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freeclimb9

Ptarmigan Ridge on 6-12

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I met boonecounty at the White River trailhead Monday (6-10) night, and we pared gear down for the walk to Ptarmigan ridge. On Tuesday, we slogged for hours to get to the bivouac at 10,300'. It took us 11 hours of slow toil. The weather was stunningly clear and warm. The temperature cycling through the day helped gravity do its work. Serac falls boomed from every wall in sight: Willis, Liberty, Ptarmigan, and Mowich.

We bivied for too few hours, then headed up the Ridge predawn with clear skies overhead and a clear view of the Puget sound and Seattle. Ice conditions were inconsistent. Some neve, some black ice, some munge, and some crust over sugar. After soloing the first 1800', we moved left toward the chute, and started belaying. The ropelength traverse into the chute itself featured wind-packed sugar over black ice: It was nice to have a rope. We had expected a few ropelengths of easy ramp after completing the chute, but found 200' of black ice at about 60 degrees angle that lead to a ridge crest over the Mowich face. This ridgecrest offered the first view of the nearby escape gully. There are two visible gullies, and we took the rightmost one. (BTW, there's a sweet bivy spot on this ridgecrest). The escape gully was fairly well supplied with crusted snow over sugar and some ice. We belayed for a shot section here, too, and found a fixed baby angle where some moves over rock are encountered (5.easy move).

The route is essentially over at 12,500', but the danger wasn't. The upper mountain had a lot of death cookies growing snow feathers. Sugar created from windblown snow filled in some spots, but was only so many ball-bearings over hard ice. We had to stay focused to maintain good footing despite the low angle. The descent down the Winthrop and Emmons also required wearing crampons almost the whole way due to the hard pack, death cookies, and blue ice.

We took a couple 2.5' pickets, three 22cm ice-screw, and a hand full of nuts. That was a decent rack, but a better one would have had a couple more screws and only three nuts around medium to mid-medium sized (we placed one BD #4).

My climbing partner, boonecounty, was a delight to climb with. We both took a gamble in climbing with each other sight unseen, but it worked out well.

We also lucked out with the great weather. There was barely a breeze on top of Liberty Cap. This is in contrast to two days earlier when a lenticular cloud capped the mountain. High winds that day blew away the hopes of a group of climbers from Feathered Friends gunning for Ptarmigan ridge. Like the old rolex ad with Jean-Claude Killy says, "In skiing, as in life, timing is everything." I'd rather be lucky than good.

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Great report, good to hear it worked out for you; perfect timing! The Ptarmigan high camp is a long way to slog just to retrace your steps the next day, and it sure is frustrating having such good weather everywhere in sight except for the the 2 or 3 square miles where you want to go! We'll get it eventually...

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quote:

Originally posted by slothrop:

Uh, yeah, but what's a "cookie"? A slab?

[Roll Eyes] if you can't figure it out now you need more help than I want to offer

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I figured it was either small slabs shifting underfoot or nasty chunks of debris. Thanks for nothing, Cavey. [Roll Eyes]

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I want to thank my partner, Will, for giving such a good trip report. He was definatly the strong member of the team. It was my first route on Rainier, and a very memorable one. Very cool climbing with a wiser, distinguished alpine climber. His strength helped overcome some of my lack of experience and I learned a shitload from climbing with him. The stupidest thing I did on the trip was bring one black prophet and one piolet. The piolet bounced uselessly off of the bullet hard black ice. Thanks Will, I learned a lot and am really grateful you took a chance on climbing with me.

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quote:

Originally posted by slothrop:

What's a death cookie?

chunks of ice embedded in snow are called "death cookies" by skiers who hate them. They suck to walk over as well. On Wednesday, there were fields of these things on the flanks of Rainier --like demented mushrooms-- sprouting from hard ice and covered with a bit of snow. Uneven and insecure footing is all they offered.

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Thanks, freeclimb. I'm glad your trip went well and you weren't maimed by the death cookies [Wink]

 

[ 06-14-2002, 06:03 PM: Message edited by: slothrop ]

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Nice TR, I have a hard enough time climbing with people I know well, good to hear it works out sometimes.

 

Great job on a classy route, post some pictures if you can.

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"The stupidest thing I did on the trip was bring one black prophet and one piolet. The piolet bounced uselessly off of the bullet hard black ice. Thanks Will, I learned a lot and am really grateful you took a chance on climbing with me. "

 

 

 

Are two technical tools standard, rather than one tool and a normal mountaineering axe (like the BD raven, positive angle pick)?

Edited by flatland

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I don't think you will get a clear answer as to what is "standard." I am sure the route was done originally without any technical ice climbing tool, and plenty of people have done it with a single ice axe whereas others bring two water ice tools. It is going to vary depending on the climber's personal style and background and also on the conditions....

 

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You have a lot of glacier to cross from White River. If your partner falls in a big crevasse how are you going to arrest without an ice axe? Are you going to use a technical tool for that?

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Catbird-

I think you may be a little mixed up here. I doubt most parties that climb Ptarmigan Ridge go anywhere near White River. I agree that an ice tools is not the best thing for glacier travel, though.

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Self arresting, especially a crevasse fall, with 2 tools isn't a cake walk. I've practiced it several times. It requires good technique. If you have a curved shaft tool, the but always wants to catch on the snow turning the tool and driving the adze or hammer into your face. What works for me is to hold the buts up and pull my body up unto the shafts making my bodyweight drive the picks into the snow. Definately practice a lot before counting on it.

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The use of technical tools on this route in last year's conditions would be a smart move. The ice encountered was harder than any water ice I have ever swung into. Truly black ice. I was able to make it through the climb by hooking the piolet into my old prophet holes. I think it all depends on conditions. Last year the upper part of rainer seemed particularly icy. Plus with last year's heavy snowpack and a early june ascent which would you rather have a long piolet for approach/descent or a tool that actually penetrated the ice on 60degree black ice? After all with bridges that thick what are the chances of falling in a crevasse.

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mattp said:

Catbird-

I think you may be a little mixed up here. I doubt most parties that climb Ptarmigan Ridge go anywhere near White River. I agree that an ice tools is not the best thing for glacier travel, though.

If I remember correctly, Gator says in his book that some climbers choose to go in via White River. It's very long, but you have the beaten boot path of those going to Liberty Ridge. Ipsut Creek is the other way early, or Mowich Lake later on.

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