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Trip: mt rainier - liberty ridgeDate: 7/5/2010Trip Report:doug (cbcbd), bob (bob g, fka dirtbag_packwork) and i climbed rainier's liberty ridge route july 2-5.The route is in excellent condition, and our plan was to do it over 3 days with camps around winthrop/carbon glacier and thumb rock, followed by summit/descent. unexpected storm resulted in an additional (bonus!) bivy a bit above 13k ft.on day 1 we left the ranger station around 14:30, walked out of white river trailhead around 15:30, and reached the top of st elmos pass around 18:30. the clouds were rolling in by then, but the weather was fine. there were tracks from previous parties that we followed through a small crevasse jumble, stopped at the edge of winthrop glacier, and established camp at 20:00.the weather was ok, it was drizzling, and there was some wind from NW direction.day 2 was mostly warm and sunny. much sun screen was used. before dropping on carbon, we saw a party of two head out, and wondered why they had turned around. we roped up after crossing the bergschrund at the toe of the ridge, but unroped after getting up onto it. then followed the seemingly endless climb up the snow slope in baking temps. we followed lower on the ridge under all rock bands, and ascended the final slope toward thumb rock at 17:00. the weather was calm, there was a consistent cloud cover down below, and no wind. another party of 2 was camping at thumb rock. they had been there since 9:30 that morning, and were planning to start climbing very early.b/c we got to camp late and still had to make water, we got up later, at 1:30, and began ascending climbers' left of the ridge around 3:00. the party ahead of us was barely visible. we made good progress. our pictures from previous day showed some rock bands directly above thumb rock, so we decided to lean climbers’ right and go around on snow. this put us on a NW-facing slope, and around 5:30-6:00 we began to feel the wind picking up from that direction.we climbed very consistently, but visibility was decreasing and wind was becoming stronger and colder. around 8:00 we saw the other party stopped before an ice wall ahead of us. the weather had turned, and by this time it was becoming extremely cold, stormy, and we could barely see. we discussed making a stop and digging in, talked to the other party, but they were confident to continue. we found a corniced cave, dug it out, and pitched our tent to try to wait out the storm. the wind got stronger for the next few hours, and we could still occasionally hear the climbers above, taking siege of the wall! we let them know that we were parked below, in case they decided to come down.frozen hair!by mid-day we had decided to stay put until the following morning, and wait until the wind had calmed. we had a nice view of clouds from our cave, we watched lenticulars forming like giant alien spaceships, listened to the snow beating the tent, and drank hot chocolate. although we did not have much extra food, we did have a full large canister of fuel, and were not concerned about water or staying warm. it was still extremely gusty, but we hoped it would clear during the night. trying to get into the tent against the winddoing campsite chores: chopping ice for melting [video:vimeo] 2010-07-03 rainier LR 1 from veronika on Vimeo. [video:vimeo]2010-07-03 rainier LR 2 from veronika on Vimeo. in the morning it finally got quieter. we packed up and left at a leisurely 7:30. although it was again cloudy, it was better than the previous day. we began by ascending a long, less-than-vertical slope of neve with occasional patches of wind-buffed snow, which then gained some patches of solid blue ice. we roped up and simuled for a few hundred feet. there were two sections of more technical ice, but fine with three screws and simuling. doug leads the second part of the ice sectionthen followed a few hundred feet on iced-over snow, and finally the summit hump! we reached liberty cap around 10:20, and the weather was windy but friendly. after a short break we began descending towards emmons. we reached camp schurman at 14:00, 6,5 hours after leaving our cave. another person at the camp told us that the party ahead of us had come into camp schurman at 23:00 the previous night, 14,5 hours after we last saw them. we were glad to hear that they had descended safely. we were back at the car at 17:15.
