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mtnsos

Liberty Ridge

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I need a partner for Liberty Ridge beginning on 6/24. My partner bailed due to work committments. E-mail me if you are interested.

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mtnsos said:

I need a partner for Liberty Ridge beginning on 6/24. My partner bailed due to work committments. E-mail me if you are interested.

 

check your PMs

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Climbed LR on Wed through Saturday. In my opinion, the route is out of shape and I wouldn't recommend trying it.

 

The left (east) side of the toe of the ridge, which is the side you are supposed to gain the ridge from the Carbon Glacier, is mostly snow-free. We gainied the ridge on the right (west) side without too much technical difficulty and connected snow patches while traversing right until we could head up to thumb rock. LOTS OF ROCK FALL HERE!

 

In the middle of the night at thumb rock, a 12X3X8 inch rock ripped through our vestibule and the corner of our tent about 12 inches from my head. Simultaneously, a round, baseball-sized rock glanced off the tent pole directly above my partners head and ripped the fly in several spots. Had either of these rocks hit us in the head, we most certainly would have been killed. And this was AT THUMB ROCK! a supposedly safe place. We slept the rest of the night with our helmets on and put our packs and such on the uphill side of the tent and said a few prayers.

 

The next day, we encountered COPIOUS ROCK FALL in several spots, and were never really out of it until we traversed left from under the black pyramid.

 

The bergschrund....

 

Several hundred feet below the bergschrund, two boot tracks split off from the main one (straight up), one to the right, one to the left. We continued straight up and were worried to see a descending boot track. This could only mean the bergschrund was impassable. We continued on.

 

Arriving at the bergschrund, which three weeks previously had been a 5ft tall step of steep snow, we were greeted by a 20ft tall wall of vertical and overhanging ice. Neither my partner (A.S.) nor I are accomplished ice climbers, and we estimated that this section would probably be rated WI4 or 5, and it was at an altitude of about 13,900ft, so climbing it was out of the question. We considered various options: descending and following one of the traversing boot tracks to an uncertain conclusion, climbing a rotten, tiered, but not quite vertical section of airy ice off to the left of the bergschrund (my choice), or pooling our resources with the just arrived "Tennessee Boys", who happened to have six ice screws, and aiding up the ice wall (my partner's choice). The idea of descending and losing so much preciously gained elevation and traversing to an uncertain end did not seem appealing. My partner felt confident that he could get past this obstacle, whereas I was only moderately sure I could get up my rotten ice wall and might have soiled my britches in the process, so we went with my partner’s choice.

 

A.S. has saved my ass several times in the mountains now. He is an incredibly skilled, competent, resourceful, and capable climber. He is not the most technically skilled/talented climber I have ever climbed with, but when situations get dicey in the mountains, there is no one I would rather be climbing with. He spent two hours grunting and pulling with makeshift aiders, and laboriously drilling in ice screws a foot or two apart (you can’t get leverage to put in an ice screw over your head) and working his way up the wall. He made it up, and impressed me and the Tennessee Boys mightily, as well as two other groups who appeared out of nowhere. We all prusiked up the line he fixed and hauled up our packs. After getting the Tennessee Boys up the bergschrund, who in turn helped the next group up, A.S. and I took off for Liberty Cap.

 

My partner was so spent from aiding up the schrund that we decided to dig in on the lee (east) side of Liberty Cap and spend the night. Our battered and torn tent survived one more night despite 60mph gusts, and we summited and descended the Emmons on Saturday in knee-deep slush.

 

In conclusion: I think the route is out of shape and extremely dangerous. Any party attempting it now should be prepared for extensive rockfall (even in traditionally safe places like thumb rock) and should be prepared to do some ice climbing at the top. Exploration might reveal an easier or faster way past the final obstacles to Liberty Cap.

 

If anyone is interested in reading a full trip report (no pictures yet), just send me a PM. It's freakin' long, so I didn't want to torture everyone any more than I already have with this "abreviated" TR. I plan to post the picture of me holding the rock that ripped through our tent when my partner gets his prints back.

 

bigdrink.gif to A.S.

 

Good Luck

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Good job up there. Glad you guys survived the shelling from the rocks.

 

Post your full-on TR! I think that a lot of folks would like to read it, and those that don't can click past it.

 

 

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OK, here is the full deal:

 

Mount Rainier (14,410ft) via Liberty Ridge

June 25-28, 2003

Partner – A.S.

