Disappointment Cleaver 2014

September 14

Mid-September has pleasantly surprised us with the great weather AND great route conditions (compared to other Septembers).  A couple of changes have occurred since the last update, but refer to the post below for more beta.  

Climbers have still been crossing the Cowlitz with little difficulty.  Above Ingraham Flats, before starting the traverse onto the cleaver, stay climber's left ascending the Ingraham Glacier.  The cleaver is all rock.  Consider taking crampons off - especially on the descent.  Above the cleaver the route still traverses out toward the Emmons Glacier and then shoots directly to the crater rim.

Keep an eye out for thin crevasse lips and bridges - especially ones in convoluted areas: just above Cathedral Gap, the beginning and the end of the traverse onto the cleaver, and just above the top of the cleaver.

September 1st


September is here and the Disappointment Cleaver is still a pleasure to climb. The route has seen very little change over the last 25 days. The most notable areas exist on and around the cleaver. The traverse from  Ingraham Flats to the cleaver continues to breakup and move. Access onto the cleaver this time of year crosses a moat and has potential to change as well. The ridge of the cleaver is nearly all rock. Crampons will still be needed for the last little bit before the top of the cleaver, as the main boot track crosses snow there.
Fairly soon after leaving the top of the cleaver the route turns towards the Emmons and crosses a snow bridge. Just after the bridge the route regains the old boot pack above. The upper mountain is mainly unchanged.

Camp Muir during a small storm
Speaking of change, the mountain environment is acting like fall. There have been many short weather events with combinations of cold temps, snow, rain, wind, and whiteout clouds. Make sure you bring clothing layers for all conditions. The snowfield is getting icy and has small crevasses.  Take care,. be repaired, and enjoy this fantastic September.

August 27

The DC continues to be in fantastic shape considering the time of year! Getting to Camp Muir is beautiful right now, with lots of wildflowers in bloom and the first 2 miles of the trail snowfree. Once on the Muir Snowfield proper, which begins at Pebble Creek (7,200), watch for slick exposed ice. There are some minor cracks starting to open up as well, so be prepared to reroute if necessary.

Above Camp Muir, the route is straightforward to Ingraham Flats. Above the Flats, there are two ladder crossings and a little bit of crevasse end-running to gain the Cleaver itself. The lower half of the Cleaver is completely melted out. Consider shortening the distance between rope team members on this section so your team is closer together reducing the potential of inflicting rockfall on other climbers. The upper half of the Cleaver is snow covered. 
Rangers on the Upper Mountain

Above the Cleaver, the route takes a traverse to the climber's right towards the Emmons glacier. It follows a few switchbacks, and another rightward traverse, before switchbacking up to the upper bergshrund at 13,800. Once across this feature, take a traverse back left to gain the crater rim.

This is a great season for a late August ascent of the DC, the upper mountain hasn't been in this good of shape at this point in a few seasons. Climbers last night even reported Aurora Borealis during their ascent! Keep in mind that the weather is starting to shift as we approach fall. Be prepared for colder, longer nights, and the possibility of thunderstorms. 

We hope to see you up here this year!

August 13th,

Although the route conditions have not changed much on the DC this July and August the weather sure has!  Current conditions at Camp Muir are a mixture of clouds, rain, freezing rain and wind. On August 12th a lightning storm rocked the mountain with lighting strikes visibly hitting terrain on Mt. Rainier and in the park, it was an exciting show to say the least.  We hope you are getting as fired up for winter as we are.  Here is the latest on the mountain.
   The upper mountain (Camp Muir to the summit) is experiencing winter conditions with a freezing level of around 12k.  We just got a view of the upper mountain through the clouds and several inches of new snow has fallen.
As we roll into the middle of August climbers should be prepared for wintery conditions. Climbing the mountain becomes considerably harder and more hazardous as the mountain makes a transition back into its wintery state.
 You already know this but remember that the NPS doesn't not maintain the route, we climb the mountain as is.  Any work done on the route is done so by the guides (thank them if you see them while climbing).
 Here are a few things to be aware of on the route right now:
Currently the route has one horizontal ladder spanning a crevasse on the Ingraham Glacier which is about 5 feet wide. The ladder has a board across to aid in the crossing. While getting off the Ingraham and onto the rocky bottom section of the DC there is a glacial bulge which has a hand line aiding in the somewhat awkward transition.  Above the DC the route has been holding strong with a long climbers right traverse onto the Emmons shoulder.  An upper bergschrund at around 13,800 has a nice ramp up and through it allowing easy passage but this could change at any time as glacier moment accelerates in the summer months.
Get excited for winter and wintery conditions on Mt Rainier.  Head to toe hard shells, extra layers and extra gloves, maps pre loaded into your GPS and a strong mountain sense are needed (among other things) to climb the mountain as the weather swings back and forth between winter and summer on the mountain.
Climb safe and climb hard.

