Trip Report    

Glacier Climb - Mount Rainier/Disappointment Cleaver

Excellent route conditions, very direct route, big crowds

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Snow from parking lot, though melting quickly (compared to last week, and even the day before). Two party members skinned to Camp Muir and skied down. 3-4 sections heading up to Panorama Point where carrying skis is needed. Snow conditions to skier’s right descending from Camp Muir were better, since it was not tracked out.
  • Ingraham Flats were full, got a site at Camp Muir
  • Ranger came by each group in the evening and gave a detailed talk about the route and conditions
  • Ranger also recommended that for a party of 9, we carry at least one stove with fuel, two sleeping bags, and two sleeping pads in case of emergency
  • Lots of people climbing, with the promise of good weather, leading to crowds at Camp Muir and on route
  • Left Camp Muir at 1:25, guide services reportedly left at 1:00 and were visible about 300’ above
  • Route is in excellent condition. Ingraham Direct has just “closed”, almost everyone is going to the Disappointment Cleaver, though we did see a pair heading up late morning to Ingraham Direct, likely guides.
  • Excellent weather. Warm, clear skies at night and during the day.
  • Very obvious boot track starting right at Camp Muir and many wands. Very easy to tell the way on a clear day.
  • Beware of rock fall when traversing Cowlitz Glacier. We saw a rock whizz across the boot track just a few hours after sunrise. Lots of rockfall heard throughout the day off of Gibraltar Rock.
  • Fixed hand line leading onto Disappointment Cleaver. To be used to hold only. No clipping or prussiking.
  • Walked in coils going up Cathedral Rocks and Disappointment Cleaver
  • Lower half of Disappointment Cleaver is mix of dirt, rock and snow. Upper half is mostly snow, leading to steep, snowy switchbacks.
  • One rope team turned around at 11,700’ with one participant suffering from AMS (light headed, headache, nausea) and another participant with one potential symptom at one point, though this was never fully determined. First participant recovered fully, aside from tiredness, at Ingraham Flats (~600’ below)
  • Two other rope teams continued to 13,200’ but were getting close to turnaround time, encountered crowds/bottlenecks, and the crux of the climb, and turned around at this point. Fixed pickets placed by guide services and park service were plentiful above the cleaver. From base camp, there appeared to be a bottleneck of climbers just before High Break
  • From the top of the cleaver, the route traverses above Ingraham Direct almost to Camp Comfort (above Gibraltar Rock) and goes almost directly up to the crater rim. Here is someone else’s track on the same day (I don’t know who this person is): https://www.strava.com/activities/1660558068
  • Encountered a private party at ~13,100’ descending from the summit with one climber with severe AMS (difficulty walking/staying on path, incoherence, doubling over, laying down in the snow, etc). While we don’t know, it’s possible to speculate that summit fever drove this party higher than they should have been, since this person was still suffering almost 1500’ below the summit. Be cognizant of the well-being of the whole team and others around you.
  • Upper route had some small cracks to cross, nothing major up to 13,200’. Snow was icy in spots and at certain points had a snow-cone-like texture.
  • Carried FRS/GMRS radios, allowing for good communication both while climbing. Long range reception was also good, e.g. from Camp Muir to 13,000’, after the team split in two parts.
  • Would recommend climbing midweek and with a team no bigger than 6-8. Also consider giving more time for the climb itself by starting earlier.