Monday, July 24, 2017

Emmons Glacier - July 23, 2017

The Emmons-Winthrop Glacier. July 23, 2017
The Emmons-Winthrop Glacier route remains in good condition, even after weeks of warm temperatures and snow melt. The route itself is largely unchanged from past weeks, with minor re-routes around widening crevasses. As mentioned in this blog, the Emmons and Disappointment Cleaver routes are currently merging near the bergschrund at 13,800'. Be sure to take the correct track on your descent, to avoid accidentally walking to the wrong high camp!

Ascending the Emmons Glacier above The Corridor.
 There are numerous thinly bridged crevasses on the route, particularly above 12,000’. The track is well established in this section, but beware that as these cracks open the existing track might lead impassible crossings. Remember that jumping over crevasses posses a high risk of personal injury and crevasse fall; if you feel that a jump is necessary to cross a crevasse, look around in both directions for a narrower crossing location where it is possible to step across. There is rarely a reason to take flight while traveling on glaciers!

Emmons tracklog on July 23, 2017

With warm temperatures and poor overnight freezes, the likelihood of crevasse falls is also increasing. Beware that slushy conditions can result in slippery footing and reduce the strength of snow anchors. Start your ascent early, climb efficiently, and try to be back at high camp as early as possible. Warm temperatures have also contributed to the loss of multiple tents into crevasses at Emmons Flats -- anchor tents with secure anchors at least one foot deep to reduce the risk of having it blow away into a crevasse.

Finally, beware that the bootpack and glissade tracks on the Inter Glacier cross several crevasses. Some of these holes have thin snow bridges that aren't readily apparent on ascent or descent. Always evaluate glissade tracks and their runout before starting your descent.

Glissade track over a thin snowbridge on the Inter Glacier.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

E/W and DC Merge!

The "merge" has occured and has been leading to some confusion on the upper mountain.  Climbers on the Disappointment Cleaver Route from Camp Muir merge with climbers on the Emmons/Winthrop Route at about 13,800 feet.  USE CAUTION WHEN DESCENDING THAT YOU TAKE THE CORRECT ROUTE.  We've already had climbers who ascended from Camp Muir arrive at Camp Schurman wondering where their tent was.  See map below. 
The old DC route that hasn't been climbed in a couple days is in purple.  The new DC route currently being used is in light blue.  The Emmons/Winthrop Route is in Brown.  Again, be sure to notice when the climbing routes split.  It's easy to put it in auto-pilot on the way down and take the wrong turn. 
Both the new DC route (light blue) and the Emmons/Winthrop are in great shape and lots of climbers have been making it to the summit from both sides.  See previous posts for more beta. 

Kautz Glacier Update

GPS track of the Kautz part of our climb
Its been another warm and busy weekend on Mt Rainier. Taking advantage of the nice weather two climbing rangers made another climb of the Kautz Glacier route over Friday and Saturday. Conditions were largely unchanged from the last post on 7/20.(Previous Kautz Report)  The access from Paradise across the Nisqually and up the Wilson gully is becoming tenuous and climbers are recommended to to access the route from the Comet Falls Trail head.  Running water is available just above the Castle at 9600ft and can also be found at Camp Hazard. Climbing on the Kautz glacier is still snow all the way, but ice is starting to show through. With warm weather predicted to continue its likely that the Kautz will become true ice climbing in the coming weeks. Travel on the upper Kautz is a bit of a wander to end run a few large crevasses before getting on top of the Wapowety cleaver at 13,200ft. Good travel to the summit from here after you pass a serac line just off the Wapowety.
View of the Kautz Glacier from Camp Hazard.

If you are planing on a carry over climb and descending the DC, keep an eye on the Latest posts for that routes conditions. Its is currently in flux with a few possible ways to go.

Enjoy the sunny weather and get out climbing.

Sam Luthy- 682
Steep snow on the upper Kautz. Good climbing but protect as needed.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Inter Glacier

The Inter Glacier approach to the Emmons Glacier route is currently very straight forward.
The trail is completely dry to 6,700 feet.  Transition to snow is fairly abrupt.  Expect snow coverage to thin quickly.  Skeletal ice will start to show and make the consequences of slips and trips more severe.   The possibility to pop through into a crevasse exists on the Inter Glacier with out warning.  We recommend roping up when traveling on glaciers. 

The main uphill track is currently very consistent and goes directly up the middle of the basin in fairly hard pack snow. Concurrently, the glissade track goes right down the middle.  If deciding to glissade on your way down know that rocks and cracks will continue to appear directly in the middle of the track in the next few weeks.  Also expect snow to become less and less user friendly for both the up and the down.

Crevasses are beginning to open up between 8 and 9 thousand feet.  From there the route veers directly south to the ridge towards Camp Curtis. The campsites here are dry.

