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[TR] RAINIER - Ptarmigan Ridge - IceCliff variation 7/7/2013


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Trip: RAINIER - Ptarmigan Ridge - IceCliff variation


Date: 7/7/2013


Trip Report:

Four days after climbing Lib Ridge in soft conditions, we decided that a worthier and icier objective on the north side of Rainier must be in order. Mowich Lake road had just conveniently opened two days prior (07/03), so the choice was easy – Ptarmigan Ridge. A fair amount of effort was spent on re-arranging our schedules for availability and finally setting up the bitchy 2 car shuttle between Paradise (not my brightest idea) and Mowich Lake TH on Fri. For Oleg and myself, this was second trip up Ptarmigan (PR#1 and PR#2), but the first time on the north side for Forrest.


Getting ready at the Mowich Lake p-lot:



The guys on the approach in Spray Park:




Greatly enjoying the forecasted “mostly sunny” conditions, in our joint navigational effort, we had located the ridge leading to the Flett glacier morains and the saddle between Echo and Observation Rocks.


The clouds however lifted once we reached the bivy site Mark and I built 2 years ago just a few feet away from the running water source:




After settling in, Oleg and Forrest took off to tag the Observation rock.



Forrest on the summit of Observation Rock:





Next day, we headed up the Russel Gl. and merged with the PR crest at 10100’. For whatever reason, the knife edge section leading to the Gendarme at 10500’ got even skinnier and looser since my last time there. I wonder if it would even exist in a few years from now. Oleg makes the appropriate comment :“If you want to get rid of your significant other, then bring her over here”. As before, we downclimbed around the base of the Gendarme and followed the ridgeline on snow (eastern aspect).


On the Russel Gl:



Merging with the crest:



Happy arrival at the high camp below the IceCliff:





Our original idea of heading up directly the left side of the IceCliff did not seem to be that great any more once we realized that getting to its base would require solo traversing over loose cliffs in the dark:



So, we re-diverted our attention to the standard PR line with the left exit through the upper ice cliffs:




Already boney conditions on the PR headwall and it is only early July:




Next day we were packed up and ready to drop down on the North Mowich Gl. at 2 am. After traversing over the IceCliff remnants (a silent reminder that we’ve got to move our asses fast through this section), we got to the main shrund below the Ptarmigan headwall.



Oleg makes a bold, spider-like move and jumps across the abyss straight on to vertical verglassed rock that quickly transforms into the dinner plating water ice and then decent alpine ice below the lip. That quickly sets the stage for the things to come. We got what we came for. We simul rope solo for the next 1500 vertical feet 45-50 deg ice, good and bad, weaving around the rock bands and trying to locate the traverse in the dark.


Just below the beginning of traverse:






With the traverse being located, we hit it up and continue up the chute below the buttress that splits the left and right variations of the upper Ptarmigan Ridge.


Forrest on the traverse:



Forrest in the chute below the buttress:




Half way through the traverse, we came across a difficult choice: a loose rock band or a stretch of black ice. To give calves a little rest from frontpointing, I go through the rock when one of the boulders decided to move and jammed my hand. Yeah, I will recall this rock band – with the appropriate epithets – often. After a short delay, we continue to the buttress and reach the ramp leading to the upper ice cliffs on the left.


More black ice on the way:



Oleg higher up on the more user-friendly part on the ramp below the shelf:




At the shelf below the upper ice cliffs:





Delicate climbing through the cornices above. Gotta make some moves up there:




After weaving between a few more crevasses on the upper Liberty Gl., we headed up the final slopes to the Lib Cap:




I totally forgot how long and demoralizing this slog is. Finally, at noon, we are at the Lib Cap - 10 hrs after leaving the high camp @10300’:




That is not all, however. Our shuttle car is at Paradise, which means dropping down from the Lib Cap into the saddle and then heading up again to the Columbia Crest. That was a project by itself. The shortest way down the mountain does not mean to be the quickest way in this case. Only at 2 pm we get to the actual summit. Oleg ingeniously forgets how to spell my name…





Down the DC we hike. It reminds us of the construction site with fixed ropes and ladders hanging everywhere although we had not met a single soul until the Ingraham flats…


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While at Muir, we saw a blackhawk, apparently involved in a rescue of the Lib Ridge party hit by rock fall. Any news on that? Sending positive vibes...

The choppers were involved in the search of an overdue party on Liberty Ridge. They were found, unharmed, at the Liberty Ridge/Columbia Crest saddle. They were simply moving very slowly and missed their scheduled flight home. The Chinooks were part of a planned military training exercise. BTW, I kept Nick up all night snoring - karmic retribution? You would not believe how much the route melted out between when you, Nick and Oleg were up there and a week later. Crazy.

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