Disappointment Cleaver 2011

September 28th

After a few days of snow, rain, and heavy riming the DC is in an interesting state. Early this morning a thick crust turned two parties around near the bottom of the cleaver. Later in the day rangers wanted to see if the solar input was breaking down the crust. We were surprised to find the route in great shape in the afternoon. The cleaver is filled in enough to make for pleasant climbing, which is a nice change of pace from watching your crampons spark on the rocks.
Gaining the Emmons shoulder requires a little "heads up", but it is still reasonable. Up high the suspect crossings are starting to fill in nicely, but they could of course deteriorate again before winter.

Before the crust refroze tonight it had dehydrated a little making for more secure cramponing. However it is still a hard surface and there are several areas that have serious exposure. Running pro is justified in a few spots so don't be afraid to use it.

So all of this sounds great and I hope you are calling in sick and packing your bags right now. However, there is one last obstacle to mention. Between Cathedral Gap and Ingraham Flats the crust did not break down and it's thick and slick. We used front points and picks for about 75 feet. Tomorrow's high freezing level might have an impact on it, but the area gets so little sun that I would not hold my breath.

September 26th

Looks like summer is finally on the way out, with cold, wet weather coming back in. The last weekend of September, which was dominated by below-freezing temperatures and wind speeds in excess of 70 mph, provided little opportunity for climbers to reach the summit. This morning, rangers at Camp Muir opened their door to find a fresh dusting of snow, with a few drifts up to 2 feet deep! We may have a few more days of warm weather left, but Camp Muir has been winterized and we are anticipating the start of snow accumulation on the upper mountain.

Climbers looking to head up onto the DC can definitely expect to find “off-season” climbin
g conditions. Guide service activity has come to a screeching halt with the recent weather. At this point most of the fixed hardware has been removed from the route, including the ladder at 13,800’ and the confustication of fixed lines on the Emmons Shoulder. Any wands that were left high on the route are probably now in Yakima after Saturday night’s gale force wind event. Short story: climbing on the DC from here on out requires a high level of preparedness and self-sufficiency, treat it as if it were a non-standard route. Keep in mind that the avalanche hazard will be factoring it’s way back into the equation as we enter a new cycle of snow accumulation. Good luck up there, stay safe, and please let us know you are up there by self-registering!

September 21st

It only takes a day or two of good weather and the route has been re-established and it is looking good. Guide services are heading up daily and tonight looks like a great night to climb. The weather forecast for the next several days looks decent if not some high winds, but it's very pleasant at Camp Muir right now and relatively warm.

September 19th

The first snow of the winter arrived last weekend. Blistering winds brought in around 2 inches of precipitation. Snow drifts up to climber's knees have been causing difficulties for teams trying to summit. It's hard to predict how conditions will unfold later in the week as nicer weather returns. Disappointment Cleaver and Cathedral Gap are now covered in a loosely consolidated snow layer.

Though the path the route takes hasn't changed, the high winds (gusting to 70 mph) many of the wands have blown off the mountain and drifted in the climber's trail, making navigation difficult. Make sure to have a GPS or solid map/compass/altimeter skills to help navigate on the upper mountain!

September 14th

The DC continues to provided relatively straight foreward access to the summit for climbers who are confident with their crevasse negotiation skills. The main challenges continue to be the crossing on the Emmons shoulder at 12,600, and the crossing at 13,800. Additionally, warm weather has continued to pry open a crevasse near the top of the cleaver, which now has a fair bit of unstable bridging and exposure.

The crevasse just above the cleaver is easy to walk across, but the sharp turns in the route and
abundant snow bridges make it dificult to keep the ropes tight and inline. Parties should be prepared to belay this section, especially as it continues to break apart over the next few weeks.

The "complex" of snow bridges at 12,600 near the Emmons Shoulder is falling apart more and more every day. An alternative path was put in just to climbers right and below the original route. Both paths utilize fixed lines and end in the same place, but the new route does not have a ladder and appears to be more stable, although it is a little more exposed. Again, the conditions are changing very rapidly in this section of the route, you will have to decide when you get there which way looks better to you. Be prepared to set your own belays, and don't ever trust fixed lines unless you inspect the anchors yourself. They melt out daily!

The remainder of the route is in great condition, and the snow seems to be staying firm later into the day, now that we are headed towards fall. With the relatively stable weather we have had recently, conditions are overall great for climbing the DC. Remember that self-registration is in effect during the week, so plan ahead and make sure you check weather and route conditions before heading into the park. Hope to see you up here!

