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[TR] Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge rock variation 7/24/2011


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Trip: Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge rock variation


Date: 7/24/2011


Trip Report:

Over the last weekend my kalifornikan friend Mark (aka PellucidWombat), who came to visit PNW for 2 weeks, and I climbed the mean classic on the north side of Rainier – the Ptarmigan Ridge.


Having thoroughly enjoyed its rainforest character, alpine meadows and bears in the area before, I had successfully talked Mark into approaching Ptarmigan from the Mowich lake via Spray park and Observation rock. For this to happen, we had to arrange for our car shuttle between Mowich lake and White River which took a few hours but I was hopeful it was worth it after all.



Day 1. Arrival at the Observation Rock.

Looking forward to a “mostly sunny” NOAA forecast that does not happen often on Rainier, we started at the Mowich lake TH later than desired, around noon, but at least we did not forget the crucial pieces of gear.


The booze, the boots and other things:



On the Wonderland trail approach:




Once we reached over the T-line, we got to admire the standard “mostly sunny” conditions in the cascades, great visibility and Spray park being transformed into a snow park for a change in mid-summer: :)




All looked the same but thank god for the GPSes we brought. Mark was concerned that we will have nothing to observe at Observation Rock while I was lamenting about lack of bears. At last, blue sky begun to emerge as we crossed Flett glacier morains and that planted some meaningfullness in our upward progress to Ptarmigan.


Mark at the Flett glacier morain:




The prime piece of the north side real estate is officially open to visitors but for some bizarre reason is rarely visited. Why is that? :rolleyes:


Lib Ridge, Lib Wall, Ptarmigan Ridge and Mowich face (the pic was taken by Mark from Observation Rock):




After we settled in on the flat bivy spots between the Echo and Observation rocks, we spotted a few boulders made of high quality material – surprisingly for volcanoes - and so we went bouldering.

Alpine bouldering in the mountain boots:







While I was getting over my bruised ass that landed on the rocks below, Mark went and tagged the Observation Rock to observe things and took a sweet power nap on the summit in the warm volcanic gravel to be ready for night photography later on.


Observation Rock summit register:



Observation Rock summit bivy sites:



Echo Rock from the summit of Observation Rock:



Artsy shots of the North Mowich Glacier from Observation Rock:




[font:Arial Black]Wonders of the Mark’s night photography at our bivy.[/font]

Milky Way over Rainier:



Starry night on Rainier:






Day 2. Ptarmigan high camp 10300’


We slept in and started up the Russell gl around 11 am and quickly made it to the knife edge.


Solid and straightforward, the dogturdite ridge never is. We hit the loose overhang around 2 pm and bypassed it on the Carbon gl side by downclimbing and traversing around the moat and up on the ridge again - a much saner option with some snow cover remaining.


Mark downclimbing the lower Ptarmigan towards Carbon gl.:



Bypass of the dogturdite section:




We merged with the ridge again – and got to the bivy sites.


The Ptarmigan Ice Cliff is still up there, alive and well. And shedding the projectiles, albeit of a smaller caliber than the scary ones I got rained on at the Nisqually Ice Cleaver last month, but still good enough to kill:





Mark Twight in action:



Sunset Ridge as seen from the Ptarmigan high camp:





[font:Arial Black]More wonders of the Mark’s night photography.[/font]


The Ice Cliff gleaming at night:






Day 3. Upper Ptarmigan to Lib Cap.

The line (the pic was taken by Mark from the summit of Observation Rock):




We started at 5 a.m. (I know, I know - late), dropped down to the North Mowich Glacier and crossed the shrund at the base of the route through the middle rock band.


Myself crawling across the field of ice televisions:



We simul soloed the start of the face on crappy snow and occasional ice to the rock bands:





From this point, continuous alpine ice and some water ice took over pretty much all way to the base of the Lib cap. I wish I brought longer rope and more screws.


Mark getting over the rib along the eastward traverse to the first ice chute:




Myself heading up to the buttress in the first ice chute:



Sweet water ice was enjoyed again in July:



Circling the amphitheatre en route to the second ice chute:


At this point, I was mentioning to Mark how much I like color “Blue” in this chute (instinctively referring in my mind to the 4 stubbies I brought).


Heading up the second ice chute.

Deficit of gear sucked (however, the 5 extra pounds of the photo equipment was sitting well in the Mark’s pack :) ):



On the last traverse en route to the rock pitch:



Being spoiled by Sierras blonde granite, Mark is happy on good rock:



Mark midway in the chimney:



Mark at the crux:



After two more pitches of water ice (that can be bypassed on snow on the left if needed), we got on a final slog to Liberty Cap:




The standard fare awaited us – visibility was decreasing to 10 feet and winds were increasing to 40 mph which would not have been a problem if I did not develop a bad case of AMS at this exact moment at around 14K feet.



