Thanks to Andrew Steiner for the following report on Ptarmigan. Photo by rangers from same time frame.
We climbed Ptarmigan Ridge June 29-July2. We walked from White River trail head, over St. Elmo's pass and camped on the edge of the Winthrop glacier. The snow conditions were good (firm enough) for walking even late in the evening.
Day 2: We walked from camp to the 10,000 foot base camp. The snow was firm and fast in the morning, but the upper Russell Glacier was very soft by noon. We saw no fresh snow. The glacier was freeze/thaw corn. There is a good rock camp at 10,000. We watched the wall from 1 pm until night. There was very little rock fall until sunset, then there was a mild amount of rockfall. There was large serac fall intermittently throughout the day, but it did not cross the route.
Day 3: We climbed the route starting at 5 am. There was no fresh snow anywhere on the route. It was easy to cross the bergschrund to access the initial slopes (rather than walking all the way around the bergschrund). The initial slopes, up to the traverse, were firm freeze/thaw crust. Picket's were okay, but not great because there were faceted crystals under the crust. Some rock pro available.
By 7 am, the traverse was sun affected, and snow was balling in our crampons. That section takes rock pro up high. After the traverse, the route was in shade and was firm crust again. The ice pitch had good ice, though the surface ice dinner-plated a lot. The screws were very solid. Note: The area just before the ice pitch is a rock fall hazard zone. There were big rock impacts everywhere in the snow. We belayed before that danger area. There was some wind loaded snow above the ice, but nothing especially concerning. From the top of the ice pitch to the bottom of the rock gully, there was crust snow with faceted sugar underneath. Rock pro was available to the left. The rock step was snow-free, but wet. The step is not easy, but you can pull on gear for some of it. There is a fixed pin below the step that makes a good belay. There is a second fixed pin part of the way up the step. We arrived at the top of the rock step at noon. From there to the summit, we had soft snow and mild post-holing. Very tiring.
We got to the summit at 4pm. The trip down the Emmons was exhausting due to very deep, soft corn snow. Note: The path to start down the Emmons is NOT obvious. Do some research ahead of time.
Day 4: We walked out from Camp Schurman. The Inter Glacier had good glissading.
Gear: We brought four pickets, six screws, and three cams (half inch to 1.5 inches). That gear seemed about right. A couple more cams in that size range could be useful. There is rock pro available on most of the route if needed. The rock pro was much more secure than the pickets.
No Climbing reports from Ptarmigan yet but it appears to be in good condition. Photos from May 25.