Monday, February 27, 2006

Sunset Amphitheater

The Headwall Couloir...

A team of five climbers made a strong attempt on this remote and difficult route a few weeks ago. Here are a few images from one member's website; I'll attempt to sumarize the trip. They decided not to post a report, but did share a few details with me.

The team first noticed that a major section of the Tahoma Creek Trail was destroyed below the suspension bridge/Wonderland Trail. Last fall, glacier outbursts from a heavy rain storm took out some of the westside road and Tahoma Creek Trail. The trail washout, in particular, was rather amazing. The original trail abruptly disappears into a creek bed of gravel, rock and boulders. What was once an old growth forest, moss, downed trees, dense vegatation, is now a creek bed with gigantic trees. The forest floor is buried. In all, about 1/2 mile of the trail is wiped out.

As for the climbing route... The team reported a few problem, the first significant one being a dropped set of tent poles. This would make things difficult later on. Also, and maybe more importantly, they selected a route up St. Andrews Rock that cost them a day of travel... This exposure left them more vulnerable to the changing weather. And that's what happened, wind, snow, /12 a tent, and a snow shelter... It made for an interesting night.

After losing the effectiveness of one tent, and a day of travel, the team reluctantly retreated with plans of returning. Despite not summiting, they felt the route was a go! Here is a closer picture of the Amphitheater and upper Puyallup Glacier.

For more information, see:
a listing of climbs here. These photos are courtesy of Alexandre Mineev

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cold Snap and Frozen Waterfalls

The mountain sustained several days of sub-freezing temperatures between Feb 16th-20th and the trend is expected to continue for the next six days.

During that time numerous frozen waterfalls formed along the Nisqually-Paradise Road. Here are a few images... The approach is rather short, and the ice seems to be getting thicker each day.

It was cold and blustery Friday and Saturday, particularly on the Muir Snowfield. I ran into a number of parties that turned back from their Camp Muir and/or summit plans because of the winds and temperatures. A few hardy groups did make it to Camp Muir on Saturday night, but those east winds and cold temps intensified with elevation and in the end, most parties lost their summit steam. And rightfully so, I recorded -7° F and a steady 20-25 MPH wind at Camp Muir.

On
Feb 10/11th, Ted cleared a mountain of snow at Camp Muir. Thankfully, his handy work was still intact, as access to the Public Shelter, restroom, and emergeny radio remained easy.

Friday, February 17, 2006

ICE...

It dropped to -1°F with 50+ MPH gusts at Paradise last night. The icicles on my house are growing, and I suspect the waterfalls are freezing. If this cold snap keeps up, there will be some ice climbing in the park. Probably in the usual spots above the Nisqually Bridge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Nisqually Icecliff

Here is another image of the upper Nisqually Glacier, with the route lines drawn. The BLUE represents the line Hannah climbed on the Nisqually Icecliff. The PURPLE is a variation on the Nisqually Cleaver, and the GREEN is the standard Nisqually Cleaver Route.

Photo by Gauthier, Feb 12th, 2006.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Feb 2nd conditions

General Information:

There is over 180 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise (5,420 feet.) Since December 21st, it has rained or snow almost every day and Paradise has received over 500 inches of snow for the year (which begins on July 1st.) A series of winter storms has dominated the region and is still depositing a great deal of precipitation on the mountain.

There have no reported successful ascents on the upper mountain. All backcountry travelers should expect, and prepare for, fierce and adverse weather and climbing conditions. Conditions may include high winds, heavy precipitation, low visibility, avalanche, difficult route finding and sub freezing temperatures.

General Climbing Conditions:

At this time, we have no new or current information about the climbing routes or the Muir Snowfield. One team attempted to reach Camp Muir on 1-9-05, but snow caved instead on the Muir Snowfield. The weather was so fierce, the team abandoned their gear and navigated through whiteout and heavy snowfall back to Paradise. Another four person team had a similar experience on Jan 15th and 16th; they too were forced to make an emergency sno
wcave (but were able to retrieve their gear.) There was brief clearing on January 23rd and 24th. During that time, a team did stay at Camp Muir and reported that the public shelter was quite accessible.

Muir Snowfield: The trail is 100% snow covered and there is no established boot path due to a significant of snow and rain.

Gibraltar Chute: A team summited via this route on December 17th. A significant amount of ice-debris from the Nisqually Ice Cliff had to be crossed in order to reach the Chute; otherwise, the approach was straightforward. Excellent climbing conditions were found in the Chute itself - firm/icy snow with good crampon-ing allowed for quick progress. Ice coverage in the hourglass near 11,800 feet was thin. The ascent was direct from top of the Gibraltar Rock to the summit was direct. The team descended Gibraltar Ledges and found them to be mostly melted.

On Dec 11th, teams of climbers attempted both the Gibraltar Ledges and Ingraham Direct. Neither summited; both were turned back due to late morning starts, icy conditions, and broken mountaineering terrain that slowed the ascent. At that time, there was a fair amount of snow below 7,000 feet however the upper mountain looked surprisingly thin. As an example, many of the rocks along the Cowlitz Cleaver, Cadaver and Cathedral Gaps are still exposed (this is not the case now.) Both teams reported a fall into thinly veiled crevasses and each party felt they could have made the summit if they had left earlier and allowed more time for circuitous route finding.

At this time, we have no reports for the Disappointment Cleaver route.