Success Cleaver 2012

July 18 

Here is a great conditions update sent to us by Scott Seitz. Looks like they climbed around July 8th, apologies for the delay.

Conditions were near perfect last weekend when my buddy, Bob Toney, and I climbed up and over Success Cleaver and down to Muir. Friday was several hours of casual day hiking from the Westside Road (2,880) to the 6,500 foot saddle at Pyramid Peak. We noticed the improved trail along the river. It is very nice and a lot flatter that it used to be. (Thank you to whoever worked on the ‘unmaintained trail’.)
Saturday was your standard snow slog to high camp around 10,200. We kicked steps in good snow most of the way but did spend some quality time on the ridge itself. Climbing on the rock ridge was spectacular. Great day of climbing; very casual.
Well, mostly casual until Bob ran into the ‘puffy-white snow’ on our last traverse before camp. The sun was working its magic on the snow and, when he was crossing, a few inches of the ‘puffy-white’ snow broke off and slid around him. Nothing to write home about but it was his first ‘slide’ and spooked him enough that he avoided the puffy-white snow the rest of the trip. ‘Bob’, I asked after the final rock band on summit morning, ‘why did you choose to climb up the rocks instead of taking the snow?’ ‘Well, to be honest; I saw the puffy-white snow. Did not want to chance it.’
At high camp, it was next to impossible to sleep with the sun pounding down on us but we managed to get a few hours of quality sleep. Left at midnight. The moon cast enough light to avoid using the headlamp most of the time. Freezing level was around 13,500 and we knew it! The first two hours were tedious and to be frank: It was ugly. We post-holed up past our thighs in a lot of places. We flounder on the rock when we move back to the ridge. There was no way we could sustain this pace and make it up. I express this obvious fact to Bob. He suggested we should give it another hour and see where we were then. Plus, he argued, you cannot turn around at two in the morning! He had a good point. Indeed after an hour, we found better snow and fell into a great climbing rhythm.
High on the route the exposure was great but the snow was excellent. Add in a few pickets we brought made the climbing relaxed.
The best parts of this climb are all of the choices needed with the route finding. Do we stick to the ridge; do we go around this rock band or up and over? Most of the time we could not see the right choice. Many times I hoped we would not be trapped and need to down climb. Nevertheless, all choices were perfect, especially the exit move to the summit cap: Straight up the first weakness in the rock band was the answer. We considered rolling around to our left but that looked too easy and way too long. Since we were being greeted by a forming lenticular, around 13k, it was prudent to put on more clothes, head straight up and pick up the pace a little.
Our decent was your standard slog down to Muir. We took a straight, diagonal, line down to the established DC route from the saddle between Success and Columbia summits without a crevasse in sight.
The route is in great shape. Consider jumping on it now, if it is on your list of routes to do this year. And yes, Gauthier’s time line in his guide book (Mt Rainier, a Climbing Guide) is real: Summit day is 8 – 10 hours from high camp. With our first two hours of ugliness, it took every bit of 11 hours to summit.

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

Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield 2012

September 11 - Crevasses

In the last week a crevasses system has opened up at around 9600 feet between Anvil Rock and Moon Rocks.  What do we do about crevasses this time of year?  After 20 years of working at Mt. Rainier, the only crevasses I have fallen in are on the Muir Snowfield and on the Inter Glacier (on the approaches to the high camps).  At this particular time, there is a pretty high danger of punching through the neve and firn snow down into a crevasse that you can't see.  Are the crevasses deep?  Yes.  Some are 20-40 feet and could cause you some serious harm.  Do we rope up now for the Muir "Snowfield"?  Perhaps.  However, the best defense is some good mountain savvy, some attentiveness to your surroundings, and keep looking at the snow for signs of sagging and cracks developing.  Later, when all the last several years of snow have melted, all the crevasses are virtually at the surface.  It is much easier to avoid them when you can see them.  This is just a especially hazardous time to be out up above 9,200 feet.  Pay attention.  Creavasses are opening up all over the place, but today on the way up, here is where I noticed 4 separate crevasses (represented by the red line on the picture above).

