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Val Zephyr

[TR] Mt. Rainier - Gibraltar Ledges 2/23/2015

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Trip: Mt. Rainier - Gibraltar Ledges


Date: 2/23/2015


Trip Report:

Jon, Dylan and I ascended the Gibraltar Ledges route during a good break in the weather on Monday Feb. 23rd.


Thanks to several good trip reports from January, Gib ledges was back on my radar. I asked Jon, who I had climbed the Ingraham Direct route with two years ago in January, and he was stoked to go. Dylan was also ready for another Rainier trip and that rounded out our group to a nice rope team of three.


The hike up to Muir was gusty at times and we were thankful that we managed to shift our climb to Sun-Mon and a more favorable forecast. We got up to Muir an hour before sunset to meet a group from Colorado and another group of three. It was really fun to stay in the shelter in winter. With the good weather, it was busy there, but not overly crowded and there was a community feel between all of the groups there (sharing snow shoveling duties and spare water). Still, bring earplugs if you want to stay in the Muir shelter, and even with those, none of us managed to get any sleep.


We were the first group out on Monday morning at 4am, the other two left closer to 5am. We were on the ledges at first light and steadily moved across this no-fall terrain. The ledges are in reasonable shape, but there are a couple of attention getting moves over crumbly rock right now. The exit chute was a welcome sight and was easy climbing on firm snow to the top of Gib rock. We took a lengthy break there and gathered ourselves for the trudge ahead to the summit. Dylan is a beast in the low-lands but the altitude was getting to him. My water hopelessly froze and I bonked shortly after Gib Rock too. Jon took the lead and charged ahead. What a slog that final section is! There was a small lenticular forming on the summit when we got there, so the cold winds picked up and there were no views. I feel like we earned our winter ascent a little bit more with these conditions rather than the warm, sunny skies we had last time during an inversion (when someone actually hiked up to the summit in a T-shirt and shorts!). Dylan gathered himself, and left some of his breakfast at the crater rim. I staggered across the crater rim with Jon in search of the true summit. I’ve usually enjoyed the flat hike across the crater with blue skies and the summit in view, but this time was that special kind of misery that only mountaineers can fully appreciate. We tagged it and got the hell out of there. Back to the sunny skies and what felt like warm temperatures below (though I must be mistaken because no matter what I did, my water tube would not thaw).


We descended the Ingraham Direct route which is quite broken up. We made a line staying skiers right to stay away from the main path of the icefall (some of which has recently fallen down the majority of the glacier). We nearly got dead-ended at the bottom, we went all of the way right (next to Gib rock) and found a few blocks stuck in the crevasse, which we could climb onto and back out of again and we were home free!


Back at Muir we were greeted again by other parties and offered freshly brewed warm recovery drinks for our hike out. There were so many friendly people on Rainier this weekend. Thank you! As we packed our tired bodies back into the car on the way home and asked the usual question, “why do we do this?” I know that the people that we meet on these trips are at least part of that answer.





Sunset at Muir:




Gib Ledges:



Exit chute:



Hiking across the crater in search of the summit. It was a rare treat to have the entire summit of such a huge peak all to ourselves:




Navigating the Ingraham maze:



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Nice! Getting up the on Saturday would have been a real challenge, being about 15-20 degrees cooler. I think that I'll continue building a streak of fair-weather winter ascents on Rainier. I like the quiet that you get on the mountain in winter, just not the extreme cold.

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Val, congrats to you and the others on your climb. The pic of the ledges sure show the sparse snow year we're having. In May of 2011 that route was chock full of snow w/no ledges per se, which made for a long, spicy, rising traverse to the chute. Your report prompted some good memories.


This is an enjoyable route with historical significance.


Thanks for sharing.



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