Thursday, July 28, 2022

Emmons-Winthrop Update 07/26/2022

Emmons-Winthrop climbing route from Camp Schurman

Independent parties and guide services are successfully summiting via the Emmons-Winthrop route this week despite the heat advisory. The heat is making travel conditions challenging and have resulted in a longer and more demanding route.

Tracklog of Emmons-Winthrop descent from 07/23/2022

With the current heat advisory, Mount Rainier saw 17,000 foot freezing levels today.  The high freezing level and relatively calm winds are adding up to poor overnight snow-surface condition recoveries.  While the snow surface may be frozen during early morning hours, conditions deteriorate rapidly, and travel has been challenging on the Inter Glacier and the Corridor in the afternoon sun. Snow bridges are softening and crevasses crossings are becoming more interesting. Icefall and rockfall have been calving off Russell Cliff and the Womb all night, reminding climbers of the melting occurring above them.

There are two crevasse crossings between the corridor and the alpine meadows that are giving climbers some difficulty. The first crevasse is wide with a soft snow bridge spanning it. Independent climbing parties reported a body sized hole in this snow bridge and a subsequent self-rescue. 

The second crevasse above the corridor was reported to have a fallen bridge. Independent parties were following the boot pack and jumping across this crevasse on their descent. It is difficult to judge the distance with tired eyes and difficult to execute a jump with tired legs. Jumping across crevasses is not a good idea, especially with crampons on. A caught crampon combined with the forward velocity of a jump can easily break a leg. If unable to step across a crevasse, it may be time to utilize your contingency plan. Guide services reported chopping a step in this crevasse to more easily step across it.  Consider placing running protection above crevasse crossings to help prevent pulling the entire team into the crevasse.

At 13,000 feet, there is no snow bridge allowing a direct crossing over the bergschrund. The route traverses hard climber's right to the Liberty Saddle to end run it.

Rangers crossing a poorly-bridged crevasse using running protection to manage fall risk in consequential terrain

Snow bridges that were crossable during the ascent may no longer be supportable or present on the descent. Think about contingency plans on the climb up. What will your party do if a bridge is gone on your way down? Have you already examined the crevasse from camp the afternoon before? Can you end run it? Can you find an alternate descent? Can you use other skills to get across? The safest contingency plan may be to climb back up to the summit and descend the Disappointment Cleaver route. Leave enough gas in the tank to do so. Bonus vertical is not fun, but neither is a shiver-bivy.

Climb at night, plan for a longer route, make conservative decisions, develop contingency plans early, and have a great climb.