September 10 

Sun cups on the upper snowfield have become hip-high, some icy patches are melting out around Moon Rocks (around 9200 feet), and crevasses "glide cracks" have been opening too.  It's definitely late-season conditions on the snowfield.  Please use caution this time of year with the risk of wintery storms becoming more severe.  The picture to the right shows an overview shot of the upper snowfield and Camp Muir.  

August 17
The snow has been melting rapidly with the latest heatwave.  Large suncups have formed making skiing/snowboarding difficult - but the snow has consolidated enough to make boot-travel very efficient. 

Be cautious with crevasses opening up near Camp Muir.  Late season, some crevasses open up just below Camp Muir and can be hazardous.  Also, just on the other side of Camp Muir, on the Cowlitz Glacier, crevasses have started to open near camp.  Some tents have even been set spanning crevasses that are just starting to melt out.  Be aware that by choosing to camp on the Cowlitz Glacier near Camp Muir there is a possibility of a crevasse hazard. 

Talk to the rangers at Camp Muir for help with campsite selection or for more current conditions. 

August 11

Still snowy...Still busy. Come get some!

August 1

The Muir Snowfield has been a very popular place the past week, with many people heading up to enjoy the great weather, and late season turns. The Paradise meadows are mostly melted out at this time, but there are patches of snow that still remain in places. Above Pebble Creek the trail stays on snow all the way to Muir. Please keep to the snow whenever possible and if you are camping on the snowfield remember that you need to camp on snow always. 
Camp Muir has also been a very busy place, filling to capacity on the weekends. Most people have been really good about cleaning up after themselves and others and we really appreciate their efforts. It would be better though if everyone would clean up after themselves and not make others do that for them. Remember there is no trash service at Muir, you need to pack out everything you bring, including unused fuel and food. No one wants to eat the extra mountain house meals you brought but were too lazy to take down. 

July 15

The Muir Snowfield and the Paradise meadows that lay below it are still rather snowy for this time of year. Travelers should expect snow right from the parking lot, although the lower trails have started to melt out creating what we sometimes refer to as "mixed" terrain. Please help out the fragile plants in the meadows by making a big effort to stay on the trails, especially where snow turns to dirt and vice versa.

Above Pebble Creek at 7,200' the actual Muir snowfield starts and travelers are on snow all the way to Muir. The route has been very well traveled lately so on a clear day people should have no trouble finding the "trail". For all you skiers out there, there are plenty of great turns still to be had, but you can no longer ski from Muir to Paradise without taking off your skis, and most rangers would recommend just packing your skis to Pebble Creek and then skinning from there if you so choose.

Don't forget sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of water on your journey, and if you feel the urge to take a little extra for the rangers, we have really enjoyed the fresh fruit and melons that have been donated the past few days! But feel free to stop by and talk to us even if you don't come bearing food gifts. We love meeting everyone that comes up to enjuoy this mountain!

June 28

Trail is melting out in places, but still mostly snow covered. "Bootpack" is well defined. Please stay on Paradise area trails or deeper snow to minimize impacts during the melt-out.

June 15

The Summer trail is now marked to Pan Point.  It is still 99% snow covered,  We have received up to 6 inches of new snow from the last storm.  Snowshoes are definitely optional, with the amount of travel that this route gets the "bootpack" stays beat in.  Be cautious of changing snow conditions - daytime slush can turn to slippery ice when the sun goes behind the mountain.

See the posts below for further information...

June 5

Fresh snow from Muir to Pan Point! There have been some great breaks in the clouds the last couple of days where someone could have slayed the snowfield if they had been ready for it...

June 1

The snowfield was rained on in its entirety over the past couple of days.  Lots of warm air (freezing levels around 10,500 feet) and lots of moisture came together in a tropical sort of way.  Not quite Jamaica, but that's the idea.  This is great for consolidation of snow on the snowfield.  It makes the approach in mountaineering boots more efficient.  With unsettled weather in the forecast, visibility and hard-pack conditions could make for a more challenging ski,.

Meadows, especially around Panorama Point, have been melting out.  Please don't take this as an opportunity to stomp on them with your mountaineering boots.  Your consideration and caution will be paid back to you later in the season as the wild-flowers surrounding the climbing trails on the approach offer inspiration and luck!

