Gibralter Ledges/Chute 2014

Aug 3

No one has been up the ledges since the first few days in July.  Rock fall, high temps, and crevasses on the Cowlitz Glacier make the route inordinately difficult to climb this time of year.  Check back in the winter months after we get some significant snow!

June 25
Crevasses on the Cowlitz Glacier and rock from the "Beehive" and the arm of Gibraltar Rock have been more active as the temperatures have increased.  Climber's headed up the ledges should expect more objective hazards than previously encountered this season.  Snow on the ledges themselves has begun to totally melt away and leave just scree behind.  Use caution on the steep scree - it's hard to protect and can be difficult to get good footing on.  

Above the ledges on the upper mountain there is still a fairly direct route to the crater rim.  Linking up with the DC's boot pack at about 13,500 can expedite the upper snow slogging if conditions are soft.

June 8

The Ledges 
Rangers climbed Gibralter Ledges yesterday morning. This route ascends the Cowlitz  Glacier straight up from Camp Muir towards the climber's left hand side of Gibralter Rock. Overall the route is still in reasonable condition, and fairly straight forward. Getting an early start for this climb is not necessarily a must, but you will want to get going soon enough that you can pass the ledges while rocks above you are still frozen.
Upper Gibralter Snow Shoot
The lower section of the route between Camp Muir and Gibralter Rock is still all snow with a couple of minor crevasse obstacles to navigate around. The traverse along the ledges is now mostly rock. 
It is not difficult to pass this section, but climbers will need to take care and pay close attention to where and what they are stepping on. There is loose rock, scree, and large objects that can be dislodged easily. The snow ramp at the end of the ledges that leads to the top of Gibralter Rock and Camp Comfort is in good condition. It is steep enough that some parties may want to bring some pickets to protect this short section. The climbing from the top of Gibralter Rock to the summit has a few crevasse crossing challenges. Some of the larger snow bridges are disappearing but there are still several options for climbers to navigate to the summit. If Gib Ledges is on the tick list for this season, then climbers should get it done soon while the gettin' is still good.

June 4

Here are some updates passed on from a party of three from this past week. Pictures were taken by rangers in late May.

The party stayed on the rocky ridge heading out of Muir to avoid the developing moats.
When gaining the ledges on a shorter section of snow one of the party members punched through into the moat. The section between the ledges and Camp Comfort ~12,600 was really fun climbing through some sastrugi.

Key points: beware of the moats, the route will not be in much longer given the recent and forecasted sunshine.

May 17

Rangers got out on a climbing patrol on the Gibralter Ledges route and found excellent snow conditions and fun climbing, leaving Camp Muir far below. Rangers reached Camp Misery around 11,900', where the route begins to traverse around the southwest side of Gibralter Rock to gain the ledges. The ledges are a series of ramps leading to the top of "Gib Chute" and finaly onto the upper Nisqually and Ingraham Glaciers, where climbers continue on to the summit.

Gibralter Ledges is a really fun climb in an airy position. It is also the line of the first recorded ascent of Mount Rainier, way back in 1870! It doesn't stay in shape all season, and the ledges are composed of poor quality rock so it is one of those routes that are best done early in the climbing season. Due to the exposure to rockfall it is also a good route to ascend very early in the morning, before the sun is hitting upper Gib Rock. Another benefit of this route, is that it's very direct. Guidebook author Mike Gauthier claims it is the most direct route up the mountain. So get off the beaten path, repeat history, and come have a great climb of Gibralter Ledges while it's in great shape!

April 9