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Reggie Pawle

[TR] Mt Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge 7/10/2012

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Trip: Mt Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge

 

Date: 7/10/2012

 

Trip Report:

Jeff and I from Somerville, MA climbed Ptarmigan Ridge via the rock variation from July 7 to July 10. We came from sea level and had planned on three days, but had to sit out a massive thunderstorm on the evening of July 8.

 

To get to high camp, near the south end of the Russell Glacier we went right below a large rock buttress (rather than left, which is probably the more direct/manly way) and skirted the right side of a snow bowl on rock to access the ridge. After this we scrambled super loose rock and rotten snow on top of the ridge to reach high camp.

 

Rockfall throughout the night of the storm at high camp was pretty significant. But the storm brought some cool air with it, and afterwards things seemed to solidify. I've never been on this side of Rainier before, but overall the wall was pretty active. We watched the snowfield below the route accumulate maybe 3 times as much rock as had been there before during our two day stay at high camp.

 

Aside from that, the route was in great condition. We woke up at 1:00AM, packed 4L of water each, and left high camp at 2:20AM. We moved quickly through the ice talus, and reached the bergschrund at 2:30. The snow wasn't quite neve, but it was still pretty great. On the lower snow slope, we were able to dig and get six or so screw placements. The leader dragged the lead line behind him, and when he had a piece, the second clipped to the end. This worked pretty well until the traverse on 60 degree snow, when the leader ran out of pickets. After we finished the traverse, ice became more easy to come by. A nice 70 degree ice pitch formed below the second saddle higher on the route, maybe 80 feet long.

 

The rock chimney was about 5.8 when we found it, the right side covered in trickling water and not-quite-good-enough-for-sticks verglas. We found a piton at the belay below and left, and slung a block. We clipped another pin just under the rock crux.

 

We were able to finish the technical difficulties at 7:15, and began the real difficulties of unacclimatized snow slogging. Conditions were beautiful, couldn't have asked for better snow. Just below Liberty Cap, we used the last of our fuel to get 3 liters of water each. No trouble with crevasses going from Liberty Cap to the summit. We summitted around 11:50AM.

 

The descent down the Emmons was almost straightforward, but we encountered what looked like a dead end in the icefall at around 10,500 feet. We went right, went left, punched through a snowbridge, and decided to wait for a guided party to help us find the way down. They traversed left where we wouldn't have thought to go, across the top of a serac, and down easy, stepped-out 60 degree snow to the bootpack. Apparently a snowbridge had collapsed a day or two ago, altering the route. We sheepishly followed them to Camp Shurman, chatted with Dave Gottlieb who assured us Ptarmigan was not that difficult, and glissaded down the Interglacier. Reached the car at about 6:00PM I think. We had one clif bar and three gus, no fuel, and no water left, but we weren't thirsty or hungry when we got back to the car. Felt great to finish like that.

 

This was my first time up Rainier and my partner's second, and it was very satisfying to finally climb the mountain by a reasonably challenging route. My partner has done Liberty Ridge, and commented that Ptarmigan was much harder due to the long slog after the technical difficulties. (That said, when he did Liberty, he had just come down from Denali two weeks prior, so he was way fit.)

 

7vgnq.jpg

^ route from the approach

 

clOpC.jpg

^ route from camp

 

rlUQ4.jpg

^ snow traverse midway through route

 

vsXLU.jpg

^ rock chimney

 

Gotta give thanks to the below trip report in particular that we found super helpful in our planning:

 

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Liberty-Cap-Beating-2-Ptarmigan-Ridge/t11122n.html

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

two MSR two-foot pickets, 3 13cm screws, 2 16cm screws. no rock gear. 4L of water each to start the summit day. one sleeping bag, light is right!

 

Approach Notes:

From White River Campground to Curtis Ridge day one, Ptarmigan high camp day two.

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In the first picture, to the left? I believe that's the lower part of the Liberty Cap glacier. We camped on the ridge below it, which is the normal high camp.

 

What's funny is that at first, I suggested camping further north on the ridge so we'd be more sheltered from those seracs (we eventually decided on the regular campsite). But after sitting out a thunderstorm on the ridge, and with a chance of thunderstorms the second night, we actually moved down the ridge--closer to the seracs--so we'd be less exposed to lightning! As if that really helped.

 

I'm still not sure how safe our spot was. Last year I was in the Ruth Gorge when we heard of a fatality up in the Root Canal at the usual Ham & Eggs camp below the Moose's Tooth. Some seracs on the Bear Tooth were shaken loose in a small earthquake and took out the whole camp. I vowed never to camp near seracs, but there we were a year later. I think our spot was relatively safe. It'd have to be a freak chance for icefall to ride up the ridge and hit the camp.

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Curious. How much did your packs weigh? I'm looking at P-Ridge next season and am trying to reduce pack weight.

 

Did you wish you had rock gear? Anything you took you didn't need? Anything you didn't take that you wished you had? Do you have a gear list?

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Thanks Pete!