Route Description in “Selected Climbs in the Cascades”

 

Approached via White River Trailhead. Lots of climbers headed up the Emmons Glacier route. Crossed over St. Elmo’s Pass and traversed to the east until reaching the east lateral moraine of the Carbon Glacier at (7500ft ?????). Camped on the moraine. Liberty Ridge looked very steep and had very little snow on the lower 1/3, especially on the climber’s left (east) side which is the side we had hoped to gain the ridge on. Based on this lack of snow, we decided to try to gain the toe of the ridge on the right (west) side. It appeared there was a very large bergschrund at the base of the ridge on that side that we weren’t sure if we could pass. However, gaining the left (east) side of the toe would have entailed extensive scrambling on extremely loose and friable rock (the volcanoes are notorious for horrible rock quality), so we felt it was our best option.

 

We awoke the morning of the 26th at 4:30am and were underway by 6am. We roped up and dropped down onto and ascended the Carbon Glacier to the toe of the ridge with a bit of crevasse negotiation. A fairly mellow approach actually. A clear, bergschrund-less path to the toe of the ridge presented itself and we gained the ridge and unroped. A party of three above us, “The Tennessee Boys”, rained a considerable amount of rockfall towards us, so we hung out for about 30 minutes in a safe spot and let them move on. We continued this pattern of climbing, catching up with The Tennessee Boys, and then waiting for them to move on so that we wouldn’t get pummeled with rocks for about half the distance to Thumb Rock. The climbing on this lower quarter of the ridge involved connecting snow patches by periodically crossing scree/talus bands. Lots of rock fall. We reached Thumb Rock at about noon and set up camp. At this point the upper half of the ridge looked very manageable (almost all snow). That evening we watched a beautiful sunset and saw the lights of Seattle below us to the northwest. We fell asleep feeling confident about our chances for success on the route and relatively safe. That night however, death gave us a brush.

 

Around midnight, I was awakened by two loud thuds. My partner asked, “what was that” and I replied, “I think something just hit the tent”. Unzipping the door revealed that a rock measuring about 12”X3”X8” had bulleted through our vestibule and impacted the corner or the tent just below the zipper on the front door and about 12” above my head. We now had a large hole in the fly of the vestibule and in the body of the tent just below the door. (Picture not available yet) A second rock, about baseball sized, had hit the other end of the tent just above Andy’s head, glancing off the pole (bent) and scraping down the fly ripping several small holes. We were terrified and not really sure what we should do. Dig a snow cave? Pack up and move somewhere in the dark with rocks apparently whizzing down from the blackness above? Pray? We elected to stay put, albeit with our helmets on and all available padding on the uphill wall of the tent (shovel, pack, etc). After many hours of lying in quiet anticipation and horror, dawn finally came. Inspection of our camp in the morning revealed several baseball-sized rocks lying around in the snow that I did not remember seeing the previous evening. Apparently there was quite a volley of rocks during the night, but the Tennessee Boys, camped a mere 15’ away from us, were unaffected.

 

We packed up and left Thumb Rock by about 6am, happy to be alive, and happy to leave Thumb Rock behind. We went out to the right (west) side of the ridge from Thumb Rock and began ascending the 40-50 degree snow slopes towards Liberty Cap (14,150ft) at the top of the ridge. For the first half of the day we fell into the pattern of take two steps, look up for rockfall, take two steps…. Lots of rocks whizzed past us to our right, so we stayed to the left (closer to the crest of the ridge). Fortunately we had a pretty good set of boot tracks up the majority of the ridge to follow, making our ascent easier than it would otherwise have been. About halfway up to Liberty Cap from Thumb Rock, we traversed to the left over the crest of the ridge at the “Black Pyramid” (quickly passing through a copious rockfall zone) to a clear snow slope that led all the way to the ice cap below Liberty Cap. A brief note: we ascended essentially the entire ridge unroped. We both felt confident enough to not need protection on the 40-50 degree snow, and roping up would only pull both of us to our deaths if either was to slip. We roped up for the approach to the toe of the ridge on the Carbon Glacier, and the ascent from the bergschrund to Liberty Cap, and for the descent down the Emmons, but were otherwise unroped.

 

Several hundred feet below the bergschrund, two boot tracks diverged, one out to the right (west) and one to the left (east). We continued ascending straight up toward the bergschrund and observing with some trepidation the boot track descending from above us back to the traversing tracks. The only reason anyone would descend from above us was if the bergschrund was impassable.

