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SteveCloudGately

Gibraltar Ledges - December

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Me and a friend are planning a winter attempt of Rainier via the Gibraltar Ledges Route. We're currently a party of 2 with a possible 3rd.

 

Would you recommend climbing as a 4 person party? and is 3 people a definite must?

 

What are avalanche risks like on that route? Crevasse risks?

 

How are those risks on the descent route down Ingrahm?

 

And ultimately how possible is this climb in a winter setting?

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Me and a friend are planning a winter attempt of Rainier via the Gibraltar Ledges Route. We're currently a party of 2 with a possible 3rd.

 

Would you recommend climbing as a 4 person party? and is 3 people a definite must?

 

While climbing with 3 people is certainly not a 'must' prevailing wisdom will tell you that a party of 3 is safer than a party of 2 on glaciers so that if one person falls in you have two people to arrest the fall, set up anchors and possibly a z haul system if the victim can't Prusik out on his/her own. The question you have to ask yourself is how proficient are both you at crevasse rescue?

 

What are avalanche risks like on that route? Crevasse risks?

 

How are those risks on the descent route down Ingrahm?

 

 

There are avalanche risk on both Gib Ledges and the Ingrahm. How big the risk is varies depending on the snowpack, when the last storm came through, how much snow was dropped, what the ambient temperature is, and so forth. Northwest Avalanche Center posts avalanche forecasts on their Web site. http://www.nwac.us/. If you are climbing in the winter you really should be versed in avalanche science and be able to dig pits, analyze snowpack, slope, aspect, etc to make your own decisions.

 

There are crevasses on the route, big ones from above the chute all the way to the rim of the crater. Now, you may be thinking to yourself "If I come in the middle of winter then all of the crevasses will be well bridged". The fact is during the winter the prevailing winds are from the south which strip the snow off of the upper part of the route (above the chute) creating only very thinly bridged crevasses. To make things worse, sastrugi snow is often created which makes it very difficult to identify where crevasses are. My suggestion is come late in the winter, after the prevailing winds have shifted and the crevasses are well bridged. March may be your best bet, however weather can still be very iffy.

 

And ultimately how possible is this climb in a winter setting?

It makes an excellent winter route, very direct from the Muir shelter. In fact, winter and early spring are the only times I would recommend the route.

Edited by danielpatricksmith

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All excellent info! It sounds like for my experience and the time of year this route isn't for me. Is there anything with good road access that comes to mind as being a good alternate for that time of year? Anything in the cascades or olympics?

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Steve,

 

It would help to know when you are planning your trip and what your experience/skills/abilities are. For example; are you comfortable climbing techinical ice? Do you rock climb? Will you be on skis?

 

Generally in the winter I have found several areas to have good access and routes for a variety of skill levels.

 

Snoqualmie Pass:

 

Mt Snoqualmie has routes ranging from easy ski up or walk up routes to very demanding ice and mixed routes.

 

Guy Peak also has a variety of routes from easy to harder

 

Chair Peak is the defacto classic winter climb at Squalmie Pass but requires techinical ice climbing skills.

 

The Tooth has a classic, easy rock climb that goes year round and also a couple of rarely in shape, hard ice and mixed routes.

 

Bryant Peak has both walk up and technical routes.

 

Enchantments/Mt Stuart Range:

 

Dragontail Peak has both walk up routes and big, technical ice and mixed routes.

 

Colchuck Peak ditto.

 

Argonaut has a moderately technical snow climb

 

Stuart, nothing really easy but has some very good mixed glacier, snow, ice and rock routes.

 

Mt Rainier NP:

 

The Tatoosh Range has moderately steep snow climbs on Lane and Castle Peak and a more difficult ice/mixed route on Pinnacle Peak.

 

Cascade Pass:

 

Most years the road is drivable to MP 20 into early January.

 

Eldorado with both everything form an easy walk up to steeper snow/ice to a harder mixed ice/rock route.

 

Sahale has a number of routes that would be interesting in the winter.

 

Mixup Peak has a moderate snow and rock route in winter.

 

Although sending it would put you in a very small group, the NE Buttress of Johannesburg Peak is the best winter climb I have done, even considering we had to skip the summit due to a non-functioning stove.

 

My advice about taking an avalanche course still applies to all of these routes. They are all prone to avalanches under the right (wrong?) conditions.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Dan

Edited by danielpatricksmith

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Three people sucks unless you never have to belay and there is an acknowledged leader.

It just takes too much time to do everything.

Besides, how do you put three people in a two-man tent?

Edited by Reilly

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Three people sucks unless you never have to belay and there is an acknowledged leader.

It just takes too much time to do everything.

Besides, how do you put three people in a two-man tent?

