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Ascent of Little Tahoma on 2018-08-22

Climber: Jake Robinson

Date:Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Little Tahoma
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:11138 ft / 3394 m

Ascent Trip Report

With smoke blanketing most of the state, Trace, Damon, and I headed for MRNP in search of clean air. The trail up to Summerland is a highway and very well-maintained - so nice after some of the other crappy Bulger approach trails I've done this summer! After checking out the hut at Summerland, we picked up a tread heading towards Meany Crest, headed directly up to the crest, then hiked the ridge W over pt. 7573 to gain the Fryingpan Glacier. The Fryingpan is mellow, a few crevasses to avoid here and there, but they're small and obvious this late in the season. The standard access to the Whitman Glacier looked complicated so we decided to cross Whitman Crest at the notch between pt. 9323 and pt. 9194. This worked fine and soon we were on the Whitman Glacier just below Little Tahoma.

At the base of the peak where the Whitman steepens (~9600'), we had to navigate a crevasse maze/bergschrund. It wasn't hard and the snow bridges were thick, but it was a little thought-provoking. From there we climbed straight up the snowfield on the SE face of the peak until we were able to access the final scramble portion. The snow was bulletproof and required lots of front-pointing. Luckily I brought a technical axe, as I had to swing it like an ice tool in places to feel safe climbing this stuff.

The final scramble is a class 2 hike up some loose stuff, gain the summit ridge with class 3, then traverse the ridge and make a short downclimb (10'), a short leftward traverse with minimal hands but good feet, and a 15' climb up a chimney to the true summit. Summitpost calls this class 5 but we felt it was class 4 at most. The rock isn't great but it's surprisingly solid where you need it to be. The views of Rainier from the summit are unreal - nothing makes you feel small like looking at Rainier up close. The altitude and smoke blowing in from a nearby fire was making me feel a bit woozy up here so we didn't stay long.

None of us felt good about downclimbing the upper snowfield. Luckily, we were able to make a short traverse across it NE to some choss-slopes which made the descent much simpler. Once on mellower terrain we decided to try to avoid the bergschrund/crevasse maze at 9600' by traversing NE to a rock slope. The top of this rock slope is located at about 10100' close to the 'ma' in 'Tahoma' on the USGS 7.5' map. Class 2/3. It works, but is extremely loose. You will almost definitely knock some large rocks down on this slope, so rockfall management is critical if with a large party. The rock slope led us back to the mellow lower portion of the Whitman and the rest of the descent was simple.

Total trip took us about 13 hours car to car. It was nice to escape the smoke for a bit, but this peak would be much safer and more enjoyable if climbed in early season.
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