Gibralter Ledges/Chute 2013

June 21

Thanks to Bill Adams for the following report.  It's great to see so many people still enjoying the ledges!

Myself (Bill Adams), Kjel Larsen, and Eric Larsen left Muir at 3AM on 6/16 to tag the summit.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a mild boot pack heading up from Muir to the point where we hit Gib Ledge and needed to start veering climbers left.  Once up we were again happy to find the route in amazing condition.  Solid/frozen consolidated rock and a relatively giant ledge to traverse across on.  Compared to when we did this two years ago, this was a 4-lane highway.  Upon reaching the chute, it too seemed far less steep than in the past, perhaps 40 degree at most?  It was cruiser the whole way up and even turning a little plasticy up top for some damn fine tool sinking.  Yeah, I used ice tools, but just 'cause they've been feeling ignored lately.

Once above the chute things should've remained cruiser but cloud cover set in and the wind picked up.  Route finding wasn't an issue as it's a pretty straight forward shot to the summit but we climbed in freezing winds and white out conditions the whole final stretch. It was absolutely miserable and we wound up hunkering in a small snow cavern at the crater ridge to warm up before finally heading back down via the DC.  The DC, by the way, was extremely well wanded and quite welcome given that we didn't exit the white out until around 11,500'.  Kind of a fun crevasse crossing as well on a ladder and a wooden board.  Good times.

June 6

Three climbing rangers climbed the Gibraltar Ledges route in primo conditions on the 6th of June.  This was only the third day that the mountain had been climbed after a long period of poor weather and snow inhibited any ascents on the mountain for about 10 days.  Avalanche conditions had turned everyone around.

However, three days of generally good, sunny weather had affected the snow in a positive way, doing much to stabilize snow conditions all over the mountain.  Rangers started the route by traversing out on to the middle of the Cowlitz Glacier, then ascending strait up the Cowlitz Glacier, avoiding three crevasses on the way up.

At daybreak at the top of the Cowlitz at 11,800 feet, rangers slipped into the morning shade of Gibraltar Rock and traversed out onto the ledges.  There is still plenty of snow through the first large bowl, making the the first traverse easy.  The first half of the smaller second bowl was rock, but not too exposed.

The other side of this smaller second bowl can be the crux of the climb when there is no snow as it passes the critical cliff band one has thus far been traversing under (shown below where it says "Upper Gib Ledges Route").  But there was plenty of snow and you could ascend easily up 40 degree snow onto the upper apron of snow below Gibraltar Rock.

The apron gets late day, westerly exposed sun, and this had stabilized the snow making avalanche risk minimal while it was still frozen from the night before.  There were some areas of inconsistency where we post-holed to our knees.

The finish and steepest portion of the route is the last pitch above Gib Chute, which we've seen at nearly 50 degrees before.  The snow was solid and less steep than I have seen it in the past, probably around 40-45 degrees.  We did place three pickets as running protection.  Snow was good for pickets, but we had to dig down to more consolidated snow.

Above the top of the chute, the route was easy with no crevasses to Camp Comfort at the top of Gibraltar Rock at 12,660.  The Gibraltar Shoulder to the summit is very direct.  We angled climber's left and to about 13,300 where we angled back right to meet with the Disappointment Cleaver route at about 13,600.

No bad crevasse problems.  We descended the DC route.

Hop on it before it goes away!  Fun!


May 15

A team of climbing rangers took a look at the Gibraltar Ledges route on Wednesday 5/15 and found it to be in good condition. If cooler conditions prevail, the route should remain climbable for the next few weeks.

Firm snow and good cramponing existed on the upper Cowlitz to the 11,700' Col at Gibraltar Rock. From here the mixed snow and rock route across the ledges also provided good climbing. The Gib Ledges route is notorious for rockfall but currently a lot of ice still exists on the face above the route providing a little extra security. The latter part of the route consists of firm snow and ice, all the way to camp comfort.

Due to an incoming lenticular cloud the rangers did not top out, but descended to the Gib Chute instead. Here they found evidence of recent massive ice fall from the Nisqually glacier looming above. Two to three foot deep groves are cut down the entire chute and large debris field is at the bottom. The objective hazards in this area are very high and travel through the Gib Chute by skis or climbing should be taken with speed and the up-most caution.