 

I would have to disagree. There are many benefits to climbing in a three person party. Group gear is distributed among three people so each climber carries less, if something goes wrong having an extra climber can be livesaving, and the dynamic of three people is often more fun. An experienced party of three who knows what they are doing is really no slower than two people.

 

Belaying two followers using double ropes is cake with an auto locking plaquette style device (Petzl Reverso, BD ATC Guide, etc) and no slower than belaying a single follower as both followers climb at the same time.

 

Many two man tents will fit three people pretty easily. My Mountain Hardwear Annapuna (same foot print as the Trango 2) probably could have slept four in a pinch. John Varco was telling me how their three person party on Annapurna III shared a Mountain Hardwear EV 2. The third climber slept with his head towards the back and his feet stuck into the vestibule.

 

 

 

 

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a party of 3 is safer than a party of 2 on glaciers so that if one person falls in you have two people to arrest the fall, set up anchors and possibly a z haul system if the victim can't Prusik out on his/her own. The question you have to ask yourself is how proficient are both you at crevasse rescue?

Yes, and to elaborate a bit, if you have arrested a fall and now are straining to hold over 200 lbs. of weight, how are you going to remove your pack, get your shovel out, and gather materials for and then build an anchor?

Edited by pcg

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Hi Dan,

 

What is the ice/mixed route on Pinnacle Peak you mentioned? I recognized all the other routes, but I haven't heard of that one before.

 

Thanks!

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Hi Dan,

 

What is the ice/mixed route on Pinnacle Peak you mentioned? I recognized all the other routes, but I haven't heard of that one before.

 

Thanks!

 

Jason Martin and I climbed a route on the North Ridge of Pinnacle Peak quite a few years ago. As I recall we gained the ridge on the west side via an ice ribbon and/or ice gulley which lead to a col and then a gendarme of very compact andesite. Bring KBs/Bugaboos.

 

Here is a photo: http://gallery.photo.net/photo/6793769-lg.jpg

 

The route climbs behind the big blob of rock to a col then follows the left hand skyline.

Edited by danielpatricksmith

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DPS, whats the NE Butt of Jburg like? looks frickin cool but (not suprisingly) I can't find any beta on it in winter... couldya maybe spill the beans?!

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That North Ridge on Pinnacle Peak at Rainier is a real winter/spring gem, in my opinion. I've always gained the ridge from the east, however (I've done the climb twice and attempted it once more). It has five short pitches, all with good belay spots, and it will entertain.

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DPS, whats the NE Butt of Jburg like? looks frickin cool but (not suprisingly) I can't find any beta on it in winter... couldya maybe spill the beans?!

 

The NE Buttress has had two sucessful winter ascents by Steve Mascioli and Bill Billing and Colin Haley and Mark Bunker. Colin refers to his ascent as the most difficult thing he has climbed with respect to his experience level.

 

I happened to run into Colin in Marmot Mountain Works buying new AT bindings a few days after their ascent and got the story from him. When Colin and Mark made their ascent they did it in the worst window of weather the entire winter. I believe they had wanted to do Mt Triumph but felt the avalanche conditions were too high and the NE Butt would be more protected. Their intended descent was down the east ridge and the CJ Coluoir but after days of storms while on the route they felt it would be too threatened by avi danger. Having been up the CJ Colouir twice in winter I can say that was probably a lifesaving decision. Near the top of the couloir is a bowl that collects snow and spindrift off of the NE Face of JBerg and the West Face of Cascade Peak, just ready for a trigger. They descended by traveresing west over multiple summits for miles until able to drop down the ridge to their car at the Eldorado Creek Trailhead. They went back for their cached skis but they had been buried by an avalanche.

 

My partner and I made a attempt at it in late Dec 2000(? - the year before Colin and Mark's successful ascent). We were roughly following the 1951 route. We went after a wet Novemember and a dry, cold December. Conditions were really spectacular. We climbed perfect, plastic water ice pitches up to WI 3+/4 interspersed with snow ramps. The hardest part we found was a short, difficult mixed pitch on which we hauled packs. We bivied below the snow arete. Our stove barely functioned and after hours of melting we each got a liter of water. We realized without a well functioning stove it would be foolish to continue considering we had at least two more days to go. We down climbed and rappeled the route the next morning with a single 60 meter rope using bollards, v-threads, threaded icicles, and trees as anchors.

 

I think you want to get on the route fairly early in the winter so you can drive to MP 20 and the ice is not buried under snow. I would plan at least three days if every thing goes very well. I would also bring two ropes and plan to downclimb and rappel the route. As far as gear, we found the rock to be pretty compact where it was showing. I would bring maybe six screws and a small rock rack with some KBs/Bugaboos and plenty of tat for building rap anchors.

 

Hope that helps.

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