Monday, August 05, 2019

Emmons-Winthrop Update 07/30/2019

Sunset over the Puget Sound from Camp Schurman
On Tuesday, July 30th, Rangers climbed the Emmons Route from Camp Schurman. The route is in decent shape, but will see deterioration in the coming weeks in a few key locations. The current primary hazard of the route is the crossing into Emmons Flats from Camp Schurman. The Emmons Flats are a common site for groups to set up camp in an area with a bit more of a "wilderness" feel.  Getting into Emmons Flats requires crossing through a convoluted series of crevasses with thin snow bridges. While these bridges were generally firm in the morning, climbers were consistently punching through in the afternoon hours. A potential work-around may exist, but has yet to be pioneered.

Above the Emmons Flats, a well-established boot pack rises through the Corridor to approximately 11,000 feet.  Here, the boot pack currently parallels large crevasses that run up and down hill. It is important to remember that glaciers are fluid and they will form crevasses wherever the tension in the ice is great enough.  This means that crevasses can exist both parallel and perpendicular to a summit bound track depending on how the glacier is moving. 

Looking down at Camp Schurman from the traverse onto the Corridor (approx. 10,600).

Approaching the next major crevasse at 11,800 feet, climbers must traverse through another convoluted bit of broken terrain that includes an ice bulge.  Consider taking ice screws to protect this section.  Using pickets or screws as a belay is always a good idea when fall consequences become severe and an ice axe arrest may be difficult.  Remember, a proper risk assessment for climbing includes a consideration of the likelihood and consequences of a fall.  While likelihood may be low because the climbing is easy, high consequences alone can dictate the need for a more prudent risk mitigation strategy.

Snow bridge over a gaping crevasse near 11.800'
At 11,800 feet there is a steep, arching snow bridge over a large crevasse.  This was fairly stable over the weekend but summer temperatures are in the forecast and things may change.

Above this crevasse the route is quite straight forward.  There is another steep section where a fall in firm conditions would result in rapid acceleration.  This is followed by a traverse under a large serac to Liberty Saddle.  The final push to the summit from is just about putting one foot in front of the other without breathing too hard or sweating too much! As always, the summit is only half way.  Be sure to keep your head on straight for the descent as this is where most accidents occur as fatigue takes its toll.

All in all, the mountain is in average shape for this time of year.  Go climb the mountain with skill and preparation, and get its good tidings!