August 4th

Traverse on the Emmons
Sunny summer days have not changed things to much up on the mountain. The climbing is pleasant and the route continues to hold strong. There is a section just above the cleaver that has the potential to change soon. There is a large "step across" crevasse that was rerouted today to a near by snow bridge. The snow bridge is small and has the potential to fall out. Use caution and travel safely

The upper parts of the route are looking good as well.  The route is well traveled and obvious with many wands leading the way. There is a" T" in the route up high with the majority of climbers going right at this intersection. 
The top burgshrund at approx.13,800 is mostly unchanged. The climbing route ends runs the burgshrund to the north and then regains the original route above. That is all for now, check back soon for another update. 

July 28 

After a busy weekend at Camp Muir the crowds have thinned out. The route is in the best shape it has been all season.

There is a ladder above Ingraham Flats crossing a crevasse which is small and manageable.

The Disappointment Cleaver is about half snow and half rock with an established trail leading up to the top.  From the top of the DC the route starts to work its way right and traverses onto the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier (not the Emmons route). RMI guides have been hard at work making route improvements, please thank them!

Bottleneck on the traverse
The traverse is wide with some room for multiple parties to pass each other. The traverse has become a bottleneck on the route, having long distances between climbing partners only makes the traffic jam worse. Please consider partner spacing when climbing Mt Rainier; 15 to 30 feet between climbers is appropriate given the size of crevasses seen on the route thus far.

Fixed section ~13,800'

Another route improvement is at the upper bergschrund. ~13,800ft). Climbers may ascend the short fixed section or bypass the step to climbers right and continue to the top. Use the line only as an assist/hand line to avoid creating a bottleneck.

As July ends and we roll into August be aware that the weather can quickly shift into winter.  For now we are enjoying the high pressure and great weather, come on up for a climb!  

 Help keep this beautiful place safe. Don't forget to grab blue bags when you register!

Teamwork makes the dream work
Pick up your poo so we don't have to
-The Climbing Rangers

July 26

A lite dusting of July snow.
After a storm last week the sun is back and the Mountain is out.

 People are flocking to Camp Muir and we have had many parties succeed in making the summit over the past few days.

 High pressure and sun is predicted to hold through out the next week.

 If you have not made a trip up the mountain this may be the time, and if you have come back for more.
Camp Muir at capacity.  120+ climbers!

July 21

The DC is back in!  Rangers, guides, clients, and independent climbers summited today via the Disappointment Cleaver.  After a day of poking around and exploring some potential options to avoid the recently collapsed crevasse crossing at 12,800 a great new route was kicked in which traverses over towards the Emmons Glacier (climber's right) just above the cleaver.  The route isn't nearly the cruiser track (really the Cadillac of routes) that it once was, but after a week or two of use, it'll be worked back into shape.  With a newer route navigation can be tricky: sparse wands, no "trail", and wandering tracks that don't lead anywhere can all seem like a maze (especially with low visibility).  At the top of the Emmon's shoulder at about 13,400 feet, climbers have been going in two directions:

1.)  Some climbers have been traversing back south (climber's left) to the old route, which takes a bit longer time-wise, and traverses toward the upper-Nisqually, but maintains a good grade and has no major crevasse crossings.

2.) Other climbers seem to prefer the direct route from the top of the shoulder - heading a little bit climber's right toward the bergschrund above -  and straight up toward the crater rim rocks which are visible on a clear day.  There's a steep step or two to cross from a lower crevasse lip to the higher lip, but easily protected and solid feeling with cooler temps.

