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geosean

[TR] Mt. Rainier - Curtis Ridge 5/23/2016

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I will try to keep this quick since we didnt summit.

 

We camped at St. Elmo Pass, the Gendarme, Lower Curtis Ridge.

 

Snow and glacier conditions down low were pretty good, a little unstable late in the day; no flotation needed. Up high snow was crusty over sugar which made for very exhausting travel.

 

We thought day two from St. Elmo to the Gendarme would be easy but it was mostly whiteout so we took a little bit of a circuitous route up the ridge. Then there were three rappels going up and over every hump on the ridge. I think this is probably easier than dropping way low to bypass them though, depending on your snow conditions.

 

We were very disappointed after 10.5 hours to find no real tent platform just before the Gendarme. Everybody calls it a nice flat spot, well we had to look around to determine that yes we were indeed there. It took about an hour and a half of digging to make it so our tent only hung off the edge about 8 inches.

 

After the longer day than anticipated on day two we didnt get a very early start on summit day. We rapped off the hump after the gendarme. The first rock step HAS to have broken off or something (we are blaming global warming), because it was very vertical and extremely loose. We did the long rightward bypass and climbed up to the very upper snowfield just below the top part of the first rock band bypass. Only about 15 feet of very exposed 4th class climbing separated us from the first snowfield, however it was already 1130 and not wanting to make it into an epic and given our already slow progress we bailed. Our high point was about 11,200 I think. We walked alllll the way down to the Carbon Glacier. We had to rap over and into the bergschrund, then got crevassed out, back onto the ridge slopes, rapped over and into the bergschrund again, then down the glacier and safely to the ridge and camp.

 

I would say that the bail was only slightly easier than continuing on would have been, though we would have had to go up and over Columbia Crest from the look of the top of the Emmons on the way out. The Emmons didnt look like it would have been easy to find our way onto either, not having gone up it first.

 

Overall it is a very long, tough route; much more so than the grade indicates. The approach along the ridge is an alpine route in itself on most mountains. Only as much as we did would be a long and complicated route on most cascade peaks. We felt good with our decision, I think; two of the three requirements for a trip were met. We got home safe, we had fun, we didnt make the top but thats third anyway.

 

Edited by geosean

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Ill try to keep this quick since we didn't summit.

 

We camped at St. Elmo Pass, the Gendarme, Lower Curtis Ridge.

 

Snow and glacier conditions down low were pretty good, a little unstable late in the day; no flotation needed. Up high snow was crusty over sugar which made for very exhausting travel.

 

We thought day two from St. Elmo to the Gendarme would be easy but it was mostly whiteout so we took a little bit of a circuitous route up the ridge. Then there were three rappels going up and over every hump on the ridge. I think this is probably easier than dropping way low to bypass them though, depending on your snow conditions.

 

We were very disappointed after 10.5 hours to find no real tent platform just before the Gendarme. Everybody calls it a nice flat spot, well we had to look around to determine that yes we were indeed there. It took about an hour and a half of digging to make it so our tent only hung off the edge about 8 inches.

Edited by geosean

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I would say that the bail was only slightly easier than continuing on would have been, though we would have had to go up and over Columbia Crest from the look of the top of the Emmons on the way out. The Emmons didnt look like it would have been easy to find our way onto either, not having gone up it first.

 

Overall it is a very long, tough route, much more so than the grade indicates. The approach along the ridge is an alpine route in itself on most mountains. Only as much as we did would be a long and complicated route on most cascade peaks. We felt good with our decision, I think. Two of the three requirements for a trip were met, we got home safe, we had fun, we didnt make the top but thats third anyway.

Edited by geosean

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Any help getting photos to post would be appreciated. Ive already loaded them to my gallery, they just wont show up.

 

Incidentally I have found out that if you type with no special characters it seems to work better, unfortunately this makes it look like you just have bad grammar. I think it is some kind of conspiracy of the semi-literate climber.

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Where did you bivy? On the east or west side of the crest? The sites are next to the rock on the east side which depending on the snow year could be drifted in. So having to dig out a site is not all that surprising. BTW was that 10.5 hours from St. Elmo or White River?

