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briejer

School me on soloing Rainier.........

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....in the dead of winter. I have summited solo 5 times in good summer conditions......DC route and Ingrahm direct. I have been contemplating a solo climb in lets say late January-February. My hope is to catch a week of stable weather and just trudge on up. I'm thinking going light,cold weather gear and just bivy sack and sleeping bag.

 

Am I mistaken to think the crevases would mostly be filled with sow and the mountian will be solid due to lots of snow and consant freezing?

 

What I dont know is what route would be the safest avalanche wise, and how to access snow conditions for avalanche danger.

 

Hit me with all the info you can think of. I am not fragile so let me have it...good and bad.

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What I dont know is what route would be the safest avalanche wise, and how to access snow conditions for avalanche danger.

 

Hit me with all the info you can think of. I am not fragile so let me have it...good and bad.

 

I think the best way to answer that is to go do the whole avalanche education cycle.

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any recomendation for a avalanche course or a local

guru that is patient with the un-imformed

 

 

I'm really interested which routes are suggested for winter assents

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Do this instead:

 

see link > http://www.mountainguides.com/rnr-winter.shtml

 

--

 

A week of climbable weather at that time of year might be overly optimistic at best. You should really have a good deal of avy education and or experience and be dialed in on that at the very least. Bad weather nav skills might be essential as well. Gibralter ledges is a standard winter route I hear, but not the only one.

 

Good luck.

 

PS- What do ya want to be in your next life?

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I am surpised if you have summited Rainier 5 times solo that you would need to ask such questions. Any route on rainier is avi prone. Take a course. Google it. it will save your life or at least us reading about you in the paper. Bad weather navi skills IS essential. Have your map and compass skills dialed!!!!! People get lost in white outs on thier way to and from muir. Good luck with a week weather window. More like two days if your are lucky.

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Am I mistaken to think the crevases would mostly be filled with sow and the mountian will be solid due to lots of snow and consant freezing?

Yes, you are mistaken. During the winter the prevailing winds are from the south, which actually scour the south side (the most accessible side in winter) leaving very thin, fragile snow bridges. Also, sastrugi (sp?) snow forms effectively hiding evidence of crevasses making it very difficult to tell where the crevasses are.

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Much more importantly, you should ask yourself:

 

"Do I really have enough knowledge and skill to survive this half-baked plan of mine if I'm turning to an infamous internet source for information and advice?"

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take a avi course but also head out for some smaller objectives (with other people) and get experience. Knowledge is very good but knowledge that is put to use over time is called wisdom. the little voice in the head (from wisdom)is much more valuable than a course alone. Winter on rainier is not a place to develop skills.

 

Go solo st helens or baker first. A added plus, soloing these is legal vs on rainier.

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Solo permits are given on Rainier. It is legal. Thank you Daniel of bringing up Sastrugi that could possibly cover dangers.

 

 

let me ask....is this the correct forum to gain applicable knowlage from? If I was a half baked moron with a death wish I would not be searching out information from those that may have real world experience.

 

I know the weather is my greatest threat. I have the navigaion skills needed, and the common sense to dig in or descend.

 

We do have 4-5 day long high pressure systems during the winter. I dont work, so I can plan my trip around the weather.

 

 

Edited by briejer

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A bunch of partnered winter ascents on Rainier would be a really good place to start. Learn the mountain... and get a job :)

 

PS: a little suggestion, never put your life in the hands of anyone on this or any forum for that matter by taking advice without testing and proving it to yourself before implementing it.

Edited by Mikester

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I only went up there like that once in the winter, (back before the weather coverage got good like now and Nixon was still president). Good weather coverage, like now for instance, where they were reporting that PDX would get snow yesterday but that didn't happen).

 

Basically my thoughts are if you can stay on top of the snow (snowshoes or skiis or find an already broken trail), carry extra weight as it relates to better tent, more food, big fluffy sleeping bag, fuel, dress warm, etc etc.

 

Catch that weather window you know you need and you'll be good to go.

