Sunday, August 28, 2022

Disappointment Cleaver Update 8/28

Looking up at the DC from just below Ingraham Flats.

There’s some crisp fall notes in the air this week! A blip of 7000’ freezing levels rolled through and cooled things down.  The route still continues to be in reasonable shape - especially for this time of year! Climbers have been making it to the top with reasonable trip times, mostly due to the direct nature of the route.  Ladders and planks are still in place. The cleaver itself is mostly rock now.  A couple of steep snow fins on the upper mountain and a couple of skeletal glacial ice patches lower down have melted out. Be sure to have the proper mountain boots and crampons for glacial travel.  

Crossing the ladder just before traversing onto the cleaver.

Also, as a reminder, you must do two things before climbing Mount Rainier:

All climbers must pay the fee and each group must have a permit - don’t leave the trailhead without doing both of those things!  While paying the Climbing Fee is pretty straightforward, some of the steps to getting a climbing permit can be a bit confusing, but don’t fret! This late in the season there’s generally plenty of walk-up permits - just come on in and say hi to the rangers and we’ll help you through the process of getting one.  See you on the mountain!  

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Muir Snowfield 8/24

The Muir Snowfield as Viewed from Above Pebble Creek

The route up to Camp Muir is melted out up to the Pebble Creek crossing, and the snowfield above is in generally good shape. There are medium-sized sun cups along the route, and the texture of the snow  varies from soft to firm as you ascend. As the route continues to melt with sun exposure, expect to see an increase in icy patches and crevasses opening up on the snowfield below Camp Muir. Even if your objective is just to climb to camp and return, you may find it handy to bring some sort of traction device for your shoes to provide better footing if needed. 

Trampled ground in Paradise - Make sure to stay on trail!

In some areas on the upper snowfield, glissade tracks are in place which aim directly at rock outcroppings. Make sure to evaluate your path before committing to a track. Glissading climbers and hikers can pick up speed quite quickly! Below the snow line on the Skyline Trail and all throughout Paradise, climbers and hikers walking off track continue to have a huge impact on vegetation in Mount Rainier National Park. While the trails may feel crowded, we do ask that you remain on trail to help protect this fragile ecosystem. Stepping to the side may seem like the easier option, but the impact this has over time lasts far longer than your trip to the Park! All the patches of dirt by the trail you pass by would be covered in greenery if they hadn't been trampled.

Signage marking routes around new construction

There are also some new segments of trail being constructed in Paradise, and some small older sections have been closed off to allow for this. Please make sure to follow any posted signage about these closures.

Emmons Winthrop Update 8/25

Looking up at the route on 8/23/22

The Emmons Winthrop has not seen much, if any, climber traffic in the past few weeks. There were reports of a party which made it to the top of the corridor before turning around. A large and wide crevasse spanning directly above the corridor has proven to be a significant challenge. The Winthrop shoulder is also quite broken, and unlikely to present a better alternative.

There is potential that an alternate route could be taken past the corridor, but with no recent path in place independent decision making and route finding will be crucial for any party deciding to travel this side of the mountain.

Are you comfortable finding your own route and assessing crevasse crossings in terrain without any other groups to follow? Are you willing to turn back at any point if you can't devise a safe route through the terrain you're in? Do you feel comfortable deciding what extra protection is necessary on a route and implementing that for your party?

Make sure you're having an honest check in with your group about these factors before deciding to climb this route at this time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Disappointment Cleaver Update 8/20

A little wild fire haze in the sky 

The past week saw a number of climbers make successful summit climbs on the Disappointment Cleaver route. Conditions on the Disappointment Cleaver route are continuing their march into the late climbing season with more rock exposed and dwindling snowpack. The overall location of the route remains the same as previous weeks, but small route changes and ever thinning crevasse crossings are requiring climbers to remain alert.

As the climbing season wears on, expect the continued use of ladders and planks to stitch together a summit route. Currently ladders are being installed at High Crack just above Ingraham flats. The Ladder at 13100' has been re-positioned to a vertical orientation. A wooden plank has been added at around 13500' and fixed pickets for a running belay exists a 13800' crossing.

The route runs primarily along the spine of the DC.

The Disappointment Cleaver is over 90% rock and travel on it has proven challenging for a number of parties. To ease your time on the cleaver shorten the rope distance between the members of your climbing party while ascending and descending. This makes moving up the lose rocky terrain significantly easier and reduces the chance of causing rockfall.

Cooler weather predicted for the weekend will help hold the mountain together as the 2022 climbing season continues into September.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Emmons Winthrop 8/6


Climbing conditions on the Emmons-Winthrop route remain similar to those detailed in the last post. 

With diminishing climber numbers and evidence of older iterations of the route clearly visible in many places, there is no one clear route up the Emmons Winthrop at this time. Consider taking a tracklog as you ascend.  In some places, older boot packs lead directly to the edges of now widely gaping crevasses. Use caution and evaluate crevasse crossings you decide to take, and take alternate routes if crossings are no longer safely viable. 

Crossings above the corridor continue to erode

There is a series of crevasse crossings above the corridor which have continued to melt out.  Consider  implementing further protection where necessary while making these crossings.

There are still no crevasses visible on the inter glacier, although the snow has continued to melt with warmer temps. It's that time of year for them to become more of an issue, however, so keep an eye out for crevasse hazards - especially while descending.  

Route as viewed from Camp Schurman

Disappointment Cleaver 08/06/2022

Little Tahoma from the top of the Disappointment Cleaver

The Disappointment Cleaver route remains in good condition and saw a lot of successful summits from guide services and independent parties this weekend. The route track has not changed significantly since last week's update.

