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 Schurman...so 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 deep...at 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.