Mount Rainier - Curtis RidgeDate:
Over the years a few folks have asked me about our climb on Curtis Ridge. Last night I finally dug out what slides I have from the climb and have scanned them in for folks to enjoy and think about over the winter.
We more or less took 2.5 days for the climb. We started at White River and did the usual approach to St. Elmos's Pass. We crossed the Winthrop Glacier which brings one to the broad expanse of Curtis Ridge. From there most folks keep heading west over to the Carbon Glacier. We instead headed up hill. The first part is mostly plodding along except there is one slope that is avalanche prone. That was self evident with a wet slide. We pretty much kept to the Winthrop side of the ridge until it finally became a ridge in the true sense.
Maybe 30 minutes later after wandering along the top of the ridge we hit the infamous point of no return rappel. The rap is on the Carbon Glacier side of the ridge and is may be 75 in length (snow dependent). The rap brings you down on a slope that drops down to the Carbon. From here were stayed mostly on the Carbon side traversing around little gendarmes along the way. Much of the climbing was straight forward with some exposed 4th class moves on the rock.
Just before a large gendarme at around 10,300' is a nice bivy on the Winthrop side of the ridge. It is a nice bivy with great views of those over on the Emmons.
In the morning we took off and walked along the ridge until we got to the aid crack. We bypassed it on the right and continued up on snow until we got to a steep 15' section of rotten snow and ice. After getting up through it we continued along the based of the first step for another 100' or so. At that point we found a ramp that we could cut back left on and after 25' of 4th class climbing we found ourselves on the on the top of the first step. Our route was not the Wickwire variation but not far from it.
The first snow field was pretty easy climbing and we climbed diagonally from right to left to bypass a small rock band. From there we traversed back right until we could step through the second band via a few 3rd class moves. The Second snow field was again pretty easy climbing with a bit of ice. And like before we climbed diagonally from right to left into the exit ramp.
At one point I remember climbing a thin section of ice and rock to gain the exit ramp. From there it was cloudy and we could not see much. Things seems like they dead ended but we kept moving diagonally up and to the left. Eventually an exit gully was found that cut up and right which brought us to the top of the ridge at about 12,500'.
From here is an easy plod to the summit wandering among some crevasses. As it was now a white out we kept the Russell Cliff insight as reference. We forewent the summit as it was a complete white out on top along with high winds.
We eventually met up with some other climbers coming from Liberty Cap. We ended up holing up for a bit before the clouds lifted and we could get out of there. We could have make it out of there sooner but we forgot one key part - when traversing from Liberty Cap directly over to the Emmons descent one needs to go up hill for a bit. Otherwise you run into seracs on the Winthrop that are difficult to traverse around. In the white out we missed this key feature.
After descending the Winthrop to the Emmons we bivied at Camp Sherman for the night and walked out to White River the next morning.
Looking down the lower slopes of Curtis Ridge
Bivy on Curtis Ridge ~10,300'
Bivy by the Gendarme on Curtis Ridge ~10,300' (Note this photo is in Gaiter's book)
Heading towards the exit gullies on upper Curtis Ridge ~11,800'
Traversing into the exit gullies on upper Curtis Ridge ~12,000'Gear Notes:
Couple of screws, pickets, and nuts
The 75' aid pitch now goes free.Approach Notes:
Start at White River to St Elmos's Pass. After crossing the Winthrop Glacier head up the broad slopes of Curtis Ridge (some avy danger).