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Big_Sky_Ry

Emmons TR 10/14/02

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Three parties left White R. to attempt the Emmons on Friday 10/12. A group of 3 from Missoula MT, a group of 3 from Vancouver BC (incl. salbrecher here @ CC) and our group of 2 from Bozeman MT.

 

We stopped at Camp Curtis for the night while the other two parties continued on to Schurman, arriving there after dark. We continued to Schurman the next morning.

 

The route up the Inter Glacier is pretty straightforward. Stay to the right as you pass 8,000 feet. There are steep water ice bulges to the left and center on the lower half of the Inter Glacier if you want to add some excitement. After 8k, you can pretty much stay right of center through the crevasse fall on good bridges and an end run or two. Once above this series of crevasses, you can head left to the ridge and Camp Curtis.

 

The Emmons is broken up right now but most of the routefinding difficulties are only at the very bottom or the very top. The Missoula group spent 4.5 hrs on Saturday morning trying to find a way into the Corridor with no success and they aborted their climb (something about having to be back at school, what's up with that?). They went far right to the Winthrop, and far left to the Emmons, and were stopped by icefalls after pursuing several variations.

 

Two members of the BC group were able to scout a route into Emmons Flats via the icefall directly above (and slightly climber's right) of camp. This route is not obvious or visible from Schurman. But we climbed to the summit of Steamboat Prow that morning and were able to see this line. I highly recommend that you make the climb to the Prow before descending down to the Emmons from Curtis en route to Schurman. The perspective of the Emmons Glacier from this vantage point was vital to allow us to navigate a lot of the route in the dark through the Corridor, and to see possible routes on the upper mountain.

 

We spent the afternoon Saturday ice climbing in the crevasses and practicing crevasse rescue.

 

Four of us left camp for the summit at about 4:30 - 5:00 am the next morning - two from the BC group, and the two of us from the Bozeman group. We punched out 2500 feet by dawn and once past the initial icefall, routefinding into the corridor and on up was pretty obvious. We went up the Corridor on its climber's left and descended on its climber's right. The left variation was a lot easier with less icefall to navigate through. Once out of the corridor, we went climber's right to avoid the steep water ice traverse through the "bowl" above the corridor. We climbed past a series of seracs (to climber's left) on easy slopes to the bergschrunds in the summit cap, and then made a loooong sweeping traverse at 12,600 - 13,700 climber's left until we joined the boot track of the DC/Ingraham route at around 13,700. On this traverse we encountered one steep water ice slope that we protected with a running belay. This was above and climber's left of the bowl at around 13,500. The route to the summit was the uneventful DC boot track. We summitted at 12:30 pm and trickled back into camp under headlamp between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. We did not wand the route (pretty tough to stick bamboo into ice) so used a GPS to "wand" it instead. Return routefinding was more difficult than on the way up, as always seems the case.

 

Summit winds were forecasted for the day to be 25 mph but were blowing hard enough at Columbia Crest to fully hold up 175 pounds of climber and pack leaning into the wind. We literally spent about 30 seconds on top and then gained refuge in the crater for lunch. Winds blew steady all day long 20 mph+ with some very serious gusts. The glacier included a lot of water ice with some steeper steps and traverses near the top (below the 'schrunds) so the winds made for some pretty exciting climbing.

 

All in all, the route was in outstanding condition (we only had to cross one precarious soft snow bridge) but do not expect the same grade of climbing you find in the summer. The route is mostly hard ice and probably not for the faint of heart this time of year. But if you're ready to French for hours on end...

 

We descended back down to the car on Monday. The entire 4 days was during an unbelievable ridge of high pressure, the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen on Rainier in the fall. In four days, we saw only wispy little cirrus clouds on our summit day. Other than that, it was bluebird the entire time. Temps at Schurman were 22*F (low)to 40*F (high). Summit crater temps at 12:30 pm were in the high teens.

 

The biggest challenges we faced: circuitous routefinding, high winds during most of the summit day, and hard ice conditions.

 

Some tips:

 

Screws over pickets.

GPS over wands.

Shovel? Ha ha.

Consider going unroped or use running belays on some of the steeper steps.

No boot track up the Emmons - it was too icy to matter for the most part and blowing spindrift covered most of our tracks as we passed them on the descent.

 

Also: there are no blue bags available outside the Schurman hut; camping at Curtis & Schurman was entirely on rock/dirt; there is lots of WATER at Schurman on warm days via drips down the crevasse wall just above and climber's left of camp.

 

Do it now...winter's coming...

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I was just scoping out the roads down there in a car before I walk there with everything on my back [Wink][Moon]

 

[ 10-16-2002, 05:04 PM: Message edited by: salbrecher ]

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