Sunday, February 12, 2006

Summit Success

The weather was so good that I had a hard time coming down from Camp Muir. What was supposed to be an overnighter turned into a five-day excursion.

We arrived at Camp Muir on Wednesday despite unexpected rain, whiteout, snow and high winds. Making matters more interesting, the Muir Snowfield was a complete ice rink. That made skinning very difficult; crampons were, by far, the footwear of choice.

Like the snowfield, Camp Muir was all ice, which covered deep snow. There were three climbers camped in the public shelter waiting for the weather to break. They had attempted the ledges the night before, but left too late and had to turn back. The team reported firm/Styrofoam snow and ice all the way up the Cowlitz Glacier.

The weather improved that night, so we considered climbing the Nisqually Icefall the next day (Thursday). Like the other team, we too left late (1 PM) and due to the very warm temperatures prudently turned back upon spying a large avalanche tumble down the Nisqually Cleaver.

The three climbers in the Public Shelter decided to attempt the summit again, however this time via the Ingraham Direct. They climbed the right side of the Ingraham Glacier, and ran out of steam around 12,600 feet. Once again, they reported firm snow and ice, excellent cramponing.

I spent the better part of Thursday afternoon and Friday (with Ted, famous sledder of the Muir Snowfield) digging buildings out around camp. As of Sunday the 12th, there was excellent access to the public shelter, pit toilet, emergency radio and NPS facilities.

During the trip to Muir, I did take a jaunt to 12K on the Ingraham Glacier. We found firm snow and some ice (particularly near Cathedral Gap.) The most "crevasse free" path was on climbers right of the Ingraham Glacier. The center looked tempting, but had a HUGE crevasse around 11,700 feet. Though there has been a lot of snow this winter, I was impressed by the number of big crevasses still open on the Ingraham. And yes, the Ingraham Direct is in.

The high point of the weekend was that a climber reached the summit! That climber was a female soloist and she ascended the Nisqually Icecliff. Some consider this a major mountaineering feat on Mount Rainier. I’ll post more details on that trip soon!