May 24

On the 22 an 23 the snowfield got a fresh coat of new snow, greatly  improving the hiking and skiing conditions.  6 to 12 inches of new covered up the old sun-crust making for good traction and smooth turns.  Today it got a little warm and a thin crust formed on top overnight.  This new crust will not take much away from the good conditions as it will not take much to soften it. If you're out for a dawn patrol it will likely be an easily breakable "eggshell" crust up high.

Some vegetation was beginning to poke out before the new snow, so keep an eye out and don't stomp the meadow. The route up to Muir is is great shape with the snow cover allowing for a direct route. You can pick up a bearing sheet at the Climbing Information Center in Paradise.

May 9

Conditions on the snowfield at this time are excellent. With the freeze-thaw action we have had over the past week the spring corn cycles are coming into effect and this skiing is absolutely amazing. Ideal skiing time depends on temperatures or recent snowfall of course, but this past weekend with the hot temps things seemed to be prime in the 11:00 to 1:00 range.

There is of course still snow right from the lot at Paradise, so skis, boards, snowshoes, or some kind of floatation device is definitely recommended. The route to Muir follows the standard "winter route" which goes along the skyline trail through the Paradise Meadows, then climbs Pan Face to the Pan Point Toilet (still closed for winter), and finally heads up the Muir Snowfield staying closer to the east side of the snowfield than the later "summer route" does. Although there is still lots of snow on the trail, there are a few places above Pan Point that are starting to melt down to the ground. Please be careful in these areas and stay on snow whenever possible to avoid damaging the very fragile vegetation this early in the spring. 

Always remember your sunglasses and sunblock and know that conditions can change rapidly.

May 2
Conditions Look Good!

April 22

I went up to Camp Muir today and installed a repaired webcam.  The cam isn't quite working yet.  There are few tricks we can perform from down here once the camera is on the 'network'.  Give us a little while longer.

One of the climbing rangers, Jonathon Bowman took the thing apart.  The autopsy reveals a significant amount of hitting it has happened.  It won't last much longer if people continue to beat on it to de-rime it.  Please, just let the sun melt the rime of.  It will melt off.  Jon had to solder some crucial pieces back onto the server and controller boards.  So thank him for saving us some money.  It worked on the bench here in the ranger station.  So let us make some adjustments and I hope to have it back running within a few weeks.

Other than that, the skiing has been great and the weather was fabulous today.  Depending on the time you got out of the parking lot, the snow was firm enough to stay on, but later the sun and warmth quickly melted the frozen surface to produce some post-hole conditions (ankle to mid-calf in skis).  Check out the solar-radiation at Camp Muir on the telemetry!  Sunny days are giving well over 1,000 watts/meter-squared, which means the sun is more intense than down on the floor of the Mojave Desert.  So bring lots of sun screen and hope for a gentle breeze on the way up.

Today, over 100 people made their way to Camp Muir on this fee-free weekend.  The upper parking lot was completely full during periods in the afternoon.  There's plenty of parking in the lower lot.

The skiing from Camp Muir was pretty good.  There was some soft and small sastrugi features, but one could plow right through them.  The skiing was better towards the west side of the snowfield than straight down the up-track.

Amar, Elliot, and I skied the Nisqually glacier from below Camp Muir to about 7000 feet where I traversed back to Paradise and left them to ski out the rest of the glacier to the bridge.  Bridge runs are still going, but get on it early, especially on a day like today.  Bring some warm wax, too.  It gets deep down low.

This route, staying close to the Nisqually Cliffs, is going to break up soon this year.  There were some narrow bands of snow next to the cliffs we had to side slip down.  I think you could've gone out more on the glacier, but with little crevasse rescue gear,we would've had far greater exposure to crevasses in the deep-melt snow conditions.

Get it while it's still good and passable.

These are deep melt conditions, people, so be careful on the glacier.  There are few crevasses below 6400 feet on the Nisqually, but be very careful above there.  The fan has a ton of debris down it, so it may be better to go up the glacier on the Wilson to get up to the finger during conditions like this.

Here's a link to last year's posts.

