The last guided trip ascended the Disappointment Cleaver to the summit during the last week of September. Since then the wands and ladders have been pulled from the route and virtually no one has been back above Camp Muir since September. With the winter-like weather in early-October, climbers can expect full off-season conditions from now until next spring. This means:
- Route finding and navigation is necessary. There's no boot-pack or trail to and from the summit. GPS units and extra batteries are mandatory and the only way to navigate on the upper mountain when visibility gets low.
- Have a contingency plan in place. There's no rangers, guides, and generally no other climbers up on the route this time of year. Make sure to bring extra food and fuel in case of a lingering storm. An extra set of gloves also can come in handy and should be mandatory in the winter.
- Make sure your team has communicated your climbing itinerary to a friend or family member off the mountain and given that person instructions on what to do.
- The public shelter and bathroom at Camp Muir both can be blown in with snow if the door isn't latched shut by the previous users. Arrive at camp early enough to dig out both structures if necessary. Latch the doors behind you!
- Self-registration is in place at Paradise. Since there's no climbing ranger briefing, check the weather forecast, avalanche forecast, and assess the route conditions for yourself. There's no gate that closes on this route telling you it's too dangerous and not to go - climbers must make that decision for themselves. There's many no-go days in the winter months.
Be safe, have fun. See you next season!
The current DC route is virtually the same as the August 19th post. There are 3 ladders total on the route, all of which are above the cleaver. For more detail, refer to the last post.
Side Note: Unfortunately, we've been picking up quite a bit of trash lately on the upper mountain. Please try your best not to litter. If you see trash on the mountain and have a pocket handy, please do your part and pick it up and pack it out, even if it's not yours.
Our last climb, we had the misfortune of dealing with someone's scene in which they left a mountain turd alongside the trail. This is really no fun for anyone, whether you're walking past it or having to blue bag something that's not yours. Please, Please Please: if you need to use the restroom on the mountain, blue bag it and carry it down, so others don't have to.
All in all, the route seems to be in excellent shape for the latter end of August. The crowds are dying down and the weather is still looking good. Make the journey up to the mountain and celebrate the park's 100th anniversary by climbing Mt. Rainier this month! We look forward to seeing you up there!
There has been several days of consecutive hot weather with the summit reaching temperatures at and near freezing. With the solar radiation during the day the glacier is continuing to shift and move. The forecast is calling for more record high weather in the coming days with a short break of low pressures passing through the area Sunday night and Monday. Expect weekend climbing to be busy and route changes in the coming weeks.
The cleaver is the most challenging part of the DC currently. The navigation on the upper half of the cleaver at night through the rocky terrain is causing independent climbing parties trouble with route finding. The lower half of the cleaver has been rock for awhile. This section is well traveled and wanded. The route takes a turn uphill around 11,700' just before you walk on to the snow. This change will take you up switchbacks and more rock to the spine of the cleaver. There are wands to follows along the way but the path is not always obvious. The are many boot tracks that go off in different directions through loose rock. Remember that the route follows fairly close to the spine of the ridge so don't get drawn down on the slippery side hill.
One last thing. After leaving the top of the cleaver and making a few switchbacks the route will talk a long traverse (climbers right) out towards the Emmons. There has been some recent ice fall across the path along this traverse. A large block of ice is still sitting above the path a looks like it still has the potential to slide downhill. Move quickly through this area as there may be more unstable ice above. Get an early start and plan to be back no later than noon during these hot summer days. Have fun, be safe!
|Ladder at 13,900|
|Ladder at 13,800|
|Ladder at 13,100|
Not much has changed on the DC route since the August 7th post other than a few small re-routes. The ladder at high crack was removed over the weekend and the boot pack is cutting high over the feature and taking a slightly higher traverse across the ice box. Once on the cleaver, and about 200' above the nose, the route bumps up to the spine. Watch for loose rock in this zone and try your best to refrain from kicking debris down onto folks below you. A very hollow plug about 300' below the 'shrund ladder has made itself known over the weekend. this involves a very thin bridge that may warrant a belay from a picket. There is currently fixed protection on either side. He highly recommend at least clipping these pieces after you inspect their integrity. Please read the numbered points from the August 7th post carefully and refer to the previous post for more detail.
