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Ascent of Mount Rainier on 2018-05-24

Climber: Joe Merlone

Date:Thursday, May 24, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Rainier
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:14411 ft / 4392 m

Ascent Trip Report

Climbed via Emmonds-Winthrop route with Mountain Ascent Association organized trip. We actually had two teams, 10 of us climbing Emmons, and an additional 7 climbing Liberty Ridge at the same time. The plan was to summit on the same day if possible and Liberty team to descend back to Camp Schurman and leave together. Trip was in late may, and the road (Mather highway to white river) had only been opened for 5-6 days, so we were one of the first teams to climb via this route this year (possibly only the second group - see below). This made for some difficult route finding. The approach to Camp Schurman was spectacular, we had completely blue skies. Snow was still pretty heavy on the trail, but due to warm weather it was melting out fast. Upon reaching Camp Schurman only one other team was camped on the glacier, two snowboarders who appeared to be the first to camp on the Glacier for the year (no indication of previous tent sites, and no Ranger yet at the hut). The snowboarders summited the next day, so we got to watch them climb high on the mountain to give some beta on the route. The left late (4:30) and didn't summit until the afternoon, and unfortunately got stuck in a whiteout thunderstorm and had to emergency ivy. Thankfully, the storm passed through, and they were able to descend in late afternoon. A ranger arrived in the afternoon to open the hut for the season. We took our second day as a rest day, both to help acclimatize and to time our climb with the liberty team. We started our climb at 2:30am with three rope teams, I was on the second team with Ross Sharp and Aaron Bailey. Weather was light flurries of snow, that rapidly cleared. We made good time on the lower glacier and the corridor until we reached the mid to upper sections of the glacier, here we encountered many large crevasses and had to do some route finding. We crossed several snow bridges that were very solid in early season conditions. However, we were concerned we may be leading astray as our GPS route took us far to climbers left than the ones we were referring to from previous climbers. Being on the first climbs of the season, we had no way of knowing if we were taking a proper route. We crossed the bergschrund on a small but stable bridge and moved onto the summit cap. My pace slowed appreciably above 13.5Kft, but we made steady progress to the summit at around 9:30am. The wind had picked up dramatically over the finally 1kft and was gusting by the time we reached the summit under clear skies. It was quite cold on the summit (teens) with 20-40mph winds. I only took my gloves off for a minute for pictures due to cold as I was using my iPhone as my only camera. Thankfully, Ross brought a serious camera and took many pictures. The final rope team was moving much slower than us, and we still had no word or sign of Liberty team, so we elected to wait for awhile in the summit crater. We unfortunately did not know the summit register is located in the crater near one of the vents, so I did not sign. After about an hour the final rope team of our group summited. We elected to immediately descend due to cold, several of my fingers were numb and I was shivering. The descent was actually more challenging. The warmth from the intense sun was melting the snow rapidly, several of the snow bridges deteriorated appreciably, and several of the group punched through at on the crossing. On the lower glacier where the snow was very soft I post holed and ended up with my boot dangling not having any idea I was over a crevasse. Quickly realizing what was happening I was able to roll off the snow bridge to more stable grown, scary in retrospect. We heard word via radio the Liberty Ridge team had summited during our descent. We were back in Camp Schurman by around 3:30pm. We stayed overnight on the glacier, and exited the next day via our same approach. The descent included a fantastic 3000ft glissade down the Interglacier. Overall, a fantastic trip with all 17 climbers summiting. My 33rd state highpoint.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp



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