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[TR] Mt Rainier - Emmons Winthrop 6/19/2017

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Trip: Mt Rainier - Emmons Winthrop


Date: 6/19/2017


Trip Report:

Four of us started out Monday June 19th, after meeting at the White River Ranger station to register the climb, and a brief time spent greeting each other and packing up the gear. We planed to climb as 2 teams of 2, using 2 35m ropes. staying close together. We would link up into 1 team if conditions warranted. I was on one rope with “Bob”, and Kyle Webster on the other with Collin Ray. The hike up the glacier basin was fine, fair and warm, with good views of the mountain. More snow remained, both on the trail and in the basin, then the the last time I came this way, in June 2015.


We put on gaiters at the bottom of the Interglacier, but remained unroped, and no need for crampons as the snow was quite soft. The few small crevasses were easy to avoid. We roped up at Camp Curtis for the brief descent onto the Emmons glacier, and the hike up and around the crevasses to Camp Sherman. “Bob” complained of not feeling well, wondering it it was the altitude. He climbed strong all day, so we encouraged him to rest, drink fluids, eat some and see how he recovered overnight. Spent a while digging out tent platforms, melting snow and cooking up supper. Was quite windy there, and we had decided to use Tuesday as a rest day, so no hurry to settle in to bed. There were a few other climbers there, as well as an RMI climbing group. Other then the wind, was a very pleasant evening.


Tuesday broke clear, cool and windy. We watched as other climbing teams higher on the mountain turned back and descended back to camp. Beta from them was that the upper mountain was very windy, and quite icy. The forecast for Wednesday was also for high winds, but better for Thursday. The rangers were getting supplies flown in by helicopter, and we spent the morning watching loads of supplies and building materials land near the stone hut.


As “Bob” was suffering from altitude sickness, even with the rest day, discussions about safe climbing options ensued. The “Bob” didn’t want to risk climbing higher and volunteered to head back down the mountain. The forecast for Wednesday was still for high winds and cold temps (icy!), but less wind and a bit warmer Thursday. We discussed and reluctantly agreed that a Thursday climb would be better and safer the trying the climb on Wednesday. We would split the team Wednesday morning, sending “Bob” back down and shoe horn the remaining three of us into Kyle’s tent.


Wednesday, Collin and I helped pack up “Bob”, roped up and saw him safely back across the Emmons, and onto the Interglacier. He had a safe descent and hike back to his car. He started to feel well as soon as he was down. On our return, Collin and I lingered a while at a nice crevasse. We practiced setting snow pickets and dead-man anchors, Z pulley setup, and took turns belaying each other down into the crevasse, and prussic climbing the rope back up. Great fun, and cool pictures as well! Kyle spent the time resetting camp and sorting out supplies. Being down one climber, we were able to stow some of the excess gear.


Thursday we got up with the sun and packed up camp. Got off to a slow start, but made good progress up the corridor. We roped up with Collin in the lead, Kyle as anchor, and I took the middle slot. I lead enough on the previous climbs, and was just happy to be able to climb! Once on the upper mountain, conditions became icy and windy, but the wind was more of a nuisance rather then a safety issue. As the slope became icy and steep, with dangerous run-out, we climbed with a running belay, which was a bit slower. When we approached the large overhanging crevasses, near 13500 feet, we discussed heading directly up, to the left of the overhanging crevasses, but that would have meant more running belay. We decided to pass toward the north onto the upper Winthrop glacier, below the large crevasses. This would bring us to the saddle between Liberty ridge and the summit. Had a bit of excitement crossing the last crevasse. Collin lead across the wide snow bridge spanning the two narrow crevasses, and footing was fine. I crossed, and felt it was fine, but did hear and feel a faint crack as I crossed, so I quickened my step. Unbeknown to me, a large block broke loose and fell away as I stepped across. Kyle quickly followed, and crosses a few feet to the side. We proceeded to the saddle and the solid slopes to the summit. Did find the sun cups a bit annoying, as the icy points would catch the rope repeatedly. The summit was cold and windy, so we did not linger long.


We moved down into the crater a bit, choosing to dig a new tent platform and wind wall near the north rim, close to where the D.C. climbers ascend the crater rim. Collin stayed busy melting snow and prepping hot beverages, and Kyle and I cut snow blocks, built a wind wall and nice level platform. The wind was much less in the crater, though it tended to shift about more.


As sundown approached, we took the short walk back up to the summit proper to watch the sunset. The skies were clear and we could see all of the Olympics, Puget sound and Cascade peaks far off the the north, east, and south. The winds at the summit were strong and cold. We needed to lean into the wind, and protect exposed skin from the wind chill. Sunset was as good as I remembered, and worth the climb!


We had a nice sleep, and were up in time to watch the magnificent sunrise. We lingered in camp a bit, watching the climbers cross the crater from the D.C. route, enjoyed a hot breakfast, and packed up our gear. Collin observed that many of the DC climbers walked like zombies, with complaints of fatigue, glazed eyes, and unsteady gait. We all agreed that not having to climb much of the night made for a much more enjoyable summit experience.


Decided to try the direct route down from the NE crater rim, as there were a few climbers who came and went that way on their way to the summit. Conditions continued icy and windy on decent, with only the points of the crampons biting in, and no real boot tracks to follow. Eventually joined up with the boot track below the overhanging crevasses, and made our way down. Below 12000 feet, things warmed up and conditions slowly softened, becoming mushy before we returned to Camp Sherman.


At Camp Sherman, we stopped to use the toilet, melt up some water and rest a bit. Picked up the gear we had stowed and headed on down the Emmons. We unroped on the Interglacier, and enjoyed a good bit of glissading, and nice soft plunge stepping down through glacier basin. Made good time back to the car, descending 10,000+ feet over ~9 miles in 1 day, with full packs on.


Overall, I am pleased with the climb. We overcame issues with a climber having AMS, windy and icy conditions, and not only made the summit, but spent a night there and had nice clear conditions to watch the sunset and sunrise.


I still would like to have a climb that allowed for time to explore the summit zone and the ice caves. If you are interested in organizing or participating in a this type of climb, feel free to PM me.


Allan Schroden

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