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skykilo

[TR] Mt Rainier- Liberty Ridge 4/28/2006

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Climb: Mt Rainier-Liberty Ridge

 

Date of Climb: 4/28/2006

 

Trip Report:

I've been wanting to ski Liberty Ridge in a one-day push for a minute now. These stupid ideas get in my head and there's really nothing I can do about it. From Ipsut Creek Campground, it's very nearly 12k vertical feet to the top of Liberty Cap. Big day trips being my forte, how could I overlook this jewel? Mandatory megalomania manifest destiny.

 

Casey was a student in one of my labs a few years ago. We've been on a few trips together now. He's a ripping skier and he's in good shape after what we've done in the last couple weeks. He'd never been above the summit of Adams, but I'm not one to discourage. Given that he's willing to hang with me after being subject to my potent combination of incompetence and aggression in one of my labs for a whole quarter, he's clearly faulty enough in the head to accomplish something of this nature. He was still smart enough to know that Dynafits would be the binding for the trip so we had some mounting to do...

 

Jig.jpgMount.jpg

 

With newly-mounted bindings we left Seattle last Thursday at 3:30pm. Eight-shot Americano in my thermos from Enumclaw Starbucks, we left Ipsut Creek Campground shortly after 7pm. The hike went really quickly with the ample remaining daylight and we even got a few nice views of the mountain before the night-long vigil began.

 

TrailView.jpgTongueView.jpg

 

I found a steady drip from the cliffs just before getting on the Carbon, so we supplemented our two liters of water each by chugging a full liter and refilling before hitting the glacier.

 

The snow on the Carbon Glacier had been through its transformation well enough to allow easy skinning. The crus t supported us quite well and we made good progress. The new moon didn't help, but on the glacier's reflective surface the light from the stars was enough. We didn't use headlamps most of the way up the glacier.

 

Above 9k it was time to switch gear. We made ready to boot to Thumb Rock. Half the Americano split between us (two shots a piece), Casey was ready before me and took the initiative to start kicking steps. Amazingly it was warm enough to forego the puffy. I caught Casey after about 500 vertical feet and took the reins for the rest of the way.

 

We took another break at Thumb Rock. It was 4:30 am if my memory serves correctly. We finished the coffee, ate some, and I chugged the rest of my second liter. I ditched the thermos, one water bottle and my ski crampons there. 'Cuz WE'RE COMING DOWN THIS WAY.

 

We went left above Thumb Rock. Sunrise caught us a little before 12k. The snow was very good throughout this section. Before long we were rounding an icy corner to the long slope that leads above the Black Pyramid.

 

Sunrise.jpgPyramid.jpg

 

The exposure was incredible as we reached the top of the Black Pyramid. Mild temperatures, no wind and good snow conditions had me elated. Above the Black Pyramid, the steep slopes suddenly became very icy. Icy enough that I would not want to ski them. Would we rappel this? Downclimb it? All that mattered for the moment was up, up, up...

 

GoodTexture.jpgBonk.jpg

In the lefthand photo, you can see the snow still had good texture. Soon it would become very icy.

 

The slope began to ease and we found softer snow to the climber's right. I could see the bergschrund. We took a break to eat and drink a few hundred feet below the bergschrund.

 

There was a relatively easy route over the bergschrund right up the gut. I must have been a bit hypoxic, because at the last minute I stupidly changed my mind and decided to follow what looked like some steps leading left. Casey asked from below, "Does it go?"

 

I was already there and I didn't want to downclimb, "Yeah it goes."

 

It was going, but after making several moves on steep water ice with my skis banging the ice above me, I thought better of introducing Casey to ice climbing fully exposed to the Willis Wall at 14k. I advised him, "Casey, don't come this way!"

 

I donwclimbed to him quickly and traversed to take my originally planned, easier route. I advised Casey to go lower because of a couple spicy moves. It took Casey a long time to do a little downclimbing and I became concerned about his state of affairs. I fetched the rope so we could cross the bergschrund 'safely', but several feeble steps on Casey's behalf during his attempt to join me revealed that he would not be climbing any farther.

 

I didn't want to leave him. I considered descending. But I couldn't do it. I wanted it too bad. I left the rope and some screws where I was. Casey downclimbed to where we took our last break. "Are you all right Casey?"

 

He assured me he was all right, but he needed to save something for the descent. That seemed like a mighty fine idea to me. "I'm just gonna climb above the bergschrund. I'm leaving the rope and screws here for you in case I don't return. I'll be right back."

 

I crawled over the bergschrund on all fours. There was a sixty-degree snow slope that crested the ridge. I could see Casey until I rounded the crest. Once over the crest, there was no way I could stop. I booted frantically toward Liberty Cap. StepStepStepStepStepStepStep; stop and pant and listen to my heart pound. Repeat. I reached the cap before too long.

 

LibertyCap.jpg

Bergschrund.jpg

You can see where I sideslipped the sixty-degree snow above the bergschrund. I wasn't confident enough it wouldn't sluff me into the bergschrund to crank it there.

 

It had been incredibly warm on top. The usually-hard sastrugi was very soft. Somehow I convinced myself that the ice on the route might have softened. I took a break with Casey and we prepared to ski. It was his first time stepping into Dynafits and he had a bit of trouble. The skiing from our break spot was incredible: relatively low angle, good snow, and five-thousand feet of exposure.

