Sunday, June 25, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver 6/25/2017

Climbing rangers were able to summit on 6/24 and 6/25.  With the recent warmup, climbing conditions on the upper mountain have improved dramatically.  The guide services put in a lot of work Friday and Saturday resetting the route above the cleaver and there is a nice path all the way to the top.  Thanks to their hard work there are currently few difficulties on the route and it is in fantastic shape for this time of year.

 Ascending toward Ingraham Flats.  The Disappointment Cleaver and the upper mountain are visible.

The cleaver itself is still mostly snow covered, however it's melting rapidly with these warm temperatures.  There are several fixed lines lower on the cleaver. These are installed by the guide services and are meant to be used as hand-lines. There is no need to clip in or prusik in to these lines - this will just slow everyone down.  Feel free to use them for balance, but as with any fixed gear on the mountain, it is prudent to inspect them critically before relying on them. Currently there are no ladders and very few open crevasses that need to be crossed directly.

Fixed lines lower on the Disappointment Cleaver route.  In the background you can see the route crosses under 'the icebox'.  This is a hazardous area as it lies directly below an active icefall.  Move quickly through this area and don't stop!

As the cleaver melts out and more rock is exposed, rock fall will become more of a hazard. Climbing rangers observed many climbers without helmets this weekend.  Helmets should be considered essential gear for a climb of Mt. Rainier and should be donned at Camp Muir for the duration of the climb to the summit. Rock and icefall is a hazard on all Rainier climbing routes. Protect your head!

Track log from 6/25/2017 - DC route.  
Once above the cleaver the route traverses north towards the Emmons shoulder and then makes a long traverse back to the southwest toward the upper Nisqually before cutting up to the crater rim. Midway through the traverse to the Emmons there is a large corniced serac that looms ominously over the route.  Watch out for it and avoid lingering under the overhang - eventually it will collapse.  The route may change soon to avoid this feature, but in the meantime treat it as a hazard and mitigate your exposure.

Rangers wait to descend lower on the cleaver to avoid knocking rocks loose on those below.  As the cleaver melts out, rockfall will increase.  Pay attention to where your team is in relation to others and keep your rope short while on the cleaver.  
As we move into July, the number of climbers attempting the DC will increase substantially. Overcrowding on the route can lead to dangerous bottlenecks and a longer time spent on the route. Teams attempting to climb Rainier will do well to prepare in advance by being in good shape physically and by being dialed in their rope transitions.  Be familiar with techniques to switch from glaciated terrain to moving over rock and adjust your rope intervals accordingly. Dragging your rope through the rock sections of the route is dangerous and bad form.  Shorten your rope while on the cleaver so that it is not touching the ground.

Be patient and communicate with other parties while on the route. Communicating with those around you while at camp may also help to alleviate congestion on the route by staggering the time at which parties start climbing, thereby spacing teams out.  And you might make some friends!

Lastly, the snowfield is currently skiing well, but the snow is quickly disappearing around Pebble Creek and Panorama Point.  Remember to stay on snow or on the trails as the fragile alpine meadows reveal themselves and be careful not to trample on the vegetation.  Respect the rope lines and don't duck under them - they are there to prevent erosion!

Let's all have a safe summer climbing season.