Disappointment Cleaver 2015

October 16, 2015
As of October 1st, all of the equipment that the guides services maintain has been pulled off the upper mountain - no more ladders, hand-lines, wands, fixed pickets, etc.  Also, due to recent storms, the typical "boot-pack" has been erased.  Without wands, a boot pack, ladders, fixed ropes, and guides climbing up and down everyday, the Disappointment Cleaver should now be considered an "advanced" route.  And, with the potential for more severe winter weather, climbers will need to be proficient in there glacial travel skills and self-reliant with their rescue and contingency plan.

New snow has drifted (see photo) into patches on the upper mountain.  Snow in some places is knee deep and elsewhere it's scoured down to bare skeletal-glacier ice.  Caution and good investigatory skills are needed to cross these snowy patches safely.  The cleaver itself has steep, drifted, and unconsolidated snow - climbers should consider using running protection or belaying that section of the route.  Without a boot-pack it would be tough or lucky to team-arrest an accidental trip or fall.

Due to the advanced nature of the route and winter weather this time of year there will be less (if any) other climbers on the mountain.  Expect a more "wilderness" experience and solitude!

September 10th, 2015

After a brief but intense dose of winter conditions on the mountain the weather for this weekend is forecasted to be hot and dry.
 It was nice to see all the fresh snow up high from the past storms. Climbing conditions were hazardous during the storm and buried the route below Camp Comfort. The guides dedicated some serious man (and woman) power and muscle to put the route back in, parties were summiting again this morning.
  The weather window for the weekend is looking good. Come on up for a climb!
The route itself has held together quite longer than many of us had expected.  Much in part to the efforts from the guides, thank them! Above Camp Comfort, more toward the Nisqually Cleaver the route is starting to get a bit tricky.  When conditions change fast it is important for the beginner and seasoned mountaineer alike to employ some technical skills if the situation came about.  For these end of season climbs make sure you have your rope skills tight. We hope you can get up to Rainier this weekend, it is going to be a nice one!

September 6, 2015

Over the past week or so, low pressure has persisted over the Mt. Rainier area, producing a substantial amount of rain, sleet and snow.  Very few parties have traveled on the upper mountain via the DC this past week.

Due to increased snowfall and increased wind transport above Camp Muir, avalanche conditions have increased in hazard, especially above Ingraham Flats near the first ladder crossing at High Crack.  We highly advise anyone contemplating climbing the Disappointment Cleaver to be well prepared for these conditions, (transceiver, probe and shovel).  Also keep in mind that prior to the low pressure event, we were experiencing very warm temperatures on the upper mountain which caused the glaciers to become more featured with very thin snow bridges and complex terrain.  With the recent snow, these crevasses are now masked, and the installations such as ladders and fixed lines may be under snow.

As we transition into the later fall phase of Rainier mountaineering and DC climbing, climbers need to be aware to these hazards and be on their A-game for avalanche rescue, crevasse rescue, and general upper mountain climbing in severe conditions.  Fewer climbers are going to be on the route, so if a scenario occurs where your party is in need of medical attention or rescue, there will be fewer fellow climbers on the routes and the response time for climbing rangers to climb from Camp Muir will be much longer than it was a month or so ago.

August 26th, 2015

Smokey views from the summit. 
Despite the smoke and haze all around Washington, camp Muir and the upper mountain have been fairly clear. The DC is still providing many successful summit climbs despite the route becoming a bit more hollow and climb times on the rise.

The current route still contains 5 ladders however, one of them is now a vertical placement and must be climbed. You will come across this ladder around 12,700 ft. just before reaching camp comfort.

Ice fin that overhangs the route at 12,600ft.

Along with a few fixed lines before and after the 15 ft. climb, you will find an ERNEST anchor atop the ladder that great for a running munter as protection.

This section is creating a bit of a bottleneck so be sure your team is capable and competent on some more technical terrain and rope work.

As we push into September, rock and ice fall activity seems to be on the rise along the route. Be sure to move quickly and safely through any zones where rocks or ice blocks are scattered across the trail.