Disappointment Cleaver route from the top of the cleaver

High freezing levels and calm winds this weekend have led to melting and poor overnight surface condition recoveries. Cathedral Gap and the Disappointment Cleaver are about 50/50 rock and snow at this time. Transitions between rock and snow increase likelihood of catching a crampon. Keep a short rope through rocky sections to protect your rope and minimize chances of knocking rocks on parties below. 

Looking towards Camp Muir from the top of the cleaver

Warm temperatures lead to slushy snow, which is unsupportable and not conducive to self-arresting. Constantly evaluate while climbing and consider fall potential before it happens. Climb early and be rewarded with better conditions. Cooler temperatures returning this week may improve conditions.

Second ladder at 13,100' with handline to the right

There is one ladder on the route at this time, which is a single horizontal ladder with lumber across them. The ladder has a handline spanning them as well.  Handline ropes are intended to be handlines ONLY, clipping or prusiking onto them them will do little or nothing to catch a fall.  Evaluate the anchoring of the ladders, pre-placed running protection, and handlines before use. Picket placements that were secure on the ascent may be melted out by the descent.

To increase security at ladder crossings, consider utilizing running protection and keeping a tight rope between party members. Slack in the rope system leads to longer crevasse falls. 

Congestion on the route at Ingraham Flats

Many of the other routes on the mountain are out-of-condition for the season and climbers are funneling to the Muir corridor. Expect bottlenecks, congestion, and a busy camp. Be patient at technical portions of the route and take strategic breaks. Time your climb around guide services and other independent parties.

Little Tahoma at sunrise

The Disappointment Cleaver route remains in good climbing condition. It has more snow than your typical August ascent and has a fairly direct shot to the summit. Enjoy cooler temperatures returning this week and have a great climb!

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Emmons 8/2


Emmons/Winthrop as viewed from Steamboat Prow

The Emmons/Winthrop route still remains navigable. Crevasse bridges, especially above the Coridoor are weakening and separating.  Previous iterations of bootpacks are visible but some exist on bridges that are not currently viable crossings given the warm weather. Use caution and understand that your party may need to route find while climbing or descending.  The general flavor of the route remains similar to the last Emmons post.  Climbers are still traversing to Liberty Saddle, and crevasses are opening wider along the route.

Travel from Schurman to Emmons Flats and accessing the Corridor is relatively straight forward and no ablated glacier ice is visible yet.

No crevasses are visible on the Inter Glacier, although snow-line is slowly creeping uphill towards the lower nunatak and will most likely be disappearing in the next few weeks if the temperatures remain warm.

Looking up towards the Inter Glacier

2021 vs 2022 Glacier Comparison

2022 brought unseasonably late spring weather with a lot of precipitation. It is amazing how different the mountain looks now compared to this time last year. Here are a few photos to compare how the east side of Camp Muir and the Emmons-Withrop route looked in 2021 vs 2022.

Emmons-Wintrop Route August 3rd 2021

Emmons-Winthrop Route August 3rd 2022

East side of Camp Muir August 3rd 2021

East side of Camp Muir August 3rd 2022

It is easy to see that the Emmons-Winthrop and the Disappointment Cleaver routes are holding up well as we get into August! In recent years by early August, the Emmons-Winthrop route has become very indirect, glacier ice has been present, and there has been increased exposure to crevasses. However, this year things are still hanging in there! The Emmons-Winthrop Route has minimal adjuncts, and it is still fairly straight up the mountain. On the Disappointment Cleaver side in past years, even the access onto the DC has become difficult and exposed to rockfall. Crevasse and route-finding problems on the Ingraham Headwall have contributed to long routes with many ladders and adjuncts through, around, and over serac problems. Overall, this year has had great climbing conditions even though the climbing season started a little later in the year than normal. 

Monday, August 01, 2022

Disappointment Cleaver 7/31

The Disappointment Cleaver is still in good shape, however, warm temperatures are impacting snow stability.  Slushy snow isn't as strong as "coral reef" snow!

Descent Track From 7/31

We are still in the midst of long period of high-pressure, resulting in freezing levels hovering between 15,000 - 17,000ft in elevation for nearly the past two weeks. While this has led to some beautiful days in the mountains with great visibility, it also means that the route is changing rapidly and climbing conditions are quite variable.

Traverse onto the Disappointment Cleaver

The Cleaver is still quite snow-covered for the beginning of August, however snow is melting daily and quickly exposing underlying rock. Late morning and afternoon temperatures have led to unsupportive, often shallow snow. This can make the descent more challenging and easier to snag crampons on unseen rocks. 

Be heads up for other parties above and below you, especially when on the Disappointment Cleaver itself. The initial traverse onto the Cleaver as well as bare patches of rock on the cleaver are greatly susceptible to rockfall from other parties above. 

Cracks opening up above the cleaver

Wands crossing off old route around 13,100 feet

There are a number of route changes in the past week that avoid suspect snow bridges. Many of these are marked with wands to deter climbers from getting sucked into older variations. While these route aids are nice when they are present, climbers are encouraged to analyze their decisions when picking the best route. Don’t blindly follow the path most traveled. Consider options to end-run hollow bridges, take a different path, or if it’s not feeling right head back to camp. The mountain will always be here!

Ladder around 13,100 feet

The handline and ladder pictured above was one of two total on the route on 7/31. There is a multitude of "fixed" pickets on the route. If your party chooses to use these, please check each placement. Rangers do not maintain fixed protection on the routes, and with warm temperatures many of these route adjuncts can melt out providing little protection.