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[TR] Rainier - Nisqually Ice Fall 4/9/2004


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Climb: Rainier -Nisqually Ice Fall


Date of Climb: 4/9/2004


Trip Report:

I joined CC’ers Girlclimber and NOLSe on a successful climb of Rainier via Nisqually Ice Fall. NOLSe had left me a voice mail on Thur. AM at work indicating they were going for it that night. I had initially told them I could not get off work Fri. so they did not expect me. I took off from Paradise a little after 7PM that evening and when I showed up at Muir at 10:30 there was a bit of surprise on their part. Luckily, they had room for me on their rope and were not too upset about getting woken up.


We took of at 1:30AM with NOLSe leading at a good clip as we made an ascending traverse across the Nisqually debris fields. The plan was to start on the left side of the ice fall and work up from there. An easy snow ramp lead us past the first few sets of ice fall, then we hit an impasse requiring a 7 ft jump down and across a crevasse. I spotted an alternative ramp up through the ice at this point so we reversed leads and I lead up a moderate pitch to the next shelf. From there we discussed traversing right or cut left and around. Looking back up from below Muir the next day showed that the option to traverse right would have worked well and made our trip a little quicker. This shelf appears to run straight into a broad snow slope leading out of the ice fall. As it was, we took on a couple of exciting pitches of ice with a very direct line before we got above the worst of it. One move required dropping down into a crevasse, walking a finger of ice and stepping across to a shelf on the other side before climbing up and out. Further up we ascended a ramp that consisted of a thin crust of snow, six inches of powder, and bullet proof ice underneath. As NOLSe lead through this section setting screws, I listened to the ice cliff creak and groan. We were in the middle of chaos. Ice debris was the landscape and there was no hiding.


I had opted to bring a standard ice axe and a grivel 3rd tool. The ice axe was worthless for the most part and the third tool should have been a real tool. I wished for my BD X-15 sitting at home as I hit a stretch of ice that could not be penetrated. Nothing I tried could get anything to stick. I removed a screw NOLSe had placed and tried to round a bulge of ice with only a little shelf to step on and neither tool connected to anything trustworthy. Girlclimber had made it look easy, but I was seriously thinking I was going to take a fall and hoping that there was some pro in above me. I yelled up for a belay as they had topped out above and was out of sight. Eventually the call came back and I took the couple steps needed to get onto something solid my tools would sink into. This last ramp lead us to the top of the ice fall on the left where the Fuhrer Finger route merges. It was now 5:30 AM and we were at 11,700’. Four hours for 1600’ of gain was pretty dejecting, especially considering we had 2700’ to go.


NOLSe had done his share of work so I offered to lead out. The snow was either prefect Styrofoam cramponing or punching through a thin crust and posting 6 inches. I found myself bonking pretty hard and when Girlclimber volunteered to take the lead I gladly accepted. She did an excellent job on the long traverse up and across the Nisqually keeping a steady pace despite the patches of soft snow. I tried to volunteer to take the lead, but she probably (rightfully) figured we would get there faster if she lead. We topped out at 9:30 with strong winds coming over the crater rim. We descended via Ingraham Direct and Cadaver gap.


GirlClimber stayed up at Muir to possibly bag another route this weekend. That is hard core. The ice fall is an awesome climb. It does have a high degree of objective hazards, as Becky says ‘The hazards of seracs in the icefall require acceptance of certain risks’.


Gear Notes:

bring at least one ‘real’ tool in addition to a standard ice axe and 3-4 ea. of pickets and screws. We used more screws than pickets.


Approach Notes:


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Thanks Girlclimber. To The Top said he ran into you and NOLSe up at Muir Sat. He said you two summitted via Gib Ledge Fri. night??? That's BRUTAL!!! Congrats!


Here is a pic. compliments of To The Top showing our route in Red and what appears to be a better option in yellow for anyone considering this climb.


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Excellent trip report Terry; it was great to have you along. I’ll have you know To The Top worked Girlclimber and myself over for details about the climb to heckle you about. I think he was a little envious…


Some minor (but important) additions to the gear list: facon (fake bacon for all you clueless carnivores) and chocolate in various forms provided the crucial calories to get us through the thick of it prior to sunrise.


And yes: girlclimber and her father (if he ever joins the site I think his login name should be dadclimber) allowed me to tag along as they climbed gib. Ledges on Friday night. It was comical (at least for me) to listen to the two compare notes on how much snow conditions had changed on the route in the past few weeks… one cannot truly grasp how much knowledge these two possess in regards to Rainer; I am fortunate to have been allowed to benefit from it as well as the opportunity to climb with two truly passionate climbers. We topped in 6 hours (though this would have been faster if I wasn't along) which put us on top within 24 hours of our last climb. And my boss always wonders why I’m tired on Monday…


Girlclimber said she might post a TR for gib ledges (I think she should). Both girlclimber and myself took some pics of the icefall on the way out; hopefully we can get them posted soon.

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