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Jamin

[TR] Mount Rainier Attempt - Emmons Glacier 5/17/2007

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Trip: Mount Rainier Attempt - Emmons Glacier

 

Date: 5/17/2007

 

Trip Report:

This trip had been on my thoughts for a couple months. Since the road was closed at Crystal Mountain, the plan was to bike the 11 miles to White River Campground, ascend the Interglacier to Camp Schurman, and summit Mount Rainier the next day.

 

On the morning of 5/17, I awoke at 3.45 am and drove to North Bend to meet my partner, Ryan. We started biking up toward White River Campground about 3 hours later. After a short rest, we headed up the trail to Glacier Basin. The first mile and a half of the trail was washed out in most places, but there was fairly easy travel through the washed out areas. We followed a good set of tracks from some climbers up to the basin, but at the basin it became apparent that the tracks were headed toward St. Elmo Pass and Liberty Ridge. It took less than three hours to hike to Glacier Basin.

 

After a short rest on a bench above Glacier Basin, I started breaking trail up toward the Inter Glacier. It was difficult because we were already starting to feel the effects of the previous part of our trip. Snowshoes might have been a bit helpful because the snow had softened and was rather unconsolidated. We roped up at 7400 feet, but it was almost unnecessary at that low of an elevation. On the descent we saw only one large crevasse at about 7800 feet. However, there were probably others buried under the snow.

 

After we roped up, the weather rapidly began to deteriorate. Clouds started to move in and obscure everything around us. I set a course for a rock formation that I could see ahead of me. I thought at the time that it was Steamboat Prow, but I was wrong. Soon the clouds came in fiercely and visibility decreased until at one point my partner Ryan was barely visible at the end of the rope.

 

I do not know whether any of you have been in a completely snowy landscape in thick clouds, but it is a strange experience. The landscape merges with the clouds and forms an impenetrable mass of white. It is difficult to see the surface of the snow more than 10 feet in front of you, and you would not know if a crevasse was there until you were nearly right on top of it.

At 8400 feet we encountered a wall of loose, crumbling rock to our right. At first I thought that we might be on the Emmons, but I wasn’t really sure where we were. Then Ryan suggested that we had climbed too far to the right, and I began to have a gut feeling that he was right. Ryan eventually got us on his GPS, confirmed our suspicions, and we began an ascending traverse toward the ridge below Steamboat Prow. We were both starting to feel completely exhausted at this point, and Ryan recommended camping about midway into the traverse. I recommended that we should make it up to Camp Shurman and then stay in the shelter up there. We ascended to the ridge at about 8900 feet, and then we began to notice some clearing. We stumbled upon some tracks that seemed to come from the direction of Camp Schurman, and we followed their general direction until we could see better. Eventually the strong wind started blowing the clouds down to lower elevations, and we could easily see the summit of Rainier. There was a cloud sea below us, and I am sort of reminded of the words of Shurman… “Into a cloud sea far below, I lonely watch the red sun go.” We reached Camp Schurman at about 8:30. We had reached our goal for the day, and were set to attempt the summit on the following morning. Unfortunately, we were both completely exhausted, and we really didn’t care very much about the mountain at that point.

 

I was surprised that there was a padlock on the door of the shelter and a sign saying that it should only be used in emergencies. I had planned on spending the night in the shelter, but no matter, we had a tent. After we shoveled out a platform in the snow, it became apparent that our tent might not be sufficient for Rainier in May. The wind began to pick up speed when we were setting up our camp. Once we got the tent set up well enough so that it would not disappear when a big gust hit it, I set to work building a snow wall to shelter the tent from the wind. I eventually got a rickety wall of about 3 feet of frozen snow constructed, and then I crawled into the tent. Ryan was leaning up against his pack as if he was a corpse, too exhausted to move. At the time it seemed like gusts up to 40 miles an hour were slamming into our tent, but I now think that they were probably only in the high thirties. It was difficult to get any sleep because we were both sure that the stitches would come out of the tent at any moment. At one point in the middle of the night, the wind tore part of the tent fly loose. Ryan recommended that we try to bust into the shelter, but I was too tired to move my gear and thought that the tent would probably hold. I tied the fly to a snow picket with a bunch of carabiners and tried to get some sleep. Eventually the wind seemed to die down at about 5 am. I nudged Ryan and asked whether he was willing to head for the summit. He merely groaned. I was pretty tired at that point so I went to sleep and forgot about the summit. About an hour later, it was windless and clear. Ryan and I got up and decided to get as far up the mountain as possible before we became too tired.

 

After melting snow and getting packed, it was about 7am when we started. We negotiated a good amount of crevasses. I was walking up the first part of the glacier when I saw a bottomless hole about the size of a couple quarters in the snow. After I enlarged it I realized that I was standing on a very thin snow bridge. Unlike most the crevasses we encountered, there was absolutely no sign of the crevasse on the surface. Ryan was so exhausted that he gave up really quickly at 10,200. On the way back down to Schurman he punched his leg through a snow bridge, but he did not go all the way through.

