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Ascent to Mount Rainier-Inter-Glacier on 2015-08-25

Climber: Roy Scholl

Others in Party:Little Jon stayed at Glacier Basin
Date:Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Ascent Type:No Summit Goal
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Mount Rainier - Inter-Glacier
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:7200 ft / 2194 m

Ascent Trip Report

(*Note: It was not my intention to summit Rainier. My goal was to get as high as I legally, and safely, could on this day.)

I left the White River Camp Ground around 10 am. Late Start! I rushed ahead. Little Jon took his time and stayed in Glacier Basin at the end of the trail. When I broke the tree line in Glacier Basin the trail came to an end at a sign. I should have headed up the scree slopes to the left, across the White River, because that would have given me access to Mount Ruth and I would have been able to photograph Edmond's Glacier, Little Tahoma, and the summit of Rainer much closer than ever before. However, I had become very interested in the Wedge Head-wall (the dead end of the glacial valley: Glacier Basin) which we were following and the shrinking Inter-Glacier.

I followed the White River above treeline as it shrunk and splintered into raging streams which had cut deep and narrow gorges in the volcanic rock and sediment debris called scree. I had to make several leap/climbing crossings until I found myself stuck following the left bank of the left branch of the source of the White River. Deep inside I knew I needed to take the pass on the slopes up Mount Ruth, but the farther I went up the basin the steeper the face of Ruth towards my left became until it was a vertical face of rock. Meanwhile, the deep gorge of washed out derbis I was following had ended in an ice cave where a splinter toe of the inter-glacier had diverted between a gap in this wall of vertical rock which was now running perpendicular to my route. This would have been a complete dead end; with the cliffed face of Mount Ruth to my left, the ice cave above me, and the gorge to my right, If the sides of the deep gorge hadn't abruptly narrowed and become so shallow just below the mouth of the cave that it was easy to cross the gorge back towards the right on what I later learned was a bridge of ice so dirty it looked like ground to my untrained eye.

I traversed along this new wall of vertical red rock blocking any further ascent until I found a col which was filled with pulverized scree rather than rotting glacial ice. After scrambling up the steep unstable chute with hands and feet, I found myself standing on top of the shelved bands of red rock and located a small cairn with nothing above or to the right of me but ice. Before me I had a view of the main glacier's surface.

At first I was thrilled and began to put on my crampons. I could see a much easier return route: an un-maintained trail winding back into Glacier Basin on the other side of the glacier without any further fording. I assessed it was about a 300 yard traverse on 35 degree ice. No big deal. I can see the trail. But, the heat gave me pause; the sun was relentless and even the surface of the ice was glistening wet. I could hear water rushing under the ice and see some 300 feet below me at the toe of the main Inter-Glacier as a waterfall shot out of another cavern in the ice and into a washed out pit of slurry. Immediately, Regardless of my exhaustion, I couldn't justify the risk of crossing the rotting glacier to complete my loop of the Wedge Wall towards St. Elmo Pass and Sherpa Rock some 100 feet below me.

Since I already had on my crampons I tried to make the return as short as possible. I saw that I could avoid down climbing the red rock wall if I just descended the shaded northeastern edge of the Inter-Glacier for maybe 150 yards. At that point the rock wall was simply a steady slope of fine-grain scree.

By the time I made it back to Glacier Basin it was too late to head up to Ruth. I rendezvoused with my Brother "Little Jon" and we made stellar time after a short break to watch the glaciers around us crackle and glisten.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Glacier Basin Sign: End of Maintained Trail Travel Safely Leave No Trace (2015-08-25). Photo by Roy Scholl .
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Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3250 ft / 989 m
    Elevation Loss:3250 ft / 989 m
    Distance:9.4 mi / 15.1 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3 on the Wedge
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Warm for WA at that Altitude. The Melt was in Full Force!
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3100 ft / 944 m
    Extra Loss:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:4.7 mi / 7.6 km
    Route:Inter-Glacier via Glacier Basin Trail.
    Trailhead:White River Campground  4250 ft / 1295 m
    Time Up:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:3100 ft / 944 m
    Extra Gain:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:4.7 mi / 7.6 km
    Route:Inter-Glacier via Glacier Basin Trail.
    Trailhead:4250 ft / 1295 m
    Time Down:1 Hours 30 Minutes



Other Photos

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
An Ice Cave in a splinter toe of the Inter-Glacier which flows through a gap in these vertical red rock bands high on the Wedge Head-wall (2015-08-25). Photo by Roy Scholl .
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Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The Traverse that turned me back. (2015-08-25). Photo by Roy Scholl .
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A Shot of Little Tahoma and Mount Rainier's Summit with Mount Ruth in the foreground below her. (2015-08-25). Photo by Roy Scholl .
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Click on photo for original larger-size version.
High on the Wedge Head-Wall (2015-08-25). Photo by Roy Scholl .
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Looking up the Inter-Glacier (2015-08-25). Photo by Roy Scholl .
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