After a couple of warm days and lots of solar activity on the upper mountain, we've started seeing some slow but steady movement in the glacial flow. With these warm days, the glaciers tend to move a little quicker and open up at a faster rate. After climbing a number of times in the past couple of days there are noticeably thinner snow bridges with some increased rockfall. There has been a second ladder installed at the shrund (around 13,600'), but the crossing is fairly benign, when compared to the lower ladder just above the flats. One area of concern if a few hundred feet above the upper ladder. There is a fairly hollow spot that may warrant a picket for a belay, or at least a running belay. Pay close attention to this zone when you climb. As stated in the previous post, watch for rockfall on the cleaver. This can be both natural as well as party inflicted, so keep your heads up and on a swivel, and keep the helmets on! Here are a few tips for folks that may make your climb go both smoother and safer.
1. Glacier spacing on your rope team shouldn't really be over 10 meters between individuals. We're trying to avoid long rope teams with a lot of line in play. This makes it difficult to manage in switchbacks, and is tricky for other parties to pass if they need to.
2. Shorten your spacing when climbing over rocky sections such as Cathedral Gap and the Cleaver. You can tie in short, short-rope your partners, take up coils in your hand, really whatever method you prefer, but what we're after is around 2 or 2.5 meters between folks. The reasoning behind this is your rope isn't dragging along the ground and knocking rocks loose on parties below you. It's also easier to manage your team through the tight switchbacks and rocky steps. Other parties will thank you for doing this.
3. Try to yield to the party climbing uphill.
4. If you're feeling like you need to stop and take a break, try to step off the boot pack and let other parties pass if they need to. Also, keep in mind where you stop and take a break. Is it in a safe zone based on the terrain? Do you see rockfall around you? Ice fall? If so, it probably isn't a very safe zone to spend time in. Do not stop between the ladder at high crack (just above the flats) and the nose of the cleaver. This area is very dangerous due to rockfall and ice fall. Please do not stop here.
5. Communicate. We're all on the route for the same reason. Be talking with folks both within your party and with fellow climbers on the route. This is especially true in rock fall prone areas such as the cleaver. Communicate and coordinate so rocks aren't dislodged onto parties below you.
6. Be prepared. Do you have materials and equipment to spend the night if things turn south? Do you have a shovel if you need to excavate a shelter or a wind break? A stove to melt water? How about a GPS if the clouds move in and the visibility drops? Pickets and glacier gear?
7. Climbing with a team? Good, so stay as a team. Don't split up on the route or leave individuals on the route. If you end up having to descend another route such as the Emmons because a snow bridge collapses and they're waiting for you alone at the top of the Cleaver, they're now stranded without a rope team. Also if one of your team members starts to feel sick or tired, don't send them down solo. You came up as a team, so you need to descend as a team.
8. Have fun. Climbing Rainier is a pretty difficult endeavor. It's one of the few large glaciated peaks in the lower 48. Take a second to take it all in and enjoy the experience. We look forward to seeing up on the hill!
|Current GPS track as of 8/4/2106|
|Climbers at 12,400 with Disappointment Cleaver in the background|
The upper mountain route is in great shape! The crossing at 12,500 has been avoided by dropping the route down and end running this crevasse. This has elevated back up problems in this zone. Now climbing parties can pass each other on the up or down and it doesn't add much in the way of distance.
|Climber on the long traverse at 13,200|
The other change to the route comes at the 13,200 level where backups on the route have been a problem for the past few weeks also. The route now end runs this feature to the west helping to prevent the bottleneck effect and long wait times.
"It's still in amazing shape!" is the comment we're hearing most. What a year for the DC. The Cowlitz Glacier has a couple thin cracks developing, but they're easily stepped over and no factor in route direction. Cathedral Gap is all rock now, but the climber's path is so worn it's easy to walk through it at night. The two ladders in place above Ingraham Flats make getting onto the cleaver itself a breeze. The moat that has developed above the traverse onto the cleaver is catching a lot of the rockfall in that very dangerous zone making it less hazardous (but please still move through this section rapidly!). The cleaver has no snow on the lower half, but the upper half has great switchbacks in the snow just to the climber's left of the spine. And the upper mountain has three major crevasse snow bridge crossings, but all are holding together nicely. Teams of two might consider belaying across the crevasses that have a steep run-out on the other side (this way if the second climber falls into the crevasse they will not pull the first climber down the steep slope and into the crevasse as well). See the right image for the most recent track taken on 7/25.
