Liberty Ridge 2015

August 30, 2015

It's getting to be that time of year where the non standard routes (routes other than the highly traveled DC and Emmons) are seeing substantially less climbing traffic.  Upper mountain terrain is becoming very featured and broken which results in substantially difficult terrain navigation and route finding.  As we move into the fall months, these routes are becoming much more dangerous from objective hazard such as rock fall, ice fall, unstable snow bridges, decompensating plugs, and long deep crevasses that are difficult to navigate around.  It is highly recommended to wait until next climbing season to attempt these routes and allow the winter months to heal the current upper mountain conditions.

July 23, 2015

Conditions on the ridge have deteriorated substantially.  Every party who has attempted it in the last couple of weeks has turned due to lots loose and falling rock.  All the snow on the ridge below the Black Pyramid has melted.  Travel on the ridge has become much more objectively hazardous than when it's in good shape. 

June  19th 2015

A few aerial photos of Liberty Ridge from 6/13/15.  Looks like later season conditions with lots of ice around the Black Pyramid.

May 29th 2015

International Mountain Guides (IMG) recently attempted Liberty Ridge with a group of clients. Please check out their trip report and photos below. Aside from the rockfall at Thumb Rock, IMG reported good conditions on the route, and reported that the upper reaches of the route appeared to be in good shape. If you are planning a trip to Liberty Ridge, please assess the avalanche and rockfall conditions carefully! If you choose to camp in a location high on the route aside from Thumb Rock, choose wisely and ensure your camp is out of any potential rock or ice fall zones.

"IMG attempted a summit of Mt. Rainier via Liberty Ridge with three clients and two guides.  The trip left White River 5/25/15 returning 5/28/15 without a summit.  We found continuous snow from the top of the moraine above Glacier Basin.  Travel from St. Elmo Pass to Curtis ridge via the Winthrop glacier was relatively easy and straight forward.  We accessed the Carbon glacier from the campsites at 7,300 feet on Curtis Ridge and approached the west side of Liberty Ridge via the left variation on the Carbon Glacier.  We accessed the ridge  at approximately 8,800 ft over a relatively thick snow bridge over the bergschrund.   Once on the ridge we were able to follow ridge crest to Thumb Rock.  Significant rock fall from the feature directly above Thumb Rock triggered an avalanche, which deposited rock and avalanche debris over the entirety of the col and campsites. The majority of this debris continued down the east side of the ridge, but there was evidence of significant rock fall down the west side of the ridge from Thumb Rock as well.  Due to this recent catastrophic rock fall at Thumb Rock and continued sporadic rock fall, we did not feel this was a viable campsite for an ascent of the route.  We descended from this point via our ascent route." 

-IMG Guides Aaron Mainer and Austin Shannon

May 23rd 2015

As mentioned in the prior post no climbing ranger teams have been on Liberty Ridge yet this season. We have been too busy training!

On Saturday, May 23rd climbing rangers were up on a mission with the 214th General Support Aviation Brigade, a reserve Army unit that flies CH-47 Chinook helicopters. During the mission, rangers were able to snap a few aerial photos of Liberty Ridge.

Note in both photos that ice is already present near the Black Pyramid, which is rather early in the season for ice to be exposed. However, this is not a surprise with the winter snow pack in the Cascades. Aside from the early ice showing, climbing rangers also noted one other significant change to the route. Near the bergschrund area, the serac and icefall potential have gone up significantly from prior years. In years past there is typically a visible line to exit the route onto Liberty Cap, or at least this area is relatively smooth, and bowl shaped as it ramps up towards the cap. This year, however, there are substantial leaning seracs nearly across the entire aspect. This will mean a more sporty climb! The route does go, there have been several independent parties on the route, who have somewhat successfully completed their trips.

 As always on Liberty Ridge, please plan your climb for a substantial good weather window. The weather this time of year typically approaches from the southwest, meaning that climbers on the ridge cannot see the approaching storm systems. Many parties have been put in compromising situations because of this. Also, be aware of recent snowfall, as nearly the entire route is prone to avalanches. These avalanches can occur any time of day, and may be triggered by serac/icefall, rockfall, or simply new snow sluffing off of the steep slopes. Please read the trip report posted in the prior blog post.

Liberty appears to be in great shape at the moment, albeit a little different than years past, but it looks to be ripe for the picking right now! Come one out, and give it a shot after you find a nice big weather window! If you climb Liberty Ridge, please be sure to check in and check out with the White River Ranger Station, and obtain all necessary permits. And please drop us a line after your climb and let us know how conditions were on the route! Happy climbing!

May 2015

During a training mission with the 214th  rangers were able to take a few photos of Liberty Ridge. We have not yet climbed the route this season but check out the trip report below.

Here is a trip report from Cascade Climbers from their successful climb on liberty this May. Nice work!  Objective hazard continues to be a concern on this route. A quote from their ascent: 
"Since we were racing the weather window, we did most of the climb in the dark, and ended up too far left somehow and almost on the Willis Wall. Fortunately, when we noticed we were getting mighty close to the ice cliff, we found a steep passage to the ridge crest near the top of the blue ice. We pitched this portion out, and Joe reached the bergschrund. It turned out to be a very good thing we went way left, because a serac collapsed above the top of the route and swept the face of blue ice, and could very easily have killed us had we been on route. Joe was almost underneath it when it collapsed, but fortunately had just enough time to move slightly out of the way and brace himself. The car sized chunk missed him, but a large chunk hit him square in the helmet, and he amazingly came away unscathed. (Always wear your helmet!) I mention this as a word of caution: just because you're not on Willis or Liberty Wall proper, doesn't mean there are no serac falls. In any case I didn't see anymore seracs looking too unstable, but you never know. "   Photo and words: Aikidjoe /Cascade Climbers