 

Oh, my single Rainer winter experience of heading up in that "good" weather window resulted in @ 3-4 feet of snow in the evening and decided (you can't sleep very well in that kind of weather and getting periodically crushed by the snow on the tent), to wuss out.

 

You've been up there 5 times, you know what you are getting into. If it was me, I would have wanted to have been up on my choice of route in later summer to see what was what and work on getting my bearings. I highly suspect that there isn't a chance in hell you'll fall into a crevasse, but I once guessed a slope would not avalanche and was wrong about that too. Another time I almost guessed wrong about the weather on Rainer too, so theres some luck and pluck you will need for sure. I've never really used a GPS although I'm thinking of buying one to facilitate wandering around in the woods. From what I've seen, in whiteout conditions it would be so much supremely better than a compass/altimeter/map bullshit as you are getting frostbite on your cheeks trying to look at the damn things. I wouldn't head up with out feeling like my GPS and I were one, and I had that totally sussed.

 

The good news, however, you'll absolutely have the whole place to yourself.

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I thought a little free verse was in order

 

 

Ode to the winter soloist

 

 

He once said

School me, tool me

rip me up and abuse me

but please little mountain

don't try to fool me

 

you can't be that hard

you ain't even that tall

I hiked "alone?" you five times

FIVE TIMES! in the sun

Im ready for your winter

your summers are so much fun

 

I know Ive thought of everything

these warnings I think

they're just a bit over done

 

So they come from afar

their ego's so large

you've thought of everything

now youre ready to take charge

 

But you may be surprised

by what you don't know

for the mountain is a different place

in the season of snow

 

the days are shorter

the snow is deeper

the avy risk is higher

the temps are colder

 

youre moving a lot slower

the wind much stronger

the storms last longer

your pack is heavier

 

you have to work a lot harder

and because of all the rest of it

youre off youre game a bit

 

you forget to eat and drink enough

even "best laid plans"

now seem off-the-cuff

 

So youre all alone

when the shit hits the fan

gear gets dropped or blown away

Jee, I didn't think of that...man!

 

help is just a week away though

ONLY A WEEK!

its such a long, long,

long way to go

one small problem though

 

everything you have is soaked

everything you got is frozen

you gotta get down now!

from the route youve chosen

 

but everywhere you look

up is down, day is night

all of it everywhere

nothing but white

 

and soon you're sister's is on the phone

sayin

 

"Now why don't he write?"

 

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The Gib Ledge route is the standard winter route for good reason.

 

It is the shortest route to the summit from Camp Muir and the steep parts are all south facing so generally stable anytime there has not been a big snow or wind event for, say, a week or more. It is not without hazard, though: particularly when the sun comes out the traverse ledges are frequently bombarded with rockfall. There is also some steep and exposed terrain there, and an experienced soloist fell off the traverse a couple of years ago. Your time spent in the chute leading to the top of Gib Rock at the end of the traverse is relatively short, but it is a somewhat exposed place and some have reported worrying about ice falling from above.

 

There is relatively little glacier travel on the route but above Gib Rock there is certainly some potential to fall in some big slots that will be mostly if not almost entirely filled in or bridged.

 

Once you leave the top of Gib Rock, you can dash up to the summit if you are feeling good and not postholing, minimizing the amount of time spent on featureless terrain on the upper mountain.

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Interesting objective. Hannah seemed to survive her solo climb, but then...she's climbed several different Rainier routes, in a variety of months. Most of her climbs up Rainier didn't have a trail leading to the top.

 

Honestly...following the trail up Rainier in good weather (whatever the route) during the summer, whether it be 5 times or 20 times, doesn't match up anywhere to the skills needed for a solo winter ascent. Possible, yes, but certainly problematic, at best. The 'trails' in the winter often dead end, and lead to crevasses that have been skirted...or dealt with in a manner...that a snow trail will never fully divulge its secrets. You'll need to totally know how to deal with the route...such as sastrugi, mentioned above. Fail that test at any point, and it won't be a pleasant outcome. You may not even know you messed up...until coming down...when can get a better perspective on things. Getting caught uphill of some gapers isn't uncommon in the winter. The challenge...is usually a jump, a leap, or an end-run. Not so bad is one's roped up and the weather is good.

