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Pathetic [TR] Mt Rainier - Tahoma Glacier


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Tahoma Glacier via westside road / Puyallup Cleaver


****Extremely boring******



Arrived Saturday (6/4) only to discover the forecast had gone to shit for the next couple days. Surprise.


6/5 Black skies and pissing rain and blowing snow all the way to Paradise. Pushed climb a day and stayed at Stone Creek Cabins... Nice place.


6/6 - Monday


Also forecast to be pissing rain and snow but some blue in the AM so we headed out. My theory was with the rain/snow line at 4500' we could push hard and get above it and just get snow. Snagged a ride on the Westside road with some USFS trucks (thanks guys!) and got dumped off near Round Pass. The ground is snow-free until around 6000' on the WT where it is very deep and wet. No need for snowshoes though. Cut up the cleaver around 6,000' in 100-200 yard visibility and light blowing snow.


The skies were nuts going from blue patches to black. Our altimeters were also crazy reading a steady descent as we went up.... The GPS worked great though. This was good as we never did see the mountain or more than a few hundred yards.


Awesome bench at 6300' with a huge pool of snowmelt on a grassy plain. With the forecast supposed to get better(yeah right) we decided to get as high as we could rather than camp here.


Pushed on via map and compass in perfect step-kicking snow until 6800' where a TOTAL whiteout and heavy blowing snowstorm started up and wasn't showing any signs of breaking. There was a steep drop to our left and huge cornices formed by the blowing snow from the west. Not a place to stumble in a whiteout. And it sure would be nice to see where we are....


So we tossed up some stout slush/snow walls and pitched the tiny Eldo for what we figured would just be a few hours or maybe the night. There was a brief 30 minute break around 5PM that let us see Tokaloo(sp) spire (~7500) in the distant snow/fog. So we were on course at least. We could also see the bottom of the Tahoma glacier which looks in VERY good shape. I'd speculate that you could still find a pretty easy path from the toe of the glacier on up(leaving Emerald Ridge).


That night it snowed hard and blew hard from the west non-stop. We actually had Thunder-snow. We didn't see any lightning but several loud booms rocked the area. My little hanging stove setup came in handy.


6/7 - Tuesday


Woke up to blowing snow/rain/snow/freezing-rain/snow etc... Visibility worse than yesterday. Usually hovered around 50 yards. Called for a forecast. Verizon-analog cell worked great. Forecast had gotten worse and the only decent day now looked like Thursday. A collective "Shit".


I figured it usually gets better higher up. So we went out on a lightweight scouting mission into the dense fog and snow. Through compass headings and sticking to the ridge we were able to scramble up to Tokaloo spire. We couldn't see it until we were under it and then not even the top. Funny how whiteouts screw with your head. Climbed up past the spire on the ridge. Super-wet snow had filled in a lot of the voids in the rock-scrambling which made things difficult. Plus in areas without rocks it was impossible to tell the sky from the ground or even what angle the surface you were on was which made route-finding a little hairy in the gusting winds. We hiked up until Tokaloo disappeared. Things got worse up here. It didn't seem to get any lighter and we still couldn't see the sun at all through the black clouds. Better to wait we figured and headed back to camp.


The snow was piling up now and several rain episodes had done funky things to the snowpack. A few steep snowfields that we had to cross were unpleasant at best. One had the classic "whooompf" noise as layers underneath collapsed. hellno3d.gif No visible cracking but things definitely weren't getting better. The top new wet layers were just shearing right off the old snowpack surface.


I worked on the snow walls a bit until it started pouring. (Note to self: Two 6'+ 200 pound guys don't belong in a Bibler Eldorado for extended periods.) The rain/snow/ice mix continued all night with the occasional wind pounding but nothing too bad. We got a 20 minute break today from the precip. around 6PM and ran outside to at least stretch a bit. Big BLACK billowing clouds rolling in from the west were ominous indeed. They looked to top out pretty high. I estimated well over 14,000 but really hard to tell. At this point we were more concerned with the foot of new wet snow and what that had done to the upper mountain since the entire upper Tahoma looked like a perfect slide zone. The cornices on the western side of the cleaver had grown HUGE. Kinda neat but not a good sign for us. Most of the exposed rocks were now all under snow. I dug a few pits on the western side and didn't like what I saw. The rain percolating down through the new snow was all sitting on top of several very weak layers. We were already seeing a lot of natural pin-wheels on steeper slopes. I'm not an avy expert at all but it didn't look good.


Slept here another night with the snow and wind pounding all night. The temps dropped probably 20 degrees too... Very odd.


6/8 - Wednesday


The precip seemed to abate around 8AM. Peering out though we still only had 50 yards visibility at most. We crawled out and put on our now sopping wet/frozen boots. The sun looked like it was making a play to burn off some of the clouds but no dice. We called for another forecast. More precip for today with a slight break on Thursday and back into the shit on Friday. We gave it until around 10AM to improve. If we at least got visibility we could try to slog up to high-camp on the cleaver around 9600'. I didn't like the avy conditions. But with no visibility AND a foot or more of unstable new snow I didn't feel like I liked that combo.


Skunked at 6,800 fucking feet???? COULD IT BE????? WTF????? etc.... etc... etc.... madgo_ron.gifmadgo_ron.gif


We bailed at 10:30AM and figured it'd be an easy run back down.... HAHAHAHA. The new snow had obliterated any sense of terrain. Thankfully I had waypointed a few spots on the GPS which were very nice and saved us many hours of stumbling around I'm sure....


6/9 - Thursday


Sunny day at Ocean Shores.


6/10 - Friday


Pouring rain at the beach. Another day for dropping cash in Seattle.




We'll get it next year.....




"Now downgraded to 3 out of 6 Rainier summits"

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Man! That SUUUUCKS! It doesn't get much worse than that...barely making it above timberline...OUCH. Better luck next year. I'll dedicate my next few climbs there in July to you!


Well... getting pinned down in a collapsing tent at 13,500' in a 5-day storm is worse....


But yeah... it just sucked...


Small chance we might be back later this summer to bag something... We just can't get enough misery.



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