Overall conditions are typical for this time of year which means things are changing daily.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Late July Kautz Climbing

The lower Nisqually Glacier is beginning to break up quite a bit and making travel fairly difficult through the Wilson Gully.  We recommend taking the trail up to Comet Falls and up through Van Trump Park.  This approach involves no glacier travel, crevasse crossings and the flowers are just starting to poke out.  Sounds pretty good right?

Looking up from Van Trump

Upper Kautz step
Running water can be found at both the Castle as well as Camp Hazard, but expect these flows to be lessened or even frozen in the early mornings or on cooler days.

Looking down below the second step.
The step off the cleaver and down onto the Kautz Ice tongue is fairly short currently.  Only about 10’ and can be easily down climbed.  Just note that there is a sizeable steep snow slope below you, so utilizing a rope for this may be a wise idea.

Secons step looking towards climbers left and the Kautz Cleaver

The climbing on the tongue itself involves a fair amount of snow, granted, this snow is highly featured penitents, but snow none the less.  Ice can be found far climbers right and easily accepts screws and good purchase with your tools.  The lower step involves about 2 pitches of easy climbing, followed by a short section of steep snow walking.  The second step involves about 3 pitches.  Both these steps can be easily simul-climbed depending on your comfort level and ability.

Looking down from the  top of the Second step
The climbing above the tongue involves navigating around a couple crevasses, although a couple of them are widening and the plugs, thinning.  In time, a few of these may warrant a belay to cross safely.

Once on the Wapowety Cleaver, you will see that the crossing onto the Upper Nisqually Glacier involves maneuvering a hollowing section.  Again, this may warrant a belay.  Large cracks are beginning to open up on the Nisqually and the plugs are beginning to fall through a couple of them.  This said, navigation is still fairly straight forward from Wapowety Cleaver to Columbia Crest.

Looking up , just below the Wapowety Cleaver.
Looking up towards the Upper Nisqually 
Whether you plan on down climbing the Kautz or descending the DC, plan to bring gear to safely get from the top of the ice pitches back to Camp Hazard.  Crevasses may impede travel upwards or weather may move in and force you to descend.  Either way, plan to bring equipment to rig a V-thread and bring extra cord to leave as tat.  The last thing you want is being forced to down climb technical ice because you decided to leave materials back at the car.

Dissapointment Cleaver Conditions July 20th. 2017

The current track up the DC is right around 3.8 miles from Camp Muir to Columbia Crest.   There is still no ladder at high Crack above Ingraham Flats and the crossing onto the Cleaver is fairly straight forward with little moat exposure.  That said, there is still a large amount of rock and ice fall in this area, with a recent collapse that sent large blocks of ice onto and below the current track.  We recommend moving through this area (between High Crack and the nose of the cleaver) with purpose, don’t hang out and take a breather and remember that rock and ice fall occur at all hours of the day.

We recommend shortening your rope between climbers in the rock sections, such as Cathedral Gap and the Disappointment Cleaver to improve travel and minimize the risk of snagging up rocks and dropping them onto parties below you.

View of the traverse from the top of the cleaver to the Emmons Shoulder.  Keep in mind this is a descending traverse on the ascent and an ascending traverse on the descent.  Plan an extra bit of food for this one.
Ladder crossing leaving the Emmons Shoulder
Once on the top of the cleaver, you be faced with a short climb, then presented with about a 500-600’ descending traverse to the Emmons Shoulder, followed by a series of switchbacks which will put you at a short ladder crossing spanning an open crevasse.  This is the only ladder on the route currently.

Shrund crossing with fixed line visible

The shrund around 13,600’ is becoming fairly hollow and is accompanied with a fixed hand line.  On a busy weekend this will be a zone where we would expect to see a possible bottle neck and a short weight may be required.

Looking towards the Emmons Shoulder. Taken a hundred or so feet above the top of the Cleaver.
There are a couple of fixed lines on the route currently.  We encourage you to inspect the integrity of the picket anchors prior to utilizing them as they tend to melt out during the day.  If they are weighted when they are melted out there id a high likelihood they will fail and the fixed line will become

As we progress through July, keep in mind that glacier conditions are breaking up and snow bridges are thinning and opening.  This means that crevasse fall potential are heightened.  As a traveler in glaciated, YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO EXTRICATE YOUR PARTNER FROM A CREVASSE.  This means carrying the appropriate equipment and knowing how to use it.  Climbing Rangers are looking for your team to be equipped with a rope of adequate length for your rope team, multiple pickets within your group and gear required to rig a raising system.  Everyone should be traveling with helmets, ice axes, crampons etc…

The past couple weekends have been very busy and we have been reaching capacity at our high camps which results in large numbers of climbers on routes like the D.C. and the Emmons.  In order to avoid these busy and sometimes hazardous scenarios, we encourage you to plan a trip to climb during the week, opposed to the weekend.

July is a busy time for Search and Rescue on Mount Rainier.  Please come prepared with the appropriate gear and knowledge for climbing in heavily glaciated terrain and keep an eye out for changing weather.