 

CaseySki.jpg

CaseySki2.jpg

 

When we got to the ice, it hadn't softened a bit. I quickly retrieved one of my axes. The ice was scary. Too scary to sideslip. It would be a tricky transition on the steep slope, but I decided to change into my crampons to downclimb. I swung my ax hard so that the pick went all the way into the ice. I tried to get my downhill ski as set as it could be. I carefully removed the uphill ski and lodged the ski brake into the ice above me. Then I kick-kick-KICKED until my uphill boot had a bit of purchase. Next came the scariest part. Reach down and remove the downhill ski. I VERY carefully lodged it in the ice too. Then kick-kick-KICKED until it had a little purchase. Once I got the crampon on my right boot, everything was all right.

 

In the meantime, Casey had put himself in a worse position where it was even icier. I had instructed him to the ax-in-ice, one-ski-off step, but he was having trouble from there. I secured my pack to my second ax and swiftly moved across the ice to help Casey. I helped him remove his skis and got his crampons on his boots. Now all we had to do was downclimb to the softer snow.

 

I downclimbed rapidly to the top of the Black Pyramid. The snow got softer a little before the top of the pyramid, but the rocks of the pyramid provided a nice flat spot to change into skiing mode again so I went to the rocks. I'd estimate we downclimbed 500', all told.

 

 

Downclimb.jpg

Here Casey downclimbs toward the Black Pyramid. You can see from my steps that the snow has softened, but a nearby flat spot to change into skis seemed good considering Casey's trouble with his new Dynafits.

 

I took a half-hour nap waiting for Casey to finish his downclimb. It was a very strange sensation to wake up from a dream at one point, feeling precariously perched before opening my eyes, to open them and see the spectacular vertiginous views.

 

Casey reached me safely. He apologized for taking so long. "Don't apologize! I'd much rather you take all the time you need than see you hurry and fall."

 

Casey offered to take my camera and play photographer for the next few sections of the descent. The snow was good from where we were. The exposure looking down Thermogenesis and Willis Wall was incredible.

 

Sky1.jpg

 

The rest of the descent was amazing. We had good snow everywhere, except where we went left above Thumb Rock during the climb. That section to the east of the rocks was in the shade and had an icy crust.

 

Sky2.jpg

Sky enjoys the descent circa 12k. That's what it's all about.

 

Sky3.jpgSky4.jpg

 

Below Thumb Rock was absolutely perfect corn. After retrieving the stuff we had left, I remarked to Casey before we began to enjoy the rest of our wet sloppy booty, "You know, we still have seven-thousand feet to ski."

 

Casey3.jpgCasey4.jpg

 

We both made it to the car before the twenty-four hour mark. I don't know what's next, but I'm still hungry.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if I catch a lot of shit for this, but I've told it honestly. It gave me some food for thought. But after a little reflection, I'm don't think I would change much about what I did.

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you're crazy sky! i mean that in a good way. wink.gif

 

awesome....24 hrs liberty ridge! rockband.gif

 

and you're still hungery? damn.

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Amazing job! Now I'm going to have to change my climb next week to Ptarmigane Ridge, since I want to climb something this spring that hasn't been skied!

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Ah, I've been waiting for that sky. In some ways I wish I were there, and in some ways I was when looking out my window friday. Ha. I wish our attempt this winter would've went. Pow, pow would've been incredible, but you can't beat corn either.

 

I just can't believe you joined us sunday after all that smile.gif

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Shit - incredible job guys. Nicely done. Thanks for the TR. How do the feet feel?

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Inspiring. Great photos.

 

Casey sure must have a lot of trust to use Dynafit bindings for the first time on such a route.

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dude...that's killer! It had it all...speed, great weather, conditions, and intensity. Bad ass. I'm jealous.

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It had it all...speed, great weather, conditions, and intensity.

 

Ah, but when you rush through something like that, you don't have time to appreciate things like the pretty moss on the Carbon River trail. Sky is missing out on SO much! Geek_em8.gif

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This was definitely my favorite part of the read:

 

"I'm just gonna climb above the bergschrund. I'm leaving the rope and screws here for you in case I don't return. I'll be right back."

 

"in case i don't return" smile.gif

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Incredible climb/ski, great TR, and excellent pics to boot. I was gripping my mouse hard reading about the ski-crampon exchange. Goodunonya rockband.gif

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Wow...now that's a TR.

 

While everyone is praising the achievement, it was surprising that no one raised any issues with the idea of leaving one's partner where you did. While a great skier, it didn't sound like his climbing skills were as good as yours... what if you didn't return and he had to downclimb himself. Now he's at risk as well. Also, 12K in one day is a HUGE risk for altitude illness. Suppose you had returned and he was unconcious with HACE or hacking up frothy sputum and in HAPE. All seem like reasonable things to take into consideration...

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Great TR, beautiful job.

 

iluka, your perceptions and considerations reflect that you don't know the people involved and that you weren't there.

 

Also, you failed to note that they didn't call their Mommies before making each decision.

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Wow...now that's a TR.

 

While everyone is praising the achievement, it was surprising that no one raised any issues with the idea of leaving one's partner where you did. While a great skier, it didn't sound like his climbing skills were as good as yours... what if you didn't return and he had to downclimb himself. Now he's at risk as well. Also, 12K in one day is a HUGE risk for altitude illness. Suppose you had returned and he was unconcious with HACE or hacking up frothy sputum and in HAPE. All seem like reasonable things to take into consideration...

 

And what if you got hit by a METEORITE?? What then??? Best to STAY HOME, I guess, with so many ways to get hurt climbing mountains.

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