Another watch out is the large ice fin that has been hanging above the route around 12,600 ft. Although, it has held stable for most of the summer, it is now hanging out directly over the trail and is quite suspect.

All parties attempting to climb this time of year should be confident and well dialed in self rescue as route conditions deteriorate, fall storms grow more frequent and the number of climbers/rangers on the mountain decreases.

Current route track log as it meanders up the mountain.

Ice fall debris below Camp Comfort
Vertical Ladder directly below
Camp Comfort

A bottleneck at the 13,200' Nisqually Cleaver Ladder

August 16, 2015

13;800' Shrund ladder

13;200' Nisqually cleaver ladder
 The DC route is still holding in there even with all the recent warm weather.  There are currently 5 ladders on the route.

Watch for warm weather and decompensating plugs and snow bridges, especially upon descent.  Try to time your climb so that you are not descending in the heat of the day, or late into the evening.

Watch for rockfall at the base of the cleaver and ice fall between the nose and the first ladder.

As the weather warms, the route becomes more unstable.  This means objects above you (rocks and ice) could fall down over the boot pack.  Wear your Helmet.  Bring pickets and crevasse gear in order to self extricate yourself from the crack.  Know how to use the gear you are climbing with, and climb with partners who you trust.  They will be the ones who will potentially save your life.

Safe climbing.
Camp Comfort Ladder(s)

High crack ladder above Ingraham flats

August 9th, 2015

Views of the upper mountain from Camp Comfort.
As the climbing season pushes into mid August, the DC route continues to hold and most parties are having successful summit climbs. With that being said, the route is increasingly "hollow" and dirty as the snows continue to melt and recede. Although the route hasn't diverged from the August 1 post, there are now 2 or three large step overs as crevasses continue to open up and separate. Take caution when stepping over these cracks and be sure not to jump across. Jumping across these cracks with heavy packs and crampons leads to the majority of the lower leg injuries on the upper mountain. There are now 3 ladders in place, with only one addition to the ladders described in the August 4th post. You will find the newest ladder in place directly out of the Ingraham Flats camp. This is a fairly straight forward ladder crossing and doesnt seem to be posing an issue to parties.

Short section of ice steps directly above
Camp Comfort
Rock fall continues to be a hazard at all times of the day so be sure to maintain your situational awareness and move quickly through rock fall zones on the Cowlitz glacier, entering Ingraham Flats and nearly all sections of the cleaver. The route up the cleaver itself no longer traverses out onto the switchbacks of the snowy, SE face but maintains the spine of the cleaver for its entirety. Be sure to take this "high route" to avoid being below other parties on the lower, original route.

Although you will encounter a few hand lines at the ladder crossings and in the upper Ingraham ice fall, the route remains fairly non technical with only one short 10ft. section of steep terrain. Most people are still able to front point up this section without issue.
A clear morning turns stormy in no time

As we enter into mid August, storms and foul weather can be anticipated. It's not uncommon for a clear, calm morning to turn stormy by midday so be sure that everyone in your party is prepared to handle the elements.

Although August tends to bring light crowds during the week, there were more than 100 climbers on the DC this past Saturday morning. Despite the crowds, both guide groups and independent parties reported courteous climbing behavior from nearly everyone on the hill. This goes a long way to expediting climb times and enhancing everyone's experience so lets keep it up!

Lastly, be sure to thank the guides as you see them on the mountain for all the hard route work they have been putting in to keep the DC climbable! As always, safe climbing!

August 4th, 2015

Descending upon the lowest elevation ladder, directly
below Camp Comfort on the Ingraham Glacier
Descending upon the upper elevation ladder
at 13,200' above the Nisqually Cleaver
The DC route is the same as the August 1st post with only a few changes.  The guide services braved the warm weather and rockfall yesterday to work on the route along the spine of the cleaver to allow for easier travel up the loose rock and mitigate rockfall hazard.  They also did some work on the "ice fin" at the interface of the Ingraham Glacier and the Cleaver.  This section is now much easier to navigate safely.  With this said, there is still hazard that exists from falling rock from above.  It is recommended to move through this section carefully, but also with haste.  Try to avoid taking breaks in this zone as well as the Ingraham "jumble" (after the top of the cleaver, but before the first ladder) to avoid putting yourself in danger from overhead hazard.

