Mount Rainier / Cascades

High Country News

Well it’s the first day of meteorological fall and the temperatures on the mountains are starting to cool down.  We are even getting some fresh snow up high!    In September, we start to taper down our Cascades operations – focusing on just Tahoma (Rainier) summit climbs and 6-day mountaineering courses and summit climbs on Kulshan (Baker).  We do have one final 13-day course (a real smorgasbord of climbing across the state) that is slated to kick off on September 4.   As it’s been a while since had a post (apologies) here’s a little recap about what’s been going on around here.

Tahoma (Rainier):

high country news

  • DC Route Update: Currently the route is snow free to the base of the Muir Snowfield. We recommend climbers begin the climb in approach/trail shoes from Paradise with  their mountain boots attached to their pack until reaching the snowline.  Currently the Muir Snowfield has melted down to glacial ice and crampons are being used to ascend and descend the snowfield.
  • From Camp Muir, the route is well established across the Cowlitz glacier and up over Cathedral Gap to Ingraham Flats camp. Our teams have been reaching summit via the Disappointment Cleaver with reports that the upper mountain holding in good condition despite the warm dry summer. Climbers can expect to cross two ladders between Ingraham Flats Camp and Columbia Crest, the first is at 11,400ft and the second is 13,000ft. Due to the warm dry summer, large penitentes can be found on the glacier.

Kulshan (Baker):

high country news

  • Easton Glacier Route Update:  Currently the route is snow free to camp and we recommend climbers leaving the trailhead in approach/trail shoes with mountaineering boots attached to their packs.   From camp, the first hour of climbing is done on firm glacial ice.   Around 7,200ft, we get above the firn line and start walking on the seasonal snow on the glacier.  The route currently traverses around a few crevasses as it heads towards the crater rim.   From the crater rim, up the Easton headwall conditions are currently firm with good cramponing in a well established track.  The final summit pyramid has melted out to a dirt cone.

North Cascades:

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  • The 8/13 13-Day Course may have launched on Friday, 13th but there was nothing spooky about their course.  They kicked their mountain epic with a day at Mount Erie working on rock climbing movement skills, knots, and rappelling and belaying.   From there, they headed to the Squak Glacier on Mount Baker to learn the ropes (pun intended) of glacier mountaineering.  Next, they headed to everybody’s favorite faux Bavarian village – Leavenworth for three days of rock climbing (single and multipitch) on someone of the finest granite in the state.   They snuck in a day at Washington Pass before climbing the ultra classic Fisher-Chimneys route on Mount Shuksan.  Love to see it!
  • Our late August Forbidden Peak climbs were not able to access Boston Basin due to fire activity off Cascade River Road.  They pivoted to Washington Pass and spent a few days climbing in the Liberty Bell group as well as tagging the summit of Black Peak via the Northeast Ridge.
  • The 8/20 Alpine Rock Course hit some mega Washington Pass Classics – Beckey Route on Liberty Bell as as South Early Winter Spire.  They got snowed out of their plan to climb Cutthroat, but had an excellent couple of days clipping bolts in Mazama instead.  Can’t beat the proximity to the Goat Store!
  • The 8/27 Shuksan-Sulfide Climb was a rousing success with excellent weather.  Guides reported that the route up the Sulphide was still in good condition, but a bit icy near camp.

Further Afield:

high country news

  • Our 8/19 Mount Olympus climb enjoyed excellent weather on their quest to the roof of Olympic National Park.  Climbers raved about the trip – some calling it their favorite trip to date.  Guides enjoyed a nice change of pace, citing the verdant greenery of the Hoh Rainforest as a welcome respite from the Muir Snowfield.   The climbing conditions were definitely late season – the Blue Glacier is starting to break up and make travel more complicated, but the whole team made it to the top in good style.
  • The access road to the Glacier Peak was closed due to fire activity, so our 8/26 55+ Glacier Peak climb pivoted to the North Cascades.  They spent a day at Mount Erie honing their rock climbing skills and then headed up north for the Ruth / Icy Traverse.   Even though it rained for part of the climb, a fun time was had by all.    Conditions on the Ruth Glacier are also pretty late season with lots of blue ice to contend with.  The team found a safe route to the summit and enjoyed one of the best views in the North Cascades – a gorgeous view of Mt. Shuksan including the Nooksack Tower and three massive glaciers cascading into the valley below.

Fred Hutch Glacier Peak Climb

Last week Alpine Ascents teamed up with the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center for another fundraising climb!  For more than 20 years, climbers from around the country have summited some of the world’s highest peaks and raised nearly $11 million for cancer research.   We love it to see it!  It’s always a treat to guide the Climb to Fight crew and this time was no different.  The team headed to Glacier Peak and the results were highly scenic.   All mountain glamour shots by Devin Bishop!

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7/18 SheJumps 6-Day Mountaineering Course

Our SheJumps 6-Day Mountaineering Course just wrapped up a beautiful week on Kulshan (Baker)!  They enjoyed perfect weather and had a wonderful time learning the ropes (pun intended) of glaciated climbing techniques.

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The Latest from Kulshan (Baker)

Alpine Ascents Guide Kristie Kayl just checked in from Mount Baker on the SheJumps 6-Day mountaineering course.  As you can see, it’s a beautiful day up there and the group can’t ask for a more scenic classroom for practicing knots.   In general, our mountaineering courses typically go to the Squak Glacier on the south side of Mount Baker.   It tends to be pretty quiet in that zone and groups can spend almost a whole course without seeing any other climbers.

Some climbers on upcoming Baker summit climbs have reached out with concerns regarding trip reports referencing overhead serac hazard.  Please note, the problematic serac is threatening the Coleman-Deming on the north side of Baker.    We have not run any trips on the north side for most of the climbing season and our operations are only on the south side for the rest of the summer.

On the south side, the approach trail is snow free until Sandy Camp and climbers are leaving the parking lot in approach shoes.  Teams are accessing the Easton Glacier around 6,800′.  Sections of the mountain are starting to melt out and expose patches of glacial ice.   The route is direct up to the crater rim and teams are reaching the summit daily with an average time of 6 hours from camp to the summit.

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7/15 North Ridge of Baker Climb

Our 7/15 North Ridge of Baker climb was not able to make an summit attempt due to significant hazards approaching the start of the route.   Instead of throwing in the towel, they used the extra time to work on their ice climbing skills on the seracs of the Lower Coleman Deming.

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While the equipment and other necessities such as food were extremely important vehicles for success/ the overall experience on this expedition and definitely contributed to the overall quality, what really made this trip shine were the guides.

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