All things considered the DC is in prime shape for late-July.  Come on up and check it out!

July 20

Crevasses are moving on the mountain! Guide companies have reported a crevasse that has moved and dropped at approx. 12,800 on the route. Currently the route is out and guide companies are on their way up to make changes. The route is expected to be back in climbing shape by the end of the day. Stay tuned in for a route update!

July 18

View of  the traverse to Ingeraham flats from the cleaver 
Climbing on the DC is still unchanged. The sunny days continue to melt away and expose more rock on the lower half of the cleaver. The route is seeing allot of traffic right now with many large rope teams. Some teams are spread out 200' which are causing rope management issues and bottle necks at crevasse crossings. As the season wears on the route will see changes and create obstacles that will slow parties down. Be aware of your group size, and rope spacing. Pick up slack rope when crossing through rocky areas to help prevent rock fall on climbers below. Getting an early start is the norm with many parties leaving between 11pm and 1am. Don't forget to check your weather forecast. The weather is typically great but there are a few spells of unsettled weather that can move through. Overall the climbing is great with no new changes to the route.

July 17

Ingraham flats from the "nose" 
Sunny and warm continues to be the norm up at Camp Muir and on the DC route. This last week saw freezing levels of 16000 ft!  Climbers should expect continued warm temps and possibly some high winds on the mountain through Saturday before it is predicted to cool down. Despite the feeling tropical the DC route is continuing to hang together and provide good climbing with only one ladder ( see pic on previous post) and a few step up crevasse crossings. A few of the larger crevasses above 13000 have continued to open up but are currently supporting large and stable plugs. That said teams should expect the route to change and become a bit more sporting over the coming weeks as the glaciers continue to open up.
The bottom of the Cleaver

Top of the Cleaver looking up.
Another reminder to be courteous of other climbers, pick up your trash and carry / know how to use all the necessary equipment to protect your self and possibly rescue a team member. This is a busy time on the mountain but also a great time to climb.
 Look forward to seeing  you out there.


July 15

Little change on the DC route in the past few days. This photo at right shows the ladder crossing above Ingraham Flats, at approximately 11,400. If you plan to camp at the the Flats, which is a spectacular place to spend a night, there are a few things you should know. First, there are no toilets. Bring blue bags and plan  to carry them back at least to Camp Muir where we have barrels you can leave them in. Second, same goes for food. If you brought too much, great. Just don't dump it in the snow. Things don't really biodegrade at this altitude and temperature and when we were there today we cleaned up some pretty nasty stuff.

The route remains in excellent shape. You can see in the photo at right that the lower portion of the cleaver is melted out. If you have a larger team, consider traveling with less distance between you where there is no risk of crevasse falls to minimize rock fall inflicted by your rope. There are a few crevasses to cross between 12,300 and 12,700, then the route makes a hard left before continuing to the crater rim.

The weather looks great for quite a while, the climbing conditions are fantastic, and the days are long and beautiful. We hope to see you up here soon!

July 13

It has been a great weekend for climbing on Mt. Rainier and the Disappointment Cleaver. The route remains in great shape. There is one ladder crossing just above Ingraham Flats, at about 11,400 feet before you traverse out to the Cleaver.

The fixed lines have been removed by the guide services. The lower third of the Cleaver is mostly melted out, eliminating their usefulness. While traveling in this section consider reducing the distance between climbers on the rope team so you don't have lots of extra rope knocking rocks down. Also be cognizant of faster moving parties that may want to pass. The upper half of the Cleaver is still snow covered. Above the Cleaver between 12,300 and 12,700 there is a series of crevasse crossings. Some are on bridges and some can be stepped across. Make sure you use appropriate rope spacing and carry crevasse rescue equipment such as pickets, prusiks, and pulleys, and know how to use them. We have seen a number of parties arriving at Camp Muir without these things making them ill-prepared for travel on glaciated terrain.

Around 13,400 the route is taking a long traverse to the west, towards Point Success, then switchbacking up to the crater rim. The route is currently well wanded with an obvious bootpack.

The weather looks great for the foreseeable future, the route is in great shape, and we would love to see you at Camp Muir! Come on up and enjoy the mountain with us.