Damn, it is hard to type with frost nip on 2 of my fingers! Part one: I left the parking lot at 3:15 Friday afternoon. A small linticular cloud had formed to the east of the summit but otherwise the weather was perfect. One Gu consumed, I dropped down on to the lower Nisqually. My thoughts were already turning toward my planned breakfast at Paradise Inn the next morning. An 18 hour trip time seemed well within sights. My mood was extatic. This was my type of climbing. I had gotten my solo permit and was smug that my pack was only 17 pounds, I moved fast across the glacier, un-roped and un-encumbered by partners. I reached the ridge at 5:30 passing 3 climbers with serious packs that had left the parking lot at 11:00 and were heading for the Kautz. I moved as quickly as was prudent back across the glacier, scanning for the surprise cravasse. The recent avalanche debris from the serac that had swept the Wilson Head wall a week ago was abundantly clear. I turned and headed straight up toward the finger just when Rainier decided to say hello and dropped a half a dozen 5 gallon bucket sized rocks from the east wall. They bracketed me but passed harmlessly. It was just before 8 pm when I reached the middle rock outcropping derectly below the chute. I melted 4 quarts of water, drank 1 1/2 and stuffed the rest into my pack. I put tights and crampons on, traded one pole for an axe, reset my altimiter, and ate a hand full of pine nuts...half of my solid food for the trip. As I rested, I watched the mostly full moon slowly rise and Hood, and Adams turn pinkish orange. At 9:15, tired of the in-activity I headed up. The snow was already firming nicely and there wasn't even a diabatic wind coming down the chute. By the time I reached the hourglass the last of the twilight had left but the moon was so bright that a head light was silly. It was truly bucolic, my spirits were high and my focus was solid. If anything, I was wishing that the climbing was a bit more challenging. (Be careful what you wish for) The snow above the hourglass was softer but I put my head down and postholed another 1000 feet. By 11:00 my lunar friend was ducking in and out behind clouds. I used my light the first time to cross the little step just above where the thumb joined the route. A breeze picked up, clouds filled the sky and I said good by to the moon. I reached 12,500' by midnight, a bit ahead of schedule and feeling strong. At 12:15 I felt the first sting of driven snow on my face. Well, the weather report said to expect snow by morning; I guess it was morning. Part 2: By 1:30 it was a whole different ball game. The breeze had picked up significantly and the needle shaped snow was occluding any view beyond my head light. My movement had slowed considerably as I pushed on. I started veering right without really knowing where I was. I was above the last of the rocks but I could not tell when to start across the glacier and the thought of getting out the map in the wind was ridiculous. I pushed up along the left side of some small seracs hoping for a smooth opening but found none. I was worried about getting off track, so at 3:15 I jumped into a cravasse to get out of the weather and wait for first light. Breakfast was seeming less likely. Snowfall continued to increase and my little hole started feeling more like a tomb. I kept hopeing for a little break but it never came. At 5:00 I could take no more and decided to move rather than freeze. It was light but the visibility was even worse. I litterally could not see a delinitation between the snow and the sky. I tried to put on my googles but they occluded with snow so fast that they were useless. I am quite nearsighted but my glasses iced so badly that I was better off without them. The batteries froze in my GPS and died so fast that it would proved no help. It wouldn't aquire sattilites without holding it to the wind for a couple of minutes and by then the screen was to encrusted with ice to read and my ice encrusted gloves made a terrible wiper. I thought I was heading more or less directly up but as it turned out I must have traversed a fair amount left. I ended up at the top of the snow feild below an inverted U shaped band of looming seracs. ( Looking at photos later they must be the ones at the top of the Kautz, far west of where I thought I was) With out a horizon they seemed overhanging at first. I decided that up was the lesser of several evils. At the top the wind freshened further and visibility reduced. Any sort of real navigation was a joke so I just climbed on. I kept to a rising traverse, with the slope to my left. With the absolute lack of visibility I found that my balance was better with my eyes closed and would take ten steps or so before taking a look. On a rare occasion I would see a boulder in the distance, hoping that I could hide from my niemisis the wind, only to realize that it was just a rock in the snow. My addled mind refused to grasp distance. Simple functions became problimatic. Rime Ice built on my windward side. Fastic buckles on my pack were challanging to open and refused to close. I occasionally had to bang my left leg to break up the ice to lift my leg. At one point I tried to take off my pole and found 1/2 and inch of ice had welded the strap to my glove. Time slowed and the wind increased as I found a ridge with some rock. Strangly the slope up was to the left. Insanity started knocking on my forebrain. A hole in the snow appeared... one of those blessed steam vents. I climbed down into relative warmth and regrouped; ate double Gu's drank what water was liquid and put in a fresh plug of bourbon Copenhagen. My altimiter read 14,819 feet... Hmmm; must be close. I put fresh batteries into the GPS and taped a heat pack to the case. Heading back into it I was forced to walk crouching backwards, up hill, into the wind. I reached the summit minutes later at 7:45. I followed the GPS directly toward the top of the DC. The wind abated some, but visibility didn't improve until I reached 12'800. Until then, I had to watch the little arrow more than my footing or I would change direction without knowing it. From ingrahm flats it was easy walking and I shed layers. I got a kick out seeing trudging climbers with heavy packs heading up to muir. They kept asking if the weather was better farther up. At 2:15 I was drinking Makers and gingerale in the back of my truck. It is my understanding that a couple RMI guides made it to about 13,000 ft but turned back. So, my first time up Rainier I was the only person to summit. I have heard that you should expect serious crowds on Memorial day weekend. <img border="0" title="" alt="[big Grin]" src="images/icons/grin.gif" /> I got a bit of surface frostbite on my left cheek and two tinglely finger tips, but am not really any worse for wear. However, I look forward to climbing easier things in the near future. Cheers, Steve <small>[ 05-29-2002, 10:50 AM: Message edited by: Terminal Gravity ]</small>