There are still 2 ladders in place.  (see pictures).

If you see a guide, give them a handshake and thank them for their hard work in this dangerous environment.

As always, safe climbing.  We'll see you on the mountain!

August 1st, 2015

Even with the recent warm weather, the DC seems to be holding up nicely and is providing some very scenic climbing.  The seracs seem to be collapsing in on themselves, resulting in fairly easy travel.  The current route is tending to end-run the crevasses instead of crossing them with the installation of ladders.

To download this tracklog so you can view the route in google earth, please visit this link.  This tracklog is not meant to provide you navigational guidance when you are on the mountain.  The route changes almost every day!

Climbing ranger at sunrise on the cleaver - August 1st.

Looking up the Ingraham Glacier from Ingraham Flats
There are now two ladders on the route.  The first is located just below Camp Comfort.  There is a fixed hand line in place to aid to aid and expedite crossings.  Even with the Infrastructure, the access to the ladder is slightly tricky.  There is a steep switchback which means you have to fork for it to keep your glacier spacing.  There is also a steep traverse track on the uphill side of the ladder which means it would be very unlikely so self-arrest a fall in this zone.  Travel carefully.  The second ladder is located around 13,200’ just above the Nisqually Cleaver. It provides an easy crossing without too much hassle.
Ladder in place near Gibralter Rock - Camp Comfort
In order to avoid rock fall on and around the cleaver,  it is best to stick to the spine of the cleaver and avoid the lower track which traverses up the snow.  There is a newly wanded route up this zone of the cleaver, so navigation shouldn’t provide many headaches.

As the snow melts off and the ground dries out, the cohesiveness of the rock is greatly diminished.  We’ve had a substantial amount of rock fall in this zone.  Watch out for your fellow climbers and tread carefully and watch your footing.  Do everything you can do not to kick rocks down on parties below you.

The ice fin/moat feature there the boot-pack gains the base of the Cleaver
There is a large moat forming on the interface of the Ingraham Glacier and the base of the Cleaver.  The traverse across this feature is turning into an icy fin.  Keep in mind there is still the same amount of rock fall here, so expedite your pace here while still climbing carefully through this feature.

Safe climbing!  We look forward to seeing you on the route.

July 30th, 2015
Looking up towards Camp Comfort from the top of the Cleaver

The Disappointment Cleaver route is in good shape as we move into August.  The guides have been doing maintenance on route, many thanks to their hard work. There are currently 2 ladders in place.
The route above the DC continues up and across the Ingraham Glacier and continues west to the Nisqually Cleaver. The route continues to be well wanded and kicked in. A recent storm has led to good crampon conditions.

Things to watch out for:  The transition on and off the Ingraham Glacier onto the Disappointment Cleaver. There is a large moat with a steep drop off in this location.
Rockfall on the DC:  consider shortening your rope up and be mindful of other climbers below and around you on the DC. August is starting off with a warm up with a freezing level up to 15,000 ft.  See below threads for more route info.

July 23, 2015 

Here's another view, from the top, of the traverse across the Ingraham Glacier.  Two of the three ladders currently on the route are in the photo.  Remember to consider a belay when there's potential for a large free fall that could shock-load your rope team.

You can tell by scrolling down this page that the glacier is breaking up significantly every week.  Keep in mind that a crevasse bridge or ladder could fall away while you're above it on the route.  Make sure to have a plan in case that happens and look for alternative crossings on the way up.

Despite the larger number of climbers on the route during the peak season in July, there has hardly been any long lines or wait times on the route.  Climbers have been communicating well, taking smart breaks, and keeping their rope-team's overall length fairly short.  Make sure to talk amongst your rope team about moving efficiently up the route and take steps to make it happen!  