July 6

Lots of American flags and costumes at Camp Muir over the holiday weekend along with many successful summit bids. Much of the previous route report still holds true and the route continues to be in great shape. This weeks forecasted hot temperatures will possibly lead to some changes in the route, as well as very sloppy snow mid-day. 

There seems to have been an increase in rockfall recently and there are some areas which climbers should be aware of. Rock fall amounts increase as you cross the Cowlitz towards Cathedral Gap. There is some rock fall as well as a hidden layer of slick ice on "Dunn's Roll". The most hazardous area for rock and ice fall is on the traverse above Ingraham Flats and getting onto the cleaver. There is evidence of recent large rock fall on the nose of the Cleaver and a large ice fall on the upper Ingraham Glacier. These dangers increase with warming temps so early climbing is recommended  These are areas also in which climbers should move through as quick and efficiently as possible. 

Fixed lines on the DC have been reset by the guide services over the weekend. These lines should be used as hand lines, not a point to tie into. The goal of the fixed lines is to help you move quickly through these areas, taking time to prusik or clip in to the fixed lines defeats this purpose. Once to the relative safety of the spine of the cleaver the route switchbacks up snow slopes to the top. Above the Cleaver the route switchbacks up to 13,500' and heads to climbers left for a long low angle traverse, then one more switchback takes you to the Crater Rim.

July 2

The Disappointment Cleaver is in full swing right now, seeing many successful summit climbs! Over the past weekend, storms rolled over the mountain, bringing new snow, and refreshing the route.

From Camp Muir, crossing the Cowlitz, up to Cathedral Gap remains largely unchanged from the previous posts. The gap is mostly melted out, with a hearty trail through the dirt and rocks. However, the area just prior to reaching the rocks, has become more active with rock fall with the recent warm temperatures. So as you are traveling through this area, keep an eye and an ear out and do not take any rest breaks under the large rocks.

Once through Cathedral Gap, the access to Ingraham Flats is still in good shape, with only a couple small crevasses beginning to show near the boot track. From the Flats the route rises up to "high crack", which, at the moment, is still a small step across before traversing over to the base of the Cleaver itself. Once again, this zone is becoming more active with ice fall, so move efficiently until your team gains the Cleaver.

On the Cleaver itself, the fixed lines are still in place to gain the spine, and there are also fixed lines rising up the nose of the Cleaver. These are meant to be hand lines, and always double check the anchors for yourself as you pass by. The Cleaver remains about 90% snow covered, and there is a well worn boot track all the way up it.

Once atop the Cleaver, the route switchbacks directly up to approximately 13,400 feet. There are several suspect crevasse bridges that are growing daily in this area. Use discretion when crossing these, and keep the rope between your team members tight.

At approximately 13,500 feet the route begins a rising traverse on the upper Nisqually Glacier, heading to the west and towards Point Success before switch backing to the crater rim.

Overall, the route is in prime shape. And with the nice forecast over the approaching holiday weekend, come get some high elevation sunshine,and go for a climb!


June 22

View of the cleaver and the traverse
Not to much has changed for the Disappointment Cleaver over the past week. The approach from Camp Muir across the Cowlitz Glacier is a nice gradual rise with a few crevasses starting to show sags in the snow. There is still rock fall hazard crossing below Cathedral Rocks, be aware and move quickly through this zone. Making the climb up to Cathedral Gap is now mostly rock with a well worn trial.  It is a good idea to shorten up your rope between climbers in this area. Rocks are loose and dragging ropes through this area can snag and trip up climbers or send rocks rolling down the hill into climbing parties below. Traveling from the top of the Gap to Ingraham Flats is an enjoyable romp with outstanding views of Little Tahoma. There are some crevasses in the general vicinity but none that are causing the current boot pack to change in the near future. Above the flats the trail takes another gradual rise before turning right to make the traverse onto the cleaver.

View of the top of the cleaver and climbers above

The traverse is starting open up with some small "step across" crevasses and a growing moat as you near the rocks along the base of the cleaver. Move quickly along the traverse as ice and rock fall is likely in this area. As for the cleaver, it is still mostly snow with a well traveled boot track. There are still fixed lines in place leading out to, and up the nose. As a reminder, the fixed lines are intended as hand lines, not prussic lines.

