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[TR] Mt Rainier - Gib Ledges 30 Jan 15 - Gibralter Ledges 1/30/2015

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Trip: Mt Rainier - Gib Ledges 30 Jan 15 - Gibralter Ledges


Date: 1/30/2015


Trip Report:

I am a huge slacker! It's been two weeks since this climb and I'm finally getting around to posting my pics...better late than never?


I can't really describe climbing conditions any better than Luke did here ( Luke's TR )...plus being two weeks old is most likely of little use. Instead, I will tell you a short story about our trip! I will say the ledges were in fantastic shape, snow bridges are solid all the way up (exception: Ingraham). Although the next day, Bryan went up the ID ( Bryan TR ) and didn't seem to have any issues.


Planning for this trip started last year when I attempted to climb the ledges 3x, getting turned back twice for weather and once for equipment failure (DS...you know who you are!) After recovering from a broken foot/surgery last spring, I made a couple successful summer ascents in August. Still wanting a winter summit, I've been watching the weather closely and lucked into this window.


I took a group of 10 from work up last summer. Word quickly spread I was the free "Mt Rainier guide" and received numerous inquiries regarding when my next trip might be. I said in "December or January", which turned smiles into frowns for most. A couple of the harder core individuals commited and I made the decision to push in advance of a great weather window. It would be a quick trip, up on Thursday morning/afternoon, wake up early on Friday, summit and attempt to make the gate at Longmire by 1700. Contingency was to stay an additional night at Muir if we did not make it back to Muir by 1400.


At the last minute, I decided to go up Wed night. Myself and Flip made the slog up to Muir and settled in. Our plan was to scout the ledges and the Ingraham for our journey the next day, while the other 6 individuals were racing up to Muir. Thursday morning rolled around, we woke up and scouted up to the RMI guide shack and called it good. There were several boot packs all over the Cowlitz...I decided that was mission success for me. (Hindsight, should have at least gone up Cadavor or Cathedral and looked into Ingraham).


The crew arrived around 1600-1700. We had spent the day prepping camp for them...melting plenty of water, cleaning out Muir (one of my objectives was to bring a new broom, hand broom and dust pan to Muir...courtesy of 5th ASOS JBLM), chipping steps to the shitter and fixing the door to it, getting the group gear organized...and taking a nice nap! So their weary faces were delighted to know all they had to do was crawl into their sleeping bags, eat and goto sleep. We talked about how they were feeling, and decided to rolex our wake time from 0100 to 0330, knowing I probably just bought another night at Muir...can't make the gate on crampons...only one of us skinned up. I REALLY love the gate at Longmire.


We woke and were moving at 0500...which was a little later than I wanted, but whatever. 5 of the 8 were inexperienced climbers...so extra time was taken explaining some things and making sure all their gear was gtg. We made decent time to the start of the ledges..about 2 hrs. Crossing the Beehive, I saw Luke and Dereck departing Muir...they caught us by the time we were on the Balcony...they were moving much faster. Most of my guys slowed down considerably on the ledges...mostly from fear. I told them it's going to feel scary, but have sure feet and you'll be fine. AND DON'T WORRY, we're not going down the same path...which most were thrilled to hear.


Made the top of Gib rock...and at this time I stopped "keeping track" of time, knowing with absolute certainty I was sleeping at Muir tonight. The group was exhausted after the Gib chute, so we broke for some water and calories. At this time I noticed the condition of the Ingraham...to NOT be what I had read about in previous TRs. There was a large icefall induced avalanche that swept the Ingraham the previous day (or two)...which ran out all the way through the flats. The "obvious" decent line was invisible to me at this time...and I decided I would pick my way down later in the day after our summit. I chatted with Luke about it and we agreed we would both try it, as down climbing the ledges in the midday sun was asking for trouble. Luke took the lead while we were dick'n with ropes and we finally started our assault upwards.


Crested the summit crater just as Luke's team was starting to descend. He verified he was going to attempt to descend the Ingraham. We dropped our stuff and made the obligatory walk to Columbia Crest. I tried to find the ledger, but it was buried under an ice sheet and inaccessible. We took our pics and went back to our gear; Luke was out of sight by now...about 1+15 into his descent. We geared up and pushed down, much to the delight of my weary climbers.


