Saturday, May 27, 2017

Liberty Ridge 5/27/2017

Thanks to IMG guide Justin Merle for the follow Liberty Ridge report!

"IMG Liberty Ridge climb May 22-26th: 

We climbed over the course of 5 days, Monday through Friday last week.

Approach: May 22-23.  We experienced generally deep sloppy isothermal snow with good warm temps and great weather (freezing level 13,000 ft) as we approached the base of the ridge.  Boot pen was ankle to knee deep over these two days (we spent our first night at St Elmo Pass).  We were certainly envious of our buddies who passed us on skis, but we were happy to not be carrying snowshoes later.  Easy travel up the Carbon took us to the base of the Ridge--only having cross over a few crevasses.  There are currently a couple good options for route selection to the base of the ridge and it seems like they will last awhile.  We camped at the base of the Ridge on the Carbon to wait out the high winds Tuesday night. 

* Photo: Justin Merle, IMG guide.  Blue showing the access taken by their team, yellow showing an alternate route they discussed.

Liberty Ridge: On Wednesday the 24th we started toward thumb rock around 10:30 am as the winds began to drop.  We gained the ridge easily a couple hundred feet up on the west side.  The freezing level was now at 4000ft and the west side of the ridge had good firm cramponing.  We transitioned to the east side of the ridge about halfway to Thumb Rock and found deeper generally secure wet snow.  Harder trail breaking but good secure travel.  Occasionally it was firm and less secure but still good cramponing.

Photo: Justin Merle, IMG guide, showing the approach to Liberty Ridge.

There was plenty of snow at Thumb Rock and easy digging, so we made a large platform for our three EV 2 tents and rested up for the big day Thursday.  We saw no rockfall  while at Thumb Rock (thanks cold temps!).

Upper Ridge:  May 25th. We left for our summit day in good cold and generally calm conditions at 3:45 am.  We climbed west out of Thumb rock and found great, bootable cold snow.  Hard work kicking steps made for secure steps for those behind the leader.  We transitioned back to the east side of the ridge a couple hundred feet below the top of the Black Pyramid.  There was firm, less secure snow and a little ice as we crossed the crest back to the east, where we again found softer snow and more secure travel.  The ice patch above the Black pyramid had grown as the high winds the day before scoured away a bunch of the snow that our friend had easily booted up on Tuesday. 

We tried to pass the ice on the left, but the snow cover became thin and we placed a couple screws and made a 50m pitch to cross back into secure snow.  From their we continued up into the basin below the 'shrund with great snow travel conditions.  We passed the 'shrund easily in the middle with 8' of 85 degree neve climbing.  Above the 'schrund we lost vis as a cap-cloud formed.  We made 3 more 50m pitches on good, moderately steep snow to get to easier glacier terrain below Liberty Cap by 11:30 am.  We navigated from Liberty cap to Columbia Crest with no vis in the icy cloud with light snow and descended the well-wanded DC/Ingraham direct route to Muir by 5pm."

Justin Merle