Monday, June 28, 2010

Climbing Big Snowy

It had been three years since guiding on Mt Rainier. This was plenty of time to forget how stinkin' huge it is. Janelle and I have a combined total of nearly 100 trips up this mountain during our tenure working for RMI. Two other climbers with plenty of Rainier experience as well were joining us for the climb, Justin and Matt. They had climbed the mountain three other times and were eager to try a harder route.

During the approach our packs felt lighter, largely due to the perfect weather we were being blessed with, and the perfect forecast for the next two days. Unlike many other trips to the top of Rainier, crappy weather would not be an issue.

We took four days of food and fuel with us. We were hoping to do it in three, which turned out to be the case, and it looked something like this:
June 25: Checked in at the Ranger station around noon to get permits and ask for beta about the current route conditions. From there we started the 4.5 mile hike to the Winthrop glacier (7,500') from the White River Campground (4,400 feet).
June 26: Woke up at 2:00AM to maximize the time that the snow would be hard/frozen prior to the sun making it mushy and difficult to hike on. Took about seven hours to cross the Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers and ascend the 45 degree slope to Thumb Rock (10,450 feet). We quickly set up the tent and fell asleep to the sound of rock fall ripping down the Willis Wall.
June 27: Woke up at midnight, and started up the meat of the climb. We had a lot of steep ground to cover in that day. The only down side to the perfect warm days is that the snow did not freeze during the night which forced us to do a lot of wallowing through breakable crust snow....which is horribly slow and has a knack for zapping ones energy. Do to all the snow we only had one ice section, which we pitched out, the rest of the time we simal-climbed. This was a great time saver. We topped out around 9:50AM, after eight long hours of climbing. The wind was hallowing on top so after a few quick summit shots we began the 10,000 foot descent back to the parking lot. Lulu was a sight for sore eyes, and feet. The chips and salsa were quickly broken into and finished off with style.

Technical Equipment Used:
-one Sterling 7.7mm 70m Ice Thong rope
-one Black Diamond 16cm ice screw
-pair of Petzl Quark ice tools
-pair of Petzl Dartwin crampons
-several Sterling single length slings
(no pickets were used, but we had two just in case)

Check out more info and the video: