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About Us > Clients > Liberty Ridge Route on Mt. Rainier

Trip Report for challenging
Liberty Ridge Route on Mt Rainier, June 13-16, 2008
by client Rich D from Washington State

Brian and I left Seattle at 6am Friday morning (June 13). We discovered in Auburn that we each thought the other was bringing the stove, so we returned to Seattle. Ultimately, we left the trailhead at White River CG at 11am. The Glacier Basin trail was still in disrepair from the November 2006 floods. There was a lot of snow and the trail followed the winter route along the river for the last mile or so. Snow conditions up to St Elmo's Pass were soft with some sluffing evident, but not too bad kicking steps. No problems crossing the Winthrop Glacier towards Curtis Ridge. We reached camp at 5:30pm on the east side of lower Curtis Ridge at about 6800', on dry/level ground with running water nearby.

On Saturday we left camp at 5am. We took too high a line following a track across the remaining lobe of the Winthrop Glacier, getting to 7800' before realizing that we had to descend to 7300' to drop onto the Carbon Glacier. We followed the obvious route up the Carbon Glacier to the west side of Liberty Ridge. We simul-climbed steep snow slopes directly to Thumb Rock, protecting with pickets. We encountered frequent rock fall, and quickly learned to look up whenever the wind gusted. I was hit on the shoulder with a fist-sized rock while belaying Brian, but luckily no injury. We reached Thumb Rock at 1pm. We found a pair of Russian climbers (now living in New Jersey) camped at Thumb Rock, waiting for good summit conditions. They were excited to hear that the forecast for Sunday called for lower winds on the summit.

On Sunday we left Thumb Rock at 4am, about 30 minutes behind the Russians. We climbed to the east (left) of the buttress immediately above Thumb Rock and then gained the ridge crest. We ascended towards the Black Pyramid, first a bit left of the ridge crest and then right of the crest, ultimately traversing left under the Black Pyramid to reach a steep snow slope. Above the Black Pyramid this slope turned into several hundred feet of 40 degree smooth hard alpine ice, which we skirted by staying to the right. At this point I first had problems placing ice screws, an issue that would continue to plague me. We continued up steep snow slopes towards the bergschrund. We followed the Russian's tracks and crossed the bergschrund at the far right, which involved climbing steep unconsolidated snow and then a committing move. More steep snow led to the final crux pitch - a full rope-length that combined sections of steep ice and steep unconsolidated snow over ice. From there it was an easy slog to the Liberty Cap summit, which we reached at 6pm. We decided to camp at 7pm at the col between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest. Winds were moderate but it was cold during the night - we both wore all our clothing inside our sleeping bags.

On Monday we left camp at 6:30am and continued traversing to reach the Emmons route. We descended the Emmons Glacier slowly but without difficulty, reaching Camp Schurman at 10:30am. After a long rest break to melt snow and eat (which we didn't do enough at our summit camp), we descended the Inter Glacier reaching Glacier Basin by 1pm and then the trailhead by 3pm.

Gear notes: We brought six pickets and six screws, which was about right for us. We mostly simul-climbed on the ridge, with several belayed pitches. We brought a SPOT satellite messenger (www.findmespot.com), which we used to send "OK" signals once or twice a day to family. We brought a GPS w/ waypoints, but we had good visibility the whole trip and didn't really need it.


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