July 20, 2015

Looking up towards Camp Comfort from the top of the Cleaver
The DC route is holding up, but slightly migrating due to the subtle downhill flow if the Ingraham Glacier.  There are currently 3 ladders on the route.  The first is located above the top of the cleaver in the serac fall debris, the second is directly below Camp Comfort.  This is most likely the most dangerous ladder on the route, due to the steep wall on the uphill side.  If a fall were to occur here upon descent, it would be very difficult to self-arrest.  Consider belaying across it.  The third ladder is located near the Nisqually Cleaver.  As always, keep an eye out for rock fall, especially while gaining the nose of the Cleaver (on the ascent as well as the descent), and weakening snow bridges. Keep in mind that as the day progresses and the temperature rises, snow bridges that seemed stable on your ascent, way have seen enough heat to loose their integrity, leading to you to punch through upon your descent.

July 8, 2015

The route has been holding tough for the first part of July.  Climbers are finding more rock melting out in Cathedral Gap and Disappointment Cleaver.   Crevasses are starting to open across the route on the Cowlitz Glacier - so be sure to "rope-up" for glacier travel when climbing past Camp Muir and don't solo or separate from your rope team between Muir and Ingraham Flats.  

Rocks and ice have been falling intermittently on the traverse from the Ingraham Glacier to the Disappointment Cleaver.  Be sure to move quickly and with purpose along this traverse until reaching the nose of the cleaver.  Also - watch for parties above and below when climbing on the lower third of the cleaver.  The lower third has totally melted out to loose rock and it's easy to knock fairly large rocks loose.  Coordinate with other parties and when in doubt be sure to wait until other climbing parties are clear.

Above the cleaver the route still traverses over toward Gibraltar Rock.  This section also has higher objective danger from ice and snow falling from above.  Be sure to take a good break on top of the cleaver, check what's happening on the traverse to avoid any bottlenecks, and then leave the top of the cleaver and try to power up to the top of Gibraltar Rock without needing to stop and change layers or eat another snack.

The upper mountain has multiple crevasses across the climbing trail.  Both ice bridges and ladders are being used to cross crevasses.  Try to think critically about each of these crossings and ask yourself what you'd do if the ladder or bridge fell apart - do you see another way across?  If your party was above a bridge or ladder that fell apart, would you be able to climb back to the summit and descend another route?  Avoid "herd mentality" and make sure you and your party is thinking critically about the route and its dangers.

July 1, 2015

Traversing Across the Ingraham
Recent high temps have resulted in significant and rapid melting all around the mountain.

Toto are we still on the DC?
Guides have been hard at work keeping up with the ever widening crevasses; hauling ladders, 2x4's and other materials all over the route. Give them a shout of thanks when you see them.

In these temperatures the route you ascend might be different than the one you descend. Yesterday a waterfall appeared on route while rangers were climbing the DC. A ranger team climbing today reports that the water fall has ceased for the time being.

The bottom half of the Cleaver is snow free. Step with intent, watch for rockfall and shorten the rope interval of your team while on the Cleaver. Several switchbacks in the snow will bring you to the top of the DC.

Alpine Waterfall just beyond Cathedral Gap
Stopping on the traverse from the top of the Cleaver to Camp Comfort is not advisable due to the present objective serac fall hazards. Towards the end of the traverse is the main bottle neck of the route at ladder 4.

The steepness of the slope, width of the crevasse and general airy feeling of this crossing has caused delays, especially when there is traffic heading both directions. Maybe consider using some form of belay; but be conscious of holding up traffic and keeping people in the serac fall zone.

As of yesterday there were five (5) ladders on the DC. 
-Ladders 1&2 are above Ingraham Flatt commonly known as "low crack" and "high crack".
-Ladders 3&4 are located on the traverse from the top of the DC over to Camp Comfort. Ladder 4 crosses a large crack~8' and is equipped with a hand line.
-Ladder 5 is at the end of the traverse across the upper Nisqually Glacier.

Rocky lower section of the Cleaver
Switchbacks on the upper Cleaver
Looking down at Ladder 4 just below Camp Comfort near Gibralter Rock

June 21, 2015

A view of the Upper Ingraham and Disappointment Cleaver from Dunns Roll.

A view of the route as seen from Ingraham Flats

The bottom half of the Cleaver is melting out substantially, resulting in rock and ice fall in the "Bowling Alley" (just before the traverse to gain the base of the cleaver).  When traveling in this area, keep an eye out for falling rock and ice.  Also do your best to avoid sending rocks down on parties below you while ascending and descending this portion of the route.