September 11th

With absolutely splitter weather the mountain has been changing rapidly, but holding up amazingly well! The DC has still been in great shape, providing many climbers with great summit climbs.
This time of year is a great time to get on the upper mountain and avoid the crowds. The guide services are still running trips through the end of the month, but the number of independent climbers has gone down, especially mid week, offering more of a wilderness experience on the most popular route on the mountain.
The route itself is still holding strong for mid-September. The main concerns right now are crevasse bridges and rock fall. The Emmons shoulder now has a ladder over the crevasse system at 12,600, which is a little bit hollow beneath. As always, if you are uncomfortable with what you see, set a picket and belay team members across, or take an alternate route that your team likes better.
The cleaver itself is still partially snow, and partially rock, there are many options, both on the rocks and the snow. Generally the route is going out to the spine, then angling up and climbers left before switch backing through snow and rock to the top of the cleaver.
The upper portion of the route is in great condition, being largely the same as it has been for weeks. The ladder at 13,800 is still in place, however, make sure to check the anchors for yourself before your team crosses.
Come on up and enjoy the amazing late season weather and conditions!

August 28th

It's been roasting up on the mountain the last few days, but the climbing has still been great. The intense heat has some impact on crevasse conditions on the upper DC. The main concern right now is the large crevasse at 12,600 ft. on the traverse over to the Emmons shoulder. It's been prying its way open for a while and the bridge/plug is getting to be fairly hollow underneath. Hand lines were established a few days ago, but they add only slightly to the overall safety of the crossing. Not much can be done other than maintaining a tight rope and trying to climb through this section as early as possible. With the extreme heat we've been experiencing, the afternoon is not a great time to be climbing around on this thing...

There's a ladder in place at 13,800 ft. It's well anchored and has handlines and pickets for running belays if you want to use them. This crossing is definitely one of the bottleneck spots on the route, so have a plan and try to move through here quickly.

Not much else to say about the DC. The snow is melting off of the the cleaver rapidly. There are multiple route options both on and off of the snow. As always, be highly conscious about rope management,as it's a major factor in minimizing rock fall (keep those ropes short and off the ground).

The guide services are still going strong on the DC, but the number of independent climbers is dwindling. There has been space available in the public shelter on most nights. If you are looking for a little more solitude come up to camp muir during the week, it's getting pretty quite!

The DC remains in great conditions with minimal rock groveling while maintaining firm bridges and easy travel. Many, many climbers have made the summit this past week and climbing rangers were no exception. Rather than say a bunch of stuff you already know, here are some photos from a week on the upper mountain to up the stoke:

August 16th

Summer still reigns on the upper mountain. See earlier posts on this thread for great tips and details on the Disappointment Cleaver. Overall the route continues to be in stellar shape. Well-prepared teams are summitting without any issues. Cracks on the upper part of the route (above the cleaver) continue to widen, but with a little bit of a running start, and courage, crossing these crevasses poses no problem.

Check out the picture of the traverse from the top of the cleaver to the Emmon's shoulder. The traverse is actually a welcome respite from the constant "up" and "down" of the rest of the route. Enjoy the route while it still goes easy!

August 8th

Summer is finally here; the DC is still in great shape for August and is more reminiscent of July climbing. There is plenty of time for you to attempt the route in relatively straight-forward conditions. Sunset or early morning climbs are highly recommended as cooler temperatures provide for more enjoyably climbing. If for whatever reason you do climb during the day, remember to bring lots of water and that the increasing heat of the day can contribute to collapsing serac ice and weakening snow bridges.

Yesterday, another climbing ranger and myself climbed the route twice from Camp Muir. The first climb started at 2:30am, our second climb started at 7am. Even by 7am, the temperature had risen signficantly. Freezing level has been hovering right around 13,000 feet. The night time/early morning temperatures are perfect. Our second climb later in the day I did entirely in a base layer all the way to the summit crater rim and it was uncomfortably hot.

The route is still in good shape, wanded with a good boot pack trail. There is one ladder in place to cross a small crack on the Ingraham Glacier on the traverse below the Ice Box to access the toe of the Cleaver Photos were taken on August 13th, the upper photo shows the traverse off the top of the cleaver, the lower photo shows the amount of snow still on the cleaver itself (lots for this time of year).

August 3rd

The DC is still in AMAZING shape for early August. Refer to post below for current route information. One alternative, and a great way to get some solitude on one of the most popular routes in Cascades is to consider a "Sunset Climb".

Rangers recently set of from Camp Muir just
after the sun set behind the mountain, and climbed the route in complete solitude in time to catch the amazing sunset from the summit. This type of climb can help you avoid the crowds, and do your descent as the temps drop for the evening, providing firm cramponing, and overall excellent conditions. Use caution while descending in darkening conditions, and bring some extra layers!

