Thursday, August 22, 2019

Disappointment Cleaver Update 8/21/19

Morning sunrise above Little Tahoma from the Disappointment Cleaver

 Largely unchanged since the last route update on 08/16/19, the Disappointment Cleaver route continues to climb well even as crowds begin to die down on the upper mountain. Compared to recent years, climbing conditions along the DC remain quite nice with diminishing traffic, minimal to non existent smoke and a fairly direct route to the summit. Although the long term forecast calls for high pressure and warm temps, we are already beginning to see the first signs of late season weather. A brief, yet intense storm blew in earlier this week, dropping freezing levels nearly 6,000 ft. and driving rain, whiteout and 60mph winds across the mountain.

Evidence of large icefall and objective hazard in the Icebox above Ingraham Flats.
To echo the previous posting, rockfall and icefall continue to be the main hazards along the route. Group management, appropriate rest locations and efficient travel through hazardous zones are our best tools for managing the hazards that we can't totally mitigate or avoid. Once onto the spine of the cleaver itself, teams should remember to manage their ropes so as to not be travelling in glacier mode while on rock. There are many ways to manage your ropes through rocky terrain so try to come prepared or feel free to ask a climbing ranger while in camp.
Upper mountain looking from the top of the Disappointment Cleaver. If you look carefully, you'll notice the bottle neck of climbers around the ladder at 13,000'.
 With the busiest weekends of the year behind us, crowds and bottlenecks are becoming much more manageable. Although there is only one ladder on the route, brief delays are still a reality as teams try to manage the obstacle. From the top of the cleaver, you can look up and right roughly 600 ft. to assess how many teams might be stacked up or negotiating the ladder. The guide services are efficient in their travel but they do climb in groups of 12. Providing for appropriate spacing along the route can help to ease congestion for everyone.

Vertical ladder located approximately 13,000'. Many teams have been opting to backup their team via a quick belay on the way back down the ladder. 
Despite being fairly unexposed, the nature of climbing a ladder at 13,000 ft. with crampons, heavy packs and tired legs makes it easy to understand why some groups take some time getting through. There remain two fixed lines to either side of the ladder as well as mulitiple lines to secure it in place. Teams should consider backing up their partners for the descent via a quick belay or backup on one of the fixed line. These are skills your group should know ahead of time or practice while in camp rather than on-sighting in the field.
Photo of the current route, largely unchanged from the last post on 8/16/19
With a brief lull in the weather over the upcoming weekend, climbing conditions look promising into the last week of August. Moving ahead into September, climbers can expect to find nice conditions for climbing the DC but should ensure that they come prepared for the weather to take a turn. Contingency equipment such as a stove, gps, bivy/tent, sleeping bag and pad are critical items that can make the difference if caught off guard by weather.