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mrkittles13

[TR] Mt. Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge/Ski Descent 7/7/2012

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Trip: Mt. Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge/Ski Descent

 

Date: 7/7/2012

 

Trip Report:

After climbing the Sandy Headwall on Hood on Wednesday, my good buddy, Matt Ellis, let me talk him into trying a 2-day ascent of Ptarmigan Ridge with a ski descent of the Emmons on Rainier.

 

I would have posted pictures, but Matt dropped the camera down the Mowich face. That was a bummer.

 

We left Mowich Lake parking lot at around 8:30 Saturday morning. By the way, Mowich Lake is still frozen and there's plenty of snow around. After skinning for several hours, we arrived at the spectacular high camp mid-afternoon in 88 degree temps in the *shade* (and 104 in the sun)!! Not ideal conditions for a mountain covered in glaciers!

 

Although we could see tracks up Mowich face and Liberty Ridge, there was no sign that anyone had recently been up the Ptarmigan.

 

The temperature only got down to 45 degrees during the night, so we only reluctantly decided to head up at 4:45am. We were able to switchback our way of the ~2000 ft of steep snow/ice, slowed down a little bit by the weight of our packs and occasional post-holing. At 11,500 feet, we opted for the rock variation. We simul-climbed an interesting pitch of blue ice (probably only AI 3), and then arrived at the rock rib. The rock step was very short but BEAUTIFUL: thin ice covered the rock with pockets of thicker ice, making for some great, if not strenuous, mixed moves. The last 2000-foot slog on the Liberty Cap Glacier proved to be very straightforward, with a variable crust. We arrived at the summit at little after noon.

 

The ski down the Emmons was great, but got a little mash-potatoee at around 11,000 feet. There was TONS of parties on the Emmons making their way back down to Camp Sherman. We were back at the car in 3 hours from the summit . . . then a 7 hour drive back home to the Oregon Coast.

 

Overall, the Ptarmigan Ridge is in condition, but it is advisable to wait for cooler conditions.

 

Gear Notes:

Two tools, 3-4 ice screws, 30 meter rope. We brought a very light alpine rack, but didn't use anything because there are a few pitons at the rock step.

 

Approach Notes:

Straightforward with a morale-reducing scramble up the crap that passes for rock on Rainier. You really do have to go to the top of the lower Ptarmigan Ridge and then traverse a loose ridge to camp.

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That's the stylish way to travel, strong work! That seems like a bit of a car shuttle, eh?

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Thanks! The shuttle was a solid 2 hours each day. I think it'd be better to descent to Paradise via the Furher or go back down the Ptarmigan, if you're up for it.

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It seems like most parties these days approach Ptarmigan via White River, simplifying the descent. But then again, that makes a two day ascent more difficult with the added distance and elevation gain. You guys are fast though, so I bet you could still do it!

 

 

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Cool! Way to make things interesting on the up route.

Glad to hear the ski down Emmons was still doable. We are heading up this weekend. Any advice on the ski descent related to conditions right now?

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We did Lib Ridge a couple years back, very late season. The traverse was a nightmare (actually, the whole climb was a nightmare due to the rock), especially across the Carbon. It'd probably be better this time of year, but we had a bad taste in our mouth from our Lib Ridge trip and wanted to avoid that traverse this year.

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The ski down Emmons is cruiser. We must have passed at least 20-30 parties walking down. At one point, they all got bottle-necked at a crevasse crossing, and we were able to just ski right on through. Saved us hours and hours. Enjoy!

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Glad you guys weren't a day sooner. While at Thumb Rock on the evening of the 6th, we watched a huge portion of the serac break off and fall down onto the ridge itself. We were hoping there was no one on the route when that happened. Glad you guys made it without any problems.

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