 

For the lower ridge, one never goes very far down from the ridge crest to by pass drops. We back tracked a few times to the west to avoid rappelling but rarely dropping down very far. How did you retreat? Back along the ridge? The one west side rappel is typically a point of no return. So I am curious how you got around it.

 

At one point at Sea-Tac there was an arial photo of the ridge. The photo gives a great perspective.

 

 

As for the photos - bring them up in your gallery full size then Ctrl-right click on the image to bring up the menu and get the "Image Address". Paste that in the html. Looking forward to seeing them

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Sean,

Thanks for your (attempted) report. My partner and I went in to climb Curtis Ridge last Tuesday. We found the approach up to 10k pretty straight forward, but we had a boot track to follow, presumably yours (thanks for that). Nevertheless it was a long day and much warmer than anticipated. We started at 11am from White River Campground and didn't get to our bivy spot at 10k until 8pm. We didn't rally early on Wed. like we should have and by the time we got to the rappel spot it was getting warm and stuff was starting to come down from above so we retreated. If we had the time we would have proceeded to the Gendarme bivy spot and started early on Thursday morning to climb the business part of the route in the early AM before

the rockfall kicked in.

I'm also curious how you managed the descent.

Edited by bigeo

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PM Oly and he will get the TR up. Unfortunately they haven't come up with a solution to this issue with the site yet.

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20160525_104953_resized.jpg

From our high point looking down at the ridge.

 

20160524_172341.jpg

Gendarme camp. We camped on the east side just before the gendarme.

 

20160525_191943_resized.jpg

The ridge from our lower ridge camp just on the edge of the Carbon Glacier after the bail. We descended the ridge on the west side basically straight down the snow slope to the right of the gendarme in the photo. There is a rap point on the rock at the very bottom of the snow slope where you can rap into the bergschrund and walk out.

Edited by geosean

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descent5.jpg

Here is an annotated photo with the descent route. We had to rap twice, once at the bergschrund at the bottom of the slope in the photo, and once off the left behind the rock prow in the foreground. One could go skiers left once you hit the glacier and avoid the second rap.

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Thanks for the pics and description of your descent. A couple other questions: What made you decide to descend rather than continuing up? At the first rap point on the ascent did you use the sling upslope from the rappel or the lower rats' nest just around the corner from the drop and how long a rap was it?

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From your pictures it looks to me that while there is snow, it is missing in some critical places that makes the route go. The first step is crap, as is the rest of the hill. However, the lack of snow forced you to go way right to even gain the bypass. BITD when we did it there was just enough but barely.

 

Good part is that it sounds like you found the short step to gain the first snow field. Which from there the routes looks like it is in descent shape. Though one can not see the exit chutes which if sans snow could suck.

 

As for your descent, props on that. A friend and I had to bail from a similar height except we were 1000' to the right in shadow. Just after we got off the Carbon the whole of Willis shat.

 

I found a picture of our bivy, as you can see we had to also do some digging:

 

CurtisRidge_98_02sm.jpg

 

Here is our photo from the gendarme (and if you zoom in you can see a small sliver of snow that we used to gain the shelf):

 

CurtisRidge_98_03sm.jpg

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As for continuing up, we were moving really slowly and it was pretty hot; rockfall was a moderate concern, but also we didn't want to be just topping out the route in the late evening and camp at 12,500' on the slopes (avy danger there was a concern).

 

I guess it was mostly a morale issue, now I wish we had pushed on regardless... "who cares if it is dark, you have headlamps right?!" But it is easy to think that way from down here.

 

We rapped from the slings upslope, lots of rope drag, I had to climb back up a bit to free them. It was about 80' I think, but there is an intermediate bench at about 65' that wasn't too bad to downclimb.

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ScaredSilly, thanks for the beta, yeah that snow sliver looks clutch. We were concerned with the unknown of the exit chutes, and later, on the descent we wondered if we could have done them.

 

We thought we had pretty good conditions, but more snow definitely looks better. There seems to be quite a bit less melt at the bivy in your photo; we also had a pretty wide tent. We wondered a bit if a bigger snow year, later in the year with more consolidation would be best. Thus we are blaming global warming for out bail, and everything else.

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done that trip a few times, always worth it. gotta be careful up windy ridge though, road gets rough quickly and isnt always taken care of the best or quickly

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