Sunset Ridge & Amphitheater 2012

July 18

Great report on Sunset Ridge from climbers Bartosz Paliswiat and Zhong Deng who were here in early July. We're a little behind on the posting, but there is still a lot of relevant info here.

Zhong Deng and I climbed the ridge starting Wednesday 07/04 and summited on Friday 07/06. We approached via West Side Road and later South Puyallup Trail and Wonderland Trail (snow around 5,000'). Snow started getting soft in late afternoon and walking was tedious so we decided to stop and setup camp at around 6,400' above St Andrews Park.

The next day we followed the Puyallup Cleaver to around 8,000' at which point we started an ascending traverse of the Payallup Glacier to 8,500' and continued traversing to the base of the ridge. Both the Puyallup and South Mowich glaciers are in excellent condition and no significant crevasses had to be crossed or bypassed on the approach.

We encountered good snow conditions on the ridge allowing for excellent cramponing. There was quite a bit of rock fall on the lower ridge until we reached the bergschrund, and we mostly stayed climbers left where the rock fall seemed less frequent (but not absent). We crossed the bergschrund with no trouble and continued climbing on excellent snow above. We found no need for protection anywhere on the lower ridge.

We didn’t find the bivy spot at 10,200' (mentioned in the guidebook), nor anything at 11,000' (mentioned in one of the trip reports). There was a tiny bivy spot around 11,500' but it was very exposed to wind, so we decided to skip it as well and continued climbing. We finally found a reasonable, somewhat protected platform on climbers left (around 11,800') and decided to stay there for the night. Please note we had two 1-person tents; setting up 2 person tent would likely require significant digging and the snow was very hard and icy.

We decided to start at 5:30 - 2 hours later than originally planned due to high wind at night. We continued climbing on easier terrain until we were forced to traverse onto Mowich Face around 12,200. The traverse had some unconsolidated snow on it in places, but solid picket placements were available to protect it. Climbing on the Mowich Face was excellent. Snow was hard frozen on the surface with softer layer beneath, allowing for very secure step kicking  (with some effort required to break through hard crust). Front pointing was required on few sections where the crust/ice was too hard to kick through. We protected the face using pickets until we reached lower angle terrain on Liberty Cap Glacier.

We encountered significant winds (30+mph with gusts up to 50mph) near the summit and completely lost visibility before reaching Liberty Cap. GPS was absolutely essential in finding Liberty Cap and even more so in navigating down from it, as we could barely see few feet ahead and had problems judging the angle of the slope. We decided to skip the summit and attempted to climb down Emmons Glacier to get out of wind, but failed to find the boot path (simply climbing down was too risky, since we couldn’t see crevasses until they were few feet away). While we searched for possible way down visibility improved and we decided to climb up towards the crater, from where we easily located DC route, which we followed down to Ingraham Flats.

Gear notes: We carried ice axe and ice tool each (ice tool maybe not absolutely essential, but very useful, especially on Mowich Face), 4 pickets (used them all) and 4 ice screws (we didn’t place any).

May 9