The weather was pretty much perfect on the upper mountain last Thrusday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Clear, cold, and calm. As the attached images will show, the Nisqually Basin routes (Icefall, Cleaver, Icecliff and Chute) all looked pretty good.
Nisqually Icecliff, on Saturday a solo climber successfully climbed the route. This marked the first summit for Mount Rainier in 2006, and a rather significant achievement for the climber, Hannah Carrigan.
Carrigan, headed out towards the Nisqually Basin around dawn, considering both the Icecliff or the Cleaver route. The Cleaver was tempting, but looked thin and icy (particularly near the high traverse up on the Cleaver itself.) The Icecliff also looked hard and thin in places, but doable considering the winter snowload. In the end, she opted for the Icecliff.
Carrigan reported firm snow and ice for much of the route. There were a number of difficult problems to negotiate. One section of the icecliff required commitment to both ice tools while traversing and climbing. Getting across the Bergshrund at the base of the cliff also required technical climbing. One notable comment was that slots, crevasses, and steep sections viewed from below, grew substantially in size once on scene.
After passing the technical secions in the Icecliff, Carrigan then ascended the upper Nisqually Glaciers to the crater rim and Columbia Crest. She reported a number of open crevasses on the upper Nisqually and Ingraham glaciers. Despite the deep snowpack below 10K, there still seems to be some gapping crevasses up high.
Carrigan descended the Gibraltar Ledges back to Camp Muir. An excellent solo journey on a big mountain in the winter, Good Job Hannah!
Gibraltar Ledges, a few climbers have reported STELLAR conditions on this classic Rainier winter route. They stated that the route has more snow and ice than normal. The traverse along the ledge, and chute were particular hard and icy. This makes for excellent climbing, but also increases the difficulty. Climbers should bring pickets AND a few ice screws.
Ingraham Direct, there is some ice going through Cathedral Gap, but nothing too daunting. Once past the Flats, climbers have been ascending the right side of the glacier up to the top the Disappointment Cleaver. Though no teams have summited this route, it looks as though the route does go.