The decent was painfully slow...my guys were really beat and hesitant with their feet. I wanted to run down the mountain and get to the Ingraham as fast as I could...but I met a tight rope every time I tried to accelerate. I reminded myself to relax...and not be a dick. After all, I invited them, this was their trip too and who was I to expect them to climb at my level when it was their first time above Muir. It's was all good...until the Ingraham.


Approaching the lip of the Ingraham, I picked my line down, which happened to coincide with Luke's boot pack. After about 50 meters in I met a fresh, opposing set of boot tracks up and out of the Ingraham. DAMN IT! I knew Luke was experienced and there was only one reason he would backtrack...the route didn't go or there was some impassable obstacle (i.e. crevasse). I reluctantly climbed back up and after about a 5 minute discussion with the other experienced climber in my group, we decided the safest/quickest way down was the ledges...against the inclinations of the majority of my group. "YOU said we weren't going down that way", "F-NO! I'm not down climbing that", "Let's climb up and over and go down over there (DC)", "I'm the most freaked out I've ever been in my life" were some of the comments I entertained. It was now about 1500...with around 2 hours of light left. Time to get movin...


I decided to set pickets down the chute to ease the mental concerns about the 1000' slide they were staring at on the way down (just don't slip...right?) We had two 50M ropes, so we spaced them out and I took all 4 pickets and down the chute I went. I gave the pickets about a 50% chance of actually holding...maybe enough to slow a slide to assist in an arrest. Maybe not. It was actually very easy going...like walking down stairs; the boot pack was SOLID. Apparently, I'm the only one who thought that as the crew moved slower than I thought was possible. Again...deep breath...RELAX. It was hard to relax listening to all the rocks hurtling off the top of Gib Rock aimed at my head. I stopped placing pickets once clear of the chute because it was taking to long to set, hook up and clear them. Plus, I didn't want to wait for the trail guy to catch up and pass them to me while I was standing at the bottom of a bowling alley. We had a couple close calls, but survived the shooting gallery and cleared the balcony. We de-roped and I sprinted for Muir...to start melting some water for my troops. Most were well dry by now with lots of headaches...


Last guys made Muir around 1830. There were a couple people in tents and a couple more in the shelter going up in the morning. The wind had started to pick up by then and was forecast to reach 50kts during the night. Unfortunately, only two left for the summit that evening and I saw them up high the next morning as we were all headed down to Paradise. Luke had already descended by now and THIS is when I learned, from the climbers at Muir, that he had a full fall into a crevasse on the Ingraham. I am really glad I made the call to descend the ledges rather than deal with the nightmare that most likely awaited me down in the Ingraham.


Overall, a GREAT trip. I got my guys a life experience they will never forget, a chance to push some personal boundaries and learn a little bit about themselves in the process. I sometimes find that more rewarding than adding summit "bags" to my climbing resume.




Civil Twilight on the Cowlitz




The Balcony



Nisqually Ice Cliffs



Rounding the corner from the Balcony; looking up to Gib Chute



Teams approaching the Gib Chute



(That's Luke and Dereck in the back...one with the whippet)



Ascending the Gib Chute




Top of Ingraham avalanche from top of Gib Rock


Middle of Ingraham avalanche


Runout of Ingraham avalanche into the Flats



Are we there yet? nope...


How bout now? almost. (hey, why is your water bottle frozen?!?!)



Yeaaaahhhh...nice and sunny! Wind ~20kts, Temp ~0degF



Resting in the crater


Resting on the crater rim



Leaving the crater rim. First guy: "Why is my water still frozen?"; second: "Hurry up before I puke all over my goggles"; third: "I shall hold my ice axe up for the whole descent to get a better deltoid workout" guy in red: "Hey, WTF...wait for us!"


Edited by aviatorruss

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Cool climb! Sounds like a good way to enjoy a clear winter day, and not have to worry about slushy afternoon snow.



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