View of the summit and climbers on the left hand boot track
The climbing from the top of the cleaver leads up a number of switchbacks. It is well traveled and easy to follow with guide wands all the way to the top. There are a couple of "step across" crevasses that are getting larger and may cause the route to change down the road. The two boot and wand tracks described in the previous post are still in place. The boot and wand track to the climbers right is fairly direct but has had some signifiant cracks open up and will be difficult to pass if they continue to grow. The boot and wand track to the climbers left is longer but more gradual and has been reported to take about the same amount of time to reach the crater rim.


June 16

The Cleaver is in prime shape for climbing right now! As noted in the post below, snow still covers much of the Cleaver itself. And even with the recent cool temperatures, snow on the Cleaver has been getting warm and quite soft during mid day. However, early in the day firm snow has made the cramponing excellent, and the boot track is in fine shape. The fixed lines are still in place at the bottom of the Cleaver, going out to the nose, and up the broad slope to gain the spine of the Cleaver. remember the NPS does not maintain any fixed lines. The guide services maintain these lines so use at your discretion. Also only use the fixed lines as a hand line, do not prussik into the line as this defeats the point of helping speed up your travels through this area.

Rangers climbing on the spine of the Cleaver
Once atop the Cleaver, the route remains largely the same as the past few weeks. The route leaves the top of the Cleaver and makes switch backs directly upward with very few crevasse crossings. At approximately 13,500 feet the route begins a new, long traverse to the west/southwest (climbers left) across the upper Nisqually Glacier. Where the route begins the new traverse, climbers will find 2 boot tracks and two sets of wands ( There were 2 sets of wands as of 6/15/14, the guide services may have removed these by the time you head up for your climb). The track and wands heading left and westward is the new traverse. This traverse rises gradually and end runs the bergschrund near the saddle between Point Success and Columbia Crest, before switch backing to the crater rim. It is a slightly longer route but at the moment there are very few crevasse crossings. And the scenery on the upper Nisqually is great!

Recent low pressure systems have been bringing cold temperatures, and a bit of fresh snow to the upper mountain, so be prepared for any and all weather conditions. Some of these systems have only been producing low level clouds and rain, leaving those intrepid souls who venture through the clouds to enjoy the sunshine! So check the forecast, the Muir webcam, grab your map and compass, and come get your climb on.


June 13  

Snow still persists on the cleaver.  Larger sun cups are starting to form on some of the snow patches, but climber's can expect fairly good cramponing on the route.  Above the cleaver the route still shoots directly for the crater rim.  Unlike late season conditions that traverse out to the Emmons Glacier - the climbing route traverses just a bit toward the Nisqually before switchbacking directly toward the summit.

Be sure to check the weather and freezing levels before your climb.  Climbing with 'cooler' conditions and above the freezing level is safer than in the heat of the day.  Rockfall, ice fall, wet slides, crampon-balling, post-holing, and weaker crevasse lips and bridges all become more likely as the temps heat up.

June has brought amazingly stable weather patterns around the mountain and great conditions overall for climbing.  Lots of teams have been summitting and having a blast.  It's definitely time to climb.

June 6

The Disappointment Cleaver route is in excellent early season shape. Camp Muir and the DC have been in full summer mode over last weekend and this past week, with many successful summit bids and happy climbers.
The route itself is in fine shape, with very few cracks yet showing on the Cowlitz Glacier crossing. Cathedral Gap is still 95% snow covered, making for easy travel. The Cleaver itself is also still mostly snow covered. There are still fixed lines in place to gain access to the lower cleaver, and heading up the nose of the Cleaver. As always, please do not blindly trust these lines, always check the anchors for your self. During the heat of the mid day sun, pickets can melt out, causing them to be ineffective.
Once above the top of the Cleaver, the route is very direct, heading straight up a long series of switchbacks along a nice boot track. There are a handful of crevasse crossings above the Cleaver that may be suspect during the mid day. Be sure to check these out before just following the boot track.
When you are out there,  give the guide services some props for their hard work putting in such a nice, direct route.
All in all, the route is in great shape, and quite direct. So grab the sunscreen, come say hello, and get an early season climb in!