Also, be aware that if one of the major crevasse bridges does give way, climbers will have to scout a new way back down the mountain. In general, heading east, towards the Emmons Glacier, is typically the best bet for finding a way through the large circumferential crevasses on the upper mountain.
|View of the upper mountain from the top of the cleaver|
|Current GPS track|
Travel on the lower half of the cleaver is all rock. There have been some reports of people traveling off route and causing rockfall in this area. Be sure to watch out for people climbing above you and don't assume the party in front of you knows where they are going.
The weather patterns this July have been bouncing around with some high and low pressure systems. Make sure the check the Mount Rainier Recreational Forecast before you leave on your trip. This forecast is updated twice daily.
The route has lots of wands which assist climbers when the visibility is poor, but it is not a substitute for having a GPS, knowing how to use it, and carrying a set of extra batteries. This is the only way to navigate on the upper mountain in stormy conditions. Put in a track log on the way up and follow it on your way back down.
The cleaver is about halfway melted out, but the route has been going climber's left about a third of the way up the cleaver and out onto the snow. This makes climbing in crampons much smoother and safer. Keep an eye out for climbing teams below and above when traversing on the cleaver. And lastly, check in with the rangers at Camp Muir for the latest info and current forecast. This end-of-July season on the cleaver looks to be a good one!
There have been a few subtle changes made to the route over the past few days. One change, there is now a ladder in place at approximately 11,500 feet, not far above Ingraham Flats. The ladder across "high crack" is quite short, and very well secured, making the crossing just a few steps.
The only other change of note, the route on the cleaver itself has bumped from following the ridge line more or less, out onto the shoulder of the cleaver's south side. The bottom half of the cleaver is still melted out, but from about half way up, the route bumps out into the snow on a nicely maintained boot track. Be sure to thank the guide services when you see them for all the hard work they do putting in such nice routes!
With the weekend forecast calling for a wintery pattern and decent amounts of upper mountain precipitation and cold temperatures the route may stay in place for a few more weeks once sunny skies return.
We hope to see you on the mountain when summer finally decides to make a comeback!
Happy 4th Everyone!
The official kickoff to the summer season is here with some variable weather conditions. The past few days have been sunny and windy. Camp Muir has been busy with day hikers and climbers but camping permits have not reached full capacity. The forecast is calling for a high pressure to move into area on Wednesday for more stable weather.
The route is climbing well is still mostly unchanged. The current GPS track shows how direct the climbing is above the cleaver.
The cleaver as shown in the photo below is about 75% rock.
The crevasse crossing at 12,200 is very straight forward. There is ladder staged alongside the crack but is not currently in use. The snow bridge is still holding up and a couple of steps gets you to the opposite side.
The crevasse crossing at 13,200 is causing some backup issues on the route. There is a large bench at the base of this crevasse that many groups are congregating to watch the action. Be sure to watch where you are standing as there are some unstable areas in this zone.
Many successful parties on the Disappointment Cleaver over the past few days. The route is very similar to the GPS track posted on June 12th still and parties can expect only one small ladder at 12500 ft. Some strong winds of 50 mph and lenticular cloud development is expected this Sunday as a low pressure system crosses the area. Before and during your climb pay close attention to the weather and any shifts that may occur. Lower freezing levels from the 4th on through the week should keep the climbing in good shape as we move into summer on Mt Rainier.
June 28th, 2016
The weather over the past week has made a dramatic turn around to a warmer, summer pattern. This current high pressure trend provided for a very busy weekend at Camp Muir and on the Disappointment Cleaver with high summit success rates.
Above Ingraham Flats the route ascends more or less straight up to "high crack", which is still nicely filled in, and a small step across, before traversing to the north to gain the cleaver itself. Move quickly as you access the lower portion of the cleaver, as an increase in rockfall was noted this weekend with the increase in temperatures. The lower half of the cleaver is mostly melted out, but there is a nice meandering trail through the dirt before the route gains the snow once again approximately half way up.
Above the cleaver the route ascends straight up to 12,700 feet before traversing to the north for a short bit. Along this traverse there are a series of fixed pickets intended to be used as running belays, as well as a small ladder across a crevasse. The ladder was added this past weekend as a small crevasse began to grow too wide to make an easy step across. As you are crossing this ladder, and any crevasse, remember to keep the rope between you and your partner tight to prevent slack in the event of a fall. It is also important to remember to keep the distance between you and your climbing partner fairly short, just long enough to get across the largest crevasse bridge. Having a tight rope interval will increase efficiency through these running belays and over the many switchbacks along the route.
