During our recent spell of high pressure a group of local climbers made a rare winter ascent of the Tahoma Glacier and ski descent from the summit. Thanks to Doug Daniell for the report and photos.
I climbed and skied the Tahoma Glacier with a group of four from Seattle
on January 19-21. I wanted to share some conditions information and
beta for a winter approach from the west side of the mountain. We began
our ascent on the 19th from the Westside Road closure near the park
entrance. We were able to skin from the car (~2150') although coverage
was a few inches at best. We eventually joined Tahoma Creek and except
for a few creek crossings found easy travel. Camped to the west of
Glacier Island on a calm, mild night. On the 20th we skinned up on firm
snow to the glacier, passed a few icefalls on the right, and then
traversed left at 9K to a smooth ramp that led to camp at 10K. Enjoyed a
beautiful sunset and alpenglow on the slopes above.
Sometime before 5am on the 21st we roped up, dropped down to the
north to avoid some looming seracs, and then navigated crevasses and ice
debris to the base of Sickle. We decided on this variation to avoid
what looked like large swaths of glare ice on the main Tahoma. In the
Sickle we found good travel on shallow wind-packed powder and firmer
styrofoam, with patches of ice globs especially higher on the route.
Beautiful Rainier shadow at sunrise though we remained in the cold
ourselves. Brought pickets/screws but none were used. Definitely not a
route to tackle with much avy danger - saw lots of evidence of sluffs
and maybe a well-weathered crown or two. The rest of the way to the
summit was a slog as usual. Great views from Jefferson to Baker, though
the Puget Sound was covered in fog and clouds.
The ski down was a hodgepodge of snow conditions - terrible off the
summit, some nice smooth patches below Liberty saddle, fun steep skiing
through the Sickle, thousands of feet of wind-effect down the glacier,
and then occasionally breakable crust down to the creek. Three of us
completed the full descent and one had a major binding failure high on
the route that entailed lots of walking and some improvised ski-strap
solutions to get out by 10pm.
snowmobiles are allowed from the road closure on 410 to White River
Campground, Remember to self-register before your climb or overnight
stay whatever your route may be.