Only 56 climbers attempted Liberty Ridge this year, down from about 100 two years ago. Spicy conditions and at least a week of poor weather each month this summer probably added to the lower numbers. May and June seem to be the best (least hazardous) months to climb this route. Some climbers have started even earlier, in April, and found decent conditions, albeit a longer approach since the road to White River Campground doesn't open until May most years. Stay tuned to the park's road and access website to see when the road is predicted to open next season!
A recent report from a attempting liberty ridge party indicated that travel across the Winthrop and Carbon glaciers was exceedingly difficult. Heavy wet snow and many large open crevasses on both glaciers significantly slowed their travel and they decided to turn back close to the base of the route.
Strong winds and clouds are predicted for the weekend of 7/1-7/2 but overall weather is improving and Liberty may have a few more climbable days left in the season. The approach sounds challenging and may indicate the existence of wet unconsolidated snow higher on the route as well. Take note of the previous post before you plan your trip.
Liberty Ridge in one of the most sought after climbs on Mt Rainier for the aspiring mountaineer. One of the 50 classic climbs in North America its a beautiful and imposing alpine climb bisecting the Nordwand of the grandest Cascade volcano. Its nature attracts eager individuals to attempt it from around the world.
This attraction, in-spite of conditions and impending weather, resulted in the rescue of two Liberty Ridge climbing parties in the last 5 days.
Both Parties were strong and manged to climb the route only to be trapped on the summit or unable to descend due to the weather they had climbed into. This is an all to common scenario for parties on Liberty Ridge when a chosen weather window proved to be to short compared to the time it may take to climb from Thumb Rock to Liberty Cap.
It is weather, not the technical nature of the climb that results in the majority of rescues and fatalities associated with this route. More than one of each per year.
-Allow for 48hr window of FANTASTIC weather for your assent from thumb rock to the summit and back down. The route can often take parties 15-20 hours to make it to Liberty Cap where they may be forced to spend the night. With a large enough weather window this becomes an inconvenience that you can walk out of the next morning and navigate your decent through the Emmons or DC routes.
-Consider climbing the Emmons before Liberty. The secondary factor of weather on Liberty Ridge is the need to descend through it. Many parties are able to climb the route in poor conditions only to find themselves unable to navigate and decent the Emmons; which may have been considered trivial. This essentially strands you high on the mountain subject to whatever storm may be on its way.
- Do not discount the thought of descending the route. Many parties have found themselves in trouble on the summit after thinking that the only route to safety is to continue climbing. Yes, descending Liberty will be time consuming, scary and gear intensive, but if it puts you back into a position of strength and safety it may be well worth the effort compared to climbing into a storm.
There is a nice weather window in the forecast for early next week and if that pans out and the route is allowed to settle from the past 10 days of storms and elevated avalanche hazard it could be a great time to climb Liberty Ridge. Though they may have been rescued both parties reported decent climbing conditions above thumb rock with the major difficulty being a near vertical ice step of 50+ ft at the Liberty Cap bergschrund.
Take your time, plan your climb in accordance to to conditions and don't push your luck. Liberty ridge is not going anywhere fast. When the time is right it will reward you with the fantastic climb it is.
Current photos of the route. More to come soon.
For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link: Liberty Ridge 2015
|Upper Liberty Ridge|
|Lower Liberty Ridge and Carbon Glacier|