Above the 12,700 traverse the route again begins ascending more or less straight up. The only other thing to note on the way to the crater rim is a large crevasse bridge at approximately 13,200 feet. This bridge is approximately 20-25 feet across, and quite over hung. However, the bridge is still quite thick, so it may last another couple weeks, or maybe just a few days. So move quickly across this area, and many teams may choose to utilize the fixed pickets on the uphill side of the crevasse as a running belay. From here, the route just switch backs up to the crater rim, crossing the bergschrund, which is still quite filled in and easily crossed.
As we approach July, our weather typically settles into a nice summer pattern. So come on up and enjoy the great climbing on Mount Rainier!
June 23rd, 2016
Windy and wintry conditions continue on the DC and at Camp Muir as the latest in a weeks long string of low pressure systems pushes through. Guide services climbing this morning 6/23 made it as high as "high break", about 13,200' before turning around due to very low visibility, high winds and bitter cold. The current route conditions have been reported as being good, but keep a watch out for wind loading and avalanche risk. These storms have deposited a lot of new snow and transported even more. If your team can't make a good independent avalanche assessment its not your time to climb Mt Rainier.
Friday the 24th is predicted to be much the same with winds on the summit increasing to 50mph and visibility continuing to be an issue. The light at the end of the storms may be approaching though with improving forecasts on Saturday and Sunday 6/25-6/26. Check out the weather posting on the main page for more specific information. Climbing this year has been a weather game. Make sure you plan your climb with a solid weather window and check in with rangers at Camp Muir for the latest weather thoughts.
June 12th, 2016
Current GPS track of the DC on 6/12/2016
Avalanche conditions have kept climbers guide services off the route for the past few days. Over the last 24hrs these conditions have improved enough to make reasonably safe ascents. Most all climbing parties made the summit today with a small window of high pressure.
The cleaver is climbing a bit easier right now with the new snow deposits covering some of the rocky terrain. Isolated upper mountain trail sections were slightly more challenging with having to make your own steps in drifted snow. Overall the route is climbing well with no ladders or difficult scary"step across"sections.
The forecast is calling for a low pressure system to move in monday and hang over the area for the week. This will mean that weather conditions will be unstable with the chance of precipitation, winds and white-out type conditions. Make sure you have the latest up to date weather information before you climb.
June 4th, 2016
|DC route as of June 4th, 2016|
There are a few small changes to the route since May 31st. High Crack, (above Ingraham Flats, but before the cleaver) has the route end-running and crossing high.
The larger upper crack at approx. 13,900 has a re-route to avoid a large crevasse. It is cutting climbers left from the original route and end-running the feature.
The current route is well wanded and still very direct. As always. Watch for rock fall, especially when climbing onto the cleaver. When you are descending, move quickly from the nose of the cleaver until high crack. This is not the place to stop and take a break. Also keep in mind that large snow bridges on the upper mountain make nice flat spots that seem like a perfect spot to take a break. Don't do this. Keep your rope team tight in these zones, and always expect these snow bridges to be unstable.
|A view of the cleaver as seen from Ingraham Flats. 6/4/16|
|Looking down at the Cowlitz Glacier from Cathedral Gap|
|Looking up to the top of Cathedral Gap|
|The last steps of rock from the DC onto the Ingraham Glacier on our descent|
|The route as of 5/31/2016|
Crampon purchase was supportive to the summit and there was only one crevasse which required a leg stretching step over.
June in Washington can feel like summer or it can feel like winter. When I left Paradise it was freezing rain, fog, and rime ice. Full value conditions. A few days later it was warm and sunny and the climbing conditions were perfect. Plan for these weather changes when you come for a climb. Too many times a tent will blow away down the glacier because the weather was nice when it was setup or some other mishap. Rainier creates its own weather, come up prepared and have a great climb!
|The view from the top of the DC toward the upper mountain|
Over the past couple of days Climbing Rangers took a break from all of their early season training to get out on the mountain and enjoy some spring sunshine. Rangers spent time at Camp Muir, as well as climbing the DC. As mentioned in the previous post, there are three toilets open at Camp Muir, and the blue bag barrels are now dug out. The public shelter is also open and in fine shape.
