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Mike_Gauthier

Climbing Report Gib Ledges

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below is a climbing report that a friend shared with me. he summitted last week.

Any of my trail reports past, present and future are for all to share. That having been said I will share with you the fact that on Feb 14 and 15, I made the first solo ascent of 2002 of Mt Rainier. I skied up to Camp Muir with a heavy pack on Thursday the 14th getting their in plenty of time to finish dinner before it got dark and to get plenty of rest. I slept thru my alarm at 2:30 and rose instead at 3:30. Departing at near 4 AM, I got across the Gib Ledges and up the steep upper part of the Gibraltar Nisqually Chute before it got light enough to turn off my headlamp. I made decent time ascending at about 1000 feet per hour. The conditions were a perfect windslab with minimal crevasse danger. I made the crater rim at 8:20 AM and traversed to the highest point by 8:45. In my previous 15 ascents of Rainier never had I had such a wonderful wilderness experience. The 2 climbers I had shared the Muir hut with had decided against a summit attempt so I had Mt Rainier all to myself (at least above 10000 feet). Leaving the crater rim at 9:00 AM I found I could make really good time plunging my heals into the windslab. There was a bit of rockfall from the intense sunlight while coming back across the ledges so I didn't waste any time. I was back at Muir at 10:20 AM feeling a bit fatigued.By noon I was finished packing up and switched to my ski boots for the downhill run. Fifty-five minutes later I was back at the parking lot at Paradise. It wasn't even 1:00 PM and I was a pleasantly mystified that a solo winter trip of Mt Rainier had gone without a hitch.

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I received this news as well, and although very few people here will know this guy I believe he is on his way to becoming a local legend. Don has done a ton of cool stuff that I wouldn't touch, and his future plans he's shared with me blow me away.

He'll never see this, but congratulations Don on a successful trip. cool.gif" border="0

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This report is an inspiration. To the anonymous soloist, whoever he is: I'm glad you got to have the mountain to yourself, and glad you shared the story with us.

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quote:

Originally posted by Mike Gauthier:
.... I was back at Muir at 10:20 AM feeling a bit fatigued...

This cracked me up. [laf]

[ 02-20-2002: Message edited by: Bronco ]

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yes mr clyde, don (vegetablebelay gave his name away) is quite an accomplished climber. i didn't ask if i could print his name with the report, so i left it out as a courtesy. but he probably wouldn't mind anyway... don is rather laid back.

one of the cool (and inspirational) things about working on rainier is the fact that i get to meet a lot of unsung and talented climbers like don. they add a great deal of personal charm and character to this big hill. as i'm sure many of us know, there are a lot of "bad ass" climbers out there that the we never hear about.

[big Drink]

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Great report! I've summited Rainier 15 times, but I am zero-for-three in winter. frown.gif" border="0 I'm still hoping for a weekend weather/snow condition window to open up before March 21st. The fact that I'm locked into "weekends only" makes this seem unlikely. This guy makes it sound easy! [hell no]

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Hey Mike, we're checking out your book for the Kautz later on. For now though, do regular folks do running belays through the Gibraltar Ledges on that route? The solo dude didn't make any mention of this... 'cause he was solo I guess.

Anyone have any route specific info that Van Steen or Beckey don't point out in their books? This would be for a winter ascent.

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It sounds like he descended the Gib route as well. There are some pretty steep sections thru the Nisqually chute area, so I'm impressed. Of the two times I've done Rainier from Muir, I have descended the same way which I don't think is routine. I have come back down to the top of Gib rock and instead of dropping down to the right where Gib ledges route comes up (steep) I have dropped to the left, followed the base of Gib rock and then down thru Cadaver gap. Has anyone done this? I don't know If I'd do it solo though. I have gone this way because I have never done the Ingrham/ DC route and fear I would get lost on the way down, especially in a whiteout. Gib rock keeps me oriented.