 

When we reached Camp Schurman, the summit began to become shrouded in clouds, and we were glad that we turned back when we did. We descended back down to the truck that day and arrived just as it started to rain. All in all, it was a nearly typical May summit attempt.

 

 

Gear Notes:

Snowshoes would be useful

 

Approach Notes:

22 miles of biking, 10 miles of hiking, all for about a mile or two of climbing. 7000 vertical feet the first day and about 700 for the second

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thanks for the report. We're headed that way tomorrow, and hoping that snowshoes won't be necessary. The uphill bike seems like a hard way to start off the climb. Nice effort.

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I recommended that we should make it up to Camp Shurman and then stay in the shelter up there.

FYI, its not a public shelter.

 

Ryan recommended that we try to bust into the shelter

It was locked for a reason......

 

We were both starting to feel completely exhausted at this point

Unfortunately, we were both completely exhausted, and we really didn’t care very much about the mountain at that point

Ryan was leaning up against his pack as if he was a corpse, too exhausted to move.

but I was too tired to move my gear

I nudged Ryan and asked whether he was willing to head for the summit. He merely groaned

WHAT?? Dude save some for the trip back to the car.

Ryan was so exhausted that he gave up really quickly

 

Hey Jamin

Its a great TR and a very nice effort but take a look back and ask yourself......should we have pushed for the summit?

If you had fallen into a crevase, do you think a corpse could have pulled you out. Hats off to both of you for the effort but please don't forget the amount of energy needed to make it back down the inter glacier and on to the car.

 

 

 

 

 

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Too bad you didn't allow three days. Camping at Glacier Basin might have been the way to go what with the bicycle approach plus the hike. Good effort.

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good effort, chalk it up to "continuing accumulation of experiences in the mountains that didnt kill me".

 

Ironically, with experience, those most vivid first impressions and first trips become at the same time very blasé ("we were such noobs!") and treasured ("I remember the first time we went up to Shurman in the early season, and thought about breaking into the shelter!").

 

I think I for one have spent the last 10 years looking for routes and experiences that would leave the same *kinds* of impressions on me as those first few years of climbing, but while I've climbed alot of stuff with alot of people, I have very rarely succeeded there.

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Trip: Mount Rainier Attempt - Emmons Glacier

 

Date: 5/17/2007

 

Trip Report:

After we roped up, the weather rapidly began to deteriorate. Clouds started to move in and obscure everything around us. I set a course for a rock formation that I could see ahead of me. I thought at the time that it was Steamboat Prow, but I was wrong. Soon the clouds came in fiercely and visibility decreased until at one point my partner Ryan was barely visible at the end of the rope.

 

I do not know whether any of you have been in a completely snowy landscape in thick clouds, but it is a strange experience. The landscape merges with the clouds and forms an impenetrable mass of white. It is difficult to see the surface of the snow more than 10 feet in front of you, and you would not know if a crevasse was there until you were nearly right on top of it.

At 8400 feet we encountered a wall of loose, crumbling rock to our right. At first I thought that we might be on the Emmons, but I wasn’t really sure where we were.

 

I saw a bottomless hole about the size of a couple quarters in the snow. After I enlarged it I realized that I was standing on a very thin snow bridge. Unlike most the crevasses we encountered, there was absolutely no sign of the crevasse on the surface.

Pretty typical at this time of year up there, the weather is a big factor and that includes the freeze/thaws and freezing level and wind changes that effect the snow surface especially over crevasses. Been there done that and learned.

Nice writeup, please be careful out there at this time of year on the big R.

TTT

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I think I for one have spent the last 10 years looking for routes and experiences that would leave the same *kinds* of impressions on me as those first few years of climbing, but while I've climbed alot of stuff with alot of people, I have very rarely succeeded there.

 

I am beginning to agree with you on that.

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I do not know whether any of you have been in a completely snowy landscape in thick clouds...

Anyone? Anyone at all out there?

 

Seriously, though, nice effort. Now you will have some route familiarity if you go back and it definitely sounds like you are gaining some valuable experience. I went to Rainier Memorial Day weekend last year to try the Ptarmigan Ridge route and we had nothing but pure whiteout/blizzard conditions the whole time (we bailed on second day, had allowed 4 days). We were navigating by map and compass and very limited visibility the whole time. Tough time of year to try Rainier. Hopefully you will gain some more skills in navigation in whiteout conditions, which can definitely come in handy on the bigger peaks (or lesser ones, too).

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KWEB, were your condescending remarks really necessary?

 

Jamin, good experience up there. Trial by fire is how most of us learned. Glad to ultimately turned back and will be able to try it another day. Good luck.

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Kraken

What was wrong with my remarks?

I just pointed out a few things that raised a red flag to me.

Then I complemended him and his partner on thier efforts.

 

Feel free to PM if you think I was way out of line.......

 

Jamin, hope my comments didn't offend you. It was just meant to help you look back and evaluate the situation.

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