 

Unexpected weather comes in fast on Rainier...especially during the winter. It can change in as little as 2-6 hours to the extreme. Imagine being up high with short notice with a weather change, moving slow from breaking trail, becoming a little dehydrated. Getting caught above Muir would be a nightmare for a small team...no less a solo climber (remember Hood). The wind yesterday/today at Muir has been averaging like 50-60+, and temps were below zero f. The weather can flip flop in a moment, and blow so hard, looking at a GPS and route finding around crevasses is only a figment of an imagination. It's challenge enough when everything is going well.

 

There's some good advice here in the thread, for sure. The avi education, for one. The second best piece of advice...climb other mountains in the winter, with other people...then solo...and use that same approach on Rainier. You'll be better equipped skill and gear wise to make better choices when you plod off alone up 'the mountain.'

 

Have you read the story of Delmar Fadden?

 

Be sure to post some TR's from your climbs. Always nice to hear what's going on with the route conditions.

 

Good luck wresting with your challenge. :)

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On both of my winter ascents, there is no way I could physically have soloed the route. In places the route was scoured, but in places very breakable crust and deeeeeeeeep snow. Trail-breaking through those conditions was exhausting, and there's no way I could have done it without partners to switch off with.

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I remember being up high soloing a 20k peak. I crossed over a crevasse bridge only to have it collapse behind me. That ups the ante. When soloing glaciated peaks I tend to stick to ridges and avoid the crevasses - this is not always possible. I also like routes where retreat is straight forward. My one winter attempt on Rainier was the Willis Wall. After retreating and coming down the Carbon my partner and I repeatedly punched into cracks and at one point we both went into different cracks. So winter does not always mean safer in terms of breaking through.

 

Folks have mentioned the Gib Ledges - did them years ago one spring but we descended the DC. For those who have done the Ledges in winter did you descend the same?

 

I think probably the biggest factor is white conditions - whether summer or winter. Finding your ways around that bald dome in a whiteout sucks. I have done this several times. Not fun.

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You should solo it a few times in Second Life this winter, then cram in a few episodes of "Everest: Beyond the Limit" right before you leave. You'll be fine.

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Solo permits are given on Rainier. It is legal. Thank you Daniel of bringing up Sastrugi that could possibly cover dangers.

 

 

let me ask....is this the correct forum to gain applicable knowlage from? If I was a half baked moron with a death wish I would not be searching out information from those that may have real world experience.

 

I know the weather is my greatest threat. I have the navigaion skills needed, and the common sense to dig in or descend.

 

We do have 4-5 day long high pressure systems during the winter. I dont work, so I can plan my trip around the weather.

 

This is the right forum.

There is some bs here and there but mostly, you will get good info. Part of your trouble will be figuring out which is valid and which is not or not as much so.

DanielPatricSmith has posted TR's of many arduous trips.

BillCoe has been around the block once or twice.

I am not putting anyone else down. Just listing a couple that I would listen to.

As for my 2 cents. I find that getting out is the only way to know what you will need. Put yourself on top of a ridge near Snoqualmie pass (or something else easily accessable) in a fierce storm where you can bail if you need to. See what your gear does. Do it again and refine.

I have been climbing in winter for decades and still often forget something useful or bring something worthless if I have not been out regularly.

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if you're just taking a bivy sack, are you planning then on sleeping at the muir hut? cooking in the open can be damn near impossible if the conditions are poor.

 

it can be really, really, really shitty up there in winter - on a denali training climb on rainier in december a number of years ago, it took us almost 2 full days just to make it to muir! (granted, in poor weather and deep powder w/ a shit-ton of camp-weight)

 

be confident in your ability to navigate in white-out!

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Know your navigational skills as if you were blind.

You likely will be at some point up there in winter.

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For gear, I'd recommend adding a shovel to your list and maybe learning a little about snowcaves before you go.

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