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[TR] Mt. Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge 7/4/2011

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Trip: Mt. Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge


Date: 7/4/2011


Trip Report:

From July 4 – 7 John MacInnes and I climbed Ptarmigan Ridge, a route that thwarted our efforts in 2008, and that we vowed to return to. (2008 trip report http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/808104/TR_Mount_Rainier_Ptarmigan_Rid#Post808104). We saw no other climbers for 3 days on the mountain, except for a momentary glimpse of another party’s headlamps on Liberty Ridge. Three years ago, we started at Mowich Lake, intending to carry over to the D.C. This time we started at White River and descended the Emmons. Enroute, we camped at Curtis Ridge (7200 ft), where we enjoyed the distant fireworks from Seattle and the Puget Sound communities late into the night on the 4th. The next day we crossed the Carbon Glacier with ease and climbed Ptarmigan Ridge’s lower slopes to 10,300, pitching our small tent beneath the giant, teetering ice cliff. We lost some time traversing to the bivy site. I down climbed a rotten gully with poor protection to bypass a rock tower. I’m sure there was a faster way to cover the last 100 yards to the bivy site. Improbably safe on the narrow ridge, we heard repeated cannon booms signaling the ice avalanches that regularly calved onto the slopes below us in the afternoon heat.


Awake at midnight and climbing by 2 a.m., we cramponed up the snow face, trending left toward the gullies that lead to the final, broad summit slopes (right hand variation). We dispatched these gullies in 3 long running belays, using pickets, ice screws and an occasional sling around a rock. The route was in great shape with plenty of ice to justify the 4 screws we carried. Surmounting a very short, easy rock band high above the North Mowich Glacier, we emerged on easier ground where we rested and brewed up in the morning sun.


Blue skies and high pressure were forecasted for the next morning. So to prolong the alpine fun (and rest our middle-aged bones) we pitched the tent on the flat lip of a crevasse just beneath the summit. (The slog to Liberty Cap from the top of the technical section is LONG.) At 8 a.m. on the 7th, we stood in glorious sunshine and calm winds on top. What took us days to ascend, we descended in a few hours, racing down the Emmons to Camp Schurman and Glacier Basin. We glissaded the Inter Glacier in about 5 minutes. Without a hint of hyperbole, John remarked, “That was the most fun I’ve had since I was 8.”


I’ve climbed several routes on Rainier in the past decade. Ptarmigan Ridge was perhaps the finest, especially gratifying to climb at age 52, and with a great friend and climbing partner on our second try.


Photos (some from Ingalls Pass):





Gear Notes:

40m glacier rope, 1 tool, axe, 4 screws, 3 pickets, 3 medium cams (1 used), a few nuts (none used).

Edited by AOC

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Cool. We did the Emmons on the morning of 7th, summited around 8:30 and musta just missed crossing paths... saw you descending / traversing from the cap to the "superhighway".

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Awesome. That must have been cool seeing the fireworks. Its a pretty unique view of south Puget Sound, the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Olympics from up there.

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