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aikidjoe

[TR] Mt Rainier - Liberty Ridge 5/9/2015

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Trip: Mt Rainier - Liberty Ridge

 

Date: 5/9/2015

 

Trip Report:

My buddy Joe and I climbed Liberty Ridge last weekend. I'm posting mostly to relay conditions as they were for those interested in climbing that side of the mountain. But I will say that, for me, it was a really inspiring climb. I've wanted to climb it for years but never felt ready until recently. Fear has always stopped me from upping my game in climbing, and I've spent the last couple of years building my fitness and working on controlling the fear. There's something liberating in feeling like you've taken a big step forward in your climbing. Oh the possibilities!

 

Anyways, we were surprised to have the route to ourselves, and noone had been on it since the previous snowfall, so it felt like a remote, alpine adventure. It made it that much more special.

 

The glacier crossing was straightforward; no real postholing or punch throughs on the Winthrop or Carbon (but a lot on the Emmons during the descent).

 

Snow conditions on the ridge were generally straight forward, with some sustained sections of loose powdery wallowing. We soloed most of the route and did running belays at the icy portions.

 

The upper route on the face is mostly blue ice, but there were some paths with snow to minimize the calf burning.

 

Since we were racing the weather window, we did most of the climb in the dark, and ended up too far left somehow and almost on the Willis Wall. Fortunately, when we noticed we were getting mighty close to the ice cliff, we found a steep passage to the ridge crest near the top of the blue ice. We pitched this portion out, and Joe reached the bergschrund. It turned out to be a very good thing we went way left, because a serac collapsed above the top of the route and swept the face of blue ice, and could very easily have killed us had we been on route. Joe was almost underneath it when it collapsed, but fortunately had just enough time to move slightly out of the way and brace himself. The car sized chunk missed him, but a large chunk hit him square in the helmet, and he amazingly came away unscathed. (Always wear your helmet!) I mention this as a word of caution: just because you're not on Willis or Liberty Wall proper, doesn't mean there are no serac falls. In any case I didn't see anymore seracs looking too unstable, but you never know.

 

It looked like there are a number of options at the bergschrund. We found a neat little ramp that that led us into the serac mess, with some tenuous bridges and a short WI2 section.

 

Here's how it looked last weekend:

P1110830.JPG

 

Route overlay of where we went. In the dark, I guess we missed the Black Pyramid.

RouteOverlay.JPG

 

Gear Notes:

6 screws, 2 pickets. We used pretty much all of it, plus a shovel/ice tool combo for a deadman anchor! I used two tools; Joe used one tool and one technical axe (curved shaft). The 1 tool 1 axe is better.

 

Approach Notes:

No snow for first half to Glacier Basin. Full coverage by Glacier Basin.

Edited by aikidjoe

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Well done! That is one of my favorite routes, glad you found it in good conditions.

 

 

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Great report on what was a solid climb. Thanks for kicking steps most of the way up the ridge!

 

Regarding the serac collapse, that was certainly one of the scariest/luckiest moments I've experienced in the mountains and not one I'd like to repeat. Getting up close and personal with the debris cloud was a little too close for comfort. With the unstable house sized arch gone, the portion of the route below the bergschrund looks much more stable now.

 

Otherwise the route is in excellent shape. Good time to get after it!

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Nice work, thanks for the report. I was camped at Thumb Rock in 2003 on a warm afternoon when the ice cap let a serac go. The cloud came right at us but the debris veered off both sides of Liberty Ridge and ran out onto the Carbon Glacier far below. I voted to descend but my two partners were able to talk me into completing the climb. I wonder if that route gets scoured off more frequently than most of us want to admit.

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How did you approach the base of the ridge? I'm headed up there this weekend and I'm assuming it will be mostly in a whiteout so I was wondering if there was an easy route across the Carbon.

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From Curtis Ridge stay low - around 7000 feet, and there's any easy snow ramp down to the carbon. It cliffs out above there. From there it was straight forward until you get pretty close to the ridge, then veering right there is some route finding through crevasses that could be tricky in a whiteout. The first image looks across the Carbon from near where you get on it, so you can get a sense of the path from there.

Edited by aikidjoe

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Edit- just re-read the serac part. Yikes! So this came off near where you cross the bergshrund and go up Liberty Cap?

 

I wonder if that ice cliff is becoming more active after the large snowfalls we had a decade ago or so.

 

When I climbed it in 2002, I don't remember any seracs in this area, just an ice step that was solidly attached to the mountain (like NR of Baker).

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Nice work.

Were you able to do a lower traverse from the Lib Cap over to Winthrop for the descent or had to go up and over the Columbia Crest due to the impassable shrund which was in place last year?

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