Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Rainier/Gibraltar Ledges

Climbed Rainier up the Gibraltar Ledges route and down the Ingraham Direct route.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The Gibraltar Ledges route was in reasonable shape although the snow coverage was thin. The Ingraham Direct route is getting broken up and will soon be out for the year.

Our team of three snowshoed from Paradise to Camp Muir and spent the night in the public shelter. Since it was a Friday in early May we shared it with only two other small parties, including three friendly climbers from Boulder, CO.

We wanted to traverse the Gibraltar ledges in early daylight, before any warming could occur. With a 5:45 a.m. sunrise, we set out Saturday morning at 4:15 a.m. The route description and photos in Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide, 3rd Edition by Mike Gauthier was very helpful.

The weather forecast had predicted a 20% chance of precipitation. We encountered both high and low clouds, moderate winds that came and went, intermittent spells of snow, and even a bit of hail. Temperatures on the upper mountain was probably in the 20s.

The ledges themselves were a straightforward scramble over a mix a crusty snow and crummy rock. We traveled with a shortened rope through this section. Towards the end of the ledges we needed to select a line to get to the upper Gibraltar chute. We chose to go high, across the upper snow band in the photo, which worked well.

The snow in the chute was firm but not icy, so we had no problems climbing up to the top of Gibraltar Rock, traversing over to the Ingraham glacier, and trudging to the summit. We topped out around 10:00 a.m. and met our new friends from Boulder, who had climbed the Ingraham Direct route (ID).

Both teams descended the ID, which had been wanded by the guide services. At times the visibility dropped enough that we also navigated by GPS using a track from a party that descended the ID two weeks prior. The Ingraham glacier is starting to break up and the route zigzags around a fair number of crevasses. The ID is almost done for the year and soon traffic will shift over to the DC route.

We squeezed the climb into a narrow weather window and were probably one of the two parties to summit this weekend. With all the clouds there were no scenic vistas up high but there were great views of the amazing terrain that we climbed through.