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Ryan

Ptarmigan Ridge...need info!

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I'm looking at doing the Ptarmigan Ridge on Rainier this coming May- who all has been on this route? Experiences and beta would be much appreciated, from what I understand the route doesn't see much traffic. Thanks!

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lambone - obviously, nothing can be said about the specific conditions at this point, other than the fact that weather and avalanche hazard will be of concern. you can sometimes get good beta on the route if the climbing rangers have been flying on the mountain recently (rescues or prepping the ranger huts for the season) - they usually pay attention to the conditions on the more interesting routes.

 

one thing to consider is that you will almost certainly be approaching from the white river campground (if the road is even open that far), as the Carbon River road usually doesn't open until june. it is a long but reasonable day to get from WRCG to the high bivy below the route in one day, (it helps if you have done the approach to Lib. Ridge before); but if the weather is clear, it is hard to get lost since it's all above timberline. Crossing the Carbon Glacier will probably be easier than later in the season. approaching from WRCG simplifies the descent, since you can bomb down the emmons and straight out to the car.

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forrest_m said:

one thing to consider is that you will almost certainly be approaching from the white river campground (if the road is even open that far), as the Carbon River road usually doesn't open until june. it is a long but

 

I thought the Carbon river road is open year round, as long as it doesn't washout. At any rate, it's still open now, and almost certainly will open before White River. Maybe you mean Mowich Lake Rd?

White River doesn't usually open until late May.

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Skiing into the area below the Ptarmigan Ridge in winter is not that bad. Road conditions seem like a minor project when tackling the mountain under winter conditions by this route during winter. Spray park in winter offers good skiing on a beautiful setting....

 

If you decide to approach differently well whatever ;-)

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Cpt.Caveman said:

Road conditions seem like a minor project when tackling the mountain under winter conditions by this route during winter.

 

Heh. well said for sure. bigdrink.gif I imagine anybody who is gonna get up the mountain in winter could deal with a few miles of skiing on a road.

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A buddy and I did it as a minor epic in early March many years ago in very wintry conditions. You should have far better (and faster) climbing conditions in May, but the road issues may be about the same. Our approach then was from Ipsut Creek (2300' or so at the end of Carbon River Rd, which should be open in May - it’s open right now) up the trail through Seattle Park. We spent one night at 7500' on lower Ptarmigan Ridge, the next night at the saddle at 10,200 where the more technical climbing begins. Snowshoes, deep snow and big packs made for pretty slow going to here. We followed the standard upper route as described in CAG (left of the upper buttress) and the only problem was very slow postholing from 12,000 to 13,500 (and the incoming weather - start of epic). Skipping the ugly details, we eventually made it down to Steamboat Prow. Our plan from there was to cross the lower Winthrop to lower Curtis Ridge and get back to the car. Crevasse problems (like falling into big deep ones that were completely undetectable under the newly fallen snow) forced us to exit down the Inter Glacier to the White River Road. But in spite of our problems, I think the loop back to Ipsut would be a good one for May.

 

Where to start and end this climb that time of season really depends on how far the WR road is open and whether or not you can do a car shuttle. If you have a second car, you might want to consider hiking up the closed Mowich Lake Road. If you only use one car, I'd say that unless the WR road is open at least most of the way, the Ipsut Creek loop would be better. The trail up to Seattle Park from there was a good approach even in winter. I'd agree with Forrest, though, that the WR finish greatly simplifies the descent, especially if your weather window slams shut earlier than expected.

 

Awesome, big route. Well worth doing. Good luck.

 

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If the Carbon River road is not open, I would think you would be approaching from the West Side road or possibly Champion logging company roads right outside the park rather than the White River Road. In May the White River Road will almost certainly not be open anyway but even if it is, I think it would probably be much easier to walk in from the West Side Road. Also, if you are hoping not to descend the climbing route, the Tahoma Glacier descent would be just about as easy as descending the Emmons back toward the White River.

 

In addition to the possible avalanche and weather concerns already noted, rockfall can be a serious hazard on that route and although much of the source areas will be covered in snow that time of the year, I'd be worried about the "weather" even if it was clear if you found you had a significant warming trend when you planned to be there.

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Excellent...thanks for all the info. Hopefully we'll tag Ptarmigan, Triple Couloirs on Dragontail is looking incredibly enticing as well! We'll be out there for close to three weeks, which will allow for a number of attempts on some of these awesome routes. I'm psyched!

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Have a friend drive you up the Mowich Lake road with a snowmobile in the winter.

 

It's not illegal unless you get caught.

 

They block off the road at the Paul Peak Trailhead (3500') and do not open it until end of June or beginning of July. In May the lower portion of the road is melted out, but higher up the road become quite deep with snow. For the beginning part of the road use a bike and then ditch the bikes in the trees when snow gets too much for them. You will find that skiers and people hike to Mowich lake on this road, thereby allowing for a well packed and travelled trail thereby avoiding the use of snowshoes.

 

I would take the packed down snow Mowich road anytime over any unpacked snow trail to save energy. In addition, 3500' at the Paul Peak trailhead is the highest elevation you can start at for this climb at that time of the year.

 

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In May, there's enough snow to easily cross the Carbon. I was there the first week of June and it looked negotiable. So what about waiting until the White River road is open and run across! yelrotflmao.gif

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Ryan said:

Triple Couloirs on Dragontail is looking incredibly enticing as well!

 

TC has been done in May but thats in an atypical year (like last year holy cow!!!) Most of the time the route is out of shape by 2nd or 3rd week in April.

 

A good alternative route in that area in May is Ice Cliff Glacier.

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What type of shape is the route usually in during May? Not enough ice on the ice runnels? We won't be able to make it out there until May...would the routes on Rainier be best for this time of year (Liberty Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge, etc)? Maybe we'll just stick with Rainier...I'd still like to experience some of the less oft trod areas of the Cascades. What peak is the Ice Cliff Glacier on? Thanks for the info!

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