Emmons-Winthrop Glacier 2012

August 30th

It is late August and the climbing numbers are dwindling, but the route out of Camp Schurman is still a go! The route is still following the Winthrop out of camp, and switch backing up a small steeper pitch to gain access to the still smooth Winthrop rib. Now more than any time during the season it is important for climbers to think outside the boot track, and be ready to place pickets and possibly blaze your own trail. There are several crevasses between camp and 11,500 feet that are quite suspect, and have over hung bridges, all of these are still easily end-runable, or with proper picket placement, they are still able to be crossed, but check the snow bridges yourself and make a proper determination for your team.

Once above 11,500 the route is still very straight forward and direct. However, last week, the bergschrund crossing at approximately 14,000 feet finally collapsed, leaving an uncrossable hole in the boot track. Thankfully the Liberty Saddle is still a great option, with only 1 step over crevasse on the far   west end. From here, hang a left and trot up the final mellow slopes to Columbia Crest.

Climber on route at approx. 13,000 feet

The Inter Glacier is showing its late season ice on top of the first steep pitch, as well as a few cracks, so consider crampons and a rope for this portion of the journey. The traverse from Camp Curtis is still straight forward and mellow. Come up for some late summer fun, and enjoy the berries and wild flowers along the Glacier Basin trail.

August 17th

The Winthrop route is still a great, safe option over the past week. The route has seen some minor changes as the warm summer temps have caused melting. Currently a large crevasse plug around 11,000 feet has given way, but climbers have still been able to protect this spot with pickets and climb down and through the crevasse. The return trip necessitates either a lower or a short rappel to cross, but it is still totally a go. From this point on, the route is straight forward, and still direct. The bergschrund is still a go, with no need to travel into the Liberty saddle yet. Come get a piece of the action while it lasts and the warm sun is still shining.

The Inter Glacier is cracking up in a few places, and some bare ice is starting to show, as indicated in the August 10th post, please bring your rope and crampons to get to Schurman. The traverse out onto the Emmons from Camp Curtis is still working with no issues for climbers.

Come on up to Camp Schurman and bring your sunscreen, a few pickets for the fun and interesting Winthrop route and get your climb on during the dog days of summer!

August 10

The Winthrope route is still working with several small tweaks over the last week as the sunny weather effects the upper mountain. Come with at least two pickets if not more and expect a fun safe and very real mountain climb on the Emmons/Winthrop route. We still have Foxes and Ravens. Inter/Glacier is starting to open up so be prepared to rope up and use crampons to make it up Camp Schurman. Descent onto the Emmons from the Inter is dirty but not hard yet.

Night shot of the Winthrope route heading strait out of Camp Schurman.

July 26

A huge reroute has happened as the traverse across from the top of the "ccorridor" onto the Winthrop simply got to sketchy. The super interesting and rather direct new line heads out to the Winthrop "rib" just above Camp Schurman and before Emmons flats tying into the old route just past the old traverse from the top of the "corridor". The rest of the route is just as stated below with a great direct finish up to the summit.

July 21st

Sunset from Camp Schurman

Come on out to the mellow side of the mountain and enjoy spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and get a piece of the beautiful Emmons Glacier. Right now the route up the classic Emmons-Winthrop is in great shape, drawing large crowds on the weekends, but relatively few climbers if you can make a mid-week escape.

The route itself is currently in great shape, heading up the "Corridor", then taking a hard climbers right and weaving through a beautiful traverse full of blue seracs, and ice walls before exiting out onto the Winthrop Glacier at roughly 11,800 feet. While this traverse is spectacular for scenery, parties shouldn't linger in this area for too long, as some of the seracs and ice walls are prone to producing ice fall in the mid-day sun. Once out of the traverse, the route switchbacks straight up the smooth Winthrop shoulder for 2,000 vertical feet with only a handful of crevasses to step over, before slowly trending climbers left and across the bergschrund, which currently, is still passable by going directly up and towards Columbia Crest. Once across the 'Schrund, the angle of the slope eases, and follows the gentle slopes to the crater rim.

