Since reading other's TR's helped us plan our trip, I felt a bit obliged to post something even though from 2 weeks ago. From reading the recent posts it sounds like we squeaked by about as late in the season as I would ever care to try the LR. Sorry about the length but didn't want to rewrite it.
We left the White River Campground around 11:30 AM on June 20th. As we started to cross an open area of snow, my climbing partner, Carter, punched through the snow and disappeared. Suddenly I realized that he is in the creek and I can’t see him. I start calling for him and look downstream for more open holes thinking that he has been pushed that direction. I don’t see any at all and I instantly think of ways to get him out. Before I can take action, he answers and says he’s alright and stands up in the hole. Finally found a small hole next to where he fell and manage to get his pack and then him out of the water. We walk upstream a few yards and find a place to pull everything out, dry off, and change shoes.
St. Elmo’s Pass seems obvious due to the old highway of boot tracks. The Winthrop Glacier looks mighty wide and the trail appears to continue forever toward the Curtis Ridge. We traverse around Curtis Ridge and are feeling whipped by the time we get to the edge of the Carbon Glacier and what I suppose was Camp Curtis at around 8:30 PM.
Down on the Carbon Glacier, roped up by 5:30 AM. The line up to the Thumb Rock bivy site looks straightforward and up we go on some 45-50 degree snow/ice. About halfway to two-thirds up rocks come whizzing down from above and we manage to dodge them except for one about 8” in diameter that gets a glancing shot on my leg and pops off my crampon. Now that I’ve seen the quality of rock on the ridge, I can’t believe there is not more rockfall than we saw. [Apparently the same area where a climber was hit by rock fall a few days later on the 25th.] We got to Thumb Rock about 9:30 AM and found an Australian couple there who were spending their second rest day.
Left the campsite about 1:30 AM and traversed out climber’s right to the farther of two gullies headed up. You could hear slides coming down as things froze higher up. Simul-climbed up one rope length and ran into a serac/icefall but walked around and climbed up and over a small fissure. I watched one big piece of ice fall and pulverize in the moonlight to the far right of me and felt relieved that it wasn’t on our route. Ten minutes later, I thought I heard something very similar but was focused on adjusting my headlamp when I heard Carter yell something. I looked up and saw the huge cloud of ice and snow headed down above me and it looked as though it would continue on down to the right of our position. However, it just kept getting closer and I was moving to the left and up as fast as I could to avoid it. The initial blast hit me hard enough to lift my legs up but my picks stuck. I gasped but realized that all I wasn’t getting any air, just powdered ice. Another wave of force hit me and I slid or was pushed down a few feet but my axes grabbed again. Chunks of ice hit me in the leg, shoulder, and side of my head but what I was really concerned about at the time was trying to take a breath. It seemed to just keep coming, but finally slowed until I could breathe and relax. It was gone as suddenly as it came. [From Carter: I heard the crash of the ice coming off and immediately realized this one was overhead, not across the wall. I started yelling to Kirt who was more directly under the fall line. The avalanche took a lot longer to reach us than I would have expected. I had time to set my feet and axe twice, and then wait with my head buried for the jerk of the rope since I expected Kirt to get hit pretty hard. After the main crash had passed I looked down to see the rope disappear into a cloud of ice dust at least 40 feet high. But the rope had not gone taut and luckily, Kirt was not seriously hurt. Lesson: go left at Thumb Rock young man. ]
Continuing up through some jumbled rocks and mixed snow and ice we reach the Pyramid which is more nasty rock held together by dried mud. We are sure that the Australians are below us and we feel terrible about raining rocks down on them but you can’t move or take a step without freeing more small rocks which quickly approach terminal velocity on the steep snow. We climb out left onto the main snowfield which looked so long and wide from below. In places the snow is nearly ice and there are sections that have to be front-pointed but it could be much worse because there are long sections with nice steps and styrofoam snow. I can see a party of three up above us getting ready to do the “Cap” of Liberty Cap. A few hundred feet of grunt slogging leads us just below the group as they seem to be belaying each small pitch. We simul-climb the ice below the Cap with Carter interspersing a few screws now and then. The visibility has gone way down and the wind conversely way up. On the Cap we pull out the map, GPS and compass to get a heading towards the saddle between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest, the true summit. Things clear up enough to see our surrounding as we approach the Saddle and we can see the group that was ahead of us looking very indecisive about heading down the first glacier Southeast of the saddle. We climb up and around some spots along the way and stay around 13,600 ft. as we traverse. Soon it appears that we have completely gone over the top of the Emmons and can see Mt. Adams and the other side of the mountain. Finally we run into a well-used boot track and we can see that it is wanded and must be a standard route. After descending for half an hour, a guy catches us from behind and says he is sure that we are on the Disappointment Cleaver route. Well, at this point it is nearing 8:00 PM and we don’t really care what route we are on we just want to lose some elevation and get some water. We bivied at Ingrahm Flats around 9:30 and I was surprised that the weather held for a windy but dry night.
We report in with the climbing ranger at Camp Muir the next day and explain that we had descended the incorrect route and didn’t want any search parties out looking for us. Slogged back down the Muir Snowfield and made it to Paradise just before 4 PM.