The route itself from Muir heads across the Cowlitz, which at the moment is very well filled in, towards Cathedral Gap. However, there are some large boulders that have rolled down from both Gibralter Rock, and Cathedral Rocks, very near the boot track. The gap is still mostly snow, but there is one section of melted out rock which is about 200 meters long. Above the gap, and through Dunn's Roll, it is also very well filled in all the way to Ingraham Flats, with no significant crevasse crossings at the moment. Again, keep an eye up slope through this section, as there are also some large rocks near the boot track.
|DC in the early morning light.|
Once past Ingraham Flats, the route crosses "high crack", which is a small step across at the moment. From
this point the route traverses to the north to access the base of the cleaver itself. When making this traverse, move quickly, the icefall directly above this has been very active this season, leaving many large ice blocks scattered all across the boot track. Many of these chunks are the size of refrigerators, cars, semi-trucks, etc. This is not unusual for this area, but at the moment it appears particularly active. Once on the cleaver, there is a short fixed line across the nose of the cleaver out to the spine. The snow on this terrain is very featured and sun cupped, and melting rapidly. from here the route mostly follows close to the spine of the cleaver on a very well marked boot track, and overall the cleaver is still 95% snow, making for excellent travel!
From the top of the cleaver, the route ascends straight up towards the crater rim, very direct! The past few years, even early in the season, the route has been quite circuitous, so this is a pleasant change back to a more "normal" route. At approximately 12,800, the angle steepens significantly for a short period before crossing a large crevasse plug. The guide services have placed anchors along the steep section as well as across the plug. If you choose to use the anchors, please leave the carabiners in place when you are done. These are meant as a "running belay", meaning the first team member approaches the anchor and clips the rope between he and his (or her!) partner, once the partner reaches the anchor, they simply unclip the rope and continue travelling. There are several of these, so as to always have a team member clipped to at least one through this zone.
As with any anchor that you did
|Crossing the plug at 12,800 feet|
|GPS track from ranger climb 5/13/16|
Overall, considering all of the warm weather the Pacific Northwest has already had this spring, the route is in fantastic shape! Hopefully with the cooler temperatures that are forecast for the weekend and coming week, the route will remain in place for a while longer! It is mountaineering season on Mount Rainier, so grab your partners, climbing gear and come get a piece of this great route. That said, it is still early in the season and the weather can change dramatically with little notice. For instance, this morning as rangers were descending the route, there was not a cloud in sight all morning, then within ten minutes a large lenticular cloud had formed over the summit and within thirty minutes it had come all the way down to the top of the cleaver. So be prepared for any and all weather conditions, and please check the forecast before you head on up.
Climbing Rangers will be staffing high camps more regularly shortly before Memorial Day weekend, so feel free to stop by the hut and say hello and get an up to date forecast and report. Prior to that, the rangers will still be in early season training, so do not expect to see them at the high camps on a regular basis until Memorial day weekend, or shortly before. Happy climbing, and we look forward to seeing you out on the mountain!
The Disappointment Cleaver has started seeing climbing traffic this week. After widening crevasses on the Ingraham Direct forced the route uncomfortably close to Gibraltar Rock, guides and independent climbers have punched in a route over to and up the cleaver.
The Muir Snowfield has been consolidating rapidly from all the melt-freeze cycles we've had in April and early May. Climbers leaving early in the morning can find firm snow to walk on. Skiers can still ski all the way to Camp Muir from the parking lot. Three toilets at Camp Muir are open as well as the public shelter (which is first come, first served, but please bring a tent regardless of your plan to stay in the shelter or not - it's much safer if caught out in a storm or if someone in the party gets injured).
Above Camp Muir the route traverses directly out to Cathedral Gap without any apparent crevasse danger and up to Ingraham Flats. From the Flats, climbers are ascending up toward the Ingraham Headwall and then traversing over to the cleaver at about 11,200 feet. The traverse onto the cleaver is straightforward this time of year and the cleaver itself is still mostly snow covered which makes for great cramponing.
The route above the cleaver has been fairly direct to the crater rim. Some zig zagging to end-run the big crevasses at 12,800-13,000 is necessary, but easily done. This part of the route can change frequently, so be prepared to do some route finding up high. Typically the crevasses will open enough to force climbers to traverse over to the top of Gibraltar Rock or to the Emmons Glacier Shoulder.
Wednesday, April 20th
Photo of route from helicopter recon. More beta coming soon!
For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link: Disappointment Cleaver 2015