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Pencil Pusher - I have been up and down that route twice during the winter, once with partners and once by myself. I did not use a belay on the ledges either time. There has been at least one recent accident here where someone (solo) fell off the ledges and it IS very exposed, but the terrain is not really technical. I recall that, depending on conditions, there can be a windroll or something like that, perhaps 2/3 of the way accross, where one might want to belay and if you are worried about the exposure or the possibility that the snow you are walking on might fall off, you might use a running belay for more than just that little bit, but if you found the climbing difficult enough to "pitch it out" you would be spending a lot of extra time which would not only jeapordize your chance of a successful summit climb, but which would leave you exposed to stone fall longer and later in the day upon your return (the last time I suggested that stonefall was an issue on this route I was rebuked for making such a silly statement but the report from last week suggests that Don thought stonefall was an issue as well).

Also, I should note that on the first occasion I climbed that way, we elected to descend the Gib Chute because it looked (and turned out to be) very straight-forward and we didn't want to walk back accross the ledges in the middle of the day. I don't know what it looks like now, and it may not always be a good choice, but on that occasion we had soft crusty snow all the way down the chute and we were down and out of harms wayin about 15 minutes. - Matt

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Matt,

I agree that rock fall is a MAJOR hazard on the Gib Ledges. I was there several years ago in May and there was tons of rock comin down early, if we would have come down the same way we probably would have been pummelled.

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my 2 cents.

about half of the teams that climb the gib ledges use ropes. personally, i (and my partners) don't. matt is right, the terrain isn't too technical, but it IS exposed. i prefer not to rope up b/c i've generally felt that a rope would assure my death, as well as my partners, if either of us were to fall or be hit by a rock. running belays are an option (i have done them in the past), but the snow conditions on the ledges can, and usually is, problematic. that snow is rife with rocks and small debris from gib rock above, therefore that snow tends to be shallow, sugary and a bit unconsolidated. yes, there are times when it's quite firm, but that's not always the case, even during cold temperatures... also consider that you'll have "moats" to watch. these moats form between the snow and rock on the ledges itself, matt, did you ever find this to be the case? once you're off the ledges and into the chute, the snow generally firms up nicely.

hey david, i have descended the ingraham next to gib rock as you suggest, but that's not always a go. that section can be quite crevassed at times and as you probably noticed, it's pretty steep getting off of gib and onto the ingraham (and did you notice the sulfur smell there?, i think there is a sulfur vent in that area) anyway, going through cadaver gap is a great alternative to normal march from muir to ingraham flats. i sometimes recommend the route to folks who haven't tried it. this is especially the case during the early season (but watch the avalanche conditions) so, try ascending or descending cadaver gap if you get a chance.

yes, falling rocks ARE an issue on the ledges. wear your helmet.

about descending gib chute. well, that's a roll of the dice. i've definitely done it (and i've even ridden down it) but make sure you can MOVE FAST... it really is a gamble... b/c if that ice cliff goes, you're toast.

my advice. if you've done some climbing, are comfortable moving fast in crampons, and have climbed rainier before, don't rope up on the ledges. instead, move as quickly as you can (without stumbling) without belays etc. this way, you'll be able to get back down the ledges before the sun starts to melt the ice that adheres to the gib rock. usually, getting up (or down) the ledges doesn't take that much time.

have i said too much?

last bit of advice,

when visiting rainier in the winter, always carry tire chains...

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quote:

Originally posted by Mike Gauthier:
also consider that you'll have "moats" to watch. these moats form between the snow and rock on the ledges itself, matt, did you ever find this to be the case ...

....

Yes, Mike, I do remember that. I think the wind roll or whatever it was where we had to drop off the ledge a little bit was made a little more problematic by this situation. I seem to recall the difficulty being only minor, however.

quote:

Originally posted by Mike Gauthier:
last bit of advice, when visiting rainier in the winter, always carry tire chains...

....

You bet.

