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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Whitman Crest/Fryingpan Glacier

Wonderful single day climb of Whitman Crest via the Fryingpan Glacier.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The route is snow free until past Meany Crest. We found the easiest scramble paths to be to the climber's right after leaving the Wonderland Trail.

    I have also done this route when it is lovely, plunge-stepping, glissad-able snow all the way to the Wonderland Trail, and can confirm that the snow provides a faster and more pleasant ascent and descent option. The bare rock and scree likely added 1-2 hours to our day, but it didn't present any serious challenges. 

We departed the trailhead just past Fryingpan Creek at around 3:30 AM. We took a moderate pace and reached the lovely composting toilet at Summerland right around morning twilight. We took a break there before going off trail toward Meany Crest. We followed a faint game trail toward a boulder field, navigating to the climber's right of a cliff band above us. We reached the saddle below Meany Crest without issue. There, the 4 students and 1 assistant leader dropped packs and quickly ascended Meany Crest, while I settled in for a quick nap. I had climbed the peak before and have had some knee soreness lately and wanted to save the knee for the main objective: Whitman Crest. Instead of napping, I ended up chatting with a couple of climbers who were planning to attempt Little Tahoma. 

My team descended Meany in quick order, and we put on our packs and continued over to the base of the Fryingpan Glacier. The Little Tahoma climbers passed us at that point, which was great because it allowed us to follow in their footsteps for a while on the glacier. 

The Fryingpan is in great shape. We crossed directly over a couple of tiny pencil wide crevasses, but anything larger than that was avoidable simply by trending leftward. 

The summit pyramid of Whitman was perhaps our biggest obstacle of the day. The rock is really low quality, with holds that look like they might be solid breaking off with a light touch. The party members that brought ice axes with them to the summit did not regret their decision. We all made it safely to the summit and down.

The snow on the glacier was in perfect condition on our descent. It was hard and not super slushy, so everyone was able to move quickly. I could tell that the students had practiced steep snow descents; they all had great form!

Two of us decided that the small patch of snow just below Meany Crest was too tempting to not try to glissade it, but we regretted the decision. Our ride down was bumpy and icy and didn't actually save time relative to rock hopping next to the snow. Oh well, at least we tried. 

As we approached Summerland and the Wonderland Trail, I was slightly disappointed to see in daylight that quite a few of the beautiful wildflowers I had seen two days prior on my Cowlitz Chimneys/Banshee climb had been destroyed by the heavy rainfall that occurred the night before. We certainly needed the rain, and it appears to have brought in yet another period of transition to this delicate environment. The loud, excitable, large marmots provided me with my descent entertainment instead of the wildflowers. 

We arrived back at our cars 12.5 hours after we started, going at a moderate pace the entire time with several breaks. This is a wonderful single day basic glacier climb that doesn't require a fast pace. It is also a great opportunity for students to hone in a lot of the skills they learn in the basic climbing course: navigation, rock scrambling, and glacier travel. For the technical portion of the climb I mostly stayed in the back and let the students make the decisions, providing feedback as needed. I'm grateful for this strong team (Bill, Linsey, Greg, Amber, and Seth) for helping to create a fun, successful outing in my favorite national park.