Come on up and get a piece of the fun while it is still in phenomenal shape!

August 2nd

The beautiful summer weather is finally here, and lots of teams are still getting after it on the upper mountain. The DC route is still in great condition considering it's early August. Some important updates on the route:

-The route up to Camp Muir is finally beginning to melt out. Please stay on marked trails when not traveling over the snow.

-There are several crevasses opening up near the climbing trail in the Ingraham Flats area,so stay alert.

-The fixed lines have been removed from the cleaver. The toe of the cleaver is mostly rock, and then the route returns to the snow and switchbacks up to the top of the cleaver.

-There are some large crevasse crossings above the cleaver. The snowbridges covering these crevasses will continue to melt as the warm, sunny weather works its magic. Inspect snowbridges for yourself and don't assume they are safe because another party crossed them two hours earlier.

That's about it! The mountain is waiting for you!

July 22nd

So while the lowlands and city areas have been obscured by clouds most of t
his past week, the entire upper mountain has been mostly sunny, warm, and despite a few hours of breezy conditions one day, a wholly pleasant place to spend time.

As for the DC route specifically, it's in about the best shape anyone could hope for in mid-summer. The route makes an easy crossing of the Cowlitz, climbs a mostly snow covered Cathedral Gap, and proceeds over easy ground to Ingraham Flats. From Ingraham Flats the route gains the toe of the cleaver by passing underneath a sizeable icefall area. It is recommended that climbers move fast through this area...especially if you find yourself descending late on a warm day! Those chunks of ice didn't grow on the glacier.

Once on the cleaver climbers
will traverse an increasingly rocky path until they reach the spine of the cleaver. There are still fixed lines that are maintained by the guide services to assist climbers who might feel uncomfortable with the slight feeling of airiness on this part of the route. Use the ropes with caution, and as a hand line only please, there is no need to Jumar up these lines. Above the toe climbers can either switchback up the moderate angled snowfields on the west side of the cleaver or travel in a direct line up the spine of the cleaver. Either way you choose watch out for other climbers and be aware of the entire situation at all times. We do advise climbers to take up coils and short rope their teams up this section of the route. This makes it easier for all groups by creating more space for other climbers and making it easier to walk up the tight switchbacks. Since there are no crevasses on the cleaver proper, full stretched out ropes ar
e not needed for safety. Let out your coils once above the cleaver and continue in normal fashion.

Above the top of the cleaver the route makes a long traverse out to the Emmons shoulder, before returning to a more upwardly direction. From the end of the traverse the route climbs some very well entrenched switchbacks all the way to the crater rim. This part of the route is still very solid at the moment, although it does cross a few sizeable crevasses on the way to the top. The snow bridges are still very thick, but as the weather warms up (I'm still optimistic it will happen at somepoint) the condition of these bridges can change rapidly. Always make decisions based on current conditions and what you see as you climb. I would like to also take this opportunity to throw out another piece of advice...large snowbridges over large crevasses are not a wise place to take a break, and if you put a picket into the snowbridge to clip yourself into, well it probably won't help you when the ground falls out from under you. There are many great places to take a rest on the climbing route. Please choose wisely.

Also remember that since this route can sometimes, if not often, be very crowded, it is a common courtesy to allow climbing teams moving faster than yours to pass. If the passer and the passee both work together on this, it ends up going faster for all persons.

Yeah! Climbing! Whoo!

July 17th

The past couple of days have seen some poor weather on the mountain with high winds, low visibility, and even a little new snow accumulation. But fear not, as moderate weather is predicted for the upcoming week. Expect to see some fresh snow drifts on the SE side of the route. Fixed lines are still up on the Cleaver, but as always check their security before using, and don't prussik into them. Skiing is getting difficult due to the large penitentes and suncups on the snowfield. Overall, the route is in great condition, so come on out and hit it!

July 12th

Not much is new with the DC route. Snow is melting off quickly, creating more exposed loose rock below cathedral gap and on the cleaver, but the terrain is still manageable.
The hand-lines on the nose of the cleaver are becoming impractical with the large volume of traffic on the route, so many climbers are choosing to "switchback" up the nose instead. The route above the cleaver hasn't changed much in the last week or so. It still wanders around on the Emmons Glacier, but nothing out of the ordinary as far as crevasse issues. Overall the route is still good, its a great time to come up and climb!

July 3rd

The DC is still in great shape for this time of year. While the route is circuitous, it is in solid shape. Cathedral Gap remains largely covered with snow, however rockfall is increasing off of cathedral rocks. Once up to Ingraham Flats the route is heading straight up until it bends climbers right under the ice fall on the Ingraham, which has grown quite active with the warm summer temperatures.

