Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Little Tahoma/East Shoulder

Hot sunny weather, potential avalanches, and rockfall which turned us back 300 feet from the summit made for an exciting first trip out since the start of the pandemic

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Recent trip report from a few days prior to ours indicated avy potential that turned them back. Talking to the rangers, they indicated potential avy conditions and recommended us to bring appropriate avy gear. There was the potential for wet and wind slab based avalanches. The weather was predicted to clear up and become very warm for our trip.   

    Approach: Trail to summerland was clear and still followed the winter route for the final section right up to the shelter area. Snow was melting rapidly and I expect regular summer trail to be in soon.

    From summerland, boot path to top of Meany Crest was completely snow covered and easy to follow if a bit slushy. This led us to an amazing camp on dirt near the  base of the Fryingpan glacier. We found some shallow pools of water at a rock outcropping nearby, but I expect this will only be in during warmer sunny days.

    Climb: Path on Fryingpan glacier to Whitman glacier notch at 9K was straightforward and easy to follow. We stepped over a  crevassed spot on the Fryingpan glacier that we were able to avoid on the way back by detouring well around it.

    From Whitman glacier to top of the notch at 10,800 was fairly steep but straight forward. We ran into rockfall at this notch which led to an injury of one party member and turned us back.   

This was our first overnight glacier trip of the year. We picked a Mon/Tues trip to avoid the crowds and have the route to ourselves as much as possible. It came together over the course of about a week prior and we had our group of 6 people for the trip. It was only possible to climb above 10K at MRNP in a few days prior. 

We started from the trailhead a bit after 9AM in warm and beautiful weather. Trail was in great shape and we made quick time to open fields near Summerland.


Once at Summerland, we found a nice island away from the snow to enjoy lunch in the park and take in the  views. We could see the rest of the approach all the way to Meany crest. There was a party of two far ahead of us, but otherwise, we didn't see many people at all. Just a small family on the approach and a trail runner near Summerland.


Heading up the snowfield


Checking out the views to Summerland from just below Meany Crest


After breaking for a bit, we took the final approach to above Meany Crest to our camping spot. No one else was around so we had our pick of locations to camp. It took us a little over 5 hours from the TH to get to camp at a relaxed pace with plenty of breaks.


Relaxing at camp, with full views of the route


Amazing camp!


After napping and hanging out, we luckily found a water source from some meltpools about 100 yards from camp. No one was excited about melting snow in the stoves, so this was very welcome.


During dinner we chatted about the next day plans. It was very warm so we wanted to get started early -- the route description indicated 7+ hours to summit. We planned to leave camp at 2AM, without crampons due to the slushy snow. Freezing level was above 14K overnight and summit temp was predicted to be in the 40's. We got our rope setup, teams assigned, and avy gear prepped. We aimed to be conservative and check in with each other for any avy concerns along the way at some key decision areas where the slopes steepened. 

Teams are getting ready early in the morning. We ended up leaving a little after 2AM


Early morning break on the long traverse to the Whitman glacier


It took us about 2.5 hours to arrive at the notch between Frying Pan and Whitman


Some rockfall here is visible. We didn't see very much rockfall activity beyond this until higher on the mountain when we experienced some first hand


Making the traverse



Starting to head up the final steep snow section. Old avy debris on climbers left higher up -- everything looked and felt very consolidated and we all agreed that we felt safe to continue



It continued to steepen halfway up on the snowfield. Glissade shoots as well as evidence of some rockfall ahead. Final notch to the summit straight ahead and climbers left of the headwall.


Second rope team arrives at the notch a little over 6 hours after starting out from camp


A few minutes after arriving, rockfall from above required quick action, resulting in a short fall onto the talus of the still roped up team, one of the climbers injuring their shoulder. After assessing the injury, we lowered them back to the snow and did several intermittent picket anchor placements to lower them through the steepest section so that they did not have to rely on the injured shoulder for possible self arrest. 


Thankfully the injury was not more serious and allowed for us to walk out and everyone made it safely back to their cars