This weekend saw quite a bit of traffic.  In order to avoid bottlenecks, please be courteous and allow faster parties to move past.  Inversely, if your party is moving at a good pace and you wish to overtake a slower party, wait until a manageable spot and do so safely with the least amount of hazard.  Please try to make these maneuvers safely and keep in mind that the terrain on the current route has a significant portion of steep side-hilling and maneuvering around seracs, so plan accordingly depending on your pace.

There are a couple fixed lines higher in the Ingraham, around the second ladder.  In order to keep traffic moving on busy weekends or when there are a large number of parties on route, please refrain from prusiking up these installations, and use them as a hand line instead.

As always, safe climbing.  We look forward to seeing you on the route.



June 20th, 2015

The photo above shows climbers ascending out of Camp Muir towards cathedral gap. The snow is melting out fast in this area and rock fall hazard is common along this traverse. Make sure and take care of all equipment issues before making the traverse below this rockfall zone so that you don't have to stop. Watch out for parties above and below while making the climb to the top of the gap as rocks easily move under foot. 

June 16th, 2015

Looking down on the ladder below Camp Comfort.  12,700'

The DC route follows the track outlined below in the previous post and climbing conditions are excellent at the moment. However, the cleaver itself is melting out rapidly and the area sometimes referred to as the "bowling alley" is now entirely rock and scree scrambling. When ascending / descending this section of the route between the nose and top of the cleaver be aware of parties above and below you. Good communication and regard for the safety of other climbers will help to prevent accidents caused by rockfall in this area. Exposure to objective hazards such as rock and ice fall should be kept to a minimum. Get an alpine start and do not take breaks in the danger zone(s)! These are best recognized as the spots along the climb where the beaten path is surrounded by large blocks of ice and rock debris.  The guides have secured a ladder that spans High Crack, directly uphill from the Flats.  The “Upper” route which traverses the Upper Ingraham is now the predominate and more traveled route.  There is a second ladder in place directly before Camp Comfort.  Between Camp Comfort and Columbia Crest  there are a few features that are starting to open up.  The most substantial of them being the compression zone directly above Gibraltar Rock and the upper bergschrund directly below Guide Rocks, where a third ladder has been secured.  The route is still fairly direct, and is a very scenic climb.  With the warm weather we've been having, keep an eye out for instability in snow-bridges and be mindful of the objective hazards of warming seracs and crevasse plugs when maneuvering around these obstacles.  Safe Climbing!


June 5th, 2015

GPS Track of the DC on 6/5/15

View of the DC Route from Camp Comfort

View of the DC Route from the Cleaver

May 31, 2015

For the time being the route is still traversing across the Ingraham weaving around seracs. Guides have installed one ladder as mentioned in the previous post, and are looking at other route options. Stay tuned for details and thank a guide when you see them.

Traversing the Ingraham to Camp Comfort

A private party descending across the Ingraham to the top of the cleaver

Parties descending the surprisingly still mostly snow coated cleaver.

May 29, 2015

As noted in the previous post, the Disappointment Cleaver route has changed in the past few days. The route, as noted, now traverses climbers left to cross the upper Ingraham Headwall and access Camp Comfort.

Guides work to install a ladder
just below Camp Comfort
The new route has been kicked in, and has a nice boot track for climbers, as well as fixed lines in several locations and one big change, a ladder was added to the route yesterday morning. The ladder is at approximately 12,800 feet, just below Camp Comfort.

From the top of the cleaver, as the route begins to go left, there is a large serac fall zone that climbers must cross under to gain Camp Comfort. While crossing through this zone, please keep an eye up hill and move quickly. Just beyond the serac fall zone, the fixed lines begin. These ropes are intended to be clipped into with a carabiner, or used as a hand line, not prussiked onto. Please coordinate your time through this zone with other parties as well as the guide services, as this area has the potential to be a bit of a bottle neck on a busy day. From Camp Comfort, the route travels west to the top of the Nisqually Cleaver on a slowly rising traverse. From the top of the Nisqually cleaver, the route turns north and up hill, while switch backing all the way to the bergschrund and crater rim.

