Monday, July 30, 2007

Excitement at Camp Muir

Camp Muir was a popular place this weekend, perhaps because the weather was so good and all of the extra promotion on this blog. On Saturday, there was a steady cadence of day hikers, climbers and skiers/boarders ascending the snowfield to give mountain-type praise to Rainier. Most, it seemed, left the park quite satisfied.

I spent the weekend at Camp Muir and checked out Rainier's primary climbing route. It had been a month since last I was there, and I kept hearing these crazy rumors about gnarly crevasse crossings involving sketchy ladders. Well, those rumors were indeed true. As you can see above, my friend Bob Murphy works his way across a downward leaning, left angling ladder that BARELY touched both sides of the crevasse. Our team ended up turning back at the next "laddered" crevasse crossing because the uphill end of the ladder didn't reach the snow on the other side - whoa... It was suspended mid-air, by tauntly-pulled cordage attached to snow pickets!

The important take-home news is that climbing the Disappointment Cleaver is over, for now... Most teams are reaching the summit from Camp Muir via the Emmons Glacier. This involves dropping climbers right from Ingraham Flats and traversing below the Cleaver onto the Emmons Glacier. There are some pros and cons to this "new" and longer route, but my thoughts are that this variation will come as welcome news to most of you. First off, the the route is quite scenic. Moreover, it doesn't include the DC rock scramble and avoids that wild crevasse network above the cleaver that appeared to me to be an accident waiting to happen.

Regarding accidents: there was another rescue this weekend and again the incident was minor and quickly resolved. While descending from the summit, an RMI client took a spill and dislocated his shoulder. Thankfully, he did not lose control or pull anyone into a crevasse. The accident led to a speedy lowering from the guides to roughy 11K, where a helicopter could evacuate the injured man.

I watched with unique interest as almost every climber in base camp paused and stared as the CH 47 Chinook Helicopter lumbered by enroute for the Ingraham Glacier. The pick-off went smoothly, largely due to the U.S. Army and the response from the RMI guides. That said, the sight of the Chinook was an interesting "shot across the bow" for many hopeful summiteers planning the next day's adventure.

Thank you Paul Charlton for stepping in yesterday... Photos by Mike Gauthier. 1. Bob Murphy crossing a crevasse near 12,400 feet above the DC; 2. Climbers approaching Ingraham Flats; 3. Gapping crevasses above the sea of clouds, as viewed from new Emmons variation of the DC route.