[font:Arial Black]Why Does the Liberty Cap Hate Me So Much?[/font]

It took us 7 (SEVEN!) hrs to carry over from the Lib cap to 12200’ on Emmons/Winthrop! First I slowed down to the snails pace and then I stopped doing even that and was pretty much rolling on the snow and throwing up all the food and liquid I tried to consume. My idea to dig in at the summit saddle did not meet much of the Mark’s enthusiasm, so we kept on going. I am glad we did since weather was really turning into a big disaster. Thanks to Mark, the GPS track from the Lib Cap to the Emmons wanded trail in whiteout was successfully re-applied again just one week after this case


After I almost fell into a crevasse on the descent, we pitched in our tent on screws over some crevasse bridge at 12200’ and just before we hankered down for unknown time, we caught up with a solo skier at 8 p.m.

“Are you guys having fun?”

I said: “Yeah, trying not to die from AMS and thence camping right in the middle of the tourist trail”.


Being puzzled with my simple answer, he skied down to the camp Shurman to talk to the rangers about the situation. Greatly appreciated!


I am still trying to forget about the next few hours that followed: snoring Mark and myself being in delirium with alternating headaches and stomach sickness. At 2.30 am three headlamps approached our tent - the climbing rangers they were. Oxygen is food, and I felt I was turning into a human being again.


Huge thanks to Nick, Mike and David for the oxygen masks, assisting on the descent and hospitality at the hut.





In the climbing rangers hut at camp Shurman:




After a few hours of recovery in the hut, we headed down to the car.


Snow is melting and the spring has finally come at White River:




Gear Notes:

4 stubbies, rock pro (used 0.5 C4)

5 lbs of photo equipment


Approach Notes:

Mowich Lake and White River, MRNP

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I love the Spray Park approach, done that 3 times now. Nice shots of the rock variation (we went left and did the chute). Bummer about the AMS and tossing yer cookies. That sucks. But can relate as once I got sick from food poisoning or something fortunately though once I got to Sherman. The walk out sucked.


BTW Stubbies on Rainier???? HAHAHA the weight savings is lost by the practical usage.

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Great TR. Great pics. Glad you made it up and over ok.


My stays at Muir and Camp Schurman this year were made very much more pleasant by the rangers there. David in particular was a lot of fun. That guy is a very strong climber. They're just one of the many good reasons I don't mind paying the fee for climbing that mountain. Well worth it...


My partner and I were just talking about your TR and maybe doing Ptarmigan Ridge someday...



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Awesome photography! The night shots were especially beautiful. Thanks for carrying that big camera up there.


It was so cool to see the mountain from an unusual perspective.


I stopped alpine climbing after some close calls, but darn, I miss the beauty up high, cragging doesn't even compare.



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Camera weight is more than worth it if you love art like I do. Plus it's good training weight :-)


I got a lot of great shots with the weather we had, so if you want to see more shots, including night shots and annotated route photos, the full album is here.


Anastasia - great call again on the Mowich approach. I've never seen views Rainier like that. It looks like a much different mountain from that direction!

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looks like a good climb, bummer bout the altitude - if no rangers/high camp help were available what would you guys have done--just curious--course of action?



I too am puzzled by the honkin cameras and almost bought one, thank god I didn't. You don't need the bulk of a dslr to get dslr sensor size and image quality. Sony NEX-5! nex-7 has more features and comes in a few months.. basically a DSLR in the size of a pop can. check'm out

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Thanks Water. That might lighten the load quite a bit!

Looking forward to check them out.


Course of action? To start descending next morning, probably short roped, and hoping that at some lower elevation point I will consume more than 1 Gu per day to eventually crank the pace up. :(

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Don't forget about lugging up the tripod as well! For many shots, especially while climbing, digital point-and-shoots work just as well, and after post-processing in Photoshop I often can't tell the difference. However, for doing special things like taking advantage of natural polarization, working with high contrast (e.g. snow) or night photography, you've gotta go the DSLR route.

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Nastia and Mark. Good job on the PR. Glad you survived. Nastia, maybe you should stop eating the REI crap and stick with a real food? - Salo, hard saliami, eggs and oatmeal. So-called "performance food" makes you puke. Drink Vodka, before, during and after the climb.

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Nastia and Mark. Good job on the PR. Glad you survived. Nastia, maybe you should stop eating the REI crap and stick with a real food? - Salo, hard saliami, eggs and oatmeal. So-called "performance food" makes you puke. Drink Vodka, before, during and after the climb.


I'm gonna write to Mountain House to suggest they make a Zelenyj Borshch flavor. The hard-boiled egg and vodka would be separate and supplemental of course.


+1 on the hard salami.


Will salo preserve well for a couple days or only in cold weather? That would be great on a 4-day trip to the pickets, if it stays good...

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