 

Arriving at the bergschrund, which three weeks previously had been a 5ft tall step of steep snow, we were greeted by a 20ft tall wall of vertical and overhanging ice. Neither A.S. nor I are accomplished ice climbers, and we estimated that this section would probably be rated WI4 or 5, and it was at an altitude of about 13,900ft, so climbing it was out of the question. We considered various options: descending and following one of the traversing boot tracks to an uncertain conclusion, climbing a rotten, tiered, but not quite vertical section of airy ice off to the left of the bergschrund (my choice), or pooling our resources with the just arrived Tennessee Boys, who happened to have six ice screws, and aiding up the ice wall (my partner’s choice). The idea of descending and losing so much preciously gained elevation and traversing to an uncertain end did not seem appealing. A.S. felt confident that he could get past this obstacle, whereas I was only moderately sure I could get up my rotten ice wall and might have soiled my britches in the process, so we went with his choice.

 

A.S. has saved my ass several times in the mountains now. He is an incredibly skilled, competent, resourceful, and capable climber. He is not the most technically skilled/talented climber I have ever climbed with, but when situations get dicey in the mountains, there is no one I would rather be climbing with. A.S. spent two hours grunting and pulling with makeshift aiders, and laboriously drilling in ice screws a foot or two apart (you can’t get leverage to put in an ice screw over your head) and working his way up the wall. He made it up, and impressed me and the Tennessee Boys mightily, as well as two other groups who appeared out of nowhere. We all prusiked up the line he fixed and hauled up our packs. After getting the Tennessee Boys up the bergschrund, who in turn helped the next group up, My partner and I took off for Liberty Cap. At this point, A.S. was completely exhausted and very cold, so I led up the remaining steep snow (one short step of ~80-degree neve) to Liberty Cap and down the other side. A.S. was stumbling from exhaustion, dehydration, and lack of food at this point (neither of us had eaten or drunk anything since arriving at the bergshrund several hours before). Reaching the summit, a mere 800 vertical feet away, was out of the question, and descending to Camp Schurman, 4500 vertical feet below, was also out of the question, so we set up camp on the lee (east) side of Liberty Cap and prayed for a calm night.

 

A.S. fell asleep instantly after lying down in the tent, but managed to awake periodically eat a bit of food and drink some water, and was soon feeling warm and a bit less delirious. A few parties went by our tent on the way to their various bivying sites (no one felt capable of reaching Schurman that day) and they all asked, “who was it that climbed the bergschrund?”. I was very pleased that these people appreciated the Herculean effort that A.S. had put out to get us all past that last obstacle. The night proved relatively calm, with only occasional gusts of 50-60mph and the battered and ripped tent survived the night intact. We had another spectacular sunset with views of the lights of Portland to the southwest and a clear starry sky. We slept in the next morning until 8am and took our time melting water, drinking as much water as we could, and packing up. We left our bivy site at 9:30am and reached the summit at around 10:45. The views were incredible. We could clearly see Mt. Jefferson to the south, Mt. Olympus to the West, and Mt. Baker to the North, as well as the Puget Sound, Seattle, the arid desert of Eastern Washington and the close peaks of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Stuart, Goat Rocks, and the Tatoosh Range. We left the summit at about noon and began the long descent to the White River trailhead.

 

On the descent down the Emmons Glacier, we glissaded several times and made great time down to Glacier Basin (6500ft?). It was fun to watch the reading on my altimeter drop so quickly while glissading (..90! ..80! ..70!). My Scarpa Inverno boots, which I had just purchased for this trip, had been uncomfortable from the start, but now began to cause me serious pain in the front of my shins with every step. After what seemed an eternity, we made it to the trailhead around 4pm and I finally was able to take the boots off. Inspection of my legs revealed a dent in my left shin (which is still present as a write this trip report 24hrs after the end of the trip) and bruising of my right shin.

 

A.S. and I are thrilled that we completed the climb in good style and were able to help out several other parties on the route, but we are both also somewhat sobered by the objective dangers and physical challenges we encountered. Rather than feeling pure elation and joy, we both just feel happy to have survived. We were blessed with near perfect weather throughout our trip; something that could easily have changed and caused us severe problems. The route is probably “out of shape” for the season, and perhaps in retrospect it would have been better for us to turn around when we saw how little snow there was on the toe of the ridge. In any case, we are home, safe and reasonably sound, and now the only thing left to do is rub aloe vera gel on our sunburned faces, recuperate, and sell a pair of slightly used Scarpa Invernos.

 

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Nice job thumbs_up.gif

 

Couple questions:

 

1. Did you have an ice axe and ice tool w/you or just one ice axe?

2. Did you bring any screws?

3. Did you bring any pickets?

4. Last, when you left Thumb Rock, was there a trail going up and to the climber's left?

 

Thanks.

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Tool said:

Nice job thumbs_up.gif

 

Couple questions:

 

1. Did you have an ice axe and ice tool w/you or just one ice axe?

2. Did you bring any screws?

3. Did you bring any pickets?

4. Last, when you left Thumb Rock, was there a trail going up and to the climber's left?

 

Thanks.

