Rainier Emmons Climb - August 21 - 26
United States Washington Sunrise
Like this Adventure 0 Likes
Rainier Mountaineering Inc's Expedition Skills Seminar- Emmons, August 22 - 16. RMI guide, Pete Van Deventer reports:
An early, caffeine fueled start had the group arriving at the White River camp ground by 10 am. We took a few minutes in the parking lot to sort out and repack tents, stoves, and other group gear, and were walking up the trail by 10:30 with sunny skies and warm temperatures. Our forecast looked very promising. The last couple of days had seen freezing levels around 7000 feet, and the last day of our trip showed a frontal system moving in bringing more cold weather with chances of snow. Our weather? Sunny and clear with freezing levels around 13000 feet. We couldn't ask for much more.
Carrying packs that felt more suited for an expedition on Mt McKinley than Mt Rainier, the group made good time to Glacier Basin campground, where we stopped to grab a bite and some water. The new trail put in by the Park Service is nice walking and gets rid of much of the elevation gain and loss of the old trail. Another hour and a half of walking on trails and through rocks below the Interglacier brought us to the toe of the same. We paused again to put on harnesses, helmets, crampons, and to rope up for glacier travel. We made good time walking a few long switchbacks up the Interglacier headwall, paused for a quick break, then walked another twenty minutes to the bench around 8000 feet, where we decided to set our camp for the night. After spending some time digging tent platforms, the group relaxed around the stoves with warm food and drinks to watch a beautiful sunset over the North Cascades.
Tuesday, we woke early with the sun. After a quick breakfast, we broke camp, and moved up the Interglacier to the moraine at Camp Curtis. Descending the moraine brought us to the Emmons glacier, and a short while later we were moving above the moat and onto the rock at Camp Schurman. Our early start got us to camp by noon, and the group was quickly in tents and resting up for the night's summit push. Those that felt motivated spent the afternoon reviewing and learning how to construct snow anchors, and how to ascend and descend fixed ropes. An early dinner and early bed time was in order, and the group was in tents by 6 o'clock.
The group woke at midnight, got what food we could down, and roped up for the summit push. The first section of the climb headed up the Emmons corridor, and was very direct. The third break found us surrounded by a large horseshoe crack, and not many apparent options for continuing. We traversed right from the break, across a thin bridge and onto a low angle slope with a steep slope above us. A short steep 30 foot pitch of hard snow/ice brought us to another bench that allowed the teams to traverse back left above a crevasse to the old trail. From that point, the trail ascended directly in a well defined boot track, to the traverse to the saddle between Liberty Cap and the summit crater. A quick break, and the group ascended the last slopes to Columbia Crest. The group exchanged high fives and hugs on the summit, stopped for pictures, and then turned tail and headed downhill. Descending in the light, some route options appeared more clearly than they had in the night, and we avoided the steeper ice pitch on the descent by belaying across a funky snow bridge. The group arrived at Schurman tired from a strenuous 13 hour summit day, but elated at their success. The afternoon saw everyone napping in tents, and recovering well. Several parties arrived that afternoon planning to climb, excited by our group's tales of success. The following morning the group packed and rallied down the Interglacier back to the beginning of our journey at White River campground. Everyone was excited to step into cotton clothes and flip flops. Ice cream and coffee tided the group over until their arrival in Ashford for refreshments, fresh food, stories, and celebration!
Pete Van Deventer