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cbcbd

[TR] Mt Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge 5/31/2009

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Trip: Mt Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge

 

Date: 5/31/2009

 

Trip Report:

z-man and I went up the last 3 days to take a crack at Washington state's preeminent alpine route. Lithuanians have good taste.

 

Day 1: White River to edge of Carbon

Note: Road through Black Diamond is closed... detour in effect - d'oh

We register with the cute ranger staffing the station. The only thing we pick up are blue bags, we're not smooth. Onward...

Boot packed all the way. We rejoice and my visions of abandoning forsaken snowshoes mid-ridge are laid to rest - no need for those afterall.

Camp is cozy, with surreal scenery, quick access to flowing water, and breezy. I bet if real estate agents caught wind of this location is would go at many zeros and commas. "Spacious, with panoramic views of Rainier's North side. Summer move in specials happening now. Low objective danger!"

 

Day 2:Edge of Carbon to high camp on Ptarmigan

We sleep in while the rest of camp heads up to their respective high camps. We like to do our climbing after breakfast.

We enjoy the Libridgers' boot track until the middle of the Carbon and then start the refreshing feeling of snow on your shins and knees. Mellow day, not counting the sandy and chossy ridge right before camp. Today was the start of constant E/SE winds, which would later explain why I washed a cup of sand off my hair.

The property value of this camp was still very high, and looking up at stacked ice cliffs felt very special, in a vulnerable kind of way. You'd have trouble convincing buyers that objective danger was low enough to allow pleasant dog walks around your yard. During the day at exactly 12:36pm we witnessed two simultaneous ice falls - one from the Lib ice cap onto the Willis and another from the cliff of Ptarmigan's ice variation to the East. Now we knew which ways we didn't really want to go and that you could safely walk your dog around morning time.

We looked at our planned route and it looked peachy. Not necessarily lean, but not meaty with snow... icy in spots. No worries, we'll stick to the plan - from the rock buttress head West (the route of the 1934 first attempt), toward the upper edge of the Mowich face and then out the exit gully, wherever it was.

 

Day 3: Up and out

After a good shave, a nice long breakfast while reading the day's paper, and a routine trip to the John, I wake Aaron up and he's ready to go in 5. We're moving at 3 and snow conditions are as stellar as I hoped them to be. Temps are just at freezing and the constant tent-flapping-against-my-head-i-can't-sleep winds kept steps pretty cold and firm. From the rock buttress, which insanely looked made of quality materials unlike elsewhere on the mountain, we went right and came upon an awesome cascading ramp of blue ice. We pitched out the hard and brittle ice putting us on the crest at a great possible bivy near the various exit gullies. They all looked exit-like and had minimal snow so we picked the first one on the left which was long, enjoyable, protectable if you had gear, and had various fun low 5th class moves on surprisingly solid rock - I even found an awesome gloved-hand-jam that felt like crack. Addictive.

 

Once on the cap the slog started. We had a combination of wind buff, AI, powder - all good wintry forms of snow. Remember the winds? Well, they were always there but now that we were exposed on the ridge we got to really enjoy them and now had to pay attention at which direction to do our hydration checks. I'll venture to say that we had 30-40mph winds with gusts up to 50-60mph.

 

After many feelings of joy and warmth we made it to Lib cap at exactly 12. The summit craters were in the clouds and we were not - bonus. Switch minds for long descent down Emmons. My parents taught me that if I didn't have anything nice to say don't say anything.

...

we glissaded down the Inter in butt-numbing joy. After some more time passed and stuff happened we were at Mazatlan having our fill of free-refill chips and all the water you could drink! We made it home alive despite a close call with some elk and a van... by far the closest call of the entire trip. Statistics don't lie!

 

 

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Water! Like, from the toilet.

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Squigglies on the Carbon.

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Objective dangers are closer than they appear.

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The blue ice ramp. One of the coolest features of the climb. After this shot my camera decided it had enough. Maybe Aaron will post some after pics for continuation.

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More pics

http://picasaweb.google.com/dougseitz/RainierPtarmiganRidge53009#

 

Gear Notes:

4 screws, 2 pickets

 

Approach Notes:

Boot pack trail all the way to the middle of the Carbon.

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Doug, thanks for the climb and humour. Spaces between pics...

 

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It must have been pretty fun to walk in the 50-60mph gusts :eek:

 

How was the snow up top?

The winds were just kind of annoying since there weren't many wind-free areas to catch a break.

 

Snow up top was dry but so windblown that it was never too deep or very loose. Most of it seemed to be ankle-deep powder with firmer styrofoam sections and some looser shin/knee-deep sections.

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love that route - i gotta do lib ridge someday so i can say i prefer ptarmigan! :)

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Washington state's preeminent alpine route slog

 

;)

 

Nice TR... if you liked it you should check out curtis ridge :)

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Nicely done...

Of the three north ridges I thought Ptarmigan was the best climb.

 

Be fun though to do them all in the same month to make a better comparison. We did Liberty in late June, Curtis in mid July, Ptarmigan in early Oct. So not the best comparison for conditions.

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Looks very good - nice job!

 

This one has been on my list for a while now. Went a few years ago over Memorial Day w/e and got blizzarded the entire time - didn't even make it to the steep part of the ridge proper (approached from Mowich Lake).

 

Looks like you fared substantially better...

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Nice TR... if you liked it you should check out curtis ridge :)

I'd like to but you gotta tell me I'll see something better than kitty litter to climb on... how is the rock quality over there?

 

Washington state's preeminent alpine route slog

 

;)

You gotta take that claim up with Alex Bertulis

;)

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cb, john (or was it marcus) did a tr for this one a few years ago - just go the the tr section (not as sweet as some of john's others as i recall though as there's a serious lack of 'stache in the pix :) )

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Thanks for the TR. Brought back memories. Climbed Ptarmigan 2 years ago early July in similar conditions, judging by your pics. The slog across the Libery Cap Glacier from the top of the ridge was one of the longer death marches of my climbing career (post holing shin deep the whole way). We spent an extra night on Lib. Cap to avoid descending the Emmons in deep schmoo. Because it tops out much closer to Lib Cap, I prefer Liberty Ridge. The terrain on Ptarmigan is interesting though and I have been thinking about doing it again to try the left hand variation. Good on ya for ticking that one.

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Thanks for the TR. Brought back memories. Climbed Ptarmigan 2 years ago early July in similar conditions, judging by your pics. The slog across the Libery Cap Glacier from the top of the ridge was one of the longer death marches of my climbing career (post holing shin deep the whole way). We spent an extra night on Lib. Cap to avoid descending the Emmons in deep schmoo. Because it tops out much closer to Lib Cap, I prefer Liberty Ridge. The terrain on Ptarmigan is interesting though and I have been thinking about doing it again to try the left hand variation. Good on ya for ticking that one.

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brilliant!

 

i especially like the shot of the axe head in the alpenglow

Edited by t_rutl

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