Guided climbers descending towards
the Nisqually Cleaver, high on the
Disappointment Cleaver route

As the weather is warming and our days are getting longer, expect the route to change frequently, so stay tuned for further updates.

The forecast is looking great for the weekend, and the route is climbing quite well right now, so come on up and check it out! While you are at Camp Muir or out climbing, please take the time to thank the guide services for all the hard work they do out there to maintain the route. The guides work extremely hard to put in a safe route not only for their clients, but for the climbing public as well, so show them some love! Happy climbing, and we hope to see you on the mountain.

May 27, 2015

"Old" Route
The Disappointment Cleaver route changed over the last couple of days.  The "old" route veered climber's right at the top of the Cleaver and traversed over to the Emmons Shoulder.  The "new" route traverses climber's left after the cleaver and crosses the Ingraham Glacier as it ascends to Camp Comfort at the top of Gibraltar Rock.  Guide services have switched to this new route to avoid a hazardous crevasse bridge on the old route's traverse.  Independent climbers have been using both the old route and the new route.  As always, use your own judgement and think critically about the direction you climb in on the upper mountain.
"New" Route

Snow still covers the Disappointment Cleaver and Cathedral Gap making for fast and easy cramponing.  Rockfall and serac-fall are happening more often now since the sun is out longer and the freezing levels are on the rise.  Consider leaving a bit earlier on warmer days to avoid these objective hazards.
Snow on the Cleaver

Special caution is required this time of year with snow bridges and cornices becoming much thinner and weaker as they melt and reveal the crevasses below.  The route currently crosses many hidden crevasses and knowing how to extract your partner in case of a fall is important.

Freezing levels have been hovering just below 10,000 feet keeping the snow on the upper mountain unconsolidated and wind packed and the snow below high camps in a nice melt-freeze cycle.

May 18, 2015

Skies cleared after this last storm allowing for a trip up to the Summit. The guide services have put in some hard work on the route over the past few days and the track is in good condition. The route threads through crevasses just above the cleaver, then takes a hard right turn towards the Emmons shoulder. Expect a few bridge crossings in the area between the top of the cleaver and the shoulder; no ladders yet. From the shoulder, the route heads straight up before taking a hard left turn near the summit crater and working back to the south side of the peak before it crosses the 'schrund there.

May 15, 2015

A cold and wintery weather system moved through the area last week.  Unusually low winds made for an epic amount of unconsolidated 15-20cm of new snow.  No parties made it all the way to the summit due to the low visibility and higher avalanche danger.

Guide companies have begun regular trips to the summit via Camp Muir making for a busy high camp.  Three toilets are currently open at Camp Muir.  Remember to latch the doors to the bathroom after you use them (this might require using a shovel to dislodge any snow build-up in the door jam).

Snow still covers Cathedral Gap and the Cleaver itself making for good cramponing all the way up the mountain.  Unusually large crevasses have opened up just below Ingraham Flats and it's highly recommended that climber's rope up appropriately to prevent a disastrous crevasse fall.

At the top of the cleaver the route takes it's now traditional right turn toward the Emmons Glacier, and ascends the "shoulder" all the way to the summit crater.

Rangers are now staffing Camp Muir regularly and will swing by the public shelter at Camp Muir and your tent site to give you updated forecasts and conditions.  See you on the mountain!

May 5, 2015

A team of rangers took advantage of the wonderful weather last Saturday and made one of our first ascents for 2015. At the time, the route traveled up the Ingraham Glacier to the upper mountain. This route is getting very thin, and all future climbers should plan on climbing up the Disappointment Cleaver variation.

Above the Cleaver climbing conditions were solid. The route took a long traverse right, over to the Emmons Shoulder before going straight to the crater rim.

There are currently some wands placed on the route, but without continuous work from the guides they should be treated as route suggestions only. It's still early season and your own route finding decisions need to be made.

Some new snow is expected over the next week, and perhaps another sunny weekend. If the forecast holds the climbing should continue to be great.