Ascent to Little Tahoma-Cowlitz Glacier on 2010-04-10

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Florin T.
Date:Saturday, April 10, 2010
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Little Tahoma - Cowlitz Glacier
    Elevation:8800 ft / 2682 m
    Remaining Elevation:2338 ft / 712 m (41% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Our goal was an ascent of Little Tahoma from Paradise, via crossings of the Cowlitz and Ingraham Glaciers at about the 8500-foot level, and then up the Whitman Glacier to the summit. We left the Seattle area at 7 AM and secured our camping and climbing permits at Longmire from 9 to 9:30 AM. Then it was up to Paradise to get all organized and packed up.

We started skinning uphill from Paradise around 11 AM on Saturday and immeidately were hit with very fierce winds. The wind was very strong on top of Panorama Point, and it was challenging to ski up icy sastrugi formations. Once on the Muir Snowfield we trudged uphill under party cloudy skies as the wind died down. Around 8000 feet we started veering right, under Anvil Rock, and at 8400 feet we roped up at a small rocky area.

We then traversed across the Cowlitz Glacier in a horseshoe track, trying to avoid losing elevation. There were a few crevasses and buried seracs, and we found a pretty straightforward route through what later becomes an icefall. Once near the Cathedral Rocks cleaver we unroped, unskinnned, and skied down 280 feet to a notch in the cleaver at 8520'. Peering over the other side, we saw easy terrain on the Ingraham Glacier ahead. But it was now 6 PM and we were tired from the exertions of wind, icy terrain, and routefinding, so we decided to camp.

Edward an I pitched our tent in a hollow between the rock cliff of the cleaver and a snowdrift, while Florin dug a snow cave in the drift for his bivvy sack. The wind had died down, but it was utterly frigid that night. Both Edward and I were shivering in our sleeping bags for part of the night, and this was the first backpacking trip of my life where I wished I had more clothes.

Sometime during my largely-sleepless night it started to snow. We slept in past our scehduled 5 AM wakeup, and at 6 AM decided to bail on our Little Tahoma attempt, with the snow accumlating rapidly in a serious white-out. We were concerned with avalanche danger from all the new snow, aside from how generally miserable the conditions were.

So we thanklessly packed up camp in the blizzard, roped up, and skinned up the 280 feet to where we traversed back across the Cowlitz, our very faint tracks from yesterday barely visible. Once across the steep and crevassed area, we unroped, unskinned, and headed downhill into a raging white-out. That term may be a bit overused, but in this case the meaning was literal--we could see nothing but white for several streches, and only far-off rock outcrops occasionally added any color to our retinas.

Thankfully we had a GPS track from yesterday, so we got into a routine of skiing down a few turns, checking our position, adjusting direction if needed, and repeating. We all had vertigo from not being able to tell if we were motionless or still skiing. We slowly made our way down past our rope-up rocks from yesterday and on to the Muir Snowfield, and as we gingerly skied downhill the conditions improved. By abut 7800' we had broken out of the clouds, and the snow soon eased, too. We were now grateful for the recent snowfall, since it covered the icy terrain and made the skiing more enjoyable.

We were back to Paradise by 11 AM, where it was a nice, almost sunny day. Indeed, it seemed like the higher reaches of Rainier were the only place in the state with bad weather this day.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3660 ft / 1115 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3660 ft / 1115 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Skis, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Frigid, Windy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3380 ft / 1030 m
    Route:Anvil Rock-Cowlitz
    Start Trailhead:Paradise  5420 ft / 1652 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3660 ft / 1115 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3380 ft / 1030 m; Extra: 280 ft / 85m
    Gain on way out:280 ft / 85 m
    End Trailhead:Paradise  5420 ft / 1652 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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