Emmons Traverse from looking East.
The Inter-Glacier is still in fine shape for skiing, and slogging up and down. There are only a couple of crevasses beginning to show, one near the top of the second "pressure ridge", and one just below the rocky outcrop that leads down hill from Camp Curtis. Both are visible, and easily avoidable, but use discretion in the coming days as these will surely widen and melt out more. When camping at Glacier Basin and Camp Schurman, please use the provided "fox barrels" for food storage. Our furry friends have been making the rounds up as high as the Emmons Flats, but have not been a problem when you keep a tidy camp, and properly store food while away from your tent. Come enjoy the dog days of summer on the biggest, most beautiful glacier in the lower 48 states, and don't forget your shades, and some sunscreen!

July 12

Upper Emmons/Winthrop from tail of the Chinook.
Summer showed her face this week and brought large numbers of climbers out to celebrate the Emmons/Winthrop route. Super hot conditions have changed the route considerably in the last week and made for exciting new route changes. Expect more of the same if the weather stays good.

We have added an extra "fox box" (really a clean 5 gallon trash can) for food storage that sits on the Winthrop side of the hut.

Route changes this week have you traveling under some seracs just climbers' right at the top of the "corridor". If you are camping in Glacier Basin, keep your food in the provided giant bear cans that will be in Glacier basin all season. The Inter Glacier is starting to show some cracks but the crossing down to the Emmons from Camp Curtis is still rather straight forward. This week we cleaned record numbers of wands from the route left by large climbing clubs. Please use wands as you want but bring them all down so that the next climbers can have a cleaner/funner time.

Climbing Ranger Dawa Yangzum Sherpa after cleaning the route of wands

July 4

Typical day in June on Emmons.
The trail to Glacier basin is 90% snow free and we are starting to use the summer route up to the base of the Inter-Glacier. Skiing is still great on the Inter-Glacier and Mount Ruth, but changing rapidly.

A cold and snowy June have left us with a lots of snow still on the route making for relatively few hard crossings. There is still a serac at the top of the "corridor" that deserves mention as well as real fall potential at the top of the route.

Bears in Glacier basin, use provided bear storage. Foxes at Camp Schurman, use provided storage. Though this has been a very hard few weeks for the Camp Schurman climbing rangers we would like to share how happy we are for you to come and visit our  route. Berg heil.
Upper Emmons looking filled in with snow.

June 15

Taken June 18
The approach to Glacier basin camp ground is 50% snow free at the moment and melting fast. Be aware that we have been having issues with habituated bears in Glacier Basin and are asking people to be extra vigilant with there food, and please do not cash your shoes or other items as the salt attracts them as well. If you plan on camping at Glacier Basin please use the provided food storage barrels.

The descent onto the Emmons glacier from Camp Curtice on the Inter-Glacier is still filled in and rather easy. Up at Camp Schurman we have been experiencing foxes getting into peoples tents and are working on providing a place for climbers to store there food while up on the mountain. There is still a lot of surface snow on the upper mountain and the Emmons Winthrop route is in great early season condition with only a few interesting crossings. One thing to watch for is a small serrac (ice cliff) at the top of the corridor that threatens the route for a few minutes of climbing. Skiing has been day to day as the feezing level changes.

June 8

The Emmons route is in fantastic shape right now! The past week has brought high winds and fresh snow to the upper mountain creating excellent ski conditions. However, with this fresh snow and wind events, climbers should bring their shovels, beacons and probes, as well as be ready to assess the snow conditions before venturing out onto the upper mountain. Climbers can drive to the White River campground to access the Glacier Basin trail. The trail itself is mostly snow covered, but very patchy and easy to follow through the forest. Those climbers bringing skis will need to carry them for about 2 miles before the snow is continuous enough to leave them on until Camp Schurman.

Currently the route is very straight forward, and direct. There are very few crevasses open between Camp Schurman and the top of the corridor. However, there are a few holes, and suspicious bridges beginning to show. Above the corridor one option trends slightly climbers left and up as it works through a small crevasse system, from here the route traverses back out right, and continues nearly straight up to the crater rim. Come out and bring your snow sliding device of choice for some excellent winter like turns in June!

May 9

The Emmons route looks to be in great shape, and seems to be the place where a lot of our winters snow ended up. The road to White River campground is scheduled to open May 25th at this time, but stay tuned to our Access and Roads page for the latest updates and information on how to best access the Emmons and Camp Schurman until that time.