The fixed lines remain in place accessing the cleaver and up the bottom 1/3 of the spine of the cleaver. As noted in the previous post, many climbers are simply using these as a "hand line" while traversing. The cleaver itself is still 95% snow covered, making for great travel up and down.

Above the cleaver the route almost immediately traverses climbers right to gain the Emmons shoulder, before making switchbacks up and climbers left toward the crater rim. Some crevasses are starting to show through, but are still easily negotiable. Come on up and enjoy this classic route while it is still in prime condition!

June 30th

The DC has been highly dynamic over the last week. Lots of warm weather has caused daily changes in route conditions, but overall it seems to be doing pretty well. There is still a fair amount of snow on the cleaver, but the upper part of the route is beginning to wander all over. Expect a long and circuitous traverse out on the shoulder of the Emmons glacier.

There are still many fixed lines on the traverse from Ingraham Flats and on up the "nose" of the Cleaver. Climbers have had issues with long wait times at some of these lines, so we are encouraging people to use efficient technique when utilizing the fixed lines. Frequent transitions at picket anchors make prussiking/jumaring on these lines impractical, and many independent climbers are even choosing to utilize them as hand lines only, thereby avoiding "clipping-in" all together. Also, be mindfull of were you stop to take breaks, certain areas on the lower DC route are more prone to rockfall and icefall.

This is a great time to come out and climb the DC, conditions are good and the weather is finally acting more like summer. Keep a look out for warmer temperatures and unstable snow bridges! That said, parties who are comfortable with standard glacier travel techniques can expect minimal challenges in reaching the summit.

June 22rd

Climbing rangers have been out and about on the DC route the past several days. The route is in great condition, and the guide teams have been doing a super job with maintaining this trade route on the mountain.

Parties will find fixed lines along the
bottom half of the cleaver that have been placed by the guide teams. Remember to check the snow pickets if your team decides to clip (not prussik) into these lines.

Above the cleaver, the route currently switchbacks up to 13,000' before making a long traverse east over to the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier. The route then switchbacks towards the southwest entrance of the crater rim. Several crevasses still containing snow bridges must be crossed on the route.

It takes most teams the same time to go from Camp Muir to the summit as it did to get from Paradise to Camp Muir. (And half that time to get back down to Camp Muir from the summit). There are currently two foxes diligently patrolling Camp Muir for messy camps and food left in packs. Please remember to store all food zipped up inside your tent.

June 16th

The DC has been the scene of dozens of summits in the last few days with the route well beaten in by guided groups and independent parties alike. It is in great shape and should remain so for quite some time.

Currently, the route has hand-lines on the traverse over to the Nose of the Cleaver and the bottom third of the Cleaver proper has a hand-line as well. Please be mindful of these hand-lines; do not prussik onto them nor should one regard them as 'bomber'. The route takes a hard climber's right onto the Emmons shoulder at 12,500 and then zigs back towards the Cleaver on a long traverse above the ID. While circuitous it is the easiest and most heavily traveled route on the mountain with very little in the way of open crevasses on the route.

Please climb with care and keep the route clean. Take bluebags on summit day and use them! Be mindful of the local fox 'Slim Shady' as he is climbing this route almost daily picking up climber scraps. Also, zip your food into your tent, not your vestibule. The fox has ruined more than one summit attempt by grabbing breakfasts left out in climber's vestibules.

June 5th

Teams have been summitting via the DC for the last couple of days. Multiple guide companies sent guides up the route to "punch it in" - establish a wanded, boot-packed, and switch-backed route up the cleaver. Overall the DC is in great shape. It's totally snow covered making for great cramponing and quick access to the upper mountain. Stop in and chat with the climbing rangers at Camp Muir to get up-to-date snow conditions as these will change everyday.

June 1st

The DC is poised to become the route of choice out of the Camp Muir corridor. Guide services began staging fixed rope and explored the route from Ingraham Flats over to the nose yesterday. As with most of the mountain, conditions appear snowy and a month late compared to recent years but this should guarantee the longevity of this route through the peak season.

For those looking for a good summit ski descent the Cleaver offers good snow coverage with very little rock exposure at this time. Come on up and check in with the climbing rangers for the latest on the DC!

April 13th

No climbing teams have been on this route yet. All climbing teams have been using the Ingraham Direct. Eventually the Ingraham Direct will melt out and become too broken to ascend and climbing teams will transition to using the DC. We'll update this page as that happens.

Here's a link to photos and condition reports from last year.