 

Sorry, I should have included most of that info in my TR. I will amend.

 

I had a general axe and a technical tool. I would have brought a smaller third tool instead of the technical tool, but I don't have one and couldn't borrow one. Partner had a general axe and a third tool. A second tool of some sort will probably be useful for whatever you decide to do to get over the final ice cap, but the way we did it (aiding past the bergschrund) the second tool was barely necessary and technical tool definately NOT necessary. Go light.

 

We brought two screws and two pickets. Used the screws on the 'schrund and used the pickets for belaying below the schrund and for the top when my partner was stumbling from exhaustion. We also used some of "The Tennessee Boys" gear for the schrund. They were a group of three with five pickets and six screws.

 

Going left from thumb rock looked like a reasonable option (we considered it) that might even have less rockfall than the right, but the only boot track went right and that allowed us to travel much faster.

 

Good luck and take a rabbit's foot with you.

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Alpinfox said:

Arriving at the bergschrund, which three weeks previously had been a 5ft tall step of steep snow, we were greeted by a 20ft tall wall of vertical and overhanging ice.

 

Although not overhanging, when I climbed the route 4 weeks ago the schrund was at least 15' tall and vertical. This is not to take anything away from your climb, just a small discrepancy I thought I'd throw out there. Nice climb though .. sounds spicy! bigdrink.gif

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Here is a photo of the schrund from "Crackman's" June 5/6 climb. Superman, did you get take a different route at the top maybe? The way the schrund is now, the snow that the belayer is sitting on in the photo is gone and a 15 foot tall wall of vertical/overhanging ice (and I mean blue, hard, glacial ice) is below that snowy section the climber is busting through.

 

crevasse.jpg

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Sounds like mtnsos and I had a much easier time of it. We got off the Carbon by climbing up onto the snowfield to the right of the ridge proper, the 1955 route, (which involved some awkward amateur ice-climbing) and ended up well above Thumb Rock, so we carved out bivvies at about 12,000 feet and slept like babies. No rockfall problems at all up there. We headed up the hill about 6:30 AM. Ours were the footprints you saw heading off to the right. Compared to your epic, we had very little problem meandering around the several crevasses that make up the bergschrund on the right. At one point we did have to scramble up over a 8' high wall of hard snow, but no ice. (This is where we used our second tools, but we could have got up without them.) We never felt the need to rope up, let alone use any of the pro we brought.

We were on Liberty Cap by 8:00, and down to Schurman by about 10:20.

Some folks we met on the Emmonds near the summit said they'd recorded 60 mph winds at Camp Schurman in the night, and so most of the folks there had bailed. We had some very gentle breezes, just enough to ripple our bivvy sacks.

FWIW, Feathered Friends Hummingbird bags rock!

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Wow! Yeah we saw your two bivy sites carved out. Two separate one-person platforms... cool spot to catch some ZZZ!

 

Great job! I wish we had followed your tracks.

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Alpinfox said:

 

Wow! Yeah we saw your two bivy sites carved out. Two separate one-person platforms... cool spot to catch some ZZZ!

 

Great job! I wish we had followed your tracks.

 

'course, now you have an epic tale you can tell for years. My story about Liberty Ridge is basically "it wasn't so tough as everyone says..."

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Two years ago I climb LR and the berg was split into two sections.

 

- First a near verticle 7 foot sugary snow wall that was tough to get a purchase in.

- Second a 12' tall, just slightly over-hung ice wall

 

Both were tough to climb through, but we got our fat asses up it.

 

 

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It's taken me a while to get around to posting these pictures, but I thought they might still be of some interest.

 

 

Here is a picture of me holding the rock that ripped through our tent in the middle of the night at Thumb Rock. Note the hole in the tent fly. The rock embedded itself in the snow about 12 inches above the top of my head. Didn't get much sleep that night. Fortunately that event still remains my closest brush with death while climbing.

 

1826KillerRock-med.jpg

 

 

Here is a nice picture of me on the upper slopes (I think) of Lib Ridge. We had beautiful weather.

 

1826PaxSkyline-med.jpg

 

 

Both pictures are by my partner AS. Thanks!

 

 

edit:

And here is a picture of my partner AS aiding past the bergshrund just below Liberty Cap. This picture has been posted before:

 

1826libridgeandybergschrund.jpg

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That is interesting. When I climbed Lib Ridge in June 1998 a fellow had the exact samething happen. A rock came down and punched through his tent and slammed into his leg. He was able to climb the next day but had a noticable limp. That schrund looks nasty... ours was much easier to surmount so I assume it was not you that day.

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