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[TR] Mount Rainier - Liberty Ridge 6/22/2015

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Trip: Mount Rainier - Liberty Ridge


Date: 6/22/2015


Trip Report:

This trip report is from June 22nd 2015 on Liberty Ridge.


For this objective I met my climbing partner Fred at the Ranger Station at 2:00pm to pick up our permits. Fred and I had decided on climbing liberty because the freezing levels were dropping to 8500-11000 verses the 14,000' that they had been at. We thought these freezing levels would hold the ridge together. This was mostly true, except there was a lot exposed rock on the ridge. Even with 11,000' freezing levels, the ridge did not exactly harden up. However, the snow was well featured and firm making for easy travel.


After packing, we left the white river parking lot at 3:00pm. We made it to "high" camp on the curtis ridge at 8:00pm. High camp is now 7400' which seems to be the new standard.


We awoke at 3:00 am for our summit attempt. The northern lights were out above seattle. We dropped on to the carbon glacier. After an hour on the carbon we veered left too early making one difficult belayed crevasse crossing. We ended up on the willis wall side of the ridge. Other than that the carbon was realatively easy to navigate. We touched Liberty ridge at 5:00am.


I was hoping for easy fifth class climbing on the ridge but When the snow melts off in the summer liberty ridge is just a series steep scree and cliff steps. Without exageration it is completely deserving of the reputation as the worst rock in the Northwest. We failed to find an easy way onto the ridge proper. Instead, we contoured around to the east side. In the process Fred dislogded a basketball sized rock right on his ankle that he was trying to use for a handhold. Luckly he did not slide far and was OK. On our hike home his mid shin had swelled to the size of a grape fruit.


On the east side of the ridge we chose the direct coulior leading to thumb rock saddle which was one of our considerations in the planning. The initial bergschround to gain the coulior was deceptively immense and provided very fun climbing deep in the schround. The actual coulior was littered with rock debris. We experience no rock fall in this zone. We moved fast and made it to thumb rock at 7:00am.



This shows the angle of the slope on the direct coulior to thumb rock as well as the rock debris. I would recomend this variation when the lower ridge melts out. We chose a branch to the left of the main chute and the crossed over to the main chute later and then on up to thumb rock.



Snow and rock avalanche debris from Liberty wall filling a crevasse.



There are no signs of construction of campsites at thumb rock. It seems to be a slightly active rock fall zone. In our time at thumb rock it was only shedding pebbles once in a while. Still, I would not sleep here.



Above thumb rock we connected snow fields up to the black pyramid. We chose the west side of the ridge because it held more snow and was less exposed than the east side.



We managed to avoid most of the ice above the black pyramid. The pictures of this section from the ranger's blog left me feeling pretty intimidated. To my surprise the ice was low angle and avoidable. When you had to climb the ice it is actually fun and takes screws pretty well. We simuled through this section



At 13,600', the bergschround again provided the best climbing. This was a cool ice step onto the face above. It was well featured, only about 15 feet of climbing and very fun to end the day on. It was just the right amount of challenge for me.



Fred on the summit of liberty cap! I had feared this route so much for it's reputation but found the climbing to be by and large mellow. It is Still a route that is deserving of respect: it is 5,000 feet of ridge climbing, with objective hazards, and can be dangerous if caught in the wrong conditions and weather - or if you are unlucky. Needless to say the summit was such a relief and I was so happy to be there.



And then there is the descent. This time we took the lower boot pack and did not go to columbia crest.



We were back at the cars at 8:45pm which all said in done was pretty good for us - 18 hours from camp to car.


Gear Notes:

We brought 3 pickets and six screw which was excessive. The routes is not that sustained. We only used two pickets once to cross a wide crevasse that we belayed. The screws came in handy towards the top. I was happy to have six just in case but never used more than 3 or 4 at a time. The vast majority of the route is no steeper 30-35 degrees.

Edited by Greg_Malloure

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