May 18

Peter and Julian at Ingraham Flats
Climbing rangers had a great weekend up at Camp Muir the past few days! We talked to many folks who climbed the Disappointment Cleaver route over the weekend, and managed to get out on it ourselves as well.

The DC route is in excellent condition right now. There is very little exposed rock, which makes the walking much more comfortable. There is a noticeable boot pack in place, but we'll see if that remains after today's snow. The guide services have successfully been bringing clients up, and wanding certain potions of the route. There are fewer wands than normal however, because it's still early season and they would just get buried by snowfall.

From Ingraham Flats the traverse out to the Cleaver is all snow, don't dilly dally in this section as you are exposed to rock and icefall from above. Above the Cleaver the upper mountain is in great shape, with some exposed crevasses which are noticeable and manageable.

It looks like the weather takes a turn for the better starting tomorrow, so call in sick to work and come climb in these ideal conditions!


May 16

What a great stretch of weather we have been experiencing!  Folks are out all over the mountain skiing and climbing.  There seems to be just as much or more snow in most places than normal.  However the recent storm of new snow we got about a week ago has created some pretty widespread avalanche conditions after it cleared and warmed up, especially at less than 11,000 feet.

Guides were experiencing a few too many punches through on the Ingraham Direct route, so they have kicked a trail on to Disappointment Cleaver.  Climbers are choosing to go either way right now, though.

The icefall that looms above the traverse onto the cleaver is smaller this year than I have seen it in years.  Even so, don't linger on this traverse or take breaks from Ingraham Flats until you get to the relative safety of the nose of the cleaver.

Above the DC, climbers are reporting very good conditions and a direct route.

Climbing rangers are now done with pre-season training and are starting to get out on the mountain, so look for some good updates coming soon.

- Stefan Lofgren

April 30

Cowlitz Glacier to Cathedral Gap
One big question climbers have each spring is whether to attempt the ID or DC as their chosen route. Each season, up to about mid-June, climbers usually prefer the Ingraham Direct route.  It is less steep, less prone to warm, loose snow avalanches, and often more direct.  However, the one pitfall of the ID route, is that it is exposed to much larger (but less frequent) avalanches from the Ingraham Headwall.  These large avalanches can be triggered by glacier movement or icefall.

About a week ago, the entire mountain rapidly received over three feet of snow.  Rapid anything is never good for avalanche conditions.  Since then, each day there has been rapid warming and cooling, even up above the Disappointment Cleaver.

A very large avalanche (R3,D3-4) occurred on the Ingraham Glacier route within the last day or two.  This was reported by two IMG guides who were doing some route reconnaissance for their Denali prep seminar at Muir.  The avalanche clearly started at about 12,900 near a serac and carried all the way down past Ingraham Flats.  However, by 11,300 feet, it had split into two lobes and missed the Ingraham Flats area.

IMG's take was that they probably would not attempt to climb past Ingraham Flats during this warm up cycle as they felt there was still snow hanging in the upper Ingraham Headwall that had not been affected by the latest avalanche. With the continued warming they thought it wasn't worth the risk to try to climb up the middle of the Ingraham.  

As for the DC it was recently skied top to bottom in the last couple of days.  The trick is to get on and off of it in the early morning on these warm days after a heavy snowfall.  Currently, that would entail being back down at Ingraham Flats by at least 8:00 am.

Climbers are also used to finding a trail cut into the 40-45 degree slope, which makes the traverse from the Ingraham to the nose of the cleaver easier.  This trail usually also exists up the spine.  The 'trail' is not in right now, at all.  So it would be real cramponing and/or postholing all the way up the cleaver. Be aware of these early season more challenging conditions if you come up to climb and plan accordingly.

After 25 years of climbing on Mt. Rainier, I'm happy to see climbers respecting early season avalanche conditions more than they have in the past.  In the last five years, avalanche safety and education has really begun to permeate into the decisions that climbers make.  I have directly seen this save more than a few lives, especially in the May and June months. Respect the red flags of rapid snowfalls followed by warm conditions.

Stefan Lofgren