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Pencil Pusher All of Mattp and Mikes points were right on the money. Real good advice. I'd only add 2 things. If deciding which side of Gib rock to decend concider that a large cornice and wind slab develope on the north side of camp comfort so you want it to be stable there as well as cadaver gap. The other is that even on very cold days, about 2 hours after the sun hits Gib's west face and 2 hours after it leaves it, it can just rain rocks and boulders. IMHO it's suicide to be there at those times:-{ and just dangerous the rest of the time :-}. Don's got good reason to be wary there. When descending the route one winter we got to the ledges just as the sun left. We were so freaked by the sheer size and amount of the bombing that we couldn't bring ourselves to cross when it subsided. We hurried down the chute instead. Mike, I would really like to have seen you ride that, must have been fun ! Don said the snow was perfect at the top of the chute on friday. The last time I was there it was bullet proof ice. If you pick the conditions right the ice cliff is the only thing to worry about. Whichever way you go Pencil, Good luck and be safe.

oh ya.... when visiting rainier in the winter, always carry tire chains...

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quote:

even on very cold days, about 2 hours after the sun hits Gib's west face and 2 hours after it leaves it, it can just rain rocks and boulders.

oops...thats Gib's SOUTH face

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Thanks Snafflehound, for sending that e-mail to me about that guy who did Rainier. Yes, I was most interested in it for it was my kid brother. I soloed Rainier via the Emmons Glacier 8/12/98 round trip from Edmonds in a day so of course Don had to go upstage me by doing it in the winter.

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All I have to say, is that you (Mike) and all the other people that work round the clock on rainier are badass and do a great service to the climbing community and are getting nationally recognized for it e.g. Outside Magazine. I would love to have the privaledge to climb with you someday. I'm only 19, but think of it this way, in my eyes, you are my michael Jordan, just you can climb faster than he can. I want to be like you and be as successful at climbing as you. Thanks for what you're doing for the sport.

Stay Safe!

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i'm sorry, westerner, but for some reason that last entry irked me. dude, be your own michael jordan. find a good, solid partner to climb with and build trust with, and you'll be able to run laps around any of the Mountain Climbers that you blindly hero-worship now. don't try to be like someone else, try to be like yourself, and then be better than that...this is not to say that ALL the rainier rangers (and the olympic rangers, and ALL the mtn rescue folks in the state aren't outstanding and impressive). i just think that you should pick your heros carefully. and be your own f***ing hero. [hell no]

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Summited 3/1 Sat. w/ Al Menzel

It's mostly al been said, so I'll limit this to current conditions.

Paradise to Muir: Mixed chalk and boiler-plate. Most parties put crampons on between Pan Pt. and Muir. Lost a randonee ski on the way down. If found contact: jhamaker@onebox.com

Muir to 11,000 ft.: hard styrofoam, chalk, packed fluff - much better skiing than below Muir.

Gib Ledge: Thousands of ft. of exposure. Snow ramp next to rock mostly intact. One notable section of frozen rock/choss. If you run belays, set up before you find yourself wanting a belay but not having any platform to work off off.

Top of Gib Chute: Even more exposure. Styrofoam/mix. Great cramponing. Self belay w/ ice ax shaft as your pick would most certainly not hold your weight.

Top of Gib Chute to Summit: Same as above. Strasturgi (sp) sometimes big enough to belay off of/ protect with. Knocked to the ground twice. Had to crawl on hands and knees into the protection of the crater. Views from Baker? to Jefferson. Found the summit register! We were the first entry since 10/4/01!

Upper Ingram Gl.: Same as above. Protected one spot while crossing an offset crevass on the steeps.

Lower Ingram Gl: Skis would have been fun.

Cadaver Gap: Three separate bridged routes from Ingram Gl. to the Gap. Good plunge stepping to the Cowlitz Gl.

Last word: Rope up only if you can hold a fall. Crevasses are pretty well bridged over. The likleyhood of a fall off the mountain is much greater than the likelyhood of a fall into a crevasse, though I would not reccommend either.

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Fred You're the only person I know who goes for a day hike up Mt. Ruth and soloes Rainier as an afterthought!

Hey J glad all went well for you on Gib and thanks for the TR.

Were those my bindings on the ski you lost;-{ ? As for that other thing...suck it up and DO IT DO IT DO IT! Bring 2 pickets and rope up only as a last resort.

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Congrats Hollywood, Wish I could have made it up there with Ya! Too bad about the ski. See ya on Sat.

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I passed someone descending with one randonee ski on Sunday- must have been the infamous lost ski noted above.

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