Castle. There is running water here and lots of nice bivy spots.

Getting onto the Kautz ice ramp, you have several options. You can do the standard rappel down the cliff band, or if you climb high just above Camp Hazard there is enough snowpack below the hanging glacier that allows you to easily scramble down to the chute without rappelling. There are fixed rappel lines in place to access the chute but use these at your own discretion.

The ice on the ramp can almost be entirely avoided (except for the first 20 feet) by staying left on the penitentes. If you are looking for the ice, then staying right will give you 1-2 pitches of low angle ice. Either way, bring a second tool.

Above the ice ramp, you have several options. Some parties have continued straight up the Kautz Glacier proper to Point Success. This route is exposed to ice fall from seracs on climber's right but is faster and more direct. Another option and the route proper is to hang a sharp right above Wapowety Cleaver and take the long traverse around several large crevasses and then trend back left towards the crater rim. Below: The Turtle Snowfield and Kautz Glacier looking up the route from High Castle.

August 8

Yikes! Climbing rangers packed out nearly 100lbs of poop, garbage, and abandoned equipment from 9400' camp last weekend! So far this season we've been doing really well with keeping the Kautz/Finger high camps clean, what happened last week? Please make sure you check the area around your campsite before you head down off the mountain. Also, keep your camp nice and tidy so things don’t blow away, especially while you are off climbing. If we all contribute a little bit of effort, like picking up other people's garbage, we should be able to keep these camps in pristine condition!

Conditions on the Kautz Glacier route have been changing rapidly over the last few days due to unusually high temperatures. As of the 7th it was still possible to ascend the ice chute entirely on snow, but only barely. With continuing warm weather in the forecast, the route may become significantly more icy over the next few days. Climbers looking for a more challenging ascent can find great ice climbing along the right side of the route. Bring a second tool; you will have a lot more fun!

As far as the approach routes go, nothing much has changed. Things are still looking good above the Kautz Ice chute as well. There are multiple route options on the upper Kautz and Nisqually glaciers, all generally straight foreword. The more commonly travelled route traverses across the Wapowety Cleaver, out onto the Nisqually Glacier, then switch-backs around a few crevasses and heads straight for the crater rim. An alternative is to climb over the top of the Wapowety Cleaver and traverse directly over to the crater rim. This route involves steeper terrain but fewer crevasse crossings.

Again, it's a great time to climb the Kautz, hope to see you up here!

August 5

Climbing rangers climbed the Kautz Glacier route August 3rd and 4th to find the route in great shape, overall very direct thanks to lots of remaining snow lingering on the mountain.

The approaches from the lower Nisqually (the Fan and the ramp onto the Wilson) are still both being used by climbers, but beware of rockfall hazards on both of these approaches as snow continues to melt. For climbers looking for something a little different, approaching via the Comet Falls trail makes a beautiful alternative. This approach adds another 1,500' of elevation gain to the climb, but provides a real wilderness experience. Forests, mountain goats, meadows and waterfalls are the rule - it might be worth it!

Campsites at the Castle (9,400) and west of the Turtle Snowfield (10,600-11,000) are melted out with running water available near many of the sites while the temps stay warm. Please use only existing tent sites when camping in the rocks, there are many very nice ones available, so there is no need to go through all that extra work. Rangers would also like to thank all the recent climbers and guided groups for keeping the camping areas and the entire route so clean. We were able to climb and pick up very little trash and no left behind blue bags. All future climbers appreciate your efforts.
Above high camps the route takes a step down onto the Kautz glacier around 11,000'. At this time climbers are walking off the rocks using a handline with no rappel needed. Above there the Kautz ice chute is still in great shape, with a little ice starting to show at the bottom of the steeper climbing, but the ice is so featured and sun-cupped that its a veritable flight of stairs (bad news for skiers, though). Higher up the chute remains snowy for its entirety, with the same large sun cups providing solid footing. At this time a single ice ax is all that is needed for this route. Above the ice chute the route continues on a direct line to the top of Wapowety Cleaver and from there navigating around some large crevasses between 13,200 and 13,600 before taking another direct line to the top. Climbers are mostly descending back down the Kautz, since the chute is an easy walk off right now.

These conditions should persist for a while still, making August a great time to climb the Kautz!

July 5

Climbing rangers climbed the Kautz Glacier route over July 4th and 5th and found the route to be in
excellent shape. Crossing the lower Nisqually is presently unaffected by the June 24th rock slide though climbers should move on through and avoid taking breaks in the area. There is still an unseasonably large amount of snow in the area, making scree slopes into a casual bootpack. There were many fresh ski tracks coming out of the Fuhrer Finger and a pair of beautiful tracks coming straight down the Wilson Headwall! The large amount of snow on the mountain is bringing the skiers out in force. Come get some July turns on the descent of your choice!

The Kautz Glacier has been getting a lot of action this year and there is currently a bootpack going straight up the ice pitch between the ice falls. What can be steep frontpointing on blue ice some years is currently a flight of stairs. Doesn't get easier than that - but be sure to start early to beat the mush and possible rock/ice fall.

June 2

Multiple parties have been attempting the Kautz Glacier route this past weekend. While finding soft snow on the approach almost all parties were able to cross the Nisqually and ascend Wapowety Cleaver without too much difficulty; however flotation is advised.

No direct reports from parties summiting but rangers have been in the area recently and report early season conditions with lots of fresh snow. The Kautz route offers a great alternative to the DC or Emmons and will continue to be in great shape for months given the current snowpack. Contact our Climbing Information Center for the most current conditions reports and consider a ski descent of this route or the Fuhrer Finger from the same basecamp.

April 13

Only two parties have been over to the Kautz Glacier area so far. The large amount of snow makes any upper mountain travel slow. Plan for extra time if you choose to attempt routes near the Kautz Glacier (Fuhrer Finger/Thumb, Wilson Headwall, etc.)
. Here's a link to last year's photos and condition reports for the Kautz Glacier.