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Panos

Liberty Ridge - Winter approach options

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See also approach via Glacier basin below.

 

On Thanksgiving day I walked up to Mystic lake to get an idea of how this approach will look in the late winter. I just make some notes here for remembering the facts.

 

1) The road that used to take to the rangers' station is washed out about 0.2m before the station. I hope that it stays accessible to that point all winter. The elevation at the dead end is about 1750'.

 

2) The Carbon river road that used to take to the Ipsut camp is a TOTAL MESS after the floods of November 2006 and 2008. Last year in another post somebody suggested me to take a dog sledge for the approach... With the conditions as they are now it would be totally impossible to pass some sections by any means other than carrying your stuff on your back - no sledges, no yaks, no canines even no skis would pass the jungle of fallen trees and wash-outs of the road. At these passages (river crossings) one has to balance on several fallen trees. That would be easier with crampons. From car to the Ipsut camp it took me about 1 hour (using my bicycle at the first half).

 

3) Not only the road is washed out but the same is true for parts of the trail after the Ipsut camp. For example, at the "lower crossing" one HAS to cross the river bed and search for the path at the other side in the woods, because the trail that used to follow the right side of the river up to the suspension bridge has disappeared completely at places.

 

4) From the car (1750') to the saddle (6100') right before Mystic lake it took me about 4.5 hours. One can certainly approach the lower Curtis ridge (6900') with a heavy load (winter gear + skis + supplies) and in deep snow from the car in a long day.

 

5) The second day can bring someone up to Thumb rock, which is essential for acclimatization. Then a third day can be the summit day and part of the descend (Emmons, DC, Giblartar Ledges or any other route).

 

6) Perhaps, the approach from White river (crossing the Winthrop glacier after Elmo pass before dropping onto Carbon glacier at about 7200') would be more practical for three reasons: (i) you start from a higher elevation, and (ii) you do not have to deal with any jungle of fallen trees, and (iii) you can return to your parked vehicle more easily. On the other hand, though, if one is mad enough to go alone, crossing one more glacier unroped is not a smart choice!

 

7) These are plans for March or April, after some time has passed from the last snow-depositing-storm allowing the snow pack to settle. Also, a good weather window is required. Avalanche/snow conditions should be evaluated on route constantly - it might be too sketchy...

 

Any thoughts welcome.

Panos

 

 

Edited by Panos

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We walked the road in March 2006 after the first flood. The road was completely hikable then. The trail was gone in a few places. Were it was gone was in reality the old road. We bivied just before the little pass that gives you the first real view on the hill. Seemed that took us 6 hours or so. After the pass, the trail heads slightly down hill and to the east eventually dropping down to the lake. At this point we dropped down to the west and worked our way on to the moraine. This was a pain in places with unconsolidated snow. Coming back we found a better route. Find the path with the most wind exposed area as it will be easier hiking. I think about noon we finally dropped on to the Carbon Glacier eventually getting to base of the Willis were we bivied. Even with a low snow year the Carbon was some work. And we were glad not to be going higher til the next day.

 

How was the suspension bridge going across the Carbon River? Did it survive?

 

 

 

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The bridge is still there intact, but, as I wrote above, the trail between the lower and the upper crossing (suspension bridge) at the right side of the river as one goes up the valley is completely gone at places. However, in winter the river flow is low and with sufficient care one can hike up in the river bed and cross the river where/if needed.

Edited by Panos

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Okay, forget all about the Carbon river approach. It is a pain.

 

The approach via: White River road -> Glacier basin -> Elmo pass -> Upper Curtis ridge -> Carbon glacier is so much faster and I believe quite safe in winter. Even if the gate at junction with HY410 is closed (as for winter) one can use a sledge all the way up to 4500' and from there continue on foot/skis. The crossing with Winthrop glacier does not look so difficult actually. I was up there today (early December) and crevasses looked pretty covered already. Even in winter conditions and carrying equipment and supplies it should be just a long day to reach upper Curtis ridge (7200'). Then a shorter second day up to Thumb rock (rest, eat and acclimatize) and the final push with descent on the third day. Supplies should be for one more day though....

 

Today it took me 8:15 car-to-car from the gate at HY410 to camp Schurman and back. Emmons glacier looked already pretty covered up with wind blown snow (hard pack it was all the way up at the Inter glacier). If there are long gaps between snow-depositing-storms this winter, LR may come in good shape sooner than later.

 

 

Edited by Panos

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Panos,

I would still go up the Carbon for this reason: if, as is often the case, you are descending in a storm you are far better off going down the Carbon. You can't get lost, the av danger is low, and it is dead easy. Of course, I am assuming Liberty Ridge would be the descent route as it always was when we were doing the FWA's of the Willis Wall in the 70's. I guess that could be a fallacious assumption. :-)

 

yours,

Reilly

Edited by Reilly

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Re White River approach. HWY 410 is closed at Crystal Mountain BLVD so one must manage 12 miles of road just to get to White River Campground. A sled would be useful for this.

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