Little Tahoma 2012

June 10

Little Tahoma presented with some fantastic climbing and skiing this morning. Rangers climbed the route from Camp Muir, as opposed to using the more common approach from White River. The route across the upper Cowlitz Glacier and the Ingraham Glacier was fairly straight forward, with only minimal crevasse negotiation. Once on the Whitman Glacier, it is possible to ski up the back side of the mountain to within a few hundred feet of the summit. The Whitman and Frying Pan glaciers still have tons of snow cover and are easy to navigate, so the route from White River should be in good shape as well.

The current conditions make Little T it an awesome ski mountaineering route, but it's just as great on foot too! Come up and experience one of the most epic views of Big Tahoma, you won't be disappointed..

Liberty Ridge 2012

June 18

A climbing ranger patrol got up Liberty Ridge last Friday and found most excellent climbing conditions. Sunny skies, firm snow and some tool swingin' up top all made for a fun and enjoyable climb.

The approach to Liberty Ridge is best done from White River campground. Climbers should find the glacier basin trail in good condition, with snow still covering most of the trail past the first two miles. From there the route over Saint Elmo's pass and across the Winthrop is still very straightforward with minimal route-finding issues. There are great camping spots all over the lower part of Curtis Ridge, with the best ones being found around the 7,200' elevation, which is also where climbers will gain access to the Carbon Glacier. Once on the Carbon the approach winds its way up the climbers right side of the glacier, allowing access to Liberty Ridge from the western side. There have been a few large avalanches come off Liberty Wall and onto the Carbon recently, so pay attention to where you are, pay attention to the recent weather, travel early and move efficiently through this whole area. Once on Liberty ridge proper a climb up moderate snow slopes takes you to Thumb Rock, the preferred high camp for this climb.

Above Thumb Rock the climbing gets progressively more interesting. Climbers should take the obvious line out of Thumb, to the left of the rock prominence for the quickest access to the upper part of the route. Above 11,000' the ridge opens up into large moderate angled snowfields and climbers can easily navigate up toward the Black Pyramid. Access to the snowslope to the east of the Black Pyramid is very easy, with no rock scrambling required at this time. Traverse a short ways underneath a vertical rock band, until there is just snow above you, then go up! About 1,000' of climbing puts you above the apex of the Black Pyramid and onto the lower portion on the Liberty Cap glacier.

Once on the Liberty Cap Glacier the angle subsides and climbers will have to make a decision on how they want to proceed. Currently the bergschrund can be easily crossed for pretty much it's entire width. The climbers left side leads to a system of ramps and ice bulges that offer more safety from icefall and avalanches, but will require more time climbing on actual ice (which could be really fun). Other paths that lead across the bergschrund all push climbers up through a bowl high on the glacier that eventually tops out on Liberty Cap itself. The upper part of this bowl is where rangers found the most interesting climbing, a snow and alpine ice mix with a slope angle around 60 degrees for maybe 100 feet or so. Once above this section the angle of the glacier reduces significantly, and Liberty Cap is just a short walk away.

Climbers can either make their way across Liberty Saddle and touch the true summit at Columbia Crest, or make a long traversing decent onto the Emmons and down to Schurman. Access to the Emmons is great right now, with solid snow-bridges making the route-finding on the descent very straightforward.

Early starts on both the approach and the climb are recommended. An early start out of White River will make the approach many times easier, if you travel when the snow is firm, snowshoes or skis are not necessary. On the route an early start allows for great cramponing up the entirety of the route and keeps climbers off the route during the heat of the day when rock and icefall happen more frequently. Climbers should bring two ice tools and a few ice screws along with all the normal glacier travel gear when attempting this route.

June 8

Here is a recent trip report from Jonathan Spitzer, a guide for AAI.  Thanks also to Melanie Hodgman for sending the report along.

[We just returned from guiding an attempt] up Liberty. We did not summit due to high avalanche/weather conditions .

Glacier Basin trail is melted out for the first 2 miles. Glacier Basin itself is still fully snow covered, with a small creek opening to fill up water bottles. St Elmo's Pass had consolidated wet snow on both sides. The traverse across the Winthrop at 7200ft was in good shape, withonly a few crevasses starting to open up.

The Carbon Glacier was in good condition, though a few sections are starting to break up. We ascended up the middle right weakness directly below Liberty Ridge. Due to strong winds, new snowfall, and increased avalanche danger we spent the night directly below the bergschrund underneath prow of Liberty Ridge (8,550ft), where there appeared to be a small island of safety from avalanches coming off  Liberty Cap, the Willis Wall and the ridge above. Another team tried to climb up to Thumb Rock. They ended up retreating and camping near us. That evening they told us they had triggered a small slab that swept them off their feet, sending them slidding until they were caught by a picket they had placed.
Strong winds continued overnight, and with more precip forecasted we decided not to get on Liberty Ridge and worked our way back to White River.

June 6

Only a dozen or so teams have attempted Liberty Ridge this season.  Most have been turned back by weather or snow conditions, but a few have summitted and found the ridge to be in good shape.  Lib Ridge generally begins to fall apart by mid-season, so if you are planning to get on this one, now may be the time.  Any decent period of high pressure should be a go.

Check out our Access and Road page for current info on accessing Liberty Ridge.

Photos Taken May 9.