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snowleopard_x

Success Cleaver - "Unsuccessful Cleaver"

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I spent most of the last week in and around Rainier. The weather wasn't always great (until we headed out, of course), and we made a half-hearted attempt on Success Cleaver, only to find the route pretty melted out scree. This is probably the longest route on the mountain, and was really, really long to us. 11,400' of eleveation gain. Great views from 8,000' up though. Going up, I had the pleasure of running into a Ranger I knew from when he worked on Mt. Hood, and he later referred to the route as "almost heinous", especially to downclimb (fully agree). On the way out we ran into another Ranger, who I kind of knew from e-mail, he's even posted on here, and maybe will come on soon with a better update than mine. Very nice guy. Full of energy. He and his gal(?) were checking the route out, and hoping to blitz it in 2 days (!!! We planned 3-4). He agreed he undergraded the route a bit, calling it a Grade II, when that would be in optimum conditions. This time of year (and this dry year) it is more like a Grade III. When checking out, the Rangers at Longmire joked that we had tried the "Unsuccessful Cleaver"! As many people underestimate how long the route is. I'd say I fit into that group.

We saw only one other team on the entire west/southwest side of the mounain, other than Climbing Rangers. But the army of folks heading up to Muir were as thick as ever.

From what I gathered, the DC is supposedly in great shape; The Emmons wildly open, but very doable; The Finger and Thumb still okay; The Kautz is reported to have good snow/ice, but the cliff is dangerous; Liberty Ridge is out. I have no info on the more remote, intermediate to advanced routes on the west/northwest side (Edmunds, Mowich, Ptarmigan etc.).

If all goes well, I'll be back in 2-3 weeks to give another shot at the mountain. This time a real effort, less of a sightseeing recon like this week (though I had a fantastic time). I've had the worst luck on Rainier it seems, but that may stem from my refusal to climb any of the standard routes (Kautz, or Finger is as standard as I'll try). Just my thing though, not to hurt anyone's feelings who like the DC and Emmons. I just don't like the crowds and boot trench.

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Did you run into Mike Gauthier? He is the only person that I have ever heard recommend downclimbing that route, and because people don't try to climb it much, I haven't found anyone to ask about it. I was told by some White River climbing rangers about 3 years ago that it was definitely a carryover.

The Longmire rangers gave me a really hard time last year when I went to climb it. When we didn't make it they were actually glad for us! They said that they were glad we didn't have to go through that mess, or something like that.

So, would you consider the route again, in better conditions? I was actually bummed to hear that it was melted out already, but I guess I had already decided not to try it this year. What are your thoughts about downclimbing it when it is in top shape?

My problem last year was that we were slow getting to Pyramid and I had to be back at a certain time, and I just didn't know if I could carryover and finish it on time. If I thought that I wasn't going to carryover, it could convince me to go back. I'd like to do the route, but it is such a haul. Getting out of the carryover might make all the difference to me.

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Holly - We're pretty much in agreement. I personally think the key to success on Success is to climb it when it's covered in snow (April?) take 3+ days, and do a carry over. The route is somewhat deceptive though. When you look at it from Pyramid Peak, it looks rather steep and jagged. But when you get up there, you realize it isn't, but it's a hell of a lot longer than it looks. Downclimbing it is certainly possible, people have downclimbed Liberty and Ptarmigan when forced to, but I'd opt to go light, and carry over. I'm pretty sure Mike's on the front end of a 6 day rotation, but I'll see if I can get him to come on here with an expert opinion, as I didn't set foot on the route above about 10k, where it starts to get fun/scary, and he did indeed plan on downclimbing it.

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Yes...if you talk to Mike at all I would like to hear his thoughts. I assume that he or climbers he know have downclimbed the route or he wouldn't have said to do that.

Did you find a good place to camp around 9k or higher?

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There are several excellent camp sites around 8,100' in an area we called the "Wolf's Lair" (great if you are planning 3 days, like we were), and though we didn't go there specifically, at about 10,300' just off route it looked like good sites to the left on a spectacular perch we called the "Eagle's Nest" (don't ask about the names, nothing official, just helped us remember). Mike listed campsites around 9,400' in the book, and perhaps higher up, but we didn't see much there. Though maybe our (or his?) altimter was off. There are many places on the route to bivy, I should add. Again, we didn't complete the route, not even close, so it's more likely he (or the other books) can offer more than I.

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hey guys

mr. leopard, you're a very polite fellow. thank you! it was good to finally meet in person.

about the route. personally, it didn't think it was that bad for late june... it certainly had plenty of "freshie" above 10K. once, during a big snow year, i climbed success in mid july, the route was surprisingly covered in snow.

about downclimbing. well, i've said a lot things that i wish i'd didn't. though i have downclimbed success, i recalled it being quite tough and very tiresome. the mid day, south aspect, conditions turned the snow to what i like to call, SHIT! if you intend to downclimb the route, leave early and hustle. try to be back BY 11am.

the route is probably best done may or june, but remember that they NPS wont open the Westside Road till mid to late may. though, there is talk of a shuttle in the next few years to come., we'll see... also remember that this winter was a low snow year, otherwise there would have been more white stuff between 7K and 9K.

about bivy sites. if you've got a small 2 person mountaineering tent, there are sites above 9K and up to 10,500ft. you may have to look around every few hundred feet, but they are there. my partner found a GREAT one for us around 10,200 (give or take a bit).

it's a wonderful route but it is a long one. see you guys on the hill

gauthier

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A few years ago we navigated around the West Side road closure by hiking on the Wonderland Trail from Longmire, then bushwhacked up Hornpipe creek (easy, but steep). It's a longer approach, but not too bad to the first camp (8k-ish). We planned on a carryover, too, descending to Paradise, but extreme winds turned us around at 9,800'.

Definitely save the route for early season. Read Molenaar's description in Challenge of Rainier and let someone else suffer!

Jeremy

 

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