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Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Mount Rainier/Disappointment Cleaver

Successful climb of the DC route in good conditions.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Trail mostly bare except a few patches of snow to Pebble Creek, which was running high.  Snowfield in good shape with great camping at 9700'.  Large rockfall witnessed while crossing the Cowlitz.  Flowing water between Cathedral rocks and the Ingraham.  Excellent camping on the Ingraham.  The transition from the Ingraham to the DC crosses some large snow bridges which will not last beyond a few more weeks.  DC is well wanded and completely melted out except one snowfield near the top, no crampons required on the DC itself.  The route above the DC is still in good shape, a few instances of recent re-routing where the old route is marked with two wands in an "X" - be sure to avoid old tracks.  One ladder at 13000' which ascends over a large crevasse which we protected with a picket.  Good going from there to the top.  No major route finding challenges.

We met at 7:30 AM on Friday at Whittaker's for coffee.  I was denied my permit at Longmire and had to pick it up at Paradise instead.  Note that Paradise now has cell coverage as of last year.  We hiked up the snowfield, starting in misty pea soup with low visibility, eventually ascending above the cloud deck into sunny skies at 8000'.  We filled water at Pebble Creek along the way.  We camped Friday night on the snowfield at 9700 on a flat area between Anvil rock and Muir Peak.  Air temperature was warm (around 40F at night) with light winds.

Saturday morning we broke camp and hiked the remaining 15 minutes to Muir.  We took a break here and roped up for glacier travel.  The Cowlitz crossing is benign but exposed to rockfall and we witnessed a large fall that almost reached the main path.  A reminder to pay attention here and in the Cathedral rock and to not stop for a break until after the rocks.  We short-roped for 300' of climbing through the rocks.  There was plenty of running water on the other side.  We made our second camp at Ingraham Flats at 11:15 AM and spent the afternoon melting snow and enjoying the sun and good weather.  A ranger checked out permit while we were there and gave us good route beta.  We went to bed early and awoke at 10 PM for an 11 PM departure.  We had warm air and no wind and clear skies.

The traverse of the Ingraham to the DC and the transition itself involves some large snow bridges of questionable durability; this was probably the most concerning section of the climb.  I suspect this section will not last more than a few weeks.  The DC was snow-free and we were glad we removed crampons there.  There are enough wands to make finding the route easy enough.  There is one snow section with four foot high sastrugi near the top.  We took a break at the top of the DC and put the crampons back on.  We short-roped the entire DC, carrying coils of rope.  While on the DC we could hear frequent large rockfall over on Gibraltar rock.  Above the DC the route is still in good shape overall and mostly goes straight up.  There is one ladder at 13000' at an angle of about 30 to 40 degrees.  We placed a picket above the ladder and left it there for our return.  We did not place any other protection on the climb.  We had low winds until about 13500' when the wind picked up significantly making the final push a little cold.  We stopped in the crater to un-rope and walked across the crater and up to the summit where the wind was very strong.  The crater path is surrounded by sastrugi up to five feet high.  We had left camp at 11:10 PM and arrived at the crater at 4:15 AM and the summit at 4:45 AM with the sun just coming up.  We did not stay long due to the wind.  Roped up and departed the crater at 5:20 AM and returned to camp just after 10 AM.  We were the first team out of Ingraham flats camp and the first team on the summit that day.  We packed up and hiked down to Paradise in the sun with great weather.

We had only two rope leads, myself and one of my SIG assistants, so we had two ropes of five.  Everyone was strong and felt good on summit day.  We slowed down a bit over the last 1000' of climbing but still made good time.