Trip Report    

Little Tahoma/East Shoulder

Windless, cloudless Memorial Day climb.

  • Tue, May 29, 2018
  • Little Tahoma/East Shoulder
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Trail is mostly hardpacked snow.  The route to Meany Crest is in excellent shape, including long glissade shoots for a quick decent.  It was warm this weekend, but crossing Fryingpan midday was no issue in boots.  Good steps up the Whitman Glacier from the previous day.  Snow still covers much of the route up high (see picture) and there is very little loose rock to deal with as a result.  


The usual crew, plus one new member (five total), rolled into the White River Wilderness Station at 8am Sunday, and then again at 8:30am after going back to retrieve a cell phone lost during a misguided pit stop (all my hollering out the van door about a toilet being five minutes away went ignored).  After filling out a piece of blue paper with our life stories, realizing the National Park service skimps on toilet paper, soap, and paper towels, we grabbed wads of blue bags and headed to the trailhead.

We began hiking at 9:30am and reached the usual camping area at Meany Crest 4 hours later.  A string of descending climbers began passing by and we received reports from one group of impressively masked men about mashed potatoes ahead, but didn't experience anything of the like.  Those guys had been up since midnight, though, and I had to make a snide remark about getting up so early to climb a mountain.  The rest of the people we passed gave glowing reviews of their climb and conditions.

After a lengthy lunch break, we strolled, un-roped, 1.6 miles up the Fryingpan Glacier to the notch in Whitman Crest around 4:15pm.   We had planned to camp there at 9,000 feet and summit in the morning, but because of our early arrival, had a discussion about a sunset climb.  In the end, we felt we did not have enough time to allow for any margin of error and settled into melting snow, eating, and watching the sunlight do beautiful things across glaciers.  There was no wind and no clouds.  



At 2am, alarms sounded, a plastic chicken squawked, and the moon was full and bright.  The other party on the mountain was also camped at the notch, and after someone dropped a fully-loaded water bottle down Whitman, the seven of us began moving (3:15am).  We chose not to rope up.  The soft snow from the warm day before had frozen solid, and we were thankful to have steps on the steepest parts of the Whitman Glacier.  

After exiting a gully with a couple of easy rock moves, we took a dozen steps in loose rock before being back on snow again.  When we finally ran out of snow, we were on the summit ridge and dumped our crampons and ice axes.  The wild things in our group scrambled the summit and got all giddy standing above 2,000 feet of air. I took a minute to collect my breath, knowing the scrambling is easy, but severely exposed.  It was 5:40am and the sunrise over clouds and glaciers was spectacular.  We signed the register (kept in an impressive metal box), shared summit treats and group photos with the other two climbers, and made our retreat.  

Whitman Glacier was hot in the morning sun, but still solid.  We made it back to camp at 7:45am and took quite a bit of time melting more snow and breaking camp.  After some sweet glissades, we realized we had lost one pair of crampons.  They were found 400 feet up, and it didn't take long at all to glissade again!  We passed a park ranger who asked us to help hikers stay on the trail instead of walking on vegetation.  After gingerly passing over a precarious snow bridge with 40+ pound packs and fretting about crippled ankles in order to satiate her, we barged on past an interesting array of day hikers, making the trailhead by noon.  There were fist-bumps, cookies, and fresh undies all around.  GPS track here.