 

Wish I could say what the exact weight was, but we didn't weigh it before setting off. This sent me on a binge because I'm curious though. In the parking lot, I would've had in my pack:

 

meteor III helmet - .5 pounds

40m 9.2mm rope - 4 pounds

1 24in picket - .75 pounds

5 screws - 1.5 pounds

6 alpine draws, 2 double lengths - 2 pounds

3/4 sleeping pad - .75 pound

30 degree sleeping bag (shared) - 2 pounds

patagonia micropuff - 1 pound

wild things synthetic vest - 1 pound

wild things powerstretch fleece - .5 pounds

patagonia torrentshell - .5 pounds

patagonia guide pants - 1 pound

balaclava - .25 pound

kinko's leather gloves - .5 pounds

knife, spork, bowl, sunblock, first aid, etc etc - 1.5 pound

food - 5 pounds

4L of water in MSR dromlite - 9 pounds

quantum techs - 3 pounds

sabertooth crampons - 2 pounds

harness + prussiks n shit - 1.5 pounds

wild things ice sac - 3.5 pounds

 

So, about 42 pounds. My partner carried the stove (MSR reactor with 2 fuel cannisters) and tent.

 

I used scarpa omegas (12 ounces lighter per pair than my nepal evos!), which were awesome, except my boots became a festering swamp from which my feet have just barely recovered. Vapor barrier liners are a must next time.

 

Also, we each had one trekking pole which I think was invaluable.

 

I didn't need the extra wild things vest, I threw it in because I get all nervous and sweaty when I realize we're going pretty light.

 

We weren't missing the rock gear. There's a piton right below the crux, the belay anchor is decent. You wouldn't want to fall anyway, but it's safe enough.

 

Anything I wish I'd brought? Can't say there was anything I truly missed. Maybe a lightning rod.

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Looks like you guys had a great climb! I'm glad to see my TR was handy in the route research too :-) I was trying for Curtis Ridge over that same weekend, and that recent warming made the rockfall hazard too dangerous. Like you said, more rocks came down over the July 7-8 than a much longer stretch of time earlier. Good thing you guys got an early start on Ptarmigan!

 

That step looks higher too. While I couldn't really climb up the snow seen covering the lower third in my TR, I could at least use it a bit for a foot placement, so I wonder if you found the crux to be just before the piton? Or if you still thought it was the next couple of moves above it getting above that wedged block?

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The leader dragged the lead line behind him, and when he had a piece, the second clipped to the end. This worked pretty well until the traverse on 60 degree snow, when the leader ran out of pickets. After we finished the traverse, ice became more easy to come by. A nice 70 degree ice pitch formed below the second saddle higher on the route, maybe 80 feet long.

 

Nice run up the hill but I have to snicker at the above. If you are on route, nothing below the rock buttress is more than about 50 degrees. If you can stand up vertically, put your arms out, and not touch the snow you probably on a slope less than 60 degrees.

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The leader dragged the lead line behind him, and when he had a piece, the second clipped to the end. This worked pretty well until the traverse on 60 degree snow, when the leader ran out of pickets. After we finished the traverse, ice became more easy to come by. A nice 70 degree ice pitch formed below the second saddle higher on the route, maybe 80 feet long.

 

Nice run up the hill but I have to snicker at the above. If you are on route, nothing below the rock buttress is more than about 50 degrees. If you can stand up vertically, put your arms out, and not touch the snow you probably on a slope less than 60 degrees.

Yeah, you're probably right. I overestimated because I hate sandbagging. Not trying to make it sound like we did something harder than it was. It definitely felt like more than 50 degrees though? Maybe not quite 60 though. Thinking about it, the ice was probably 60 degrees and not 70--it looked steep but didn't turn out to be that bad.

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Looks like you guys had a great climb! I'm glad to see my TR was handy in the route research too :-) I was trying for Curtis Ridge over that same weekend, and that recent warming made the rockfall hazard too dangerous. Like you said, more rocks came down over the July 7-8 than a much longer stretch of time earlier. Good thing you guys got an early start on Ptarmigan!

 

That step looks higher too. While I couldn't really climb up the snow seen covering the lower third in my TR, I could at least use it a bit for a foot placement, so I wonder if you found the crux to be just before the piton? Or if you still thought it was the next couple of moves above it getting above that wedged block?

Curtis Ridge looks awesome and terrifying. Too bad things were so warm!

 

My partner led the rock, I think clipping the piton was tough but not that bad. What seemed to make it hard was not being able to use anything on the right side of the chimney since it was covered in slushy, dripping verglas. My partner used a knee mantle to get through the crux, I drytooled the move. Super fun!

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one of us! I'm in Teele Square. Gotta love the lengths we have to go to get to real climbs, but at least there's a hell of a training ground up north for hard ice/mixed.

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I'm a transplant to Teele square as well! I know there is a section for the Orygun folks, maybe we can get one for the Bwoostonians...

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one of us! I'm in Teele Square. Gotta love the lengths we have to go to get to real climbs, but at least there's a hell of a training ground up north for hard ice/mixed.

 

Absolutely! Love them White Mountains! Nice work on Ptarmigan! A couple of my buddies did it 2 years ago. Been wanting to get on it myself, but keep opting for Tetons/Sierra adventures where the weather is more stable! But was just out Rainier-way a couple weeks ago to take a group of first-timer friends up the Disappointment Cleaver route (and got a rather nasty summit day!). You guys climb at MetroRock by any chance? Always looking for more local partners from time to time. I can be reached at nerdom AT yahoo dot com.

 

Les

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I'm a transplant to Teele square as well! I know there is a section for the Orygun folks, maybe we can get one for the Bwoostonians...

 

Hey Matt! haha! Too funny -- obviously we know each other already, since we've climbed in the gym together!

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