Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tahoma Glacier Conditions - 6/27/2017

On 6/27, climbing rangers traveled to 10,000 feet on the Tahoma Glacier via the Puyallup Cleaver.  Here is what they saw.

There were only a couple of spots off of Puyallup cleaver that safely accessed the glacier. Rangers chose a snow ramp at 8200' and belayed across the moat.  This ramp was exposed to rockfall and it might be too melted out in another week or two.  There also looked to be a ramp higher up just below lower St. Andrews Rock that could access the glacier.  Your best bet might be taking that approach, as it's pictured in Gauthier's book, but make sure you stay near the Puyallup Glacier side of the Puyallup Cleaver early on as midway up the cleaver itself is impassable due to steep cliffs around 8500'.

Snow ramp leading onto the glacier at 8200'. 

Once on the glacier routefinding was relatively straightforward but included many crevasse crossings. Most of these could be carefully stepped across, though some of them were 2-3 feet wide and quite deep. End running all of these would be challenging as most of these cracks were very long and numerous.

Things started getting more interesting around 9800' feet where rangers were almost unable to find a way through a particularly broken section of the glacier where wide cracks in numerous orientations block passage.  The few bridges in this section were very thin and unsafe.

9800' on the Tahoma Glacier.
Rangers traversed to a compression zone to the south, or lookers right, side of the glacier and found passage to around 10,000' elevation where they witnessed a very large ice avalanche coming off of the ice cap lookers left of the Sickle.

Large ice avalanche near the Sickle. 

Deciding that the only probable route up the glacier traversed under the Sickle runout zone, it was decided to bail and head south to the Success Cleaver which they climbed.

Track log starting when we stepped onto the glacier at 8200' in the upper left and following our traverse to the Tahoma Cleaver.  

The route on the southern part of Tahoma glacier afforded easier travel, and so would be a better ascent route, coming from Glacier Island.  Be advised that at this point, due to a large crevasse spanning almost the entire upper glacier, the only likely route up the upper Tahoma Glacier puts you on the Sickle before traversing back right, which looks like it has been funneling a lot of ice debris lately.  If attempting this route, make sure things are well frozen, start early, move quickly, and realize there is some unavoidable objective danger that must be traveled through.  At this point the Tahoma Glacier route looks like it's best left to early season 2018 and the Sickle route is definitely a no-go.