Friday, June 09, 2017

Little Tahoma June 8th, 2017

Summit ridge
       Climbing rangers were able to get out of Camp Muir on Wednesday before the incoming low pressure to check out route conditions on Little T. Fortunately, the weather held and it made for a pleasant day of climbing to the summit and back. The plan was to drop from Camp Muir down the Cowlitz Glacier, across the Ingraham, up the Whitman and onto the SE ridge of Little T. 

       As we had hoped, dropping down the Cowlitz was fairly straight forward. Parties can avoid the vast majority of cracks by hugging the east side of the glacier as you descend roughly 1,600 ft. A mellow ridge crossing will get you onto the Ingraham Glacier at 8,600'. Try to maintain elevation as you contour across the Ingraham. There are many tight, parallel crevasses here so careful route finding is essential. Once across the Ingraham Glacier, a large snow ramp will allow you to gain the ridgeline that separates the Whitman from the Ingraham. Currently, the rock step exiting the snow ramp necessitates 8 ft. of climbing before leading to easier scrambling. As things continue to melt out, this step will undoubtedly become higher and the presence of a moat may create issues. 

Hogsback/rock band as you exit the Ingraham onto the Whitman.
            Route finding up the Whitman is fairly straight forward as this glacier is not so broken as the others. 400' of climbing will place you onto a large bench at the base of the SE face of Little T. This offers a good view of the rest of your climb. Two large cracks on the west side of the upper Whitman will push you to the climbers right as you ascend.  It is worth noting that the upper pitches of the snow here (9,800-10,800 ft.) are quite sun cupped and not ideal for skiing.

Looking up at Little T from the approach on the Whitman. Notice the two cracks on the upper left of the photo.
          Near the top of the Whitman, there is an obvious exit gully on the climbers left just below 10,800 ft. Although the climbing through the gully is not super strenuous, the amount of loose blocks may warrant protecting this section with ropes and gear. There is a slung horn at the top of the gully that can be used for belaying your second and/or lowering/rappelling on the way down. Always be sure to inspect the integrity of permanent anchors before using them.

4th class scramble off of the Whitman glacier and onto the SE ridge
Maneuvering through another small snow patch and up a short section of 3rd class rock will get you to the summit ridge. An exposed/airy traverse allows a great opportunity for a pitch or two of climbing. The rock can be quite rotten in this section so a few slung horns and careful hold selection is most helpful. Be sure to place gear for your follower here as a pendulum fall could be nasty. Enjoy the views down onto the Emmons and back east to White River. Descend the route, ensuring proper belays/lowers/rappels are utilized based on your teams personal comfort level.

Track log from Camp Muir to Little T summit
             Climbing the 3rd tallest peak in the state is a worth while outing and offers an excellent opportunity to test your skills on both glacier and rock. If you are looking for a climb with a bit more solitude and variety compared to the DC or the Emmons, Little Tahoma might be worth your time. Keep in mind that route conditions are bound to change as summer progresses and things continue to melt out. Safe climbing!