Friday, April 21, 2006

Gibraltar Ledges and Ingraham Glacier Direct Route Conditions

Two teams attempted these routes this week. Tuesday at Camp Muir, two climbers departed in the morning hoping to climb the Ingraham Direct. The pair made it to 13K before turning around. They reported knee deep snow the entire way up the Ingraham Glacier. They also reported several crevasse crossings, most of which went smoothly. They stated that the bridges were in good shape and most were easy to cross. That said, one of the pair did take a crevasse fall at 13K... After a day of kicking steps in deep snow, the pair decided to descend after the crevasse fall. Gibraltar Ledges was attempted on Wednesday by a soloist (carrying skis). He reported knee deep snow on the Cowlitz Glacier up to the beginning of the ledges. The snow on the Cowlitz was described as powdery, underneath a crust of varying thickness, but "thin" overall. On the ledges, the climber experienced a lot of soft, sugary snow... Sometimes even waist deep. It took over 2.5 hours to traverse and climb the ledges. After pushing through what you get when you "open a bag of cane sugar," upward progress seemed futile. He turned around at 12,500 feet (about 3/4 of the way up the chute). It took over an hour to descend the ledges, as the footing was still quite challenging. There is a boot path up the Muir Snowfield. The weather is supposed to be excellent this weekend. Photo by Mike Gauthier, climber ascending Gib Ledges before the traverse and chute.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Liberty Ridge - Spring Ascent

A team of 3 Midwest climbers set their sites on Liberty Ridge last week... and for the second reported time in 2006, climbers made it again to the summit of Rainier. Erik Beeler, Neal Mueller and Isaac Will pushed through deep snow, high winds, whiteouts, steep ice, 5th class rock and even a moonlit night so that they could top out of Mount Rainier's classic of line. The wintry conditions took more out of the team than expected. In particular, areas of really deep snow became troubling and time consuming. They had intended to spend three nights on route, but needed FIVE and were forced to bivy near 13,000 feet. In this close up image of the upper route, green dots represent the high camps and bivies and the blue sections represent areas of difficulty or belays. It's interesting to note that the team took the far right variation out of Thumb Rock. Neal made it clear that "some deep snow" was not going to thwart their summit efforts. A mix of Midwest pride and fortitude pushed the men through the exhausting conditions. And yes, they did wonder about avalanches... They started late the 1st day and spent the night along the trail in the snow. The 2nd night found them near the access to the Carbon, 7,200 feet. It was up to Thumb Rock for the 3rd and 4th night. Isaac stated that the extra night was needed because,
"As soon as we started to set up camp, my body started to let me know exactly what I had done to it... I threw up before I got in the tent, and... three more times before I could get some Power Gels and water to stay down. I didn't have a headache and I was not concerned it was AMS. The weather was not perfect and when we woke up at 0500. I said I could use another day to recover. They all agreed a rest day was in order so we stayed in the tent all day long."
After a recovery, the team climbed a major portion of the upper route. The 5th night was pitched at a bivy site above 13,000 feet. At that camp, Issac described setting anchors into the rock for fear of either being blown or avalanched off the mountain. Thankfully, neither happened. They belayed two pitches of alpine ice (one was described as 15 fee of WI 4) to reach Liberty Cap. After finding a few crevasses the hard way between Liberty Cap and the summit, the team cautiously descended to Camp Schurman. They spent a final night in the hut, but only after digging it out. Somehow, the door had blown open during the winter and for the most part, the hut was filed with snow... The team intends to post a trip report on summitpost and cascadeclimbers. You can also find information on Neal Mueller's website. Successfully climbing Liberty Ridge is quite an achievement this time of year, congratulations and thanks for your help digging out the Camp Schurman hut! Also, thanks to Pandora for sharing her image here.

Liberty Ridge Climb in April

Three climbers from MN climbed Liberty Ridge this week. I spoke with the team and have the initial report. More details later today. This photo of Liberty Ridge was taken a few years ago during the month of May. Photo by Mike Gauthier